« ПредишнаНапред »
speculation and subtlety, placed there by their pro- his easy chair, and sometimes, for the sake of confessors, as if with a view of deterring his approach. versation, deplores the luxury of these degenerate Hence it happens, that the generality of readers fly days. from the scholar to the compiler, who offers them All encouragements to merit are therefore misa more safe and speedy conveyance.
applied, which make the author too rich to con From this fault also arises that mutual contempt tinue his profession. There can be nothing more between the scholar and the man of the world, of just than the old observation, that authors, like which every day's experience furnishes instances. running horses, should be fed but not fattened. If
The man of taste, however, stands neutral in we would continue them in our service, we should this controversy. He seems placed in a middle sta- reward them with a little money and a great deal tion, between the world and the cell, between learn- of praise, still keeping their avarice subservient to ing and common sense. He teaches the vulgar on their ambition. Not that I think a writer incapawhat part of a character to lay the emphasis of ble of filling an employment with dignity: I would praise, and the scholar where to point his applica- only insinuate, that when made a bishop or statestion so as to deserve it. By his means, even the man, he will continue to please us as a writer no philosopher acquires popular applause, and all that longer; as, to resume a former allusion, the running are truly great the admiration of posterity. By horse, when fattened, will still be fit for very useful means of polite learning alone, the patriot and the purposes, though unqualified for a courser. hero, the man who praises virtue, and he who prac- No nation gives greater encouragements to learntises it, who fights successfully for his country, or ing than we do; yet, at the same time, none are so who dies in its defence, becomes immortal. But injudicious in the application. We seem to confer this taste now seems cultivated with less ardour than them with the same view that statesmen have been formerly, and consequently the public must one day known to grant employments at court, rather as expect to see the advantages arising from it, and bribes to silence than incentives to emulation. the exquisite pleasures it affords our leisure, en- Upon this principle, all our magnificent endowtirely annihilated. For if, as it should seem, the ments of colleges are erroneous; and at best more rewards of genius are improperly directed; if those frequently enrich the prudent than reward the inwho are capable of supporting the honour of the genuous. A lad whose passions are not strong times by their writings prefer opulence to fame; if enough in youth to mislead him from that path of the stage should be shut to writers of merit, and science which his tutors, and not his inclinations, open only to interest or intrigue ;—if such should have chalked out, by four or five years' perseverance happen to be the vile complexion of the times (and may probably obtain every advantage and honour that it is nearly so we shall shortly see), the very his college can bestow. I forget whether the simile virtue of the age will be forgotten by posterity, and has been used before, but I would compare the man, nothing remembered, except our filling a chasm in whose youth has been thus passed in the tranthe registers of time, or having served to continue quillity of dispassionate prudence, to liquors which the species.
never ferment, and consequently continue always muddy. Passions may raise a commotion in the youthful breast, but they disturb only to refine it.
However this be, mean talents are often rewarded CHAPTER IX.
in colleges with an easy subsistence. The candiOf rewarding Genius in England.
dates for preferments of this kind often regard their
admission as a patent for future indolence; so that THERE is nothing authors are more apt to lament a life begun in studious labour is often continued than want of encouragement from the age. What- in luxurious indolence. ever their differences in other respects, they are all Among the universities abroad, I have ever obready to unite in this complaint, and each indirectly served their riches and their learning in a reciprooffers himself as an instance of the truth of his as cal proportion, their stupidity and pride increasing sertion.
with their opulence. Happening once, in converThe beneficed divine, whose wants are only ima- sation with Gaubius of Leyden, to mention the ginary, expostulates as bitterly as the poorest au- college of Edinburgh, he began by complaining, thor. Should interest or good fortune advance the that all the English students which formerly came divine to a bishopric, or the poor son of Parnassus to his university now went entirely there ; and the into that place which the other has resigned, both fact surprised him more, as Leyden was now as are authors no longer; the one goes to prayers once well as ever furnished with masters excellent in a-day, kneels upon cushions of velvet, and thanks their respective professions. He concluded by ask. gracious Heaven for having made the circumstances ing, if the professors of Edinburgh were rich? I of all mankind so extremely happy; the other bat- replied, that the salary of a professor there seldom tens on all the delicacies of life, enjoys his wife and amounted to more than thirty pounds a year. Poor
men, says he, I heartily wish they were better pro-| say, that a dinner with his lordship has procured vided for; until they become rich, we can have no him invitations for the whole week following; that expectation of English students at Leyden. an airing in his patron's chariot has supplied him
Premiums also, proposed for literary excellence, with a citizen's coach on every future occasion. For when given as encouragements to boys
, may be who would not be proud to entertain a man who useful; but when designed as rewards to men, are kept so much good company? certainly misapplied. We have seldom seen a per- But this link now seems entirely broken. Since formance of any great merit, in consequence of re- the days of a certain prime minister of inglorious wards proposed in this manner. Who has ever memory, the learned have been kept pretty much observed a writer of any eminence a candidate in at a distance. A jockey, or a laced player, supso precarious a contest? The man who knows the plies the place of the scholar, poet, or the man of real value of his own genius, will no more venture virtue. Those conversations, once the result of it upon an uncertainty, than he who knows the true wisdom, wit
, and innocence, are now turned to use of a guinea will stake it with a sharper. humbler topics, little more being expected from a
Every encouragement given to stupidity, when companion than a laced coat, a pliant bow, and an known to be such, is also a negative insult upon immoderate friendship for a well-served table. genius. This appears in nothing more evident than Wit, when neglected by the great, is generally the undistinguished success of those who solicit sub- despised by the vulgar. Those who are unacquaintscriptions. When first brought into fashion, sub- ed with the world, are apt to fancy the man of wit scriptions were conferred upon the ingenious alone, as leading a very agreeable life. They conclude, or those who were reputed such. But at present, perhaps, that he is attended to with silent admirawe see them made a resource of indigence, and re- tion, and dictates to the rest of mankind with all quested, not as rewards of merit, but as a relief of the eloquence of conscious superiority. Very difdistress. If tradesmen happen to want skill in con- ferent is his present situation. He is called an ducting their own business, yet they are able to author, and all know that an author is a thing only write a book: if mechanics want money, or ladies to be laughed at. His person, not his jest, becomes shame, they write books and solicit subscriptions. the mirth of the company. At his approach, the Scarcely a morning passes, that proposals of this most fat unthinking face brightens into malicious nature are not thrust into the half-opening doors meaning. Even aldermen laugh, and revenge on of the rich, with, perhaps, a paltry petition, show- him the ridicule which was lavished on their foreing the author's wants, but not his merits. I would fathers: not willingly prevent that pity which is due to in- Etiam victis redit in præcordia virtus, digence; but while the streams of liberality are thus
Victoresque cadunt. diffused, they must, in the end, become proportiona- It is indeed a reflection somewhat mortifying to bly shallow.
the author, who breaks his ranks, and singles out What then are the proper encouragements of for public favour, to think that he must combat genius? I answer, subsistence and respect; for these contempt before he can arrive at glory. That he are rewards congenial to its nature. Every animal niust expect to have all the fools of society united has an aliment peculiarly suited to its constitution. against him, before he can hope for the applause The heavy ox seeks nourishment from earth; the of the judicious. For this, however, he must prelight cameleon has been supposed to exist on air; pare beforehand; as those who have no idea of the a sparer diet even than this will satisfy the man of difficulty of his employment, will be apt to regard true genius, for he makes a luxurious banquet upon his inactivity as idleness, and not having a notion empty applause. It is this alone which has in- of the pangs of uncomplying thought in themselves, spired all that ever was truly great and noble among it is not to be expected they should have any deus. It is, as Cicero finely calls it, the echo of virtue. sire of rewarding it in others. Avarice is the passion of inferior natures; money Voltaire has finely described the hardships a the pay of the common herd. The author who man must encounter who writes for the public. I draws his quill merely to take a purse, no more de- need make no apology for the length of the quotiserves success than he who presents a pistol. tion.
When the link between patronage and learning “Your fate, my dear Le Fevre, is too strongly was entire, then all who deserved fame were in a marked to permit your retiring. The bee must capacity of attaining it. When the great Somers toil in making honey, the silk-worm must spin, the was at the helm, patronage was fashionable among|philosopher must dissect them, and you are born to our nobility. The middle ranks of mankind, who sing of their labours. You must be a poet and a generally imitate the great, then followed their ex- scholar, even though your inclinations should reample, and applauded from fashion if not from feel- sist: nature is too strong for inclination. But hope ing. I have heard an old poet* of that glorious age not, my friend, to find tranquillity in the employ. • Dr. Young.
ment you are going to pursue. The route of genius is not less obstructed with disappointment than living. However, for this tribute of applause, you that of ambition.
must expect persecution. You will be reputed the “ If you have the misfortune not to excel in your author of scandal which you have never seen, of profession as a poet, repentance must tincture all verses you despise, and of sentiments directly conyour future enjoyments: if you succeed you make trary to your own. In short, you must embark in enemies. You tread a narrow path. Contempt some one party, or all parties will be against you. on one side, and hatred on the other, are ready to " There are among us a number of learned so. seize you upon the slightest deviation.
cieties, where a lady presides, whose wit begins to “But why must I be hated, you will perhaps twinkle when the splendour of her beauty begins reply; why must I be persecuted for having writ- to decline. One or two men of learning compose ten a pleasing poem, for having produced an ap- her ministers of state. These must be flattered, or plauded tragedy, or for otherwise instructing or made enemies by being neglected. Thus, though amusing mankind or myself?
you had the merit of all antiquity united in your “My dear friend, these very successes shall ren- person, you grow old in misery and disgrace. Eve der you miserable for life. Let me suppose your ry place designed for men of letters is filled up by performance has merit; let me suppose you have men of intrigue. Some nobleman's private tutor, surmounted the teasing employments of printing some court flatterer, shall bear away the prize, and and publishing; how will you be able to lull the leave you to anguish and to disappointment.” critics, who, like Cerberus, are posted at all the Yet it were well if none but the dunces of socie avenues of literature, and who settle the merits of ty were combined to render the profession of an every new performance? How, I say, will you be author ridiculous or unhappy. Men of the first able to make them open in your favour? There eminence are often found to indulge this illiberal are always three or four literary journals in France, vein of raillery. Two contending writers often, by as many in Holland, each supporting opposite in the opposition of their wit, render their profession terests. The booksellers who guide these periodi- contemptible in the eyes of ignorant persons, who cal compilations, find their account in being severe; should have been taught to admire. And yet, whatthe authors employed by them have wretchedness ever the reader may think of himself, it is at least to add to their natural malignity. The majority two to one but he is a greater blockhead than the may be in your favour, but you may depend on most scribbling dunce he affects to despise. being torn by the rest. Loaded with unmerited The poet's poverty is a standing topic of conscurrility, perhaps you reply; they rejoin; both tempt. His writing for bread is an unpardonable plead at the bar of the public, and both are con- offence. Perhaps of all mankind an author in demned to ridicule.
these times is used most hardly. We keep him “But if you write for the stage, your case is still poor, and yet revile his poverty. Like angry pamore worthy compassion. You are there to be rents who correct their children till they cry, and judged by men whom the custom of the times has then correct them for crying, we reproach him for rendered contemptible. Irritated by their own in- living by his wit, and yet allow him no other means feriority, they exert all their little tyranny upon to live. you, revenging upon the author the insults they His taking refuge in garrets and cellars, has of receive from the public. From such men, then, late been violently objected to him, and that by men you are to expect your sentence. Suppose your who I dare hope are more apt to pity than insult piece admitted, acted: one single ill-natured jest his distress. is poverty the writer's fault ? No from the pit is sufficient to cancel all your labours. doubt he knows how to prefer a bottle of chamBut allowing that it succeeds. There are a hun-pagne to the nectar of the neighbouring alehouse, dred squibs flying all abroad to prove that it should or a venison pasty to a plate of potatoes. Want not have succeeded. You shall find your brightest of delicacy is not in him but in us, who deny him scenes burlesqued by the ignorant; and the learned, the opportunity of making an elegant choice. who know a little Greek, and nothing of their na- Wit certainly is the property of those who have tive language, affect to despise you.
it, nor should we be displeased if it is the only pro“But perhaps, with a panting heart, you carry perty a man sometimes has. We must not underyour piece before a woman of quality. She gives rate him who uses it for subsistence, and flies from the labours of your brain to her maid to be cut into the ingratitude of the age even to a bookseller for shreds for curling her hair; while the lacel foot- redress. If the profession of an author is to be man, who carries the gaudy livery of luxury, in- laughed at by the stupid, it is certainly better to be sults your appearance, who bear the livery of indi- contemptibly rich than contemptibly poor, For all gence.
the wit that ever adorned the human mind, will at “But granting your excellence has at last forced present no more shield the author's poverty from enry to confess that your works have some merit; ridicule, than his high-topped gloves conceal the this then is all the reward you can expect while unavoidable omissions of his laundress.
To be more serious, new fashions, follies, and ambition of every author at last into avarice. He vices, make new monitors necessary in every age. finds that he has written many years, that the pub. An author may be considered as a merciful sub- lic are scarcely acquainted even with his name; he stitute to the legislature. He acts not by punishing despairs of applause, and turns to profit which incrimes, but preventing them. However virtuous vites him. He finds that money procures all those the present age, there may be still growing employ- advantages, that respect, and that ease, which he ment for ridicule or reproof, for persuasion or satire. vainly expected from fame. Thus the man who, If the author be therefore still so necessary among under the protection of the great, might have done us, let us treat him with proper consideration as a honour to humanity when only patronized by the child of the public, not a rent-charge on the com- bookseller, becomes a thing little superior to the munity. And indeed a child of the public he is in all fellow who works at the press. respects; for while so well able to direct others, how incapable is he frequently found of guiding hiinself! His simplicity exposes him to all the insidious ap
CHAPTER X. proaches of cunning; his sensibility, to the slightest invasions of contempt. Though possessed of for
of the Marks of Literary Decay in France and Englan.. titude to stand unmoved the expected bursts of an earthquake, yet of feelings so exquisitely poignant The faults already mentioned are such as learnas to agonize under the slightest disappointment. ing is often found to flourish under; but there is Broken rest, tasteless meals, and causeless anxiety, one of a much more dangerous nature, which has shorten his life, or render it unfit for active em- begun to fix itself among us. I mean criticism, ployment: prolonged vigils and intense application which may properly be called the natural destroyer still further contract his span, and make his time of polite-learning. We have seen that critics, or glide insensibly away. Let us not, then, aggravate those whose only business is to write books upon those natural inconveniences lvy neglect; we have other books, are always more numerous, as learning had sufficient instances of this kind already. Sale is more diffused; and experience has shown, that inand Moore will suffice for one age at least. But stead of promoting its interest, which they profess they are dead, and their sorrows are over. The to do, they generally injure it. This decay which neglected author of the Persian eclogues, which, criticism produces may be deplored, but can scarcely however inaccurate, excel any in our language, is be remedied, as the man who writes against the still alive, -happy, if insensible of our neglect, not critics is obliged to add himself to the number. raging at our ingratitude. It is enough that the Other depravations in the republic of letters, such age has already produced instances of men press- as affectation in some popular writer leading others ing foremost in the lists of fame, and worthy of bet- into vicious imitation; political struggles in the ter times; schooled by continued adversity into a state; a depravity of morals among the people; illhatred of their kind; flying from thought to drunk- directed encouragement, or no encouragement from enness; yielding to the united pressure of labour, the great,—these have been often found to co-opepenury, and sorrow; sinking unheeded, without rate in the decline of literature; and it has someone friend to drop a tear on their unattended obse- times declined, as in modern Italy, without them; quies, and indebted to charity for a grave. but an increase of criticism has always portended
The author, when unpatronized by the great, a decay. Of all misfortunes therefore in the comhas naturally recourse to the bookseller. There monwealth of letters, this of judging from rule, can not be perhaps imagined a combination more and not from feeling, is the most severe. At such prejudicial to taste than this. It is the interest of a tribunal no work of original merit can please. the one to allow as little for writing, and of the Sublimity, if carried to an exalted height, approachother to write as much as possible. Accordingly, es burlesque, and humour sinks into vulgarity. tedious compilations and periodical magazines are The person who can not feel may ridicule both as the result of their joint endeavours. In these cir- such, and bring rules to corroborate his assertion. cumstances, the author bids adieu to fame, writes There is, in short, no excellence in writing that for bread, and for that only imagination is seldom such judges may not place among the neighbouring called in. He sits down to address the venal muse defects. Rules render the reader more difficult to with the most phlegmatic apathy; and, as we are be pleased, and abridge the author's power of pleastold of the Russians, courts his mistress by falling ing. asleep in her lap. His reputation never spreads in If we turn to either country, we shall perceive a wider circle than that of the trade, who generally evident symptoms of this natural decay beginning value him, not for the fineness of his compositions, to appear. Upon a moderate calculation, there but the quantity he works off in a given time. seems to be as many volumes of criticism published A long habit of writing for bread thus turns the in those countries, as of all other kinds of polite Our author here alludes to the insanity of Collins
erudition united. Paris sends forth not less than
four literary journals every month, the Année-Lil- and was persecuted by the critics as long as he livtércire and the Feuille by Freron, the Journal ed. Thus novelty, one of the greatest beauties in Etranger by the Chevalier D'Arc, and Le Mer- poetry, must be avoided, or the connoisseur he discure by Marmontel. We have two literary reviews pleased. It is one of the chief privileges, however, in London, with critical newspapers and magazines of genius, to fly from the herd of imitators by some without number. The compilers of these resem-happy singularity; for should he stand still, his ble the commoners of Rome; they are all for level- heavy pursuers will at length certainly come up, ling property, not by increasing their own, but by and fairly dispute the victory. diminishing that of others. The man who has any The ingenious Mr. Hogarth used to assert, that good-nature in his disposition must, however, h every one except the connoisseur was a judge of somewhat displeased to see distinguished reputations painting. The same may be asserted of writing : often the sport of ignorance,—to see by one falso the public, in general, set the whole piece in the pleasantry, the future peace of a worthy man's life proper point of view; the critic lays his eye close disturbed, and this only, because he has unsuccess- to all its minuteness, and condemns or approves in fully attempted to instruct or amuse us. Though detail. And this may be the reason why so many ill-nature is far from being wit, yet it is generally writers at present are apt to appeal from the tribulaughed at as such. The critic enjoys the triumph, nal of criticism to that of the people. and ascribes to his parts what is only due to his ef- From a desire in the critic, of grafting the spirit frontery. I fire with indignation, when I see per- of ancient languages upon the English, has proceedsons wholly destitute of education and genius in-ed, of late, several disagreeable instances of pedantdent to the press, and thus turn book-makers, adding ry. Among the number, I think we may reckon to the sin of criticism the sin of ignorance also; blank verse. Nothing but the greatest sublimity whose trade is a bad one, and who are bad work- of subject can render such a measure pleasing; men in the trade.
however, we now see it used upon the most trivial When I consider those industrious men as in occasions. It has particularly found its way into debted to the works of others for a precarious sub- our didactic poetry, and is likely to bring that spesistence, when I see them coming down at stated cies of composition into disrepute for which the intervals to rummage the bookseller's counter for English are deservedly famous. materials to work upon, it raises a smile though Those who are acquainted with writing, know mixed with pity. It reminds me of an animal call- that our language runs almost naturally into blank ed by naturalists the soldier. This little creature, verse. The writers of our novels, romances, and says the historian, is passionately fond of a shell, all of this class who have no notion of style, natubut not being supplied with one by nature, has re- rally hobble into this unharmonious measure. If course to the deserted shell of some other. I have rhymes, therefore,. be more difficult, for that very seen these harmless reptiles, continues he, come reason I would have our poets write in rhyme. down once a-year from the mountains, rank and Such a restriction upon the thought of a good poet, file, cover the whole shore, and ply busily about, often lifts and increases the vehemence of every each in quest of a shell to please it. Nothing can sentiment; for fancy, like a fountain, plays highbe more amusing than their industry upon this oc- est by diminishing the aperture. But rhymes, it casion. One shell is too big, another too little: they will be said, are a remnant of monkish stupidity, enter and keep possession sometimes for a gooul an innovation upon the poetry of the ancients. while, until one is, at last, found entirely to please. They are but indifferently acquainted with antiWhen all are thus properly equipped, they march quity who make the assertion. Rhymes are proup again to the mountains, and live in their new bably of older date than either the Greek or Latin acquisition till under a necessity of changing. dactyl and spondee. The Celtic, which is allowed
There is indeed scarcely an error of which our to be the first language spoken in Europe, has ever present writers are guilty, that does not arise from preserved them, as we may find in the Edda of Icetheir opposing systems; there is scarcely an error land, and the Irish carols, still sung among the orithat criticism can not be brought to excuse. From ginal inhabitants of that island. Olaus Wormius this proceeds the affected security of our oles, the gives us some of the Teutonic poetry in this way; tuneless flow of our blank verse, the pompous epi- and Pontoppidan, bishop of Bergen, some of the thet, laboured diction, and every other deviation Norwegian. In short, this jingle of sounds is alfrom common sense, which procures the poet the most natural to mankind, at least it is so to our lanapplause of the month: he is praised by all, read guage, if we may judge from many unsuccessful by a few, and soon forgotten.
attempts to throw it off. There never was an unbeaten path trodden by I should not have employed so much time in opthe poet that the critic did not endeavour to reclaim posing this erroneous innovation, if it were not apt him, by calling his attempt innovation. This might to introduce another in its train; I mean, a disgustbe instance in Dante, who first followed nature, ling manner of solemnity into our poetry; and, as the