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Reply To A Paper In The Gazetteer
by [?]

REPLY TO A PAPER IN THE GAZETTEER OF MAY 26, 1757 [1].

It is observed, in Le Sage’s Gil Bias, that an exasperated author is not easily pacified. I have, therefore, very little hope of making my peace with the writer of the Eight Days’ Journey; indeed so little, that I have long deliberated, whether I should not rather sit silently down, under his displeasure, than aggravate my misfortune, by a defence, of which my heart forbodes the ill success. Deliberation is often useless. I am afraid, that I have, at last, made the wrong choice, and that I might better have resigned my cause, without a struggle, to time and fortune, since I shall run the hazard of a new oifence, by the necessity of asking him, why he is angry.

Distress and terrour often discover to us those faults, with which we should never have reproached ourselves in a happy state. Yet, dejected as I am, when I review the transaction between me and this writer, I cannot find, that I have been deficient in reverence. When his book was first printed, he hints, that I procured a sight of it before it was published. How the sight of it was procured, I do not now very exactly remember; but, if my curiosity was greater than my prudence, if I laid rash hands on the fatal volume, I have surely suffered, like him who burst the box, from which evil rushed into the world.

I took it, however, and inspected it, as the work of an author not higher than myself; and was confirmed in my opinion, when I found, that these letters were not written to be printed. I concluded, however, that, though not written to be printed, they were printed to be read, and inserted one of them in the collection of November last. Not many days after, I received a note, informing me, that I ought to have waited for a more correct edition. This injunction was obeyed. The edition appeared, and I supposed myself at liberty to tell my thoughts upon it, as upon any other book, upon a royal manifesto, or an act of parliament. But see the fate of ignorant temerity! I now find, but find too late, that, instead of a writer, whose only power is in his pen, I have irritated an important member of an important corporation; a man, who, as he tells us in his letters, puts horses to his chariot.

It was allowed to the disputant of old to yield up the controversy, with little resistance, to the master of forty legions. Those who know how weakly naked truth can defend her advocates, would forgive me, if I should pay the same respect to a governour of the foundlings. Yets the consciousness of my own rectitude of intention incites me to ask once again, how I have offended.

There are only three subjects upon which my unlucky pen has happened to venture: tea; the author of the journal; and the foundling-hospital.

Of tea, what have I said? That I have drank it twenty years, without hurt, and, therefore, believe it not to be poison; that, if it dries the fibres, it cannot soften them; that, if it constringes, it cannot relax. I have modestly doubted, whether it has diminished the strength of our men, or the beauty of our women; and whether it much hinders the progress of our woollen or iron manufactures; but I allowed it to be a barren superfluity, neither medicinal nor nutritious, that neither supplied strength nor cheerfulness, neither relieved weariness, nor exhilarated sorrow: I inserted, without charge or suspicion of falsehood, the sums exported to purchase it; and proposed a law to prohibit it for ever.

Of the author I unfortunately said, that his injunction was somewhat too magisterial. This I said, before I knew that he was a governour of the foundlings; but he seems inclined to punish this failure of respect, as the czar of Muscovy made war upon Sweden, because he was not treated with sufficient honours, when he passed through the country in disguise. Yet, was not this irreverence without extenuation. Something was said of the merit of meaning well, and the journalist was declared to be a man, whose failings might well be pardoned for his virtues. This is the highest praise which human gratitude can confer upon human merit; praise that would have more than satisfied Titus or Augustus, but which I must own to be inadequate and penurious, when offered to the member of an important corporation.