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IT is time, however, at laft, to vindicate my claims; and as these entertainers of the publick, as they call themselves, have partly lived upon me for fome years, let me now try if I cannot live a little upon myself. I would defire, in this case, to imitate that fat man whom I have somewhere heard of in a fhipwreck, who, when the failors, preft by famine, were taking flices from his pofteriors to fatisfy their hunger, infifted with great justice on having the firft cut for himself.

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YET, after all, I cannot be angry with any who take it into their heads to think that whatever I write is worth reprinting, particularly when I confider how great a majority will think it scarce worth reading. Trifling and fuperficial are terms of reproach that are easily objected, and that carry an air of penetration in the obferver. Thefe faults have been objected to the following Effays; and it must be owned, in fome measure, that the charge is true. However, I could have made them more metaphyfical, had I thought fit, but I would afk whether in a fhort Effay it is not neceflary to be fuperficial? Before we have prepared to enter into the depths of a fubject, in the ufual forms, we have got to the bottom of our fcanty page, and thus lofe the honours of a victory by too tedious a preparation for the combat.

I

THERE is another fault in this collection of trifles, which I fear will not be fo easily pardoned. It will be alleged, that the humour of them (if any be found) is ftale and hackneyed. This may be true enough as matters now ftand, but I may with great truth affert, that the humour was new when I wrote it.. Since that time, indeed, many A 4

of

of the topicks which were first started here, have been hunted down, and many of the thoughts blown upon. In fact, thefe Effays were confidered as quietly laid in the grave of oblivion; and our modern compilers, like fextons and executioners, think it their undoubted right to pillage the dead.

HOWEVER, whatever right I have to complain of the publick, they can, as yet, have no just reafon to complain of me. If I have written dull Effays, they have hitherto treated them as dull Effays. Thus far we are at least upon par; and until they think fit to make me their humble debtor by praife, I am refolved not to lose a fingle inch of my felf-importance. luftead, therefore, of attempting to establish a credit amongst them, it will perhaps be wifer to apply to fome more diftant correfpondent, and as my drafts are in fome danger of being protested at home, it may not be imprudent upon this occa fion to draw my bills upon pofterity. "Mr. "Pofterity-Sir, Nine hundred and ninety-nine

years after fight hereof, pay the bearer, or "order, a thousand pounds worth of praife, "free from all deductions whatsoever, it being "a commodity that will then be very ferviceable to him, and place it to the account of, " &c."

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BRITISH

30

ESSAYS..

ESSAYS.

ESSAY I

THERE is not, perhaps, a more whimfical figure in nature, than a man of real modefty who affames an air of impudence; who, while his heart beats with anxiety, studies eafe, and affects good humour. In this fituation, however, every unexperienced writer finds himself. Impreffed with the terrors of the tribunal before which he is going to appear, his natural humour is turned to pertnefs, and for real wit he is obliged to fubAitute vivacity.

FOR my part, as I was never diftinguished for addrefs, and have often even blundered in making my bow, Iam at a lofs whether to be merry or fad on this folemn occafion. Should I modeftly decline all merit, it is too probable the hafty reader A S

may

may take me at my word. If, on the other hand, like labourers in the Magazine trade, I humbly prefume to promife an epitome of all the good things that were ever said or written, thofe readers I most desire to please may forfake me.

My bookfeller, in this dilemma, perceiving my embarrassment, inftantly offered his affiftance and advice: You must know, Sir," fays he,

that the republick of letters is at prefent divid❝ed into feveral claffes. One writer excels at a plan, or a title-page; another works away the"body of the book; and a third is a dab at an "index. Thus a Magazine is not the result of "any fingle man's induftry; but goes through "as many hands as a new pin, before it is fit

for the publick. I fancy, Sir," continues he, "I can provide an eminent hand, and upon "moderate terms, to draw up a promifing plan "to fmooth up our readers a little, and pay

them, as Colonel Charteris paid his feraglio, at the rate of three halfpence in hand, and three fhillings more in promises."

He was proceeding in his advice, which, however, I thought proper to decline, by af furing him, that, as I intended to purfue no. fixed method, fo it was impoffible to form any regular plan; determined never to be tedious, in order to be logical, wherever pleasure pres fented, I was refolved to follow.

It will be improper, therefore, to pall the reader's curiofity by leffening his furprize, or anticipate any pleasure I am able to procure him, by faying what fhall con t. Happy could any

effort

effort of mine but repress one criminal pleasure, or but for a moment fill up an interval of anxiety! How gladly would I lead mankind from the vain profpects of life, to prospects of innocence and ease, where every breeze breathes health, and every found is but the echo of tranquillity!

Bur whatever may be the merit of his inten tions, every writer is now convinced that he must be chiefly indebted to good fortune for finding readers willing to allow him any degree of reputation. It has been remarked, that almoft every character which has excited either attention or pity, has owed part of its fuccefs to merit, and part to an happy concurrence of circumftances in its favour. Had Cæfar or Cromwell exchanged countries, the one might have been a ferjeant, and the other an excifeman. So it is with wit, which generally fucceeds more from being happily addreffed, than from its native. poignancy. A jeft calculated to spread at a gamning table, may be received with perfect indifference, fhould it happen to drop in a mackarelboat. We have all feen dunces triumph in fome companies, where men of real humour were difregarded, by a general combination in favour of tupidity. To drive the obfervation as far as it will go, fhould the labours of a writer who defigns his performances for readers of a more refined appetite, fall into the hands of a devourer of compilations, what can he expect but con-tempt and confufion? If his merits are to be determined by judges who eftimate the value of a book from its bulk, or its frontispiece, every ri val must acquire an eafy fuperiority, who with perfuafive eloquence promifes four pages extra

ordinary

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