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tion happened to turn upon that subject; and as they appeared to be judicious, I put them together as well as I could remember them, for the entertainment of my readers. I certainly have often felt the truth of my friend's observation, in reading some of our best histories. I love those genuine passages, in which the dignity of the historian gives way to the feelings of the man, and the heart conspires with the head in the eulogy or vindication of a great and virtuous character. This will only be permitted, however, to a grave and weighty historian; nor indeed will these partial bursts have much effect upon the reader, unless they be contrasted with the general abstinence and equability of the whole. This remark is particularly applicable to our countryman David Hume; and I challenge any person of sensibility to contemplate the portraits he has drawn of the dukes of Montrose and Ormond, and the lords Strafford and Ossory, without feeling their spirits raised almost to rapture and enthusiasm. The original intention of this excellent historian, to write only the reigns of the Stuarts, has given to his work those lively dashes of biography, which have greatly contributed to render it so popular and interesting.
Never, perhaps, has there existed a greater rage for biography, than at the present moment. I cannot, however, help considering it as grossly prostituted, when I see it rendered a vehicle for profligate examples, or the purposes of scandal and abuse. The memoirs of impure females, of petits-maîtres and buffoons, which are every day poured in upon us, will in the end, I fear, bring discredit upon this species of writing; and it will be considered as an honour to go out of life without getting into print. Thus, in another century, instead of containing a list of British worthies, biography will be the sink of British infamy; and all that our great men will aspire to, will be the negative renown of escaping the bookseller's shop, and of giving up the ghost without being entered at Stationers' Hall.
I live in hopes that the peaceful tenour of my life will put me out of all danger; and on that account am disposed to congratuiate myself very much upon the obsurity in which I have lived. I must not however depend too much upon this obscurity; for I observe that many of my fellow-subjects, who have never been spoken of while they lived, have made a great noise by their deaths, and have gone off with an explosion like an air-gun.
About half a year ago died Mr. Stentor, my clerk, who had held his post under a succession of rectors for the space of fifty years. I did not think it possible to rake up sufficient matter concerning him, to make a solitary iural distich for his tomb-stone; but Mr. Crossbones the sexton had hardly put him into his grave, before he produced a neat little duodecimo history of his life, with a very sleek and comely portrait, a motto from the hundreth psalm, and a very handsome dedication to the Rev. Simon Olivebranch.
It would be well enough if this biographical mania could be confined to such harmless subjects; but I am informed by my correspondent in town, that many
of those lives which used to be bought of a cryer in the street for a half-penny the day after an execution, will now cost you two-and-sixpence at a reputable bookseller's shop. I am assured also that an evening lecturer in town is engaged in a work which is to be called Biographical Sketches of Eminent Swindlers, &c. or the Young Gentleman's Pocket Companion, with all the smart sayings and gallantries of those brave youths, and their portraits at full length, executed by the most celebrated artists in the kingdom.
Some little time ago, as my correspondent reports, there lodged, within a few doors of St. Sepulchre's church, a biographical genius, who lived three years very comfortably on the death of his friends, till, having lost his credit with the booksellers, and in consequence all means of livelihood, by the recovery of an old uncle, whose life and death he had already put into their hands, he took the heroical resolution of killing himself, in order to provide for his family; and I am told his memoirs have already apprenticed out his eldest son to an undertaker.
It is a remark of Mr. Allworth's, who, in regard to his fellow-creatures, may be said, like the traveller in the fable, to blow hot and cold upon them with the same breath, whose expressions pinch like the frost, and whose charity drops like the dew I say,
it is an observation of his, that the cant of biography is growing so broad and common-place, and mankind are so ambitious of generalising their conduct to one common standard of depravity, that we shall soon buy ready-made lives in our shops, as the village landlord first purchases a human likeness, and then determines between Admiral Keppel and the Emperor of Germany. I hardly think I should outrage this remark of my excellent friend, if I were to carry
it little further, and observe that even the brute creation might be comprehended in this general extension and simplification of the biographical plan. The heads and particulars of the life of an ass maintain a sort of parallelism with that of a modern adventurer, and might run as follows:
How he was born in an obscure village in Yorkshire, and was christened Jack.
How his youth was spent in play, &c.
How he became very wild, as he came to years of discretion.
How he formed some bad connections, and saw many troubles.
How he ran away with a young gipsy-wench. How he came up to London, and found many rich relations.
How he forsook the gipsy-wench, and carried about a market-girl to all the public places.
How he made a great noise, and kicked up a great dust.
How he took part in many dirty occupations.
How successful he was in haranguing the populace, and commanding attention.
How he was loaded with more employment than he could bear.
How he raised his hopes to the woolsack.
How he was promised a stall for his brother, and the Order of the Thistle for himself; and how he was turned out of place without any provision.'
How he was bribed to hold his tongue by a lady in the straw. How he lay in clover for three
years. How he grew very amorous, and how the queen's zebra was talked of.
How he was bought and sold by people in power.
How he put on a lion's skin, and grew very for: midable.
How he turned tail, on being pulled by the ears. How he sat upon thorns.
How he was turned out of place, fell again into obscurity, died, and left all he possessed among his natural children.
I shall conclude my paper of to-day with a little conversation in the shades below, between a modern biographer and a kennel-scraper, in imitation of Mr. Fontenelle's fourth dialogue, between Anacreon and Aristotle,
I never should have imagined that a vile kennelscraper could have the effrontery to compare his occupation on earth to the dignified task of the biographer.
You make a great bustle about the dignity of a biographer; but I should be glad to be informed on what circumstance, except the Greek origin of your name, you can found your claim to superiority.
I desire, sir, first of all, to know what pretensions your office on earth has given you to challenge an equal honour with a man who has employed his talents for the entertainment and instruction of mankind.
KENNEL-SCRAPER. The point of utility I can very boldly assert; and I see no reason to blush in your presence, if the dignity of our trades be made the question. I think, sir, with submission, that my old nails and broken horse-shoes are discoveries as valuable to the world, as those scraps and shreds of immorality, impertinence, and prostitution, you were so earnestly employed in collecting. Is it not of more consequence to the community that one industrious man gets his bread in peace, than that fifty names and follies should be supported by the pains of the biographer? And as to dignity, I maintain that to rake up the