« السابقةمتابعة »
your excellence at a price so mean.
I have seen those high-born females to which my rank might have allied me; I am ashamed of their vices, and sick of their follies. Profligate in their hearts, amidst affected purity they are slaves to pleasure without the sincerity of passion; and, with the name of honour, are insensible to the feelings of virtue. You, my Louisa ! but I will not call up recollections that might render me less worthy of your future esteem Continue to love your Edward ; but a few hours, and you shall add the title to the affections of a wife ; let the care and tenderness of a husband bring back its peace to your mind, and its bloom to your cheek. We will leave, for awhile, the wonder and the envy of the fashionable circle here. We will restore your father to his native home ; under that roof I shall once more be happy; happy without allay, because I shall deserve my happiness. Again shall the pipe and the dance gladden the valley, and innocence and peace beam on the cot tage of Venoni.”
No. 110. SATURDAY, MAY 27, 1780.
Extremum concede laborem.
VIRG. ECL. X. 1.
As, at the close of life, people confess the secrets, and explain the mysteries of their conduct, endeavour to do justice to those with whom they have had dealings, and to die in peace with all the world ; so,
in the concluding number of a periodical publication, it is usual to lay aside the assumed name, or fictitious character, to ascribe the different papers to their true authors, and to wind up the whole with a modest appeal to the candour or indulgence of the public.
In the course of these papers, the author has not often ventured to introduce himself, or to give an account of his own situation ; in this, therefore, which is to be the last, he has not much to unravel on that score. From the narrowness of the place of its appearance, The Mirror did not admit of much personification of its editor ; the little disguise he has used has been rather to conceal what he was, than to give himself out for what he was not.
The idea of publishing a periodical paper in Edinburgh took its rise in a company of gentlemen, whom particular circumstances of connection brought frequently together. Their discourse often turned upon subjects of manners, of taste, and of literature. By one of those accidental resolutions, of which the origin cannot easily be traced, it was determined to put their thoughts into writing, and to read them for the entertainment of each other. Their essays assumed the form, and, soon after, some one gave them the name, of a periodical publication ; the writers of it were naturally associated; and their meetings increased the importance, as well as the number, of their productions. Cultivating letters in the midst of business, composition was to them an amusement only; that amusement was heightened by the audience which this society afforded ; the idea of
publication suggested itself as productive of still higher entertainment.
It was not, however, without diffidence, that such a resolution was taken. From that, and several
other circumstances, it was thought proper to observe the strictest secrecy with regard to the authors; a purpose in which they have been so successful, that, at this moment, the very publisher of the work knows only one of their number, to whom the conduct of it was intrusted.
The assistance received from correspondents has been considerable. To them The Mirror is indebted for the following papers ; the 8th, the note from Ignoramus in the 9th, the letter in the 17th, the letter signed Adelus in the 21st, the 22d, the 24th, the 29th, except the short letter at the end, the first letter in the 35th, the 37th, the letter in the 46th, the 50th, the first letter in the 56th, the 59th, 62d, 66th, 730, 74th, 75th, 79th, 820, 86th, the first letter in the 89th, the letter in the 94th, the 95th, the 96th, except the letters signed Evelina, the 97th, and 98th, the letter in the 102d, and the letter in the 103d. Of some of their correspondents, were they at liberty to disclose them, the names 'would do credit to the work; of others they are entirely ignorant, and can only return this general acknowledgment for their favours. To many of them they have to apologize for several abridgments, additions, and alterations, which sometimes the composition of the essays themselves, and sometimes the nature of the work in which they were to appear, seemed to render necessary.
The situation of the authors of The Mirror was such as neither to prompt much ambition of literary success, nor to create much dependence on it. Without this advantage, they had scarcely ventured to send abroad into the world a performance, the reception of which was liable to so much uncertainty. They foresaw many difficulties, which a publication like The Mirror, even in hands much abler than theirs, must necessarily encounter.
The state of the times, they were sensible, was very unpropitious to a work of this sort. In a conjuncture so critical as the present, at a period so big with national danger and public solicitude, it was not to be expected that much attention should be paid to speculation or to sentiment, to minute investigations of character, or pictures of private manners. A volume, which we can lay aside and resume at pleasure, may suffer less materially from the interruption of national concerns; but a single sheet, that measures its daily importance with the vehicles of public intelligence and political disquisition, can hardly fail to be neglected.
But exclusive of this general disadvantage, there were particular circumstances which its authors knew must be unfavourable to The Mirror. That secrecy which they thought it necessary to keep, prevented all the aids of patronage and friendship ; it even damped those common exertions to which other works are indebted, if not for fame, at least for introduction to the world. We cannot expect to create an interest in those whom we had not ventured to trust; and the claims even of merit are often little regarded, if that merit be anonymous and unknown.
The place of its publication was, in several respects, disadvantageous. There is a certain distance at which writings as well as men should be placed, in order to command our attention and respect. We do not easily allow a title to instruct or to amuse the public in our neighbour, with whom we have been accustomed to compare our own abilities. Hence the fastidiousness with which, in a place so narrow as Edinburgh, home productions are commonly received; which, if they are grave, are pronounced dull; if pathetic, are called unnatu
ral; if ludicrous, are termed low. In the circle around him, the man of business sees few who should be willing, and the man of genius few who are able, to be authors; and a work that comes out unsupported by established names, is liable alike to the censure of the grave, and the sneer of the witty, Even Folly herself acquires some merit from being displeased, when name or fashion has not sanctified a work from her displeasure.
This desire of levelling the pride of authorship, is in none more prevalent than in those who themselves have written. Of these, the unsuccessful have a prescriptive title to criticism ; and, though established literary reputation commonly sets men above the necessity of detracting from the merit of other candidates for fame, yet there are not wanting instances of monopolists of public favour, who wish not only to enjoy, but to guide it, and are willing to confine its influence within the pale of their own circle, or their own patronage.
General censure is, of all things, the easiest ; from such men it passes unexamined, and its sentence is decisive ; nay, even a studied silence will go far to smother a production, which, if they have not the meanness to envy, they want the candour to appreciate with justice.
In point of subject, as well as of reception, the place where it appeared was unfavourable to The Mirror. Whoever will examine the works of a similar kind that have preceded it, will easily perceive for how many topics they were indebted to local characters and temporary follies, to places of public amusement, and circumstances of reigning fashion. But, with us, besides the danger of personal application, these are hardly various enough for the subject, or important enough for the dignity of writing. There is a sort of classic privilege in