L O I T E R E R.
"Speak of us as we are."
PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR,
And sold by Messrs. PRINCE and COOKE, OXFORD.
Mess. EGERTONS, Whitehall, LONDON; Mess. PEARSON
And ROLLASON, BIRMINGHAM; Mr. W. MEYLER, Grove,
BATH; AND Mess. COWSLADE and SMART, READING.
L O I T E R E R.
SATURDAY, March 20, 1790.
Valete, et Plaudite.
THERE are few perhaps of my Readers who in their necessary removal from place to place have not met with some entertaining fellow-traveller, whose conversation has beguiled “the creeping hours of time,” and from whom they have parted with a sensation of regret at the idea of never again seeing a person, to whom they have been indebted from some hours of innocent amusement.
Not entirely dissimilar to this species of acquaintance is the connection between a Periodical Writer and his Readers: And though I dare not indulge the hope that our feelings are mutual, yet I can assure them, it is not without some degree of pain I reflect, that this is the last time I shall have an opportunity of addressing them in my public capacity.
For this putting an end to my weekly labours, many sufficient causes might be assigned, did I imagine the Public interested enough in me and my work to demand one.
I might even observe, that as the little foibles and failings which this Work was intended to correct, have now entirely disappeared, the necessity or even the propriety of continuing it must be exceedingly doubtful.
But to be serious, whatever the Vanity of an Author might (in more favourable circumstances) have suggested, the short list of my Subscribers, and the long list of my Publisher, must teach me an humbler lesson, and oblige me, however unwillingly, that the present exemplary manners of the Members of the University, are rather to be attributed to their own good sense and reflection, than to the little friendly Hints which I have from time to time given them.
But, however, a regard to the truth may induce me to disclaim any very Particular marks of public favour; a sense of gratitude will oblige me to confess, that from many Individuals I have received (during the progress of this work) Very flattering Patronage, and from some the most liberal and unsolicited assistance. To all these I now offer my sincerest thanks; and can assure them, that in owning the particular Numbers, for which I am indebted to each, I shall feel a pleasure, which will more than overbalance any uneasy sensation Which might arise in deducting so much, both from the size and the merit of the Work.
The Papers, which (instead of being distinguished by a letter) have the signature * * * affixed to them, are the production of an unknown Correspondent, from whom we received the first communication in a very early stage of our work, and who has favoured us with a regular and Continued assistance during almost the whole progress of it.
The History of an Highland Chieftain, in the 41st Number, was communicated to me by a Friend of my own College.
For the Numbers which bear the signature F. I am indebted to the Rev. W.B. Portal, of the same Society.
To the Writers of Numbers 18 and 24, and of Number 12, and the Essays, which bear the signature R. I wish it were in my power to give public thanks; but they are the production of two Members of the University, whose names I am not at liberty to mention.
For the nine Numbers, which are signed with the letter E. I am obliged to Mr. H.T. Austen, of St. John’s College.
Number 59 is the joint communication of the last named Gentleman and Mr. Portal; and for the merits or defects of all the remaining Papers (which are distinguished by the signature S. or C.) the Writer of this Number must stand responsible.
Having thus settled accounts between my Correspondents, myself, and fellow-labourers, it may not be improper to say something of the Work itself; which, whatever other deficiencies it may have, possesses perhaps some claim to the merit of Originality. It is indeed a little remarkable, that several works of this kind have been written and published in Oxford, none since the time or Terræ Filius have drawn their sources principally from academical life.
The Author of the Connoisseur, in a few scattered Papers, has rather pointed the way, than traced the path. Under this idea the present work was begun, and the original Undertakers of it discovered, or fancied they discovered, a field open before them, as yet unbeaten by the footsteps of any of their predecessors; and it was imagined that the circles of Oxford would furnish some portraits and some scenes, the peculiar features of which, if happily caught, and accurately discriminated, might be not uninteresting to the Public Eye. In pursuance of this plan, our first volume is almost entirely confined to such subjects, as must naturally present them to an Inhabitant of this Place. In the second it was thought necessary, for various reasons, to enlarge the circle of our subjects, still however without losing sight of the original plan; and the whole is offered to the World, as a rough, but not entirely inaccurate Sketch of the Character, the Manners, and the Amusements of Oxford, at the close of the eighteenth Century.
In the conduct of this Paper I am aware, that two objections of a very opposite nature may be at the same time laid to our charge: for though “to please every one” is an old adage pronounced impracticable, yet I believe it is often very possible, to please none; nor should I be surprised, if, while the young and the lively reproach us with indulging too much in the levity of satirical remark, and the license of unlimited censure; the older and graver part of our Readers may be as ready to accuse us of being too reserved in the execution of our office, and of having contented ourselves with merely raising a laugh at the errors of Youth and Inexperience.
In answer to the first of these it may be observed, that as our Subjects have been various, and our Satire general, the feelings of no private Individual can be wounded, since the possibility of any personal application is entirely Precluded. And to the second it will be a sufficient apology to confesses fairly, that we have ever thought the inculcating the weighty and more important duties of Life, an undertaking infinitely above the abilities of the Writer, and perhaps beyond the extent of the Work.
Non tali auxilio, nec defensoribus istis.The direct enforcement of Virtue and Learning, is perhaps beyond the sphere of a Periodical Work which is more promisingly employed, when eventually promoting them through the exposure of folly and error, and the recommendation of those inferior Virtues, which, though not of the greatest value, are of more frequent currency in Society.
On the whole, therefore, should the Merit of these Pages be sufficient to recommend them to the occasional and cursory perusal of his Fellow Students, the Author of the LOITERER will reflect on having added his Mite to the common stock of Public Amusement. Should it even fail, he will not think the time bestowed on this work wholly thrown away, since it has introduced him to the knowledge of men, on whose acquaintance he reflects at once with pride and pleasure, and since it has filled many hours which might have been lost in vacant indolence, or engrossed by less innocent occupations.
JAMES AUSTEN, M.A.St. JOHN’S COLLEGE,
March 20th, 1790.
F I N I S.
* * * Those subscribers who wish to collect these Essays into volumes, may be furnished in the course of a few weeks with a Table of Contents, Errata, &c. by applying to Mess. Prince and Cooke; of whom may be had, compleat Sets, or single Numbers.
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