This not a Time favourable to poetical Composition: and why — Newspapers enemies to Literature, and their general Influence — Their Numbers — The Sunday Monitor — Their general Character — Their Effect upon Individuals — upon Society — in the Country — The Village Freeholder — What Kind of Composition a Newspaper is; and the Amusement it affords — Of what Parts it is chiefly composed — Articles of Intelligence: Advertisements: The Stage: Quacks: Puffing — The Correspondents to a Newspaper, political and poetical — Advice to the latter — Conclusion.
È quibus, hi vacuas implent sermonibus aures:
Hi narrata ferunt alio: mensuraque ficti
Crescit, et auditis aliquid novus adjicit auctor:
Illic Credulitas, illic temerarius Error,
Vanaque Lætitia est, consternatique Timores,
Seditioque repens, dubioque auctore Susurri.
Ovid. Metamorph., lib. xii.
1 A time like this, a busy, bustling time,
2 Suits ill with writers, very ill with rhyme:
3 Unheard we sing, when party-rage runs strong,
4 And mightier madness checks the flowing song:[Page 116]
5 Or, should we force the peaceful Muse to wield
6 Her feeble arms amid the furious field,
7 Where party-pens a wordy war maintain,
8 Poor is her anger, and her friendship vain;
9 And oft the foes who feel her sting, combine,
10 Till serious vengeance pays an idle line:
11 For party-poets are like wasps, who dart
12 Death to themselves, and to their foes but smart.
13 Hard then our fate: if general themes we choose,
14 Neglect awaits the song, and chills the Muse;
15 Or should we sing the subject of the day,
16 To-morrow's wonder puffs our praise away.
17 More blest the bards of that poetic time,
18 When all found readers who could find a rhyme;
19 Green grew the bays on every teeming head,
20 And Cibber was enthroned, and Settle read.
21 Sing, drooping Muse, the cause of thy decline;
22 Why reign no more the once-triumphant Nine? [Page 117]
23 Alas! new charms the wavering many gain,
24 And rival sheets the reader's eye detain;
25 A daily swarm, that banish every Muse,
26 Come flying forth, and mortals call them News:
27 For these, unread, the noblest volumes lie;
28 For these, in sheets unsoil'd, the Muses die;
29 Unbought, unblest, the virgin copies wait
30 In vain for fame, and sink, unseen, to fate.
31 Since, then, the Town forsakes us for our foes,
32 The smoothest numbers for the harshest prose;
33 Let us, with generous scorn, the taste deride,
34 And sing our rivals with a rival's pride.
35 Ye gentle poets, who so oft complain
36 That foul neglect is all your labours gain;
37 That pity only checks your growing spite
38 To erring man, and prompts you still to write;
39 That your choice works on humble stalls are laid,
40 Or vainly grace the windows of the trade;[Page 118]
41 Be ye my friends, if friendship e'er can warm
42 Those rival bosoms whom the Muses charm:
43 Think of the common cause wherein we go,
44 Like gallant Greeks against the Trojan foe;
45 Nor let one peevish chief his leader blame,
46 Till, crown'd with conquest, we regain our fame;
47 And let us join our forces to subdue
48 This bold assuming but successful crew.
49 I sing of News, and all those vapid sheets
50 The rattling hawker vends through gaping streets;
51 Whate'er their name, whate'er the time they fly,
52 Damp from the press, to charm the reader's eye:
53 For, soon as Morning dawns with roseate hue,
54 The Herald of the morn arises too;
55 Post after Post succeeds, and, all day long,
56 Gazettes and Ledgers swarm, a noisy throng.
57 When evening comes, she comes with all her train
58 Of Ledgers, Chronicles, and Posts again,
59 Like bats, appearing, when the sun goes down,
60 From holes obscure and corners of the town. [Page 119]
61 Of all these triflers, all like these, I write;
62 Oh! like my subject could my song delight,
63 The crowd at Lloyd's one poet's name should raise,
64 And all the Alley echo to his praise.
65 In shoals the hours their constant numbers bring,
66 Like insects waking to th' advancing spring;
67 Which take their rise from grubs obscene that lie
68 In shallow pools, or thence ascend the sky:
69 Such are these base ephemeras, so born
70 To die before the next revolving morn.
71 Yet thus they differ: insect-tribes are lost
72 In the first visit of a winter's frost;
73 While these remain, a base but constant breed,
74 Whose swarming sons their short-lived sires succeed;
75 No changing season makes their number less,
76 Nor Sunday shines a sabbath on the press!
77 Then lo! the sainted Monitor is born,
78 Whose pious face some sacred texts adorn:[Page 120]
79 As artful sinners cloak the secret sin,
80 To veil with seeming grace the guile within;
81 So Moral Essays on his front appear,
82 But all is carnal business in the rear;
83 The fresh-coin'd lie, the secret whisper'd last,
84 And all the gleanings of the six days past.
85 With these retired, through half the Sabbath-day,
86 The London lounger yawns his hours away:
87 Not so, my little flock! your preacher fly,
88 Nor waste the time no worldly wealth can buy;
89 But let the decent maid and sober clown
90 Pray for these idlers of the sinful town:
91 This day, at least, on nobler themes bestow,
92 Nor give to Woodfall, or the world below.
93 But, Sunday past, what numbers flourish then,
94 What wondrous labours of the press and pen!
95 Diurnal most, some thrice each week affords,
96 Some only once, — O avarice of words!
97 When thousand starving minds such manna seek,
98 To drop the precious food but once a week. [Page 121]
99 Endless it were to sing the powers of all,
100 Their names, their numbers; how they rise and fall:
101 Like baneful herbs the gazer's eye they seize,
102 Rush to the head, and poison where they please:
103 Like idle flies, a busy, buzzing train,
104 They drop their maggots in the trifler's brain:
105 That genial soil receives the fruitful store,
106 And there they grow, and breed a thousand more. [Page 122]
107 Now be their arts display'd, how first they choose
108 A cause and party, as the bard his muse;
109 Inspired by these, with clamorous zeal they cry,
110 And through the town their dreams and omens fly:
111 So the Sibylline leaves were blown about,
112 Disjointed scraps of fate involved in doubt;
113 So idle dreams, the journals of the night,
114 Are right and wrong by turns, and mingle wrong with right. —
115 Some champions for the rights that prop the crown,
116 Some sturdy patriots, sworn to pull them down;
117 Some neutral powers, with secret forces fraught,
118 Wishing for war, but willing to be bought:
119 While some to every side and party go,
120 Shift every friend, and join with every foe;
121 Like sturdy rogues in privateers, they strike
122 This side and that, the foes of both alike;
123 A traitor-crew, who thrive in troubled times,
124 Fear'd for their force, and courted for their crimes.
125 Chief to the prosperous side the numbers sail,
126 Fickle and false, they veer with every gale;
127 As birds that migrate from a freezing shore,
128 In search of warmer climes, come skimming o'er,
129 Some bold adventurers first prepare to try
130 The doubtful sunshine of the distant sky;
131 But soon the growing Summer's certain sun
132 Wins more and more, till all at last are won:[Page 123]
133 So, on the early prospect of disgrace,
134 Fly in vast troops this apprehensive race;
135 Instinctive tribes! their failing food they dread,
136 And buy, with timely change, their future bread.
137 Such are our guides: how many a peaceful head,
138 Born to be still, have they to wrangling led!
139 How many an honest zealot stol'n from trade,
140 And factious tools of pious pastors made!
141 With clews like these they thread the maze of state,
142 These oracles explore, to learn our fate;
143 Pleased with the guides who can so well deceive,
144 Who cannot lie so fast as they believe.
145 Oft lend I, loth, to some sage friend an ear,
146 (For we who will not speak are doom'd to hear);
147 While he, bewilder'd, tells his anxious thought,
148 Infectious fear from tainted scribblers caught,
149 Or idiot hope; for each his mind assails,
150 As Lloyd's court-light or Stockdale's gloom prevails.
151 Yet stand I patient while but one declaims,
152 Or gives dull comments on the speech he maims:[Page 124]
153 But oh! ye Muses, keep your votary's feet
154 From tavern-haunts where politicians meet;
155 Where rector, doctor, and attorney pause,
156 First on each parish, then each public cause:
157 Indited roads, and rates that still increase;
158 The murmuring poor, who will not fast in peace;
159 Election zeal and friendship, since declined;
160 A tax commuted, or a tithe in kind;
161 The Dutch and Germans kindling into strife;
162 Dull port and poachers vile! the serious ills of life.
163 Here comes the neighbouring Justice, pleased to guide
164 His little club, and in the chair preside.
165 In private business his commands prevail,
166 On public themes his reasoning turns the scale;
167 Assenting silence soothes his happy ear,
168 And, in or out, his party triumphs here.
169 Nor here th' infectious rage for party stops,
170 But flits along from palaces to shops;
171 Our weekly journals o'er the land abound,
172 And spread their plague and influenzas round;
173 The village, too, the peaceful, pleasant plain,
174 Breeds the Whig farmer and the Tory swain;
175 Brookes 'and St. Alban's boasts not, but, instead,
176 Stares the Red Ram, and swings the Rodney's Head: —
177 Hither, with all a patriot's care, comes he
178 Who owns the little hut that makes him free;[Page 125]
179 Whose yearly forty shillings buy the smile
180 Of mightier men, and never waste the while;
181 Who feels his freehold's worth, and looks elate,
182 A little prop and pillar of the state.
183 Here he delights the weekly news to con,
184 And mingle comments as he blunders on;
185 To swallow all their varying authors teach,
186 To spell a title, and confound a speech:
187 Till with a muddled mind he quits the news,
188 And claims his nation's license to abuse;
189 Then joins the cry, "That all the courtly race
190 " Are venal candidates for power and place; "
191 Yet feels some joy, amid the general vice,
192 That his own vote will bring its wonted price.
193 These are the ills the teeming Press supplies,
194 The pois'nous springs from learning's fountain rise:
195 Not there the wise alone their entrance find,
196 Imparting useful light to mortals blind;
197 But, blind themselves, these erring guides hold out
198 Alluring lights to lead us far about;
199 Screen'd by such means, here Scandal whets her quill,
200 Here Slander shoots unseen, whene'er she will;
201 Here Fraud and Falsehood labour to deceive,
202 And Folly aids them both, impatient to believe. [Page 126]
203 Such, sons of Britain! are the guides ye trust;
204 So wise their counsel, their reports so just! —
205 Yet, though we cannot call their morals pure,
206 Their judgment nice, or their decisions sure;
207 Merit they have to mightier works unknown,
208 A style, a manner, and a fate their own.
209 We, who for longer fame with labour strive,
210 Are pain'd to keep our sickly works alive;
211 Studious we toil, with patient care refine,
212 Nor let our love protect one languid line.
213 Severe ourselves, at last our works appear,
214 When, ah! we find our readers more severe;
215 For, after all our care and pains, how few
216 Acquire applause, or keep it if they do! —
217 Not so these sheets, ordain'd to happier fate,
218 Praised through their day, and but that day their date;
219 Their careless authors only strive to join
220 As many words as make an even line;
221 As many lines as fill a row complete;
222 As many rows as furnish up a sheet:[Page 127]
223 From side to side, with ready types they run
224 The measure's ended, and the work is done;
225 Oh, born with ease, how envied and how blest!
226 Your fate to-day and your to-morrow's rest.
227 To you all readers turn, and they can look
228 Pleased on a paper, who abhor a book;
229 Those who ne'er deign'd their Bible to peruse,
230 Would think it hard to be denied their News;
231 Sinners and saints, the wisest with the weak,
232 Here mingle tastes, and one amusement seek;
233 This, like the public inn, provides a treat,
234 Where each promiscuous guest sits down to eat;
235 And such this mental food, as we may call
236 Something to all men, and to some men all.
237 Next, in what rare production shall we trace
238 Such various subjects in so small a space? [Page 128]
239 As the first ship upon the waters bore
240 Incongruous kinds who never met before;
241 Or as some curious virtuoso joins,
242 In one small room, moths, minerals, and coins,
243 Birds, beasts, and fishes; nor refuses place
244 To serpents, toads, and all the reptile race
245 So here, compress'd within a single sheet,
246 Great things and small, the mean and mighty meet,
247 'Tis this which makes all Europe's business known,
248 Yet here a private man may place his own;
249 And, where he reads of Lords and Commons, he
250 May tell their honours that he sells rappee.
251 Add next th' amusement which the motley page
252 Affords to either sex and every age:
253 Lo! where it comes before the cheerful fire, —
254 Damps from the press in smoky curls aspire
255 (As from the earth the sun exhales the dew),
256 Ere we can read the wonders that ensue:
257 Then eager every eye surveys the part,
258 That brings its favourite subject to the heart;
259 Grave politicians look for facts alone,
260 And gravely add conjectures of their own:
261 The sprightly nymph, who never broke her rest.
262 For tottering crowns, or mighty lands oppress'd,
263 Finds broils and battles, but neglects them all
264 For songs and suits, a birth-day, or a ball:
265 The keen warm man o'erlooks each idle tale
266 For "Monies wanted," and "Estates on Sale;"[Page 129]
267 While some with equal minds to all attend,
268 Pleased with each part, and grieved to find an end.
269 So charm the News; but we, who far from town
270 Wait till the postman brings the packet down,
271 Once in the week, a vacant day behold,
272 And stay for tidings, till they're three days old:
273 That day arrives; no welcome post appears,
274 But the dull morn a sullen aspect wears:
275 We meet, but ah! without our wonted smile,
276 To talk of headachs, and complain of bile;
277 Sullen we ponder o'er a dull repast,
278 Nor feast the body while the mind must fast.
279 A master-passion is the love of news,
280 Not music so commands, nor so the Muse:
281 Give poets claret, they grow idle soon;
282 Feed the musician, and he's out of tune;
283 But the sick mind, of this disease possess'd,
284 Flies from all cure, and sickens when at rest. [Page 130]
285 Now sing, my Muse, what various parts compose
286 These rival sheets of politics and prose.
287 First, from each brother's hoard a part they draw,
288 A mutual theft that never fear'd a law;
289 Whate'er they gain, to each man's portion fall,
290 And read it once, you read it through them all:
291 For this their runners ramble day and night,
292 To drag each lurking deed to open light;
293 For daily bread the dirty trade they ply,
294 Coin their fresh tales, and live upon the lie:
295 Like bees for honey, forth for news they spring, —
296 Industrious creatures! ever on the wing;
297 Home to their several cells they bear the store,
298 Cull'd of all kinds, then roam abroad for more.
299 No anxious virgin flies to "fair Tweed-side;"
300 No injured husband mourns his faithless bride;
301 No duel dooms the fiery youth to bleed;
302 But through the town transpires each ven'trous deed.
303 Should some fair frail-one drive her prancing pair
304 Where rival peers contend to please the fair;
305 When, with new force, she aids her conquering eyes,
306 And beauty decks, with all that beauty buys;
307 Quickly we learn whose heart her influence feels,
308 Whose acres melt before her glowing wheels.
309 To these a thousand idle themes succeed,
310 Deeds of all kinds, and comments to each deed. [Page 131]
311 Here stocks, the state-barometers, we view,
312 That rise or fall, by causes known to few;
313 Promotion's ladder who goes up or down;
314 Who wed, or who seduced, amuse the town;
315 What new-born heir has made his father blest;
316 What heir exults, his father now at rest;
317 That ample list the Tyburn-herald gives.
318 And each known knave, who still for Tyburn lives.
319 So grows the work, and now the printer tries
320 His powers no more, but leans on his allies.
321 When lo! the advertising tribe succeed,
322 Pay to be read, yet find but few will read;
323 And chief th' illustrious race, whose drops and pills
324 Have patent powers to vanquish human ills:
325 These, with their cures, a constant aid remain,
326 To bless the pale composer's fertile brain;[Page 132]
327 Fertile it is, but still the noblest soil
328 Requires some pause, some intervals from toil;
329 And they at least a certain ease obtain
330 From Katterfelto's skill, and Graham's glowing strain.
331 I too must aid, and pay to see my name
332 Hung in these dirty avenues to fame;
333 Nor pay in vain, if aught the Muse has seen,
334 And sung, could make these avenues more clean;
335 Could stop one slander ere it found its way,
336 And gave to public scorn its helpless prey.
337 By the same aid, the Stage invites her friends,
338 And kindly tells the banquet she intends;
339 Thither from real life the many run,
340 With Siddons weep, or laugh with Abingdon;[Page 133]
341 Pleased in fictitious joy or grief, to see
342 The mimic passion with their own agree;
343 To steal a few enchanted hours away
344 From self, and drop the curtain on the day.
345 But who can steal from self that wretched wight,
346 Whose darling work is tried, some fatal night?
347 Most wretched man! when, bane to every bliss,
348 He hears the serpent-critic's rising hiss;
349 Then groans succeed; nor traitors on the wheel
350 Can feel like him, or have such pangs to feel.
351 Nor end they here: next day he reads his fall
352 In every paper; critics are they all:
353 He sees his branded name, with wild affright,
354 And hears again the cat-calls of the night.
355 Such help the stage affords: a larger space
356 Is fill'd by puffs and all the puffing race.
357 Physic had once alone the lofty style,
358 The well-known boast, that ceased to raise a smile:
359 Now all the province of that tribe invade,
360 And we abound in quacks of every trade.
361 The simple barber, once an honest name,
362 Cervantes founded, Fielding raised his fame:
363 Barber no more — a gay perfumer comes,
364 On whose soft cheek his own cosmetic blooms;
365 Here he appears, each simple mind to move,
366 And advertises beauty, grace and love. [Page 134]
367 — "Come, faded belles, who would your youth renew,
368 " And learn the wonders of Olympian dew;
369 "Restore the roses that begin to faint,
370 " Nor think celestial washes vulgar paint;
371 "Your former features, airs, and arts assume,
372 " Circassian virtues, with Circassian bloom.
373 "Come, batter'd beaux, whose locks are turn'd to gray,
374 " And crop Discretion's lying badge away;
375 "Read where they vend these smart engaging things,
376 " These flaxen frontlets with elastic springs;
377 "No female eye the fair deception sees,
378 " Not Nature's self so natural as these. "
379 Such are their arts, but not confined to them,
380 The Muse impartial must her sons condemn:
381 For they, degenerate! join the venal throng,
382 And puff a lazy Pegasus along:
383 More guilty these, by Nature less design'd
384 For little arts that suit the vulgar kind. [Page 135]
385 That barbers 'boys, who would to trade advance,
386 Wish us to call them, smart Friseurs from France;
387 That he who builds a chop-house, on his door
388 Paints "The true old original Blue Boar!" —
389 These are the arts by which a thousand live,
390 Where Truth may smile, and Justice may forgive: —
391 But when, amidst this rabble rout, we find
392 A puffing poet to his honour blind:
393 Who slily drops quotations all about
394 Packet or Post, and points their merit out;
395 Who advertises what reviewers say,
396 With sham editions every second day;
397 Who dares not trust his praises out of sight,
398 But hurries into fame with all his might;
399 Although the verse some transient praise obtains,
400 Contempt is all the anxious poet gains.
401 Now Puffs exhausted, Advertisements past,
402 Their Correspondents stand exposed at last;
403 These are a numerous tribe, to fame unknown,
404 Who for the public good forego their own;
405 Who volunteers in paper-war engage,
406 With double portion of their party's rage:
407 Such are the Bruti, Decii, who appear
408 Wooing the printer for admission here;
409 Whose generous souls can condescend to pray
410 For leave to throw their precious time away.
411 Oh! cruel Woodfall! when a patriot draws
412 His gray-goose quill in his dear country's cause,
413 To vex and maul a ministerial race,
414 Can thy stern soul refuse the champion place? [Page 136]
415 Alas! thou know'st not with what anxious heart
416 He longs his best-loved labours to impart;
417 How he has sent them to thy brethren round,
418 And still the same unkind reception found:
419 At length indignant will he damn the state,
420 Turn to his trade, and leave us to our fate.
421 These Roman souls, like Rome's great sons, are known
422 To live in cells on labours of their own.
423 Thus Milo, could we see the noble chief,
424 Feeds, for his country's good, on legs of beef:
425 Camillus copies deeds for sordid pay,
426 Yet fights the public battles twice a day:
427 E'en now the godlike Brutus views his score
428 Scroll'd on the bar-board, swinging with the door;
429 Where, tippling punch, grave Cato's self you'll see,
430 And Amor Patriæ vending smuggled tea.
431 Last in these ranks, and least, their art's disgrace,
432 Neglected stand the Muses 'meanest race;
433 Scribblers who court contempt, whose verse the eye
434 Disdainful views, and glances swiftly by:
435 This Poet's Corner is the place they choose,
436 A fatal nursery for an infant Muse;
437 Unlike that Corner where true Poets lie,
438 These cannot live, and they shall never die;
439 Hapless the lad whose mind such dreams invade,
440 And win to verse the talents due to trade.
441 Curb then, O youth! these raptures as they rise,
442 Keep down the evil spirit and be wise;[Page 137]
443 Follow your calling, think the Muses foes,
444 Nor lean upon the pestle and compose.
445 I know your day-dreams, and I know the snare
446 Hid in your flow'ry path, and cry "Beware!"
447 Thoughtless of ill, and to the future blind,
448 A sudden couplet rushes on your mind;
449 Here you may nameless print your idle rhymes,
450 And read your first-born work a thousand times;
451 Th' infection spreads, your couplet grows apace,
452 Stanzas to Delia's dog or Celia's face:
453 You take a name; Philander's odes are seen,
454 Printed, and praised, in every magazine:
455 Diarian sages greet their brother sage,
456 And your dark pages please th' enlighten'd age. —
457 Alas! what years you thus consume in vain,
458 Ruled by this wretched bias of the brain!
459 Go! to your desks and counters all return;
460 Your sonnets scatter, your acrostics burn;
461 Trade, and be rich; or, should your careful sires
462 Bequeath you wealth, indulge the nobler fires:
463 Should love of fame your youthful heart betray,
464 Pursue fair fame, but in a glorious way,
465 Nor in the idle scenes of Fancy's painting stray.
466 Of all the good that mortal men pursue,
467 The Muse has least to give, and gives to few;
468 Like some coquettish fair, she leads us on,
469 With smiles and hopes, till youth and peace are gone;[Page 138]
470 Then, wed for life, the restless wrangling pair
471 Forget how constant one, and one how fair:
472 Meanwhile, Ambition, like a blooming bride,
473 Brings power and wealth to grace her lover's side;
474 And though she smiles not with such flattering charms,
475 The brave will sooner win her to their arms.
476 Then wed to her, if Virtue tie the bands,
477 Go spread your country's fame in hostile lands;
478 Her court, her senate, or her arms adorn,
479 And let her foes lament that you were born:
480 Or weigh her laws, their ancient rights defend,
481 Though hosts oppose, be theirs and Reason's friend;
482 Arm'd with strong powers, in their defence engage,
483 And rise the Thurlow of the future age.