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A Project For The Employment Of Authors
by [?]

But no great alteration is to be attempted rashly. We must consider how the authors, which this tax shall exclude from their trade, are to be employed. The nets used in the herring-fishery can furnish work but for few, and not many can be employed as labourers at the foundation of the new bridge. There must, therefore, be some other scheme formed for their accommodation, which the present state of affairs may easily supply. It is well known, that great efforts have been lately made to man the fleet, and augment the army, and loud complaints are made of useful hands forced away from their families into the service of the crown. This offensive exertion of power may be easily avoided, by opening a few houses for the entertainment of discarded authors, who would enter into the service with great alacrity, as most of them are zealous friends of every present government; many of them are men of able bodies, and strong limbs, qualified, at least, as well for the musket as the pen; they are, perhaps, at present a little emaciated and enfeebled, but would soon recover their strength and flesh with good quarters and present pay.

There are some reasons for which they may seem particularly qualified for a military life. They are used to suffer want of every kind; they are accustomed to obey the word of command from their patrons and their booksellers; they have always passed a life of hazard and adventure, uncertain what may be their state on the next day; and, what is of yet more importance, they have long made their minds familiar to danger, by descriptions of bloody battles, daring undertakings, and wonderful escapes. They have their memories stored with all the stratagems of war, and have, over and over, practised, in their closets, the expedients of distress, the exultation of triumph, and the resignation of heroes sentenced to destruction.

Some, indeed, there are, who, by often changing sides in controversy, may give just suspicion of their fidelity, and whom I should think likely to desert for the pleasure of desertion, or for a farthing a month advanced in their pay. Of these men I know not what use can be made, for they can never be trusted, but with shackles on their legs. There are others whom long depression, under supercilious patrons, has so humbled and crushed, that they will never have steadiness to keep their ranks. But for these men there may be found fifes and drums, and they will be well enough pleased to inflame others to battle, if they are not obliged to fight themselves.

It is more difficult to know what can be done with the ladies of the pen, of whom this age has produced greater numbers than any former time. It is, indeed, common for women to follow the camp, but no prudent general will allow them in such numbers as the breed of authoresses would furnish. Authoresses are seldom famous for clean linen, therefore, they cannot make laundresses; they are rarely skilful at their needle, and cannot mend a soldier’s shirt; they will make bad sutlers, being not much accustomed to eat. I must, therefore, propose, that they shall form a regiment of themselves, and garrison the town which is supposed to be in most danger of a French invasion. They will, probably, have no enemies to encounter; but, if they are once shut up together, they will soon disencumber the publick by tearing out the eyes of one another.

The great art of life is to play for much, and to stake little; which rule I have kept in view through this whole project; for, if our authors and authoresses defeat our enemies, we shall obtain all the usual advantages of victory; and, if they should be destroyed in war, we shall lose only those who had wearied the publick, and whom, whatever be their fate, nobody will miss.


[1] From the Universal Visiter, April, 1756.

[2] Dodsley’s Muse in Livery was composed under these circumstances. Boswell’s Life, ii.