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nity, think what they must feel, on beholding a son, a father, and a mother, after thirty years of tedious absence, meet again! Suffice it for me to say, that happiness, content, and plenty, crowned the remaining days of the venerable pair, and blessed the youthful, the filial Sidney.
HUMOUROUS APOLOGY FOR AUTHORS.
HOPE the candid reader now and then calls to
mind how much more nimbly he travels over a book than the writer did. When our dulness is complained of, it would be but charity in him to reflect how much pains that same dulness has cost us; more, he may be assured, than our brighter intervals, where we sprung nimbly forward with easy weight, instead of toiling like a carrier's horse, whose slow and heavy pace argues the load he draws, and the labour he endures. Alas! for us poor Novelists, if there was no mercy for dull authors, and our countrymen, like the barbarous Libethrians of old, should take it into their minds to banish music and the muses out of the land, and murder every Orpheus that did not fiddle to their taste. They should consider that the man, who makes a book, makes a very pretty piece of furniture; and if they will but consign us to a quiet station on a shelf, and give us wherewithal to cover us in a decent trim, the worst among us will serve to fill up the file, and stop a gap in the ranks.
It is hard indeed to toil, as we sometimes do, to our own loss and disappointment; to sweat in the field of fame, merely to reap a harvest of chaff, and pile up reams of paper for the worm to dine upon. It is a cruel thing to rack our brains for nothing, run our !
jaded fancies to a stand-still, and then lie down at the conclusion of our race, a carcase for the critics. And what is our crime all the while ? A mere mistake between our readers and ourselves, occasioned by a small miscalculation of our capacities and their candour ; all which would be avoided, if happily for us they had not the wit to find out our blunders ; or, happily for them, had all that good-nature for us that we generously exercise towards ourselves. If once they could bring their tempers to this charming complacency, they might depend upon having books in plenty; authors would multiply like polypusses, and the press would be the happiest mother in the kingdom.
How many worthy gentlemen are there in this blessed island of ours, who have so much time on their hands, that they do not know what to do with it? I am aware how large and respectable a portion of this enlightened nation centre their delights in the chace, and draw an elegant resource from the sagacity of the hound and the vigour of the horse; but they cannot always be on the saddle; the elements they cannot command; and frost and snow will lock them up within their castle walls; there it is possible that solitude may surprise them, and dismiss them for a time to their own lucubrations : now, with all possible respect for their resources, I should think it may sometimes be worth their while to make experiment of other people's lucubrations, when they have worn out their own, for those must be but sorry thoughts, which are not better than not thinking at all; and the least they can gain by an author is a nap.
The ingenuity of man has invented a thousand contrivances for innocently disposing of idle time; let us, then, who write books, have only the idlers on our side, in gratitude for the amusement we give them, and let the rest of the world be as splenetic as they will, we may set their spleen at nought; the majority will be with us.
If a querulous infant is stilled by a rattle, the maker of the rattle has saved somebody's ears from pain and persecution ; grant, therefore, that a novel is nothing better than a toy for children of a larger growth and more unruly age, society has some cause to thank the writer of it; it may have cheered the debtor in his prison, or the country squire in a hard frost. Traders will cry up the commodity they deal in, therefore I do not greatly insist on the praises which some that write books have bestowed on book-writing; but I do observe, that great respect is paid to an author by those who cannot read him, wherefore I conclude, those who can read, and do not praise him, are only silent because they wanted words to express their admiration and gratitude; while those sanguine flatterers, who, in the excess of their respect for our persons, cry down our performances, give evident proof how much higher they had pitched their expectations of what our talents would produce, than our productions could make good ; but though in their zeal for our reputations, they tell us how ill we write, they seldom neglect at the same time to shew us how we might have written still worse.
Some over-wise people have pretended to discover, that this altercation between author and critic is nothing more than a mere plot and contrivance to play into each other's hands, like Mountebank and Zany; but this is over-acted sagacity, and an affectation of finding more mysteries in the art of authorship, than really belong to it; for my own part, I believe it is a business of a more simple nature than most which can be taken up, and that authors in general require nothing more than pen, ink, and paper, to set up with. In ancient times, the trade was in few hands, and the work seems then to have been composed with much pains and forethought; materials were collected with great care, and put together with consummate accuracy and attention ; every part was fitted to its place, polish
ed to the heighth, and finished to perfection; there were inspectors on the part of the public, men of sound judgment, and fully competent to the office, who brought the work to a standard of rule and measure, and insisted upon it, that every whole should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Under these strict regulations the ancients wrote; but now that practice has made us perfect, and the trade is got into so many hands, these regulations are done away,
and so far from requiring of us a beginning, middle, and end, it is enough if we can shew a head and a tail ; and it is not always that even these can be made out with any tolerable precision. As our authors write with less labour, our critics review with less care; and for every one fault that they mark in our prodactions, there probably might be found one hundred that they overlook. It is an idle notion, however, to suppose that therefore they are in league and concert with the authors they revise ; for where could that
poor fraternity find a fund to compensate them for suffering a vocation once so reputable to fall into such utter disgrace under their management, as to be no longer the employ of a gentleman ? As for our readers, on whom we never fail to bestow the terms of candid, gentle, courteous, and others of the like soothing cast, they certainly deserve all the fair words we can give them; for it is not to be denied, but that we make occasionally very great demands upon their candour, gentleness, and courtesy, exercising them frequently and fully with such trials as require those several endowments in no small proportion.
But are there not also fastidious, angry, querülential readers ? readers with full stomachs, who complain of being surfeited and over-loaded with the story-telling trash of our circulating libraries ? It cannot be altogether denied, but still they are readers ; if the load is so heavy upon them as they pretend it is, I will put them in the way of getting rid of it, by reviving the law of the ancient Cecerteans, who obliged their artists to hawk about their several wares, carrying them on their backs, till they found purchasers to ease them of the burden. Was this law put in force against authors, few of us, I doubt, would be found able to stand under the weight of our own unpurchased works.
But while the public are contented with things as they are, where is the wonder if the reform is never made by us till they begin it in themselves ? Let their taste lead the fashion, and our productions must accord to it. While the Cookeries of Hannah Glasse outcirculate the Commentaries of Blackstone, authors will be found, who prefer the compilation of receipts to that of records, as the easier and more profitable task of the two. If puerilities are pleasing, men will write ut pueris placeant.
ON DISAPPOINTING EXPECTATIONS.
raise expectations and to dash them, after the
mind has been long habituated to indulge on the pleasing dream, is a refinement of malice that would do honour to the ingenuity of demons. From such a nefarious practice the generous would shrink with horror, the honest revolt with disdain : and none but the unfeeling and the unprincipled could think of it without the self-consciousness of a turpitude too base to be named.
To do all the good in your power is only performing a duty. When a favour is conferred on a deserving object, you most particularly oblige yourself. To be satisfied with the poor, the negative mer