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the Stake, tormented like a Toad under a Harrow, or hunted like a Dog with a Stick at his Tail : All these are indeed States of Uneasiness; but what are they to the Life of an Author ! of an Author worried by Critics, tormented by his Bookseller, and hunted by his Creditors. Yet such must be the Cafe of many among the Retailers of Knowledge, while they continue thus to swarm over the Land; and whether it be by Propagation or Contagion, produce new Writers to heighten the general Distress, to increase Confusion, and hasten Famine.
Having long studied the Varieties of Life; I can guess by every Man's Walk, or Air, to what State of the Community he belongs. Every Man has noted the Legs of a Taylor, and the Gait of a Seaman; and a little Extenfion of his physiognomical Acquisitions will teach him to distinguish the Countenance of an Author. It is my Practice, when I am in Want of Amusement, to place myself for an Hour at Temple-Bar, or any other narrow Pass much frequented, and examine one by one the Looks of the Passengers ; and I have commonly found, that, between the Hours of Eleven and Four, every Sixth Man is an Author. They are seldom to be seen very early in the Morning, or late in the Evening; but about Dinner-time they are all in Motion, and have one uniform Eagerness in their Faces, which gives little Opportunity of difcerning their Hopes or Fears, their Pleasures or their Pains.
But, in the Afternoon, when they have all dined, or composed themselves to pass the Day without a Dinner, their Passions have full Play, and I can perceive one Man wondering at the Stupidity of the Public, by which his new Book has been totally neglected; another cursing the French, who fright away literary Curiosity by their Threats of an Invafion ; another swearing at his Bookseller, who will advancé no Money, without Copy; another perusing, as he walks, his Publisher's Bill; another murmuring at an unanswerable Criticism; another determining to write no more to a Generation of Barbarians; and another resolving to try once again, whether he cannot awake the drowsy World to a Sense of his Merit.
It sometimes happens, that there may be remarked among them a Smile of Complacence, or a Strut of Elevation : But if these Favourites of Fortune are carefully watched for a few Days, they seldom fail to shew the Transitoriness of human Felicity; the Crest falls, the Gaiety is ended, and there appear evident Tokens of a successful Rival, or a fickle Patron.
But of all Authors, those are the most wretched, who exhibit their Productions on the Theatre, and who are to propitiate first the Manager, and then the Public. Many an humble Visitant have I followed to the Doors of these Lords of the Drama, seen him touch the Knocker with a shaking Hand; and, after long Deliberation, adventure to folicit Entrance by a single Knock: But I never staid to see them come out from their Audience; because my Heart is tender, and being subject to Frights in Bed, I would not willingly dream of an Author.
That the Number of Authors is disproportionate to the Maintenance which the Public seems willing to aflign them ; that there is neither Praise nor Meat for all who write, is apparent from this ; thạt, like Wolves in long Winters, they are forced to prey one on another. The Reviewer's and Critical Reviewers, the Remarkers and Examiners, can satisfy their Hunger only by devouring their Brethren. I am far from imagining that they are naturally more ravenous or blood-thirsty than those on whom they fall with fo much Violence and Fury; but they are hungry, and Hunger must be satisfied; and these Savages, when their Bellies are full, will fawn on those whom they now bite.
The Result of all these Confiderations amounts only to this, that the Number of Writers must at last be Jeffened; but by what Method this great Design can be accomplished, is not easily discovered. It was lately proposed that every van who kept a Dog should pay a certain Tax, which, as the Contriver of Ways and Means very judiciously observed, would either deftroy the Dogs, or bring in Money. Perhaps it might be proper to lay some such Tax upon Authors, only the Payment must be leffened in Pro portion as the Animal, upon which it is raised, is less necessary ; for many a Man that would pay for his Dog, will dismiss his Dedicator. Perhaps if every one, who employed or harboured an Author, was aflefled a Groat a Year, it would sufficiently leffen the Nuisance without destroying the Species.
But no great Alteration is to be attempted rashly. We must consider how the Authors, which this Tax Thall exclude from their Trade, are to be employed, The Nets used in the Herring Fishery can furnish Work but for few, and not many can be employed as Labourers at the Foundation of the new Bridge. There must, therefore, be some other Scheme formed for their Accommodation, which the present State of Affairs may easily supply. It is well known,
Efforts have been lately made to man the Fleet, and augment the Army, and loud Complaints are made of useful Hands forced away from their Families into the Service of the Crown. This offensive Exertion of Power may be easily avoided, by opening a few Houses for the Entertainment of discarded Authors, who would enter into the Service with
great Alacrity, as most of them are zealous Friends of every present Government; many of them are Men of able Bodies, and strong Limbs, qua'ified at least 25 well for the Mulket as the Pen: They are, per
haps, at present a little emaciated and enfeebled; but would soon recover their Strength and Flesh with good Quarters and present Pay.
There are some Reasons for which they may seem particularly qualified for a military Life. They are used to suffer Want of every Kind ; they are accustomed to obey the Word of Command from their Patrons and their Booksellers ; they have always paffed a Life of Hazard and Adventure, uncertain what
may be their State on the next Day; and, what is of yet more Importance, they have long made their Minds familiar to Danger, by Descriptions of bloody Battles, daring Undertakings, and wonderful Escapes. They have their Memories stored with all the Stratagems of War, and have, over and over, practiled in their Closets the Expedients of Distress, the Exultation of Triumph, and the Relignation of Heroes sentenced to Destruction.
Some indeed there are, who, by often changing Sides in Controversy, may give just Suspicion of their Fidelity, and whom I should think likely to defert for the Pleasure of Desertion, or for a Farthing a Month advanced in their Pay. Of thefe Men I know not what Use can be made ; for they can never be trusted but with Shackles on their Legs. There are others whom long Depression, under supercilious Patrons, has fo humbled and crushed, that they will never have Steadiness to keep their Ranks. But for these Men there may be found Fifes and Drums, and they will be well enough pleased to inflame others to Battle, if they are not obliged to fight themselves.
It is more difficult to know what can be done with the Ladies of the Pen, of whom this Age has produced greater Numbers than any former Time. It is leed common for Women to follow the Camp; but no prudent General will allow them in such Numbers as the Breed of Authoresses would furnish. Authoreffes are seldom famous for clean Linen; therefore they cannot make Laundrefies: They are rarely skilful at their Needle, and cannot make a Soldier's Shirt: They will make bad Suttlers, being not much accustomed to eat. I must therefore propose, that they fhall form a Regiment of themselves, and garrison the Town which is supposed to be in most Danger of a French Invasion. They will probably have no Enemies to encounter ; but, if they are once shut up together, they will foon difincumber the Public, by tearing out the Eyes of one another.
The great Art of Life is to play for much, and to ftake little ; which Rule I have kept in View through this whole Project: For, if our Authors, and Authoresses defeat our Enemies, we shall obtain all the usual Advantages of Victory, and if they should be destroyed in War, we shall lose only those who had 'wearied the Public, and whom, whatever be their Fate, nobody will miss.