« PreviousContinue »
N° 101. THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 1709.
Postquam fregit subsellia versu,
Juv. Sat. vii. 87.
From my own Apartment, November 30. The progress of my intended account of what happened when Justice visited mortals, is at present interrupted by the observation and sense of an injustice against which ere is no remedy, even in a kingdom more happy in the care taken of the liberty and property of the subject, than any other nation upon earth. This iniquity is committed by a most impregnable set of mortals, men who are rogues within the law; and in the very commission of what they are guilty of, professedly own that they forbear no injury, but from the terror of being punished for it. These miscreants are a set of wretches we authors call pirates, who print any book, poem, or sermon, as soon as it appears in the world, in a smaller volume ; and sell it, as all other thieves do stolen goods, at a cheaper rate. I was in my rage calling them rascals, plunderers, robbers, highway, men. But they acknowledge all that, and are pleased with those, as well as any other titles ; nay, will print them themselves to turn the penny*.
* This paper seems to have been occasioned by a pirated edition of “the Lucubrations," which came out just at this time.
I am extremely at a loss how to act against such open enemies, who have not shame enough to be touched with our reproaches, and are as well defended against what we can say, as what we can do.Railing, therefore, we must turn into complaint, which I cannot forbear making, when I consider that all the labours of my long life may be disappointed by the first man that pleases to rob me. "I had flattered myself, that my stock of learning was worth a hundred and fifty pounds per annum, which would very handsomely maintain me and
little family, who are so happy, or so wise, as to want only necessaries. Before men had come up to this bare-faced impudence, it was an estate to have a competency of understanding.
An ingenious droll, who is since dead (and indeed it is well for him he is so, for he must have starved had he lived to this day), used to give me an account of his good husbandry in the management of his learning. He was a general dealer, and had his amusements, as well comical as serious. The merry rogue said,
When he wanted a dinner, he writ a paragraph of Table Talk, and his bookseller upon sight paid the reckoning.” He was a very good judge of what would please the people, and could aptly hit both the genius of his readers, and the season of the year, in his writings. His brain, which was his estate, had as regular and different produce as other men's land. From the beginning of November until the opening of the campaign, he writ pamphlets and letters to members of parliament, or friends in the country. But sometimes he would relieve his ordinary readers with a murder, and lived comfortably a week or two upon
strange and lamentable accidents.” A little before the armies took the field, his way was to open your attention with a prodigy; and a monster, well
writ, was two guineas the lowest price. This prepared his readers for his “great and bloody news" from Flanders, in June and July. Poor Tom! he
-But I observed, he always looked well after a battle, and was apparently fatter in a fighting year. Had this honest careless fellow lived until now, famine had stared him in the face, and interrupted his merriment; as it must be a solid affliction to all those whose pen is their portion.
As for my part, I do not speak wholly for my own sake in this point; for palmistry and astrology will bring me in greater gains than these my papers ; so that I am only in the condition of a lawyer, who leaves the bar for chamber-practice. However, I may be allowed to speak in the cause of learning itself, and lament that a liberal education is the only one which a polite nation makes unprofitable. All mechanical artizans are allowed to reap the fruit of their invention and ingenuity without invasion ; but he that has separated himself from the rest of mankind, and studied the wonders of the creation, the government of his passions, and the revolutions of the world, and has an ambition to communicate the effect of half his life spent in such noble inquiries, has no property in what he is willing to produce, but is exposed to robbery and want, with this melancholy and just reflection, that he is the only man who is not protected by his country, at the same time that he hest deserves it. According to the ordinary rules of computation, the greater the adventure is, the greater ought to be the profit of those who succeed in it; and by this measure, none have pretence of turning their labours to greater advantage than persons brought up to letters. A learned education, passing through great schools and universities, is very expensive ; and consumes a moderate fortune, before it is gone through in its proper
forms. The purchase of an handsome commission or employment, which would give a man a good figure in another kind of life, is to be made at a much cheaper rate. Now, if we consider this expensive voyage which is undertaken in the search of knowledge, and how few there are who take in any considerable merchandize, how less frequent it is, to be able to turn what men have gained into profit; how hard is it, that the very small number who are distinguished with abilities to know how to vend their wares, and have the good fortune to bring them into port, should suffer being plundered by privateers under the very cannon that should protect them! The most eminent and useful author of the age we live in, after having laid out a princely revenue in works of charity and beneficence, as became the greatness of his mind, and the sanctity of his character, would have left the person in the world who was the dearest to him, in a narrow condition, had not the sale of his immortal writings brought her in a very considerable dowry; though it was impossible for it to be equal to their value. Every one will know, that I here mean the works of the late archbishop of Canterbury*, the copy of which was sold for two thousand five hundred pounds.
I do not speak with relation to any party; but it has happened, and may often so happen, that men of great learning and virtue cannot qualify themselves for being employed in business, or receiving preferments. In this case, you cut them off from
take from them the benefit that may arise from their writings. For my own part, I have brought myself to consider things in so unprejudiced a manner, that I esteem more a man
* Dr. John Tillotson.
who can live by the products of his understanding, than one who does it by the favour of great men.
The zeal of an author has transported me thus far, though I think myself as much concerned in the capacity of a reader. If this practice goes on, we must never expect to see again a beautiful edition of a book in Great Britain.
We have already seen the Memoirs of Sir William Temple, published in the same character and volume with the History of Tom Thumb, and the works of our greatest poets shrunk into penny-books and garlands. For my own part, I expect to see my Lucubrations printed on browner paper than they are at present, and, if the humour continues, must be forced to retrench my expensive way of living, and not smoke above two pipes a day.
*** Mr. Charles Lillie, perfumer, at the corner of Beaufort-Buildings, has informed me, that I am obliged to several of my customers for coming to his shop upon my recommendation; and has also given me further assurances of his upright dealing with all who shall be so kind as to make use of my name to him. I acknowledge this favour, and have, for the service of my friends, who frequent his shop, used the force of magical powers to add value to his wares. By my knowledge in the secret operations of nature, I have made his powders, perfumed and plain, have the same effect as love-powder, to all who are too much enamoured to do more than dress at their mistresses. His amber, orange-flower, musk, and civet-violet, put only into an handkerchief, shall have the same effect toward an honourable lover's wishes, as if he had been wrapped in his mother's smock. Wash-balls perfumed, camphired, and plain, shall restore complexion's to that