« PreviousContinue »
and terror of publishers !-how shall I give thee · honour due'! In the bower where I am sitting, with a murmuring voice amongst the trees and a bottle of cider on the table, I would muse’ thy praise' in • expressive silence,'—but the editor forbids, and I must write. Not a line for an hour !
-Well, sir, who shall presume to question the employment of those fleeting minutes ?—Say that I have been half asleep-or mending my pen—or gazing upon the light clouds gathering up into a soaking afternoon is not this employment? Who can say how many brilliant thoughts, and lofty hopes, and satisfying remembrances, have crossed my brain in this brief space ?- Thoughts, and hopes, and remembrances, that may be the food of my pen for a long series of years. But I have not been idle, sir. I have been contemplating the death of a dozen wasps tható tangled their sweet wings' in an author's cider. And was there no mental food in such an act ? I have absolutely exhausted, in this occupation, every possible image of blind and presumptuous man, quaffing excitements above his nature, and so maddening onwards to destruction of vain and giddy youth trembling on the edge of pleasure's gulf, and soon perishing in the poison of his lawless enjoyments. I have thought of Rousseau raving in the frenzy of his morbid sensibility, and of “ maudlin Clarence in his Malmsey butt;">I have thought of—but I will think again of what I have thought.
Of all the abominable prejudices of the abominable world of realities, the most abominable is the belief that the gentlemen of the “ irritabile genus” are bound to take their seats at a mahogany desk as the clock strikes ten, and there patiently fill six sheets of foolscap before dinner. To the British with all editors, and to the Gazette with all publishers, who dare to approach the shrine of Talent with such atrocious profaneness. I would rather be shut up in the cell of Rembrandt, to study chiaro-scuro by two inches of sun-light-I would rather mature my philosophy with the fifteen pipes of Hobbes of Malmesbury—I would rather take the pudding and potatoes of Sir Richard Phillips, to produce on a Saturday night my fifty solid pages of ink and paste—I would rather live upon Otway's roll or Chatterton's stale tart-than write for a trader in literature who should expect such preposterous exertions. I will write when I am in the vein, but I will never write six regular hours a day, even for the rewards of a Southey or a Scott. I will write, like Pliny, between the courses of his feast-I will write, like Henry Stephens, when he divided the Bible into verses—I will write, like Steele, when he rambled out to an ale-house to indite five guineas' worth of politics--I will write, like Pope, when he walked up Binfield Hill, and translated the Dying Christian,' while Bernard Lintot held his horse-I will write, like Johnson, when he got up Rasselas in three nights, to pay for his mother's funeralI will write, like Jeffrey, when he sits down in his drawing. room suit of green and gray, to discuss the poetry of mid. night before the brief of breakfast - I will write, like Brougham, after an early division or a sober assize dinner-I will write, like Moore, perpetrating poetic theology between his meridian sheets I will write, like Hazlitt, when he wants ten guineas to remove from the uncourteous visitors who sometimes preside over his Penates.' I will write in bed, in the fields, in a balloon, in a boat, in a coach, in a lecture-room, in a mob, in a picture-gallery, in the gallery of the House of Commons, in the stage-box-but I will never write at a mahogany desk from ten o'clock till four.
Courteous reader, judge me charitably, when I avow that I have had this article for six weeks in hand, and during those forty-two days have no tangible labours to record, but the perusal of Guy Mannering' for the seventeenth time, and the first Canto of La Belle Tryamour' for the twenty-fifth. Am I therefore idle ?
Would that I kept a diary to shame the foul insinuation. Alas ! I never bought a charming little book at Taylor and Hessey's, as innocent and as blank as Fanny's mind, called • the Student's Journal ?' But you shall have some of my most vivid recollections of these fleeting weeks, and you shall then pronounce upon my industry.
I had dedicated a day to the real idleness of committing to paper a tardily-discovered maze of profound investigations, and had closed the outer oak of my chambers in Hare Court, when a formidable knocking, which distinctly affirmed that the oak spake not the truth, made me prepare myself for a morning of labour. I knew that it was the touch of Shafto. Now Shafto, with the ignorant, has the reputation of being the idlest fellow in town ; but the accusation is a foul false. hood. It is true, that Shafto can never be induced to perform his morning ablutions, till he has spent three hours over the newspaper ;-but then he takes such a vivid interest in every passing event-his political sagacity is built upon such an accurate knowledge of the strength of parties and the calibre of statesmen-his taste in matters of art is so indisputable and he has such a critical acquaintance with the stars of the theatrical hemisphere that you feel that it is the proper business of Shafto's life-not to trim his beard by twelve o'clock, or to make an attempt to be lucky in his tie'-but to gossip till the tea is as cold as the leading article of the Times, about Canning and Brougham, Chantrey and Haydon,
On the Idleness of Authors.
317 Macréady and Miss Foote, Wednesday's Almacks and Friday's execution. At length we sallied out for a day of business ; we had to examine some papers at the British Museum. Shafto, however, is a greater lover of art than of science-90 we did not get that day beyond the Elgin Marbles, which we worshipped for five hours; and talked of the Parthenon, and the length of the Peireian walls, and the new church at Pancras, and the decay of architecture in Great Britain-and then we came back to the Museum, and abused the trustees, and pathetically harangued upon the necessity of a more liberal admission to students and placed the Royal Library in the Mews-and deplored the custom of money-taking to see the monuments at Westminster and the Lions in the Tower and praised Mr. Croker-and laughed at Mr. Bankes and thought that Haydon, the historical painter, was not much greater than Vandyke the portrait-painter-and—but I shall at some future time publish Shafto's conversations on art, and I will not an. ticipate. Was this idleness?
I had devoted another day to the small industry of penmanship, when in stalked my fat friend Buttercup. It is impossible to describe the fascination of this prince of good fellows. He is not quite so lively as Vyvyan, but then he has more gusto in his ribaldry-he is not quite so witty as Falstaff, but then he has more activity in his punches of your ribs, I resigned myself to another day of labour ;-for I never could completely understand the secret of Buttercup's success in setting the table in a roar. After my second bottle, at twelve o'clock at night, I discovered it was all manner." Was this idleness?
I went into the country, that I might earn my ten guineas in peace. In a fortunate hour, I met with Gerard Montgomery: he was, as the world would say, remarkably industri. ous. We agreed to work together. The rain of the summer had passed away, and it was succeeded by fresh and bracing mornings, noons in which the sun poured down its fervent heat upon the ripening sheaves of the late harvest, and evenings in which the twilight came prematurely on, with a mist that dimly shadowed the moon which scarcely mounted above the horizon. I wanted amazingly to shoot, but I wasdetermined to write ; and Gerard and I walked duly forth in this sweet season, to write in company. We sat under a gnarled pak, and looked upon the grey towers of Windsor, and the broad masses of its forest ;-the fawn and the deer suggested many a feeling of tenderness and beauty--the falling leaves told us many a lesson of truth in far deeper poetry than Mr. Rogers' Human Life. We felt inspired in the Monarch's and the Muses' seats ;" but Gerard's inspiration went off in giddy rhymes, and mine remained in sage but untranslateable reveries. Yet I was busy in the study of human nature; and I learned a few most important lessons of intellectual evolutions. I have seen, as I watched Gerard's impassioned countenance, the infancy of a thought, struggling into energy in its perilous contest with the fetters of a rhyme, and at last triumphing in the maturity of a stanza. I mean to be Montgomery's Boswell, and no temptation of writing a dull essay for sordid gain shall draw me from the golden glorious opportunity of gathering materials for my Note Book. Is this idleness?
After a fortnight's experience, I found that I could not write prose in the society of a poet. I had Davenant to fly to; and we agreed to be the Beaumont and Fletcher of philosophy and criticism for No. II. On the first morning of our resolution, we were a little hipped: we considered that gym. nastics 'might improve our metaphysics, and played at leapfrog for a fuil hour. We were languid and weary, and in the desire to go to our work brightly, we slept till one: we then rubbed our pens, and assorted our spotless quire of delicate paper ; but Davenant had first to be delivered of a theory on the supernatural creations of Shakspeare, and this carried us to Racine and Voltaire, Aristotle and Confucius ; a slight dissertation on the merits of the Italian Platonists led us to Germany, and we ended, as the candles were brought, with Kant and Jacob Behmen. Was this idleness?
I then resolved (in compassion to the unhappy editor, who wrote to me by every post) to take a skiff, and skulling down the Thames to some solitary creek, finish my half sheet, and have done with him. How delightfully I lay in the bottom of my little boat, watching the swallows gathering about the willow banks, and thinking unutterable things about their mysterious instincts ;-how I listened to the distant eddy of the mill-stream, which terminated my tranquil creek ;-howI looked back to my boyish days, with its cares that were past, and its friendships that the world had scared away ;-how I jumped up, for I found the half sheet was going on badly. At the bottom of the boat lay a fishing-rod. I was ever a lover of angling, that is, ever since I read Isaac Walton; and I resolved upon an hour of the “ contemplative man's recreation.” I stayed in the creek“ till the evening star shone in its silent depth,” and I carried home, in the proud satisfaction of having earned my supper, six perch and a pope. Was this idleness?
I am writing this plain and honest narrative on the lawn of a delightful little village inn; before me is a deal table, a bottle of cider, and a gill of brandy,-above, is a laburnum dropping its faded leaves upon my head, and, at the fire within, is a handsome pullet, that, I fear, has been prematurely slaugh
tered for my enjoyment. I have yet an hour of leisure, which I must devote to my treatise.
The idleness of authors is a misnomer, an impossibility. No author, at least no author of talent, was ever idle. I can conceive the idleness of the editor of a daily paper, of a writer in the Metropolitan Encyclopedia, of the compiler of a mathematical dictionary--but I cannot conceive the idleness of a poet or an essayist. He is most industrious when he seems most at his ease;-he is bringing the flowers to his garners that his future art is to distil into a celestial perfume.
“How various his employments, whom the world
Calls idle." The truly idle men of this world are secretaries of state, lawyers in full practice, bank-directors, merchants with “correspondents in all parts of Europe,” fashionable publishers, bankers, and every variation of the people connected with trade. These work by deputy. But your poet
I think a little walk before dinner will be necessary to my digestion,--and I will, therefore, finish my treatise to
HORÆ ALBANÆ. DEAR FREDERIC,
HAVING nothing better to send you just now, I have extracted one or two “ occasional pieces” from the medleys of my fair friends. I cannot say much for them; they are full, as you might expect, of conventional lingo.
“Not rich, I render what I may.” I have added, however, a couple of little pieces by a lady of the Haselfoot family, to whom I trust the wits,
· For her own worth, and for the loyalty
Which true-born poets bear to womanhood," will be courteous. I am full of fogs and ill-humour; so excuse more words.
EDWARD HASEL POOT.
* * * * *
IMPROMPTU TO MISS
Sæpe Venus potuit quod non potuere Camoenæ ;
Quodque novem nequeunt, una puella facit.-D. Heinsii Poem.
I CALL'p my Muse, I bade her raise
Alas! in vain I tried ;