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Plutarch, in his enumeration of the various occasions, on which a man may without just offence. proclaim his own excellencies, has omitted the case of an author entering the world ; unless it may be coinprehended under his general position, that a man may lawfully praise himself for those qualities which cannot be known but from his own mouth; as when he is among strangers, and can have no opportunity of an actual exertion of his powers.
That the case of an author is parallel will scarcely be granted, because he necessarily discovers the degree of his merit to his judges, when he appears at his trial. But it should be remembered, that unless his judges are inclined to favour him, they will hardly be persuaded to hear the cause.
In love, the state which fills the heart with a degree of solicitude next that of an author, it has been held a maxim, that success is moft easily obtained by indirect and unperceived approaches; he who too soon professes himself a lover, raises obstacles to his own wishes, and those whom disappointments have taught experience, endeavour to conceal their passion till they believe their mistress wishes for the discovery. The same method, if it were practicable to writers, would save many complaints of the severity of the age, and the caprices of criticism. If a man could glide imperceptibly into the favour of the publick, and only proclaim his pretensions to literary honours when he is fure of not being rejected, he might commence author with better hopes, as his failings might escape contempt, though he shall never attain much regard.
But since the world supposes every man that writes ambitious of applause, as some ladies have taught themselves to believe that every man intends love, who expresses civility, the miscarriage of any endeavour in learning raises an unbounded contempt, indulged' by most minds without scruple, as an honest
triumph over unjust claims, and exorbitant expectations. The artifices of those who put themselves in this hazardous state, have therefore been multiplied in proportion to their fear as well as their ambition ; and are to be looked upon with more indulgence, as they are incited at once by the two great movers of the human mind, the desire of good, and the fear of evil. For who can wonder that, allured on one side, and frightened on the other, some should endeavour to gain favour by bribing the judge with an appearance of respect which they do not feel, to excite compassion by confessing weakness of whieh they are not convinced, and others to attract regard by a shew of openness and magnanimity, by a daring profession of their own deserts, and a publick challenge of honours and rewards.
The oftentatious and haughty display of themfelves has been the usual refuge of diurnal writers, in vindication of whose practice it may be said, that what it wants in prudence is supplied by fincerity, and who at least may plead, that if their boasts deceive any into the perusal of their performances, they defraud them of but little time.
Quid enim ? Concurritur— bore
Death, or a joyful conquest, ends the fight. FRANCIS, The question concerning the merit of the day is soon decided, and we are not condemned to toil through half a folio, to be convinced that the writer has broke his promise.
It is one among many reasons for which I purpose to endeavour the entertainment of my countrymen by a short essay on Tuesday and Saturday, that I hope not much to tire those whom I Mall not happen to please ; and if I am not commended for the beauty of my works, to be at least pardoned for their brevity. But whether my expectations are most fix
ed on pardon or praise, I think it not necessary to discover; for having accurately weighed the realons for arrogance and submission, I find them so nearly equiponderant, that my impatience to try the event of my first performance will not suffer me to attend any longer the trepidations of the balance.
There are; indeed, many conveniencies almost peculiar to this method of publication, which may naturally flatter the author, whether he be confident or timorous. The man to whom the extent of his knowledge, or the sprightliness of his imagination, has, in his own opinion, already secured the praises of the world, willingly takes that way of displaying his abilities which will sooneft give him an opportunity of hearing the voice of fame ; it heightens his alacrity to think in how many places he Thall hear what he is now writing, read with ecftasies to morrow. He will often please himself with reflecting, that the author of a large treatise must proceed with anxiety, left, before the completion of his work, the attention of the publick may have changed its object; but that he who is confined to no finge topick, may follow the national taste through all its variations, and catch the Aura popularis, the gale of favour, from what point foever it shall blow.
Nor is the prospect less likely to ease the doubts of the cautious, and the terrours of the fearful, for to such the shortness of every single paper is a powerful encouragement. He that questions his abilities to arrange the dissimilar parts of an extensive plan, or fears to be lost in a complicated system, may yet hope to adjust a few pages without perplexity; and if, when he turns over the repositories of his memory, he finds his collection too linall for a volume, he may yet have enough to furnish out an essay. He that would fear to lay out too much time upon an experiment of which he knows not the
event, perfuades himself that a few days will shew him what he is to expect from his learning and his genius. If he thinks his own judgment not sufficiently enlightened, he may, by attending the remarks which every paper will produce, rectify his opinions. If he should with too little premeditation encumber himself by an unwieldly subject, he can quit it without confessing his ignorance, and pass to other topicks less dangerous, or more tractable. And if he finds, with all his industry, and all his artifices, that he cannot deserve regard, or cannot attain it, he may let the design fall at once, and, without injury to others or himself, retire to amusements of greater pleasure, or to studies of better profpect.
Stare loco nefcit, pereunt veftigia mille
HAT the mind of man is never satisfied with
the objects immediately before it, but is always breaking away from the present moment, and losing itself in schemes of future felicity; and that we forget the proper use of the time now in our power, to provide for the enjoyment of that which, perhaps, may never be granted us, has been frequently remarked; and as this practice is a commodious subject of raillery to the gay, and of declamation to the serious, it has been ridiculed with all the pleasantry of wit, and exaggerated with all the amplifications of
rhetorick. Every instance, by which its absurdity might appear most flagrant, has been studiously collected; it has been marked with every epithet of contempt, and all the tropes and figures have been called forth against it.
Censure is willingly indulged, because it always implies fome superiority; men please themselves with imagining that they have made a deeper search, or wider survey, than others, and detected faults and follies, which escape vulgar observation. And the pleasure of wantoning in common topicks is so tempting to a writer, that he cannot easily resign it; a train of sentiments generally received enables him to shine without labour, and to conquer without a contest. It is so easy to laugh at the folly of him who lives only in idea, refuses immediate ease for distant pleasures, and, instead of enjoying the blessings of life, lets life glide away in preparations to enjoy them. It affords such opportunities of triumphant exultation, to exemplify the uncertainty of the human ftate, to rouse mortals from their dream, and inform them of the filent celerity of time, that we may believe authors willing rather to transmit than examine so advantageous a principle, and more inclined to pursue a track so smooth and so flowery, than attentively to consider whether it leads to truth.
This quality of looking forward into futurity seems the unavoidable condition of a being, whola motions are gradual, and whose life is progressive: as his powers are limited, he must use means for the attainment of his ends, and intend first what he performs last; as, by continual advances from his first stage of existence, he is perpetually varying the horizon of his prospects, he must always discover new motives of action, new excitements of fear, and allurements of desire.
The end therefore, which at present calls forth our efforts will be found, when it is once gained,