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Next to the crime of writing contrary to what a man thinks, is that of writing without thinking
Life of Savage.
Making any material alterations in the works of a writer, after his death, is a liberty which, as it has a manifest tendency to lessen the confidence of society, and to confound the characters of authors by making one man write by the judgment of another, cannot be justified by any supposed propriety of the alteration or kindness of the friend.
Life of Thompson.
There is nothing more dreadful to an author than neglect :-compared with which, reproach, hatred, and opposition, are names of happiness : yet this worst, this meanest fate, every one who dares to write has reason to fear. .
Rambler, vol. I, p. 11.
A successful author is equally in danger of the . . diminution of his fame, whether he continues or ceases to write. The regard of the public is not to be kept but by tribute ; and the remembrance of past-service will quickly languish, unless successive performances frequently revive it : yet in every new attempt there is a new hazard; and there are few who do not at some unlucky time, injure their own characters by attempting to enJarge them.
Ibid. p. 132. It ought to be the first endeavour of a writer, to distinguish nature from.custom; or that.which is established because it is right, from that which is right only because it is established; that he may neither violate essential principles by a desire of
novelty, nor debar himself from the attainment of beauties within his view, by a needless fear of breaking rules which no literary dictator had authority to enact.
Ibid. vol. 3; p. 304.
He that lays out his labours upon temporary subjects, easily finds readers, and quickly loses them: for what should make the book valued, when its subject is no more?
Idler, vol. 2, p. 37. Let honest credulity beware of receiving characters from contemporary writers.
· Life of Dryden.
· The task of an author is either to teach what is not known, or to recommend known truths by his manner of adorniog them ; either to let new light upon the mind, and open new scenes to the prospect, or vary the dress and situation of common objects, so as to give them fresh grace and more powerful attractions. To spread such flowers over the regions through which the intellect has already made it progress, as may tempt it to return, and take a second view of things hastily passed over, or negligently regarded.
Rambler, voli 1, p. 13."
Whilst an author is yet living, we estimate his. powers by the worst performance. When he is dead, we rate them by his best.
Preface to Shakspeare, p. 1.
An author who sacrifices.virtue to convenience, :' and seems to write without any moral purpose, even the barbarity of his age cannot extentatę;.
for it is always a writer's duty to make the world! better, and justice is a virtue independent on time and place.
Ibid. p. 19 and 20.. It is seldom that authors rise much above the standard of their own age. To add a little to what is best will always be sufficient for present praise; and those who find themselves exalted into fame, are willing to credit their encomiasts, and to spare. the labour of contending with themselves.
Ibid. p. 44. He that misses his end, will never be so much pleased as he that attains it, even when he can: impute no part of his failure to himself: and when the end is lo please the multitude, no man, perhaps, has a right in things admitting of gradation and comparison, to throw the whole blaine upon his judges, and totally to exclude diffidence and shame by a haughty consciousness of his own excellence.
Life of Cowley,
Many causes may vitiate a writer's judgment of his own works. On that which has cost him much labour he sets a high value, because he is unwilling to think he has been diligent in vain ; what has been produced without toitsome effort is considered with delight, as a proof of vigorous faculties and fertile invention; and the last work, whatever it be, has necessarily most of the grace: of novelty.
Life of Milton,'. A writer who obtains his full purpose loses himself in his own lustre. Of an opinion which : is no longer doubted, the evidence ceases to be
examined. Of an art universally practised the teacher is forgotten. Learning once made popuJar is no longer learning; it has the appearance of something which we have bestowed upon ourselves, as the dew appears to rise from the field which it refreshes.
Life of 'Dryden.
There is a species of writers, who without much labour have attained high reputation, and who are mentioned with reverence, rather for the possession than the exertion of uncommon abilities.
Life of Smith.
.: Tediousness, in an author, is the most fatal of
all faults. Negligence or errors are single and local, but tediousness pervades the whole; other faults are censured and forgotten, but the power of tediousness propagates itself. He that is weary the first hour is more weary the second, as bodies formed into motion, contrary to their tendency, pass more and more slowly through every successive interval of space.
Life of Prior.
An author who asks a subscription soon finds that he has enemies. All who do not encourage him,, defame him. He that wants money will father be thought angry than poor; and he that wishes to save his money, conceals his avarice by his malice.
- Life of Pope.
· An author bustling in the world, showing himself in public, and emerging occasionally from cime to time into notice, might keep his works alive by his personal influence; but that which
conveys little information, and gives no great pleasure, must soon give way, as the succession of things produces new topics of conversatioil, and other modes of amusement.
Lise of Mallet.
He that expects Aights of wit, and sallies of pleasantry, from a successful writer, will be often disappointed. A man of letters, for the most part, spends in the privicies of study, that season of life in which the manners are to be softened into ease, and polished into elegance; and when be has gained knowledge enough to be respected, has neglected the minuter arts by which he might have pleased.
Rambler, vol. 1, p. 83.
He'by whose writings the heart is rectified, the appetites counteracted, and the passions repressed, may be considered as not unprofitable to the great republic of humanity, even though his own behaviour should not always exemplity bis rules. His instructions may diffuse their influence to regions in which it will not be inquired, whether the author be good or bad; to times when all his faults and all his follies shall be lost in forgetfulness, among things of no concern or importance to the world; and he may kindle in thousands, and ten thousands, that flaine which burnt but dimly in 'himself, through the .fumes of passion, or the damps of cowardice. The vicious moralist may be considered as a taper by which we are lighted through the labyrinth of complicated passions; he extends his radiance farther than his heart, and guides all that are within view, but burns only those who make too near approaches.
- Ibid. vol. 2, p. 133. .