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"A nice distinction, truly," cries Addison; "Audience fit, though few."
"Few, sir? why, we print three thousand; and we shall print as many when the stamp doubles our price. Our customers will never stand upon a shilling a week. And, besides, those who support the government will rejoice in the opportunity of paying the tax. I shouldn't wonder if the stamp doubled our sale."
'Very sanguine, Mr. Buckley."
"Sanguine, sir? Who wouldn't be sanguine, when rare wits like you condescend to write for the Town. There is Doctor Swift, too, I hear, has been writing penny paper after penny paper. A fine hand, gentlemen! Are we to go back to our old ignorant days because of a red stamp? We must go on improving. Look at my printing-office, and see if we are not improved. Why, Sir Roger L'Estrange, when he set up the Intelligencer fifty years ago, gave notice that he would publish his one book a week, 'to be published every Thursday, and finished upon the Tuesday night, leaving Wednesday entire for the printing it off." And now I, gentlemen-Heaven forbid I should boast,—can print your Spectator off every day, and not even want the copy more than three days before the publication. Think of that, gentlemen, a halfsheet every day. A hundred years hence nobody will believe it."
"You are a wonderful man, Mr. Buckley, and we are all very grateful to you," says the laughing
eyed Essayist. "But, talking of a hundred years hence, who can say that our moral and mechanical improvements are to stop here? I can imagine a time when every handicraft in the country shall read; when the footman behind the carriage shall read; when the Irish chairman shall read; and when your Intelligencer shall hear of a great battle on the Wednesday morning, and have a full account of it published on the Thursday.”
"That, sir, with all submission, is actually impossible; and surely you are joking when you talk of the vulgar learning to read, and taking delight in reading. Reading will never go lower than our shopkeepers, I think."
"I wonder," interposes Addison, "what the people would read a hundred years hence, if they had the ability? They must have books especially suited to their capacities."
Vision of Mirza,' and
"They would read your know something about your Sir Roger de Coverley.""
"Come, come, Diccon, don't be sarcastic. thought I was pitching my key low enough to suit our fops, and our courtiers, and our coffee-house loungers; but to be relished by the rabble! A pinch of snuff, if you please."
"If I could see the day," replies Steele, "when we had a nation of readers, and books could circulate rapidly through the whole country, I would leave the Town to mend its follies as it best might, and set up for a teacher of the People. We would
make your press do ten times its present work then, Mr. Buckley."
"Ah, sir, great men like you always have their dreams. I once knew a very clever man who fancied the mail would some time or other go to York in three days. Poor man, he was very nearly mad."
Addison whispers to his friend that the printer would number him amongst the Bedlam candidates if he propounded any more of his speculations; and then, drawing himself up with greater dignity, rejoices the honest printer's heart by a memorable declaration :-"Come what may, we shall go on in spite of the Stamp. There, Mr. Buckley, is the copy for No. 445, Thursday, July 31, which announces our resolve. We will not be cashiered by Act of Parliament."
IN one of the many courts on the north side of Fleet Street, might be seen, somewhere about the year 1820, the last of the ancient shoe-blacks. One would think that he deemed himself dedicated to his profession by Nature, for he was a Negro. At the earliest dawn he crept forth from his neighbouring lodging, and planted his tripod on the quiet pavement, where he patiently stood till noon was past. He was a short, large-headed, son of Africa, subject, as it would appear, to considerable variations of spirits, alternating between depression and excitement, as the gains of the day presented to him the chance of having a few pence to recreate himself, beyond what he should carry home to his wife and children. For he had a wife and children, this last representative of a falling trade; and two or three little woolly-headed décrotteurs nestled around him when he was idle, or assisted in taking off the roughest of the dirt when he had more than one client. He watched, with a melancholy eye, the gradual improvement of the streets; for during some twenty or thirty years he had beheld all the world combining to ruin him. He saw the footpavements widening; the large flag-stones carefully laid down; the loose and broken piece, which dis
charged a slushy shower on the unwary foot, instantly removed: he saw the kennels diligently cleansed, and the drains widened: he saw experiment upon experiment made in the repair of the carriage-way, and the holes which were to him as the "old familiar faces" which he loved, filled up with a haste that appeared quite unnecessary, if not insulting. One solitary country shopkeeper, who had come to London once a year during a long life, clung to our sable friend; for he was the only one of the fraternity that he could find remaining, in his walk from Charing Cross to Cheapside. The summer's morning when that good man planted his foot on the three-legged stool, and desired him carefully to turn back his brown gaiters, and asked him how trade went with him, and shook his head when he learned that it was very bad, and they both agreed that new-fangled ways were the ruin of the country--that was a joyful occasion to him, for he felt that he was not quite deserted. He did not continue long to struggle with the capricious world.
"One morn we miss'd him on th' accustom'd stand."
He retired into the workhouse; and his boys, having a keener eye than their father to the wants of the community, took up the trade which he most hated, and applied themselves to the diligent removal of the mud in an earlier stage of its accumulation-they swept crossings, instead of cleaning
The last of the ancient Shoe-blacks belongs to