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NULLIUS ADDICTUS JURARE IN VERBA MAGISTRI,
QUO ME CUNQUE RAPIT TEMPESTAS, DEFEROR HOSPES.
VOLUME THE FIRST.
N° I. TUESDAY, MARCH 20, 1750.
CUR TAMEN HOC LIBEAT POTIUS DECURRERE CAMPO,
WHY TO EXPATIATE IN THIS BEATEN FIELD;
THE HE difficulty of the first addrefs on any new occafion is felt by every man in his tranfactions with the world, and confeffed by the fettled and regular forms of falutation which neceffity has introduced into all languages. Judgment was wearied with the perplexity of being forced upon choice, where there was no motive to preference; and it was found convenient that fome eafy method of introduction fhould be established, which, if it wanted the allurement of novelty, might enjoy the fecurity of prefcription.
Perhaps few authors have prefented themselves before the publick, without wishing that fuch ceremonial modes of entrance had been anciently established, as might have freed them from thofe dangers which the defire of pleafing is certain to produce, and precluded the vain expedients of foftening cenfure by apologies, or roufing attention by abruptness.
The epick writers have found the proemial part of the poem fuch an addition to their undertaking, that they have almost unanimously adopted the irft lines of Homer; and the reader needs
only be informed of the subject, to knowin what manner the poem will begin.
But this folemn repetition is hitherto the peculiar diftinction of heroick poetry; it has never been legally extended to the lower orders of literature, but feems to be confidered as an hereditary privilege, to be enjoyed only by thofe who claim it from their alliance to the genius of Homer.
The rules which the injudicious ufe of this prerogative fuggefted to Horace, may indeed be applied to the direction of candidates for inferior fame; it may be proper for all to remember, that they ought not to raise expectation which it is not in their power to fatisfy, and that it is more pleafing to fee fmoke brightening into flame, than flame finking into fmoke.
This precept has been long received, both from regard to the authority of Horace, and it's conformity to the general opinion of the world; yet there have been always fome, that thought it no deviation from modefty to recommend their own labours, and imagined themselves entitled by indifputable merit to an exemption from general re
ftraints, and to elevations not allowed in common life. They perhaps believed, that when, like Thucydides, they bequeathed to mankind la del
an eftate for ever,' it was an additional favour to inform them of it's value.
It may, indeed, be no lefs dangerous to claim, on certain occafions, too little than too much. There is fomething captivating in fpirit and intrepidity, to which we often yield, as to a refiftless power; nor can he reasonably expect the confidence of others who too apparently diftrufts himself.
Plutarch, in his enumeration of the various occafions on which a man may without just offence proclaim his own excellences, has omitted the cafe of an author entering the world; unless it may be comprehended under his general pofition that a man may lawfully praise himfelf for thofe qualities which cannot be known but from his own mouth; as when he is among ftrangers, and can have no opportunity of an actual exertion of his powers. That the cafe of an author is parallel, will fcarcely be granted, because he neceffarily difcovers the degree of his merit to his judges when he appears at his trial. But it fhould be remembered, that unless his judges are inclined to favour him, they will hardly be perfuaded to hear the cause.
In love, the ftate which fills the heart with a degree of folicitude next that of an author, it has been held a maxim, that fuccefs is moft eafily obtained by indirect and unperceived approaches: he who too foon profeffes himself a lover, raifes obftacies to his own withes; and those whom difappointments have taught experience, endeavour to conceal their paffion till they believe their mistress wishes for the difcovery. The fame method, if it were practicable to writers, woukl fave many complaints of the feverity of the age, and the caprices of criticifm. If a man could glide imperceptibly into the favour of the publick, and only proclaim his pretenfions to literary honours when he is fure of not being rejected, he might commence author with better hopes, as his failings might efcape contempt, though he fhall never attain much regard.
But fince the world fuppofes every man that writes ambitious of applaufe, as fome ladies have taught themselves to believe that every man intends love who expreftes civility, the inifcarriage of any
endeavour in learning raises an unbounded contempt, indulged by moft minds without fcruple, as an honeft triumph over unjuft claims and exorbitant expectations. The artifices of those who put themfelves in this hazardous ftate, have therefore been multiplied in proportion to their fear as well as their ambition; and are to be looked upon with more indulgence, as they are incited at once by the two great movers of the human mind, the defire of good, and the fear of evil: for who can wonder that, allured on one fide, and frightened on the other, fome should endeavour to gain favour by bribing the judge with an appearance of refpect which they do not feel, to excite compaffion by confeffing weaknefs of which they are not convinced; and others to attract regard by a fhew of opennefs and magnanimity, by a daring profeffion of their own deferts, and a publick challenge of honours and rewards.
The oftentatious and haughty difplay of themselves has been the ufual refuge of diurnal writers; in vindication of whofe practice it may be faid, that what it wants in prudence is fupplied by fincerity; and who at leaft may plead, that if their boasts deceive any into the perufal of their performances, they defraud them of but little time.
-Quid enim? Concurritur-hora Memento cito mors venit, aut victoria la a. The battle join; and, in a moment's flight, Death, or a joyful conqueft, ends the fi ht.
The queftion concerning the merit of the day is foon decided; and we are not condemned to toil through half a folio, to be convinced that the writer has broke his promise.
It is one among many reafons for which I purpofe to endeavour the entertainment of my countrymen by a hort clay on Tuesday and Saturday, that I hope not much to tire those whom I fhall not happen to pleafe; and if I am not commended for the beauty of my works, to be at leaf pardoned for their brevity. But whether my expectations are moft fixed on pardon or praife, I think it not neceflary to difcover; for having accurately weighed the reafons for arrogance and fubmiffion, I find them fo nearly equiponderant, that my impatience to try the event of my first performance will not fuffer me to attend any longer the trepidations of the balance.