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It has been observed that not one favourite of the Muses has ever been able to build a house since the days of Amphion, whose art it would be fortunate for them if they possessed; and that the greatest punishment that can possibly be inflicted on them is to oblige them to sup in their own lodgings.
-Molles ubi reddunt ova columbæ.
Where pigeons lay their eggs. Boileau introduces Damon, whose writings entertained and instructed the city and the court, as having passed the summer without a shirt, and the winter without a cloak; and resolving at last to forsake Paris,
où la vertu n'a plus ni feu ni lieu ;
Where shivering worth no longer finds a home; and to find out a retreat in some distant grotto,
D'où jamais ni l'huissier, ni le sergent n' approche;
POPE. “The rich Comedian,” says Bruyere, “lolling in his gilt chariot, bespatters the face of Corneille walking afoot:" and Juvenal remarks that his contemporary bards generally qualified themselves by their diet, to make excellent bustos; that they were compelled sometimes to hire lodgings at a baker's, in order to warm themselves for nothing; and that it was the common fate of the fraternity. Pallere, et vinum toto nescire Decembri.
DRYDEN. Virgil himself is strongly suspected to have lain in the streets, or on some Roman bulk, when he speaks so feelingly of a rainy and tempestuous night in his well known epigram.
“There ought to be an hospital founded for decayed wits,” said a lively Frenchman,“ and it might be called an hospital of ineurables.”
Few, perhaps, wander among the laurels of Parnassus, but who have reason ardently to wish and to exclaim with Æneas, but without the hero's good fortune,
Si nunc se nobis ille aureus arbore ramus
The tree that blooms with vegetable gold. Pitt. The patronage of Lelius and Scipio did not enable Terence to rent a house. Tasso, in a hu, morous sonnet addressed to his favourite cat, earnestly entreats her to lend him the light of her eyes during his moonlight studies, not being himself able to purchase a candle to write by. Dante, the Homer of Italy, and Camoens of Portugal, were both banished and imprisoned. Cervantes, perhaps the most original genius the world ever beheld, perished by want in the streets of Madrid, as did our own Spenser at Dublin. And a writer little inferior to the Spaniard in the exquisiteness of his humour and raillery, I mean Erasmus, after the tedious wanderings of many years, from city to city, and from patron to patron, praised, and promised, and deceived by all, obtained no settlement but with his printer.
“ At last,” says he, in one of his epistles, “ I should have been advanced to a cardinalship, if there had not been a decree in my way, by which those are secluded from this honour whose income amounts not to three thousand ducats."
I remember to have read a satire in Latin prose intituled, " A Poet hath bought a House." The poet having purchased a house, the matter was immediately laid before the parliament of poets assembled
on that important occasion, as a thing unheard of, as a very bad precedent, and of most pernicious consequence; and, accordingly, a very severe sentence was pronounced against the buyer. When the members came to give their votes, it appeared there was not a single person in the assembly who through the favour of powerful patrons, or their own happy genius, was worth so much as to be proprietor of a house, either by inheritance or purchase :all of them neglecting their private fortunes, confessed and boasted that they lived in lodgings. The poet was, therefore, ordered to sell his house immediately, to buy wine with the money for their entertainment, in order to make some expiation for his enormous crime, and to teach him to live unsettled and without care like a true poet.
Such are the ridiculous and such the pitiable stories related to expose the poverty of poets in different ages
and nations; but which, I am inclined to think, are rather the boundless exaggeration of satire and fancy, than the sober result of experience and the determination of truth and judgment; for the general position may be contradicted by numerous examples : and it may, perhaps, appear on reflection and examination, that the art is not chargeable with the faults and failings of its peculiar professors, that it has no peculiar
tendency to make men either rakes or spendthrifts, and that those who are indigent poets would have been indigent merchants and mechanics.
The neglect of economy, in which great geniuses are supposed to have indulged themselves, has unfortunately given so much authority and justification to carelessness and extravagance that many minute rhymer has fallen into dissipation and drunkepness, because Butler and Otway lived and died in an alehouse. As a certain blockhead wore his
gown on one shoulder to mimic the negligence of Sir Thomas More, so these servile imitators follow their masters in all that disgraced them; contract immoderate debts, because Dryden died insolvent; and neglect to change their linen, because Smith was a sloven. “If I should happen to look pale," says Horace, “all the backney-writers in Rome would immediately drink cummin to gain the same complexion." And I myself am acquainted with a witling who uses a glass, only because Pope was near-sighted.
I can easily conceive, that a mind occupied and overwhelmed with the weight and immensity of its own conceptions, glancing with astonishing rapidity from heaven to earth, and from earth to heaven, cannot willingly submit to the dull drudgery of examining the justness and accuracy of a butcher's bill. To descend from the widest and most comprehensive views of nature, and weigh out hops for a brewing, must be invincibly disgusting to a true genius : to be able to build imaginary palaces of the most exquisite architecture, but yet not to pay a carpenter's bill, is a cutting mortification and disgrace: to be ruined by pursuing the precepts of Virgilian agriculture, and by ploughing classically, without attending to the wholesome monitions of low British farmers, is a circumstance that aggravates the failure of a crop to a man who wishes to have lived in the Augustan age, and despises the system of modern husbandry.
Many poets, however, may be found, who have condescended to the cares of economy, and who have conducted their families with all the parsimony and regularity of an alderman of the last century; who have not superciliously disdained to enter into the concerns of common life, and to subscribe to and study certain necessary dogmas of the vulgar,
convinced of their utility and expediency, and well knowing that because they are vulgar, they are, therefore, both important and true.
If we look backwards on antiquity, or survey ages nearér our own, we shall find several of the greatest geniuses so far from being sunk in indigence that many of them enjoyed splendour and honours, or at least were secured against the anxieties of poverty by a decent competence and plenty of the conveniences of life.
Indeed, to pursue riches farther than to attain a decent competence is too low and illiberál an occupation for a real genius to descend to; and Horace wisely ascribes the manifest inferiority of the Roman literature to the Grecian, to an immoderate love of money, which necessarily contracts and rusts the mind, and disqualifies it for noble and generous undertakings.
Æschylus was an officer of no small rank in the Athenian army at the celebrated battle of Marathon; and Sophocles was an accomplished general, who commanded his countrymen in several most important expeditions: Theocritus was caressed and enriched by Ptolemy; and the gaiety of Anacreon was the result of ease and plenty: Pindar was better rewarded for many of his odes than any other bard ancient or modern, except perhaps Boileau for his celebrated piece of flattery on the taking of Namur: Virgil at last possessed å fine house at Rome, and a villa at Naples: Horace,” says Swift in one of his lectures on economy to Gay, “I am sure kept his coach:” Lucan and Silius Italicus dwelt in marble palaces, and had their gardens adorned with the most exquisite capital statues of Greece: Milton was fond of a domestic life, and lived with exemplary frugality and order: Corneille and Racine were both admirable masters of their families, faith