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COLLECTION OF ESSAYS,
ON THE MOST
INTERESTING AND ENTERTAINING SUBJECTS.
FIRST PRINTED IN THE YEAR 1759.
THE BEE, NO. I.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 6, 1759.
THERE is not, perhaps, a more whimsically dismal figure in nature, than a man of real modesty who assumes an air of impudence; who, while his heart beats with anxiety, studies ease, and affects good humour. In this situation, however, a periodical writer often finds himself, upon his first attempt to address the public in form. All his power of pleasing is damped by solicitude, and his cheerfulness dashed with apprehension. Impressed with the terrors of the tribunal before which he is going to appear, his natural humour turns to pertness, and for real wit he is obliged to substitute vivacity. His first publication draws a crowd; they part dissatisfied; and the author, never more to be indulged with a favourable hearing, is left, to condemn the indelicacy of his own address, or their want of discernment.
For my part, as I was never distinguished for address, and have often even blundered in making my bow, such bodings as these had like to have totally repressed my ambition. I was at a loss whether to give the public specious promises, or give none; whether to be merry or sad on this solemn occasion. If I
should decline all merit, it was too probable the hasty reader might have taken me at my word. If, on the other hand, like labourers in the magazine trade, I had, with modest impudence, humbly presumed to promise an epitome of all the good things that ever were said or written, this might have disgusted those readers I most desire to please. Had I been merry, I might have been censured as vastly low; and had I been sorrowful, I might have been left to mourn in solitude and silence: in short, which ever way I turned, nothing presented but prospects of terror, despair, chandlers' shops, and waste paper.
In this debate between fear and ambition, my publisher happening to arrive, interrupted for a while my anxiety. Perceiving my embarrassment about making my first appearance, he instantly offered his assistance and advice: “ You must know, sir,” says he, “ that the “ republic of letters is at present divided into three “ classes. One writer, for instance, excels at a plan or
a title-page, another works away the body of the book, 16 and a third is a dab at an index. Thus a magazine “ 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 Charteries paid his 6 seraglio, at the rate of three half-pence 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. Like the Bee, which I had taken for the title of my paper, I would rove from flower to flower, with seeming inattention, but