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conveying instruction, that it does not even afford amusement.
"The writers below nature have one advantage in common with the writers above it, that the originals they would seem to draw from are no where to be found. The heroes and heroines of the former are undoubtedly children of the imagination; and those of the latter, if they are not all of them incapable of reading their own adventures, are at least unable to inform us by writing, whether the representations of them are just, and whether people in their station did ever think or act in the manner they are described to have done. Yet the authors, even in this particular, are not quite so secure as they imagine; for when, towards the end of the third or fourth volume, the He or She of the piece, as is usually the custom, emerges into what they call genteel life, the whole cheat is frequently discovered. From seeing their total ignorance of what they are then describing, we on good grounds conclude that they are equally unacquainted with the inferior parts of life, though we are not able to detect the falsehood. Bath, one should imagine the easiest place in the world to get a thorough knowledge of: and yet I have observed in books of this kind several representations of it so excessively erroneous, that they not only showed the author to be entirely ignorant of the manners of living there, but of the geography of the town.
"But it is not the ignorance of these writers which I would principally complain of; though of that, as a censor, you ought to take notice, and should assure our young men and young women that they may read fifty volumes of this sort of trash, and yet, according to the phrase which is perpetually in their mouths, know nothing of lift. The
thing I chiefly find fault with is their extreme indecency. There are certain vices which the vulgar call fun, and the people of fashion gallantry; but the middle rank, and those of the gentry who continue to go to church, still stigmatize them by the opprobious names of fornication and adultery. These are confessed to be in some measure detrimental to society, even by those who practise them most; at least, they are allowed to be so in all but themselves. This being the case, why should our novelwriters take so much pains to spread these enormities? It is not enough to say in excuse that they write nonsense upon these subjects as well as others; for nonsense itself is dangerous here. The most absurd ballads in the streets, without the least glimmering of meaning, recommend themselves every day both to the great and small vulgar only by obscene expressions. Here, therefore, Mr. FitzAdani, you should interpose your authority, and forbid your readers, whom I will suppose to be all persons who can read, even to attempt to open any novel or romance, unlicensed by you; unless it should happen to be stamped ltichardson or Fielding.
"Your power should extend likewise to that inundation of obscenity which is daily pouring in from France; and which has too frequently the wit and humour of a Crebillon to support it. The gentlemen, who never read any thing else, will I know be at a loss for amusement, and feel their half hour of morning hang rather too heavy on their hands. But surely, Mr. Fitz-Adam, when they consider the good of their country, and all of them have that at heart, they will consent to meet a little sooner at the hazard-table, or while away the tedious interval in studying new chances upon the cards.
"If it be said that the heroic romances, which I have recommended for their virtue, are themselves too full of passionate breathings upon some occasions, I allow the charge; but am of opinion that these can do little more harm to the minds of young ladies, than certain books of devotion, which are put into their hands by aunts and grandmothers; the writers of which, from having suffered the softer passions to mix too strongly with their zeal for religion, are now generally known by the name of the amorous divines. "I am, sin,
"Your most humble servant,
No. 20. THURSDAY, MAY 17, 1753.
Though the following letter came a little out of time for this week's publication, yet in compliment to the subject, as well as in respect to the writer, I ordered that a very elaborate essay of my own, already at the press, should withdraw and give place to it.
"To MR. F1TZ-ADAM.
"it is either an observation of my own, or of some very wise man, whose name I forget, That where true learning is, true virtue cannot be far off. The rigid and exemplary life which every individual in our learned professions is so well known to lead,
might be sufficient to evince the truth of this observation, if I could content myself with a single argument, where many are at hand. To descend a little lower than the learned professions, why are all parish clerks orthodox christians, all apothecaries communicative men, or all justices of the peace upright men, but as their professions are in some degree a-kin to divinity, physic, and the law?
"If we carry our inquiries into the city, we shall find those vocations, where most knowledge is required, to be most productive of the civilities of life. Thus the merchant, who writes his letters in French, is a better bred man than his neighbour the shopkeeper, who understands no language but his own; while the shopkeeper, who is able to read and write, and keep his accounts in a book, is a more civilized person than his landlord at the horns, who scores only in chalk.
"We shall be more and more of this opinion if we look a little into the lives and manners of those people who have no pretensions to literature. Who drinks or swears more than a country squire? Who, according to his own confession, has been the ruin of so many innocents as a fine gentleman? Why, according to Pope, is every woman a rake in her heart? or why, according, to truth, is almost every woman of fashion a rake in practice? but from the deplorable misfortune of an unlearned education.
"But the last and best argument to prove that learning and virtue are cause and effect, remains still to be produced. And here let me ask if, from the beginning of time to this present May, one thousand seven hundred and fifty-three, it has been once known that an author was an immoral man? On the contrary, is it not universally allowed that he is the most virtuous of mankind? To deny that lie is the most learned, would be a greater degree of absurdity than I can conceive any person to "be guilty of; I shall therefore confinte myself to his virtues. What the apostle says of charity, may as truly be said of an author; He 'suffereth long, and is kind;' he ' beareth all things; hopeth all things; endureth all things.' Howignorant is he of the ways of men! How ready to give praise even to the least deserving! How distant from that source of evil, money! How humble in his apparel! How moderate in his pleasures! And, above all, how abstemious in diet, and how temperate in wine! It is to the social virtues of an author that the present age is indebted for a paper called The World, which it is not doubted will do more good to these nations, than all the volumes, except the sacred ones, which have hitherto been written.
"I am not hinting to you, Mr. Fitz-Adam, that learning is at present in a declining state, and that consequently there is less virtue among us than in former times; on the contrarv, when were there more authors than at present? I challenge any age to produce half the number. From hence it appears that learning is in a very flourishing condition: for though the great have thought proper long ago to withold their patronage from it, it has pleased Heaven to raise up very able and zealous persons, who are applying all their time and pains to the advancement of it, and to whom its professors may have weekly access, and be assured of encouragement and reward in proportion to their merits. Your readers will be, no doubt, beforehand with me in naming these patrons of learning, who, it is very well known, are the honourable and worshipful the fraternity of booksellers.
'• But though I have the greatest veneration for these gentlemen, I cannot help being of opinion, that if the old patrons, the great, were to unite
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