Imágenes de páginas

repast of the shipwrecked Don Juan. The reviewing moiety fall ravenously upon the other half of the literary crew, tearing to pieces, cutting up, gnawing, devouring, and digesting every thing that comes within the reach of their fangs. We essayists, like modest Gouls, contented ourselves at first with fastening on the dead bodies of our predecessors, cooking them up and disguising them in every possible way, putting the hind part before, and dragging them into our dens backwards, as Cacus did his herds, to conceal the robbery. But this resource being exhausted, we have begun to cut Abyssinian collops from the living subject, and every scribbling John Bull carves plagiaristic steaks from his neighbour. Even this market of live food threatening to fail, in the extremity of our distress we turn pelicans, tearing open our own bosoms to supply flesh and blood to the ravenous brood of the public. Nay, we even join in their repast. Autophagi that we are ! in the voracity of our egotism, we find a perpetual feast in our own heart and head. There is hardly a single essayist that has not stuck his pen into his own person,

and dished it up before the public with all its accidents, accompaniments, and collaterals. Their birth, parentage, and education, life, character, and behaviour, have been already laid upon the table ; nothing is wanting but their last dying speech and confession, and that cannot be much longer delayed. What is to be the end of all this? When the present race of writers have been squeezed, and peeled, and cut open, and eviscerated, and hung up on our bookshelves to dry, like so

many shotten herrings at a fisherman's hut, how is the race to be renewed, and who is to satisfy the public with its myriad mouths gasping upwards in the hungry air, and roaring for food ? It is an awful question. I pause for a reply.

Editors and booksellers have committed a great mistake : paying for our contributions by the sheet instead of their intrinsic weight, they have offered a premium for adulterating the commodity of which they are the purchasers. Dilution and dilatation are tempting processes, when there is no standard gauge or measure. Beating out our guineas into gold leaf, and spreading them over as much surface as possible, we care not for the thinness and poorness of the article, provided it sparkles enough to have a faint appearance of gold. High prices have certainly brought great talents into the field of periodical competition, but eminence is always the precursor of corruption; an indiscriminate patronage must in the end degrade, rather than exalt, literature; for he who can get paid for glass beads and trinkets, will not take much pains to search for diamonds. South, when Queen Anne objected to the shortness of one of his sermons, replied that he should have made it shorter if he had had more time. All our time is employed in elongation and diffusion.

We are moneyspinners, and support ourselves by a thread of marvellous tenuity. For my own part, I can conscientiously declare, that no one would be more terse, pointed, brief, and apophthegmatical than myself—if I could afford it. My poverty, and not my will, consents:

poverty, be it understood, not of the pate, but of the purse. Modestly speaking, I consider myself to be a good Dr. Donne spoilt,--and spoilt, too, by encouragement!! Like over-watered cauliflowers, instead of forming a compact productive head, we shoot out all our strength into as many leaves as we can.

Insurmountable as it is, the difficulty of finding subjects is not the only one; the manner in which we should treat them is equally embarrassing. There are but a limited number of styles, and they are all engrossed by masters of the respective arts. Some I am too wise to attempt, for I would not fall into the error of the French Atall, “ qui gatoit l'esprit qu'il avoit, en voulant avoir ce qu'il n'avoit pas.”—The acute, close, and metaphysical—Mr. Table-talk has it all to himself;—the polished, elaborate, and euphonous-Geoffrey Crayon, Esq. has deservedly obtained full possession of the public ear;—the light, smart, and sparkling-Grimm's Ghost rises with twenty trenchant quiddets in his head, and pushes me from my stool : and so I might continue through all the letters of the alphabet, every one of which is the hieroglyphic of some peculiar excellence. Voltaire

says —“ ideas are like beards: children have none; we acquire them as we advance in life;" but what is the use of possessing them, if the space for their developement has been usurped by previous occupants ? The literary table is full-there is no room for me, and all the guests, without exception, (confound their dexterity !) seem incomparably expert at the carving of their respective dishes. It is really shameful that there

should be so much good writing abroad! In the most obscure publications one encounters prose and verse that would have established a first-rate reputation fifty years ago. At that happy period it was easy to be a Triton among the minnows; now-a-days one actually runs a risk of being a minnow among the Tritons. This comes of universal education. What an awful responsibility attaches to Lancaster and Dr. Bell !-it would have been but decent in them to caution their scholars not to write so well, and interfere in this scandalous manner with the regular practitioners. For my own part, were it not that it would look like an affectation of singularity, now that every body is an author, I would leave Apollo to dry up my ink, cut my pen into a tooth-pick, forswear essaywriting, cease to publish, and float down the stream of life

“ Like ships transported with the tide, Which in their passage leave no print behind.” “A wise man,” says Lord Chesterfield, “ will live at least as much within his wit as his income:" I am determined to do both, and keep my good things to myself, for I am fairly tired of alembicizing my intellect, and as an earnest of my sincerity I thus crumple up the sheet on which I have been scribbling, and cast it into the grate.

P. S. Guess my amazement, most unexpected reader, when I found, upon my accidentally calling in Conduit-street, that the preceding paper was actually set up in the press! My servant having had

directions to preserve the least scrap enriched with my invaluable lucubrations, had found and brought it to me for orders; and on my pettishly exclaiming that he might throw it to the devil, the blockhead, mistaking my meaning, conveyed it, as he had done many others, to the printer's devil. I have only had time to give it the title it now bears, and to add this explanatory postscript, which enables it to make its own apology.


From the prisons dark of the circling bark

The leaves of tenderest green are glancing;
They gambol on high in the bright blue sky,

Fondly with Spring's young Zephyrs dancing,
While music and joy and jubilee gush
From the lark and linnet, the blackbird and thrush.

The butterfly springs on its new-wove wings,

The dormouse starts from his wintry sleeping ;
The flowers of earth find a second birth,

To light and life from the darkness leaping;
The roses and tulips will soon resume
Their youth's first perfume and primitive bloom.

What renders me sad when all nature glad

The heart of each living creature cheers ?
I laid in the bosom of earth a blossom,

And water'd its bed with a father's tears;
But the grave has no Spring, and I still deplore
That the flow'ret I planted comes up no more!

« AnteriorContinuar »