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and his man Ralph." Then follows an "Advertisement," which is here presented verbatim :


"If the ingenious Henry Fielding, Esq. (son of the Hon. Lieut.General Fielding, who, upon his return from his travels, entered himself of the Temple, in order to study the law, and married one of the pretty Miss Cradocks of Salisbury), will own himself the author of eighteen strange things, called Tragical Comedies and Comical Tragedies, lately advertised by J. Watts,1 of Wild Court, printer, he shall be mentioned in capitals in the third edition of Mr. Cibber's Life, and likewise placed among the poetæ minores dramatici of the present age: then will both his name and writings be remembered on record in the immortal poetical register written by Mr. GILES JACOB."

From this coarse satire it may be gleaned that Fielding had openly expressed resentment at being described by Cibber as "a broken wit," without being mentioned by name. The insult rankled in his sensitive bosom, and was never forgotten or forgiven. Henceforth he endeavoured, in season and out of season, to cover the comedian with ridicule. His satire, like that of Pope, was, however, too obtrusive, and too disproportionate to the object of attack, to secure its desired effect. If the character of Cibber were as contemptible as "The Dunciad" and Fielding's writings represent it, much printer's ink was thrown away in blackening it.

(1) John Watts was at this time the ordinary theatrical publisher. He is mentioned by Fielding in his "Eurydice Hissed," where, in describing the process of condemnation, one of the characters observes :

"John Watts,

Who was this morning eager for the copy,

Shrank hasty from the pit, and shook his head."





THE period at which Fielding first lent his powerful pen to the periodical press was a very gloomy one in the annals of letters. The profession of authorship was at its lowest ebb, both with respect to emolument and consideration. Most of those who lived by the quill had to encounter every species of degradation and misery, and were fully entitled to the compassion which, in the preceding century, a titled author expressed towards this long-suffering class:

"I pity from my soul unhappy men,


Condemned by want to prostitute their pen;
Who must, like lawyers, either starve or plead,
And follow, right or wrong, where guineas lead."1

The finest minds were condemned to the meanest taskwork. The author of "London" was still engaged in the drudgery of filling the columns of "The Gentleman's Magazine," having vainly endeavoured to extricate himself from the precarious occupation of writing for bread. James Thomson-whose poem of "The Seasons" has since gladdened so many hearts-was subsisting still more miserably by writing for the stage. And whilst men of letters of the first class (or such of them as really lived by the pen) were thus employed, those in the second and third rauk


(1) Roscommon. Essay on Translated Verse.

(2) Thomson's Tragedy of "Edward and Eleonora," finished in 1739, was refused a license by the Lord Chamberlain. "He endeavoured," says Johnson, "to repair his loss by a subscription, of which I cannot now tell the success."

fared still worse. Some of these latter were constrained to sink into the mere "scribblers for a party," whom Johnson classed, with Commissioners of Excise, as the lowest of human beings; whilst others were contented to write poems, essays, and prefaces for booksellers-receiving rather less wages than carpenters or bricklayers, and working twice as hard.

There is one literary notice in "The Champion" which brings most forcibly to mind the miserable condition of the hack author at this time. On the 12th of February, 1740, the periodical critic thus writes: "Last week a poem was published with the simple but all-comprehensive title of Deity.'. . . . It is wrote in a clear and elegant style, the versification smooth and flowing, but, being cramped with almost perpetual distiches, allows very little variety of cadence and period. And that it is not void of the sublime let the following passage demonstrate." Then occurs an extract from the poem which is to be found in one of the introductory chapters in "Tom Jones," where it is thus introduced :—

"The brevity of life hath likewise given occasion to this comparison. So the immortal Shakspere:

'Life's a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more.'

For which hackneyed quotation I will make the reader amends by a very noble one, which few, I believe, have read. It is taken from the poem called 'The Deity,' published about nine years ago, and long since buried in oblivion,—a proof that good books, no more than good men, do always survive the bad :—

'From Thee 2 all human actions take their springs,

The rise of empires and the fall of kings!

See the vast theatre of Time displayed,

While o'er the scene succeeding heroes tread!
With pomp the shining images succeed,

What leaders triumph, and what monarchs bleed!

(1) Book vii. c. 1.

(2) The Deity.

Perform the parts Thy providence assigned,

Their pride, their passions, to Thy ends inclined:
Awhile they glitter in the face of day,

Then at Thy nod the phantoms pass away;

No traces left of all the busy scene,

But that remembrance says-THE THINGS HAVE BEEN.'

These lines must have made a strong impression upon Fielding when he first read them; since they remained after the lapse of nine years so firmly fixed in his memory. The poem itself is certainly a remarkable one ;-especially when the character and position of the author (to whom, said "The Champion," "the Church owes great obligations") are brought under consideration.

Samuel Boyse-the writer of the poem on the Deitywas, during this bitter year of 1740, the victim of the most abject poverty. Without clothes to walk abroad, he spent the whole of his time in bed, huddled up in some old blankets,-for sheets he had none,-through which there was a hole for the passage of his arm when he wrote for the purpose of procuring a daily meal. Imagination cannot picture any sight more miserable than this poor shivering wretch, in his desolate garret, pursuing under such circumstances his literary labours. That those labours were but ill-requited is tolerably evident, not only from his extreme poverty, but also from the character of his employers. Cave, the proprietor of "The Gentleman's Magazine," was one of these. He was in the habit of purchasing Boyse's poetry, and paying for it by the hundred lines; but after a time, taking advantage of the author's poverty, he insisted on making this "the long hundred;" and so got his ten or twenty lines in. That grave misconduct, however, as well as the niggardliness of his patrons, contributed to the poet's calamity, may be well conceived. For the sensual enjoyment of the hour he submitted to days of misery; and though common prudence might not have insured him a competence, it would

(1) Chalmers' Biographical Dictionary, &c.

have preserved him from some of the worst ills of poverty. Whatever he possessed soon found its way into the hands of the pawnbroker-books, clothes-everything went the same way, and when redeemed by his friends, they were soon pawned again. Dr. Johnson, a genuine Samaritan in his way, collected on one occasion a considerable sum to release Boyse's clothes, in order that he might rise from his uncomfortable couch: but in two days the clothes were pawned again. "The sum was collected," the Doctor afterwards said, "in sixpences, at a time when to me sixpence was a serious consideration."

What hope was there in such an age for such a man as this? No art could lure him within the pale of comfort and civilization; misery could not reform, experience could not instruct him. Yet Boyse had been carefully nurtured and educated, and possessed at one time troops of generous and sympathising friends. He was the son of an English dissenting minister, residing in Dublin, where he received his early education. At eighteen the youth was sent to Glasgow, and here he committed his first worldly mistake by an early and improvident marriage. His poetical abilities afterwards procured patrons, who one by one became disgusted with his imprudence, or alienated by his arrogance. At length he found himself in London, -an author-of-all-work in the days of Savage, Johnson, Amherst, and Rolt. The privations he endured, in common with other members of his craft, have been above sketched. Poverty and dependence became, as years rolled on, his normal condition. It was not a strange thing for him to fast for days together. In July, 1742, he addressed to Cave a letter from a sponging-house, in which, piteously imploring a pecuniary advance, he said, "I am every moment threatened to be turned out here, because I have not money to pay for my bed two nights past, which is usually paid beforehand; and I am loth to go into the Compter till I see if my affair can possibly be made up.

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