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of those good-natured genii, who never fail making their appearance to extricate dreamers from their difficulties, rose from the sable stream and planted himself at my elbow. His complexion was of the darkest hue, not unlike that of the demons of a printing-house; his jetty beard shone like the bristles of a blacking brush; on his head he wore a turban of imperial paper; and there hung a calf-skin on his reverend limbs, which was gilt on the back, and faced with robings of morocco, lettered (like a rubric-post) with the names of the most eminent authors. In his left hand he bore a printed scroll, which from the marginal corrections I imagined to be a proof-sheet; and in his right hand he waved the quill of a goose.

He immediately accosted me. “Town,” said he, “I am the genius who is destined to conduct you through these turbulent waves. The sea that you now behold is the Ocean of Ink. Those towers, at a great distance, whose bases are founded upon rocks, and whose tops seem lost in the clouds, are situated in the Isle of Fame. Contiguous to these, you may discern by the glittering of its golden sands, is the Coast of Gain, which leads to a fertile and rich country. All the vessels which are yonder sailing with a fair wind on the main sea are making towards one or other of these; but you will observe that on their first setting out they were irresistibly drawn into the eddies of Criticism, where they were obliged to encounter the most dreadful tempests and hurricanes. In these dangerous straits you see with what violence every bark is tossed up and down; some go to the bottom at once; others, after a faint struggle, are beat to pieces; many are much damaged; while a few, by sound planks and tight rigging, are enabled to weather the storm.

At this sight I started back with horror; and the remembrance still dwells so strong upon my fancy, that I

1 The pseudonym used by the joint editors, Colman and Thornton.

gates of

even now imagine the torrent of criticism bursting in upon me, and ready to overwhelm me in an instant.

Cast a look,” resumed my instructor, “on that vast lake divided into two parts, which lead to yonder magnificent structures, erected by the Tragic and Comic Muse. There you may observe many trying to force a passage without chart or compass. Some have been overset by crowding too much sail, and others have foundered by carrying too much ballast. An Arcadian vessel? (the master an Irishman) was, through contrary squalls, scarce able to live nine days; but you see that light Italian gondola, Gli Amanti Gelosi, skims along pleasantly before the wind, and outstrips the painted fri

our country, Didone and Artaserse. Observe that triumphant squadron, to whose flag all the others pay homage. Most of them are ships of the first-rate, and were fitted out many years ago. Though somewhat irregular in their make, and but little conformable to the exact rules of art, they will ever continue the pride and glory of these seas; for, as it is remarked by the present Laureate, in his prologue to Papal Tyranny,

'Shakespeare, whose art no playwright can excel,

Has launch'd us fleets of plays, and built them well”. The Genius then bade me turn my eye where the water seemed to foam with perpetual agitation. “That," said he, “is the strong current of Politics, often fatal to those who venture on it”. I could not but take notice of a poor wretch on the opposite shore, fastened by the ears to a terrible machine. This, the Genius informed me, was the memorable Defoe, set up there as a landmark, to prevent future mariners from splitting on the same rock. To this turbulent prospect succeeded objects of

1 The vessel is a tragedy, Philoclea, based on Sidney's Arcadia; the gondola refers to an Italian burlesque, and the frigates to two Italian operas (Harrison).

? Colley Cibber.

a more placid nature. In a little creek, winding through flowery meads and shady groves, I descried several gilded yachts and pleasure boats, all of them keeping due time with their silver oars, and gliding along the smooth, even, calm, regularly flowing rivulets of Rhyme. Shepherds and shepherdesses played on the banks; the sails were gently swelled with the soft breezes of amorous sighs; and little Loves sported in the silken cordage.

My attention was now called off from these pacific scenes to an obstinate engagement between several ships, distinguished from all others by bearing the Holy Cross for their colours. These, the Genius told me, were employed in the Holy War of Religious Controversy; and he pointed out to me a few corsairs in the service of the infidels, sometimes aiding one party, sometimes siding with the other, as might best contribute to the general confusion. I observed in different parts of the ocean several galleys, which were rowed by slaves. “Those," said the Genius, "are fitted out by very oppressive owners, and are all of them bound to the Coast of Gain. The miserable wretches whom you see chained to the oars are obliged to tug without the least respite; and though the voyage should turn out successful, they have little or no share in the profits. Some few you may observe who rather choose to make a venture on their own bottoms. These work as hard as the galley-slaves, and are frequently cast away; but though they are never so often wrecked, necessity still constrains them to put out to sea again,"

Reficit rates
Quassas, indocilis pauperiem pati.—Hor.
Still must the wretch his shatter'd bark refit,

For who to starve can patiently submit? It were needless to enumerate many other particulars that engaged my notice. Among the rest was a large fleet of Annotators, Dutch-built, which sailed very heavy,

their way.

were often aground, and continually ran foul of each other. The whole ocean, I also found, was infested by pirates, who ransacked every rich vessel that came in

Most of these were endeavouring to make the Coast of Gain, by hanging out false colours, or by forging their passports, and pretending to be freighted out by the most reputable traders.

My eyes were at last fixed, I know not how, on a spacious channel running through the midst of a great city. I felt such a secret impulse at this sight that I could not help inquiring particularly about it. "The discovery of that passage,” said the Genius,“ was first made by one Bickerstaff, in the good ship called The Tatler, and who afterwards embarked in the Spectator and Guardian. These have been followed since by a number of little sloops, skiffs, hoys, and cock-boats, which have been most of them wrecked in the attempt. Thither also must your course be directed.”—At this instant the Genius suddenly snatched me up in his arms, and plunged me headlong into the inky flood. While I lay gasping and struggling beneath the waves, methought I heard a familiar voice calling me by name, which awaking me, I with pleasure recollected the features of the Genius in those of my publisher, who was standing by my bedside, and had called upon me for copy.

WILLIAM COWPER.

(1731-1800.)
XXVIII. ON CONVERSATION.
Servata semper lege et ratione loquendi.- Hor.

Your talk to decency and reason suit,

Nor prate like fools or gabble like a brute. the comedy of the Frenchman in London, which we

In

for several nights together, there is a character of a rough (M 249)

N

Englishman, who is represented as quite unskilled in the graces of conversation; and his dialogue consists almost entirely of a repetition of the common salutation of "how do you do?" Our nation has, indeed, been generally supposed to be of a sullen and uncommunicative disposition; while, on the other hand, the loquacious French have been allowed to possess the art of conversing beyond all other people. The Englishman requires to be wound up frequently, and stops as soon as he is down; but the Frenchman runs on in a continual alarum. Yet it must be acknowledged that as the English consist of very different humours, their manner of discourse admits of great variety; but the whole French nation converse alike; and there is no difference in their address between a marquis and a valet de chambre. We may frequently see a couple of French barbers accosting each other in the street, and paying their compliments with the same volubility of speech, the same grimace and action, as two courtiers on the Tuilleries.

I shall not attempt to lay down any particular rules for conversation, but rather point out such faults in discourse and behaviour as render the company of half mankind rather tedious than amusing. It is in vain, indeed, to look for conversation where we might expect to find it in the greatest perfection, among persons of fashion; there it is almost annihilated by universal card-playing: insomuch that I have heard it given as a reason why it is impossible for our present writers to succeed in the dialogue of genteel comedy, that our people of quality scarce ever meet but to game. All their discourse turns upon the odd trick and the four honours; and it is no less a maxim with the votaries of whist than with those of Bacchus, that talking spoils company.

Everyone endeavours to make himself as agreeable to society as he can;- but it often happens that those who

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