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must own to be very necessary, and to have produced very salutary effects.

I am, indeed, surprised that this great office is not drawn out into a longer series of deputations; since it might afford a gainful and reputable employment to a great number of the friends of the government; and, I should think, instead of having immediate recourse to the deputy-licenser himself, it might be sufficient honour for any poet, except the laureate, to stand bareheaded in the presence of the deputy of the deputy's deputy in the nineteenth subordination.

Such a number cannot but be thought necessary, if we take into consideration the great work of drawing up an index expurgatorius to all the old plays; which is, I hope, already undertaken, or, if it has been hitherto unhappily neglected, I take this opportunity to recommend.

The productions of our old poets are crowded with passages very unfit for the ears of an English audience, and which cannot be pronounced without irritating the minds of the people.

This censure I do not confine to those lines in which liberty, natural equality, wicked ministers, deluded kings, mean arts of negotiation, venal senates, mercenary troops, oppressive officers, servile and exorbitant taxes, universal corruption, the luxuries of a court, the miseries of the people, the decline of trade, or the happiness of independency, are directly mentioned. These are such glaring passages, as cannot be suffered to pass without the most supine and criminal negligence. I hope the vigilance of the licensers will extend to all such speeches and soliloquies as tend to recommend the pleasures of virtue, the tranquillity of an uncorrupted head, and the satisfactions of conscious innocence; for though such strokes as these do not appear to a common eye to threaten any danger to the government, yet it is well known to more penetrating observers, that they have such consequences as cannot be too diligently obviated, or too cautiously avoided.

A man, who becomes once enamoured of the charms of

virtue, is apt to be very little concerned about the acquisition of wealth or titles, and is, therefore, not easily induced to act in a manner contrary to his real sentiments, or to vote at the word of command; by contracting his desires, and regulating his appetites, he wants much less than other men; and every one versed in the arts of government can tell, that men are more easily influenced, in proportion as they are more necessitous.

This is not the only reason why virtue should not receive too much countenance from a licensed stage; her admirers and followers are not only naturally independent, but learn such an uniform and consistent manner of speaking and acting, that they frequently, by the mere force of artless honesty, surmount all the obstacles which subtilty and politicks can throw in their way, and obtain their ends, in spite of the most profound and sagacious ministry. Such, then, are the passages to be expunged by the licensers in many parts, indeed, the speeches will be imperfect, and the action appear not regularly conducted, but the poet laureate may easily supply these vacuities, by inserting some of his own verses in praise of wealth, luxury, and venality.

But alas! all those pernicious sentiments which we shall banish from the stage, will be vented from the press, and more studiously read, because they are prohibited.

I cannot but earnestly implore the friends of the government to leave no art untried, by which we may hope to succeed in our design of extending the power of the licenser to the press, and of making it criminal to publish any thing without an IMPRIMATUR.

How much would this single law lighten the mighty burden of state affairs! With how much security might our ministers enjoy their honours, their places, their reputations, and their admirers, could they once suppress those malicious invectives which are, at present, so industriously propagated, and so eagerly read; could they hinder any arguments but their own from coming to the ears of the people, and stop effectually the voice of cavil and inquiry!

I cannot but indulge myself a little while, by dwelling on this pleasing scene, and imagining those halcyon days, in which no politicks shall be read but those of the Gazetteer, nor any poetry but that of the laureate; when we shall hear of nothing but the successful negotiations of our ministers, and the great actions of

How much happier would this state be, than those perpetual jealousies and contentions which are inseparable from knowledge and liberty, and which have, for many years, kept this nation in perpetual commotions!

But these are times, rather to be wished for than expected, for such is the nature of our unquiet countrymen, that, if they are not admitted to the knowledge of affairs, they are always suspecting their governours of designs prejudicial to their interest; they have not the least notion of the pleasing tranquillity of ignorance, nor can be brought to imagine, that they are kept in the dark, lest too much light should hurt their eyes. They have long claimed a right of directing their superiours, and are exasperated at the least mention of secrets of state.

This temper makes them very readily encourage any writer or printer, who, at the hazard of his life or fortune, will give them any information: and, while this humour prevails, there never will be wanting some daring adventurer who will write in defence of liberty, and some zealous or avaricious printer who will disperse his papers.

It has never yet been found that any power, however vigilant or despotick, has been able to prevent the publication of seditious journals, ballads, essays, and dissertations; "Considerations on the present state of affairs," and Enquiries into the conduct of the administration"."

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Yet I must confess, that, considering the success with which the present ministry has hitherto proceeded in their attempts to drive out of the world the old prejudices of patriotism and publick spirit, I cannot but entertain some

c Titles of pamphlets published at this juncture. The former by lord Lyttelton. See his works, vol i.

hopes, that what has been so often attempted by their predecessors, is reserved to be accomplished by their superiour abilities.

If I might presume to advise them upon this great affair, I should dissuade them from any direct attempt upon the liberty of the press, which is the darling of the common people, and, therefore, cannot be attacked without immediate danger. They may proceed by a more sure and silent way, and attain the desired end without noise, detraction, or oppression.

There are scattered over this kingdom several little seminaries, in which the lower ranks of people, and the youngest sons of our nobility and gentry are taught, from their earliest infancy, the pernicious arts of spelling and reading, which they afterwards continue to practise, very much to the disturbance of their own quiet, and the interruption of ministerial measures.

These seminaries may, by an act of parliament, be, at once, suppressed; and that our posterity be deprived of all means of reviving this corrupt method of education, it may be made felony to teach to read without a license from the lord chamberlain.

This expedient, which I hope will be carefully concealed from the vulgar, must infallibly answer the great end proposed by it, and set the power of the court not only above the insults of the poets, but, in a short time, above the necessity of providing against them. The licenser, having his authority thus extended, will, in time, enjoy the title and the salary without the trouble of exercising his power, and the nation will rest, at length, in ignorance and peace.

OD

PREFACE TO THE GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE,

1738.

THE usual design of addresses of this sort is to implore the candour of the publick: we have always had the more pleasing province of returning thanks, and making our acknowledgments for the kind acceptance which our monthly collections have met with.

This, it seems, did not sufficiently appear from the numerous sale and repeated impressions of our books, which have, at once, exceeded our merit and our expectation; but have been still more plainly attested by the clamours, rage, and calumnies of our competitors, of whom we have seldom taken any notice, not only because it is cruelty to insult the depressed, and folly to engage with desperation, but because we consider all their outcries, menaces, and boasts, as nothing more than advertisements in our favour, being evidently drawn up with the bitterness of baffled malice and disappointed hope; and almost discovering, in plain terms, that the unhappy authors have seventy thousand London Magazines mouldering in their warehouses, returned from all parts of the kingdom, unsold, unread, and disregarded.

Our obligations for the encouragement we have so long continued to receive, are so much the greater, as no artifices have been omitted to supplant us. Our adversaries cannot be denied the praise of industry; how far they can be celebrated for an honest industry, we leave to the decision of the publick, and even of their brethren, the book- sellers, not including those whose advertisements they obliterated to paste their invectives in our book.

The success of the Gentleman's Magazine has given rise to almost twenty imitations of it, which are either all dead, or very little regarded by the world. Before we had published sixteen months, we met with such a general

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