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undistinguished success of those who solicit subscrip tions. When first brought into fashion, subscriptions were conferred upon the ingenious alone, or those who were reputed such. But at present, we see them made a resource of indigence, and requested not as rewards of merit, but as a relief of distress. If tradesmen happen to want skill in conducting their own business, yet they are able to write a book ; if mechanics want money, or ladies shame, they write books and solicit subscriptions. Scarcely a morning passes, that proposals of this nature are not thrust into the half-opening doors of the rich, with perhaps a paltry petition, showing the author's wants, but not his merits. I would not willingly prevent that pity which is due to indigence, but while the streams of liberality are thus diffused, they must in the end become proportionably shallow.
What, then, are the proper encouragements of ge. nius? I answer, subsistance and respect, for these are rewards congenial to its nature. Every animal has an aliment peculiarly suited to its constitution. The heavy ox seeks nourishment from earth; the light cameleon has been supposed to exist on air; a sparer diet even than this will satisfy the man of true genius, for he makes a luxurious banquet upon empty applause. It is this alone which has inspired all that ever was truly great and noble among us. It is, as Cicero finely calls it, the echo of virtue, Avarice is the passion of inferior natures; money the pay of the common herd. The author who draws his quill mere. ly to take a purse, no more deserves success than he who presents a pistol.
When the link between patronage and learning was entire, then all who deserved fame, were in a capacity of attaining it. When the great Somers was at the helm, patronage was fashionable among our nobility.
The middle ranks of mankind, who generally imitate the Great, then followed their example, and applauded from fashion, if not from feeling. I have heard an old poet * of that glorious age say, that a dinner with his lordship, has procured him invitations for the whole week following ; that an airing in his patron's chariot has supplied him with a citizen's coach, on every
future occasion. For who would not be proud to entertain a man who kept so much good company ?
But this link now seems entirely broken. Since the days of a certain prime minister of inglorious memory, the learned have been kept pretty much at a distance. A jockey, or a laced player, supplies the place of the scholar, poet, or the man of virtue. Those conversations, once the result of wisdom, wit, and innocence, are now turned to humbler topics, little more being expected from a companion, than a laced coat, a pliant bow, and an immoderate friendship for Etiam victis redit in præcordia virtus,
a well served table. Wit, when neglected by the great, is generally despised by the vulgar. Those, who are unacquainted with the world, are apt to fancy the man of wit, as leading a very agreeable life. They conclude, perhaps, that he is attended to with silent admiration, and dictates to the rest of mankind, with all the eloquence of conscious superiority. Very different is his present situation. He is called an author, and all know that an author is a thing only to be laughed at. His person, not his jest, becomes the mirth of the coinpany. At his approach, the most fat unthinking face, brightens into malicious meaning. Even aldermen laugh, and revenge on him the ridicule which was lavished on their forefathers :
* Dr. Young
It is indeed a reflection somewhat mortifying to the author, who breaks his ranks, and singles out for public favour, to think that he must combat contempt, before he can arrive at glory; that he must expect to have all the fools of society united against him, before he can hope for the applause of the judicious. For this, however, he must prepare beforehand; as those who have no idea of the difficulty of his employment, will be apt to regard his inactivity as idleness, and not having a notion of the pangs of uncomplying thought in themselves, it is not to be expected they should have any desire of rewarding it in others.
Voltaire has finely described the hardships a man must encounter, who writes for the public. I need make no apology for the length of the quotation.
• Your fate, my dear Le Fevre, is too strongly marked, to permit your retiring. The bee must toil in making honey, the silk-worm must spin, the philosopher must dissect them, and you are born to sing of their labours. You must be a poet and a scholar, even though your inclinations should resist; nature ' is too strong for inclination. But hope not, my • friend, to find tranquillity in the employment you are
going to pursue. The route of genius is not less obstructed with disappointment than that of ambition
• If you have the misfortune not to excel in your profession as a poet, repentance must tincture all
your future enjoyments. If you succeed, you make (enemies. You tread a narrow path, contempt on one
side, and hatred on the other, are ready to seize you . upon the slightest deviation.
But why must I be hated, you will perhaps reply, why must I be persecuted for having written a plea• sing poem, for having produced an applauded trage"dy, or for otherwise instructing or amusing mankind 6 or myself?
My dear friend, these very successes shall ren6 der you miserable for life. Let me suppose your * performance has merit, let me suppose you have
surmounted the teizing employments of printing and publishing, how will you be able to lull the critics, who, like Cerberus, are posted at all the avenues of literature, and who settle the merits of every new performance. How, I say, will you be able to make them open in your favour? There are always three or four literary journals in France, as many in Holland, each supporting opposite interests. The book"sellers who guide these periodical compilations, find
their account in being severe ; the authors employsed by them, have wretchedness to add to their natural malignity. The majority may be in your favour, but you may depend on being torn by the rest. Loaded with unmerited scurrility, perhaps you reply; they rejoin; both plead at the bar of the public, and both are condemned to ridicule.
• But if you write for the stage, your case is still more worthy compassion. You are there to be judg(ed by men whom the custom of the times has render
ed contemptible. Irritated by their own inferiority, they exert all their little tyranny upon you, revenging upon the author, the insults they receive from the • public. From such men then you are to expect your 6 sentence. Suppose your piece admitted, acted; one • single ill-natured jest from the pit, is sufficient to • cancel all your labours., But allowing that it sucoceeds : There are an hundred squibs flying all • abroad, to prove that it should not have succeeded.
* You shall find your brightest scenes burlesqued by the ignorant; and the learned who know a little Greek, and nothing of their native language, affect to
• But perhaps with a panting heart you carry your piece before a woman of quality. She gives the la6 bours of your
brain to her maid to be cut into shreds 6 for curling her hair; while the laced footman, who carries the gaudy livery of luxury, insults your appearance, who bear the livery of indigence.
But granting your excellence has at last forced envy to confess that your works have some merit ;
this then is all the reward you can expect while liv. ing. However, for this tribute of applause, you ! must expect persecution. You will be reputed the 6 author of scandal which you have never seen, of verses you despise, and of sentiments directly contrary to
your own. In short, you must embark • in some one party, or all parties will be against you.
• There are among us a number of learned societies, where a lady presides, whose wit begins to twinkle, when the splendour of her beauty begins to decline. • One or two men of learning, compose her ministers (of state. These must be flattered, or made ene6 mies by being neglected. Thus though you had the • merit of all antiquity united in your person, you grow
old in misery and disgrace. Every place designed 6 for men of letters, is filled up by men of intrigue.
Some nobleman's private tutor, some court fat'terer, shall bear away the prize, and leave you to an'guish and to disappointment.'
Yet it were well if none but the dunces of society were combined to render the profession of an author ridiculous or unhappy. Men of the first eminence are often found to indulge this illiberal vein of raillery.