« ZurückWeiter »
means they can, at present, insult us with impunity, and without the least danger of confutation.
Their last, and, indeed, their most artful expedient, has been to hire and incite the weekly journalists against us. The first weak attempt was made by the Universal Spectator; but this we took not the least notice of, as we did not imagine it would ever come to the knowledge of the publick.
Whether there was then a confederacy between this journal and Common Sense's, as at present, between Common Sense and the Craftsman; or whether understandings of the same form receive, at certain times, the same impressions from the planets, I know not; but about that time war was, likewise, declared against us by the redoubted author of Common Sense; an adversary not so much to be dreaded for his abilities, as for the title of his paper, behind which he has the art of sheltering himself in perfect security. He defeats all his enemies by calling them “ enemies to common sense,” and silences the strongest objections and the clearest reasonings by assuring his readers that, “ they are contrary to common sense.”
I must confess, to the immortal honour of this great writer, that I can remember but two instances of a genius able to use a few syllables to such great and so various purposes. One is, the old man in Shadwell, who seems, by long time and experience, to have attained to equal perfection with our author; for, “ when a young fellow began to prate and be pert,” says he, “I silenced him with my old word, Tace is Latin for a candle."
The other, who seems yet more to resemble this writer, was one Goodman, a horsestealer, who being asked, after having been found guilty by the jury, what he had to offer to prevent sentence of death from being passed upon him, did not attempt to extenuate his crime, but entreated the judge to beware of hanging a Good man.
This writer we thought, however injudiciously, worthy, not indeed of a reply, but of some correction, and in our magazine for December, 1738, and the preface to the
supplement, treated him in such a manner as he does not seem inclined to forget.
From that time, losing all patience, he has exhausted his stores of scurrility upon us; but our readers will find, upon consulting the passages above mentioned, that he has received too much provocation to be admitted as an impartial critick.
In our magazine of January, p. 24, we made a remark upon the Craftsman, and in p. 3, dropped some general observations upon the weekly writers, by which we did not expect to make them more our friends. Nor, indeed, did we imagine that this would have inflamed Caleb to so high a degree. His resentment has risen so much above the provocation, that we cannot but impute it more to what he fears than what he has felt. He has seen the solecisms of his brother, Common Sense, exposed, and remembers that,
-tua res agitur, paries cum proximus ardet. He imagines, that he shall soon fall under the same censure, and is willing that our criticisms shall appear rather the effects of our resentment than our judgment.
For this reason, I suppose, (for I can find no other,) he has joined with Common Sense to charge us with partiality, and to recommend the London Magazine, as drawn up with less regard to interest or party. A favour, which the authors of that collection have endeavoured to deserve from them by the most servile adulation.
But, as we have a higher opinion of the candour of our readers, than to believe that they will condemn us without examination, or give up their right of judging for themselves, we are not unconcerned at this charge, though the most atrocious and malignant that can be brought against us. We entreat only to be compared with our rivals, in full confidence, that not only our innocence, but our superiority will appear'.
* These prefaces are written with that warmth of zeal which characterizes all Johnson's efforts in behalf of his friends. He ever retained a grateful sense of the kindness shown to him by Cave, his earliest patron; and, when engaged in his undertakings, he regarded Cave's enemies or opposers as his own. We can only thus vindicate his contemptuous references to the Universal SpecTATOR, which, though far inferior to that great work whose name it bears, is very respectable; nor, on any other consideration, can we account for his derision of Common Sense, a periodical, enriched by the contributions of lord Chesterfield and lord Lyttelton; or of the Craftsmax, which was conducted by Amhurst, the able associate of Boling broke and Pulteney. Neither can we, without thus considering his relative situation, acquit Johnson of incousistency in his strictures, who, in 1756, himself undertook the editorship of the LITERARY MAGAZINE, a work which might be viewed as the most formidable rival of the GentLEMAN'S MAGAZINE. The full details of his connexion with this now venerable publication are given in the preface to the index of that work, published by Mr. Nichols.- Ep.
LETTER ON FIREWORKS
Among the principal topicks of conversation which now furnish the places of assembly with amusement, may be justly numbered the fireworks, which are advancing, by such slow degrees, and with such costly preparation.
The first reflection, that naturally arises, is upon the inequality of the effect to the cause. Here are vast sums expended, many hands, and some heads, employed, from day to day, and from month to month; and the whole nation is filled with expectations, by delineations and narratives. And in what is all this to end? in a building, that is to attract the admiration of ages ? in a bridge, which may facilitate the commerce of future generations? in a work of any kind, which may stand as the model of beauty, or the pattern of virtue? To show the blessings of the late change of our state" by any monument of these kinds, were a project worthy not only of wealth, and power, and greatness, but of learning, wisdom, and virtue. But nothing of this kind is designed ; nothing more is projected, than a crowd, a shout, and a blaze: the mighty work of artifice and contrivance is to be set on fire for no other
& Inserted in the Gentleman's Magazine, Jan. 1749, h The peace of Aix la Chapelle, 1748.
purpose that I can see, than to show how idle pyrotechnical virtuosos have been busy. Four hours the sun will shine, and then fall from bis orb, and lose his memory and his lustre together; the spectators will disperse, as their inclinations lead them, and wonder by what strange infatuation they had been drawn together. In this will consist the only propriety of this transient show, that it will resemble the war of which it celebrates the period. The powers of this part of the world, after long preparations, deep intrigues, and subtle schemes, have set Europe in a flame, and, after having gazed awhile at their fireworks, have laid themselves down where they rose, to inquire for what they have been contending.
It is remarked, likewise, that this blaze, so transitory and so useless, will be to be paid for, when it shines no longer: and many cannot forbear observing, how many lasting advantages might be purchased, how many acres might be drained, how many ways repaired, how many debtors might be released, how many widows and orphans, whom the war has ruined, might be relieved, by the expense which is now about to evaporate in smoke, and to be scattered in rockets : and there are some who think not only reason, but humanity offended, by such a trifling profusion, when so many sailors are starving, and so many churches sinking into ruins.
It is no improper inquiry, by whom this expense is at last to be borne ; for certainly, nothing can be more unreasonable than to tax the nation for a blaze, which will be extinguished before many of them know it has been lighted ; nor will it be consistent with the common practice, which directs, that local advantages shall be procured at the expense of the district that enjoys them. I never found, in any records, that any town petitioned the parliament for a may-pole, a bull-ring, or a skittle-ground; and, therefore, I should think, fireworks, as they are less durable, and less useful, have, at least, as little claim to the publick purse.
The fireworks are, I suppose, prepared, and, therefore,
it is too late to obviate the project; but I hope the generosity of the great is not so far extinguished, as that they can, for their diversion, drain a nation already exhausted, and make us pay for pictures in the fire, which none will have the poor pleasure of beholding but themselves.
PROPOSALS FOR PRINTING, BY SUBSCRIPTION,
ESSAYS IN VERSE AND PROSE.
BY ANNA WILLIAMS .
WHEN a writer of my sex solicits the regard of the publick, some apology seems always to be expected ; and it is, unhappily, too much in my power to satisfy this demand; șince, how little soever I may be qualified, either by nature or study, for furnishing the world with literary entertainments, I have such motives for venturing my little performances into the light, as are sufficient to counterbalance the censure of arrogance, and to turn off my attention from the threats of criticism. The world will, perhaps, be something softened, when it shall be known, that my intention was to have lived by means more suited to my ability, from which being now cut off by a total privation of sight, I have been persuaded to suffer such essays, as I had formerly written, to be collected and fitted, if they can be fitted, by the kindness of my friends, for the press. The candour of those that have already encouraged me, will, I hope, pardon the delays incident to a work which must be performed by other eyes and other hands; and censure may, surely, be content to spare the compositions of a woman, written for amusement, and published for necessity.
From the Gentleman's Magazine, Sept. 1750.