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But if a man of letters can obtain a patron, he may defy the critic— True. But a patron is not always so easily found, as sought after : and it very often happens, that a writer obtains no patron, till he can either do tolerably well without one, as was the case, we may recollect, with Dr. Johnson, or till disappointments and penury may have almost harassed him out of the world. An able leader in the field of letters, or a fashionable retailer of the day, may be flattered and overpowered with distinctions; while the pioneer of literature is frequently left to perish amidst the rubbish, which he was doomed to remove.
The notice of a great man, it is true, may prove beneficial : but such notice may eventually be the most unfortunate circumstance in a man's life. The GREAT are sometimes apt to make men of talents their tools, and to expect illiberal compliances, at which a delicate genius may recoil, or an upright conscience may revolt: a vague belief of the importance of such friendship, may lead to mistaken notions prejudicial to the author. And while the world may suppose the poor fellow has found a Mecænas, he nay be fortunate to have escaped a Nero.'
What has been said on this subject may be thought the mere conjectures of one little conversant in the world. Let them pass for mere conjectures : but that authors, even of the first character, are liable to great distresses, whatever the cause be, may be seen by a table of FACTS. It is ready made to my hands, and transcribed from the CURIOSITIES OF LITERATURE.? “ Homer, poor and blind, resorted
and blind, resorted to the public places to recite his verses for a morsel of bread.
“ The facetious poet, Plautus, gained a livelihood by assisting a miller.
Xylander sold his notes on Dion Cassius for a dinner. He tells us, that at the age of eighteen he studied to acquire glory, but at twenty-five he studied to get bread.
“ Aldus Minutius was so wretchedly poor, that the expense of removing his library from Venice to Rome made him insolvent.
“ To mention those who left nothing behind them to satisfy the undertaker, were an endless task.
“ Agrippa died in a workhouse; Cervantes is supposed to
hineself, if, while treating on general benevolence, he had given any venti to private feelings of his own.
The circunstances alluded to in the above paragraph are illustrated in the ADVENTURES OF Hugu Trevor, a well-written novel, by Thomas Hol. croft: I refer to the conduct of the patriotic peer, and of the orthodox bishop. Vol. II.
2 Vol. I. p. 29.
have died with hunger; Camoens was deprived of the necessaries of life, and is believed to have perished in the streets.
“ The great Tasso was reduced to such a dilemma, that he was obliged to borrow a crown from a friend to subsist through the week. He alludes to his distress in a pretty Sonnet, which he addresses to his cat, entreating her to assist him, during the night, with the lustre of her eyes
Non avendo candele per iscrivere i suoi versi ! having no candle by which he could see to write his verses !
“ Ariosto bitterly complains of poverty in his satires : when at length the liberality of Alphonso enabled him to build a small house, it was most miserably furnished! When he was told that such a building was not fit for one who had raised so many fine palaces in his writings, he answered, that the structure of words and that of stones was not the same thing. The reader may be pleased to have his own expressions— Che porvi le pietre e porvi le parole non é il medesimo!'
“ The illustrious Cardinal Bentivoglio, the ornament of Italy and of literature, languished in his old age, in the most distressful poverty; and, having sold his palace, to satisfy his creditors, left nothing behind him but his reputation.
“ Le Sage resided in a little cottage on the borders of Paris, and while he supplied the world with their most agreeable romances, never knew what it was to possess any moderate degree of comfort in pecuniary matters.
“ De Ryer, a celebrated French poet, was constrained to labor with rapidity, and to live in the cottage of an obscure village. His bookseller bought his heroic verses for one hundred sols the hundred lines, and the smaller ones for fifty sols.
“ Dryden, for less than three hundred pounds,' sold Tonson ten thousand verses, as may be seen by the agreement which has been published.
“ Purchas, who in the reign of our first James, had spent his life in travels and study to form his Relation of the World ; when he gave it to the public, for the reward of his labors, was thrown into prison, at the suit of his printer. Yet this was the book, which he informs us in his dedication to Charles the First, his father read every night with great profit and satisfaction.
" John Stow quitted the occupation of a tailor for that of an antiquarian; but his studies placing him in embarrassed circumstances, he acted wisely in resuming the shears. Afterwards he was so fortunate as to meet a patron in Archbishop Parker,
" It appears in the Harleian MSS. 7524, that Rushworth, the author of Historical Collections, passed the last years of his life in jail, where indeed he died. After the Restoration, when he presented to the king several of the privy council's books, which he had preserved from ruin, he received for his only reward, the thanks of his Majesty!
" Dr. Dee, in the reigns of Elizabeth and James, the celebrated mathematician, (whose intercourse with invisible spirits the reader may recollect) was a very learned man. After having collected a library of 4000 volumes, and enriched it with mathematical instruments and MSS. and even in possession of a wide reputation, died in extreme poverty.
« Rymer, the collector of the Federa, must have been sadly reduced, by the following letter, addressed by Peter le Noire Norroy to the Earl of Oxford, preserved in the British Museum
" I am desired by Mr. Rymer, historiographer, to lay before your lordship the circumstances of his affairs. He was forced some years back to part with all his choice printed books to subsist himself; and now, he says, he must be forced, for subsistence, to sell all his MS. collections to the best bidder, without your lordship will be pleased to buy them for the queen's library. They are fifty volumes, in folio, of public affairs, which he hath collected, but not printed. The price he asks is five hundred pounds."
“ Simon Ockley, a most learned scholar in oriental literature, addresses a letter to the same Earl, in which he paints his distresses in colors not less just than they are glowing. After having devoted his life to Asiatic researches, then not less uncommon than they were valuable, he had the satisfaction of dating his preface to his great work from Cambridge Castle, where he was confined for debt; and he does this with an air of triumph, as a martyr feels enthusiasm in the cause for which he perishes.
“ Spenser-amiable poet !-languished out his life in misery. . The queen,' says Dr. Granger, ' was far from having a just sense of his merit: and Lord Burleigh, who prevented her giving him a hundred pounds, seems to have thought the lowest clerk in his office a more deserving person. He died in want of bread.'
“ Savage, in the pressing hour of distress, sold that eccentric poem, The Wanderer, which had occupied him several years, for ten pounds.
“ Even our great Milton, as every one knows, sold his immortal work for ten pounds to a bookseller, being too poor to undertake the printing it on his own account; and Otway, and Butler, and Chatterton, it is sufficient to name. The latter, while he supplied a variety of Monthly Magazines with their chief materials, found
tart a luxury;' and a luxury it was to him, who could not always get bread to his water.
“ Samuel Boyce, whose poem on creation ranks high in the poetic scale, was absolutely famished to death ; and was found dead in a garret, with a blanket thrown over his shoulders, fastened by a skewer, with a pen in his hand !" Two or three of the above cases I take to be a little incorrect and somewhat overcharged: but I give them as an extract, and as containing a greater body of truths, which cannot be disputed.
To enlarge the above catalogue woțld be no difficult task : if any reader chooses to pursue the inquiry he will find abundant examples in Bayle's Dictionary, and in some Latin treatises' published many years ago on the misfortunes of learned men. Enough has been here noticed to justify the following conclusions :—That genius, like beauty, may be ruinous to those who possess it ; that literature, like virtue, must, sometimes, be its own reward; that poetry has been considered as allied to poverty, so as to have given birth to the vulgar proverb;—and that, after what has happened to Homer, Tasso, Milton, Spenser, and Butler, no poet has a right to complain of hard fortune.
When Butler, needy wretch, was yet alive,
SAMUEL WESTLEY'S POEMS.
Petri Aligonii medici legatus, sive de exilio, libri duo : Accessere Pierius Valerianus, et Cornelius Tollius, de infelicitate literatorum, ut et Josephus Barberius de miseria poetarum Græcorum.
UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH,
(AS A SCHOOL OF MEDICINE,)
FROM THE ASPERSIONS OF " A MEMBER OF THE
UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD."
With Remarks on medical Reformn.
BY LAWSON WHALLEY, M. D.
EXTRAORDINARY MEMBER OF THE ROYAL MEDICAL SOCIETY OF EDINBURGH:
SENIOR PHYSICIAN TO THE GENERAL DISPENSARY AND THE HOUSE
OF RECOVERY AT LANCASTER,