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My first acquaintance with the press-a memorable event in an author's experience—took place in Scotland. Amongst the temporary sojourners at our boarding house, there came a legal antiquarian who had been sent for from Edinburgh, expressly to make some unprofitable researches amongst the mustiest of the civic records. It was my humor to think, that in Political as well as Domestic Economy, it must be better to sweep the Present than to dust the Past ; and certain new brooms were recommended to the Town Council in a quizzing letter, which the then editor of the Dundee Advertiser or Chronicle thought fit to favor with a prominent place in his columns. “ 'Tis pleasant sure," sings Lord Byron, “ to see one's self in print," and according to the popular notion I ought to have been quite up in my stirrups, if not standing on the saddle, at thus seeing myself, for the first strange time, set up in type. Memory recalls, however, but a very moderate share of exaltation, which was totally eclipsed, moreover, by the exuberant transports of an accessary before the fact, whom, methinks, I still see in my mind's eye, rushing out of the printing-office with the wet sheet steaming in his hand, and fluttering all along the High Street, to announce breathlessly that “we were in." But G. was an indifferent scholar, even in English, and therefore thought the more highly of this literary feat. It was this defective education, and the want of a proper vent for his abundant love of nonsense in prose or verse, that probably led to the wound he subsequently inflicted on his own throat, but which was luckily remedied by “a stitch in time.” The failure of a tragedy is very apt to produce some
thing like a comedy, and few afterpieces have amused me more than the behavior of this Amicus Redivivus, when, thus drama. tising the saying of “cut and come again,” he made what ought to have been a posthumous appearance amongst his friends. In fact, and he was ludicrously alive to it, he had placed himself for all his supplementary days in a false position. Like the old man in the fable, after formally calling upon Death to execute a general release, he had quietly resumed his fardel, which he bore about with exactly the uneasy ridiculous air of a would-be fine gentleman, who is sensitively conscious that he is carrying a bundle. For the sake of our native sentimentalists who pro. fess dying for love, as well as the foreign romanticists who affect a love for dying, it may not be amiss to give a slight sketch of the bearing of a traveller who had gone through half the journey. I had been absent some months, and was consequently ignorant of the affair, when lo! on my return to the town, the very first person who accosted me in the market-place was our felo-de-se; and truly, no Bashful Man," with all his blushing honors thick upon him,” in the presence of a damp stranger, could have been more divertingly sheepish, and awkwardly backward in coming forward as to manner and address. Indeed, something of the embarrassment of a fresh introduction might naturally be felt by an individual, thus beginning again, as the lawyers say, de novo, and renewing ties he had virtually cast off. The guilty hand was as dubiously extended to me as if it had been a dyer's,-its fellow meanwhile performing sundry involuntary motions and manipulations about his cravat, as if nervously mistrusting the correctness of the ties or the stability of a buckle. As for his face, there was a foolish, deprecatory smile upon it that would have puzzled the pencil of Wilkie; and even Liston himself could scarcely have parodied the indescribable croak with which, conscious of an unlucky notoriety, he inquired "if I had heard”-here, a short husky cough—"of anything particular ?"
“ Not a word,” was the answer.
“Then you don't know"-(more fidgetting about the neck, the smile rather sillier, the voice more guttural, and the cough worse than ever)—“then you don't know”—but, like Macbeth's
amen, the confession literally stuck in the culprit's throat; and I was left to learn, an hour afterwards, and from another source, that “ Jemmy G *** had fought a duel with himself, and cut his own weazand, about a lady."
For my own part, with the above figure, and all its foolish features vividly imprinted on my memory, I do not think that I could ever seriously attempt " what Cato did, and Addison approved,” in my own person. On the contrary, it seems to me that the English moralist gave but an Irish illustration of “a brave man struggling with the storms of fate," by representing him as wilfully scuttling his own hold, and going at once to the bottom. As for the Censor, he plainly laid himself open to censure, when he used a naked sword as a stomachic-a very sorry way, by the way, when weary of conjectures, of enjoying the benefit of the doubt, and for which, were I tasked to select an inscription for his cenotaph, it should be the exclamation of Thisby, in the Midsummer Night's Dream-
“ This is old Ninny's tomb.”
Mais revenons à nos moutons, as the wolf said to her cubs. The reception of my letter in the Dublin Newspaper encouraged me to forward a contribution to the Dundee Magazine, the Edi. tor of which was kind enough, as Winifred Jenkins says, to
wrap my bit of nonsense under his Honor's Kiver,” without charging anything for its insertion. Here was success sufficient to turn a young author at once into “a scribbling miller,” and make him sell himself, body and soul, after the German fashion, to that minor Mephistophiles, the Printer's Devil! Nevertheless, it was not till years afterwards, and the lapse of term equal to an ordinary apprenticeship, that the Imp in question became really my Familiar. In the meantime, I continued to compose occasionally, and, like the literary performances of Mr. Weller Senior, my lucubrations were generally committed to paper, not in what is commonly called written hand, but an imitation of print.
Such a course hints suspiciously of type and ante. type, and a longing eye to the Row, whereas, it was adopted simply to make the reading more easy, and thus enable me the
more readily to form a judgment of the effect of my little efforts. It is more difficult than may be supposed to decide on the value of a work in MS., and especially when the handwriting presents only a swell mob of bad characters, that must be severally examined and re-examined to arrive at the merits or demerits of the case. Print settles it, as Coleridge used to say: and to be candid, I have more than once reversed, or greatly modified a previous verdict, on seeing a rough proof from the press. But, as Editors too well know, it is next to impossible to retain the tune of a stanza, or the drift of an argument, whilst the mind has to scramble through a patch of scribble scrabble, as stiff as a gorse cover. The beauties of the piece will as naturally appear to disadvantage through such a medium, as the features of a pretty woman through a bad pane of glass; and without doubt, many a tolerable article has been consigned hand over head to the Balaam Box for want of a fair copy. Wherefore, Oye Poets and Prosers, who aspire to write in Miscellanies, and above all, Oye palpitating Untried, who meditate the offer of your maiden essays to established periodicals, take care, pray ye take care, to cultivate a good, plain, bold, round text. Set up Tomkins as well as Pope or Dryden for a model, and have an eye to your pothooks. Some persons hold that the best writers are those who write the best hands, and I have known the conductor of a magazine to be converted by a crabbed MS. to the same opinion. Of all things, therefore, be legible ; and to that end, practise in penmanship. If you have never learned, take six lessons of Mr. Carstairs. Be sure to buy the best pa. per, the best ink, the best pens, and then sit down and do the best you can; as the schoolboys do-put out your tongue, and take pains. So shall ye haply escape the rash rejection of a jaded editor; so, having got in your hand, it is possible that your head may follow; and so, last not least, ye may fortunately avert those awful mistakes of the press which sometimes ruin a poet's sublimest effusion, by pantomimically transforming his roses into noses, his angels into angles, and all his happiness into pappiness.
“ And are ye sure the news is true ?
The great Doctor Johnson-himself a sufferer—has pathetically described, in an essay on the miseries of an infirm constitution, the melancholy case of an Invalid, with a willing mind in a weak body. “The time of such a man,” he says, “ is spent in forming schemes which a change of wind prevents him from executing ; his powers fume away in projects and in hope, and the day of action never arrives. He lies down delighted with the thoughts of to-morrow; but in the night the skies are overcast; the temper of the air is changed; he wakes in languor, impatience, and distraction; and has no longer any wish but for ease, nor any attention but for misery.” In short the Rambler describes the whole race of Valetudinarians as a sort of great Bitumen Company, paving a certain nameless place, as some of the Asphalticals have paved Oxford Street, with not very durable good intentions. In a word, your Invalid promises like a Hogmy, and performs like a Pigmy.
To a hale hearty man, a perfect picture of health in an oaken frame, such abortions seem sufficiently unaccountable. A great hulking fellow, revelling, as De Quincey used emphatically to say, “ in rude BOVINE health,”—a voracious human animal, camel-stomached and iron-built, who could all but devour and digest himself like a Kilkenny cat,-can neither sympathize with nor understand those frequent failures and down-breakings which happen to beings not so fortunately gifted with indelicate consti