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PRE FACE.

To give the perfect portrait of a person so distinguished for eloquence, wit, humour, literature, and taste; of one so pre-eminently gifted by nature, with the rarest and richest powers

of mind, would require in the painter somewhat similar endowments. Livy said, that to draw the character of Cicero, the biographer must be another Cicero,

They best can paint it who have felt it most." But as posterity would lose whatever was precious in the history of Mr. Curran's mind (for of it chiefly do I mean to treat,) if none could be found but of similar genius ; if none other were to attempt it, the task must in this age be doomed to remain neglected through despair, or be imperfectly executed: and thus, from the apprehension of inadequacy, his fame would become extinct, or fade away in perishable tradition; or perhaps be fated to go down to future times, like many of the mutilated monuments of antiquity, with features distorted, or limbs broken, like those which the curiosity of an Elgin has but half preserved.

Should the character of his genius (the boast and admiration of his country) be preserved, and transmitted by the boldness of inferiority, distanced as it may be by his transcendency, still a great gratification is secured to the present and to other times; though he whose singular superiority should fling into shade the presumption of such an undertaking; and though he who attempts it may be scorched by the rays he so daringly approaches, Urit enim fulgore suo, qui pregravat artes infra' se positas, yet better is it to gaze on matter, however mis-shapen, than on vacancy--on existence, than on annihilation.

Hume, to avoid misrepresentation, has

simply told the story of his own life. Raphael, or Michael Angelo, (which I forget,) unwilling to commit his immortality to any clumsy artist, made the portrait of himself: And would that Mr. Curran, following such bright.examples, had given, in all the high colouring and exquisite touches of his masterly pencil, the character of a mind so truly curious and original. Cervantes, fearing the loss of fame, observed, that to translate from one language into another was like turning the seamy

side of a vestment inside out. How discouraging the admonition, how humbling the analogy, when one considers how much is lost by the medium through which genius passes! However, when much is to be gained, something may be hazarded; as amidst the dangers of a tempest, to save the general cargo from a wreck, the richest merchandize, the gums of Arabia, the spices of the East, and the gems of India, are fung overboard into the slimy bottom of the deep: so here I may be permitted to sacrifice much

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where much is to be saved, and under such disadvantages to collect the scattered limbs of the poet, and console myself with the recollection, that though it be denied to me, unambitious of fame and unappalled by dangers, to describe all the traits of his genius, with a quill plucked from the wing of the Eagle of the Sun*; yet, with the accuracy

* I have not met in any book on natural history with an account of this remarkable bird. I am indebted for what I know of it to a friend who had for several years a command in Canada, and who made himself well acquainted not only with the language, but also with the superstition of the Indian tribes. They hold this bird in great veneration; they conceive it to be the messenger sent by the Great Spirit to inspect the affairs of the world, to bring back daily reports of what occurs among the Indians, and it is supposed to be in the confidence of the Divinity. It takes wing at the rising of the sun, and directs its course with great rapidity till it reaches its destination; there it is suspended for the whole day, and presents the appearance of a round ball ; it is supposed to be in close conversation with the Great Spirit during the whole time it continues there, and that when it descends to the earth it is employed on errands, and particularly to spy into the actions of the tribes. They attribute to it pretty nearly the functions assigned to Mercury, but with larger powers. The one had in heathen mythology a kind of brevet rank, whilst this bird is supposed to partake of the divinity; and so valuable is its plumage, that the hunter who is so fortunate as to get possession of the bird is raised to a high rank among the tribes, and is considered to be a favourite with Heaven.

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