ePub 版

27-MAR 1969

Or, Weekly Literary and Scientific Intelligencer.

"Imitatio vitæ speculum consuetudinis, imago veritatis."-CICERO

Price 3 d.]


[No. 1. Vol. I.

"Mon vie est devaut nous le passe avec ses regrets, le present avec ses lariues, Favenir avec ses esperauces."


IN making my debut on the literary

stage it may be thought that I should follow the example of my predecessors, Mr. Spectator, The Mirror, and other literati, and give, as an exordium, a succinct sketch of myself, my birth, fortunes, and parentage-with a description of my person-my various employments and avocations- the talents and capabilities of which I presume to be possessed with a few other desultory particulars-all of which would be considered uninteresting and verbose, if it were not that such partial traits may prove the best delineations of my true and undisguised character. I am no painter - no phisi. ognomist; nor have I the ability to pourtray men's beauties or deformities in a skilful and well written draught upon paper; but notwithstanding all my incapacities, I will proceed to deliver a laconic history of myself, and will occupy the whole of the department of this my first number in gratification of my egotism.

I am not a college pedant, full of flippant airs, just emerged from the scholastic prison of his Alma Mater; I am not a young hero, returned from wars and campaigns, and loaded with honours that dazzle and captivate; I have not accomplished a series of peregrinations over the classic soil of those enchanting countries, which description and imagination have almost rendered fairy, and come home to astonish my friends by the tomes of wonder I shall relate; I am not of noble birth, nor can I claim the pri vileges of title and estate; and on the other hand, I was not conceived and brought forth in the attic of a parish


poor house. My career opened in a sphere between these two extremes; and without much fluctuation for better or for worse, it still continues in the same middling orbit. My parents could boast of reputable origin; and my father made no inconsiderable figure in the town in which he lived, while my mother had her fame for the punctilio and exactness with which she managed her domestic establishment. A large family was the fruit of this connection, but, notwithstanding, fortune enabled my father to extend to all his offspring a liberal education. I was early sent from home and placed under sufficient tntors; if I did not take the advantage of the opportunity I had to improve, the fault is my own. My father was a shrewd man, and a close observer of human nature. He knew that our successes in this world are continually exposed to the alloy of numerous vicissitudes, which may come upon us unforeseen, and sweep us, in a moment, from the pinnacle of prosperity to the lowest fathom of misfortune.

"Nihil tam firmum est."-

He was sensible, that to supply the head with nothing but the gems of erudition was, as it were, to sow so many seeds, from which poverty might spring: to provide against being thrown upon the world with helpless fingers, he wisely instructed me in the profession which he himself pursued. I grew, and prospered as I increased in years. 1 was rather passionate when young, but time and reflection have taught me to endure crosses in a becoming manner. I was ever ready to forgive; and never quarrelled but with regret. I have now arrived at a happy period

of existence. Old age has not chiseled on my brow the stern furrows of decay; nor am I so young as to be a perfect novice, and insensible to all the arts and tricks played upon life's platform. I have lived long enough to feel warranted in making my own observations; and not to trust implicitly to the opinions of others; and I am conceited enough to suppose, that I can discriminate, at times, in an orthodox manner, upon subjects of right or wrong. In matters of ratiocination, I like to broach my opinions, and have often so exercised my logical faculties as to argue and dispute with credit to myself. I may have a little wit-a little gaiety - a little satire-a little learning and a little true wisdom;-I may be handsome in person, and engaging in manner and address--but of these it becomes me not to boast lest I be eventually found wanting in these essentials, and thus, by my falsehood, subject myself to be contemned of the world as a liar and a boaster. After this rodo

montade concerning myself and my various attributes, my friends may be inclined to remind me of the terse and apposite adage:

"A man of words, and not of deeds,

Is like a garden full of weeds ;" And, at the same time, caution me against blasting their expectations (I here speak as though I were assured all my readers have formed alike a good opinion of me) under penalty of receiving their severe censure.

I am unmarried, which may perhaps be thought a fault; however, I mention this in order that my female encouragers may know where to find a Calebs when Cupid moves them to marry. Having therefore neither wife nor children to engage my affections, to command my attention, or to assuage by their carresses the chequerings and vicissitudes our nature engenders, I feel as though I were alone in the world. Every wish I have to gratify must be effected by my own ingenuity; every grievance that oppresses me can only be alleviated by my own struggles against despondence. I love reading; it has its gratifications when every thing beside wears an insipid mien. One particular failing I admit: pursue in y musings with too great eagerness the phantoms of hope" and "listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy."


What little evil, however, accrues from these unprofitable thoughts, falls to my own sufferance; and while I condemn myself in the encouragement of them, I cannot but be gratified in the thought, that these shadowy risings injure not my neighbour. 1 like a companion whose thoughts and conversation assimilate to my own; but I am not forward in cultivating acquaintances. Such is my disposition, that I feel little desire to stir abroad; yet I am not an anchorite, nor am I morose in my seclusions. Many an hour I pass in my study-poring over an author who has become dry in his antiquity;or feeding on the light and facetious affection of a child of the muses; or, at times, wearing an evening away in tasting of the rich banquet set down by the exotic and classic few. The wind that moves as it brushes by the lattice of my room sometimes awakes me from my cogitations, and drives me (I know not why it should) into one of those atrabilarious fits which depress the mind to such a degree as to bereave it of all relish for worldly enjoyment and comfort. It is strange why so common a sound as that of the wind, should thus create despondence when there is -no seeming and palpable cause for it. When this is the case I become absorbed in a melancholy reverie; descanting upon earthly frailty and earthly insignificance, &c. &c., and work myselfup sometimes, to such a pitch as to feel as if I could relinquish life with a smile. Whether this is a proof of my mental weakness or not, I shall leave my readers to determine.

My whole life is, as near as possible, a monotonous repetition of employments through each succeeding day. I have long been wearied of this, but, knew not how to diversify this systematic existence. I found that I increased in years without reputation or honour. I thought what an unprofitable creature I shall have been if I am thus born, and receive a good quantum of days to expend as my life, and yet descend again to the earth without having secured one honourable bay that will adorn my bier when death has despoiled my form. Musing one night over an old tract, I indulged for a moment the thought that 1 might discover another Georgian Sidus-but it was the image of a moment, I found that

the optics nature had supplied could not accomplish this without such assistance as was beyond my reach; I therefore surrendered to the impossibility. My next thought was to invent a balloon with such appendages, as would enable the excursor to guide his vehicle through the regions of ether, with as much ease as a gentleman can manage his curricle with tractable horses, over terra firma. Alas! as might be supposed, I failed here also. I then nnsuccessfully dived into plans for improving the growth of cucumbersbettering the condition of societyaltering the poor laws-additional experiments in agriculture-discovering the perpetual motion-new tactics in the art of war and fortification-with half-a-score et ceteras. I found a hiatus in each of my speculations; so not a little piqued, I abandoned my schemes, and proceeded to the perusal of my pamphlet.

I was soon again arrested: whether it was my own secured brain or some fanciful elf, I know not, but one or the other urged me to turn Author. I wonder why I never thought of this before. I was then at a loss what to write about; but after much vexation and reasoning, I determined to begin a periodical paper and insert therein my thoughts and sentiments on "Men and Manners," &c. &c. in like manner to Addison, Steele, Johnson, Mackenzie, and others. I must own that it was not very modest in me thus threatening to despoil these worthies of a part of their glories; but I had the diffidence (and be it understood that I yet feel it) to suppose that I should fail in the attempt. I marvel much whether my paper will deserve any better fare than that of being sold to a snuff seller: to prevent this, however, it shall be my endeavour to annex unto my observations, upon the same sheet, such other articles as may amuse, when my composition has failed to please. I have determined that this little Intelligencer shall not be entirely occupied by my own babbling, but shall ever give place to matter that I am assured will gratify and instruct.

I cannot but acknowledge, that in announcing this publication, I am moved with uanity enough to suppose that I shall derive a little fame from my labours. Surely this weakness may be pardoned; since, it is well known that every one, in

all his pursuits, more or less, has this in view. It is as natural as it is a paltry foible. When we think how flimsy the prize is that is so eagerly pursued, and that it seldom reaches its votary but as a posthumous honour, we are constrained to wonder at the infatuation of men, in thus striving to obtain a chaplet that may adorn the front of a bust, but can never repay their many anxieties by our substantial benefit, while life is spared them to enjoy it. Yet it is necessary that this thirst for glory should stimulate us to exertion; or, I fear, that few individuals would be found sufficiently philanthropic and virtuous as to be induced to spend their lives and fortunes over the accomplishment of some object which had no other characteristic than that of being a mere duty. They hope to gain a name; they look to the satisfaction of being praised by their fellow-men. But I do not mean to say, that in consequence, they have no good object in view; and, I trust, that my readers will not imagine that the Babbler is only excited to this work by the hope he may possess of deriving therefrom a moiety of fame. I hope something more will accrue from it, and that I shall have the felicity of knowing that my abilities are not exercised in vain, and that my readers will not go "empty away."

Thus much of myself, by way of prologue. I may not again have an opportunity of monopolizing attention upon my own person. It is a difficult task for a man to give a faithful picture of himself; I have felt it so; and am sensible of having overlooked the enumeration of many particulars. My name may perhaps create a little surprise. Some young Miss may imagine that I have come forth for the purpose of babbling out a host of love intrigues and adventures; and may grasp at my paper with a hope of being amused by its detail on chivalrous knights and broken-hearted maidens: the wary politician may extend his ear to catch a babble of state secrets; the gossip may look forward with pleasure to my becoming a pleasant winter's evening companion, there to introduce to her a full account of each varied occurrence which has occupied her neighbour during the week. I wish not to offend any party when I say, that my paper is not offered for any of these express

purposes; but merely a brief chronicle or repository of such articles as are humble in their natures-instructive in their precepts-and free from rancour and defamation.

Adieu! my dear readers, until my next, THE BABBLER.


The Northamptonshire Peasant.

When we behold genius and virtue struggling with misfortune, we feel an anxiety about the contest, and humanity prompts us to stretch forth an helping hand in aid of the distressed. The life of John Clare, is but a narrative of one whom Nature has favoured with many extraordinary abilities; but, alas! whom poverty holds in thraldom: he is rich in fancy; but stricken by the cold and cheerless hand of want. If talent were only raised when matured by prosperity; if the pure flame of poesy only were ignited when supplied with riches for fuel; may we not say, how few poets, philosophers, and good men would have graced the world by this time. Genius does not only grow under the pampering sunshine of wealth; but is frequently brought into being in the puny haunts of the peasant and the ploughman. When this is the case, how much more interesting does each germ of rising ability appear in our observation; it has to grapple against cramping indigence, and when it rises triumphant through every obstacle, and shines out an illustrious star, how prized it becomes, and how cherished by fame. It is astonishing how the humble poet will sing, though depressed in circumstances, and of so low a situation as, to screen him from notice, apparently for ever. He can have no expectation of reaping a portion of those laurels which are bestowed on the learned and erudite. In his bosom is only felt the throbbing of Nature's impulse; and art and cultivation have done little or nothing to give them a classic language, whereby to be divulged. But what of that? the heart is swelled with admiration of things which surround; and it breaks out in expression of its feelings, in the plain and simple language of which it is possessed. The "gowin,' the kingcup,' and the 'primrose,' are the themes of unrefined poesy.

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The 'spinney,' the waterfall,' and the
'moss-grown glacis,'excite delight in the
unclassic poet, when a vista of a nobler
and a more exalted nature might fail to
be cherished. This arises, however,
from want of education, from having
had little reading, and from being al-
ways immured in the circuit where the
bard has his home. But, however, we
may be more delighted with a well-
concerted and extensive poem, yet we
cannot condemn the simple beauties of
rural scenery being made the subject of
praise. Surely art falls into disrepute
when placed in competition with the
works of God. The lilly has its beau-
teous departments, and when truly
esteemed, may be only exalted to the
praise of its Maker. Clare seems deep-
ly imbued with admiration of nature's
works; and as he depicts their cha
racter, however humble it may be, he
rarely fails to excite a reciprocal feeling
in the breast of his readers. This, truly,
is the intention of poetry; and when
it is succeeded in, our need of approba-
tion assuredly ought to be extended.
Clare has had, we think, more of severe
poverty to wrestle with, than any of his
contemporaries. He is of a virtuous
and temperate life; and therefore has
suffered his woes without seeking to
lull them in riot and debauchery. He
has been the object of much benefi-
cence since his muse burst into obser-
vation. As his fame goes hand in hand
with the purchase of his happiness, and
his publications are intended to pro-
duce the means of life, as well as the
glory of the poet, we are induced to
bring the character of Clare before the
public. We cannot do this in a better
shape than by placing the particulars
of his life, from the cradle to the pre-
sent period, before our readers. We
believe him to have written originally
without either hope of reward or ex-
pectation of honours, and that he truly
felt what he says in his "Effusion to.

"And poor, and vain, and press'd beneath
Oppression's scorn although I be,
Still will I bind my simple wreath,
Still will I love thee, Poesy."

John Clare was born at Helpstone, near Peterborough, Northamptonshire, on the 13th of July, 1793. The ancestors of his father and mother. Parker and Ann Clare, it is supposed, were poor, and they have been the sufferers of extreme poverty them

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