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tion he occupies a new position-he has attained to the dignity of an author. He allows his hair to grow long, and thenceforth becomes a man of genius by profession. As a consequence, the area of literature has been so extended, and books have become so numerous, that the most resolute reader finds himself unable to make himself acquainted with a tithe of what issues from the printing-press; works are publicly advertised as guides and pioneers through the chaos which has resulted from the overabundance of the literary faculty; and plans have at various times been suggested by distracted students for lessening the pernicious effects upon our literature of the shoals of books that are weekly added to our stock. Amongst other proposals, I have seen without surprise that, for the benefit of our perplexed descendants, there should be an annual assessment, and that every copy of all worthless works should be ruthlessly burnt. Some such scheme seems warrantable; is, at all events, worthy of consideration, notwithstanding the obvious difficulties that would be encountered were it seriously proposed.

Literary men notoriously entertain a very exalted opinion of their calling. They profess. to consider it so important in its nature and results, as to entitle it to a rank far in front of most others; and they would even lead us to infer from their writings, that a



sort of sacredness attaches to the very humblest of its professors. Some of them, indeed, boldly maintain that the man of letters is, now-a-days, "your true king of men;" whilst there is none but imagines himself to be a component part of that band of illuminati which is said to form, by some unexplained and inexplicable arrangement, a fourth estate within the realm, superior to, and regulating the rest. They all seem to be persuaded, that by printing his notions a man acquires a degree of importance to which he would not be entitled had he abstained from sending them to the press.

Ostensibly the man of letters does not, it is true, demand so much consideration as the professor of theology, who prefixes to his name a notice calling upon us to do him reverence; but he is sufficiently forward in magnifying his office and functions. His pretensions will be found to permeate our literature, sometimes openly avowed, sometimes by sublime innuendo. They were openly and with much indignation expressed by more than one critic of a recent volume of poems, wherein the editor had mentioned that the poet had renounced letters for more important matters. The critics did not, of course, question the accuracy of the statement made by the editor, but their censures were directed against his implied assertion, that any pursuit is to be considered of

more importance than that in which they are themselves engaged. On the other hand, in their treatment of Mr. Disraeli, to whom they bear the same relation as the young divines of the time of Charles the Second bore to Hobbes of Malmesbury, writers exemplify these pretentions by innuendo. Ambition to become a statesman is surely not reprehensible, nor, as Mr. Disraeli's novels professedly deal with political matters, is it strange to find in them a hero whose aim is the acquirement of senatorial distinction. The author of "Coningsby" may think that delivering a speech or performing an action is as dignified a proceeding as criticising it; but it is well known, even to those who are only moderately familiar with modern literature, that his critics are of contrary opinion. They characterize the aim he imputes to his heroes as of a gross nature, and the reward he makes them covet as far beneath the dignity of rightthinking men.

This undue assumption of superiority and exaltation of their own calling may constantly be detected in numerous other forms throughout our literature. A large proportion of our public writers assume a boldness that is sometimes more than amusing. No sense of decency restrains the arrogance of their pretensions. With pen in hand, they seem to be different men from what they are in ordinary times.



There is then nothing too great for their attempt. With politics they are more conversant than professed politicians; if they write on morals, they pronounce judgment as if they had been favoured with a special revelation from heaven for the occasion; on social manners, les petites morales, they dogmatise with a confidence they would not venture to exhibit in the presence of their friends; and, even in novels, they irrelevantly discuss legislation, law, divinity, military and naval matters, and every other subject under the sun, with the airs of a referee, and in a manner which plainly indicates their conviction that the faculty they possess of being able to put their observations into print is identical with that of being able to form correct judgment on men and things.

Whilst, however, literary men thus magnify their office, they lament that, even from those who acknowledge the high rank claimed for the printing of opinions, they, the individual representatives of the practice, fail to receive the personal consideration to which they believe themselves entitled. Their complaint is, doubtless, in some degree true; but the reason, I venture to remark, is not that usually given and generally accepted.

Thackeray was fond of attributing the personal disesteem, in which men of letters are sometimes held, to a tradition that dates from the time of Swift

and Pope. "It was Pope, I fear," he says, "who contributed more than any man who ever lived to depreciate the literary calling. It was not an unprosperous one before that time, as we have seen; at least there were great prizes in the profession which had made Addison a minister, and Prior an ambassador, and Steele a commissioner, and Swift all but a bishop. The profession of letters was ruined by that libel of the Dunciad. The condition of authorship began to fall from the days of the Dunciad; and I believe in my heart that much of that obloquy which has since pursued our calling was occasioned by Pope's libels and wicked wit." In the interval that divided Pope from Johnson men of letters undoubtedly laboured under a cloud, and found it impossible to emerge into that pleasant official sunshine which had warmed the hearts of their immediate predecessors; but even then the supply equalled the demand, and if nothing we are proud of, except what came from the men who owed their culture to the era of Queen Anne, can be referred to this gloomy period in our literary annals, we must attribute the result to other causes than the publication of a clever satire. Men hitherto had relied on patrons for the countenance which led to ultimate reward. But already in France, as well as in England, private encouragement had become only occasional; a new system was about to

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