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PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
dividual, it claims extraordinary attention from the light which it throws upon the principles and opinions of the more intellectual and philosophical portion of the Jewish community. Thus regarded, its composition by one whose origin and sympathies have led him to a deep and feeling appreciation of the high merit of the subject of his narrative, only adds to the information and curiosity of the book. The included reply of Mendelsohn to the celebrated and eccentric Lavater, so explicit on the principles which regulate the more strict and influential Jews in reference to proselytism, is also a singularly interesting document, especially as conveying a due notion of the liberal opinions of the most enlightened of the Jewish doctors on the spiritual condition of the virtuous of other creeds. Lastly, the evidence therein afforded of the existence of a rising disposition among this ancient race to participate more largely in the general progress of science and information, in addition to the peculiar education suggested by their own religion and history, is of a nature to excite both interest and attention. As amusingly illustrative on all these points, the Memoirs of Moses Mendelsohn merit the perusal more directly due to facts and disclosures which, although of a special and peculiar class, not only advance the knowledge of our common nature, but tend to prove how essentially man is the same being, however various the guises imposed by education, custom, and social condition; and consequently, how absolutely mutual toleration, general forbearance, and universal good-will, comprise the interest as well as duty of all mankind.
SUPERIOR learning and eminent talents command respect under every circumstance. Nor are they less estimable for having been acquired in the usual routine of methodical education and academic study, either afforded by reputable parents, or provided by public institutions, where may be found example to imitate, well-directed ambition to inspire, and hopes of honour and preferment to support and invigorate; with no immediate cares to damp or distract, no prejudices to check or intimidate, but “ with all means and appliances to boot.” In these cases, however, though we justly praise and value excellence as such; we cannot discover in it more than a successful result of industry and perseverance, aided by propitious natural qualities, and facilitated by auxiliary advantages. Like exquisite plants, reared with patience, and nurtured with care, these favoured minds are fructified by the genial
rays of salutary ambition, prospective fame and reward : they are highly pleasing, but by no means rare productions : but when we see an individual excel in various sciences, who is the offspring of humble and indigent parents, born in an obscure town, amongst a scanty and poor community:*—when we see him soar, eagle-like, to the grand luminary of science and knowledge, nothing appalled, though living in an age that had but just began to emerge from the mist of bigotry and prejudice, in which so many of its predecessors had been enveloped :twhen we discover an eloquent writer, a great philosopher, amongst a people deteriorated and paralysed by ill-treatment and oppression; amongst a people cruelly neglected, and impolitically excluded from the emporiums of polite learning and useful knowledge :—when we consider that this individual left his native home, a solitary wanderer, unpatronised, unrecommended, without money, decent clothing, or expectation, without any thing on earth, indeed,
's own words in the article against Michaelis's Critic, in Dohm's “ Political Improvement of the Jews," vol. ii.
† Germany, at the beginning of the 18th century.
but a firm reliance on Providence :-when we know that he had no example to stimulate, no encouragement to solace, not even an alluring probability to speculate upon ;we shall find ample cause for wonder and admiration. And if it appears that this individual had moreover to struggle through life against some of the bitterest opposers of study and meditation, namely, a feeble constitution, pinching want, the bereavement of an only teacher, and the machinations of jealousy, and nevertheless attained to an almost unparalleled degree of perfection in every science he applied himself to, ultimately towering above all his competitors :-we may, without being thought enthusiasts, hail him as the harbinger of better days to a fallen-but not an irreclaimable-people, and of its redemption from the trammels of supineness, and the spell of superstition, in which it had so long previously been lingering; as, indeed, an admirable instrument in the hands of an all-directing Power, to pave
for the reestablishment of this people in its natural inheritance of wisdom, knowledge, and individual and national consideration.