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classes. One writer excels at a plan or a title-page; another works away at the body of the book; and a third is a dab at an index. Thus a inagazine is not the result of any single man's industry, but goes through as many hands as a new pin, before it is fit for the public. I fancy, sir,' continues he, I can provide an eminent hand, and upon moderate terms, to draw up a promising plan to smooth up our readers a little; and pay them, as colonel Chartres paid his seraglio, at the rate of three halfpence in hand, and three shillings more in promises.'
He was proceeding in his advice, which, however, I thought proper to decline, by assuring him, that as I intended to pursue no fixed method, so it was impossible to form any regular plan: determined never to be tedious in order to be logical; wherever pleasure presented, I was resolved to follow.
It will be improper, therefore, to pall the reader's curiosity by lessening his surprise, or anticipate any pleasure I am able to procure him, by saying what shall come next. Happy, could any 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 prospects of life, to prospects of innocence and ease, where every breeze breathes health, and every sound is but the echo of tranquillity!
But, whatever may be the merit of his intentions, 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 almost every character which has excited either attention or pity, has owed part of its success to merit, and part to a happy concurrence of circumstances in its favour. Had Cæsar, or Cromwell exchanged countries, the one might have been a serjeant, and the other an exciseman. So it is with wit, which generally succeeds more from being happily addressed, than from its native poignancy. A jest calculated to spread
at a gaming-table, may be received with perfect indifference should it happen to drop in a mackarelboat. We have all seen dunces triumph in some companies, where men of real humour were disregarded, by a general combination in favour of stupidity. To drive the observation as far as it will go, should the labours of a writer, who designs his performances for readers of a more refined appetite, fall into the hands of a devourer of compilations, what can he expect but contempt and confusion? If his merits are to be determined by judges who estimate the value of a book from its bulk, or its frontispiece, every rival must acquire an easy superiority, who with persuasive eloquence promises four extraordinary pages of letter-press, or three beautiful prints, curiously coloured from nature.
Thus, then, though I cannot promise as much entertainment, or as much elegance, as others have done, yet the reader may be assured he shall have as much of both as I can. He shall, at least, fiud me alive while I study his entertainment; for I solemnly assure him, I was never yet possessed of the secret of writing and sleeping.
During the course of this paper therefore, all the wit and learning I have, are heartily at his service; which if, after so candid a confession, he should, notwithstanding, still find intolerably dull, or low, or sad stuff, this I protest is more than I know; I have a clear conscience, and am entirely out of the
Yet I would not have him, upon the perusal of a single paper, pronounce me incorrigible; he may try a second, which, as there is a studied difference in subject and style, may be more suited to his taste; if this also fails, I must refer him to a third, or even a fourth, in case of extremity; if he should still continue refractory, and find me dull to the last, I must inform him, with Bayes in the Rehearsal, that I think him a very odd kind of fellow, and desire no more of his acquaintance: but still, if my
readers impute the general tenor of my subject to me as a fault, I must beg leave to tell thein a story. A traveller, in his way to Italy, found himself in a country where the inhabitants had each a large excrescence depending from the chin; a deformity which, as it was endemic, and the people little used to strangers, it had been the custom, time immemorial, to look upon as the greatest beauty. Ladies grew toasts from the size of their chins, and no men were beaux whose faces were not broadest at the bottom. It was Sunday; a country church was at hand, and our traveller was willing to perform the duties of the day. Upon his first appearance at the church-door, the eyes of all were fixed on the stranger; but what was their amazement, when they found that he actually wanted that emblem of beauty, a pursed chin! Stifled bursts of laughter, winks, and whispers, circulated from visage to visage; the prismatic figure of the stranger's face was a fund of infinite gaiety. Our traveller could no longer patiently continue an object of deformity to point at. 'Good folks,' said he, 'I perceive that I am a very ridiculous figure here, but I assure you I am reckoned no way deformed at home.'
LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP;
STORY OF ALCANDER AND SEPTIMIUS, Taken from a Byzantine Historian.
ATHENS, even long after the decline of the Roman empire, still continued the seat of learning, politeness, and wisdom. Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, repaired the schools which barbarity was suffering to fall into decay, and continued those pensions to
men of learning, which avaricious governors had monopolised.
In this city, and about this period, Alcander and Septimius were fellow-students together; the one, the most subtle reasoner of all the Lyceum; the other, the most eloquent speaker in the academic grove. Mutual admiration soon begot a friendship. Their fortunes were nearly equal, and they were natives of the two most celebrated cities in the world; for Alcander was of Athens, Septimius came from Rome.
In this state of harmony they lived for some time together, when Alcander, after passing the first part of his youth in the indolence of philosophy, thought at length of entering into the busy world; and as a step previous to this, placed his affections on Hypatia, a lady of exquisite beauty. The day of their interded nuptials was fixed; the previous ceremonies were performed; and nothing now remained but her being conducted in triumph to the apartment of the intended bridegroom,
Alcander's exultation in his own happiness, or being unable to enjoy any satisfaction without making his friend Septimius a partner, prevailed upon him to introduce Hypatia to his fellow student; which he did, with all the gaiety of a man who found himself equally happy in friendship and love. But this was an interview fatal to the future peace of both, for Septimius no sooner saw her but he was smitten with an involuntary passion; and, though he used every effort to suppress desires at once so imprudent and unjust, the emotions of his mind in a short time became so strong, that they brought on a fever, which the physicians judged incurable.
During this illness Alcauder watched him with all the anxiety of fonduess, and brought his mistres's to join in those amiable offices of friendship. The sagacity of the physicians, by these means, soon discovered that the cause of their patient's disorder was love; and Alcander, being apprised of their dis
covery, at length extorted a confession from the reluctant dying lover.
It would but delay the narrative to describe the conflict between love and friendship in the breast of Alcander on this occasion; it is enough to say, that the Athenians were at that time arrived at such refinement in morals, that every virtue was carried to excess: in short, forgetful of his own felicity, he gave up his intended bride, in all her charms, to the young Roman. They were married privately by his connivance, and this unlooked for change of fortune wrought as unexpected a change in the constitution of the now happy Septimius. In a few days he was perfectly recovered, and set out with his fair partner for Rome. Here, by an exertion of those talents which he was so eminently possessed of, Septimius, in a few years, arrived at the highest dignities of the state, and was constituted the city judge, or prætor.
In the mean time Alcander not only felt the pain of being separated from his friend and his mistress, but a prosecution was commenced against him by the relations of Hypatia, for having basely given up his bride, as was suggested, for money. His innocence of the crime laid to his charge, and even his eloquence in his own defence, were not able to withstand the influence of a powerful party. He was cast, and condemned to pay an enormous fine. However, being unable to raise so large a sum at the time appointed, his possessions were confiscated, he himself was stripped of the habit of freedom, exposed as a slave in the market-place, and sold to the highest bidder.
A merchant of Thrace becoming his purchaser, Alcander, with some other companions of distress, was carried into that region of desolation and sterility. His stated employment was to follow the herds of an imperious master, and his success in hunting was all that was allowed him to supply his precarious subsistence. Every morning awaked him