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wing can fly between the rising and setting of the summer sun ; he had fed, year after year, on the entrails of men. His opinion was, that as the boughs of an oak are dashed together by the storm, that swine may fatten on the fallen acorns, so men are, by some unaccountable power, driven one against another, till they lose their motion, that vultures may be fed.
“Others think they have observed something of contrivance and policy among these mischievous beings ; and those that hover more closely round them, pretend that there is in every herd one that gives directions to the rest, and seems to be more eminently delighted with wild carnage ; what it is that entitles him to such pre-eminence we know not, he is seldom the biggest or the fleetest, but he shows by his eagerness and diligence, that he is, more than any of the others, A FRIEND TO THE VULTURES.”
THE STORY OF A LITERARY ADVENTURER.
GOLDSMITH, 1728—1774. AFTER we had supped, Mrs. Arnold politely offered to send a couple of her footmen for my son's baggage, which he at first seemed to decline ; but upon her pressing the request, he was obliged to inform her that a stick and a wallet were all the moveable things upon earth which he could boast of. “Why, ay, my son,” cried I, “you left me but poor ; and poor I find you are come back; and yet, I make no doubt, you have seen a great deal of the world.”—“Yes, sir,” replied my son ; “but travelling after fortune is not the way to secure her; and, indeed, of late I have desisted from the pursuit.”—I fancy, sir," cried Mrs. Arnold, “that the account of your adventures would be amusing ; the first part of them I have often heard, but could the company prevail for the rest, it would be an additional obligation.”—“Madam,” replied my son, “I promise you the pleasure you have in hearing will not be half so great as mine in repeating them ; and yet in the whole narrative I can scarcely promise you an adventure, as my account is rather of what I saw than what I did. The first misfortune of my life, which you all very well know, was great ; but though it distressed, it could not sink me. No person ever had a better knack of hoping than I. The less kind I found Fortune at one time, the more I expected from her at another; and being now at
the bottom of the wheel, every new revolution might lift, but could not depress me. I proceeded, therefore, towards London in a fine morning, no way uneasy about to-morrow, but cheerful as the birds that carolled by the road ; and comforted myself with the reflection that London was the mart where abilities of every kind were sure of meeting distinction and reward.
“Upon my arrival in town, sir, my first care was to deliver your letter of recommendation to our cousin, who was himself in better circumstances than I. My first scheme, you know, sir, was to be usher at an academy, and I asked his advice on the affair. Our cousin received the proposal with a true sardonic grin.— Ay, cried he, this is indeed a very pretty career that has been chalked out for you. I have been an usher to a boarding-school myself, and I had rather be an under-turnkey in Newgate ; I was up early and late, brow-beat by the master, hated for my ugly face by the mistress, worried by the boys within, and never permitted to stir out to meet civility abroad? But are you sure you are fit for a school ? Let me examine you a little. Have you been bred apprentice to the business ? —No.'_“Then you won't do for a school. Can you dress the boys' hair ?'—'No.'—“Then you won't do for a school. Have you had the small-pox !—No.'— Then you won't do for a school. Can you lie three in a bed ?' — No.' "Then you will never do for a school. Have you a good stomach ?' -'Yes.' — Then you will by no means do for a school. No, sir, if you are for a genteel, easy profession, bind yourself seven years as an apprentice to turn a cutler's wheel, but avoid a school by any means. Yet come, continued he, ' I see you are a lad of spirit and some learning, what do you think of commencing author like me ? You have read in books, no doubt, of men of genius starving at the trade ; at present I'll show you forty very dull fellows about town that live by it in opulence. All honest jog-trot men, who go on smoothly and dully, and write history and politics, and are praised : men, sir, who, had they been bred cobblers, would all their lives have only mended shoes, but never made them.'
“Finding that there was no great degree of gentility affixed to the character of an usher, I resolved to accept his proposal ; and, having the highest respect for literature, hailed the Antiqua Mater of Grub-street with reverence. I thought it my glory to pursue a track which Dryden and Otway trod before me. I considered the goddess of this region as the parent of excellence; and however an intercourse with the world might give us good sense, the poverty she entailed I supposed to be the nurse of genius. Big with these reflections, I sat down, and, finding that the best things remained to be said on the wrong side, I resolved to write a book that should be wholly new. I therefore dressed up three paradoxes with some ingenuity. They were unsound, indeed, but they were new. The jewels of truth have been so often imported by others, that nothing was left for me to import, but some splendid things that, at a distance, looked every bit as well. Witness, ye powers, what fancied importance sat perched upon my quill while I was writing! The whole learned world, I made no doubt, would rise to oppose my systems, but then I was prepared to oppose the whole learned world. Like the porcupine, I sat self-collected, with a quill pointed at every opposer.'
“But the learned world said nothing to my paradoxes ; nothing at all, sir. Every man of them was employed in praising his friends and himself, or condemning his enemies; and, unfortunately, as I had neither, I suffered the cruelest mortificationneglect.
“As I was meditating one day, in a coffee-house, on the fate of my paradoxes, a little man happening to enter the room, placed himself in the box before me, and, after some preliminary discourse, finding me to be a scholar, drew out a bundle of proposals, begging me to subscribe to a new edition he was going to give the world of Propertius, with notes. This demand necessarily produced a reply, that I had no money ; and that concession led him to inquire into the nature of my expectations. Finding that my expectations were just as great as my purse—'I see, cried he, 'you are unacquainted with the town. I'll teach you a part of it. Look at these proposals : upon these very proposals I have subsisted very comfortably for twelve years. The moment a nobleman returns from his travels, a Creolian arrives from Jamaica, or a dowager from her country-seat, I strike for a subscription. I first besiege their hearts with flattery, and then pour in my proposals at the breach. If they subscribe readily the first time, I renew my request to beg a dedication-fee ; if they let me have that, I smite them once more for engraving their coat of arms at the top. Thus, continued he, “I live by vanity, and laugh at it. But, between ourselves, I am now too well known ; I should
be glad to borrow your face a bit ; a nobleman of distinction has just returned from Italy ; my face is familiar to his porter; but if you bring this copy of verses, my life for it you succeed, and we divide the spoil.
“Having a mind too proud to stoop to such indignities, and yet a fortune too humble to hazard a second attempt for fame, I was now obliged to take a middle course, and write for bread. But I was unqualified for a profession where mere industry alone was to insure success. I could not suppress my lurking passion for applause ; but usually consumed that time in efforts after excellence, which takes up but little room, when it should have been more advantageously employed in the diffusive productions of fruitful mediocrity. My little piece would, therefore, come forth in the midst of periodical publications, unnoticed and unknown. The public were more importantly employed than to observe the easy simplicity of my style, or the harmony of my periods. Sheet after sheet was thrown off to oblivion. My essays were buried among the essays upon liberty, eastern tales, and cures for the bite of a mad dog ; while Philautes, Philalethes, Philelutheros, and Philanthropos, all wrote better, because they wrote faster, than I.
“Now, therefore, I began to associate with none but disappointed authors like myself, who praised, deplored, and despised each other. The satisfaction we found in every celebrated writer's attempts was inversely as their merits. I found that no genius in another could please me. My unfortunate paradoxes had entirely dried up that source of comfort. I could neither read nor write with satisfaction ; for excellence in another was my aversion, and writing was my trade.
“My patience," continued my son, “was now quite exhausted. Stung with the thousand indignities I had met with, I was willing to cast myself away, and only wanted the gulf to receive me. I regarded myself as one of those vile things that Nature designed should be thrown by into her lumber-room, there to perish in obscurity. I had still, however, half-a-guinea left, and of that I thought fortune herself should not deprive me; but, in order to be sure of this, I was resolved to go instantly and spend it while I had it, and then trust to occurrences for the rest. As I was going along with this resolution, it happened that Mr. Crispe's office seemed invitingly open to give me a welcome reception. In this office Mr. Crispe kindly offers all his Majesty's subjects a generous :
promise of £30 a-year, for which promise all they give in return is their liberty for life, and permission to let him transport them to America as slaves. I was happy at finding a place where I could lose my fears in desperation, and entered this cell, for it had the appearance of one, with the devotion of a monastic. Here I found a number of poor creatures, all in circumstances like myself, expecting the arrival of Mr. Crispe, presenting a true epitome of English impatience. Each untractable soul at variance with fortune, wreaked her injuries on their own hearts ; but Mr. Crispe at last came down, and all our murmurs were hushed. He deigned to regard me with an air of peculiar approbation ; and indeed he was the first man who for a month past talked to me with smiles. After a few questions, he found I was fit for everything in the world. He paused awhile on the properest means of providing for me, and, slapping his forehead, as if he had found it, assured me that there was at that time an embassy talked of from the synod of Pennsylvania to the Chickasaw Indians, and that he would use his interest to get me made secretary. I knew in my own heart the fellow was deceiving me, and yet his promise gave me pleasure, there was something so magnificent in the sound. I fairly, therefore, divided my half-guinea, one-half of which went to be added to his thirty thousand pounds, and with the other half I resolved to go to the next tavern, to be there more happy than he.
“As I was going out with that resolution, I was met at the door by the captain of a ship with whom I had formerly some little acquaintance, and he agreed to be my companion over a bowl of punch. As I never chose to make a secret of my circumstances, he assured me that I was on the very point of ruin, in listening to the office-keeper's promises ; for that he only designed to sell me to the plantations. “But,' continued he, “I fancy you might by a much shorter voyage be very easily put into a genteel way of bread. Take my advice. My ship sails to-morrow for Amsterdam; what if you go in her as a passenger ? The moment you land, all you have to do is to teach the Dutchmen English, and I warrant you'll get pupils and money enough. I suppose you understand English,' added he, by this time, at all events ?? I confidently assured him of that ; but expressed a doubt whether the Dutch would be willing to learn English. He affirmed with an oath, that they were fond of it to distraction; and upon that affirmation I agreed with his proposal, and embarked the next day to teach