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A Project For The Employment Of Authors
by [?]

Having long studied the varieties of life, I can guess by every man’s walk, or air, to what state of the community he belongs. Every man has noted the legs of a tailor, and the gait of a seaman; and a little extension of his physiognomical acquisitions will teach him to distinguish the countenance of an author. It is my practice, when I am in want of amusement, to place myself for an hour at Temple-bar, or any other narrow pass much frequented, and examine, one by one, the looks of the passengers; and I have commonly found, that, between the hours of eleven and four, every sixth man is an author. They are seldom to be seen very early in the morning, or late in the evening, but about dinner time they are all in motion, and have one uniform eagerness in their faces, which gives little opportunity of discerning their hopes or fears, their pleasures or their pains.

But, in the afternoon, when they have all dined, or composed themselves to pass the day without a dinner, their passions have full play, and I can perceive one man wondering at the stupidity of the publick, by which his new book has been totally neglected; another cursing the French who fright away literary curiosity by their threats of an invasion; another swearing at his bookseller, who will advance no money without copy; another perusing, as he walks, his publisher’s bill; another murmuring at an unanswerable criticism; another determining to write no more to a generation of barbarians; and another resolving to try, once again, whether he cannot awaken the drowsy world to a sense of his merit.

It sometimes happens, that there may be remarked among them a smile of complacence, or a strut of elevation; but, if these favourites of fortune are carefully watched for a few days, they seldom fail to show the transitoriness of human felicity; the crest falls, the gaiety is ended, and there appear evident tokens of a successful rival, or a fickle patron.

But of all authors, those are the most wretched, who exhibit their productions on the theatre, and who are to propitiate first the manager, and then the publick. Many an humble visitant have I followed to the doors of these lords of the drama, seen him touch the knocker with a shaking hand, and, after long deliberation, adventure to solicit entrance by a single knock; but I never staid to see them come out from their audience, because my heart is tender, and being subject to frights in bed, I would not willingly dream of an author.

That the number of authors is disproportionate to the maintenance, which the publick seems willing to assign them; that there is neither praise nor meat for all who write, is apparent from this; that, like wolves in long winters, they are forced to prey on one another. The reviewers and critical reviewers, the remarkers and examiners, can satisfy their hunger only by devouring their brethren. I am far from imagining that they are naturally more ravenous or blood-thirsty than those on whom they fall with so much violence and fury; but they are hungry, and hunger must be satisfied; and these savages, when their bellies are full, will fawn on those whom they now bite.

The result of all these considerations amounts only to this, that the number of writers must at last be lessened, but by what method this great, design can be accomplished, is not easily discovered. It was lately proposed, that every man who kept a dog should pay a certain tax, which, as the contriver of ways and means very judiciously observed, would either destroy the dogs, or bring in money. Perhaps, it might be proper to lay some such tax upon authors, only the payment must be lessened in proportion as the animal, upon which it is raised, is less necessary; for many a man that would pay for his dog, will dismiss his dedicator. Perhaps, if every one who employed or harboured an author, was assessed a groat a year, it would sufficiently lessen the nuisance without destroying the species.