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mented into one body, and concurring in the same design by the mediation of a bookseller. From these inauspicious combinations proceed those monsters of learning, the Trevoux, Encyclopedies, and Bibliotheques of the age. In making these, men of every rank in literature are employed, wits and dunces contribute their share, and Diderot, as well as Desmaretz, are candidates for oblivion. The genius of the first supplies the gale of favour, and the latter adds the useful ballast of stupidity. By such means, the enormous mass heavily makes its way among the public, and to borrow a bookseller's phrase, the whole impression moves off. These great collections of learning may serve to make us inwardly repine at our own ignorance, may serve, when gilt and lettered, to adorn the lower shelves of a regular library ; but wo to the reader, who, not daunted at the immense distance between one great pasteboard and the other, opens the volume and explores his way through a region so extensive, but barren of entertainment. No unexpected landscape there to delight the imagination; no diversity of prospect to cheat the painful journey; he sees the wide extended desert lie before him ; what is past only increases his terror of what is to come. His course is not half finished, he looks behind him with affright, and forward with despair. Perseverance is at last overcome, and a night of oblivion lends its friendly aid to terminate the perplexity.
Of Learning in Great-Britain.
To acquire a character for learning among the English at present, it is necessary to know much more than is either important or useful. It seems the spi. rit of the times for men here to exhaust their natural sagacity in exploring the intricacies of another man's thought, and thus never to have leisure to think for themselves; others have carried on learning from that stage, where the good sense of our ancestors have thought it too minute or too speculative to instruct or amuse. By the industry of such, the sciences, which in themselves are easy of access, affright the learner with the severity of their appearance. He sees them surrounded with speculation and subtilty, placed there by their professors, as if with a view of deterring his approach. Hence it happens, that the generality of readers fly from the scholar to the compiler, who offers them a more safe and speedy conveyance.
From this fault also arises that mutual contempt between the scholar and the man of the world, of which every day's experience furnisheth instances.
The man of taste, however, stands neutral in this controversy; he seems placed in a middle station, between the world and the cell, between learning and common sense. He teaches the vulgar on what part of a character to lay the emphasis of praise, and the scholar where to point hi : application so as to deserve it. By his means even the philosopher acquires popular applause, and all that are truly great the admi. ration of posterity. By means of polite learning alone the patriot and the hero, the man who praiseth virtue, and he who practises it, who fights successfully for his country, or who dies in its defence, becomes immortal. But this taste now seems cultivated with less ardour than formerly, and consequently the public must one day expect to see the advantages arising from it, and the exquisite pleasures it affords our leisure entirely annihilated. For if, as it should seem,
the rewards of genius are improperly directed; if those who are capable of supporting the honour of the times by their writings prefer opulence to fame; if the stage should be shut to writers of merit, and open only to interest or intrigue. If such should happen to be the vile complexion of the times, (and that it is nearly so we shall shortly see,) the very virtue of the age will be forgotten by posterity; and nothing remembered, except our filling a chasm in the registers of time, or having served to continue the species.
Of rewarding genius in England.
THERE is nothing authors are more apt to lament, than want of encouragement from the age. \Vhatever their differences in other respects, they are all ready to unite in this complaint, and each indirectly offers himself as an instance of the truth of his as. sertion.
The beneficed divine, whose wants are only imaginary, expostulates as bitterly as the poorest author. Should interest or good fortune advance the divine to a bishopric, or the poor son of Parnassus into that place which the other has resigned; both are authors no longer; the one goes to prayers once a day, kneels upon cushions of velvet, and thanks gracious Heaven for having made the circumstances of all mankind so extremely happy; the other battens on all the delicacies of life, enjoys his wife and his easy chair, and sometimes, for the sake of conversation, deplores the luxury of these degenerate days. Vol. I.
All encouragements to merit are therefore misapplied, which make the author too rich to continue his profession. There can be nothing more just than the old observation, that authors, like running horses, should be fed, but not fattened. If we would continue them in our service, we should reward them with a little money and a great deal of praise, still keeping their avarice subservient to their ambition. Not that I think a writer incapable of filling an employment with dignity. I would only insinuate, that when made a bishop or statesman, he will continue to please us as a writer no longer. As, to resume a former allusion, the running horse when fattened, will still be fit for very useful purposes, though unqualified for a courser.
No nation gives greater encouragements to learning than we do ; yet at the same time none are so injudicious in the application. We seem to confer them with the same view that statesmen have been known to grant employments at court, rather as bribes to silence, than incentives to emulation.
Upon this principle, all our magnificent endowments of colleges are erroneous, and at best more frequently enrich the prudent than reward the ingenious. A lad, whose passions are not strong enough in youth to mislead him from that path of science which his tutors, and not his inclinations, have chalked out, by four or five years perseverance may probably obtain every advantage and honour his college can bestow. I forget whether the simile has been used before, but I would compare the man, whose youth has been thus past in the tranquillity of dispassionate prudence, to liquors which never ferment, and consequently continue always muddy. Passions may raise a commotion in the youthful breast, but they disturb only to refine it. However this be, mean talents are often
rewarded in colleges with an easy subsistance. The candidates for preferments of this kind often regard their admission as a patent for future indolence; so that a life begun in studious labour is often continued in luxurious indolence.
Among the universities abroad, I have ever observed their riches and their learning in a reciprocal proportion, their stupidity and pride increasing with their opulence. Happening once in conversation with Gaubius, of Leyden, to mention the college of Edinburgh, he began by complaining that all the English students which formerly came to his university, now went entirely there, and the fact surprised him more, as Leyden was now as well as ever furnished with masters-excellent in their respective professions. He concluded by asking, if the professors of Edinburgh were rich. I replied, that the salary of a professor there seldom amounted to more than thirty pounds a year. Poor men, says he, I heartily wish they were better provided for; until they become rich we can have no expectation of English stu. dents at Leyden.
Premiums also, proposed for literary excellence, when given as encouragements to boys, may be useful; but when designed as rewards to men, are certainly misapplied. We have seldom seen a performance of any great merit, in consequence of rewards proposed in this manner. Who has ever observed a writer of any eminence a candidate in so precarious a contest? The man who knows the real value of his own genius will no more venture it upon an uncertainty, than he who knows the true use of a guinea, will stake it with a sharper.
Every encourageinent given to stupidity, when known to be such, is also a negative insult upon genius. This appears in nothing more evident than the