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lustily, · Stop thief! I hate the sight of a mere animal, with not a sin. gle idea of his own in all his leaden cranium, sporting a sparkling thought, which · hangs upon the cheek of his intellectual night, like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear.' He reminds me of a ragged 'prentice boy stealing his master's best coat to wear of Sundays. I should be very much transported, if Mercury would transport all these word. thieves to some Botany-Bay, marked out and set apart for light-fingered and heavy-headed scribblers. There they might rob and vilify one another. But the vulgarly-selected and ill-assorted finery I spoke of a line or two above, differs widely from a gentleman's borrowing an occasional neck-cloth from some of his polished acquaintances, or exhibiting here and there a memento of his departed friends, such as a seal or a breast-pin. Writers with no capital of their own, are compelled to sub. sist by beggary or theft, while those of original and opulent resources have no necessity to filch, but can afford to borrow. Their reciprocal loans merely prove the presence of good feeling and the absence of envy, and do not involve a confession of poverty, or a renunciation of inde. pendence. But when I see one wretched author steadying his footsteps on the broken crutches of another, I reverse the stinging lines Englished by Dennis from Boileau :
• Thus one fool lolls his tongue out at another,
Quoting is doubtless of great advantage to the poor writer, or at least to his book. He can hardly find any thing inferior to his own manufacture; his quotations are all that can add dignity and value to the work ; and therefore the more he quotes, the better for him. I have seen books, of which the sole merit consisted in their “clippings,' and which, with. out these, would resemble that leathery and fibrous beef-steak, of which the more a man eats, the leaner and weaker he becomes, because the exhausting labor expended in its mastication more than neutralizes the aliment it yields! Such authors are at once philanthropists and mar. tyrs. While providing for the enjoyment of their readers, they inspire merely contempt for themselves; and, self-sacrificed to the welfare of their works, every quotation, which adds lustre and dignity to them, only deepens their own insignificance. But they are of great prejudice to the superior members of the same “irritable tribe,' the masters, and grand-masters of the goose-quill fraternity. For if the remark of Erasmus, · Laudari a laudatis viris est vera laus,' be true, the reverse is equally undeniable, that to be eulogized or quoted by a blockhead is a flagrant insult.
I have sometimes wished, therefore, that the Republic of Letters would pass an insolvent act of uniform and universal application, compelling every literary debtor to hand in his assets, liquidate all his just obligations, make four-fold restitution of all he stole, and indemnify his creditors to the extent in which he has damaged what he borrowed. All the improvements made should be adjudged his own, as being the fair earn. ings of his skill and industry. At all events, they might pass a bank. ing-bill, and enact a sumptuary law, the former providing that no author should negotiate a literary loan except from capitalists of his own means
and standing in the commonwealth, the latter prohibiting any writer from coming forth on holidays, or other days, decorated in a style above his visible resources, or his fair and legitimate credit. Then it would no longer be with men's spiritual, as it is with their bodily clothing. The mental robes and jewelry of our intellectual princes would no longer become the livery of their footmen, and descend from the lackeys to set off the apish antics and coarse buffoonery of Jack Puddings in the circus, till, at their lowest point of degradation, soiled, patched, and tawdry, they envelop with their · faded splendor' the smutched limbs of the chimney-sweeps and scavengers of Grub-street. Were the man of talenıs to be robbed of any of his elegant attire, he would not as now perspire with terror lest it should disgrace its former wearer by appear. ing on the person of a small-beer guzzler in a hedge-tavern. He would not shudder lest his blameless vest, his · Ultima Thule of a hat, or his · comme-il-faut and perfect coat should grace some rum one' among the “groundlings,' who, over a two-penny cold-cut,' and inspired by a glass of half-and-half,' woos his dozy' muse in the dialect of “flash.' His gold-headed cane would not wave jauntily in the hand of a beggarly literary •swell,' nor his diamond snuff-box, tapped by unpared finger-nails, awake the sternutations of a vulgar pedant. The scriblerian menials, the mobocrats among the literati, would revert to their natural and proper level, and, associating among themselves, and living upon each other, would fear to grasp heartily by the hand, and slap familiarly on the shoulder, the autocracy of mind. Then quotations would resume their legitimate office, tallying in some degree with the context, and a worthless book would not so often resemble a linsey.woolsey coat embroidered with gold-lace. Could a poor goose of an author then peep into the future, and see how he would be plucked by the geese among posterity, he might be reasonably content; for his starveling plumage would grow on cacklers of the same silly feather.
With a soothing foreknowledge of its fulfilment, he might put up the malicious prayer of the limping Demonides, (recorded by Plutarch in his tractate De Audiendis Poëtis,) who, on having his sandals stolen, hoped they might fit the feet of the thief: and so they did ; for the thief was a club-foot too.
Under the prevalence of the law proposed above, if a good author should choose to quote, his citations would match well with his own thoughts, and appear like • apples of gold in pictures of silver.' If the writer were one of surpassing brilliancy, and his own conceptions were superior to all he could borrow, he might still exert a magnanimous charity in adducing occasionally the sentiments and words of his inferiors, thus adding value to the valueless, and raising the lowly to the level of his own exaltation.
• What! Mr. Polygon! you would fence in the mind with harsh, illi. beral restrictions? You would establish monopoly of the flowers and the sunshine ? You would forbid the free, sweet breezes to blow on all alike?' No, Mr. Caviller! and I will wager my life you are a thievish author. We will forge no fetters. Your spiritual wings are free to fan and Autter in whatever airs beneath the canopy they will. You are privileged to catch upon your canvass whatever beautiful or awful hues yet unobserved by your rivals, may be cast by the light of
genius on the landscape of human history, the clouds of human passion or the sky of human thought. You are welcome to go herbalizing over all the world, and find whatever little flower you can yet lurking unseen and lovely in the nooks and by-ways of our nature. Nor will I address you, in the words of Horace, with the chilling counsel — itself a perfect flower :
"Mitte sectari rosa quo locorum
For, doubtless, many such undiscovered flowers there are, of exquisite texture, and many such hues, of delicate or gorgeous tint. All these you are permitted to appropriate to yourself, and to preserve 'cum privilegio.' But the great Garden of the Hesperides, planted ages ago, and every year enlarged and beautified with cost, and care, and warmth,' till it is full of golden fruitage and flowers of every hue, is still open for the enjoyment of the whole human race, and over it and through it flow all the breezes of "Araby the blest.' This garden is the property of universal man, and the visitors who linger enchanted in its walks, are warned • not to injure or purloin the Aowers.' You, Sir Author, are requested to tie up none of that breeze in your Æolian bags for the benefit of your little wind-mill; to steal none of those flowers to adorn your little nursery ; and to turn none of that sun-glow through your refracting-glass to focalize on your little hot-bed. Because, unless you have the genius to embellish what almost superhuman genius could alone create, you will take the beauty from the blossom, the warmth from the sunshine, and the freshness from the breeze, and will in so far subtract from the loveliness of earth, and lessen the happiness of her children.
Ladies, particularly the single, should be very careful how they quote. Passages of great power and splendor are often found in juxtaposition with foulness, flanked on each side by profligate sentiments and immoral scenes. In quoting such paragraphs, the fair authoress will be thought to have - eaten of the fruit of the forbidden tree,' and to have become familiar with knowledge inhibited by the conventional inquisition of society. She has peeped behind the Eleusinian curtain, and is of course too knowing to be perfectly innocent in thought. Does a lady cite those lines, so beautiful, so affecting, and I am afraid, so true:
•Man's love is of man's life a thing apart:
Is she not straightway supposed to have read all the flagrantly immoral descriptions preceding and following that touchingly natural epistle, in a poem of manifold and most masterly genius, it is true, yet of sentiments highly incorrect throughout, and of course outlawed by the canons of feminine propriety? It is true we have our expurgated' editions of the poets, and our · Anthologies,' and • Beauties,' where the sweet and modest sex may find passion winnowed from vice, and poetry apart from poison. The fair quoter may, in some cases, be supposed to have plucked her flowers from these purified boquets, and not to have inhaled the mingled fragrance of the whole garden; a 'wilderness of sweets,' whose diversified blossoms send forth noxious and wholesome odors till,
in the language of Junius, their united virtue tortures the sense.' Many ladies read the productions of unprincipled genius, and deny it afterward ; thus proving, by their readiness at falsehood, that those works have already had upon their native integrity their natural and dreadful operation. Why read them at all? They cannot be expurgated, except in purging them by fire.' My dear young lady, ask your father or your brother what you ought to read. They have knowledge of the world, they have strong clear sense, and they can tell you. And, by the way, it is a sad thought for one who desires the continued elevation of woman, by making her intellectual growth keep pace with and assist her moral development, that one half of the world's loveliest and most exalted literature is deformed by so many harsh passions, or debased by so much impure language and flagitious sentiment, that it is totally unfit for female perusal, since it either disgusts, embitters, or corrupts their pure and gentle natures.
Well, I have stretched my tether nearly to its end. There is, how. ever, a species of conversational quotation, on which I am inclined to make a few remarks before I close. It is that wherein soulless boobies quote expressions of strong poetic feeling, and heartless villains parade their sentiments of honor and virtuous emotion. I know that Satan has always "quoted Scripture,' and I know that his servants have always
stolen the livery of Heaven to serve the Devil in.' I know that hy. pocrisy was always the first lesson in villany, and that fair and seemly words have always been the mask for evil deeds. But it seems to me that the morality of the tongue has now become more universal and more perfect than ever. The cause is, that the age being universally addicted to reading, and books being of course crowded with noble sentiments, fine expressions are as plenty as black-berries. Every one has them at his tongue's end. It costs nothing to give expression to generous feeling; and it is really astonishing to see with what flippancy the most shallow will now drop the apothegms of wisdom; the most unfeel. ing display the ebullitions of passionate emotion ; and the most selfish utter the noble sentiments which have fallen on famous occasions from the lips of the magnanimous. This assumption of feeling, and this simulation of virtue, through stolen and sounding phrases, by those who have pot a faint idea of either of them, is, in my view, a heinous crime; and if he who has forged the name of another in business transactions, merits the elevation of the scaffold, much more should he be promoted to the same · bad eminence,' who counterfeits the riches of the mind and heart. Moral is far worse than pecuniary forgery; for the latter merely deranges the temporal interests and debases the monetary medium of the community, while the former depreciates the medium of feeling, and cheapens the currency of the soul. What a scandal, that a heavy, leaden-moulded mind, that has not one idea above matter, should pretend to be moved by poetry, and simulate a thrill of admiration at that which it has heard others admire! What a shame, that conscious selfishness and unadulterated meanness should assume sentiments of equity and bandy about emotions of generosity, which can now be obtained at every corner gratis! When I see a man noisily dashing down his money, I think he has but little ; and I feel the same suspicion of one
who is lavish of his noble sentiments on all occasions. Miss Edgeworth has written a novel — I forget the title — expressly to show how dangerous and justly suspicious are such · sententious' characters; and a very wide and a very fertile subject is it, and very well handled by her, if I remember rightly. A good man may talk very well — an accomplished villain certainly will. When you see one of these ó sententious' talkers, so smooth and oily, or so passionately sentimental, review his former conduct toward himself and others, and see whether it has been uniform, prudent, generous and just. If not, his eloquence is all lipwisdom; all smoke, sound, trash. And take this as my parting admonition : He who breaks his engagements with himself, will violate his promises to others; and he whom self-interest cannot restrain from selfdestruction, will hardly regard the welfare of his fellows. Receive it as an axiom, that he who is most prudent for himself, is most worthy of the confidence of his friends; and an enlarged self-thoughtfulness is the best security for integrity, and the surest criterion of worth. This doctrine may revolt the falsely liberal, and excite the indignation of the shallow sentimentalist; yet it is founded in reason and experience. In reason: for reason teaches us that every being must and ought to be thoughtful and toilsome for himself, and that if he be not so, é something is rotten in Denmark.' In experience: for experience tells us that those who neglect their own visible and proper interest, are influenced by some false sentiment or unworthy passion ; and this sentiment, or this passion, will also induce them to slight or trample on their duties in relation to the affairs of others. Deliver me from all business intercourse with those who are imbued with the finest and most delicate sentiments on trivial occasions ; who are tremblingly alive in all the chords of feeling; and who shrink and shudder in all cases where shuddering and shrinking are proofs of super-sublimated generosity. Avoid them. They are hypocrites, and arch deceivers. Their tears flow fast for ideal wo, theatrical distress and painted sorrow. But bring real afHic. tion before them ; press upon their nobleness the claims of justice and humanity, their hearts are hard as a rock, and their eyes as dry as a desert. This sickly sentimentalism is a curse to our nature. It is at the farthest possible remove from that true and noble humanity which prompts to generous exertion. True feeling does not dissolve in a few unfertilizing tears, nor exhale in ineffectual sighs. It incites to speedy and efficient action. Sentiment looks around with a deep groan, or a gentle sigh on the miseries of humanity, and folds its arms and wishes it were otherwise. Feeling wastes no time in empty protestations, but arouses its best energies to avert calamity or mitigate distress. Senti. ment wishes — Feeling acts. Sentiment sympathizes - Feeling coöperates. Sentiment becomes more and more enervate by indulgence, while Feeling grows hourly more vigorous by exercise. The one is the mimic virtue of a weak and selfish spirit, the other the highest excel. lence of a strong and noble nature. Were the one universally preva. lent, society would soon languish, and sicken, and die: were the other as general as its own spirit is expansive, this community of the world would instantly rise from its long prostration, and the evils of our lot be diminished to the hundredth of their present violence and multitude.