صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

ing is ten thousand times more dreadful than this kind of distress, he will become contemptible for that very poverty which ought only to reflect on the nation which suffers him to be poor:

Want is the scorn of ev'ry wealthy fool,
And wit in rags is turn'd to ridicule.


There is nothing which an embroidered beau pronounces with such disdain, as, a fellow that writes for bread, when almost all mankind are pursuing the same end, though not all of them by means so laudable. Indeed, this particular mode of expression is more applicable to authors than to any other body of men, since the most fortunate of them seldom arrive at more than bread, and few even at that.

It seems to be the received opinion, that poverty is so truly the sister of poetry that they ought to be inseparable. I have often wondered how such a connexion came to be thought of. Surely the man who is blest with ease and influence has more chance to write well, than he whose mind is torn by continual anxiety, and who, perhaps, when he should be thinking how to wind up the catastrophe of his poem, is considering how he shall get a dinner. One argument, indeed, there is for continuing to starve poets that the muses delight in solitude; and ;


2 A

all who know the world, will allow that being poor, is the most infallible means of being alone.

I doubt not but this Gothic contempt of the most charming of all arts has buried many a noble genius in oblivion; and unless some redress is speedily applied, poetry in Britain will soon be at its last gasp.

I know a very sensible man, who, finding some excellent poetical compositions of his son's, threw them all into the fire, charged him, on his blessing, to abandon all studies of that kind, and bound him clerk to an attorney; and, as a man of the world, he did right: he well knew the greater his merit as a poet was, the more likely he was, from the modesty inseparable from true genius, to starve; and he is now possessed of a good estate, which, in the judgment of the great part of mankind, comprehends every thing desirable.

That all genius is not extinct, might be proved by the mention of some writings of authors now living; but, as I will not by praise, however just, bribe the applause of any, I will only say, that we have now poets who in lyric, elegiac, didactic, and dramatic compositions, have shewn that they are capable, if properly encouraged, of rivalling ancient Greece and Rome. When I say dramatic, I would not be understood to

[ocr errors]

mean, that our modern theatrical pieces are really equal to those of the last age; but that it is not from want of fire in some of the writers that they fall short of them; but from particular circumstances which I may, perhaps, endeavour to explain in another paper.

It indulges my pride, as a woman, to reflect, that the two bright æras of wit and learning in England were female reigns; reigns which not only in this respect, but in all others, will be the admiration of posterity; when arts, arms, and liberty, were in their highest perfection. Even in the last years of Queen Anne, embarrassed as she was by the fury of contending parties, she gave not up the protection of genius and learning however she varied in other things, she kept this point steadily in view to the last: and both her ministries, fired by her example, strove as eagerly for the honour of protecting the liberal arts as for power.

Since our present great men are so shamefully, I may add so impoliticly, negligent; I recommend it to my own sex to take poetry under their protection. Beauty, even in this age, will give them influence; and they cannot employ it better than in raising the drooping muses, and restoring them to that esteem which they have been of late so unjustly deprived of. The

other sex are, in general, so devoted to the sordid pursuit of interest, that I give them up: but I hope the love of well-deserved fame is still the ruling passion in many female breasts; and what a glory will it be to them, that when the fire of genius was, by the carelessness and insensibility of the men, just expiring, it was revived by the favour of the women.

Since my country-women are so fond of imitating a neighbouring nation, let it not be said they borrow nothing from them but their follies. A French woman of distinction would be more ashamed of wanting a taste for the belles-lettres, than of being ill dressed; and it is owing to the neglect of adorning their minds, that our travelling English ladies are at Paris the objects of unspeakable contempt, and are honoured with the appellation of handsome savages.

I am too sincere a lover of my country to suppose we are all inferior to our enemies in understanding; and, was this laudable ambition once awaked amongst us, am confident the females of England would soon outstrip the French as much in literary accomplishments, as they do in beauty.

I leave it to the consideration of my fair readers, whether the protection of true genius of our own would not do them more honour


than the ill-judged patronage some of them lavish on Italian singers and dancers, for which we have been deservedly laughed at all over Europe, and which I am sorry to see likely to rise much higher than ever. Farinelli, it is true, was paid extravagantly; but he was paid for singing; but we have now a female at the Opera, who, with a salary near double to what the best theatrical performer ever had, dares to absent herself from the stage whenever she chooses to be out of humour, and notwithstanding this, is sure to be applauded whenever she condescends to honour us with her appearance. I will suppose the ladies who protect these people imagine they are encouraging arts; and that it is only for want of having had their thoughts early turned to proper subjects, that they give their approbation to trifling accomplishments, to the neglect of real merit. However this may be, I myself know many who are as good judges of polite literature, at least, as most men; and I advise all poets for the future to seek patronesses instead of patrons. After what I have said I cannot finish this paper with more propriety, than by inserting an Ode which I received from a correspondent, and which, I am told, is written by one of my own sex. The gentleman who sent it tells me the

« السابقةمتابعة »