Page images


RASSELAS is so much a favourite of the Public, that it seems unnecessary to delineate its character. It has been translated into almost every language of Europe, and admitted into the best libraries.

The New Mode of Printing in which it is now introduced to the reader, will, it is hoped, be favourably received. This attempt to correct a deformity that has been so frequently acknowledged, will at least be viewed with indulgence by the lovers of literature and the arts. The little hesitation that may at first attend reading characters somewhat different to what the eye has been accustomed, soon vanishes, and the neatness and regularity of the type give it some claim to favour. Other advantages that attend this mode, will be evident on viewing the annexed Specimen.

Should it meet with encouragement, the Proprietor exPects still further to improve this mode of Typography, and the expence and trouble consequent on attempts of this kind, induce him to solicit the Patronage of the Public.

Since part of the book was printed, it will be seen that a material improvement has been made in the legibility of the new letters.



The knowledge of letters is one of the greatest blessings that God ever bestowed on Man. By means of Writing and Printing, we learn the events of past ages.

We are informed of. the manners, the dispositions, and the habits of the people of Asia, of Greece, and of Rome.

The actions of the


The knowledge of letters is that God ever bestowed on one of the greatest blessings Man. By means of Writing and Printing, we learn the

events of past ages.

We are informed of the and the habits of the people of manners, the dispositions, Asia, of Greece and of Rome.

The actions of the great and

great and good pass as in good pass as in a mirror bea mirror before us, us, and we perceive the means by which they attained

fore us, and we perceive the means by which they attained their pre-eminence. The treasures of the wisdom and

experience of all ages are laid

their pre-eminence. The before us: what memory treasures of the wisdom could never have retained, is

and experience of all ages

tions are benefited by the

preserved, and future genera

are laid before us: what knowledge we have gained.

memory could never

have retained, is preserved, and future ge

nerations are benefited by the knowledge we have gained.





YE who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue with eagerness the Phantoms of hope; who expect that age will perform the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies of the Present day will be supplied by the morrow; attend to the history of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia.

Rasselas was the fourth son of the mighty Emperor, in whose dominions the father of waters begins his course; whose bounty Pours down the streams of plenty, and scatters over the world the harvests of Egypt.

According to the custom which has descended from age to age among the monarchs of the torrid zone, Rasselas was confined in a private palace, with the other sons and daughters of Abissinian royalty, till the order of succession should call him to the throne.

The Place, which the wisdom or Policy of antiQuity had destined for the residence of the Abissinian Princes, was a spacious valley in the kingdom of Amhara, surrounded on every side by mountains, of which the summits overhang the middle part. The only passage, by which it could be entered was a cavern that passed under a rock, of which it had been long disputed whether it was the work of nature or of human industry. The


outlet of the cavern was concealed by a thick wood, and the mouth which opened into the valley was closed with gates of iron, forged by the artificers of ancient days, so massy that no man without the help of engines could open or shut them. From the mountains on every side, rivulets descended that filled all the valley with verdure and fertility, and formed a lake in the middle, inhabited by fish of every species, and frequented by every fowl whom nature has taught to dip the wing in water. This lake discharged its superfluities by a stream which entered a dark cleft of the mountain on the northern side, and fell with dreadful noise from precipice to precipice till it was heard no more.

The sides of the mountains were covered with trees, the banks of the brooks were diversified with flowers; every blast shook spices from the rocks, and every month dropped fruits upon the ground. All animals that bite the grass, or brouze the shrub, whether wild or tame, wandered in this extensive circuit, secured from beasts of prey by the mountains which confined them. On one part were flocks and herds feeding in the pastures, on another all the beasts of chase frisking in the lawns; the sprightly kid was bounding on the rocks, the subtle monkey frolicking in the trees, and the solemn elephant reposing in the shade. All the diversities of the world were brought together, the blessings of nature were collected, and its evils extracted and excluded.

The valley, wide and fruitful, supplied its inhabitants with the necessaries of life, and all delights and superfluities were added at the annual visit which the Emperor Paid his children, when the iron gate was opened to the sound of music; and

during eight days every one that resided in the valley was required to propose whatever might contribute to make seclusion pleasant, to fill up the vacancies of attention, and lessen the tediousness of time. Every desire was immediately granted. All the artificers of pleasure were called to gladden the festivity; the musicians exerted the power of harmony, and the dancers shewed their activity before the Princes, in hopes that they should Pass their lives in blissful captivity, to which those only were admitted whose Performance was thought able to add novelty to luxury. Such was the appearance of security and delight which this retirement afforded, that they to whom it was new, always desired that it might be perpetual; and as those, on whom the iron gate had once closed, were never suffered to return, the effect of longer experience could never be known. Thus every year produced new schemes of delight, and new competitors for imprisonment.

The Palace stood on an eminence raised about thirty paces above the surface of the lake. It was divided into many squares or courts, built with greater or less magnificence, according to the rank of those for whom they were designed. The roofs were turned into arches of massy stone joined by a cement that grew harder by time, and the building stood from century to century deriding the solstitial rains and equinoctial hurricanes, without need of reparation.

This house, which was so large as to be fully known to none but some ancient officers, who successively inherited the secrets of the place, was built as if suspicion herself had dictated the Plan. To every room there was an open and secret Passage, every square had a communication with


« PreviousContinue »