L O I T E R E R.
"Speak of us as we are."
PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR;
AND SOLD BY
C. S. RANN, OXFORD.
L O I T E R E R.
SATURDAY, January 31, 1789.
Quis novus hic hospes?
The difficulty of a First Address to the Public has been felt and lamented by Authors of all ranks and degrees; but by none perhaps with greater reason than those literary Adventurers who undertake to supply their countrymen with a regular succession of moral lectures, critical remarks, and elegant humour conveyed through the channel of a Periodical Paper. The Historic and Philosophic Writers have, in the commencement of their works, greatly the advantage over us; being exempted from the necessity, or debarred the privilege, of choice by the very nature of their subjects; which, in some measure a confinement, is also certainly a direction. But I know not what rule can be laid down for the Periodical Writer, the variety of whose subjects preclude all attempts at connection; who is eccentric by principle, and irregular by system.
Sensible of this disadvantage, and willing to lessen a danger which they could not prevent, my Predecessors, of periodical memory, have been particularly anxious to conciliate the good opinion of the Public at their first setting out, and to quit the shore with the tide in their favour. To effect this purpose, and render a first Paper, if not pleasing, at least tolerable, different means have been adopted, and a variety of styles made use of, according to the temper and genius, the hopes and fears, of the Writers. Sometimes the favour of the Reader is bespoke in the submissive language of distrusting modesty; and his censure, at others, bid defiance to, in the high strains of assuming confidence. Recourse has been had alike to the powers of wit and reason – the initiatory papers now sparkle with the quickness of repartee, and now swell with the solemnity of sentiment. And since future success so often depends on present reputation, and first impressions are seldom affected by subsequent alteration, we cannot wonder at any degree of pains which Authors exert in order to secure themselves a favourable reception from that Public, by whose suffrage they must stand or fall. But it is one of the misfortunes of human life, that success is not always in exact proportion to the means used for obtaining it, and it often happens, both in conversation and writing, that too much eagerness or too much caution defeat their own purpose, and render us confused and dull, where we particularly wish to be clear and lively. That such is the case with Lovers, my fair readers, if yet I have any, will readily allow. That Authors are sometimes in the same predicament, I fear all my readers are by this time convinced. Should this be the case, it will only add one to the many proofs we already have, that it is much easier to talk than to act. And yet perhaps, after all, the danger of writers is much less, and the good-nature of readers much greater than is generally supposed. Allowances are always made for the diffidence of a stranger at his first introduction into a numerous party, and as this kind of colloquial writing bears the nearest resemblance to conversation, there is no reason why an equal degree of indulgence should not be extended to us, who have at least an equal claim to it. In the former case, a decent reserved demeanour, just half way between the extremes of pert garrulity and solemn dulness, has been thought by many to be the most efficacious mode of conciliating the good opinion of the world, who are not always disposed to allot the honour of wisdom to the sententious pedant, or to set a man down for a Wit because he enters the room with a grin upon his countenance. In the latter case, therefore, we should hope, that plainness and perspicuity will be the best recommendation of an introductory Paper, and that the world will forgive an Author's being a little dull, provided he does not pretend to be very witty. There are, however, some points of ceremony on these occasions to be adjusted between Authors and their Readers; who naturally enquire who are the people that introduce themselves to their fellow-students as useful advisers or agreeable companions, and what is the plan of a work thus confidently brought forward to the eye of the Public, in a age severe because enlightened, and ill disposed to think well of a present attempt, because rendered fastidious by the excellence of past performances. In compliance therefore with the etiquette established on these occasions – We, the Authors of the LOITERER, announce ourselves to the world as a small Society of Friends, who have long been accustomed to devote our winter evenings to something like learned pursuits; that is, to the perusal of the best modern Classics, both in History and Poetry; and to make such extracts, remarks, and criticisms as occasionally occurred from the subject before us; - From hence the transition to other kinds of writing was easy, and in a little time a number of Essays on various subjects were produced: Nor let this be wondered at; for of all chymical mixtures, Ink is the most dangerous, and he who has once dipped his finger in it ––––
Nor Poppy nor Mandragoras, &c.
But if from reading to writing it is but one step, from writing to publishing it is less – and finding in course of time our works swell upon our hands, after a decent struggle between fear and vanity, we at length agreed that to keep our Talent any longer wrapt in the Napkin would be equal injustice to our writings, the world, and ourselves. But though we have so far overcome our natural modesty, as to comply in some measure with the literary ceremonial, and introduce ourselves in form to our Readers, we cannot yet prevail on ourselves to publish our real names and situations which we hope our Readers will not attempt to discover; and we rather think they will comply with this our request, as we assure them that all endeavours of that sort will be fruitless. In this, even Mr. Rann, our Publisher, can give them no assistance, he being entirely ignorant of our names, though it is probable that some of them have been in his Books.
But with regard to the plan of our Work, the Public has a right to more information, and we shall most readily give it; we beg leave therefore to inform all whom it may concern, that it is our intention to publish every Saturday morning a paper of the LOITERER, for the moderate price of Three-pence; and which we assure them, on the word of gentlemen and authors, shall contain as much learning, sense, and wit, as we can possibly afford for the money. And considering the relative value of those commodities, we flatter ourselves our Readers will not think they have a bad bargain. But whatever other degree of merit we may possess, two circumstances will, we flatter ourselves, strongly recommend our Work to the favour and patronage of the world in general, and this University in particular. The circumstances I allude to, are the name of our Work and the time of its publication. Few, I believe, will be hardy enough to doubt the efficacy of a good name; and still fewer will deny that name to be well chosen, which pays a compliment to four-fifths of the English nation. For if family connection can recommend us to the protection of the great, what patronage may not the LOITERER hope for, who is allied to some of the richest men, and prettiest women, in the kingdom? Nay, though the Authors of this Work are, to my knowledge, as poor and as vain as the poorest and vainest of their predecessors, they solemnly declare, that if only one half of the Loiterers in this University will take in their paper, their ambition and their avarice will be fully gratified, and their time and labour nobly rewarded. We hope, also, our friends will give us some credit for having so well timed our publication, when we assure them, that particular orders have been given to Mr. Rann, that the LOITERER should regularly make his appearance at Nine o'clock, in order to be served up with the bread and butter, crusts and muffins, and enter the room in good company. We have been the more particular in this circumstance, as it is the only hour, out of the twenty-four, in which there is a probable chance of finding some of our Brother Loiterers at home, and the only one in which any of them read: so genteel, and so useful indeed, is this love of morning study, that were it not for the necessity of eating breakfast, and of dressing hair, it is to be doubted whether some of our numerous fraternity would not, in a short time, forget their letters. In order, therefore, to prevent an evil, which, to those who are destined to the Church, might be of serious consequence, we venture to recommend this Work to their perusal, which, we can assure them, we shall be particularly careful not to make too long – no small part of the merit of some modern publications, and no inconsiderable inducement to modern readers, who seem almost universally to have adopted the maxim, that a great book is a great evil. Thus having candidly laid our Plan before the Public, from that Public we hope to receive as candid a reception; to find an admission at the breakfast tables of the unprejudiced and the learned; and to keep our place there as long as we shall be found agreeable companions, or useful instructors. Of doing much good in the latter capacity, we are not very sanguine; nor, if we can succeed in the first, shall we much regret it; for, however it may be gilded, instruction is but a bitter pill: and where one reads for information, ten look into a book for amusement. But however we may succeed or fail, in either or both of the above particulars, one promise we solemnly make to our Readers, That we shall banish from our Paper, all Party and Politics, and their constant attendants, scurrility and scandal; and that however we at times be dull, insipid, and unentertaining, we will never be indecent, abusive, or profane.
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