페이지 이미지

cing in the infallible decisions of his little silent monitor, whose verdict is not to be altered by supplications or bribes. Many chemical experiments have been made by our learned friend Slautenbunkius, upon this unparalleled fluid, but without effect: it hitherto escapes the most delicate analysis; and its sympathetic property is the only one with which we are at present acquainted.

• You will have pleasure in hearing that a separate establishment is soon to be erected, for a professor and six students, to whom the care of making these inimitable criteria is to be publicly consigned. A statute is also in contemplation, whereby it will be forbidden to any member of this university to compose verses on any subject, without consulting a poetical regulator, duly stamped with the arms of the Academy; and authorised, moreover, by the signature of the above-mentioned professor. I cannot conclude without congratulating you upon the rare merit of this important discovery, and expressing a hope that the enclosed may arrive safe, and meet with your approbation.

Yours, &c.



• N. B. Immediately on the discovery, we found it difficult to prevail on authors to submit to the trial. Our fashionable bards were extremely shy: at length experiments were made, by order of the magistracy, upon three poets now under confinement at our public prison; one convicted of blasphemy and an Ode to Liberty; another, of writing obscene verses; the third, of stealing a shirt and six pair of silk stockings, besides seducing the affections of his patron's wife.'

Such is the interesting communication of my worthy correspondent Tiberius. Nothing could be more welcome to me than the arrival of this little magical tube. I cannot describe the emotions into which I was thrown upon taking it into my hands; and was half wild, till I found a proper subject on whom its effects might be tried. It was not long before an opportunity occurred; for, a few days after the receipt of it, I happened to dine with a certain great patron, whose table is always luxuriously spread before the sons of Apollo, several of whom were then in company. Excellent wines, and mirth, and wit, and song, went round, and at length began to overpower the faculties of many of these enthusiastic votaries, when the thought struck me of having recourse to the criticisms of my pocket companion; and, by occasionally changing my place, I gained an exact scale of the poetical capacities of each.

“ The gentleman on whose temple I first placed my poetemeter, was a poet of considerable fame in high life, having written odes, comedies, tragedies, and a sort of epic poem.

I had never read his works; but having seen them in a second edition, thought they might have some merit, and that the gay circle that approved them might not be entirely destitute of true taste. But what was my surprise, when, on the application of the tube, the column instantly rose with a very disturbed motion; and having made a momentary pause at each degree in the scale, it sunk with a kind of guggling noise that had nearly awakened the slumbering bard! I continued to hold it in the same position, hoping that the liquor might take a situation more favourable to the author, but in vain: the decision was irreversible, and it refused to ascend.

on my

“ I renewed my experiment upon my neighbour

left hand, who, I had been assured by some person, as a kind hint, was a pretender to the laurel, with

very few of the necessary qualifications. From this trial, therefore, I hoped to discover the young poet's real talents, and the truth or injustice with which his brethen had pronounced his secret sentence. As there was something ingenuous and spirited in the countenance of this gentleman, that had, during the whole day, conciliated my good will, I was sorry to observe, that, after the application of the tube for a few seconds, no visible alteration took place. I was puzzling to find the cause of this circumstance, when the liquor began to mount upwards with a slow and steady motion; and, having arrived at the mark Sonnet, it there became stationary, and appeared infinitely more bright and transparent than I had ever remarked it. After reposing at this point some time, it gradually ascended to Tragic; at which degree it remained awhile, and then subsided regularly to its former post. From this I inferred that the author's genius qualified him for a higher species of composition; but that he was withheld, by modesty, from the attempt. This decision gave me infinite delight; and I could not help casting a look of indignation and reproof towards those illiberal detractors who had been base enough to derogate from so real and so diffident a genius.

“ In the course of the evening I had informed myself accurately of the poetical powers of every individual present. The verdicts were various, as you may imagine: sometimes the fluid appeared dark and turbid; at other times it retained its natural colour; and once it became perfectly luminous and bright: it ascended also to diiferent heights, with different degrees of emotion. Of one gentleman it gave me a very favourable intimation. Upon inquiry I found that he had not yet been prevailed upon to publish any of his compositions, though a club of wits, with what views I know not, had long urged him to that dangerous step.

“ These, sir, were the first experiments that I made upon

the arrival of this marvellous instrument; and as I have been in habits of frequenting the chief literary societies of both sexes, I soon found excellent opportunities of enriching my stock of discoveries. Every fresh acquisition I have used myself to write down with the most scrupulous precision, upon my return to my lodgings; so that I have now, in my porte-feuille, a sheet of fool's-cap, on which a great many poetical names of consequence in the present age may be found, with the sentence of the fluid faithfully annexed. This awful and tremendous record, which, if divulged, would consign hundreds of volumes to perpetual oblivion, I promise to conceal with inviolable secresy, provided that the convicted authors henceforward desist from publication. Should they, however, in contempt of this my solemn notice, and lenient reserve, continue to obtrude their futile productions upon the attention of the world, I hereby declare, that I will, from time to time, insert in the most approved journal of the republic of letters, certain authentic and indubitable extracts from this my Liber Veritatis.

During the course of my observations on this subject, I have remarked, that, in almost every instance, the liquor was violently agitated upon rising to Ode and Pastoral; from which I concluded that these branches of the art were either difficult in the extreme, or that the circumstances of the age were unpropitious to the cultivation of them. Now, my good Mr. OLIVE-BRANCH, I leave it to you to consider

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

whether the introduction of these regulators be at present practicable; how far any opposition to the use of them is to be apprehended from our academical professors; and whether the writers for the two theatres will readily agree to the establishment of so severe and impartial a test.

The mode of introducing them could not be very difficult. Presses may be licensed through the kingdom, and an Act passed, by which every printer should be obliged to furnish himself with a tube, and bound to refuse publication to authors who had not received the necessary sanction. As I disclaim all political disquisitions, better heads must determine how far the importation of these little instruments (which will doubtless be very great) may constitute a new branch of national commerce. I cannot avoid expressing this hint, because I hear, from good authority, that the Dutch, who have no poets in their country, and consequently no use for these tubes, mean nevertheless to profit from the discovery, by making it a part of their carrying trade. In the mean time, if you can suggest an expedient that will less affect the liberty of the press, than the idea respecting licences, &c. you will confer a lasting obligation on your

“ Humble servant,


« 이전계속 »