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short, the necessity of carrying a stamp, and the improbability of notifying a bloody battle, will, I am afraid, both concur to the sinking of those thin folios, which have every other day retailed to us the history of Europe for several years last past. A facetious friend of mine, who loves a pun, calls this present mortality among authors, . The fall of the leaf.'
I remember, upon Mr. Baxter's death, there was published a sheet of very good sayings, inscribed, • The last words of Mr. Baxter.' The title sold so great a number of these papers, that about a week after there came out a second sheet, inscribed, * More last words of Mr. Baxter. In the same manner I have reason to think, that several ingenious writers, who have taken their leave of the public, in farewel papers, will not give over so, but intend to appear again, though perhaps under another form, and with a different title. Be that as it will, it is my business, in this place, to give an account of my own intentions, and to acquaint my reader with the motives by which I act, in this great crisis of the republic of letters.
I have been long debating in my own heart, whether I should throw up my pen, as an author that is cashiered by the act of parliament which is to operate within this four and twenty hours, or whether I should still persist in laying my speculations, from day to day, before thepublic. The argument which prevails with me most on the first side of the question is, that I am informed by my bookseller he must raise the price of every single paper to two-pence, or that he shall not be able to pay the duty of it. Now, as I am very desirous my readers should have their learning as cheap as possible, it is with great difficulty that I comply with him in this particular.
However, upon laying my reasons together in the balance, I find that those who plead for the contimuance of this work have much the greater weight. For, in the first place, in recompence for the expence to which this will put my readers, it is to be hoped they may receive from every paper so much instruction as will be a very good equivalent. And, in order to this, I would not advise any one to take it in, who, after the perusal of it, does not find himself two-pence the wiser or the better man for it, or wbo, upon examination, does not believe that he has had two-penny-worth of mirth or instruction for his money
But I must confess there is another motive which prevails with me more than the former. I consider that the tax ou paper was given for the support of the government; and, as I have enemies who are apt to pervert every thing I do or say, I fear they Nuid ascribe the laying down my paper, on such ar «casion, to a spirit of malcontentedness, which I an resolved none shall ever ju-tly upbraid me
No, I shall glory in contributing my utmooi to the public weal; and, if my country receives five or six pounds a-cay by my labours, I shall be very well pleased to find myself so useful a member. Ius a received maxim, that no honest man should enrich himself by methods that are prejudicial to the community in which he lives; and by the same rule I rbink we may pronounce the person to deserve pe" well of his countrymen, whose labours bring aureinto the public coffers than into bisown pocket.
have mentioned the word enemies, I must rii.. myselt o far as to acquaint my reader, that van ond: the insignificant party zealots on both
i of such poor narrow souls, that they are 1,odle of thinking on any thing but with an eye wbig or tory. During the course of this paper, I have been accused by these despicable wretches og
trimming, time-serving, personal reflexion, secret satire, and the like. Now, though in these my compositions it is visible to any reader of common sense that I consider nothing but my subject, which is always of an indifferent nature, how is it possible for me to write so clear of party, as not to lie open to the censures of those who will be applying every sentence, and finding out persons and things in it, which it has no regard to ?
Several paltry scribblers and declaimers have done me the honour to be dull upon me in reflexions of this nature; but, notwithstanding my name has been sometimes traduced by this contemptible tribe of men, I have hitherto avoided all animadversions upon them. The truth of it is, I am afraid of making them appear considerable by taking notice of them; for they are like those imperceptible insects which are discovered by the microscope, and cannot be made the subject of observation without being magnified
Having mentioned those few who have shown themselves the enemies of this paper, I should be very ungrateful to the public, did I not at the same time testify my gratitude to those who are its friends, in which numuer I may reckon many of the most distinguished persons, of all conditions, parties, and professions, in the isle of Great Britain. I am not so vain as to think approbation is so much due to the perforinance as to the design. There is, and ever will be, justice enough in the world to afford patronage and protection for those who endeavour to advance truth and virtue, without regard to the passions and prejudices of any particular cause or faction. If I have any other merit in me, it is that I have new pointed all the batteries of ridicule. They have been generally planted against persons who bave appeared serious rather than absurd: or at best, bare aimed rather at what is unfashionable than what is viciote. Por my own part, I have endea. youred to make nothing ridiculous that is not in some mensure criminal. I have set up the immoral man as the object of derision. In short, if I have not formed a new weapon against vice and irreligion, I bave at least shown bow that weapon may be put to a right use, which has so often fought the battles of impiety and profaneness,
N. 446. FRIDAY, AUGUST 1, 1712.
Quid deceat, quid non ; quò virtus, opus ferat error.
HOR. AI Poet. v, 308.
SINCE two or three writers of comedy, who are now living, have taken their farewel of the stage, those who succeed them, finding themselves incapable of rising up to their wit, humour, and good sense, have only imitated them in some of those loose unguarded strokes, in which they cumplied with the corrupt taste of the more vicious part of their audience. When persons of a low genius attempt this kind of writing, they know no difference between being merry and being lewd. It is with an eye to some of these degenerate compositions that I have written the following discourse
Were our English stage but half so virtuous as that of the Greeks or Romans, we should quickly see the influence of it in the behaviour of all the
politer part of mankind. It would not be fashionable to ridicule religion, or its professors ; the man of pleasure would not be the complete gentleman ; vanity would be out of countenance; and erery quality which is ornamental to human nature would meet with that esteem which is due to it.
If the English stage were under the same regulations the Athenian was formerly, it would have the same effect that had, in recommending the religion, the government, and public worship of its country. Were our plays subject to proper inspections and limitations, we might not only pass away several of our vacant hours in the highest entertainments, but should always rise from them wiser and better than we sat down to them.
It is one of the most unaccountable things in our age, that the lewdness of our theatre should be so much complained of, so well exposed, and so little redressed. It is to be hoped that some time or other we may be at leisure to restrain the licentiousness of the theatre, and make it contribute its assistance to the advancement of morality, and to the reformation
As matters stand at present, multitudes are shut out from this noble diversion, by reason of those abuses and corruptions that accompany it. A father is often afraid that his daughter should be ruined by those entertainments, which were invented for the accomplishment and refining of human nature. The Athenian and Roman plays were written with such a regard to morality, that Socrates used to frequent the one, and Cicero the other.
It happened once, indeed, that Cato dropped into the Roman theatre when the Floralia were to be represented ; and as, in that performance, which was à kind of religious ceremony, there were several indecent parts to be acted, the people refused to see them whilst Cato was present. Martial, on this
of the age.