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contented with the literary credit I had now aca quired, I had been happy; but I was ambitious of convincing the'world I was not the idle owner of weapons, which I did not know the use of ; I seized every safe opportunity of making my pretensions respected by such dabblers in the belles lettres, who paid court to me, and as I was ever cautious of stepping an inch beyond my tether on these occasions, I soon found myself credited for more learning, than my real stock amounted to. I received all visitors in my library; affected a studious air, and took care to furnish my table with volumes of a select sort; upon these I was prepared to descant, if by chance a curious friend took up any one of them, and as there is little fame to be got by treading in the beaten track of popular opinion, I sometimes took the liberty to be eccentric and paradoxical in my criticisms and cavils, which gained me great respect from the ignorant, (for upon such only I took care to practise this chicanery) so that in a short time I became a sovereign dictator within a certain set, who looked up to me for second hand opinions in all matters of literary taste, and saw myself inaugurated by my Aatterers censor of all new publications. My trumpeters had now made such a noise in
the world, that I began to be in great request, and men of real literature laid out for my acquaintance; but here I acted with a coldness, that was in me constitutional as well as pru. dential : I was resolved not to risk my laurels, and throw away the fruits of a triumph so cheaply purchased : solicitations, that would have flattered others, only alarmed me; such was not the society I delighted in; against such attacks I entrenched myself with the most jealous caution: If however by accident I was drawn out of my faftnefles, and trapped unawares into an ambulcade of wicked wits, I armed myself to meet them with a triple tier of smiles ; I primed my lips with such a ready charge of Aattery, that when I had once engaged them in the pleasing contemplation of their own merits, they were seldom disposed to fcrutinize into mine, and thus in general I contrived to escape undetected. Though it was no easy matter to extort an opinion from me in such companies, yet sometimes I was unavoidably entangled in conversation, and then I was forced to have recourse to all my address; happily my features were habituated to a smile of the most convertible fort, for it would answer the purposes of affected humility as well as those of actual contempt, to which in truth it was more congenial: my opinion, therefore, upon any point of controversy flattered both parties and befriended neither, it was calculated to impress the company with an idea that I knew much more than I profeft to know; it was in short so insinuating, fo submitted, fo hesitating, that a man must have had the heart of Nero to have perfecuted a being fo absolutely inoffensive: but these facrifices cost me dear, for they were foreign to my nature, and, as I hated my superiors, I avoided theit fociety.
Having fufficiently diftinguished myself as a critic, I now began to meditate fome secret at. tempts as an author; but in these the fame cau. tion attended me, and my performances did not rise above a little fonnet, or a parody, which I circulated through a few hands without a name, prepared to disavow it, if it was not applauded to my wishes: I also wrote occasional essays and paragraphs for the public prints, by way of try- . ing my talents in various kinds of stile ; by these experiments I acquired a certain facility of imi tating other people's manner and disguising my own, and so far my point was gained; but as for the fecret satisfaction I had promised myfelf in hearing my productions applauded, of that I was altogether disappointed; for though I tried both
praise praise and dispraise for the purpose of bringing them into notice, I never had the pleasure to be contradicted by any man in the latter case, or seconded by a living foul in the former : I had circulated a little poem, which cost me fome pains, and as I had been flattered with the applause it gained from several of its readers, I put it one evening in my pocket, and went to the house of a certain person, who was much reforted to by men of genius:' an opportunity luckily offered for producing my manufcripti which I was prepared to avow as soon as the company present had given sentence in its favour: it was put into the hands of a dramatic author of fome celebrity, who read it aloud, and in a manner as I thought that clearly anticipated his difgust: as foon therefore as he had finished it and demanded of me if I knew the author, I had no hesitation to declare that I did not-Then I prefume, rejoined he, it is no offence to say I think it the merest trash I ever read-None in life, I replied, and from that moment held him in everlasting hatred. : Disgusted with the world I now began to dip my pen in gall, and as soon as I had angled out a proper object for my spleen, I looked round him for his weak fide, where I could place a
blow to best effect, and wound him undila covered: the author abovementioned had a full share of my attention; he was an irritable man; and I have seen him agonized with the pain, which my very fhafts had given him, whilft I was foremost to arraign the fcurrility of the age and encourage him to disregard it: the practise I had been in of masking my stile facilitated my attacks upon every body, who either moved my envy, or provoked my spleen.
The meanest of all pastions had now taken entire poffeffion of my heart, and I surrendered myself to it without a struggle: ftill there was a consciousness about me, that funk me in my own esteem, and when I met the eye of a man, whom I had secretly defamed; I felt abashed society became painful to me; and I shrunk into retirement, for my self-esteem was lost; though I had gratified my malice, I had destroyed my comfort; I now contemplated myself a solitary being at the very moment when I had every requisite of fortune, health and endowments to have recommended me to the world, and to those tender ties and engagements, which are natural to man and constitute his best enjoyments. 1o
The folitude, I resorted to, made me every day more morose, and supplied me wita reflec