To The Editor of Le Beau Monde
I am an author without money; I do not say I am a poor author. I work propter famem and propter famam, but in spite of all my exertions, and the heartiest good-will in the world, I cannot satisfy the one or acquire the other; yet I do everything, from the acrostic to the epic poem; all is in my range and indeed my mind.
Naturam amplectitur omnem.
Some years ago I had a play acted at Drury Lane; a vile conspiracy threw it to the ground; I still tremble while I think of it;
Nor can I understand the reason of so dreadful a catastrophe; for you must know that I had heaped into five acts of immeasurable length, ten murders, three fires and an earthquake. The piece concluded with the deluge; and you will confess that after having assassinated, burnt, and swallowed up, actors, actresses, and even the prompter himself, it was indispensable to drown them, that I might make sure nothing should escape the general destruction. Pity and terror were carried to their highest pitch, and I had in this instance exactly followed the rules of Aristotle. The public gave me no credit for all this, and I received such a hissing as never had been endured since the memory of man.
To revenge myself on my enemies, I darted at them a satire in heroic verse; but it was considered as rather unseasonable, and a heavy shower of rattans was the only answer to the numberless severities which I had strung together.
I then abandoned satire as a bad trade, and began composing odes and dithyrambics; Pindar was my model, and like him, I made a deeply-involved hodge-podge, which every body was so ill-natured as not to understand; it is true I did not understand it myself; but I intended to do well, and that should have contented the public; I think mine were as good as Mr. Moore's Hebe or his Genius of Harmony, at any rate.
Quidquid agunt homines, intentio judicat omnes
Fatigued, but not overcome by so many disasters, in a career where I had promised myself, at once, gold and laurels; I renounced odes, dithyrambics and Pindar, in order to devote myself entirely to historical romances. After working four months, I created and brought to the light, a work entitled, Caligula, an epicæne production, in which, after the example of Madame de Genlis, I altered at will, chronological history, without encumbering myself too much with truth. This new essay had no success; the bookseller came off with the loss of his money, and I with the loss of my labor.
To compensate my bookseller for this misfortune, I made him a present of a political manuscript on the different interests of the continental powers; but the reasoning was so subtle, that nobody could comprehend it; I am not sure that I comprehend it myself; but be that as it may, at the end of a fortnight, no more was said of the author or his pamphlet. I had begun the bookseller's ruin by my novel; I completed it by my political tract.
- damnatus inani
I did not consider myself beaten; and as the universality of my genius left me great choice in the different branches of literature, for I am indeed,
I threw myself boldly into the enigma, a style of writing for which I am most eminently qualified. But here I was too late; for a wit who writes in the Ladies Pocket Books, prevented my successes. I guessed a conundrum in one of the newspapers; I put my explanation into verse; I sent it to the office at three o'clock in the morning; but this hateful rival gained the prize and the honors.
Hors ego versiculos feci, tulit alter honores
This was enough to provoke a saint-much more an author. Some men in my situation would have hung themselves; but I considered that this would punish no one but myself, and I resolved on living to revenge myself on the town. In this laudable intention, I sought a subject which might rouse mankind from their lethargy; and after long reflections, and a profound examination of the perverse taste of my contemporaries, I composed, like the author of Thalaba and Madoc, an epic romance, and placed my hero and heroine in uncultivated regions, where they were obliged to work hard, travel often, fight much, and eat little. The public had denied me the credit of fancy; here proved that I possess a fancy, not indeed so prolific as that of the before mentioned author of Joan of Arc, or that of the no less classical writer of Lyrical Ballads, but quite as wild, weak, wandering, and irregular. My romance had not much common sense-indeed it had nothing common-but this fault, if fault it can be called, was redeemed by a natural style; a style indeed so natural, that it escaped the keen eye of understanding, the quick scent of grammar, and the doubling pursuit of analysis; of course I had a right to expect an almost unparalleled success. Vain hope!
Et de l'espoire humain étrange aveuglement!
The Reviewers had the impertinence to call me fool and madman; but I replied to their epithets, by an appeal to posterity, which I formally announced to these vile pamphleteers. They laughed at me, my appeal, and posterity; some of my hungry rivals joined in the cry; and burlesqued me in so ridiculous a manner, that I no longer durst venture abroad.
I now made a solemn oath to write no more, and leave my pen to eternal repose; but how can resist his genius?
Naturam expellas furcá, tamen usque recurret
The scribendi cacoethes seized me more furiously than ever:
I determined to write, but how should I succeed? A luminous idea, a sudden ætherial ray, shot unexpectedly upon my mind and dissipated the obscurity of my intellect; I discovered with unspeakable joy, that I ought to attribute my numerous failures to a want of quackery: my self-love was deliciously flattered with the reflection that success in this world depends not on the worth of things themselves, but on the manner of pushing them forward; and that if I had called myself a Scotchman, made Ballantyne my printer, and procured for my works a notice in the Edinburgh Review, I should be at this day in the third heaven of literature.
A French philosopher jocosely observes, that to succeed in this world, "il faut etre plus adroit que droit." This maxim I treasure in my memory, and recommend to all my fellow authors. Do me the favor to announce it to the world, through the medium of your Magazine and believe me, Mr. Editor,
Your unfortunate servant,