« ForrigeFortsett »
hear a piper, or gaze upon a tumbler, and no company can keep together longer than they are diverted by sounds or shows.
All foreigners remark, that the knowledge of the common people of England is greater than that of any other vulgar. This superiority we undoubtedly owe to the rivulets of intelligence which are continually trickling among us, which every one may catch, and of which every one partakes.
This universal diffusion of instruction is, perhaps, not wholly without its inconveniences; it certainly fills the nation with superficial disputants; enables those to talk who were born to work; and affords information sufficient to elate vanity, and stiffen obstinacy, but too little to enlarge the mind into complete skill for full comprehension.
Whatever is found to gratify the public will be multiplied, by the emulation of venders beyond necessity or use. This plenty, indeed, produces cheapness, but cheapness always ends in negligence and depravation.
The compilation of newspapers is often committed to narrow and mercenary minds, not qualified for the task of delighting or instructing; who are content to fill their paper, with whatever matter, without industry to gather, or discernment to select.
Thus, journals are daily multiplied without increase of knowledge. The tale of the morning paper is told again in the evening, and the narratives of the evening are bought again in the morning. These repetitions, indeed, waste time, but they do not shorten it. The most eager peruser of news is tired before he has completed his labour; and many a man, who enters the coffee-house in his nightgown and slippers, is called away to his shop, or his dinner, before he has well considered the state of Europe.
It is discovered by Reaumur, that spiders might make silk, if they could be persuaded to live in peace together. The writers of news, if they could be confederated might give more pleasure to the public. The morning and evening authors might divide an event between them : a single action, and that not of much importance, might be gradually discovered, so as to vary a whole week with joy, anxiety, and conjecture.
We know that a French ship of war was lately taken by a ship of England ; but this event was suffered to burst upon us all at once, and then what we knew already was echoed from day to day, and from week to week.
Let us suppose these spiders of literature to spin together, and inquire to what an extensive web such another event might be regularly drawn, and how six morning and six evening writers might agree to retail their articles.
On Monday Morning the captain of a ship might arrive, who left the Friseur of France, and the Bulldog, Captain Grim, in sight of one another, so that an engagement seemed unavoidable.
Monday Evening. A sound of cannon was heard off Cape Finisterre, supposed to be those of the Bulldog and Friseur.
Tuesday Morning. It was this morning reported, that the Bull-dog engaged the Friseur, yard-arm and yard-arm, three glasses and a half, but was obliged to sheer off for want of powder. It is hoped that inquiry will be made into this affair in a proper place.
Tuesday Evening. The account of the engagement between the Bull-dog and Friseur was premature.
Wednesday Morning. Another express is arrived, which brings news, that the Friseur had lost all her masts, and three hundred of her men, in the late en. gagement; and that Captain Grim is come into harbour much shattered.
Wednesday Evening. We hear that the brave Captain Grim, having expended his powder, proposed to enter the Friseur sword in hand; but that his lieutenant, the nephew of a certain nobleman, remonstrated against it.
Thursday Morning. We wait impatiently for a full account of the late engagement between the Bull-dog and Friseur.
Thursday Evening. It is said the order of the Bath will be sent to Captain Grim.
Friday Morning. A certain Lord of the Admiralty has been heard to say of a certain captain, that if he had done his duty, a certain French ship might have been taken. It was not thus that merit was rewarded in the days of Cromwell.
Friday Evening. There is certain information at the Admiralty, that the Friseur is taken, after a resistance of two hours.
Saturday Morning. A letter from one of the gunners of the Bull-dog, mentions the taking of the Friseur, and attributes their success wholly to the bravery and resolution of Captain Grim, who never owed any of his advancement to borough-jobbers, or any other corrupters of the people.
Saturday Evening. Captain Grim arrived at the Admiralty, with an account that he engaged the Friseur, a ship of equal force with his own, off Cape Finisterre, and took her, after an obstinate resistance, having killed one hundred and fifty of the French, with the loss of ninety-five of his own men. N° 8. SATURDAY, JUNE 3, 1758.
"To THE IDLER. SIR, ! In the time of public danger, it is every man's duty to withdraw his thoughts in some measure from his private interest, and employ part of his time for the general welfare. National conduct ought to be the result of national wisdom, a plan formed by mature consideration and diligent selection out of all the schemes which may be offered, and all the information which can be procured.
'In a battle, every man should fight as if he was the single champion; in preparations for war, every man should think, as if the last event depended on his counsel. None can tell what discoveries are within his reach, or how much he may contribute to the public safety.
Full of these considerations, I have carefully reviewed the process of the war, and find, what every other man has found, that we have hitherto added nothing to our military reputation : that at one time we have been beaten by enemies whom we did not see; and, at another, have avoided the sight of enemies lest we should be beaten.
Whether our troops are defective in discipline or in courage, is not very useful to inquire; they evidently want something necessary to success; and he that shall supply that want will deserve well of his country.
* To learn of an enemy has always been accounted politic and honourable; and, therefore, I hope it will raise no prejudice against my project, to confess that I borrowed it from a Frenchman.
• When the isle of Rhodes was, many centuries ago, in the hands of that military order now called the Knights of Malta, it was ravaged by a dragon, who inhabited a den under a rock, from which he issued forth when he was hungry or wanton, and without fear or mercy devoured men and beasts as they came in his way. Many councils were held, and many devices offered, for his destruction; but as his back was armed with impenetrable scales, none would venture to attack him. At last Dudon, a French knight, undertook the deliverance of the island. From some place of security he took a view of the dragon, or, as a modern soldier would say, reconnoitred him, and observed that his belly was naked and vulnerable. He then returned home to take his arrangements; and, by a very exact imitation of nature, made a dragon of pasteboard, in the belly of which he put beef and mutton, and accustomed two sturdy mastiffs to feed themselves by tearing their way to the concealed flesh. When his dogs were well practised in this method of plunder, he marched out with them at his heels, and shewed them the dragon; they rushed upon him in quest of their dinner; Dudon battered his skull, while they lacerated his belly; and neither his sting nor claws were able to defend him.
Something like this might be practised in our present state. Let a fortification be raised on Salisburyplain, resembling Brest, or Toulon, or Paris itself, with all the usual preparation for defence: let the enclosure be filled with beef and ale; let the soldiers, from some proper eminence, see shirts waving upon lines, and here and there a plump landlady hurrying about with pots in their hands. When they are sufficiently animated to advance, lead them in exact order, with fife and drum, to that side whence the wind blows, till they come within the scent of roast