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rather as bribes to silence than incentives rewards proposed in this manner. Who to emulation.
has ever observed a writer of any eminence Upon this principle, all our magnificent a candidate in so precarious a contest? endowments of colleges are erroneous; The man who knows the real value of his and, at best, more frequently enrich the own genius will no more venture it upon prudent than reward the ingenious. A an uncertainty, than he who knows the lad whose passions are not strong enough true use of a guinea will stake it with a in youth to mislead him from that path of sharper. science which his tutors, and not his incli- Every encouragement given to stupidity, nations, have chalked out, by four or five when known to be such, is also a negative years' perseverance may probably obtain insult upon genius. This appears in every advantage and honour his college | nothing more evident, than the undiscan bestow. I forget whether the simile tinguished success of those who solicit has been used before, but I would com- subscriptions. When first brought into pare the man whose youth has been thus fashion, subscriptions were conferred upon passed in the tranquillity of dispassionate the ingenious alone, or those who were prudence to liquors which never ferment, reputed such. But at present we see and, consequently, continue always muddy. them made a resource of indigence, and Passions may raise a commotion in the requested, not as rewards of merit, but as youthful breast, but they disturb only to a relief of distress. If tradesmen happen refine it. However this be, mean talents to want skill in conducting their own busiare often rewarded in colleges with an easy ness, yet they are able to write a book; subsistence. The candidates for prefer- | if mechanics want money, or ladies shame, ments of this kind often regard their they write books and solicit subscriptions. admission as a patent for future indolence; Scarcely a morning passes, that proposals so that a life begun in studious labour is of this nature are not thrust into the halfoften continued in luxurious indolence. opening doors of the rich, with, perhaps,
Among the universities abroad I have a paltry petition, showing the author's ever observed their riches and their learn- wants, but not his merits. I would not ing in a reciprocal proportion, their stu- willingly prevent that pity which is due pidity and pride increasing with their to indigence; but while the streams of opulence. Happening once, in conver. liberality are thus diffused, they must, in sation with Gaubius of Leyden, to mention the end, become proportionably shallow. the college of Edinburgh, he began by What, then, are the proper encouragecomplaining, that all the English students ments of genius? I answer, subsistence which formerly came to his university, now and respect; for these are rewards conwent entirely there; and the fact surprised genial to its nature. Every animal has an him more, as Leyden was now as well as aliment peculiarly suited to its constitution. ever furnished with masters, excellent in The heavy ox seeks nourishment from their respective professions. He con- earth; the light chameleon has been supcluded by asking, if the professors of posed to exist on air; a sparer diet even Edinburgh were rich ? I replied, that than this will satisfy the man of true genius, the salary of a professor there seldom for he makes a luxurious banquet upon amounted to more than thirty pounds a empty applause. It is this alone which year. Poor men,” says he,“ I heartily has inspired all that ever was truly great wish they were better provided for ; until and noble among us. It is, as Cicero finely they become rich, we can have no expec- calls it, the echo of virtue. Avarice is the ation of English students at Leyden.' passion of inferior natures--money the pay
Premiums, also, proposed for literary of the common herd. The author who excellence, when given as encouragements | draws his quill merely to take a purse no to boys, may be useful ; but when designed more deserves success than he who preas rewards to men, are certainly misap- sents a pistol. plied. We have seldom seen a perform- When the link between patronage and ance of any great merit in consequence of learning was entire, then all who deserved
fame were in a capacity of attaining it. the applause of the judicious. For this, When the great Somers was at the helm, however, he must prepare beforehand; as patronage was fashionable among our those who have no idea of the difficulty of nobility The middle ranks of mankind, his employment will be apt to regard'his who generally imitate the great, then inactivity as idleness; and not having a followed their example, and applauded notion of the pangs of uncomplying from fashion, if not from feeling. I have thought in themselves, it is not to be heard an old poet of that glorious age say, expected they should have any desire of that a dinner with his lordship has procured rewarding it in others. him invitations for the whole week follow- Voltaire has finely described the harding; that an airing in his patron's chariot ships a man must encounter who writes has supplied him with a citizen's coach on for the public. I need make no apology every future occasion.
For who would | for the length of the quotation: not be proud to entertain a man who kept “Your fate, my dear Le Fevre, is too so much good company?
strongly marked to permit your retiring. But this link now seems entirely broken. The bee must toil in making honey, the Since the days of a certain prime minister silkworm must spin, the philosopher must of inglorious memory, the learned have dissect them, and you are born to sing been kept pretty much at a distance. A of their labours. You must be a poet jockey, or a laced player, supplies the and a scholar, even though your incliplace of the scholar, poet, or the man of nations should resist : nature is too strong virtue. Those conversations, once the for inclination. But hope not, my friend, result of wisdom, wit, and innocence, are to find tranquillity in the employment you now turned to humbler topics, little more are going to pursue. The route of genius being expected from a companion than 4 is not less obstructed with disappointment laced coat, a pliant bow, and an immo- than that of ambition. derate friendship for a well-served “If you have the misfortune not to excel table.
in your profession as a poet, repentance Wit, when neglected by the great, is must tincture all your future enjoyments : generally despised by the vulgar. Those if you succeed, you make enemies. You who are unacquainted with the world are tread a narrow path: contempt on one apt to fancy the man of wit as leading a side, and hatred on the other, are ready very agreeable life. They conclude, per- to seize you upon the slightest deviation. haps, that he is attended to with silent “But why must I be hated ? you will admiration, and dictates to the rest of man- perhaps reply: why must I be persecuted kind with all the eloquence of conscious for having written a pleasing poem, for superiority. Very different is his situation. having produced an applauded tragedy, He is called an author, and all know that or for otherwise instructing or amusing an author is a thing only to be laughed mankind or myself ? at. His person, not his jest, becomes the “My dear friend, these very successes mirth of the company.
At his approach shall render you miserable for life. Let the most fat, unthinking face brightens into
me suppose your performance has merit malicious meaning. Even aldermen laugh, -let me suppose you have surmounted the and revenge on him the ridicule which teasing employments of printing and pubwas lavished on their forefathers : lishing,-how will you be able to lull the Etiam victis redit in præcordia virtus, critics, who, like Cerberus, are posice at Victoresque cadunt.
all the avenues of literature, and who It is, indeed, a reflection somewhat settle the merits of every new performmortifying to the author who breaks his ance? How, I say, will you be able to ranks, and singles out for public favour, make them open in your favour? There to think that he must combat contempt are always three or four literary journals before he can arrive at glory-that he in France, as many in Holland, each must expect to have all the fools of society supporting ɔpposite interests. The book united against him before he can hope for sellers who guide these periodical compi.
lations find their account in being severe; tered, or made enemies by being neglected. the authors employed by them have Thus, though yoụ had the merit of all wretchedness to add to their natural antiquity united in your person, you grow malignity. The majority may be in your old in misery and disgrace. Every place favour, but you may depend on being torn designed for men of letters is filled up by the rest. Loaded with unmerited by men of intrigue. Some nobleman's scurrility, perhaps you reply; they rejoin; private tutor, some court flatterer, shall both plead at the bar of the public, and bear away the prize, and leave you to both are condemned to ridicule.
anguish and to disappointment." But if you write for the stage, your
Yet it were well if none but the dunces case is still more worthy of compassion. of society were combined to render the You are there to be judged by men whom profession of an author ridiculous or the custom of the times has rendered unhappy. Men of the first eminence are contemptible. Irritated by their own in- often found to indulge this illiberal vein feriority, they exert all their little tyranny of raillery. Two contending writers often upon you, revenging upon the author the by the opposition of their wit render insults they receive from the public. From their profession contemptible in the eyes such men, then, you are to expect your of ignorant persons, who should have sentence. Suppose your piece admitted, been taught to admire. And yet, what. acted: one single ill-natured jest from the ever the reader may think of himself, it pit is sufficient to cancel all your labours. is at least two to one but he is a greater But allowing that it succeeds, there are blockhead than the most scribbling dunce an hundred squibs flying all abroad to he affects to despise. prove that it should not have succeeded. The poet's poverty is a standing topic of You shall find your brightest scenes bur- contempt. His writing for bread is an lesqued by the ignorant; and the learned, unpardonable offence. Perhaps of all manwho know a little Greek, and nothing of kind an author in these times is used most their native language, affect to despise you. hardly. We keep him poor, and yet
“ But, perhaps, with a panting heart, revile his poverty. Like angry parents you carry your piece before a woman of who correct their children till they cry, quality. She gives the labours of your and then correct them for crying, we brain to her maid to be cut into shreds for reproach him for living by his wit, and curling her hair; while the laced footman, yet allow him no other means to live. who carries the gaudy livery of luxury, His taking refuge in garrets and cellars insults your appearance, who bear the has of late been violently objected to him, livery of indigence.
and that by men who, I dare hope, are “But granting your excellence has at more apt to pity than insult his distress, last forced envy to confess that your works Is poverty the writer's fault? No doubt have some merit; this, then, is all the he knows how to prefer a bottle of chamreward you can expect while living. How- pagne to the nectar of the neighbouring ever, for this tribute of applause you alehouse, or a venison pasty to a plate of must expect persecution. You will be potatoes. Want of delicacy is not in him, reputed the author of scandal which you but in us, who deny him the opportunity have never seen, of verses you despise, of making an elegant choice. and of sentiments directly contrary to Wit certainly is the property of those
In short, you must embark who have it, nor should we be displeased in some one party, or all parties will be if it is the only property a man sometimes against you.
has. We must not underrate him who "There are among us a number of uses it for subsistence, and flies from the learned societies, where a lady presides, ingratitude of the age even to a bookseller whose wit begins to twinkle when the for redress. If the profession of an author splendour of her beauty begins to decline. is to be laughed at by the stupid, it is One or two men of learning compose her certainly better to be contemptibly rich ministers of state. These must be flat- than contemptibly poor. For all the wit
that ever adorned the human mind will The author, when unpatronized by the at present no more shield the author's great, has naturally recourse to the book, poverty from ridicule, than his high-topped seller. There cannot perhaps be imagined gloves conceal the unavoidable omissions a combination more prejudicial to taste of his laundress.
than this. It is the interest of the one to To be more serious : new fashions, allow as little for writing, and of the other follies, and vices make new monitors to write as much as possible. Accordingly, necessary in every age. An author may tedious compilations and periodical magabe considered as a merciful substitute to zines are the result of their joint endeathe legislature. He acts, not by punishing vours. In these circumstances the author crimes, but preventing them. However bids adieu to fame, writes for bread, and virtuous the present age, there may be for that only imagination is seldom called still growing employment for ridicule or in. He sits down to address the venal reproof, for persuasion or satire. If the muse with the most phlegmatic apathy; author be therefore still so necessary and, as we are told of the Russian, courts among us, let us treat him with proper his mistress by falling asleep in her lap. consideration as a child of the public, not His reputation never spreads in a wider a rent-charge on the community. And circle than that of the trade, who generally indeed a child of the public he is in all value him, not for the fineness of his comrespects; for while so well able to direct positions, but the quantity he works off others, how incapable is he frequently in a given time. found of guiding himself! His simplicity A long habit of writing for bread thus exposes him to all the insidious approaches turns the ambition of every author at last of cunning ; his sensibility to the slight into avarice. He finds that he has written est invasions of contempt. Though pos- many years, that the public are scarcely acsessed of fortitude to stand unmoved the quainted even with his name; he despairs expected bursts of an earthquake, yet of of applause, and turns to profit, which infeelings so exquisitely poignant as to vites him. He finds that money procures agoniže under the slightest disappoint all those advantages, that respect, and that
Broken rest, tasteless meals, and ease which he vainly expected from fame. causeless anxiety shorten his life, or render Thus the man who, under the protection it unfit for active employment; prolonged of the great, might have done honour to vigils and intense application still farther humanity, when only patronized by the contract his span, and make his time glide bookseller becomes a thing little superior insensibly away. Let us not, then, aggra- to the fellow who works at the press. vate those natural inconveniences by neg; lect; we have had sufficient instances of
CHAPTER IX. this kind already. Sale and Moore will Of the Marks of Literary Decay in France suffice for one age at least. But they are
and England. dead, and their sorrows are over. The The faults already mentioned are such as neglected author of the Persian Eclogues, learning is often found to flourish under ; which, however inaccurate, excel any in our but there is one of a much more dangelanguage, is still alive. Happy if insensible rous nature, which has begun to fix itself of our neglect, not ragingatouringratitude. among us, -I mean criticism, which may It is enough that the age has already pro- properly be called the natural destroyer duced instances of men pressing foremost of polite learning. We have seen that in the lists of fame, and worthy of better critics, or those whose only business is to times; schooled by continued adversity into write books upon other books, are always an hatred of their kind, flying from thought more numerous as learning is more difto drunkenness, yielding to the united fused; and experience has shown that, pressure of labour, penury, and sorrow, instead of promoting its interest, which sinking unheeded, without one friend to they profess to do, they generally injure drop a tear on their unattended obsequies, it. This decay which criticism produces and indebted to charity for a grave. may be deplored, but can scarcely be
remedied, as the man who writes against instruct or amuse us. Though ill-nature the critics is obliged to add himself to the is far from being wit, yet it is generally number. Other depravations in the re- laughed at as such. The critic enjoys the public of letters, such as affectation in triumph, and ascribes to his parts what is some popular writer, leading others into only due to his effrontery. I fire with vicious imitation ; political struggles in indignation, when I see persons wholly the state ; a depravity of morals among destitute of education and genius indent the people ; ill-directed encouragement, to the press, and thus turn book-makers, or no encouragement, from the great, adding to the sin of criticism the sin of these have been often found to co-operate ignorance also; whose trade is a bad one, in the decline of literature ; and it has and who are bad workmen in the trade. sometimes declined, as in modern Italy, When I consider those industrious men without them; but an increase of criticism as indebted to the works of others for a has always portended a decay. Of all precarious subsistence, when I see them misfortunes, therefore, in the common coming down at stated intervals to rumwealth of letters, this of judging from mage the bookseller's counter for materials rule, and not from feeling, is the most to work upon, it raises a smile, though
At such a tribunal no work of mixed with pity. It reminds me of an original merit can please. Sublimity, if animal called by naturalists the soldier. carried to an exalted height, approaches “ This little creature,” says the historian, burlesque, and humour sinks into vulga- “ is passionately fond of a shell; but not rity. The person who cannot feel may being supplied with one by nature, has ridicule both as such, and bring rules to recourse to the deserted shell of some corroborate his assertion. There is, in other. I have seen these harmless repshort, no excellence in writing that such tiles,” continues he, come down once judges may not place among the neigh- a year from the mountains, rank and file, bouring defects. Rules render the reader cover the whole shore, and ply busily more difficult to be pleased, and abridge about, each in request of a shell to please the author's power of pleasing.
it. Nothing can be more amusing than If we turn to either country, we shall their industry upon this occasion. One perceive evident symptoms of this natural shell is too big, another too little: they decay beginning to appear. Upon a enter and keep possession sometimes for moderate calculation, there seem to be a good while, until one is, at last, found as many volumes of criticism published entirely to please. When all are thus in those countries as of all other kinds properly equipped, they march up again of polite erudition united. Paris sends to the mountains, and live in their forth not less than four literary journals new acquisition till under a necessity of every month : the Année littéraire and the changing. Feuille, by Fréron; the Journal Etranger, There is, indeed, scarcely an error of by the Chevalier d'Arc; and Le Mercure, which our present writers are guilty that by Marmontel. We have two literary does not arise from their opposing systems; reviews in London, with critical news- there is scarcely an error that criticism papers and magazines without number. cannot be brought to excuse. From this The compilers of these resemble the com- proceeds the affected security of our odes, moners of Rome; they are all for levelling the tuneless flow of our blank verse, the property, not by increasing their own, büt pompous epithet, laboured diction, and by diminishing that of others. The man every other deviation from common sense, who has any good-nature in his disposition which procures the poet the applause of must, however, be somewhat displeased the month: he is praised by all, read by to see distinguished reputations often the a few, and soon forgotten. sport of ignorance,- -to see, by one false
There never was an unbeaten path pleasantry, the future peace of a worthy trodden by the poet that the critic did man's life disturbed, and this only be- not endeavour to reclaim him, by calling cause he has unsuccessfully attempted to his attempt innovation. This might be