תמונות בעמוד



Among the principal topicks of conversation which now furnish the places of assembly with amusement, may be justly numbered the fireworks, which are advancing, by such slow degrees, and with such costly preparation.

The first reflection, that naturally arises, is upon the inequality of the effect to the cause. Here are vast sums expended, many hands, and some heads, employed, from day to day, and from month to month; and the whole nation is filled with expectations, by delineations and narratives. And in what is all this to end? in a building, that is to attract the admiration of ages? in a bridge, which may facilitate the commerce of future generations ? in a work of any kind, which may stand as the model of beauty, or the pattern of virtue? To show the blessings of the late change of our state" by any monument of these kinds, were a project worthy not only of wealth, and power, and greatness, but of learning, wisdom, and virtue. But nothing of this kind is designed ; nothing more is projected, than a crowd, a shout, and a blaze: the mighty work of artifice and contrivance is to be set on fire for no other

in his undertakings, he regarded Cave's enemies or opposers as his own. We can only thus vindicate his contemptuous references to the UNIVERSAL SPFCTATOR, which, though far inferior to that great work whose name it bears, is very respectable ; nor, on any other consideration, can we account for his derision of Common Sense, a periodical, enriched by the contributions of lord Chesterfield and lord Lyttelton; or of the CRAFTSMAN, which was conducted by Amhurst, the able associate of Bolingbroke and Pulteney. Neither can we, without thus considering his relative situation, acquit Johnson of inconsistency in his strictures, who, in 1756, himself undertook the editorship of the Literary Magazine, a work which might be viewed as the most formidable rival of the GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE. The full details of his connexion with this now venerable publication are given in the preface to the index of that work, published by Mr. Nichols.-Ed.

& Inserted in the Gentleman's Magazine, Jan. 1749. - The peace of Aix la Chapelle, 1748.

purpose that I can see, than to show how idle pyrotechpical virtuosos have been busy. Four hours the sun will shine, and then fall from his orb, and lose his memory and his lustre together ; the spectators will disperse, as their inclinations lead them, and wonder by what strange infatuation they had been drawn together. In this will consist the only propriety of this transient show, that it will resemble the war of which it celebrates the period. The powers of this part of the world, after long preparations, deep intrigues, and subtle schemes, have set Europe in a flame, and, after having gazed awhile at their fireworks, have laid themselves down where they rose, to inquire for what they have been contending

It is remarked, likewise, that this blaze, so transitory and so useless, will be to be paid for, when it shines no longer: and many cannot forbear observing, how many lasting advantages might be purchased, how many acres might be drained, how many ways repaired, how many debtors might be released, how many widows and orphans, whom the war has ruined, might be relieved, by the expense which is now about to evaporate in smoke, and to be scattered in rockets : and there are some who think not only reason, but humanity offended, by such a trifling profusion, when so many sailors are starving, and so many churches sinking into ruins.

It is no improper inquiry, by whom this expense is at last to be borne ; for certainly, nothing can be more unreasonable than to tax the nation for a blaze, which will be extinguished before many of them know it has been lighted ; nor will it be consistent with the common practice, which directs, that local advantages shall be procured at the expense of the district that enjoys them. I never found, in any records, that any town petitioned the parliament for a may-pole, a bull-ring, or a skittle-ground; and, therefore, I should think, fireworks, as they are less durable, and less useful, have, at least, as little claim to the publick purse.

The fireworks are, I suppose, prepared, and, therefore,

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

it is too late to obviate the project; but I hope the generosity of the great is not so far extinguished, as that they can, for their diversion, drain a nation already exhausted, and make us pay for pictures in the fire, which none will have the poor pleasure of beholding but themselves.




When a writer of my sex solicits the regard of the publick, some apology seems always to be expected; and it is, unhappily, too much in my power to satisfy this demand; since, how little soever I may be qualified, either by pature or study, for furnishing the world with literary entertainments, I have such motives for venturing my little performances into the light, as are sufficient to counterbalance the censure of arrogance, and to turn off my attention from the threats of criticism. The world will, perhaps, be something softened, when it shall be known, that my intention was to have lived by means more suited to my ability, from which being now cut off by a total privation of sight, I have been persuaded to suffer such essays, as I had formerly written, to be collected and fitted, if they can be fitted, by the kindness of my friends, for the press. The candour of those that have already encouraged me, will, I hope, pardon the delays incident to a work whích must be performed by other eyes and other hands; and censure may, surely, be content to spare the compositions of a woman, written for amusement, and published for necessity.

! From the Gentleman's Magazine, Sept. 1750.




I KNOW not what apology to make for the little dissertation which I have sent, and which I will not deny that I have sent with design that you should print it. I know that admonition is very seldom grateful, and that authors are eminently cholerick; yet, I hope, that you, and every impartial reader, will be convinced, that I intend the benefit of the publick, and the advancement of knowledge; and that every reader, into whose hands this. shall happen to fall, will rank himself among those who are to be excepted from general censure.

I am, Sir, your humble servant.

Scire velim quare toties mihi, Nævole, tristis

Occurras, fronte obducta, ceu Marsya victus. Juv. There is no gift of nature, or effect of art, however beneficial to mankind, which, either by casual deviations, or foolish perversions, is not sometimes mischievous. Whatever may be the cause of happiness, may be made, likewise, the cause of misery. The medicine, which, rightly applied, has power to cure, has, when rashness or ignorance prescribes it, the same power to destroy.

. I have computed, at some hours of leisure, the loss and gain of literature, and set the pain which it produces against the pleasure. Such calculations are, indeed, at a great distance from mathematical exactness, as they arise from the induction of a few particulars, and from observations made rather according to the temper of the computist, than the nature of things. But such a narrow survey as can be taken, will easily show that letters cause

* From the Universal Visiter, April, 1756.

many blessings, and inflict many calamities; that there is scarcely an individual who may not consider them as immediately or mediately influencing his life, as they are chief instruments of conveying knowledge, and transmitting sentiments; and almost every man learns, by their means, all that is right or wrong in his sentiments and conduct.

If letters were considered only as means of pleasure, it might well be doubted, in what degree of estimation they should be held ; but when they are referred to necessity, the controversy is at an end; it soon appears, that though they may sometimes incommode us, yet human life would scarcely rise, without them, above the common existence of animal nature; we might, indeed, breathe and eat in universal ignorance, but must want all that gives pleasure or security, all the embellishments and delights, and most of the conveniencies, and comforts of our present condition.

Literature is a kind of intellectual light, which, like the light of the sun, may sometimes enable us to see what we do not like; but who would wish to escape unpleasing objects, by condemning himself to perpetual darkness ?

Since, therefore, letters are thus indispensably necessary ; since we cannot persuade ourselves to lose their benefits, for the sake of escaping their mischiefs, it is worth our serious inquiry, how their benefits may be increased, and their mischiefs lessened; by what means the harvest of our studies may afford us more corn and less chaff; and how the roses of the gardens of science may gratify us more with their fragrance, and prick us less with their thorns.

I shall not, at present, mention the more formidable evils which the misapplication of literature produces, nor speak of churches infected with heresy, states inflamed with sedition, or schools infatuated with hypothetical fictions. These are evils which mankind have always lamented, and which, till mankind grow wise and modest, they must, I am afraid, continue to lament, without hope of remedy. I shall now touch only on some lighter and less extensive evils, yet such, as are sufficiently heavy to

« הקודםהמשך »