« AnteriorContinuar »
proper post, picking his teeth and mincing an opinion, sheltered by rank, bowing to wealtha poet framed, glazed, and hung in a striking light: not a straggling weed, torn and trampled on, not a poor Kit-run-the-street, but a powdered beau, a sycophant plant, an exotic reared in a glass-case, hermetically sealed,
“ Free from the Sirian star and the dread thunder-stroke"
whose mealy coat no moth can corrupt nor blight can wither. The poet Keats had not this sort of protection for his person—he lay bare to weather—the serpent stung him, and the poison-tree dropped upon this little western flower:-when the mercenary servile crew approached him, he had no pedigree to show them, no rent-roll to hold out in reversion for their praise : he was not in any great man's train, nor the butt and puppet of a lord-he could only offer them “ the fairest flowers of the season, carnations and streaked gilliflowers,”— “rue for remembrance and pansies for thoughts”
—they recked not of his gift, but tore him with hideous shouts and laughter,
“ Nor could the Muse protect her son !"
Unless an author has an establishment of his own, or is entered on that of some other person, he will hardly be allowed to write English or to spell his own name. To be well-spoken of, he must enlist under some standard; he must belong to some coterie. He must get the esprit de corps on his side: he must have literary bail in readiness. Thus they prop one another's ricketty heads at M— 's shop, and a spurious reputation, like false argument, runs in a circle. Cr-k-r affirms that G-ff-rd is sprightly, and G-ff-rd that Cr-k-ris genteel: D'I-1 that J—c-b is wise, and J—C—b that D'I— is good-natured. A Member of Parliament must be answerable that you are not dangerous or dull before you can be of the entrée. You must commence toad-eater to have your observations attended to; if you are independent, unconnected, you will be regarded as a poor creature. Your opinion is honest, you will say: then ten to one, it is not profitable. It is at any rate your own. So much the worse; for then it is not the world's. T—- is a very tolerable barometer in this respect. He knows nothing, hears every thing, and repeats just what he hears; so that you may guess pretty well from this round-faced echo what is said by others! Almost every thing goes by presumption and appearances. “ Did you not think Mr. B- 's language very elegant ?"-I thought he bowed
very low. “ Did you not think him remarkably well-behaved ?”—He was unexceptionably dressed. “ But were not Mr. C—'s manners quite insinuating?"_He said nothing. “ You will at least allow his friend to be a well-informed man ?”—He talked upon all subjects alike. Such would be a pretty faithful interpretation of the tone of what is called good society. The surface is every thing: we do not pierce to the core. The setting is more valuable than the jewel. Is it not so in other things as well as letters ? Is not an R. A. by the supposition a greater man in his profession than any one who is not so blazoned? Compared with that unrivalled list, Raphael had been illegitimate, Claude not classical, and Michael Angelo admitted by special favour. What is a physician without a diploma? An alderman without being knighted ? An actor whose name does not appear in great letters ? All others are counterfeits-men “of no mark or likelihood.” This was what made the Jackalls of the North so eager to prove that I had been turned out of the Edinburgh Review. . It was not the merit of the articles which excited their spleen—but their being there. Of the style they knew nothing; for the thought they cared nothing :-all that they knew was
that I wrote in that powerful journal, and therefore they asserted that I did not !
We find a class of persons who labour under an obvious natural inaptitude for whatever they aspire to. Their manner of setting about it is a virtual disqualification. The simple affirmation- What this man has said, I will do,”— is not always considered as the proper test of capacity. On the contrary, there are people whose bare pretensions are as good or better than the actual performance of others. What I myself have done, for instance, I never find admitted as proof of what I shall be able to do: whereas I observe others who bring as proof of their competence to any task (and are taken at their word) what they have never done, and who gravely assure those who are inclined to trust them that their talents are exactly fitted for some post because they are just the reverse of what they have ever shown them to be. One man has the air of an Editor as much as another has that of a butler or porter in a gentleman's family. -- is the model of this character, with a prodigious look of business, an air of suspicion which passes for sagacity, and an air of deliberation which passes for judgment. If his own talents are no ways prominent, it is
inferred he will be more impartial and in earnest in making use of those of others. There is
, the responsible conductor of several works of taste and erudition, yet (God knows) without an idea in his head relating to any one of them. He is learned by proxy, and successful from sheer imbecility. If he were to get the smallest smattering of the departments which are under his controul, he would betray himself from his desire to shine ; but as it is, he leaves others to do all the drudgery for him. He signs his name in the title-page or at the bottom of a vignette, and nobody suspects any mistake. This contractor for useful and ornamental literature once offered me Two Guineas for a Life and Character of Shakespear, with an admission to his conversationis. I went once. There was a collection of learned lumber, of antiquaries, lexicographers, and other Illustrious Obscure, and I had given up the day for lost, when in dropped Jack T.of the Sun-(Who would dare to deny that he was “ the Sun of our table?”)—and I had nothing now to do but hear and laugh. Mr. T- knows most of the good things that have been said in the metropolis for the last thirty years, and is in particular an excellent retailer of the humours and extravagances of his old friend, Peter Pindar. He had