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INSCRIBED TO THE PERSON, TO WHOM ALONE IT
MOST NOBLE SIR,
AM one, whose ambition it hath been, ever since I came into the world, to distinguish myself as a writer ; in which, 1 fairly confess, I had not only the view of raising my reputation, but that of establishing my fortune. A prospect, which seemed very reasonable in a time of general peace and universal affluence; in an age so particularly polite, that it is even the fashion to appear knowing in all the elegant arts and sciences; and that to whatever branch of them a genius shall think fit to turn himself, he is sure it will be to one that is in vogue.
The first essays of my pen made a good deal of noise in the world: they filled foreign journals, and were translated into several languages. The Sorbonne, and both our mother Universities, returned me thanks for having reconciled several disputes, and
folved several difficulties in chronology and history, which had perplexed the learned world, from the impartial Eufebius, down to the circumstantial Prideaux ; my Philosophical Poems were received with the greatest applause; and it is well known, that if the gay part of the world read my Anti-Lucretius for amusement, the gravest divines have no tdisdained to borrow arguments from it in their disputes with the materialists.
Animated by such success, in one part of my aim, I proceeded with indefatigable labor, till continual disappointments, in the other, rendered me at length more indifferent to that imaginary good, applause, and less patient of that real evil, want. I began then to compare my condition with that of several great authors, both antient and modern; and finding upon the comparison that they had not been better treated than myself, I was soon led by my reflections to discover the true reason of our ill fortune in the world; I was soon convinced that they and I had been on a wrong pursuit ; that ministers of state pay no respect to the brightest talents, when they are misapplied, and esteem all talents to be fo, which are not wholly employed about the present time, and principally dedicated to the service of their administration ; neither can I say this proceeding is unjust, how much foever I fuffer by it.
If we write for pofterity, we must not complain that the care of rewarding our merit is left to posterity; and if we neglect to serve the state, those, who are appointed to preside over it, break no rule of equity when they neglect us.
Spencer has been amply recompenced by posterity for his Fairy Queen; but the wise treasurer Burleigh declined the payment of an hundred pounds, which Queen Elizabeth ordered him, and left this admirable poet
to starve. Had Spencer applied himself to more ferious studies, had he excelled in physics, in metaphysics, or even in the first philosophy, or in theology, instead of excelling in wit and poetry, the “ amabiles insaniæ" of Horace, his usage would have been the fame no doubt.
Even the greatest productions of these studies are but trifles in the account of a consummate statesman, and may properly enough be distinguished from the others in sense, by the title of “ insaniæ severiores.”
Our English ministers, to their honor be it spoken, have at all times proceeded upon this admirable principle; the most excellent fermons, the most elaborate treatises, have not been sufficient to procure the advancement of some 'divines, whilst a sorry pamplet or a spiritual libel has raised others to the highest dignities of the church. As it has fared with mere divinity, so has it fared with mere eloquence: as never caused the di. vine, so the other never caused the lawyer, to be distinguished. But we know that if either of them be employed in a court cause, he never fails of making his fortune. The fame fate has attended writers of another kind; the celebrated Tatlers, and Spectators, had no reward except from booksellers and fame. But when those authors made the discovery I have made, and applied their talents better, in writing the Englishman and the Freeholder, one was soon created a knight, and the other became secretary of state. In short, without enumerating any more instances, I may confidently affirm, that this has been the case from the days of Burleigh to this time; how much sooner it began to be so, I hope, Sir, you will not give me the leia sure to enquire.
From the moment I resolved to become a state writer, I mentally devoted myself to your service a
and I do it now in this public and most folemn manner. Employ me, Sir, as you please; I abandon myself intirely to you; my pen is at your disposition, and my conscience in your keeping. Like a lawyer, I am ready to support the cause, in which, give me leave to suppose that, I shall be foon retained, with ardor; and, if occasion be, with subtilty and acrimony. Like a Swiss, I will behave myself with equal boldness and fidelity; my pen is my fortune, and I think it as honorable to offer it, as offer my sword, without enquiring in a general battle, or in private skirmishes, at what relation or friend I ftrike. I cancel at once all former obli- . gations and friendship, and will most implicitly follow your instructions in panegyric on yourself and friends, in fatyr on your adversaries, in writing for or against any subject; nay, in writing for or against the fame subject, just as your intereft, or even your pafsions, may render it expedient.
I am not ignorant that when Carneades offered to argue for virtue, and then against it, Cato proposed to drive that great philosopher and orater out of Rome. But Cato was a man of narrow principles and of too confined an understanding. He considered virtue abstractedly, without any regard to time, to place, and to that vast variety of conjunctures, which happens in the course of human affairs. In common life, morality is no doubt necessary, and therefore legislators have been careful to enforce the practice of it; but whenever morality clashes with the interest of the state, it must be, and it always has been, laid aside. These are my opinions : and it is a great comfort to my conscience to find them confirmed by the practice of some reverend persons, whose examples ought to be of greater weight with me, than that of a wretched pagan. I shall therefore shew myself neither squeamish nor whimsical in pursuing the enterprize to which I offer my services, but