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decessors; with new systems founded on ancient reveries; and little histories taken from large ones.
Do you wish to be an author ? Do you wish to make a book? recollect that it must be new and useful, or at least infinitely agreeable.
Why from your provincial retreat would you assassinate me with another quarto, to teach me that a king ought to be just, and that Trajan was more virtuous than Caligula ? You insist upon printing the sermons which have lulled your little obscure town to repose, and will put all our histories under contributions to extract from them the life of a prince of whom you can say nothing new.
If have written a history of your own time, doubt not but you will find some learned chronologist, or newspaper commentator, who will relieve you as to a date, a Christian name, or a squadron, which you have wrongly placed at the distance of three hundred paces from the place where it really stood. Be grateful, and correct these important errors forthwith.
If an ignoramus, or an empty fool, pretend to criticise this thing or the other, you may properly confute him ; but name him rarely, for fear of soiling your writings.
If you are attacked on your style, never answer; your work alone should reply.
If you are said to be sick, content yourself that you are well, without wishing to prove to the people that you are in perfect health; and, above all, remember that the world cares very little whether you are well or ill.
A hundred authors compile to get their bread, and twenty fools extract, criticise, apologise, and satirise these compilations to get bread also, because they have no profession. All these people repair on Fridays to the lieutenant of the police at Paris, to demand permission to sell their drugs. They have audience immediately after the courtezans, who do not regard them, because they know that they are poor customers.*
In France there used to be what was called the inspection of the library, the Cbaacellor had the care of the key, and it was he only who decided whether the French should read or believe
They return with a tacit permission to sell and distribute throughout the kingdom their stories, their collections of bon-mots; the life of the unfortunate Regis; the translation of a German poem; new discoveries on eels; a new copy of verses; a treatise on the origin of bells, or on the loves of the toads. A bookseller buys their productions for ten crowns; they give five of them to the journalist, on condition that he will speak well of them in his newspaper. The critic takes their money, and says all the ill he can of their books. The aggrieved parties go to complain to the Jew, who protects the wife of the journalist, and the scene closes by the critic being carried to Fort Eveque; and these are they who call themselves authors !
The poor people are divided into two or three bands, and go begging like mendicant friars; but not having taken vows, their society lasts only for a few days, for they betray one another like priests who run after the any proposition. The parliaments had also a jurisdiction on books; they caused those which displeased them to be burnt by the hangman, but the mode of burning the authors with the books has, for some time, given way. The sovereign courts also burned, with great ceremony, those books which did not speak of them with sufficient respect. The clergy, on their side, tried as much as they could to exercise a petty jurisdiction over men's thoughts. How could truth escape from the hands of the censors, exempts of police, hangmen and doctors ? She was obliged to seek a strạnge land, and as it was impossible that this tyranny, exercised over the minds of men, should not make them angry, she spoke with less circumspection and more violence.
In the time of M. Voltaire, it was the lieutenant of police of Paris, who had, under the chancellor, the inspection of the books. They have since taken away from him a part of this departinent. He only reserves the inspection of theatrical pieces, and works under the size of one sheet. The detail of this department is immense. It is not permitted to print the loss of a dog at Paris, without the police being assured that there is nothing in the marks of the poor beast contrary to good manners and religion.-Note by French Editor.
The French have lived to see all this materially altered, but France still retains a despicable faction, which would be glad to restore it. In London, a troop of animals, in comparison with whóm Balaam's ass was a sage, would kindly take the various offices of censor, exempt, hangman, and doctor, above enumerated, all upon themselves. T.
same benefice, though they have no benefice to hope for. But they still call themselves authors !
The misfortune of these men is, that their fathers did not make them learn a trade, which is a great defect in modern policy. Every man of the people, who can bring up his son in an useful art, and does not, merits punishment. The son of a mason becomes a jesuit at seventeen; he is chased from society at four and twenty, because the levity of his manners is too glaring. Behold him without bread! He turns journalist, he cultivates the lowest kind of literature, and becomes the contempt and horror of even the mob. And such as these again, call themselves authors !
The only authors, are they who haves ucceeded in a genuine art, be it epic poetry, tragedy, comedy, history, or philosophy, and who teach or delight mankind. The others, of whom we have spoken, are among men of letters, like bats among the birds. We cite, comment, criticise, neglect, forget, and above all, despise an author, who is an author only.
Apropos of citing an author: I must amuse myself with relating a singular mistake of the reverend father Viret, cordelier and professor of theology. He read in the" Philosophy of History" of the good abbé Bazin, that no author ever cited a passage of Moses before Longinus, who lived and died in the time of the emperor Aurelian. Forthwith, the zeal of St. Francis was kindled in him. Viret cries out that it is not true, for that several writers have said that there had been a Moses, that even Josephus has spoken at length upon him; and that the abbé Bazin is a wretch, who would destroy the seven sacraments. But, dear father Viret, you ought to inform yourself of the meaning of the word, to cite. There is a great deal of difference between mentioning an author and citing him. To speak, to make mention of an author, is to say, that he has lived, that he has written in such a time: to cite, is to give one of his passages—as Moses says in his Exodus-as Moses has written in his Genesis. Now the abbé Bazin affirms, that no foreign writers,—that none even of the Jewish prophets, have ever quoted a single passage of Moses, though he was a divine author. Truly, father Viret, you are very malicious, but we shall know at least, by this little paragraph, that you have been an author.
The most voluminous authors that we have had in France, are the comptrollers-general of the finances. Ten great volumes might be made of their declarations, since the reign of Louis XIV. Parliaments have been sometimes the critics of these works, and have found erroneous propositions and contradictions in them. But where are the good authors, who have not been censured ?
AUTHORITY. MISERABLE human beings, whether in green robes, or in turbans; whether in black gowns or surplices, or in mantles and bands, never seek to employ authority where nothing is concerned but reason, or consent to be reviled in all ages as the most impertinent of men, as well as to endure public hatred as the most unjust.
You have been told a hundred times of the insolent absurdity with which you condemned Galileo, and I speak to you of it for the hundred and first. I would have you keep the anniversary of it for ever. I would have it inscribed over the door of your holy office.
Seven cardinals, assisted by certain minorite friars, threw into prison the master of thinking in Italy at the age of seventy; and made him live upon bread and water because he instructed mankind in that of which they were ignorant.
Having passed a decree in favour of the categories of Aristotle, the above junto learnedly and equitably doomed to the penalty of the gallies whoever should dare to be of another opinion from the Stagyrite of whom two councils had burnt the books.
Further, a Faculty, which possessed very small faculties, made a decree against innate ideas, and afterwards another for them, without the said Faculty being informed, except by its beadles, of what an idea was.
In neighbouring schools, legal proceedings were commenced against the circulation of the blood.
A process was issued against inoculation, and the parties cited by summons.
One-and-twenty volumes of thoughts in folio have been seized, in which it was wickedly and falsely said that triangles have always three angles; that a father was older than his son; that Rhea Silvia lost her virginity before her accouchement; and that farina differs from oak leaves.
In another year, the following question was decided “ Utrum chimæra bombinans in vacuo possit comedere secundas intentiones ?”-and decided in the affirmative.
These judges, of course, considered themselves much superior to Archimedes, Euclid, Cicero, or Pliny, and strutted about the Universities accordingly.
AXIS. How is it that the axis of the earth is not perpendicular to the equator? Why is it raised towards the north and inclined towards the south pole, in a position which does not appear natural, and which seems the consequence of some derangement, or the result of a period of a prodigious number of years?
Is it true, that the ecliptic continually inclines by an insensible movement towards the equator, and that the angle formed by these two lines has a little diminished in two thousand years?
Is it true that the ecliptic has been formerly perpendicular to the equator, that the Egyptians have said so, and that Herodotus has related it? This motion of the ecliptic would form a period of about two millions of years. It is not that which astounds us; for the axis of the earth has an imperceptible movement in about twenty-six thousand years, which occasions the precession of the equinoxes. It is as easy for nature to produce a rotation of twenty thousand, as of two hundred and sixty ages.
We are deceived when we are told that the Egyptians had, according to Herodotus, a tradition that the ecliptic had been formerly perpendicular to the equa