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11. Thus every book, when it falls into the hands of the reader, is liable to be examined, confuted, censured, translated, and abridged; any of which may destroy the credit of the author, or hinder the sale of the book.
12. That all these liberties are allowed, and cannot be prohibited without manifest disadvantage to the public, may be easily proved; but we shall confine ourselves to the liberty of making epitomes, which gives occasion to our present inquiry.
13. That an uninterrupted prescription confers a right, will be easily granted, especially if it appears that the prescription, pleaded in defence of that right, might at any time have been interrupted, had it not been always thought agreeable to reason and to justice.
14. The numberless abridgments that are to be found of all kinds of writings, afford sufficient, evidence that they were always thought legal, for they are printed with the names of the abbreviators and publishers, and without the least appearance of a clandestine transaction. Many of the books so abridged were the properties of men who wanted neither wealth, nor interest, nor spirit, to sue for justice, if they had thought themselves injured. Many of these abridgments must have been made by men whom we can least suspect of illegal practices, for there are few books of late that are not abridged.
15. When Bishop Burnet heard that his "History of the Reformation" was about to be abridged, he did not think of appealing to the Court of Chancery; but, to avoid any misrepresentation of his History, epitomised it himself, as he tells us in his preface.
own interest, was founded in reason, will appear from the nature and end of an abridgment.
19. The design of an abridgment is, to be nefit mankind by facilitating the attainmento. knowledge, and by contracting arguments, relations, or descriptions, into a narrow compass; to convey instruction in the easiest method, with. out fatiguing the attention, burdening the memory, or impairing the health of the student.
20. By this method the original author becomes, perhaps, of less value, and the proprietor's profits are diminished; but these inconveniences give way to the advantage received by mankind from the easier propagation of knowledge; for as an incorrect book is lawfully criticised, and false assertions justly confuted, because it is more the interest of mankind that error should be detected and truth discovered, than that the proprietors of a particular book should enjoy their profits undiminished; so a tedious volume may no less lawfully be abridged, because it is better that the proprietors should suffer some damage, than that the acquisition of knowledge should be obstructed with unnecessary difficulties, and the valuable hours of thousands thrown away.
21. Therefore, as he that buys the copy of a book, buys it under this condition, that it is liable to be confuted if it is false, however his property may be affected by such a confutation; so he buys it likewise liable to be abridged if it be tedious, however his property may suffer by the abridgment.
22. To abridge a book, therefore, is no violation of the right of the proprietor, because to be subject to the hazard of an abridgment was an original condition of the property.
23. Thus we see the right of abridging authors established both by reason and the customs of trade. But, perhaps, the necessity of this practice may appear more evident, from a consideration of the consequences that must probably follow from the prohibition of it.
16. But, lest it should be imagined that an author might do this rather by choice than necessity, we shall produce two more instances of the like practice, where it would certainly not have been borne if it had been suspected of illegality. The one, in Clarendon's History, which was abridged in 2 vols. 8vo. ; and the other in Bishop Burnet's "History of his own Time," abridged in the same manner. The first of these books was the property of the University of Oxford, a body tenacious enough of their rights; the other, of Bishop Burnet's heirs, whose circumstances were such as made them very sensible of any diminution of their inheri-sary to the public?
17. It is observable, that both these abridgments last mentioned, with many others that might be produced, were made when the act of parliament for securing the property of copies was in force, and which, if that property was injured, afforded an easy redress: what then can be inferred from the silence and forbearance of the proprietors, but that they thought an epitome of a book no violation of the right of the proprietor?
24. If abridgments be condemned as injurious to the proprietor of the copy, where will this argument end? Must not confutations be likewise prohibited for the same reason? or, in writings of entertainment, will not criticisms at least be entirely suppressed, as equally hurtful to the proprietor, and certainly not more neces
25. Will not authors who write for pay, and who are rewarded commonly according to the bulk of their work, be tempted to fill their works with superfluities and digressions, when the dread of an abridgment is taken away, as doubtless more negligences would be committed, and more falsehoods published, if men were not restrained by the fear of censure and confutation?
26. How many useful works will the busy, the indolent, and the less wealthy part of mankind be deprived of? How few will read or 18. That their opinion, so contrary to their purchase forty-four large volumes of the Traus
actions of the Royal Society, which, in abridg-| book, however useless, that gave occasion to the ment, are generally read, to the great improve- answer? ment of philosophy?
29. Having thus endeavoured to prove the 27. How must general systems of sciences be legality of abridgments from custom, and the written, which are nothing more than epitomes necessity of continuing that custom from reason, of those authors who have written on particular it remains only, that we show that we have not branches, and those works are made less neces-printed the complainant's copy, but abridged it. sary by such collections? Can he that destroys the profit of many copies, be less criminal than be that lessens the sale of one?
28. Even to confute an erroneous book will become more difficult, since it has always been a custom to abridge the author whose assertions are examined, and sometimes to transcribe all the essential parts of his book. Must an inquirer after truth be debarred from the benefit of such confutations, unless he purchases the
30. This will need no proof, since it will appear, upon comparing the two books, that we have reduced thirty-seven pages to thirteen of the same print.
31. Our design is, to give our readers a short view of the present controversy; and we require that one of these two positions be proved, either that we have no right to exhibit such a view, or that we can exhibit it without epitomising the writers of each party.
LETTER ON FIRE-WORKS,
FROM THE GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE, JAN. 1749.
AMONG the principal topics of conversation which now furnish the places of assembly with amusement, may be justly numbered the Fireworks, which are advancing, by such slow degrees, and with such costly preparation.
strange infatuation they had been drawn together. In this will consist the only propriety of this transient show, that it will resemble the war of which it celebrates the period. The powers of this part of the world, after long preparations, deep intrigues, and subtile schemes, have set Europe in a flame, and, after having gazed a while at their fire-works, have laid themselves down where they rose, to inquire for what they had been contending.
The first reflection that naturally arises is upon the inequality of the effect to the cause. Here are vast sums expended, many hands, and some heads employed, from day to day, and from month to month, and the whole nation is filled It is remarked likewise, that this blaze, so with expectations, by delineations and narratives. transitory and so useless, will be to be paid for, And in what is all this to end? in a building when it shines no longer: and many cannot forthat is to attract the admiration of ages? in a bear observing, how many lasting advantages bridge, which may facilitate the commerce of might be purchased, how many acres might be future generations? in a work of any kind which drained, how many ways repaired, how many may stand as the model of beauty, or the pattern debtors might be released, how many widows of virtue? To show the blessings of the late and orphans, whom the war has ruined, might change of our state* by any monument of these be relieved, by the expense which is about to kinds, were a project worthy not only of wealth, evaporate in smoke, and to be scattered in rockand power, and greatness, but of learning, wis- ets: and there are some who think not only dom, and virtue. But nothing of this kind is reason, but humanity, offended, by such a trifdesigned; nothing more is projected, than a ling profusion, when so many sailors are starvcrowd, a shout, and a blaze: the mighty working, and so many churches sinking into ruins. of artifice and contrivance is to be set on fire for no other purpose that I can see, than to show how idle pyrotechnical virtuosos have been busy. Four hours the sun will shine, and then fall from his orb, and lose his memory and his lustre together; the spectators will disperse as their inclinations lead them, and wonder by what
The peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1748.
It is no improper inquiry by whom this expense is at last to be borne: for certainly nothing can be more unreasonable than to tax the nation for a blaze, which will be extinguished before many of them know it has been lighted; nor will it be consistent with the coramon practice, which directs that local advantages shall be procured at the expense of the district that enjoys them. I never found in any records, that any town petitioned the parliament for a maypole, a
WHEN a writer of my sex solicits the regard of | more suited to my ability, from which being the public, some apology seems always to be expected; and it is unhappily too much in my power to satisfy this demand; since, how little soever I may be qualified, either by nature or study, for furnishing the world with literary entertainments, I have such motives for venturing my little performances into the light, as are sufficient to counterbalance the censure of arrogance, and to turn off my attention from the threats of criticism. The world will perhaps be something softened when it shall be known, that my intention was to have lived by means
now cut off by a total privation of sight, I have been persuaded to suffer such Essays as I had formerly written, to be collected, and fitted, if they can be fitted, by the kindness of my friends, for the press. The candour of those that have already encouraged me, will, I hope, pardon the delays incident to a work which must be performed by other eyes and other hands: and censure may surely be content to spare the com positions of a woman, written for amusement, and published for necessity.
EMPLOYMENT OF AUTHORS.
FROM THE UNIVERSAL VISITER, APRIL, 1756.
TO THE VISITER.
I KNOW not what apology to make for the little dissertation which I have sent, and which I will not deny that I have sent with design that you should print it. I know that admonition is very seldom grateful, and that authors are eminently choleric; yet, I hope, that you, and every impartial reader, will be convinced, that I intend the benefit of the public, and the advancement of knowledge; and that every reader, into whose hande this shall happen to fall, will rank himself
among those who are to be excepted from general censure.
I am, Sir, your humble servant. Scire velim quare totics mihi, Nævole, tristis Occurris fronte obductâ, ceu Marsya victus,-Juv.
THERE is no gift of nature, or effect of art, however beneficial to mankind, which either by casual deviations, or foolish perversions, is not sometimes mischievous. Whatever may be the cause of happiness, may be made likewise the cause of misery. The medicine, which, rightly applied, has power to cure, has, when rashness
or ignorance prescribes it, the same power to whose benevolence inclines them to a voluntary destroy. care of public happiness.
I have computed, at some hours of leisure, the loss and gain of literature, and set the pain which it produces against the pleasure. Such calculations are indeed at a great distance from mathematical exactness, as they arise from the fnduction of a few particulars, and from observations made rather according to the temper of the computist, than the nature of things. But such a narrow survey as can be taken, will easily show that letters cause many blessings, and inflict many calamities; that there is scarcely an individual who may not consider them as immediate-alike for others, and often lose the profit of their ly or mediately influencing his life, as they are chief instruments of conveying knowledge, and transmitting sentiments; and almost every man learns, by their means, all that is right or wrong in his sentiments and conduct.
If letters were considered only as means of pleasure, it might well be doubted in what degree of estimation they should be held ; but when they are referred to necessity, the controversy is at an end it soon appears, that though they may sometimes incommode us, yet human life would scarcely rise, without them, above the common existence of animal nature: we might indeed breathe and eat in universal ignorance, but must want all that gives pleasure or security, all the embellishments and delights, and most of the conveniences and comforts of our present condition.
Literature is a kind of intellectual light, which, like the light of the sun, may sometimes enable us to see what we do not like; but who would wish to escape unpleasing objects, by condemning himself to perpetual darkness?
Since, therefore, letters are thus indispensably necessary, since we cannot persuade ourselves to lose their benefits for the sake of escaping their mischiefs, it is worth our serious inquiry, how their benefits may be increased and their mischiefs lessened; by what means the harvest of our studies may afford us more corn and less chaff; and how the roses of the gardens of science may gratify us more with their fragrance, and prick us less with their thorns.
I shall not at present mention the more formidable evils which the misapplication of literature produces, nor speak of churches infected with heresy, states inflamed with sedition, or schools infatuated with hypothetical fictions. These are evils which mankind have always lamented, and which, till mankind grow wise and modest, they must, I am afraid, continue to lament, without hope of remedy. I shall now touch only on some lighter and less extensive evils, yet such as are sufficiently heavy to those that feel them, and are of late so widely diffused, as to deserve, though perhaps not the notice of the legislature, yet the consideration of those
It was long ago observed by Virgil, and I suppose by many before him, that "Bees do not make honey for their own use;" the sweets which they collect in their laborious excursions, and store up in their hives with so much skill, are seized by those who have contributed neither toil nor art to the collection; and the poor animal is either destroyed by the invader, or left to shift without a supply. The condition is nearly the same of the gatherer of honey, and the gatherer of knowledge. The bee and the author work labour. The case, therefore, of authors, how. ever hitherto neglected, may claim regar L Every body of men is important according to the joint proportion of their usefulness and their number. Individuals, however they may excel, cannot hope to be considered singly as of great weight in the political balance ; and multitudes, though they may, merely by their bulk, demand some notice, are yet not of much value, unless they contribute to ease the burden of society, by co-operating to its prosperity.
Of the men, whose condition we are now examining, the usefulness never was disputed; they are known to be the great disseminators of knowledge, and guardians of the commonwealth; and of late their number has been so much increased, that they are become a very conspicuous part of the nation. It is not now, as in former times, when men studied long, and passed through the severities of discipline, and the probation of public trials, before they presumed to think themselves qualified for instructors of their countrymen; there is found a nearer way to fame and erudition, and the inclosures of literature are thrown open to every man whom idleness disposes to loiter, or whom pride inclines to set himself to view. The sailor publishes his journal, the farmer writes the process of his annual labour; he that succeeds in his trade, thinks his wealth a proof of his understanding, and boldly tutors the public; he that fails, considers his miscarriage as the consequence of a capacity too great for the business of a shop, and amuses himself in the Fleet with writing or translating. The last century imagined, that a man, composing in his chariot, was a new object of curiosity; but how much would the wonder have been increased by a footman studying behind it? There is now no class of men without its authors, from the peer to the thresher; nor can the sons of literature be confined any longer to Grub-street or Moorfields; they are spread over all the town and all the country, and fill every stage of habitation from the cellar to the garret.
It is well known, that the price of commodities must always fall as the quantity is increased, and that no trade can allow its professors to be mul
without copy; another perusing as he walks, his publisher's bill; another murmuring at an unanswerable criticism; another determining to write no more to a generation of barbarians; and another resolving to try once again, whether he cannot awaken the drowsy world to a sense of his merit.
tiplied beyond a certain number. The great misery of writers proceeds from their multitude. We easily perceive that in a nation of clothiers, no man could have any cloth to make but for his own back; that in a community of bakers every mau must use his own bread; and what can be the case of a nation of authors, but that every man must be content to read his book to himself? for surely it is vain to hope, that of men labouring at the same occupation, any will prefer the work of his neighbour to his own; yet this ex-fortune are carefully watched for a few days, pectation, wild as it is, seems to be indulged by many of the writing race, and therefore it can be no wonder, that like all other men who suffer their minds to form inconsiderate hopes, they are harassed and dejected with frequent disappointments.
It sometimes happens, that there may be remarked among them a smile of complacence, or a strut of elevation; but if these favourites of
they seldom fail to show the transitoriness of human felicity; the crest falls, the gayety is ended, and there appear evident tokens of a successful rival, or a fickle patron.
But of all authors, those are the most wretched, who exhibit their productions on the theatre, and who are to propitiate first the manager, and then the public. Many an humble visitant have I followed to the doors of these lords of the drama, seen him touch the knocker with a shaking hand, and, after long deliberation, adventure to solicit entrance, by a single knock; but I never staid to see them come out from their au
If I were to form an adage of misery, or fix the lowest point to which humanity could fall, I should be tempted to name the life of an author. Many universal comparisons there are by which misery is expressed. We talk of a man teased like a bear at the stake, tormented like a toad under a harrow, or hunted like a dog with a stick at his tail; all these are indeed states of uneasi-dience, because my heart is tender, and being ness, but what are they to the life of an author! of an author worried by critics, tormented by his bookseller, and hunted by his creditors. Yet such must be the case of many among the retailers of knowledge, while they continue thus to swarm over the land; and whether it be by propagation or contagion, produce new writers to heighten the general distress, to increase confusion, and hasten famine.
Having long studied the varieties of life, I can guess by every man's walk, or air, to what state of the community he belongs. Every man has noted the legs of a tailor, and the gait of a seaman, and a little extension of his physiognomical acquisitions will teach him to distinguish the countenance of an author. It is my practice, when I am in want of amusement, to place myself for an hour at Temple Bar, or any other narrow pass much frequented, and examine one by one the looks of the passengers; and I have commonly found, that, between the hours of eleven and four, every sixth man is an author. They are seldom to be seen very early in the morning, or late in the evening, but about dinner time they are all in motion, and have one uniform eagerness in their faces, which gives little opportunity of discerning their hopes or fears, their pleasures or their pains.
But in the afternoon, when they have all dined, or composed themselves to pass the day without a dinner, their passions have full play, and I can perceive one man wondering at the stupidity of the public, by which his new book has been totally neglected; another cursing the French, who fright away literary curiosity by their threats of an invasion; another swearing at his bookseller, who will advance no money
subject to frights in bed, I would not willingly dream of an author.
That the number of authors is disproportionate to the maintenance which the public seems willing to assign them; that there is neither praise nor meat for all who write, is apparent from this, that, like wolves in long winters, they are forced to prey on one another. The Reviewers and Critical Reviewers, the Remarkers and Examiners can satisfy their hunger only by devouring their brethren. I am far from imagining that they are naturally more ravenous or blood-thirsty than those on whom they fall with so much violence and fury; but they are hungry, and hunger must be satisfied; and these savages, when their bellies are full, will fawn on those whom they now bite.
The result of all these considerations amounts only to this, that the number of writers must at last be lessened, but by what method this great design can be accomplished, is not easily discovered. It was lately proposed, that every man who kept a dog should pay a certain tax, which, as the contriver of ways and means very judiciously observed, would either destroy the dogs, or bring in money. Perhaps it might be proper to lay some such tax upon authors, only the payment must be lessened in proportion as the auimal, upon which it is raised, is less necessary; for many a man that would pay for his dog, will dismiss his dedicator. Perhaps if every one who employed or harboured an author, was assessed a groat a-year, it would sufficiently lessen the nuisance without destroying the species.
But no great alteration is to be attempted rashly. We must consider how the authors, which this tax shall exclude from their trade,