« PředchozíPokračovat »
Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri,
No. 1. TUESDAY, MARCH 20, 1749-50.
Cur tamen hoc libeat potius decurrere campo,
Why to expatiate in this beaten field,
Why arms, oft us'd in vain, I mean to wield;
If time permit, and candour will attend,
HE difficulty of the first address on any new occasion, is felt by every man in his transactions with the world, and confessed by the settled and regular forms of salutation which necessity has introduced into all languages. Judgment was wearied with
11 Epistles, i. 14:
"I'm of all sects, but blindly sworn to none;
2 Juvenal, Satires, i. 19.
James Elphinston, who is not unfrequently mentioned
the perplexity of being forced upon choice, where there was no motive to preference; and it was found convenient that some easy method of introduction should be established, which, if it wanted the allurement of novelty, might enjoy the security of prescription.
Perhaps few authors have presented themselves before the public, without wishing that such ceremonial modes of entrance had been anciently established, as might have freed them from those dangers which the desire of pleasing is certain to produce, and precluded the vain expedients of softening censure by apologies, or rousing attention by abruptness.
The epic writers have found the proemial part of the poem such an addition to their undertaking, that they have almost unanimously adopted the first lines of Homer, and the reader needs only be informed of the subject, to know in what manner the poem will begin.
But this solemn repetition is hitherto the peculiar distinction of heroic poetry; it has never been
in Boswell's Life of Johnson, "took the charge of an edition of the Rambler at Edinburgh, which followed progressively the London publication, and enriched it with translations of the mottoes."-Boswell's Johnson, i. 210. He removed to London, and opened an academy for young gentlemen at Brompton, near Kensington," as the world is informed in a foot-note to the first number of the Rambler in the fourth edition. On the completion of the Rambler there was issued with the title-page a Table of Contents, together with the translations of the mottoes. Those by Elphinston are described "Edinburgh Edition." It was at the same time that the general motto was first added.
legally extended to the lower orders of literature, but seems to be considered as an hereditary privilege, to be enjoyed only by those who claim it from their alliance to the genius of Homer.
The rules which the injudicious use of this prerogative suggested to Horace,1 may indeed be applied to the direction of candidates for inferior fame; it may be proper for all to remember, that they ought not to raise expectation which it is not in their power to satisfy, and that it is moré pleasing to see smoke brightening into flame, than flame sinking into smoke.
This precept has been long received, both from regard to the authority of Horace, and its conformity to the general opinion of the world; yet there have been always some, that thought it no deviation from modesty to recommend their own labours, and imagined themselves entitled by indisputable merit to an exemption from general restraints, and to elevations not allowed in common life. They, perhaps, believed, that when, like Thucydides, they bequeathed to mankind ктñμа is åsì, an estate for ever, it was an additional favour to inform them of its value.
It may, indeed, be no less dangerous to claim, on certain occasions, too little than too much. There is something captivating in spirit and intrepidity, to which we often yield, as to a resistless power; nor can he reasonably expect the
1 In the Ars Poetica.
2 "My history is an everlasting possession, not a prize composition which is heard and forgotten."-Jowett's Translation of Thucydides, Bk. i., ch. 22.
confidence of others, who too apparently distrusts himself.
Plutarch, in his enumeration of the various occasions on which a man may without just offence proclaim his own excellencies,1 has omitted the case of an author entering the world; unless it may be comprehended under his general position, that a man may lawfully praise himself for those qualities which cannot be known but from his own mouth; as when he is among strangers, and can have no opportunity of an actual exertion of his powers. That the case of an author is parallel will scarcely be granted, because he necessarily discovers the degree of his merit to his judges, when he appears at his trial. But it should be remembered, that unless his judges are inclined to favour him, they will hardly be persuaded to hear the cause.
In love, the state which fills the heart with a degree of solicitude next that of an author, it has been held a maxim, that success is most easily obtained by indirect and unperceived approaches; he who too soon professes himself a lover, raises obstacles to his own wishes, and those whom disappointments have taught experience, endeavour to conceal their passion till they believe their
1 "Moreover it would be considered what other occasions there may be for which a man of honour and honestie may praise himselfe. A man may praise himselfe without blame; first and foremost, if he do it by away of his owne defence in answering to a slander raised, or an imputation charged upon him," &c.-Plutarch's Morals, translated by Philemon Holland, ed. 1603, p. 302. For the Greek text see Didot's edition of 1841, i. 652.