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B A B L E R.
BY HUGH KELLY, ESQ.
IN TWO VOLUME S.
P R E F A C E.
HERE is no subject in the world upon which an author speaks
with a greater degree of latent pride, or a deeper air of outward humility, than his own productions. He is perfe&tly sensible that they are trifles—yet he is bold enough to publish them and while he seems to relinquish every title to the favourable opinion of the world, he returns his warmest thanks for past obligations, and indirectly tells us he has obtained it--thus the public are reduced to the agreeable alternative, either of acknowledging his merit, or reflecting upon their own judgment—and the consequence generally is, that through a fear of disparaging the credit of our taste, or perspicuity, we exalt him at once into a writer of consummate modetty, and uncommon abilities.
The author of the BABLER, however, wishes to steer between the extremes of an ostentatious parade, and an affected diffidence; he would by no means presumptuously place his pieces upon a forum with the essays of some cotemporaries, nor would he meanly sink them to the level of others—a first-rate reputation is no less beyond his hopes, than his deserts; yet, if in the scale of honourable comparison, he rises with no capital degree of merit, he is satisfied that he cannot be the lowest in the balance of contempt.-This declaration he is the more embold. ened to make, as during the course of his publication, he constantly had the honour of being re-printed by the greatest number of his lite rary fellow-labourers in the vineyard of the public, and have been often happy enough to go through half a dozen editions, in half the number of days.
In the concluding number of these volumes, the author has made fome observations on the nature of essay writing in general, and rendered it inconteftibly evident, that there is no walk of genius which lies under so many difficulties; yet of all the various essayists, the news. paper drudge is the most unfortunately circumstanced; small as the boundaries of a SPECTATOR, a RAMBLER, a WoRLD, an AdvenTURER, or a CONNOISSEUR, may seem, the news-paper writer is under a neceffity of moving in a ftill more contracted circle-the Printer (who on these occasions is a very great man) does not so inuch confider the importance of a writer's subject, as the immediate profit of the partners; it is not the improvement of the reader which he consults, but the intereit of the paper, or the topic of the day, and therefore often ftints the essayist in room, to advertise a parcel of stolen goods, or to cpitomize the trial of some remarkable murderer.
I remember when the BaBLER was first undertaken, I sent an essay to the press, on which I had employed extraordinary pains; and which I warmly imagined would have procured me at least a fortnight's repu. tation-the subject of the essay was the absurdity of party distinctions; but unhappily, though I had endeavoured to contract myself within the most moderate limits, I had till exceeded the prudential bounds of the Printer;--he accordingly brought me back the manuscript, and declared it could not possibly be inserted without undergoing some considerable amputations-It was in vain I argued with him on the importance of the subject, the spirit of the writing, and the credit it would certainly do his paper--the sogue was incorrigibly dull; and told me if I would have it in, I must frike a pen through the King, cut out Lord Bute, and burn the people of England-Thefe condi. tions were too hard to be complied with and I rather chose to leave my admirable essay out entirely, than mangle it to the taste of an unfeeling blockhead, who appeared fo glaringly callous to the beauties of a masterly production.
Circumscribed thus unhappily in my limits, the reader of judgment will not be surprized at finding many subjects thrown frequently into little histories, which otherwise situated, I should have attempted to discuss on the methodical principles of a regular argument-As I had not room to enter into elaborate disquisitions, it was my business to give the reader a licile entertainment; and my duty at least to amuse his fancy, fince I was unable to improve his understanding.
The principal matter which the author thinks himself ander a neceflity of apologizing for, is the similarity which the reader will find in some of the subjects; this was a circumstance which, though the author was well aware it would expose him to the cenfure of the judicious, he could not conveniently avoid; as it was impoffible to deliver himself fally on some points in a fingle paper, he was under a neceflity of resuming such as were most material to be discuffed; he flatters himself, however, that he will not be thought extremely reprehensible on this account, fince those who are satisfied with the mere fuperficials of a fubje&t, may easily escape the repetitions; while those who expect any information by proceeding, may as easily pardon the prolixity. Upon the whole, there is nothing in the volumes now offered to the public, for which the author could not urge fome palliation; but his excuses, perhaps, by trespasling on the readers patience, at a time they cannot correct the minutest error in his performance, will themselves ftand in need of an apology; he will therefore only add, that tenderness in criticism is the next virtue to generosity; and that he fall scarcely feel a greater fare of gratitude for those, who kindly discover any liitle merit in the following Essays, than for chose who bencvolently overlook their numerous imperfections.
*HERE is scarcely a little Essayist, In this universal pursuit after titles, I
now-a-day's, who amuses the world do not esteem myself very unhappy in under any puricular tiile, but gives him- the choice of the Baller: it is a chaselt airs of the greateft confequence, and racier under which the generality of clains some degree of affinity with the mankind are more or less distinguilhed, TATLER and SPECTATOR : indeed, and which is indiscriminately applicable where the itch of reading is nearly equal to all orders and tituations ; different to the cacoethes fcribendi, a man has no people only differ in the manner, but great occasion to be possessed of either they are always fure of agreeing in ef. much genius or education to become a fentials, and the husr.ble mechanic, who literary legislator, and let himself
up as harangues for the good of his country a regulator of the public; the most ma- over a solitary pint of porter, is in fact terial article of all is, the choice of a no more a Babler, than a personage of tolerable tirle to 2!tract the attention of diftinguished rank, who talks about the the reader; and if this can be happily national importance with all the usual itruck out, learning and abilities are not eafe and infipidity of distinction and imso much as secondary confiderations. portance. In reality, the great butiness
In modern literature, a motto is a of mankind is babling; for, if we place marter of no little consequence; and an the principal happiness of society in conauthor, in iñe present anno domini, can verfarion, a very little regard to any no more pretend to circulate his writings company we may happen to fit with, without a motto, than without the aslijt will convince us that the generality of ance of the daily and evening papers : our acquaintance are nothing more than many an industrious pedlar, in the small Bablers; fo very limited is the number wares of letters, has got off an edition which discourses, now-a-days, with any of his pamphlet, without any other re- inclination to improve or entertain, that, commendacion than the name and mot- I dare say, my readers will be surprised 10; and alarmed the world with a very when I set down fome of the most emi. terrible title-page, when the contents nent names in the kingdom among the were as innocent as water-gruel, and order of Bablers. infipid as cold veal without either lemon The word Babler being principally
confined to verbal indiscretion and im