Page images

life. They, perhaps, believed, that when, like Thucydides, they bequeathed to mankind xlaya es asi, an estate for ever, it was an additional favour to inform them of its value.

It may, indeed, be no less dangerous to claim, on certain occasions, too little than too much. There is something captivating in spirit and intrepidity, to which we often yield, as to a resistless power ; nor can he reasonably expect the confidence of others, who too apparently distrusts himself.

Plutarch, in his enumeration of the various occasions on which a man may without just offence proclaim his own excellencies, has omitted the case of an author entering the world ; unless it may be comprehended under this general position, that a man may lawfully praise himself for those qualities which cannot be known but from his own mouth ; as when he is among strangers, and can have no opportunity of an actual exertion of his powers. That the case of an author is parallel will scarcely be granted, because he necessarily discovers the degree of his merit to his judges when he appears at his trial. But it should be remembered, that unless his judges are inclined to favour him, they will hardly be persuaded to hear the


In love, the state which fills the heart with a degree of solicitude next that of an author, it has been held a maxim, that success is most easily obtained by indirect and unperceived approaches : he who too soon professes himself a lover, raises obstacles to his own wishes ; and those whom disappointments have taught experience, endeavour to conceal their passion till they believe their mis


[ocr errors]

tress wishes for the discovery. The same method
if it were practicable to writers, would save many
complaints of the severity of the age, and the ca-
prices of criticism.

If a man could glide imper-
ceptibly into the favour of the public, and only
proclaim his pretensions to literary honours when
he is sure of not being rejected, he might com-
mence author with better hopes, as his failings
might escape contempt, though he shall never at.
tain much regard.

But since the world supposes every man that writes, ambitious of applause, as some ladies have taught themselves to believe that every man intends love who expresses civility, the miscarrage of any endeavour in learning raises an unbounded contempt, indulged by most minds without scruple, as an honest triumph over unjust claims and exorbitant expectations. The artifices of those who put themselves in this hazardous state, have therefore been multiplied in proportion to their fear as well as their ambition ; and are to be looked upon with more indulgence, as they are incited at once by the two great movers of the human mind, the desire of good, and the fear of evil

. For who can wonder, that, allured on one side, and frightened on the other, some should endeavour to gain favour by bribing the judge with an appearance of respect which they do not feel, to excite compassion by confessing weakness of which they are not convineed, and others to attract regard by a shew of openness and magnanimity, by a daring profession of their own deserts, and a public challenge of honours and rewards ?

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

The ostentatious and haughty display of themselves has been the usual refuge of diurnal writers, in vindication of whose practice it may be said, that what it wants in prudence is supplied by sincerity ; and who at least may plead, that if their boasts deceive any into the perusal of their performances, they defraud them of but little time.

-Quid enim ? Concurritur-horæ
Momento cita mors venit, aut victoria læta.

The battle join, and in a moment's flight,
Death, or a joyful conquest, ends the fight.

ich I pur

The question concerning the merit of the day is soon decided, and we are not condemned to toil through half a folio, to be convinced that the writer has broke his promise.

It is one among many reasons for which I pose to endeavour the entertainment of

my countrymen by a short essay on Tuesday and Saturday, that I hope not much to tire those whom I shall not happen to please ; and if I am not commended for the beauty of my works, to be at least pardoned for their brevity. But whether my expectations are most fixed on pardon or praise, I think it not necessary to discover; for having accurately weighed the rcasons for arrogance and submission, I find them so nearly equiponderant, that my impatience to try the event of my first performance will not suffer me to attend any longer the trepidations of the balance. There are, indeed,

many conveniencies almost peculiar to this method of publication, which may naturally flatter the author, whether he be confideat or timorous. The man to whom the extent of his knowledge, or the sprightliness of his ima. gination, has, in his own opinion, already secured the praises of the world, willingly takes that way of displaying his abilities which will soonest give him an opportunity of hearing the voice of fame ; it heightens his alacrity to think in how many places he shall hear what he is now writing read with extasies to-morrow. He will often please himself with reflecting, that the author of a large treatise must proceed with anxiety, lest, before the completion of his work, the attention of the publick may have changed its object ; but that he who is confined to no single topick, may follow the national taste through all its variations, and catch the aura popularis, the gale of favour, from what point soever it shall blow.

Nor is the prospect less likely to ease the doubts of the cautious, and the terrors of the fearful ; for to such the shortness of every single paper is 4 powerful encouragement. He that questions his abilities to arrange the dissimilar parts of an tensive plan, or fears to be lost in a complicated system, may yet hope to adjust a few pages without perplexity ; and if, when he turns over the re. positories of his memory, he finds his collection too small for a volume, he may yet have enough to furnish out an essay.

He that would fear to lay out too much time upon an experiment of which he knows not the event, persuades himself that a few days will shew him what he is to expect from his learning and his genius. If he thinks his own judgment not sufficiently enlightened, he may

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

by attending to the remarks which every paper will produce, rectify his opinions. If he should with too little premeditation encumber himself by an unwieldy subject, he can quit it without confessing his ignorance, and pass to other topicks less dangerous, or more tractable. And if he finds, with all his industry, and all his artifices, that he cannot deserve regard, or cannot attain it, he may let the design fall at once, and, without injury to others or himself, retire to amusements of pleasure, or to studies of better prospect.


N° 2. SATURDAY, MARCH 24, 1750.

every vein,

Stare loco nescit, pereunt vestigia mille
Ante fugam, absentemque ferit gravis ungula campum.

Th’impatient courser pants

And pawing seems to beat the distant plain;
Hills, vales, and floods appear already crost,
And ere he starts, a thousand steps are lost.

POPE. That the mind of man is never satisfied with the objects immediately before it, but is always breaking away from the present moment, and losing itself in schemes of future felicity ; and that we forget the proper use of the time now in our power, to provide for the enjoyment of that which perhaps may never be granted us, has been frequently remarked : and as this practice is a commodious subject of raillery to the gay, and of declamation to the serious, it has been ridiculed with all the pleasantry of wit, and exaggerated with all

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »