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claim of gratitude, can never rob me of those pleasures I enjoyed, when I served them, loved them, and confided in them; and, in spite of all my friend the Damper can say to the contrary, it is not on my own account I am sorry to have thought better of mankind than they deserve.
I am, Sir, &c.
TO THE OBSERVER, SIR, I have the honour to belong to a club of gentlemen of public spirit and talents, who make it a rule to meet every Sunday evening, in a house of entertainment behind St. Clement's, for the regulation of literature in this metropolis. Our fraternity consists of two distinct orders, The Dampers and The Puffers; and each of these are again classed into certain inferior subdivisions. We take notice that both these descriptions of persons have in turn been the objects of your feeble raillery; but I must fairly tell you, we neither think worse of ourselves nor any better of you for those attempts. We consider the republic of letters under obligations to us for its very existence, for how could it be a republic, unless its members were kept upon an equality with each other? Now this is the very thing which our institution professes to do.
We have an ingenious member of our society, who has invented a machine for this purpose, which answers to admiration . he calls it-The Thermometer of Merit : this machine he has set in a frame, and laid down a very accurate scale of gradations by the side of it: one glance of the eye gives every author's altitude to a minute. The iniddle degree on this scale, and which answers to temperate on a common thermometer, is that standard, or common level of merit, to which all contemporaries in the same free community ought to be confined; but as there will always be some eccentric beings in nature, who will either start above standard heighth, or drop below it; it is our duty by the operation of the daily press either to screw them down, or to screw them up, as the case requires; and this brings me to explain the uses of the two grand departments of our fraternity: authors above par fall to the province of the Dampers, all below par appertain to the Puffers. The daily press being common to all men, and both the one class and the other having open access thereto, we can work either by forcers or repellers, as we see fit; and I can safely assure you our process seldom fails in either case, when we apply it timely, and especially to young poets in their veal-bones, as the saying is : with this view we are always upon terms with the conductors of the said press, who are fully sensible of the benefits of our institution, and live with us in the mutual interchange of friendly offices, like Shakspeare's Zephyrs —
Stealing and giving odours.As we act upon none but principles of general justice, and hold it right that parts should be made subservient to the whole, our scheme of equalization requires, that accordingly as any individual rises on the scale, our depressing powers should counteract and balance his ascending powers: this process, as I said before, belongs to the Dampers' office, and is by them termed pressing an author, or more literally committing him to the press.
This is laid on more or less forcibly, according to his degree of ascension; in most cases a few turns squeeze him down to his proper bearing, but this is always dɔne with reasonable allowance for the natural re-action of elastic bodies, so that it is necessary to bring him some degrees below standard, lest he should mount above it when the press is taken off: if by chance his ascending powers run him up to sultry or feder-heat, the Dampers must proportion their discipline accordingly; in like manner the Puffers have to blow an author up by mere strength of lungs, when he is heavy in ballast, and his sinking powers fall below the freezing-point, as sometimes happens even to our best friends : in that case the Puffers have bursts of applause and peals of laughter in petto, which, though they never reach vulgar ears, serve his purpose effectually-But these are secrets, which we never reveal but to the Initiated, and I shall conclude by assuring you I am your's as you deserve.
PRO BONO PUBLICO,
A writer of miscellaneous essays is open to the correspondence of persons of all descriptions, and though I think fit to admit the following letter into my collection, I hope my readers will not suppose I wish to introduce the writer of it into their company, or even into my own.
TO THE OBSERVER. SIR, As we hear a great deal of the affluence of this flourishing country, and the vast quantity of sleeping cash, as it is called, locked up in vaults and strong boxes, we conceive it would be a good deed to waken some of it, and put it into use and circulation : we have therefore associated ourselves into a
patriotic fraternity of circulators, commonly called pick-pockets : but with sorrow we let you know, that notwithstanding our best endeavours to put forward the purposes of our institution, and the great charges of providing ourselves with instruments and tools of all sorts for the better furtherance of our business, we have yet hooked up little except dirty handkerchiefs, leathern snuff-boxes, empty purses and bath-metal watches from the pockets of the public; articles these, let me say, that would hardly be received at the depôt of the patriotic contributors at Paris. Are these the symptoms of a great and wealthy nation ? we blush for our country, whilst we are compelled by truth and candour to reply-They are not.
As we have a number of pretty articles on hand, which will not pass in our trade, nothing deters us from putting them up to public cant but the tax our unworthy parliament has laid upon auctions. I send you two or three papers, which a brother artist angled out of the pocket of a pennyless gentleman the other night at the play house door: the one a letter signed Urania, the other Gorgon : they can be no use to us, as we have nothing to do with Urania's virtue, nor stand in need of Gorgon to paint scenes, which we can act better than he describes; neither do we want his effigy of a man under the gallows to remind us of what we must all come to.
The letter from Urania breathes the full spirit of that amiable ambition, which at present seems generally to inspire our heroines of the stage to accept of none but shining characters, and never to present themselves to the public but as illustrious models of purity and grace. If virtue be thus captivating by resemblance only, how beautiful must it be in the reality! I cannot however help pitying the unknown poet, whose hopes were dashed with the following rebuke:
and some very striking situations, that would fall to my lot in your drama, but permit me to tell you, Sir, that until you can clear up the legitimacy of the child, you have been pleased therein to lay at my door, and will find a father for it, whom I may not blush to own for a husband, you must never hope for the assistance of your humble servant,
The other letter is addressed to the same unfortu. nate poet from an artist, who seems to have studied nature in her deformities only.
DEAR DISMAL, I wait with impatience to hear of the success of your tragedy, and in the mean time have worked off a frontispiece for it, that you, who have a passion for the terrific, will be perfectly charmed with.
I am scandalized when I hear people say that the fine arts are protected in this country; nothing can be further from the truth, as I am one amongst