Shut, shut the door, good John, fatigued I cried
Sure never Lady Mayoress in the Straw, or the prime minister Cara Sposa in a nervous Complaint received half so many Calls of congratulation or cards of condolence as have been heaped upon an author without a name. It seems I have made as much bustle in the world as the South Sea Bubble on it explosion, the Trial of the Duchess of Kingston, or the fire at Richardson’s Theatre at Greenwich Fair on Easter Monday — I exclaimed in the words of my motto, and was going on with the stanza, when I recollected that tying up the knocker would either proclaim me sick, or make the visitants conclude me married, so the apprehension of being smothered with notes on embossed, wire-woven, hot-pressed, gilt-edged paper, if I were thought to be sick, and a dread lest I should lose my chance for a wife if the ladies thought I was already a Benedict, made me refrain from uttering the idea — as to being dead that was out of the question — so I spoke no more — the knocking continued and I calmly took up my pen and proceeded.
I may be asked how the people came to find out where I lived. To this I can merely reply, they best know, I never informed them, and as to the reasons of my neglecting to continue my paper, I reply, business and idleness, as as I never promised any regular period, I do not account myself answerable to anyone for any irregularities.
I have been favoured with various communications and letters, the contrast produced by the two following is remarkable.
Green Lettuce Lane. April 14th 1813
The calamities of authors you profess to listen to, and therefore I convey to you the refining thoughts of a poor poet. I am indeed poor, and find alas! the words of Oliver Cromwell but too true. “Poverty,” said he, “cramps the mind, destroys all generous notions, and damps the spirit from all noble attempts to — ”
This applies to me; I find that an increasing family, and want of custom (for you must know, sir, I am a tailor by trade and sometimes find myself a little consolation, and a reward for my poetical attempts, by a covering of green baize on my head) are great drawbacks to my genius.
A smoky house, or failing trade
Six squalling brats, and a scolding jade
are not congenial to the Muses. I have read of the Lovers’ Leap. I wonder if there is any peace whence a poet neglected by the Muses or a cruel world can precipitate himself and gain immortality. Oh! I often exclaim, Oh! Fortune, why do you not fix it as a law that none but the meritorious shall be fortunate, then would your gifts be challenged as famishing offspring of ingenuity, and disdain a rich Lord for a poor Tailor.
If however (I continue) Fortune refuses to give wealth to poor authors, let her give them Honor — Let the writers of versified puns, epigrams, sonnets, acrostics &c. be knighted. The writer of an ode or any other superior composition be made a baronet, and the degree of nobility increasing with the merit of the verse, the writer of a fine epic poem would be created a peer. Shakespeare and Milton would be of the Blood Royal of Parnassus; Pope figure away with a Ducal Coronet, and all translators graced with a title regulated according to the merit of the original.
Submitting this idea to your consideration, and begging pardon for thus abruptly concluding, which I am obliged to do, by the impatience of a city apprentice who wants his Easter clothes I remain
Sir your most obedient servant
Great Cumberland Place. April 10th 1813
I am as heartily sick of being a great man as possible — I look round at my rich neighbours and wonder at their folly. What they call a man of wit and good address, I feel greatly inclined to view as an insufferable coxcomb, and he who in their eyes passes for a person of good humour, temper and judgement, appears to me a formal sycophant and a flatterer. Puns or conudrums pass with them for wit; truth they never hear, nor ever wish it; to correct (as I sometimes try) their folly is to offend them; and to hear ti, to affront myself.
How I wish to be a poor man. All arts and sciences, all religion came from the poor, for such were the prophets, apostles, and saints, the philosophers and the best of poets. Homer begged his bread and taught school for a living, yet he wrote the noblest poem the world ever saw. Virgil was born and bred up in indigence, tho’ the court of Augustus perverted the noble qualities he learnt in the school of poverty. Chaminondas whose single virtue raised Thebes to the mastery of Greece was poor. In short, Socrates was the son of a stone cutter, the father of Demosthenes a cutler, and the mother of Euripides an herbwoman, and were I to enumerate all the great and good men who were poor, volumes would not suffice.
Could I be poor, what might I not learn in the admirable school for virtue, where there are no sycophants to soothe their folly, heighten their passions and lessen their understandings. The fumes of prosperity would be removed by the clear and sharp air of necessity, the body would be kept in equal temper, be made agile and the mind active.
My scheme is that all rich men should reduce themselves to a moderate, or even small allowance, assume the habits of temperance and study — and the consequence would be that learning, virtue, or genius would flourish, and then instead of our great men lounging in a private box over an opera, or disdaining the sober amusements of reason for the rattle of a dice box, or the dazzle of a rout, we should find the genuine offspring of the dramatic Muses, received with transport, and the rational conversation of select friends considered as the best recreation of their leisure hours.
I am Sir
I shall make no comment on the foregoing letters. They speak for themselves; if indeed I could be at all instrumental in compassing their designs I would, but that being our of my power, I shall (as I intend in future) refer their plaints to the Attic Society, and move that thy be laid on the table.
The memorable anniversary of the Epping Hunt and Tothill Fields Ball have furnished topics of discussion to some correspondents, who I suspect to be members fo the Vice Society. I am sorry to say I cannot insert them. These honorable gentlemen should remember the scripture monition
“Pluck first the moat out of thine own eye.”
Soliciting the honour of receiving a name from the Attic Society, I bid them for the present Adieu! fondly hoping that when I have next the honour of addressing them it will be no longer under the signature of
April 27th 1813