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CHARLES CARROLL OF CARROLLTON,
who ALONE, or Those HERE coxMEMORATED, strian Lives To ENJor, IN THE INCREASING LovE AND GRATITUDE or HIs country The PUREST REWARD OF DISINTERESTED PATRIOTISM.
Of all the authors of antiquity, Plutarch seems to be the one whose works continue most generally to be read. His lives of distinguished men unite in their favour, the suffrages of the old and young, the sober and enthusiastic, affording lessons to these of unaffected virtue, ardent patriotism, and well-earned glory; to the other, of wisdom, prudence, piety, resignation, and philosophy. We trace them among the favourite studies, not merely of our own Franklin, but of the great men of all countries; we find them translated many times in most of the languages of the modern world; and at no period do they seem to have been subjected to those caprices, which literature, like things more changeable, has been destined to undergo. It is not to be doubted, that this extraordinary popularity is to be attributed, in no inconsiderable degree, to the simplicity, clearness, and good sense which characterize the compositions of Plutarch, and render him, if not a model of general eloquence, at least an example whose style and manner authors may often happily imitate. In such qualities, however, it would be easy to find for him innumerable rivals, and many superiors; nor would it be proper to consider them as even a principal cause of his fame and success. For these we must look into the nature of his subject, which after all, in every species of writing, has an influence that genius must reluctantly own and submit to. That subject then is the delineation of human character, not so much by a minute and metaphysical investigation of its qualities, as by a description of the incidents which develop and display it: its study, in this manner, has at all times been the most favourite pursuit of those who find pleasure in literature, and it has conferred the highest crown on the authors who have been most successful in attempting it. It is the foundation of all romantic fiction, of dramatic composition, and of the highest efforts of poetic genius. In each of these, the lively, vivid, and powerful delineation of individual actions, and through them of individual character, constitutes the principal charm. It is this talent which has placed Homer above all other writers, since he has been able to give entire reality to actions, many of which are most probably solely the fruits of his own imagination and invention, aided by a long and careful observation of the world around him. There is no doubt that he who describes the incidents of a fictitious life, has many advantages over the author who is bound down to a strict relation of those which have actually occurred, because he is able to select or to frame such as are exactly calculated to bring out the character of his hero, in the manner he wishes it to appear in, and to omit those that have no bearing on his main object, and distract the attention of the reader, while they render less clear the peculiarities that are to be described. But if the story of real Hife is deficient in these things, it has that which a fictitious narrative can never possess, and which in fact, is what most deeply emchains the interest of those who read and those who think— it has its foundation in truth. He who in youth has read the