Imatges de pÓgina
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you think of commencing author, like me? You have read in books, no doubt, of men of genius starving at the trade. At present I'll shew you forty very dull fellows about town that live by it in opulence; all honest jog-trot men, who go on smoothly and dully, and write history and politics, and are praised : men, sir, who had they been bred cobblers, would all their lives have only mended shoes, but never made them.'

“ Finding that there was no great degree of gentility affixed to the character of an usher, I resolved to accept his proposal ; and having the highest respect for literature, hailed the antiqua mater of Grub-street with reverence. I thought it my glory to pursue a track which Dryden and Otway trod before me. I considered the goddess of this region as the parent of excellence; and however an intercourse with the world might give us good sense, the poverty she entailed I supposed to be the nurse of genius! Big with these reflections, I sat down, and finding that the best things remained to be said on the wrong side, I resolved to write a book that should be wholly new. I therefore dressed up three paradoxes with some ingenuity. They were false, indeed, but they were new. The jewels of truth have been so often imported by others, that nothing was left for me to import but some splendid things that at a distance looked every bit as well. Witness, ye powers, what fancied importance sat perched upon my quill while I was writing! The whole learned world, I made no doubt, would rise to oppose my systems : but then I was prepared to oppose the whole learned world. Like the porcupine, I sat self-collected, with a quill pointed against every opposer.”

“ Well said, my boy,” cried I : “ and what subject did you treat upon ? I hope you did not pass over the importance of monogamy. But I interrupt ; go on. You published your paradoxes ; well

, and what did the learned world say to your paradoxes ?”

“ Sir," replied my son, “ the learned world said nothing to my paradoxes ; nothing at all, sir. Every man of them was employed in praising his friends and himself, or condemning his enemies ; and unfortunately, as I had neither, I suffered the cruellest mortification,-neglect.

“ As I was meditating, one day, in a coffeehouse, on the fate of my paradoxes, a little man happening to enter the room, placed himself in the box before me; and after some

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preliminary discourse, finding me to be a scholar, drew out a bundle of proposals, begging me to subscribe to a new edition he was going to give to the world of Propertius, with notes. This demand necessarily produced a reply that I had no money ; and that concession led him to inquire into the nature of my expectations. Finding that my expectations were just as great as my purse, — I see,' cried he, ‘you are unacquainted with the town : I'll teach you a part of it.

Look at these proposals, – upon these very proposals I have subsisted very comfortably for twelve years. The moment a nobleman returns from his travels, a Creolian arrives from Jamaica, or a dowager from her country seat, I strike for a subscription. I first besiege their hearts with flattery, and then pour in my proposals at the breach. If they subscribe readily the first time, I renew my request to beg a dedication fee : if they let me have that, I smite them once more for engraving their coat of arms at the top. Thus,' continued he, 'I live by vanity, and laugh at it. But, between ourselves, I am now too well known: I should be glad to borrow your face a bit. A nobleman of distinction has just returned from Italy; my face is familiar to his porter ; but if you bring this copy of verses, my life for it you succeed, and we divide the spoil.””

“ Bless us, George,” cried I," and is this the employment of poets now? Do men of their exalted talents thus stoop to beggary? Can they so far disgrace their calling, as to make a vile traffic of praise for bread?”

“Oh, no, sir," returned he, “a true poet can never be so base ; for wherever there is genius, there is pride. The creatures I now describe are only beggars in rhyme. The real poet, as he braves every hardship for fame, so he is equally a coward to contempt ; and none but those who are unworthy protection, condescend to solicit it.

Having a mind too proud to stoop to such indignities, and yet a fortune too humble to hazard a second attempt for fame, I was now obliged to take a middle course; and write for bread. But I was unqualified for a profession where mere industry alone was to ensure success.

I could not suppress my lurking passion for applause ; but usually consumed that time in efforts after excellence which takes up but little room, when it should have been more advantageously employed in the diffusive productions of fruitful mediocrity. 'My little piece would therefore come forth in

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the midst of periodical publications, unnoticed and unknown The public were more importantly employed than to observe the easy simplicity of my style, or the harmony of my periods. Sheet after sheet was thrown off to oblivion. · My essays were buried among the essays upon liberty, Eastern tales, and cures for the bite of a mad dog ; while Philautus, Philalethes, Philelutheros, and Philanthropos, all wrote better, because they wrote faster than I.

Now, therefore, I began to associate with none but disappointed authors like myself, who praised, deplored, and despised each other. The satisfaction we found in every celebrated writer's attempts, was inversely as their merits. I found that no genius in another could please me. My unfortunate paradoxes had entirely dried up that source of comfort. I could neither read nor write with satisfaction; for excellence in another was my aversion, and writing was

“ In the midst of these gloomy reflections, as I was one day sitting on a bench in St James's Park, a young gentleman of distinction, who had been my intimate acquaintance at the university, approached me. We saluted each other with some hesitation ; he almost ashamed of being known to one who made so shabby an appearance, and I afraid of a repulse. But my suspicions soon vanished ; for Ned Thornhill was at the bottom a very good-natured fellow.” “ What did you say, George ?” interrupted I.

“ Thornbill, was not that his name? It can certainly be no other than my landlord.”- “ Bless me,” cried Mrs Arnold, “is Mr Thornhill so near a neighbour of yours ? He has long been a friend in our family, and we expect a visit from him shortly.” My friend's first care," continued

my son, was to alter my appearance by a very fine suit of his own clothes, and then I was admitted to his table, upon the footing of half friend, half underling. My business was to attend him at auctions, to put him in spirits when he sat for his picture, to take the left hand in his chariot when not filled by another, and to assist at tattering a kip, as the phrase was, when he had a mind for a frolic. Besides this, I had twenty other little employments in the family. I was to do many small things without bidding: to carry the corkscrew; to stand godfather to all the butler's children ; to sing when I was

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bid; to be never out of humour; always to'he humble, and, if I could, to be very happy.

“ In this honourable post, however, I was not without a rival. A captain of marines, who was formed for the place by nature, opposed me in my patron's affections. His mother had been laundress to a man of quality, and thus he early acquired a taste for pimping and pedigree. As this gentleman made it the study of his life to be acquainted with lords, though he was dismissed from several for his stupidity, yet he found many of them'who were as dull as himself, that permitted his assiduities. As flattery was his trade, he practised it with the easiest address imaginable ; but it came awkward and stiff from me: and as every day my patron's desire of flattery increased, so, every hour, being better acquainted with his defects, I became more unwilling to give it. Thus, I was once more fairly going to give up the field to the captain, when my friend found occasion for

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assistance. This was nothing less than to fight a duel for hiin with a gentleman, whose sister it was pretended he had used ill. I readily complied with his request; and though I see you are displeased at my conduct, yet, as it was a debt indispensably due to friendship, I could not refuse. I undertook the affair, disarmed my antagonist, and soon after had the pleasure of finding, that the lady was only a woman of the town, and the fellow her bully and a sharper. This piece of service was repaid with the warmest professions of gratitude; but, as my friend was to leave town in a few days, he knew no other method of serving me but by recommending me to his uncle, Sir William Thornhill, and another nobleman of great distinction, who enjoyed a post under the government. When he was gone, my first care was to carry his recommendatory letter to his uncle, a man whose character for every virtue was universal, yet just. I was received by his servants with the most hospitable smiles; for the looks of the domestic ever transmit their master's benevolence. Being shewn into a grand apartment, where Sir William soon came to me, I delivered my message and letter, which he read, and, after pausing some minutes,- Pray, sir,' cried he, inform me what you have done for my kinsman to deserve this warm recommendation? But I guess your merits: you have fought for him ; and so you would expect a reward from me for being the instrument of his vices. I wish- sincerely wish, that my present refusal,

suppose, sir, I

may be some punishment for your guilt; but still more, that it may be some inducement to your repentance.' The severity of this rebuke I bore patiently, because I knew it was just. My whole expectations now, therefore, lay in my letter to the great man.

As the doors of the nobility are almost ever beset with beggars, all ready to thrust in some sly petition, I found it no easy matter to gain admittance. However, after bribiug the servants with half my worldly fortune, I was at last shewn into a spacious apartment, my letter being previously sent up for his lordship’s inspection. During this anxious interval, I had full time to look round me. Every thing was grand and of happy contrivance: the paintings, the furniture, the gildings, petrified me with awe, and raised my idea of the owner. Ah, thought I to myself, how very great must the possessor of all these things be, who carries in his head the business of the state, and whose house displays half the wealth of a kingdom! sure his genius must be unfathomable ! - During these awful reflections, I heard a step come heavily forward. Ah, this is the great man himself! No; it was only a chambermaid. Another foot was heard soon after. This must be he! No; it was only the great man's valet-de-chambre. At last his lordship actually made his appearance. • Are you,' cried he, the bearer of this here letter?' I answered with a bow. "I learn by this,' continued he, as how that'- But just at that instant a servant delivered him a card, and, without taking farther notice, he went out of the room, and left me to digest my own happiness at leisure. I saw no more of him, till told by a footman that his lordship was going to his coach at the door. Down I immediately followed, and joined my voice to that of three or four more, who came, like me, to petition for favours. His lordship, however, went too fast for us, and was gaining his chariot door with large strides, when I hallooed out to know if I was to have any reply. He was, by this time, got in, and muttered an answer, half of which only I heard, the other half was lost in the rattling of his chariot wheels. I stood for some time with my neck stretched out, 'in the posture of one that was listening to catch the glorious sounds, till, looking round me, I found myself alone at his lordship’s gate.

My patience,” continued my son, was now quite exhausted : stung with the thousand indignities I had met with, I was willing to cast myself away, and only wanted the

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