The Humourist (April 9, 1754)

Just as the Humourist appeared mysteriously in the South Carolina Gazette on November 26, 1753, he disappears mysteriously with the announcement that appears below.  (Don’t forget, however, that I will continue my blog.  Next week, on April 16, I’ll share my plan for unveiling all the authorship “clues” that I have amassed since the blog began last November 26.)

[9 April 1754]

The HUMOURIST is become an Invalid, and as he loves Retirement must quit the foolish busy World, and please his vacant Hours with the secret Satisfaction of having intentionally displeased no one.  He thanks the Publick for having generously construed these Papers; but, for some private Reasons, is under a Necessity of declaring, that he will never more (either under this or any other Title, or on any Pretence, or on any Occasion whatsoever) enter the Lists of Authorism in this Province.

Coming in April!

April 2

  • The Humourist sings the praises of descriptive poetry and maintains that many modern writers surpass the “Antients” in their beautiful descriptions of morning.

April 9

  • The Humourist ends his essays with a brief notice declaring that he has become an invalid and will never again “enter the Lists of Authorism in this Province.”

April 16

  • The Wired Researcher shares his plan for unveiling all the authorship “clues” that he has amassed since the blog began last November 26.

The Humourist (March 26, 1754)

[26 March 1754]

The HUMOURIST.  No. XIII.

— — — Nugaeq; canorae.

HOR.1

The Humourist was Yesterday in Company with the Muses, and the World must consider him in an unfavourable Light not to think him capable of being put in Tune.

The RISING BEAUTY.  A SONG.

I.

The lazy morn as yet undrest,
My blooming nympth breaks from her east,
Runs usher to the sun in haste,
Who Phillis takes for Venus.
Triumphant now the shrill cock cries,
And warns the lab’ring swains to rise;
The waking swains start with surprise,
And bless the name of Phillis.

II.

The birds their matins then began,
And whistling winds all nature fan;
Th’ awaken’d earth pours forth on man
The odours of my Phillis.
From out their beds the flow’rs arise,
And tow’ring emulate the skies,
And he that for their colour vies
Must view the cheeks of Phillis.

III.

The sun amaz’d at pow’r so great,
At last appears in all his state;
But she withdrew her pow’rful heat,
So kind was charming Phillis.
Pleas’d with the sport, she judg’d it right,
Recall’d her beams, yet made no night,
And left the sun, her curate light
To own the pow’r of Phillis.

NOTES
1 “Melodius nonsense,” from Horace’s Ars Poetica (line 322). The entire passage reads: “Often a play with fine bits, good roles, / Though without beauty, substance or art, amuses / The public more, and holds their attention better, / Than verses without content, melodious nonsense” (A. S. Kline’s translation, Horace: Ars Poetica).

The Humourist (March 19, 1754)

Today is another one of those days when you need to brew yourself another pot of coffee or tea BEFORE settling in with The Humourist!  

[19 March 1754]

Mr. Humourist,

If you think the following Poem deserves a Place in the Gazette, and will bear the Inspection of the Public, I refer it to you to make such Remarks upon it as you shall judge proper; and if you approve of it, will transmit the remaining Part. I am,

March 8, 1754.          Yours, etc.

THE TEMPLE OF HAPPINESS.

An allegorical POEM.

When now no more the summer’s scorching sun,
Beats with fierce rays upon the parched earth,
But bounteous autumn with refreshing showers
Revives each herb and beautifies the lawns;
Then, spent with labour, I retir’d, to rest
My wearied limbs, upon the flow’ry bank
Of a small rivulet, that murmuring ran,
While many a shining pebble roll’d along,
And serv’d to lull uneasy care to rest.
Lost in wild thought, contemplating I lay
On mortal man’s unsettled state on earth;
How every one does Happiness pursue,
How every one, or most at least, fall short
Of this their general aim; because, instead
Of searching for it in fair Virtue‘s path,
They’re idly turn’d aside, by every gust
Of ruling passion, to that delusive road,
Where subtil Vice does promise them content;
Sometimes assuming virtue’s lovely look,
And sometimes boldly throwing off the mask,
Which, tho’ its first appearance startle us,
By custom grown familiar, gives delight.
Thus musing, gentle sleep upon me stole,
And lock’d my senses in his droony cave.
My roving fancy, then quite unconfin’d,
Sprung to the stars, or sunk into the deep;
Flew o’er this ball our earth, and all things view’d
In air, on land, or on the chrystal main:
Saw weathy cities near their lofty tow’rs,
While waving forests grace the verdant greens,
And the huge mountain tops rise to the clouds:
Then pass’d from these, unto that liquid plain,
Where failing ships and wat’ry monsters sport,
Amongst the still more monstrous tumbling waves,
That threaten ev’n th’ affflicted globe itself,
And would involve it in the former chaos,
If not restrain’d by Pow’r Omnipotent.
A prospect such as this, was giv’n to him
Who’s fabled to have had that winged steed,
Sprung from the blood of slain Medusa‘s snakes;
Who then attempting heav’n’s blest wall to scale
Was by thund’rer justly thrown to earth,
His native clime, with all his golden views.
Thus, rapt on thought’s aërial wings I fly;
When lo! a vast extended plain appears,
Where all mankind, by Jove‘s decree conven’d,
With admiration captivates my sense.
Not more in number to the wondering swain
Do heav’n’s refulgent ornaments appear,
When now at eve he stalks along the green,
And throws his eyes, admiring, to the stars.
Rack’d with suspence, each throbbing breast expects
The dread commands of an eternal God,
While awful silence reigns thro’out the whole;
Then straight a venerable lovely figure comes,
By men term’d innate Reason, but in heav’n
He’s called the Dictates of thAlmighty Pow’r;
who thus declar’d unto th’ expecting crowd,
Why Jove this vast assemblage had ordain’d.

Ye sons of men, in still attention wait
‘Till I your being’s end and aim unfold.
Altho’ to the pale victor death you stoop,
Think not he can annihilate the mind;
You’re made immortal pleasure to enjoy,
Along with Gods eternally to live,
To whom tho’ still aspiring, still remov’d
Because the distance infinitely great
‘Twixt them and you.  This day unto that temple
Where Happiness in splendor still resides,
And on the good all goodness does confer,
With me as guid, by Jove‘s decree, you go;
And if observant of my rules you walk,
Th’ expected port you shall with ease attain:
But if, allured by deceiving Vice,
Rejecting Virtue‘s salutary rules,
You scorn my precepts, and your reason yield
To those officious off’rers we shall meet
That promise you a pleasant nearer way;
Instead of Happiness, so much desir’d
You’ll find but disappointments, crosses, pains,
And all the mis’ries incident to man.

He ceas’d to speak, but did not to invite,
As soft persuasion sat upon his brow
His arguments with melting looks t’ enforce,
If mean would deign observance of his call.
But yet, who could refrain from tears? when told
That much the greater part of them fell off
From God’s Vice-gerent, foolishly seduc’d
To hateful Vice‘s part, by promise vain,
Of gaining Happiness, a surer way
Than by the thorny path of rigid Virtue.
For ev’ry fierce contending passion strives,
By specious Shews of Happiness prepar’d,
The inward call of Reason to evade.

To be continued.

[19 March 1754]

To the HUMOURIST.

Sir,

Notwithstanding your Oddities and Humours, so conspicuous in the South-Carolina Gazette, I find several Foreigners, as well as Natives, inclined to correspond with you.  Whether this Attraction proceeds from a latent Disposition in Nature to be Humourists in general, or an Inclination to humour Mr. Humourist in particular, I shall leave every Reader to judge according to his own Humour.

For my own Part, I am induced to correspond with you at Present, from the Examples of Messrs. Pot-Ash and Green-Tar.  The last is of my Country, and for some Thousands of Years past my Fellow-Traveller and Bosom-Friend, and of so salutary a Disposition and antient a Family, that he boasts of preserving the most antient Egyptian Mummies down to the Present Time.  I could brag of my Antiquity and Family also, but I shall at present trace my Genealogy no farther back that Peter the Great.  Mr. Green-Tar and I, have traversed the Globe together with Harmony and in a’-Cord.  I am a peaceable good Neighbor, fond of good Society, and never use any Man ill who uses me well; but, as I have a very musical Ear, I sometimes stop the Wind-pipe of those who are too fond of Discord.

I have been graciously received in most Empires and Kingdoms in the World, as indeed they can have no easy nor agreeable Communication without me.

I have remark’d in my Travels, that I am as much, if not more, wanted, in Great-Britain and its Plantations, than any where; as they cannot put those Bulwarks their Fleets to Sea, nor manage their Ordnance without me:  On which, Mr. Humourist, you must suffer me to make an Observation or two, or Supposition, of something I think very possible, tho’ seldom thought of by others.  Suppose my great Mistress of Russia should ever be found in the Humour to stop my Travels into Great-Britain, and send me to France or her other Allies (i.e. if you should quarrel with her); or that Sweden or Denmark should deny my Passage thro’ their Baltick Streights (for, Mr. Humourist, a Gun can sling a Shot to the opposite Shore); or, that these three Powers, combined with France, should keep me for their own Use; would not all honest Englishmen, in that Case, have great Reason to be fond of my Company?  Would it not be prudent in them therefore, to allow me a handsome Bounty to induce me to settle amongst them?

This Country agrees very well with myself and Fellow-Traveller; but we have seen too much of the World, to settle in a strange Land, ’till we see proper Provision made for our Subsistance, before we sit down to our Work.

Messrs. Indico, Pot-Ash, Green-Tar, and myself, have offered our Services in Carolina; we can live (as in one House) with Mr. Rice:  And as Mr. Spectator used to make his Lion roar, as he saw needful, so I am hopeful to find you in the Humour, to speak aloud of our Utility amongst the Inhabitants.

I have so good an Opinion of you, as to think your Oddities and Humours still couch some good Moral and Design in them; and therefore hope, you will convince the World, that you have no Antipathy or Dread on you to recommend me:  On the contrary, I am persuaded you have a true Regard for the very Name, more particularly the Sir-Name of

Your very humble Servant,

PETER HEMP.

[19 March 1754]

Dorchester, March 16, 1754.

Mr. Humourist,

About a Month since I sent you Eleven Questions, Answers and Observations on which, I am persuaded, might, and probably would, have rendered them useful; Six of ’em I find you have suppressed, no Doubt you had very sufficient Reasons for so doing:  However, as you have not signified any Dislike to my Correspondence, I have presumed to trouble you with Eleven more Questions (some of them relative to the former ones) and shall esteem it a Favour done me if they can have a Place in the next Gazette.  I am, Sir,

Your most humble Servant,

URBANICUS.

Qu. 1.  Whether there is not an Act of Assembly of this Province in Force, for erecting a LightHouse.  (I am ignorant of the Laws; but I have been told, by my Neighbours, there is such an Act, and would be truly informed.)  And whether the Light of the Buoys can be of any Service to Vessels that sail in with your Bar in the Night, as they sometimes do in very hazy or tempestuous Weather?  I have suffered severely once thro’ the want of a Light-House.

Qu. 2.  Whether a Lazarette, a Light-House and a Beacon, could not be included in one Building, with Facility?  And whether Cumming‘s Island does not afford the properest Situation for them all?

Qu. 3.  Whether, one Fourth Part of the Damage done to the Southern Half of CharlesTown in the last Hurricane, 1would have been sustained, so many Lives lost, and the Fortifications at WhitePoint ruin’d, had the Curtain-Line been continued, from Granville‘s Bastion, round that Point?

Qu. 4.  Whether CharlesTown cannot be made more defensible than it at present is?

Qu. 5.  Whether a Couple or four Fire-Engines in CharlesTown, purchased at the Expence of the Parishes of St. Philip and St. Michael, (by which the Streets might also be watered all the Summer); and Wells sunk in all the cross Streets, would not be a great Means to prevent future Devastation by Fires?2  And how often the Fire-Masters do see, that your Houses are provided with Ladders and Buckets, in good Order?

Qu. 6.  Whether there are no Abuses committed in the Baking and Weight of Bread?

Qu. 7.  Whether the present detestable and dangerous Practice of taking up Letters, and never delivering them, cannot be restrained; by what Means?

Qu. 8.  Whether some eligible Method cannot be fallen upon, to prevent the dispeopling of BeachHill;3 and to encourage the better settling of poor DORCHESTER,4 ShimTown,5 Childsbury,6 Jacksonborough,7 and Radnor,8 and even some new Towns at Convenient Places?

The three Questions concerning Country Courts for Criminal Causes, the Recovery of Debts under 100£ in an easy Way, and about the Qualifications of Constables, may be suppressed, if you judge the Publication of them at this Time improper.

My Neighbours inform me, that it is a public Talk in Charles-Town, that a Bridge is to be built over Ashley-River.  If so, to be sure there must be an Act passed for it.  It would really be a good Thing:  And, if you, Mr. Humourist, are in the A—-y, we, and Thousands of others, hope you’ll befriend such a Bill, in which Case we will return you public Acknowledgements.

NOTES

1 A major hurricane devastated Charleston in 1754.  For a full account, see “The Scourging Wrath of God: Early Hurricanes in Charleston, 1700 -1804.”

2 “In less than twenty-four hours, the fire of November 18, 1740, destroyed more than three hundred dwellings and commercial buildings, along with countless outbuildings and several wharves.”  Read the full story:  “Alfred O. Halsey Map Preservation Project.”

3 Beech-Hill was a section of the town of Dorchester, SC. See “A History of Dorchester, South Carolina.”

4 “From 1697 until the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the trading town of Dorchester flourished along the Ashley River, inland from colonial Charleston.”  Read more about it at Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site.

5 Shem-Town, along the Ashley River.

6 “Started in 1707, Childsbury and the adjacent Strawberry Landing (est. 1705) are examples of an early frontier settlement away from the Port of Charleston.” (South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.)

7 Named for John Jackson, Jacksonborough was a settlement along the Edisto River.  See “A History of Jacksonboro, South Carolina.”

8 Radnor, Beaufort County, SC.

The Humourist (March 12, 1754)

The Humourist.  No. XI.

— — Spes incerta futuri.   VIRGIL.1

The Gay and Gallant are the happy few, who can boast a frequent Intercourse with the better Sex.  I was formerly one of that Number, and have the pleasing Reflection of many a well spent Hour, many a joyous Moment, tho’ to speak a Truth, the Remembrance is attended with some Mortification.  When I compare my present depressed Spirits with the Vivacity of former Days, I cannot be insensible to the glaring Difference; however, my Age has made me so much a Philosopher, that being excluded from juvenile Associations, I now and then endeavour to please myself and Family with a Relation of past Occurrences.

When I was very young, the People were superstitious, they were Conjurers, and nothing went down but Sorcery and Witchcraft.  I paid a visit one Day to a Lady of my Acquaintance, for whom methinks a Fellow of my Peculiar Turn might grow young again, and as good Fortune wou’d have it, surprised her and another fair Angel at a strong Cabal over the Fumes of Coffee; presently comes in a Widow Lady, and forms the Grand Assembly of Divination:  I soon discovered, that they held the Grounds of Coffee in great Esteem, and that one of these Widows was to explain the Mystery; after a short Pause, she assumed an Air of Solemnity, intimated to the Company that she was then in full Inspiration, observed the Atoms round the Cup, and gave a strict Charge to the two Maidens, by way of quickening their Attention to the Predictions of their future Fate.

I interposed, intreated an Argument with this intelligent Lady, apologized for so abrupt a Request, urged not only the Necessity of it, but also by peremptory Will:  At last she assured me, that every Cast of the Cup forms the Picture of our Life to come, and that the minutest Transaction is always delineated with the greatest Certainty in these researches.  Madam (says I) if this be the Case such a noble Art must be useful to a Statesman, for as that Employment requires so great a Portion of a Man’s Time, he may relax a little by breaking the Custom of attenting the Council, as he need only examine the Grounds, to become acquainted with the present and future affairs of the Nation; he can see Danger and avoid it, he may by that Means discover an impending Ruin, and prevent it:  The fair Diviner told me, that it was in his Power to know, but not delay his Fate.

The Incident occasioned a warm Debate upon fruitless and vain Inquiries intro future Events, Inquiries attended with Incertainty and Aggravation.  I inveighed against such Presumption, enlarged upon the fatal Consequences of deceiving the Mind by Fancy and Delusion, and as a Reward for my Arguments, received the Lady’s Thanks, with the fullest Concessions, and the warmest Sense of Conviction.

It was a false Kindness in the Instructors of Youth, that originality gave Rise to these mistaken Notions; tender Minds, like Wax are capable of any Impression, and Stories of this Nature, delivered with an Air of Probability, are apt to increase by Repetition, and gain Credit by Experiment.  These Amusements of the Nursery create a prognosticating Spirit, and what was intended only as a Temporary Good, soon becomes a lasting Evil; thence arises weak Prejudices, Fears that form Chimeras, and make us act too frequently in direct Opposition to the Dictates of our Reason:  From these idle Rehearsals, I date Degeneracy of Spirit, Doubts  take Place of Resolution, and Fortitude gives way to Weakness.

These officious Relators of Inconsistencies are not aware, that the admiring Infant will stand in Need of all the Briskness, and all the Vivacity that human Nature can admit of, as the necessary Endowments to pass thro’ the Storm of Life, with Ease, Honor, and Reputation.

An old Acquaintance of Mine, who is better known by the Stile of perfect Man, than by his Name, is an absolute Martyr to Apprehension, he never hears his trusty Dog howl in the Night, but he conjectures, that as the Creature is none of the most stupid of its kind, it forebodes Death in the Family.

We pass over these Romantic Tales with a seeming Neglect, but preserve them for Purposes that rather impair than increase our Understanding.

The Design no doubt of these Relations are good, but few People consider their Tendency to soften our Dispositions, by alarming our Reason:  I should choose rather to gain upon the Minds of Youth by rational and noble Illustration, than depress them by the fallacious Workings of the Spirit.

[12 March 1754]

To HUMOURSOME HUMOURIST, Esq; Censor,

Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian of Carolina.

The Petition of Sir John Barley-Corn, Kt.

Humbly sheweth,

That your Petitioner having lately made an Excursion to the Congaree’s and interior parts of this Province, he finds the Climate and Soil agree exceeding well with his Constitution.

That he is desirous of 1000 Acres of good Land there to sit himself down on.

That many Hundred Barrels of Beer are annually imported into this Province which he imagines could be supplied by him here; whereby many Thousand Dollars would be kept employed at Home, which are not continually roving to the Northward.

That he judges Beer much superior to, and more healthful, than either Toddy or Punch, from September to May; especially if those Liquids are compounded with noxious Spirits.

That the Consumption of Home-brew’d Beer would lessen the Import of poisonous Rum from the Northward, and villainous Teas from other Parts; whereby the Floridity, Beauty and Lives of many of his Majesty’s Subjects would be prolonged, and the Export of Specie lessened.

That good Beer creates good Blood; good Blood, good Spirits; and good Spirits, good Humour.

That an Increase of good-humoured (i.e. sensible) Souls, will increase the Number of your Readers and Well-wishers.

That your Petitioner has Thoughts of erecting a Malt-house and Brewery in the back Settlements; but that (like all other Projectors) being straitened for Cash, he begs the Favour of your lending him 10,000£ on the Credit of his Scheme.  And your Petitioner, etc. etc.

BARLEY-CORN.

NOTES

1 Virgil’s Aeneid, Book 8, Line 580: “Of uncertain future.”

The Humourist (March 5, 1754)

Today, the Humourist continues his mock literary analysis of the dreadful combat between Moore of Moore Hall and the Dragon of Wantley. It might be beneficial to read the full text of the ballad before reading today’s essay: “The Dragon of Wantley.”

[Numb. 1029]

The HUMOURIST.  No. X.

Arma virumq; cano.  VIRGIL.1

In my last, I just lead the Reader into the Scene of Action:  I come now to be more explicit, as well as the ingenious Poet under Consideration, and shall conclude my Remarks in the Paper of this Day.

‘But there is a Hedge,

‘Just on the Hill Edge,

‘And Mathew’s House hard by it.

Is it possible for any Tongue to express more Simplicity, or to discover a more natural Ease of Delivery than the above Lines?  Nothing can give us a finer Idea of Mathew‘s House but the Sight of it.  There our Poet strongly conjectures, that this Dragon was a Witch:  I believe ’tis the first Time any Genius ever stumbled upon so singular a Sentiment; and then the burning Snivel he cast into the Well, is so beauteous and so exquisite a Comparison, added to the Consideration of its being the first Tho’t of the kind either amongst ancient or modern Writers, that a prime Genius would not scruple to have purchased it at the Expence of his most correct Performance.

Our Poet, speaking of this Snivel in the Well, informs you of its Effect,

‘Which made it look

‘Just like a Brook

‘Running with burning Brandy.

Does not this Piece of Imagery put any sensible Man in mind of Snap-Dragon?  Every Child in the Town will discover this Beauty.  The People of these Days (the lower Class I mean) may perhaps be of Opinion, that burning Gin would be a brighter Expression than that of Brandy, but then they are not apprised of a manifest Error, viz. that the Verse would not run so sweet as in the present Case, and then it might fairly be said to be a Specimen of what Swift calls the Art of sinking in Poetry.2

We have a charming Description of our Hero’s excellent Qualities, far superior to what Ajax3 ever had Pretension to boast, or Marshal Saxe4 to assume:  He made nothing of swinging a Horse to Death and eating him:  The Country People of those Days, who had with Christian Patience submitted to the Power of priestly Government, began to entertain most sanguine Expectations of our Hero’s Appetite, and address’d him in one of the greatest Strokes of Oratory, that for its Singularity I cannot omit transcribing.

‘These Children, as I told, being eat,

‘Men, Women, Girls and Boys,

“Sighing and sobbing, came to his Lodging,

‘And made a hideous Noise.

Observe the Harmony.  Pope never murmured so delightfully in his Life.

‘O save us all,

‘Moore of Moore-Hall,

‘Thou peerless Knight of these Woods,

‘Do but slay this Dragon,

‘He won’t leave us a Rag on,

We’ll give thee all our Goods.

He won’t leave us a Rag on!  Is it in the Power of Man to write a more pathetic Line, or one more forcible than the last?  But the Hero generously refused the Offer, and only asks for a smiling Girl about the Mouth.

The armed Terror with which he stalks into the Field is well express’d, being beset, as he informs us,

‘With Spikes about,

‘Not within, but without.

Thus has our Poet excelled in the descriptive Part of Poetry, and the following Stanza is a full Proof of his Talents for the instructive.

‘It is not Strength that always wins,

‘For wit does Strength excel,

‘Which made our cunning Champion

‘Creep down into a Well.

This put me in Mind of these old Lines,

He that

— — — — runs away

May live to fight another Day;

But he that is in Battle slain,

Can never rise to fight again.6

However we find, by what follows, that the Well had near proved an unfortunate Asylum for our Champion; for you must know, that this Dragon was hugely given to Drinking,

‘And as he stoop’d low,

‘He rose up, and cry’d Boo,

‘And hit him in the Mouth.

This was the Praeludium Mortis, so far the Incident was of use to the Combatant; I omit the Speeches upon the Occasion, in order to make Room for that extraordinary one of the Dragon just before his Exit.

‘Then his Head he shak’d,

‘Trembled and quak’d,

‘And down he sat and cry’d’;

‘First on one Knee,

‘Then on Back tumbled he,

‘So groaned, kick’d, s–t, and dy’d.

NOTES

1 In the Aeneid, Virgil sang “of arms and a man.”

2 Johathan Swift, Alexander Pope, and John Arbuthnot were members of the Scriblerus Club, a group of writers who mocked mediocrity in the arts and sciences.  Their output included Pope’s Peri Bathous, or the Art of Sinking in Poetry (1727).

3 In Homer’s Iliad, Ajax is known for his colossal frame and strength.

4 Maurice de Saxe (1696-1750), who distinguished himself in the War of Austrian Succession.

5 An old proverb, generally attributed to Tacitus.

The Humourist (February 26, 1754)

You will discover that today’s Humourist post is his longest!  At the end of his essay, he announces that he must defer his literary analysis of “The Ballad of Moore of Moore Hall” until the next paper, because he has nearly exceeded the space allowed him. 

However that may be, he proceeds to write lengthy letters to himself from Alice Wish-For’t, Calx Pot-Ash, Pine Green-Tar, Urbanicus, and Proteus Maggot!

You have a lot to read today, so much so  that I have kept my Notes to a minimum.  Trust me, however:  if you read all that he writes today, you will be well rewarded!  The Humourist strikes some high notes, and he drops clue after clue after clue in terms of his identify.  Today’s post is chock-full!

Brew yourself another pot of coffee or tea!  Enjoy your beverage and The Humourist!  

[Numb. 1028]

[26 February 1754]

“I have a Fortune sufficient to purchase Wheat-Flour, yet chuse to eat nothing but Rice, because it’s of our own Growth; nor will I touch even a Piece of Johnny-cake, except made of Wheat-Flour sent from the Back-Settlements; all the Furniture of my House, etc. is of Carolina Make; so is my riding Chair, and most of my Cloaths; and Mr. Scott’s Beer (as soon as I saw his Advertisement) had the Preference to all foreign Liquours, and is become my constant Drink.”  — Alice Wish-For’t to The Humourist

The HUMOURIST.  No. IX.

For I am nothing, if not critical.

SHAKESPEARE.1

I have declared myself an Oddity, composed of strange Humours, full of Peculiarities; sometimes volatile, then solemn; sometimes flighty, at another Time sedate; one Minute in the Garret, and the next in the Cellar; I confess the Truth, indeed I am happy in the Opportunity.  The other Day I took a Ride upon my good Horse Pegasus2, and (being in a whimsical Mood), I clapp’d into my Pocket the excellent Ballad of Moore of Moore-Hall,3 and as it required some Attention, the Humourist was not short in that Duty.

Chevy-Chase4 has been long celebrated for its Excellence; and with great Reason, the best Genius of the Age in which he lived, did not consider it as beneath his Pen, since all Judges will allow that he was honoured by the Subject, and, at the same Time that he paid due Regard to the Chase, he reflected no small Glory on himself.  I shall be excused this Digression, when my Readers please to consider, that it is the Soul of an Author, he owes his Being, and his very Existence depends upon it.

But to return to my Ballad, which furnishes the Paper of To-Day with a few honest Remarks, and many Beauties which might otherwise remain concealed from the Inspection of my Fellow Creatures.

The great Excellence of an Author is to raise Expectation, to wind up the Soul as a Body would a Clock, keeping the Springs in a continual Motion:  This Rule is most incomparably observed in the Work now before us; Silence Gentlemen, pray Gentlemen be all Attention, raise your Ideas of a Hero, and observe the following Stanza, wherein the Dragon of Wantley far excels Hercules, for tho’ he slew Lerna, yet he was indebted to Implements of Force, he did it Vi et Armis.5

‘But he had a club,

‘This dragon to drub,

‘Or he’d ne’er don’t, I warrant ye;

‘But Moore of Moore-Hall,

“With nothing at all,

‘He slew the Dragon of Wantley.

What a noble Description is this!  Who does not feel a secret pleasure for Moore upon this Conquest, when we find under what Disadvantages he procured it?  Hercules was a Poltron to him, and these Lines of Hudibras are justly applicable to him,

— Cowards never use their might,

But against those that will not fight.6

Ovid was a surprising Poet, but his Description of a Dragon is far inferior to our’s,

Crista linguisque tribus praesignis et uncis

Dentibus horrendous. —-  —-  —-

‘This dragon had two furious wings,

  ‘Each one upon each shoulder,

   ‘With a sting in his tail,

   ‘As long as a flail,

 ‘Which made him bolder and bolder.

This last line is, beyond Comparison, superior to any of the Classics, there is Boldness in every expression; Virgil comes the nearest him with his

Monstrum horrendum; informe, ingens! etc.7

but it wants the marvellous; it has none of the marvellous in it:  The Flail is a fine Simile, and prodigiously well adapted, if we advert to the Length of it in a Farmer’s Barn, and the vast expressive Force with which it beats the Ground:  That line of the Sting in its Tail is quite poetical; but as that cannot pass unobserved, I shall omit any Comments upon it, only the last Verse seems to allude to the Tail making him bolder and bolder.

We are now conducted into the Scene of Action;

‘In Yorkshire, near far Rotheram,

So Virgil Travestie,

‘A little town there was of old,

‘Thatch’d with good straw to keep out cold.

The following Lines far exceed the above of Mr. Cotton’s;8

‘The place I know it well,

‘Some two or three miles, or thereabouts,

‘I vow I cannot tell.

I admire the last Line for its Honesty, and it is for the Rarity, for few People ever remember a Poet much addicted to telling Truth; they are all, or most of them downright FibbersLie being a rude Term, and very ill suits the Mouth of the Speaker, I chuse rather to suppress the Phrase, which has for this last Century gained too great Credit, by Means whereof many politer Words have grown obsolete and out of Fashion.

The Humourist must defer the rest for another

Paper, as he has almost exceeded his Limits.

[26 February 1754]

To the HUMOURIST.

SIR,

Nothing adds to the Wealth of a People and encourages Industry, than the Exclusion of foreign and Use of their own Manufactures.  All wise Nations and judicious Subjects, industriously avoid the purchasing of that from abroad, which they can be well supplied with at Home.  The French take nothing from us but raw Wool, nor will admit the Wear of even a Button among them of foreign Workmanship:  Tho’ their Cloths and Stuffs are far inferior to the English, yet they give their own the Preference; nor do they consume the least Article of foreign Goods, save Muslins, which are admitted on several Accounts, first, For the Encouragement of their East-India Company, secondly, That they may dispose of their Cambricks to the English, at Ten Times the Sum their Consumption of Muslin amounts to, and thereby gain 100,000 £ Sterling per Annum; which the English foolishly throw away on this Article, to the lessening of their running Cash, and the Imports of their own East-India Company (I may say) to double that Sum.

Other Powers of Europe begin to copy after France in this Respect, save the English, who are possessed of an odd epidemic Humour of prefering the Commodities and Produce of all other Nations to their own, tho’ none can shew neater, nor so well executed.  To this is owing the vast Imports of Silks, Linnens, Laces, etc. far inferior to the British and Irish Manufacturers.  From this strange Humour, springs the Consumption of such Quantities of French wines, purchased at excessive Prices tho’ the intrinsic Value be very small.  To this Distemper, may be assign’d our Love of Travelling not so much for Improvement as Corruption of our Morals.  Have we not swarms of Barbers, Taylors, Tutors, Milliners, Mantua-makers, Footmen, Bawds, Pimps and Prostitutes at Home?  Where then is the Necessity of importing them from Abroad?  What can this Humour, Sir, be attributed to?   Are the above Classes of People less skill’d in their several Professions than Foreigners, or less apt to learn their private Mysteries of Trade?  Cannot we be enough diseased and drench’d at Home without going to Paris or Venice to have the Honor of being salivated?

But Britons are not more remarkable for their Fondness of every Thing foreign and novel, than their Love of what is slight, glittering, and gaudy:  Indeed this Disposition is founded on their Nicety of Taste, and Delicacy of Nature and Manners; nor do they transgress so much in this, as in other Respects; tho’ our present Manufactures of Glass and China would have very well contented our Ancestors, without giving themselves the Trouble to send 2000 Leagues to purchase a Breakfast-Bason.

Among many other of our own Manufactures in which we excel, that Article of fine China called fine Women, must be allowed superior to any foreign Ware; and give me leave, Mr. Humourist, to observe, we of this Province, have brought this Fabric to such Perfection, that I think we have not the least Occasion to import these beautiful Goods any longer.  It is certainly worth our Attention, to consider this Branch of Trade, and bring it under some Regulation, either by laying high Duties which may amount to, or by, a total Prohibition.  It is said indeed, that the British Commodities are more substantial and wear longer than those of ours; but then I would further remark, that as the English are so given to Novelty and  Change, their Use of our Manufactures would far better suit them, because, thro’ the Slightness of the Workmanship, they may have a Chance (if they live long enough) of possessing variety of Pieces instead of one:  And all who have seen our Goods, will allow, that what we may be deficient in, as to Strength and Solidity, is more than balanced in the Elegance and Beauty of the Patterns.

But it may be further objected, that the present Demand in Britain, is more for Old than New China, the former being generally more weighty than the latter.   This indeed will almost overset my Argument, but not quite break it; for, this Commodity being extremely brittle, is very liable to Flaws and Cracks, and often receives Damages in the Carriage, therefore our own Goods will always be well esteemed and bear a Price, because their intrinsic Worth can soon be known, their Make and Value relied on, and be obtained at first Hand, without the Charge of Freight and Package:  Second-hand Goods may come cheaper, and not be the worse for Wear, but must be well examined.  And as our Pieces of China alter in Colour, and grow old-fashioned rather sooner than the foreign, we may be always certain of having a large Stock on Hand, which, if the present Taste and Price in Britain for those Articles is kept up, we may exchange at any Time for new-fashioned Goods, should there ever be a greater Demand among us, than at present, for bright Enamel–which cannot be, while dark Patterns continue in Esteem.

I confess myself quite unskill’d in Trade, therefore hope, the above Hints will be considered as arising from the Love of my Country.  I have a Fortune sufficient to purchase Wheat-Flour, yet chuse to eat nothing but Rice, because it’s of our own Growth; nor will I touch even a Piece of Johnny-cake, except made of Wheat-Flour sent from the Back-Settlements; all the Furniture of my House, etc. is of Carolina Make; so is my riding Chair, and most of my Cloaths; and Mr. Scott’s Beer (as soon as I saw his Advertisement) had the Preference to all foreign Liquours, and is become my constant Drink.  I wish every Lady in the Province was of my Humour; what a Number of Dollars should we then have at Command more than at present!  I hope to see no more sent to the Northward; and am, Sir,

Your very-well Wisher, etc.

ALICE WISH-FOR’T.

 [26 February 1754]

LETTERS to Mr. HUMOURIST,

From SWEDEN, RUSSIA, etc.

PetersburghAug. 6th, 1753.

Sir,

It having been reported here, that great Encouragement is given in Carolina, to every Thing capable of enriching the Country and advancing the Public Interest; and as I generally bring about 200,000 Guineas per Annum into this Empire from Great-Britain (which never find their Way back) my Inclinations lead me to circulate them in your Province; would the Inhabitants be persuaded of the Advantages resulting from my Intimacy with me.  I am told, that my Residence amongst them, would be greatly obstructed by one Mr. Rice, who has such Influence with your Countrymen, that any Overtures made in my Favour would be quite fruitless.  But what Interest can Mr. Rice have to neglect my Friendship?  Why can’t we live amicably together?  I could demonstrate, that a solid Harmony with me, would greatly contribute to his Benefit.  Mr. Indico ( a popular Person with you) is convinced of the Profits arising from our cultivating a good Understanding together; for, while Lands are preparing and clearing on his Account, great Sums may be raised by the Timber annually burnt and thrown away:  But, as the Reasonings of private Persons can seldom prevail against public Prejudice, I would ask your Advice, if it would be improper to recommend myself to the General Assembly, for their Encouragement and Support, as their Notice of me would bring great Numbers of British Subjects annually to settle your back Countries, would liquidate the Public Debts, and put your Currency on a Par with the Cash of your Mother Country.  I am,

Your very humble Servant,

CALX POT-ASH.

Sweden, Oct. 1st, 1753.

Sir,

As I am much regarded in Great Britain, and often call’d for there on many Accounts, so I generally used to be well cloathed in English Broad Cloth, not more for Defence against extreme Cold here, than the Love and Respect I bear to that Country.

But this Kingdom having entered of late Years into very strict Connexions with France, very few Woollens come now to our Markets but of French Manufacture, which are of so loose add spungy a Texture, as hardly to guard against the Inclemency of the Climate, so that I often catch Cold, and miss my good Drab Great-Coat.

I have heard several slight Rumours, that the Province you live in, is the finest Winter Country in the World, and that my Business could be carried on there, as well as here:  I must confess myself quite tired of these bleak Regions, and should be glad to exchange my Situation.

On further Enquiry, am told by Mr. Pot-Ash, Merchant, that He is of the same Sentiments with myself; and that we both should meet with Encouragement among you, had you any Person well skilled in bringing us to hear:  But the Process is so easy, and the Profits so considerable, that it’s amazing, you think it not worth while to send an ingenious Person to see how we are managed.  Our Preparation is no Secret:  And I judge that you have as wise Heads among you, as the Boors of Russia and Peasants of Sweden, many of whom might be tempted to come over; and 500 Guineas thus employed, would tend to the Public Emolument.

It is said, that I was almost stumbled on by one in your Country:  However, should be glad to make you a Visit, and hope, Sir, that your Countrymen will be so good-humoured, as to consult their Interest, in encouraging

Your most humble Servant,

PINE GREEN-TAR.

 

Dorchester, Feb. 20, 1754.

Mr. Humourist,

If you think the following Queries worth a Place in the Gazette, I beg you’ll use you Interest with Mr. Timothy, to get them inferred.  They may prove useful Hints.  And, if you, or any other able Penmen who are Masters of the Subjects, will improve ’em, so as to make them of public Utility, my End is answered, who am, Sir, with the greatest Deference,

Yours, etc.

                         URBANICUS.

Qu.  I.  Whether a Light-House on Cumming’s Island, would not be very useful; with a few Cannon planted near it for Defence, and to be fired in foggy weather.

N.B.  A Friend of mine, has a Light-House and Beacons constructed on Paper, (to guide Vessels into your Harbour) at your Service.

Qu. 2.  Where Vessels are to ride Quarantain?  Whether you have a Pest-House?  If you have not, how you can (humanely) dispose of Cargoes of poor Protestants or Negroes that may come in, infected with the Small-Pox or other mortal Distempers?

Qu. 3.  Whether the Number of licenced Houses in Charles-Town, to retail spirituous Liquours, are of bad Consequence or not?  Or, whether they could not be put under better Regulations?

Qu. 4.  Whether the Owners of Plantations in the Country, have a white Person to every Ten Negroes?  Or, where lies the Difficulty of carrying that Act into Execution which enjoins they should?

Qu. 5.  Whether the House at present used as a Public Gaol, is a proper one for the Confinement of Debtors and Criminals?  And whether the Public would not save by having a sufficient one built?

Qu. 6.  Whether that Part of Charles-Town called White-Point, could not be walled in, so as to prevent any farther Damage by Hurricanes, and preserve such Fortifications as are or may be constructed there?

I forbear to ask a single Question about Fortifications; because I am sensible, the French will become very jealous of us, as soon as they know that this is now likely to be an Indico Country:  A War with that People may break out, when we least suspect it.

If you approve of my Correspondence, Mr. Humourist, I shall frequently trouble you in this Way.  And as in all my Questions I shall have an Eye to the Public Good, I hope nothing will be taken amiss.

 

Laputa, Jan. 16, 1754.

Sir,

Your Advertisement of Dec. 10, having reach’d this Metropolis, I beg Leave to inclose you a Catalogue of several Paintings and Drawings, which will be exposed to Sale here on the 28th of February next, by

Your humble Servant,

PROTEUS MAGGOT, V.M.

LOT 1.

An antique whole Length of Signior Adam, on a Board of Shittim Wood, found in the Ruins of Noah’s Ark, on Mount Ararat.

(N.B. ‘Tis said, that this Gentleman was the most complaisant Person of his Time, and could never say NO to a Lady; in respect of whom all of his Daughters pronounce that Word very faintly, which is often attended with mischievous Consequences.)

LOT 2.

Several half Lengths of Nimrod, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Nero, Borgia, Lewis 14th, Charles 12th, those renowned Heroes, so often celebrated for a particular Vein of Humour that possesses them to butcher and destroy mankind.

LOT 3.

Heads of Sardanapalus, Commodus, Heliogabatus, and other distinguish’d Worthies, Founders of Buckism:  The Patterns from whence modern Bucks draw their exquisite and polite endowments.

LOT 4.

Variety of Landscapes, Views, etc. among which are the building of Babel, Siege of Troy, March of Xerxes, burning of Persepolis, Caligula‘s Triumph, and a Field-Preacher with his Auditors about whim in a variety of curious Attitudes.

LOT 5.

Above 500 grotesque Pieces  (several in Chinese Taste) of which the Humourist Family are generally great Connoisseurs:  Many of these are Drawings and Etchings, and give great Light into Antiquity, and a Display of the unaccountable Humours of the Ancients.  In this Collection, some of the principal and most valuable are, a Morning Auction, public Breakfastings, Humours of Change-Alley, Exploits of a Bottle-Conjuror, Drawing of Lotteries, Masquerades, Routs, Drums, Rackets, Earthquakes, Hurricanes, − a Toast (with a Group of Admirers about her) qualifying herself to speak French e’er she can read English,−a Citizen‘s Daughter just returned from Boarding-School, and a Buck just landed from his Travels−Modern Connoisseurs−Ladies kissing Monkies and Lap-Dogs, and Gentlemen Negro Wenches.

LOT 6.

Variety of Views found in the Ruins of Herculaneum, the most remarkable of which are, a fine Prison, entituled a Mansion-house, a Public Library without a Book, Roads and Rivers without Bridges, and beautiful Bridges in private Gardens without Water, noble seats and Temples in Ruins neglected by the Owners, and Ruins and Temples constructed at great Expence by way of Ornament or to close a Point of View.

LOT 7.

Several Sea Pieces, in which are delineated many fine Squa—s sailing on Spithead, Bostimento, Carthagena, Toulon, L’Orient Madrass, Cuba, St. Augustine, and other humourous expeditions, for the Honour of —- coming back again.

LOT 8.

Half-finished Pieces of Miscellaeous Matters not yet arranged in Order, among which are, the Flight of the Long-Bay, Impregnable Fortresses constructed of Sana and Oyster-Shell, a Church half-finished, Plantations deserted, a View of Georgia, Acts of Assembly made into Kites, etc.

P.S.  As many of the above Articles would suit with the Furniture of Humourist-Hall, I shall be glad to receive your Orders in Time for what may please, which will be duly executed.

N.B.  Sundry Upholstery-Goods will soon be set to Auction.

NOTES

1 Othello, Act II Scene I

2 In Greek mythology, Pegasus is the winged horse that was fathered by Poseidon with Medusa.

3 “A True Relation of the Dreadful Combat between Moore of Moore Hall and the Dragon of Wantley.” For the full text, see The Dragon of Wantley.

4 The “Ballad of Chevy- Chase” exists in two versions. In his Defence of Poesy, Sir Philip Sidney commented, “I never heard the old song of Percy and Douglas that I found not my heart moved more than with a trumpet.” For as full discussion, see Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature.

5 “By force and arms.”

6 From Samuel Butler’s mock-heroic poem “Hudibras,” written between 1660-1680.

7 Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptum. The Aeneid (III, 658)

8 From Charles Cotton’s “Scarronides, or Virgil Travestie” (1664), a mock-poem on the first book of Virgil’s Aeneid.

The Humourist (February 19, 1754)

“How melancholy a Reflection it is, that Speech, which was given us to soften the Cares of Life, and for our mutual Assistance, should be converted to so bad a Purpose, as the sullying of the Fame of our Fellow-Creatures.”  —The Humourist

19 February 1954

The HUMOURIST.  No. VIII.

Justitia partes sunt non violare homines; vercundiae
Non Offendere.  −TULL.1

Man (they say) is a sociable Animal; which is a Character equally applicable to a Beast, if we understand nothing more by the Expression, than an Association  together for our common Security:  It requires no great Penetration to observe Numbers of this brutish Inclination, who seem to have an Intercourse with their own Species, unadorned with the least Spark of social Virtue.

If there are (and no one will dispute it) any Degree of Subordination in Characters, superior to those created by human Foresight, for Order and Distinction, it is Benevolence, mutual Aid, Friendship, and Charity, and these alone form the noblest Picture of true Greatness.

I have heard (with Tears I speak it) Humanity called Weakness, and Generosity pass by the reproachful Terms of Extravagance and Folly.  Very few consider the Causes of Distress; we are apt to affix a Reason, that, instead of pleading in our Favour, calls upon us for Contempt; we seldom distinguish between Calamities produced by Misconduct, the Oppressions of others, or the inevitable Strokes of Fate.

These are the unsocial Brutes, who whisper away their Neighbour’s Reputation, and declare open War against all the Proprietors of Merit:  There is a malignant Spirit that reigns thro’ the World, and imbibes the basest Principles, that teaches us to wish well to none, by which means we say Ill of all:  The conscious Mind, reflecting on its Iniquity, concludes all Minds alike!

The least Glimmering of a Fault, collects innumerable Spectators, to multiply the dormant Evil, and enlarge upon the Nature of it, at the Expence of blushing Innocence.

This is an Observation familiar to us as the most common Occurrence of Life, we are prone to decry Reputations, we have Discernment to pursue the most effectual Methods, and few possess so small a Share of Self-Love, as to be ignorant, that, by unfavorable Comparisons upon a Friend, they raise their own Characters to a temporary Pitch of Glory.

What Man will, at least what Man does, deny that there is Melody in Defamation; there is Music in the Word, and it is certainly a Note as practiced as admired.

There is an Art in sullying a Man’s Reputation, without incurring Displeasure one’s self; and I have frequently remarked, that a Shrug or a Sneer carries more Expression along with it, than the most forcible Language:  I had occasion some Years ago, to employ a Gentleman in an Affair of some Importance, and, as he seem’d diffident of his own Judgment and Experience, I cheerfully proposed an Assistant to him; Mr. Busy-body made me no Answer, but shrug’d up his Shoulders, contracted the Muscles of his Face, sneering, and then with a Crowd of Words approved my Proposal, had no Objections to it, enlarged pretty minutely upon the Necessity of a Man of Parts in a Transaction environed with a Sea of Trouble like that, and ended his Speech with a Look of Reference to his Shrug and Sneer, which made so strong an Impression upon me, that I absolutely pitched another Person, contrary to my own Inclination and particular Bias for that Gentleman.

Another Set of Detractors there are, who, by a seeming Softness of Words, can probe a Reputation.  Plutarch gives an apt Instance of this upon Aristides’s Banishment, whom when a mean Person had proposed to another, being ask’d what Displeasure Aristides had done him, he replied, none, neither do I know him; but it grieves me to hear every Body call him a just Man.2

There are a Kind of Detractors, tho’ last mentioned, not least in the Cause of Evil, who being mean and sordid, will condescend to collect a Catalogue of Stories, to humour a Patron and tickle a Friend.  Such Men as these, do almost come up to a literal Sense of what the Psalmist spoke in a figurative, (and eat up People for Bread;3) dissect characters, and devour good Names, for the monstrous Entertainment of a servile Master.

How shocking is it, to think, that such unwarrantable Favour should be shewn these People, who make no Allowances for Actions which frequently arise from sudden Passions, or are the unhappy Attendants of some Constitutions, or are the Errors of a hasty Judgment, and now are form’d into Crimes, and charged as the highest , when Good-Nature and good Sense must certainly have overlook’d them.

How melancholy a Reflection it is, that Speech, which was given us to soften the Cares of Life, and for our mutual Assistance, should be converted to so bad a Purpose, as the sullying of the Fame of our Fellow-Creatures; and by the Success of Artifice, raising the Admiration of Mankind on the one Hand, and a dreadful Persecution on the other.

NOTES

1 Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC), De Officiis, Book I:20, “It is the office of justice to injure no man; of propriety, to offend none.”

2 For a full discussion of Aristides’ banishment, see Agathon Associates’ Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, §7-8.

3 Psalms 53:4:  “Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread: they have not called upon God.”

The Humourist on Literary Criticism (February 12, 1754)

“… it is a Pity, that the World has not more Humanity and less Spirit, at least, that it is not better tempered; for, tho’ it is a glorious Thing to be possessed of the Strengths of Lions, yet ’tis tyrannous to use it.” — The Humourist

[12 February 1754]

The HUMOURIST.  No. VII.

Majores nusquam Rhonci, Juvenesq; Senesque,

Et Pueri Nasum Rhinocerontis habent.

MARTIAL.1

When Phidias2 had completed the Athenian Minerva, a Critic, of much the same Discernment with these of the present Age, intimated to him, that the Waist was too thick; the silly Crowd, who always put an Implicit Faith in these malevolent Leaders, join’d in the Opinion, and the Statuary, in order to rectify the Blunder, chipp’d it to the Delicacy of their Fancy:  But when another Set of People came to see it, they insisted, that it was too slender; Phidias then threw aside his Tools, informing them, that it was impossible to chip any on again.

In this Manner these Triflers perplex the best Capacities, and sacrifice Excellence to the Attacks of insolent Curiosity:  The most unexceptional Writers, have dearly experienced the Consequences of Envy and Ill-Nature; none are exempt from it who enter the Lists of Authorism, because every weak Mortal (and weak Mortals abound every where) considers himself as the Censor of the Age.  It is a first Principle with these Gentlemen, to decry all Performances, not because they deserve Censure, but as soaring above their Comprehensions, not as void of Matter, but as a Taste for Censure seems to indicate a more refined Judgment and extensive Knowledge than Silence of Decorum can infer; to be pacific now a-Days, is to be tame and senseless; to take Things in the Sense intended, argues a narrow and limited capacity, discovers a Want of Fire and Animation, of Zeal and noble [one word illegible]; it is a Pity, that the World has not more Humanity and less Spirit, at least, that it is not better tempered; for, tho’ it is a glorious Thing to be possessed of the Strengths of Lions, yet ’tis tyrannous to use it.

The Critics may be ranged into Classes, or certain Orders of Distinction, as thus, one seizes upon your Title, another suggests, and by a wonderful Sagacity, hunts out an Author’s Name, some comment, some dissect, and all misconstrue.

This Accusation is principally aim’d at the modern Critics, for the Ancients were, generally speaking, a People of different Inclinations and better Dispositions.

Dyonisius, Longinus, and Quintilian3, were Men of acknowledged Parts, and what Remarks they may have passed against particular Authors, were intended to establish a true Taste, and reform Corruptions that might possibly creep into the Republic of Letters; they had Honesty eno’ to confess the Truth, and Generosity to admire Merit where they found it.,

Our modern Critics arrogate to themselves what does not belong to them:  They are Poets, Philosophers, and Divines; they are Orators, Statesmen and Prime Ministers; they are as knowing in Science as mechanic Operations:  In short, a Critic is an Abstract of every Thing, and is very communicatively inclined, always giving his Opinion, as the true Standard whereby to direct the Judgment and inform the Understanding of Mankind.

I need not add, that they are by Nature cruel, to use an Author with Raillery, whose highest Ambition  is to please, especially when he offers his Sentiments with a becoming Modesty:  I always made it a Rule with me, to read all Authors as Anonymo’s, regarding the Sense, not Names of Books, indifferent, like the Consulters of Oracles, who speaketh, provided what is spoken be sensible and just; true Wisdom being nothing else but an Induction from examined Judgments, making proper Applications to Discourse, and drawing the most natural Conclusions from an Author.

It seems annexed to the Fate of all Writers, from the Oracles, to the puny Ecchoes, of Learning, that they shall live in a State of War:  The Complaint against the Council of Trent4, was, that they condemned not so much Books as Authors, and indeed it is a general  Distemper, supported by the worst Principles, Pride and Envy.  Our Fancies are so bigoted to some particular Notions, that no one can be surprised at the Causes of intellectual Slavery, who takes Time to reflect upon the Perverseness of human Nature, which creates an obstinate Moroseness against any Man’s Light, not lighted at his Candle.

One Satisfaction however attends the Writer, superior to what other Men can boast under a critical  Survey, and that (confining myself only to the Instance of the Statuary) evidently appears; if a Writer errs in Judgment, he can easily correct himself, if he gives a false colouring, he has it in his Power to retouch; but the Statuary has no Resource left, he has the torturing Reflection, that his Work will stand as an eternal Subject for Animadversion and critical Reflection.

The true Nature of Criticism, widely differs from what we usually understand by the Expression; it is not the Art of finding Fault that merits the Appellation, it is the determined Resolution of a Reader neither to depreciate nor dignify by partial Representation, that constitutes the amiable Part of a Critic; the Ancients were regardless of particular Connexions, wholly solicitous to promulgate the Stamp of Truth, and rely on her Determinations, whatever she might dictate.

NOTES

1 Martial (40–c. 102-104 AD), a Latin poet best known for his twelve books of Epigrams. The quote is from Book I, Verse III, which deals with the perils of publication: “Nobody sneers as loud / As a Roman: old or young, even newly-born / He turns his nose up like a rhino horn.”

2 Phidias (c.500-c.432 BC), one of the greatest sculptors of ancient Greece.

3 Longinus, also called Dionysius Longinus or Pseudo-Longinus (flourished 1st century AD), name sometimes assigned to the author of On the Sublime (Greek Peri Hypsous), one of the great seminal works of literary criticism. The earliest surviving manuscript, from the 10th century, first printed in 1554, ascribes it to Dionysius Longinus. Later it was noticed that the index to the manuscript read “Dionysius or Longinus.” (Read more about it at Encyclopedia Britannica.) Quintilian (AD 35-d. after 96), Latin teacher and writer known for his Institutio Oratoria, a major contribution to educational theory and literary criticism.

4 “The first official censorship had come in 1559 with the publication of the Index auctorum et librorum prohibitorum under the direction of Pope Paul IV. The Pauline index, as it became known, was the first in a long succession of papal indexes, forty-two in all. The purpose of these indexes was to guide censors in their decisions of what publications to authorize and which to disallow, for printers were not free to publish books without official permission. In January of 1562 the Council of Trent took up the issue of the Index and was deeply divided. The Pauline index had been seen by many as too controversial and excessively restrictive. After the opening speeches, the council appointed a commission to draft a new index. Although the council closed before the task of the commission was completed, the new Tridentine index was taken up by Pope Pius IV and published in 1564 by Paulus Manutius in Rome. This index constituted the most authoritative guide the church had yet published; its lists formed the basis of all subsequent indexes, while its rules were accepted as the guide for future censors and compilers.” (Read more about it at Modern History Sourcebook: Index Librorum Prohibitorum, 1557-1966.)

The Humourist to the CRITICS (February 12, 1754)

[Numb. 1026]
[12 February 1754]

The HUMOURIST to the CRITICS.

← — Procul O!  Procul este Profani!1

Gentlemen:

I have no Ambition of your Acquaintance, nor will I concern myself with the Sect, abominable Tribe!  Your Name bespeaks Contempt; more it may, less methinks! it cannot.

Preserve a proper and respectable Distance, a reverential Awe to my Authority, or I will assume the Wings of Icaromenippus,2 and fly to my aerial Mansion (now ready for the Reception of its Master) and hurl Confusion on you.

If a People are to fear, it is necessary to know, whom they are to fear; the Brave are ever just.  Know then, that I was born under a Planet not to die in a Lazaretto.  The hot Constellation of Cancer presided at my Nativity.  Mars was then predominant.  Of all the Elements, Fire sways most in me.  I have many Aspirings, many elevated Conceptions, owing, for the most Part, to the peculiar Quality of the Ground wherein I was born, which was the Top of a Hill situated South-East, so that the House must be illustrious, being so obvious to the Sun-Beams.

I have made a Rule, that whoever shall insinuate a Laugh, a distant Joke, or otherwise, on my Writings, and shall not own my Performances to be the best wrote Pieces in the World, the Classics only excepted, shall be look’d upon as a Coxcomb, and —-; and I do hereby give any  Man leave to lay him on his Center of Gravity.

NOTES

1 Virgil’s Aeneid, Book VI, line 257: “keep away, oh keep far away, you profane ones.”

2 Lucian of Samosata ( c. 150 A.D.) a Greek philosopher who wrote Icaromenippus and the True History, the earliest book describing voyages to other worlds.