« PreviousContinue »
published every Tuesday and Friday, in answer to the Mercator, or Commerce Retrieved.” cannot be supposed, that productions of this kind would long survive the occasion which gave
them birth; and it is probable, that Mercator and The British Merchant can now only be said to have once existed.
24. THE RHAPSODY.
25. THE HISTORIAN. Of these papers, over which time seems to have thrown nearly an impenetrable veil, I know nothing more than that it is with some probability we assign their publication to the period under discussion; their titles lead in some degree to a general conception of their contents.
26. The High GERMAN Doctor. This tissue of nonsense and political abuse was the production of one Philip Horneck, who is very deservedly stigmatized in the Dunciad of Pope. It consists of one hundred numbers, which were published twice a week; the first being dated May 4th, 1714, and the last May 12th, 1715. They were collected in 2 vols. 12mo, of which the first was published in 1715, and the second in 1719. After much loss of time in perusing this mass of ribaldry and inanity, I can safely declare that there is not a single paragraph in the work which merits preservation.
It should not be forgotten, that during a great part of the five years which this sketch embraces, three periodical papers, which were noticed in our first Essay illustrative of the Tatler, &c. continued to meet the public eye; the Rehearsal of Leslie, the British Apollo, and the Review of De Foe; the first expired in 1711, the second in the same year, and the third in 1713.
Such and so numerous were the periodical compositions that attempted to imitate and to rival the essays of Steele and Addison, whilst the town was yet daily receiving their elegant contributions. That they completely failed in their design, is evident from the circumstance, that not one of them, with the exception of the Lay Monastery, can be read with any degree of interest or pleasure; and even this small volume is so neglected and obscure, that it is now procured with much difficulty.
It was a step, indeed, fatal to the reputation and longevity of the greater number of the authors of these productions, that, when they found themselves incompetent to contend with their prototypes in wit, humour, or literature, they endeavoured to attract attention by depreciating and abusing what they could not imitate, and by presenting a copy which retained all the defects
in caricature, and scarcely any of the beauties of the original.
Of this charge we have sufficient proof from an appeal to their contemporaries; one of whom, in an Essay on the Present State of Wit, written in 1711, has remarked, that “they seemed at first to think that what was only the garnish of the former Tatlers, was that which recommended them, and not those substantial entertainments which they every where abound in.
“Accordingly, they were continually talking of their maid, night-cap, spectacles, and Charles Lillie. However, there were, now and then, some faint endeavours at humour, and sparks of wit, which the town, for want of better entertainment, was content to hunt after, through a heap of impertinencies: but even those are at present become wholly invisible, and quite swallowed up in the blaze of the Spectator.—
“ They found the new Spectator come on like a torrent, and sweep away all before him; they despaired ever to equal him ;-and, therefore, rather chose to fall on the author, and to call out for help to all good christians, by assuring them again and again, that they were the first original, true, and undisputed Isaac Bickerstaff.” *
To imitate the Tatler in its exterior, in its form * Swift's Works by Nichols, Svo ed. vol. 18, p. 40 and 41.
and subdivisions, as it originally commenced, was a task which might be executed by the most inferior writers; and consequently, Tatlers, addressed rather to the eye than to the understanding, inundated the press; to catch, however, the spirit which so abundantly animated the greater, and especially the latter, portion of this work, was an achievement beyond their strength, and, of course, the public soon justly consigned such imitators to oblivion.
SPECTATOR, AND THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE RAMBLER; WITH SOME GENERAL REMARKS ON THEIR TENDENCY AND
F so arduous proved the attempt to transplant the graces of the Tatler, the difficulty appeared tenfold enhanced when the Spectator became the object of rivalry; and though its imitators have been infinitely more numerous and respectable than were those of the Tatler, it may justly be said, that, if a few have made a near approach to its merits and construction, not one has altogether equalled its great and varied excellence.
From the close of the eighth volume of the Spectator on December 20th, 1714, to the appearance of the Rambler in 1750, we possess a long