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tranquillity of temper can bear. What, order me to wear mourning before they know whether I can buy it or no; Fum, thou fon of Fo, what fort of a people am I got amongft, where being out of black is a certain fymptom of poverty; where those who have miferable faces cannot have mourning, and those who have mourning cannot, will not, wear a miferable face!
FROM THE SAME.
It is ufual for the bookfellers here, when a book has
given univerfal pleasure upon one subject, to bring out feveral more upon the fame plan; which are fure to have purchasers and readers, from that defire which all men have to view a pleasing object on every fide. The first performance serves rather to awake than fatisfy attention; and when that is once moved, the flighteft effort ferves to continue its progreffion; the merit of the firft diffuses a light sufficient to illuminate the fucceeding efforts; and no other object can be relished till that is exhaufted. A ftupid work coming thus immediately in the train of an applauded performance, weans the mind from the object of its pleasure, and resembles the sponge thurst into the mouth of a difcharged culverin, in order to adapt it for a new explosion.
This manner, however, of drawing off a subject, or a peculiar mode of writing to the dregs effectually, precludes a revival of that subject or manner, for some time for the future; the fated reader turns from it with
a kind of literary naufea; and though the title of books are the part of them moft read, yet he has scarce perseverance enough to wade through the title-page.
Of this number I own myself one: I am now grown callous to several subjects, and different kinds of compofition: whether fuch originally pleafed, I will not take upon me to determine; but at present I spurn a new book, merely upon feeing its name in an advertisement; nor have the smallest curiofity to look beyond the first leaf, even though in the second the author promises his own face neatly engraven on copper.
I am become a perfect epicure in reading; plain beef or folid mutton will never do. I am for a Chinese dish of bears claws and birds nefts. I am for fauce ftrong with afafoetida or fuming with garlic. For this reason, there are an hundred very wife, learned, virtuous, wellintended productions that have no charms for me. Thus, for the foul of me, I could never find courage nor grace enough to wade above two pages deep into thoughts upon God and nature, or thoughts upon providence, or thoughts upon free grace, or, indeed, into thoughts upon any thing at all. I can no longer meditate with meditations for every day in the year; effays upon divers fubjects cannot allure me, though never fo interesting; and as for funeral fermons, or even thanksgiving fermons, I can neither weep with the one, nor rejoice with the other.
But it is chiefly in gentle poetry, where I feldom look farther than the title. The truth is, I take up books to be told fomething new; but here, as it is now managed, the reader is told nothing. He opens the book, and there finds very good words, truly, and much exactness
of rhyme, but no information. A parcel of gaudy images pass on before his imagination like the figures in a dream; but curiofity, induction, reason, and the whole train of affections are faft afleep. The jocunda et idonea vita; those fallies which mend the heart, while they amuse the fancy, are quite forgotten: fo that a reader who would take up fome modern applauded performances of this kind, must, in order to be pleased, first leave his good fenfe behind him, take for his recompence and guide bloated and compound epithet, and dwell on paintings, juft indeed because laboured with minute exactness.
If we examine, however, our internal fenfations, we fhall find ourselves but little pleased with such laboured vanities; we shall find that our applause rather proceeds from a kind of contagion caught from others, and which we contribute to diffuse, than from what we privately feel. There are some subjects, of which almost all the world perceive the futility, yet all combine in imposing upon each other, as worthy of praife. But chiefly this imposition obtains in literature, where men publicly contemn what they relish with rapture in private, and approve abroad what has given disgust at home. The truth is, we deliver those criticisms in public, which are supposed to be best calculated not to do justice to the author, but to impress others with an opinion of our superior difcernment.
But let works of this kind, which have already come off with fuch applaufe, enjoy it all. It is neither my wish to diminish, as I was never confiderable enough to add to their fame. But for the future I fear there are many poems, of which I fhall find fpirits to read
but the title. In the firft place, all odes upon winter or fummer, or autumn; in short, all odes, epodes, and monodies whatsoever, fhall hereafter be deemed too polite, claffical, obfcure, and refined to be read, and entirely above human comprehenfion. Paftorals are pretty enough-for those that like them-but to me Thyrfis is one of the most infipid fellows I ever converfed with; and as for Corydon, I do not chuse his company. Ele. gies and epiftles are very fine to thofe to whom they are addreffed; and as for epic poems, I am generally able to discover the whole plan in reading the two firft pages.
Tragedies, however, as they are now made, are good, inftructive, moral fermons enough; and it would be a fault not to be pleased with good things. There I learn feveral great truths; as that it is impoffible to fee into the ways of futurity; that punishment always attends the villain; that love is the fond foother of the human breaft; that we should not refift Heaven's will, for in refifting Heaven's will, Heaven's will is refifted; with feveral other fentiments equally new, delicate, and ftriking. Every new tragedy, therefore, I fhall go to fee; for reflections of this nature make a tolerable harmony, when mixed up with a proper quantity of drum, trumpet, thunder, lightening, or the fcene fhifter's whistle. Adieu.
FROM THE SAME.
I HAD fome intentions lately of going to vifit Bed
lam, the place where those who go mad are confined. I went to wait upon he man in black to be my conductor, but I found him preparing to go to Westminsterhall, where the English hold their courts of justice. It gave me fome furprise to find my friend engaged in a law-fuit, but more fo when he informed me, that it had been depending for feveral years. "How is it poffible," cried I, "for a man who knows the world to go to law; I am well acquainted with the courts of justice in China, they resemble rat-traps, every one of them, nothing more easy to get in, but get out again is attended with fome difficulty, and more cunning than rats are ge nerally found to poffefs!"
Faith, replied my friend, I should not have gone to law, but that I was affured of fuccefs before I began; things were prefented to me in so alluring a light, that I thought by barely declaring myself a candidate for the prize, I had nothing more to do but to enjoy the fruits of the victory. Thus have I been upon the eve of an imaginary triumph every term thefe ten years, have travelled forward with victory ever in my view, but ever out of reach; however, at prefent, I fancy we have hampered our antagonist in fuch a manner, that without fome unforefeen demur, we fhail this very day lay him fairly on his