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STRANGER. A political register?
STRANGER, Then what the devil is it?
PROJECTOR. It is a work in some measure original, and not easily described. I should recommend you to read it and judge for yourself.
STRANGER. Why, I begin to think that I have read something of the sort; it seemed odd, unintelligible stuff, as far as I remember. But you are better acquainted with it, and can probably bring it more distinctly to my recollection.
PROJECTOR. As far as appears from the account in the First Number, the work was projected by a number of men who have taken it into their heads, that the whole state of things in religion, literature, politics, and social order, requires examination and superintendence. In consequence of this notion, they have established themselves into a Council of Inquiry and Control.
STRANGER. I should like very much to be told what possible right they can have to do any thing of the kind. Sir, these officious presuming personages always produce mischief. They help to mislead the people, and agitate the country with quarrels about words. And what dependence can we have upon this same Council of Ten more than upon the rest? For aught we know, they may be mere political charlatans,-wild, speculating, dangerous adventurers; or battered debauchees, perhaps, who, satiated with dissipation, have turned moralists in a fit of disgust; men who, after their bacchanalian orgies have been celebrated throughout the night, find the misery of getting sober in the morning, and plan schemes of superintendence and reformation under the influence of a sick head-ach.
PROJECTOR. They describe themselves as something better and more respectable.
STRANGER. Do they indeed! Most wonderful condescension ! But, my good sirs, permit me to ask you one question. Did you ever know a rogue who was not ready to give himself a good character? Was there ever a culprit, capitally convicted of murder, burglary, or arson, who would not describe himself as an innocent and an injured man?
PROJECTOR. The members of the Council of Ten seem, however, to cherish a sincere regard for the public welfare.
STRANGER. Psha !
PROJECTOR. They profess perfect impartiality.
PROJECTOR. They intend to look at things without respect of persons.
PROJECTOR. They promise never to become subservient to the views of a faction, or attach themselves, through right and wrong, to the interests of a patron.
PROJECTOR. In a word, they have taken very high ground, and meditate mighty projects.
STRANGER. In a word, then, sir, they are foolish coxcombs, and impertinent blockheads for their pains.
STRANGER. Well, sir, I have only expressed my unalterable opinion of all the hot-headed and inexperienced quacks, who intermeddle with matters in which they are not individually concerned.
PROJECTOR. Then you are not disposed to give them uch credit for their public zeal! VOL. ).
STRANGER. Not a jot.
PROJECTOR. You think their pretensions to invincible candour and unbiassed moderation shew cant and hypocrisy.
STRANGER. Neither more nor less.
PROJECTOR. Yet common charity would, at the first outset, suppose their intentions to be good. At the tribunal of moral judgment, as in all other courts, they ought to be accounted innocent, until they are proved guilty.
STRANGER. I judge of them, sir, by the generality of mankind. I see no reason for believing that they are better, or less corrupt, or more public-spirited, than their neighbours. 1 am too old to be credulous. Perfect disinterestedness neither can nor ought to exist. And, let me tell you, sir, a fresh production was never yet started by a set of literary adventurers, who did not commence their career by talking largely of their impartiality, and patriotism, and so forth; and then proceed gallantly to break their promises, and belie their professions, in the course of half a year, and absolutely go the length of insulting the gullibility of their readers.
PROJECTOR. Do you make no exceptions? Have you seen the work in question-the Council of Ten?
STRANGER. As I told you before, I have just looked it over, and observed an incomprehensible loftiness of tone,-mere froth and foam, “ signifying nothing." Yet these gentlemen must take good care, or they will find themselves in scrapes without number and without end.
PROJECTOR. They have made up their minds, if I understand them rightly, to run all risks, encounter all difficulties, and take all consequences.
STRANGER. It is about as well that they have ; for you may depend
upon it, that their place will be no sinecure. They will be always in hot water, unless they
are too discreet
STRANGER. That remains to be seen. But they seem head-strong and restive; and there is little chance that they will proceed hereafter at a moderate and steady pace, when they have set off at a furious gallop.
PROJECTOR. I am sorry, sir, to differ with a person of your superior judgment. But in my opinion, I must confess, the members of the Council of Ten are well-meaning men, with more purity of motive, perhaps, than practical experience; who are anxious to prosecute their designs with temper as well as spirit, and caution as well as resolution.
STRANGER. I dislike the whole thing, sir; it is a non-descript and Quixotic undertaking. These literary and political knightserrant will, in their way, be attacking wind-mills for giants, and mistaking inns for castles. And after all, sir, the highest road is the safest place, and the most common conveyance is the best. You talk to me of a plan in some measure original; and of schemers who are rash enough to leave the beaten track, and pursue some path of their own which is to conduct them, I suppose, by a short and easy journey, to wealth, fame, honour, and influence. There is something in all this either very suspicious or very absurd. I hate such wild projects and new-fangled notions. No wise man ever puts himself into a vehicle of a new construction; for it is sure either to break his bones, or leave him in a ditch. Nor will an experienced traveller ever dream of getting forward by an unfrequented route: for either he will be stopped for want of facilities to carry him on; or he will lose himself in a forest or a bog; or he will come to some desolate place, where there is no thoroughfare.
PROJECTOR. Then you would not recommend the Ten to be sanguine, or confident about the success of their endeavours.
STRANGER. I make no predictions as to their success: I know nothing about it, and care nothing about it. Success, in this age, is no sure criterion of merit. Are they adepts in the trade of authorship?
PROJECTOR. They speak of themselves as being rather amateurs than professors.
STRANGER. Amateurs !--well, that is capital.-How much money have they to lose ?
PROJECTOR. Thousands, perhaps :--but if they resemble the rest of the world, they would be very sorry to lose hundreds.
STRANGER. Amateurs !-I think you said, amateurs !
PROJECTOR. Amateurs in authorship-But the expression was inaccurate. I should rather say that they are more anxious to be useful in the political and social world, than distinguished in the literary.
STRANGER. Very fine, sir,—very fine indeed-But we have wasted too much time upon this foolish subject-The plan is bad; and we may predicate as much of the execution: and the men themselves are ten arrant puppies, and impertinent scribblers.
STRANGER. Personal, sir !—Why, what is it to you-how are you interested in the matter?
PROJECTOR. It may be, sir, a great deal.
STRANGER. Oh-ho! have I made a discovery? Are you one of the gang?