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their train. But a thirst of riches is always proportioned to our debauchery, and the greatest prodigal is too frequently found to be the greatest miser: so that the vices which seem the most opposite, are frequently found to produce each other; and, to avoid both, it is only necessary to be frugal.
Virtus est medium vitiorum et utrinque reductum.--Hor.
SCARCELY a day passes in which we do not hear compliments paid to Dryden, Pope, and other writers of the last age, while not a month comes forward that is not loaded with invectives against the writers of this. Strange, that our critics should be fond of giving their favours to those who are insensible of the obligation, and their dislike to those, who, of all mankind, are most apt to retaliate the injury.
Even though our present writers had not equal merit with their predecessors, it would be politic to use them with ceremony. Every compliment paid them would be more agreeable, in proportion as they least deserved it. Tell a lady with a handsome face that she is pretty, she only thinks it her due; it is what she has heard a thousand times before from others, and disregards the compliment: but assure a lady, the cut of whose visage is something more plain, that she looks killing to-day, she instantly bridles up, and feels the force of the well-timed flattery the whole day after. Compliments which we think are deserved, we accept only as debts, with indifference; but those which conscience informs us we do not merit, we receive with the same gratitude that we do favours given away.
Our gentlemen, however, who preside at the distribution of literary fame, seem resolved to part with praise neither from motives of justice nor generosity: one would think, when they take pen in hand, that it was only to blot reputations, and to put their seals to the packet which consigns every new-born effort to oblivion.
Yet, notwithstanding the republic of letters hangs at present so feebly together; though those friendships which once promoted literary fame seem now to be discontinued; though every writer who now draws the quill seems to aim at profit, as well as applause; many among them are probably laying in stores for immortality, and are provided with a sufficient stock of reputation to last the whole journey
As I was indulging these reflections, in order to eke out the present page, I could not avoid pursuing the metaphor of going a journey in my imagination, and formed the following Reverie, too wild for allegory and too regular for a dream.
I fancied myself placed in the yard of a large inn, in which there were an infinite number of
and stage-coaches, attended by fellows who either invited the company to take their places, or were busied in packing their baggage. Each vehicle had its inscription, showing the place of its destination. On one I could read, The pleasure stage-coach ; on another, The waggon of industry; on a third, The vanity whim; and on a fourth, The landau of riches. I had some inclination to step into each of these, one after another; but, I know not by what means, I passed them by, and at last fixed my eye upon a small carriage, Berlin fashion, which seemed the most convenient vehicle at a distance in the world; and upon my nearer approach found it to be The fame machine.
I instantly made up to the coachman, whom I found to be an affable and seemingly good-natured fellow. He informed me, that he had but a few days ago returned from the Temple of Fame, to which he had been carrying Addison, Swift, Pope, Steele, Congreve, and Colley Cibber. That they made but indifferent company by the way, and that he once or twice was going to empty his berlin of the whole cargo : however, says he, I got them all safe home, with no other damage than a black eye, which Colley gave Mr Pope, and am now returned for another coachful « If that be all, friend,» said I, « and if you are in want of company, I'll make one with all my heart. Open the door; I hope the machine rides easy.»
« Oh, for that, sir, extremely easy.”
But still keeping the door shut, and measuring me with his eye, « Pray, sir, have you no luggage? You seem to be a good-natured sort of a gentleman; but I don't find you have got any luggage, and I never permit any to travel with me but such as have something valuable pay
for coach-hire.» Examining my pockets, I own I was not a little disconcerted at this unexpected rebuff; but considering that I carried a number of the Bes under my arm, I was resolved to open it in his eyes, and dazzle him with the splendour of the page.
He read the title and contents, however, without any emotion, and assured me he had never heard of it before. In short, friend,» said he, now losing all his former respect, « you must not come in: I expect better passengers; but as you seem a harmless creature, perhaps, if there be room left, I may
you ride a while for charity.
I now took my stand by the coachman at the door; and
since I could not command a seat, was resolved to be as useful as possible, and earn by my assiduity what I could not by my merit.
The next that presented for a place was a most whimsical figure indeed. He was hung round with papers of his own composing, not unlike those who sing ballads in the streets, and came dancing up to the door with all the confidence of instant admittance. The volubility of his motion and address prevented my being able to read more of his cargo than the word Inspector, which was written in great letters at the top of some of the papers. He opened the coach-door himself without any ceremony, and was just slipping in, when the coachman, with as little ceremony, pulled him back. Our figure seemed perfectly angry at this repulse, and demanded gentleman's satisfaction. « Lord, sir!» replied the coachman, « instead of proper luggage, by your bulk you seem loaded for a West India voyage. You are big enough with all your papers to crack twenty stage-coaches. Excuse me, indeed, sir, for you must not enter.» Our figure now began to expostulate : he assured the coachman, that though his baggage seemed so bulky, it was perfectly light, and that he would be contented with the smallest corner of room. But Jehu was inflexible, and the carrier of the Inspectors was sent to dance back again with all his papers fluttering in the wind. We expected to have no more trouble from this quarter, when in a few minutes the same figure changed his appearance, like harlequin upon the stage, and with the same confidence again made his approaches, dressed in lace, and carrying nothing but a nosegay. Upon coming nearer,
he thrust the nosegay to the coachman's nose, grasped the brass, and seemed now resolved to enter by violence. found the struggle soon begin to grow hot, and the coachman, who was a little old, unable to continue the contest; so, in order to ingratiate myself, I stepped in to his assistance, and our united efforts sent our literary Proteus, though worsted, unconquered still, clear off, dancing a rigadoon, and smelling to his own nosegay.
The person who after him appeared as candidate for a place in the stage, came up with an air not quite so confident, but somewhat however theatrical; and, instead of entering, made the coachman a very low bow, which the other returned, and desired to see his baggage; upon which he instantly produced some farces, a tragedy, and other miscellany productions. The coachman, casting his eye upon the cargo, assured him, at present he could not possibly have a place, but hoped in time he might aspire to one, as he seemed to have read in the book of nature, without a careful perusal of which none ever found entrance at the Temple of Fame. « What!» replied the disappointed poet, « shall my tragedy, in which I have vindicated the cause of liberty and virtue»-« Follow nature,» returned the other, « and never expect to find lasting fame by topics which only please from their popularity. Had you been first in the cause of freedom, or praised in virtue more than an empty name, it is possible you might have gained admittance; but at present I beg, sir, you will stand aside for another gentleman whom I see approaching.»
This was a very grave personage, whom at some distance I took for one of the most reserved, and even disagreeable figures I had seen; but as he approached, his appearance improved, and when I could distinguish him thoroughly, I perceived that, in spite of the severity of his brow, he had one of the most good-natured countenances that could be imagined. Upon coming to open the