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see a pious work, full of lessons of humanity, by Sir or My Lord. The reader, who is always malicious, and who often is wearied, usually turns a book into ridicule that is announced with so much ostentation. The author of the Imitation of Jesus Christ did not put his name to it.
But the apostles, you will say, put their names to their works that is not true, they were too modest. The apostle Matthew never entitled his book the Gospel of St. Matthew; it is a homage which has been paid to him since. St. Luke himself, who collected all that he had heard said, and who dedicated his book to Theophilus, did not call it the Gospel of St. Luke. St. John alone mentions himself in the Apocalypse; and it is supposed that this book was written by Cerinthus, who took the name of John to give authority to his production.
However it may have been in past ages, it appears to me very bold in authors now to put names and titles 1 at the head of their works. The bishops never fail to do so, and the thick quartos which they give us under the title of mandaments, are decorated with armorial bearings and the insignia of their station: a word, no doubt, is said about Christian humility, but this word is often followed by atrocious calumnies against those who are of another communion or party. We only speak here, however, of poor profane authors. The Duke de la Rochefoucault did not announce his thoughts as the production of Monsiegneur le duc de la Rochefoucault, pair de France, &c. Some persons who only make compilations in which there may be fine things, will find it injudicious to announce them as the work of A. B. professor of the university of-doctor of divinity, member of this or of that academy, and so on. So many dignities do not render the book better. It will still be wished that it was shorter, more philosophical, less filled with old stories. With respect to titles and quality, nobody cares about them.
Dedications are often only offerings from interested baseness to disdainful vanity. Who would believe that Rohaut, soi-disant physician, in his dedication to the
Duke of Guise told him, that his ancestors had maintained, at the expence of their blood, political truth, the fundamental laws of the state, and the rights of sovereigns? Le Balafré, and the Duke of Mayenne, would be a little surprised if this epistle was read to them in the other world. And what would Henry IV. say? Most of the dedications in England are made for money, just as the capuchins present us with salad on condition of our giving them drink.*
Happily this degradation of literature, which was at its height possibly in the days of Dryden, is now no more. Addison, there is reason to believe, struck the first successful blow at it, which Dr. Johnson, in relation to Lord Chesterfield, most effectively followed up. The justice of the reproach of Voltaire in reference to the insolence and servility attendant upon patronage at one time in England, is well illustrated by the following anecdote by Myles Davies, the learned author of Athenæ Brittanicæ, who gives a curious account of the state of patronage and manners in the beginning of the eighteenth century. "But his Grace of the Dutch nation (akin to Mynheer Vander B―nck) had a peculiar grace in receiving my present of books and odes, which being bundled up together with a letter and ode upon bis Graceship, and carried in by his porter, I was bid to call for an answer five years hence. I asked the porter what was meant by that?' I suppose,' said he, four or five days hence.' But it proved five or six months after before I could get any answer, though I had writ five or six letters in French, with fresh odes upon his Graceship. I attended about the door three or four times a week, all that time constantly from twelve to four or five o'clock in the evening and walking under the fore-windows of the parlours once that time, his and her grace came to stare at me, with open windows and shut mouths, but filled with fair water, which they spouted with so much dexterity, that they twisted the water through their teeth and mouthskrew, to flash near my face, and yet just to miss me, though my nose could not well miss the natural flavour of the orangewater showering so very near me. Her Grace began the waterworks, but not very gracefully, especially for an English lady of her description, airs and qualities, to make a stranger her spitting-post, who had been guilty of no other offence than to offer her husband some writings. His Grace followed, yet first stood looking so wistfully towards me, that I verily thought he had a mind to throw me a guinea or two for all these indignities and two or three month's thus sleeveless waiting upon him, and accordingly I advanced to address his Grace to remember the poor author; but, instead of an answer, he immediately undamus his mouth, and out fly whole showers of lymphatic rockets, which had like to have put out my mortal eyes. My books were at length returned to me unopened, with half-a
Men of letters in France are ignorant of this shameful abasement, and have never exhibited so much meanness, except some unfortunates, who call themselves men of letters, in the same sense that signdaubers boast of being of the profession of Raphael, and that the coachman of Vertamont was a poet. Prefaces are another rock. "The I is hateful," says Pascal. Speak of yourself as little as you can, for you ought to be aware that the self-love of the reader is as great as your own. He will never pardon you for wishing to oblige him to esteem you. It is for your book to speak to him, should it happen to be read among the crowd.
"The illustrious suffrages with which my piece has been honoured, will make me dispense with answering my adversaries-the applauses of the public," &c. &c. Erase all that, Sir: believe me you have had no illustrious suffrages; your piece is eternally forgotten.
"Some censors have pretended that there are too many events in the third act; and that, in the fourth, the princess is too late in discovering the tender senti. ments of her heart for her lover. To that I answer"Answer nothing, my friend, for nobody has spoken, or will speak of thy princess. Thy piece has fallen because it is tiresome, and written in flat and barbarous verse; thy preface is a prayer for the dead, but it will not revive them.
Others attest, that all Europe has not understood their treatises on compatibility, on the supralapsarians,
-on the difference which should be made between the Macedonian and Valentinian heresies, &c. &c. Truly, I believe that nobody understands them, since nobody
We are inundated with this trash and with continual repetition; with insipid romances which copy their preguinea upon the top of the cargo, and with a desire to receive no more. As I was jogging on homewards, I thought that a great many were called their Graces, not for any grace or favour they had truly deserved with God or man, but for the same reason of certainties that the Parca, or Destinies, were so called, because they spared none: Parcæ, quia non parcebant." D'ISRAELI'S Calamities of Authors. 2 F
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 assassi nate 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 you 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 Chancellor 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 strange 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 department. 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 whom Balaam's ass was a sage, would kindly take the various offices of censor, exempt, hangman, and doctor, above enumerated, all upon themselves.-T.