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mission permitted to knowledge, is the encouragement given tơ miscellancous periodicals, and their enemies are only those who are benefitted by human ignorance. Such characters, when compared with the millions of mankind, are, indeed, few in number; but, unfortunately their station is exalted, and their power great. They are those whom fortune and not merit, has made lords of their fellow men; and, who, from a consciousness of possessing no rational and just title to their supremacy, naturally wish to prevent the subjugated multitude from learning to reason, lest their eyes become opened, and they remain no longer in quiet subjection to a state of things, the evils and injustice of which they can both feel and comprehend. And well may the usurpers of the world dread the power of the press, when it sends forth, in periodical streams, those principles of truth, which enlighten, enlarge, and elevate the minds of the meanest to whom they have access. Before the light which periodical literature constantly sheds, the darkness of superstition is dispelled; the erroneousness of feudal pretensions are revealed, and the respect due to the natural dignity of man, although he should be clothed in rags, is insisted upon, and in a greater or less degree extorted even from tyrants.
The facility with which magazines, if not prevented by authority, can make their way to the closets of all classes, is an advantage of the highest consequence. The more dignified species of literature contained in the books of individual authors, cannot be expected, to any great extent, to be within the reach of the majority of mankind. Their time is either too limited to read them, or their means too small to purchase them. But magazines which are composed of various articles, on various subjects, and written by various men, require but a few hours once a month to peruse them, and in proportion to the quantity and variety of their matter, are, generally, cheaper than other new publications that are not periodical. Readers, .at a distance, can also procure them with infinitely less trouble; for, after being once ordered, in such countries as Britain and America, where regular stage conveyances are both certain and rapid, they will continue to arrive at their places of destination without difficulty or delay. At any distance, a stated supply of mental food can be furnished by those who undertake to provide it for the public; and there is scarcely any neighbourhood so poor, but can afford its €lub of country readers to pay for it.
Such clubs as those to which we allude, abound in Great Britain, and have had the effect of bringing, especially of late years, not only political, but literary intelligence to the most obscure corners; and have, in consequence, imparted to the lower orders of that island, a habit of reasoning, and a dignity of manner, which would be in vain sought for among the same class in any other part of Europe. A Glasgow weaver, a Liverpool shopkeeper, or a Norfolk farmer, to speak generally of them, at the present day, can investigate the soundness of an opinion, whether political or philosophical, with an evidently clearer comprehension of the subject, than many an Hungarian count or Russian duke. He is also more aware of the superiority of real merit over adventitious exaltation, and, therefore, yields it more sincere deference.
As to the wealthier and more active classes of the British population, those who constitute the sinews of her strength, her manufacturers and merchants, whose intelligence and enterprise have elevated their country to the height at which she has arrived among the nations, can we have any doubt but that the abundant streams of literature and philosophy, which are constantly flowing in every direction around them, has been the great means of supplying them with the extensive and correct information they display on every question and measure, connected with the prosperity and welfare of the community in which they live? The multitude of periodical works at present issued from the British press, if we credit the estimates that are so frequently published of their numbers, and there exists no reason why we should not, is, indeed, truly astonishing, and among the history of nations altogether unparalleled. When we reflect on the immense number of other works which are also daily appearing, it appears almost wonderful how they can all find readers, and it is truly so, how they can find supporters; and yet they are supported, many of them even to fortunemaking. But literature, like good wine, has the quality of whetting the appetite without satiating it; and, like a beautiful woman, the oftener that it smiles on the world, the more it is sought after.
In this country we enjoy the advantages of political information abundantly. Our newspapers find their way to the most obscure log cabins that are secreted amidst the recesses of our woods. This has rendered our people, at least, equal in political knowledge to any on earth. The rights and duties of individuals in society, the propriety or impropriety of national measures, the constitutionality and policy of legislative proceedings, the fitness or unfitness of public officers, and all the other et cetera of questions relative to good or bad government, are as familiar to the mass of our people, and, by many of them, as well understood, as by some of the senators and counsellors of other countries.
But, on subjects of literature, can we say any thing like this? We should, indeed, feel proud if we could. If more extended views of other countries; if more minute historical and biographical knowledge; if more accurate principles of taste were inculcated among us; in short, if we had only one half of the relish for the belles-lettres, that we have for news and politics, we should, indeed, be a people to be envied. In addition to our acknowledged political advantages, we would then enjoy sources of intellectual gratification, of which we are now comparatively destitute, and means of acquiring an intellectual eminence among the nations, to which we cannot at present lay claim. How glorious would such an era be for America! How proud would be the feelings of those who pant for her renown in that which constitutes a nation's highest glory, the excellence of her authors! Then would we no longer wait with degrading hesitation to ascertain the judgment of the Edinburgh and London critics, on the works of our writers, before we ventured to express our own ; for then we would feel a consciousness of being able to judge for ourselves, and of conferring by our own verdict a reputation on such writers as please, which no foreign tribunal of criticism would have the power to alter.
But this consummation of national eminence, can never be realized until the great body of our people look upon literature as a thing of more importance than they have hitherto done; for,
from them only can flow in sufficient abundance, that solid remuneration to authors, for their labours, which is necessary to supply such a vital warmth to literature as will make it flourish. At the present moment we are far from being destitute of writers, some of whom have given high indications of superior talent, and who, if they were on the other side of the Atlantic, would soon shine conspicuous among the luminaries of the age ; but, in this country, they are obliged to check the aspirations of their genius, from the chilling indifference, and perhaps censure, with which they know that their productions would be received.
A few of them, indeed, in spite of these discouragements, have made attempts for fame, and have struggled into an extorted distinction. Some of our poets have venturously expanded their wings, and with surprizing boldness, attempted fights, which had they only received the buoyant aid of public applause, they would have been fully able to sustain, in an attitude and manner honourable to their country as well as to themselves. One or two of our novelists have, of late, somewhat more successfully forced their way into notice, and drawn from the public a reluctant acknowledgment of their merits, and a moderate encouragement to pursue their course. But there are others, perhaps equally meritorious, who have not been so fortunate; and whose condemnation to ingratitude and neglect is sufficient to chill the attempts of the most enthusiastic mind after literary reputation.
As to our periodical literature, the vast disproportion between our means and the encouragement we afford it, has been too often and too justly a subject of complaint among our literary circles, not to be sufficiently notorious. The North American Review appears, at present, to be the only work of the kind to which a fair support is given; and it is surely a matter calculated to excite in the reflecting mind, a feeling of both surprise and regret, that twenty-six states, inhabited by ten millions of Christians, should not be able to yield to the conductors of more than one journal of' original literature a respectable remuneration for their labours.
In conducting this Review, there is, indeed, a vast force of talent employed, and when we consider the amount of our population, and our means, we cannot but think its patronage, respectable as it is, still unequal to its merits. But it indicates that a more generous spirit, in respect to literature, is springing up amongst us. We rejoice to see it. May no frost of Gothic feeling, or mildew of heartless avarice, check it in its growth, until it produces flowers and fruits, the generous inAuence of which will expand every bosom to liberality in respect to authors and authorship, and render a due patronage of them so prevalent in the land, as to exalt our character, in this particular, to an honourable eminence among the nations.
Reviews are a species of periodicals, which have, of late years, assumed a very dignified and commanding station in the world of letters. They are, in respect to their origin, of a rather more recent date than Magazines. The Critical Review, established by Dr. Smollet, in the year 1755, was the first regular journal of that nature. Literary criticism, it is true, is as old as the days of Aristotle; and, in England, it was long practised before it assumed the periodical form. It is in its nature more limited than the Magazine; but it is less desultory, and less amusing. The disadvantage, however, that attends its restriction to one particular department of literature, enables it to concentrate its powers, and to produce a more forcible effect on the world. The Magazine admits into its pages an almost endless variety of subjects. It is, therefore, calculated to afford entertainment to a greater variety of tastes and dispositions. But, in agitating any one topic, it is generally less full and effective than the Review is on those topics that come under its investigation. The latter, also, perhaps, commands more respect, because it excites more awe. Writers acknowledge its authority, and frequently tremble at its decisions; and the public naturally respect every thing that possesses power to conser savour or inflict chastisement.
On the other hand, if the Magazine be less authoritative, it is generally more pleasing, because more diversified in its subjects. more free and concise in its manner, and more frequently original in its matter.
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