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;
Messr. EGERTONS, Whitehall, LONDON; Messrs. PEARSON
And POLLASON, BIRMINGHAM; Mr. W. MEYLER, Grove,
BATH; AND Messrs. COWSLADE and SMART, READING.
L O I T E R E R.
SATURDAY, April 25, 1789.
Vires acquirit eundo.
THOUGH some fastidious critic may not be disposed to allow, that deep learning is the characteristic of the present age; it will, I believe, be granted by all, that learning to a certain degree, was never so generally diffused as at the present period. Our very peasants may vie with the senators of ancient Greece or Rome, in a knowledge of the true interests and constitutions of their respective countries. Nor is this to be wondered at, when we reflect on the rapidity with which intelligence of every kind is propagated, by daily, weekly, monthly, and other periodical publications.
That we have, with propriety, been called a nation of politicians, is evident from the astonishing number of newspapers, which are perpetually issuing from the press, both in town and country. — That the inhabitants of Great Britain have an equal delight in works which tend to promote a knowledge of the belles lettres, of morality, of criticism, and of elegant composition, will be testified by barely mentioning the Tatler, the Spectator, the Guardian, the Rambler, the Adventurer, the Connoisseur, the Idler, the World, the Mirror, the Lounger, the Observer, the Olla Podrida, and, though last, I hope not least in the public estimation, the Loiterer. — That we have also with justice been called a nation of philosophers, is equally evident from the avidity with which the various monthly reviews are purchased. By these, the surface of science, in every department, is perpetually skimmed: though it is difficult to determine, whether the last mentioned publications are more friendly or hostile to science. If knowledge is very generally diffused, by their means, it must at the same time be owned that the ardour of many an aspiring genius has been damped by their decisions; and by them the minds of well-meaning individuals have been tortured upon the racks of criticism. Too often, it is to be feared, the malice of the envious hath here found a receptacle for its venom. How severely cutting must it be for an author who hath toiled for years at a favourite work, to have his hopes of fame blasted in a single moment, perhaps by an ignorant scribbler, who looks no farther than his preface.
In vain will he attempt a defence; his work is read but by few, and perhaps understood by still fewer; whilst that which decides upon his fate is in the hands of every reader; the meanest of whom can understand that the author is disgraced; he receives a stab in the dark, and to defend himself, is to fight with the air; or what is still worse, is to propagate his own disgrace: nay, the very wretch who has given the blow, and who lives, perhaps, within a few doors of the sufferer, has it in his power, under the mask of pity and concern, still further to propagate the detraction of which he is himself the cause. — But, lest my reader should conclude that the Loiterer, in some former literary adventure, has been himself the laughing stock of a Reviewer, I will hasten to the purport of this paper, which is to extract good from evil. — Our excellent minister has no doubt a variety of plans in reserve, for increasing the revenue of his country: I would wish to add one more to the number: which is, that every article, in every review, may in future be considered and paid for as an advertisement. It would be entering too minutely into the scheme, at present, to determine what difference should be made betwixt a favourable and unfavourable report: but doubtless the panegyric of vanity, and the libel of envy, would bring in considerable sums to the treasury. The author and his antagonist may thus have an opportunity of fighting each other, to the emolument, if not to the entertainment of the public.— It may indeed be objected, that the longest purse rather than the soundest argument, will thus be likely to carry the day; or it may be alleged, that where genius and poverty (which is too often the case) unite, they will have additional difficulties to encounter.
This, however, is an objection formidable at first sight only; for true genius, by a manly perseverance, will surmount every obstacle. And after all that has been said, I will never believe but that there are writers engaged in the conduct of every Review, who are capable of taking pleasure in the nurture of true genius; men, who are ready at all times " parcere subjectis et debellare superbos; " but the great misfortune is, that no particular men of learning and eminence, standing forth as the responsible editors, the invisible belt of general secrecy affords too easy an admission to the carpings of envy. These reflections occurred to me, in consequence of a visit, when at my curacy in the country, from my excellent friend Eugenio, whose heart is a stranger to every sentiment which is not an honour to humanity. His eye sparkled with unusual fire, and every trait of his countenance had lost its accustomed benignity. If Lavater had at that moment beheld him, a brass farthing would have been of more value than the whole system of physiognomony. He broke out before the usual salutations into the most passionate exclamations, from which I soon discovered, that my friend, who had lately published some excellent essays on a scientific subject, had just undergone the ordeal of an illiberal Review. His arguments had been totally misrepresented; a slight inaccuracy of expression, and three typographical errors had been magnified into an equal number of unscientific blunders. My concern at the situation of my friend, and my earnest desire to soothe his feelings, made me overlook the common forms of good breeding; and instead of desiring him to enter the house, we both strolled from the garden gate, where I had run to receive him, into an adjacent meadow, where we had scarcely advanced twenty paces, when his favourite horse, a beautiful creature, still led by the hand of his master, became excessively unruly; tossing his head, kicking, plunging, and foaming at the mouth. We were at a loss how to account for this, 'till I happened accidentally to perceive an angry gad-fly fastened to the tenderest part of his body. I pointed it out with a smile to Eugenio. Behold, said I, that noble animal has this moment been reviewed . See where the blood-sucker riots in his tenderest feelings. Eugenio's features relaxing, I was encouraged to pursue the simile. Observe yonder excellent pack-horse, with what steady perseverance does he continue his journey, unmindful of any thing but the load on his back, and the way before him; in vain is he assailed on every side by a troublesome swarm of insects. Him we will call the heavy horse of literature, hackneyed and heedless of all the dangers and perplexities of the road; whilst the young and fiery courser, like you, my dear Eugenio, his master, suffers himself to be driven out of is way, and his feelings to be murdered by — a Fly. — The features of Eugenio now resuming their wonted benignity, I brought him into my humble habitation; where the Concha salis puri , joined to a sincere and hearty welcome, and the circulation of a few glasses of wine, in a great measure dissipated his chagrin. But I could still observe, during the intervals of conversation, that his feelings were only suspended. It was in one of these silent intervals that I fell insensibly into a reverie, which terminated in a profound sleep. When I was soon convinced that the feelings of Eugenio had made a deep impression on my mind; for the imagination, as is usual in sleep, anticipating time and space, hurried me on to that important period of my existence, the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety-nine, when I fancy'd I beheld the Loiterer collected into nine elegant volumes. I was pleasing myself with contemplating the important appearance which my labours were likely to make in the republic of Letters; when a bundle of Reviews were opened by an invisible hand, and spread before me. I hastily perused the candid ; the impartial , the learned, and the old English Review. I speak of things as they will be hereafter named. But I will not trespass on the time of my readers by entering into particulars of the various emotions I felt upon this trying occasion. In some future number I may possibly give an extract from each. I shall now only observe, that whilst I was engaged with one that treated me with the greatest severity, I felt myself as it were suddenly seized by the nose; and upon opening my eyes beheld my friend standing by me with smelling-bottles and hartshorn. For some minutes he concluded that instead of an apoplexy, as he had at first supposed, I was really seized with a sudden frenzy; for I could talk of nothing but the impartial , the candid ; the learned, and the old English Review. By degrees I become thoroughly awake, and relating the particulars of my dream, Eugenio, squeezing my hand, observed with an air of triumph, that some pity was certainly due to the reality, when such were the feelings excited merely by dreaming of — a Fly. — — :+: :+: :+:
< < Previous List of Issues Next > >
Sophia's Home page