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AN APPEAL TO THE PUBLICK.
From the Gentleman's Magazine, March, 1739.
Men' moveat cimex Pantilius? aut crucier, quod
Laudat, amat, cantat nostros mea Roma libellos,
IT is plain from the conduct of writers of the first class, that they have esteemed it no derogation from their characters to defend themselves against the censures of ignorance, or the calumnies of envy.
It is not reasonable to suppose, that they always judged their adversaries worthy of a formal confutation; but they concluded it not prudent to neglect the feeblest attacks; they knew that such men have often done hurt, who had not abilities to do good; that the weakest hand, if not timely disarmed, may stab a hero in his sleep; that a worm, however small, may destroy a fleet in the acorn; and that citadels, which have defied armies, have been blown up by rats.
In imitation of these great examples, we think it not absolutely needless to vindicate ourselves from the virulent aspersions of the Craftsman and Common Sense; because their accusations, though entirely groundless, and without the least proof, are urged with an air of confidence, which the unwary may mistake for consciousness of truth.
In order to set the proceedings of these calumniators in a proper light, it is necessary to inform such of our readers, as are unacquainted with the artifices of trade, that we originally incurred the displeasure of the greatest part of the booksellers by keeping this magazine wholly in our own hands, without admitting any of that fraternity into a share of the property. For nothing is more criminal, in
the opinion of many of them, than for an author to enjoy more advantage from his own works than they are disposed to allow him. This is a principle so well established among them, that we can produce some who threatened printers with their highest displeasure, for their having dared to print books for those that wrote them.
Hinc iræ, hinc odia.
AN APPEAL TO THE PUBLICK.
This was the first ground of their animosity, which, for some time, proceeded no farther than private murmurs and petty discouragements. At length, determining to be no longer debarred from a share in so beneficial a project, a knot of them combined to seize our whole plan; and, without the least attempt to vary or improve it, began, with the utmost vigour to print and circulate the London Magazine, with such success, that in a few years, while we were printing the fifth edition of some of our earliest numbers, they had seventy thousand of their books returned, unsold, upon their hands.
It was then time to exert their utmost efforts to stop our progress, and nothing was to be left unattempted that interest could suggest. It will be easily imagined, that their influence, among those of their own trade, was greater than ours, and that their collections were, therefore, more industriously propagated by their brethren; but this, being the natural consequence of such a relation, and, therefore, excusable, is only mentioned to show the disadvantages against which we are obliged to struggle, and, to convince the reader, that we who depend so entirely upon his approbation, shall omit nothing to deserve it.
They then had recourse to advertisements, in which they, sometimes, made faint attempts to be witty, and, sometimes, were content with being merely scurrilous; but, finding that their attacks, while we had an opportunity of returning hostilities, generally procured them such treatment as very little contributed to their reputation, they came, at last, to a resolution of excluding us from the newspapers in which they have any influence: by this
means they can, at present, insult us with impunity, and without the least danger of confutation.
Their last, and, indeed, their most artful expedient, has been to hire and incite the weekly journalists against us. The first weak attempt was made by the Universal Spectator; but this we took not the least notice of, as we did not imagine it would ever come to the knowledge of the publick.
Whether there was then a confederacy between this journal and Common Sense's, as at present, between Common Sense and the Craftsman; or whether understandings of the same form receive, at certain times, the same impressions from the planets, I know not; but about that time war was, likewise, declared against us by the redoubted author of Common Sense; an adversary not so much to be dreaded for his abilities, as for the title of his paper, behind which he has the art of sheltering himself in perfect security. He defeats all his enemies by calling them "enemies to common sense," and silences the strongest objections and the clearest reasonings by assuring his readers that, " they are contrary to common sense.”
I must confess, to the immortal honour of this great writer, that I can remember but two instances of a genius able to use a few syllables to such great and so various purposes. One is, the old man in Shadwell, who seems, by long time and experience, to have attained to equal perfection with our author; for, "when a young fellow began to prate and be pert," says he, "I silenced him with my old word, Tace is Latin for a candle."
The other, who seems yet more to resemble this writer, was one Goodman, a horsestealer, who being asked, after having been found guilty by the jury, what he had to offer to prevent sentence of death from being passed upon him, did not attempt to extenuate his crime, but entreated the judge to beware of hanging a Good man.
This writer we thought, however injudiciously, worthy, not indeed of a reply, but of some correction, and in our magazine for December, 1738, and the preface to the
supplement, treated him in such a manner as he does not seem inclined to forget.
From that time, losing all patience, he has exhausted his stores of scurrility upon us; but our readers will find, upon consulting the passages above mentioned, that he has received too much provocation to be admitted as an impartial critick.
In our magazine of January, p. 24, we made a remark upon the Craftsman, and in p. 3, dropped some general observations upon the weekly writers, by which we did not expect to make them more our friends. Nor, indeed, did we imagine that this would have inflamed Caleb to so high a degree. His resentment has risen so much above the provocation, that we cannot but impute it more to what he fears than what he has felt. He has seen the solecisms of his brother, Common Sense, exposed, and remembers that,
-tua res agitur, paries cum proximus ardet.
He imagines, that he shall soon fall under the same censure, and is willing that our criticisms shall appear rather the effects of our resentment than our judgment.
For this reason, I suppose, (for I can find no other,) he has joined with Common Sense to charge us with partiality, and to recommend the London Magazine, as drawn up with less regard to interest or party. A favour, which the authors of that collection have endeavoured to deserve from them by the most servile adulation.
But, as we have a higher opinion of the candour of our readers, than to believe that they will condemn us without examination, or give up their right of judging for themselves, we are not unconcerned at this charge, though the most atrocious and malignant that can be brought against us. We entreat only to be compared with our rivals, in full confidence, that not only our innocence, but our superiority will appear.
f These prefaces are written with that warmth of zeal which characterizes all Johnson's efforts in behalf of his friends. He ever retained a grateful sense of the kindness shown to him by Cave, his earliest patron; and, when engaged
LETTER ON FIREWORKS &.
AMONG the principal topicks of conversation which now furnish the places of assembly with amusement, may be justly numbered the fireworks, which are advancing, by such slow degrees, and with such costly preparation.
The first reflection, that naturally arises, is upon the inequality of the effect to the cause. Here are vast sums expended, many hands, and some heads, employed, from day to day, and from month to month; and the whole nation is filled with expectations, by delineations and narratives. And in what is all this to end? in a building, that is to attract the admiration of ages? in a bridge, which may facilitate the commerce of future generations? in a work of any kind, which may stand as the model of beauty, or the pattern of virtue? To show the blessings of the late change of our state by any monument of these kinds, were a project worthy not only of wealth, and power, and greatness, but of learning, wisdom, and virtue. But nothing of this kind is designed; nothing more is projected, than a crowd, a shout, and a blaze: the mighty work of artifice and contrivance is to be set on fire for no other
in his undertakings, he regarded Cave's enemies or opposers as his own. We can only thus vindicate his contemptuous references to the UNIVERSAL SPECTATOR, which, though far inferior to that great work whose name it bears, is very respectable; nor, on any other consideration, can we account for his derision of COMMON SENSE, a periodical, enriched by the contributions of lord Chesterfield and lord Lyttelton; or of the CRAFTSMAN, which was conducted by Amhurst, the able associate of Bolingbroke and Pulteney. Neither can we, without thus considering his relative situation, acquit Johnson of incousistency in his strictures, who, in 1756, himself undertook the editorship of the LITERARY MAGAZINE, a work which might be viewed as the most formidable rival of the GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE. The full details of his connexion with this now venerable publication are given in the preface to the index of that work, published by Mr. Nichols.-ED.
Ś Inserted the Gentleman's Magazine, Jan. 1749.