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Literary Journals
by [?]

MATY’S son produced here a review known to the curious, his style and decisions often discover haste and heat, with some striking observations: alluding to his father, in his motto, Maty applies Virgil’s description of the young Ascanius, “Sequitur patrem non passibus aequis.” He says he only holds a monthly conversation with the public. His obstinate resolution of carrying on this review without an associate, has shown its folly and its danger; for a fatal illness produced a cessation, at once, of his periodical labours and his life.

Other reviews, are the Memoires de Trevoux, written by the Jesuits. Their caustic censure and vivacity of style made them redoubtable in their day; they did not even spare their brothers. The Journal Litteraire, printed at the Hague, was chiefly composed by Prosper Marchand, Sallengre, and Van Effen, who were then young writers. This list may be augmented by other journals, which sometimes merit preservation in the history of modern literature.

Our early English journals notice only a few publications, with little acumen. Of these, the “Memoirs of Literature,” and the “Present State of the Republic of Letters,” are the best. The Monthly Review, the venerable (now the deceased) mother of our journals, commenced in 1749.

It is impossible to form a literary journal in a manner such as might be wished; it must be the work of many, of different tempers and talents. An individual, however versatile and extensive his genius, would soon be exhausted. Such a regular labour occasioned Bayle a dangerous illness, and Maty fell a victim to his Review. A prospect always extending as we proceed, the frequent novelty of the matter, the pride of considering one’s self as the arbiter of literature, animate a journalist at the commencement of his career; but the literary Hercules becomes fatigued; and to supply his craving pages he gives copious extracts, till the journal becomes tedious, or fails in variety. The Abbe Gallois was frequently diverted from continuing his journal, and Fontenelle remarks, that this occupation was too restrictive for a mind so extensive as his; the Abbe could not resist the charms of revelling in a new work, and gratifying any sudden curiosity which seized him; this interrupted perpetually the regularity which the public expects from a journalist.

The character of a perfect journalist would be only an ideal portrait; there are, however, some acquirements which are indispensable. He must be tolerably acquainted with the subjects he treats on; no common acquirement! He must possess the literary history of his own times; a science which, Fontenelle observes, is almost distinct from any other. It is the result of an active curiosity, which takes a lively interest in the tastes and pursuits of the age, while it saves the journalist from some ridiculous blunders. We often see the mind of a reviewer half a century remote from the work reviewed. A fine feeling of the various manners of writers, with a style adapted to fix the attention of the indolent, and to win the untractable, should be his study; but candour is the brightest gem of criticism! He ought not to throw everything into the crucible, nor should he suffer the whole to pass as if he trembled to touch it. Lampoons and satires in time will lose their effect, as well as panegyrics. He must learn to resist the seductions of his own pen: the pretension of composing a treatise on the subject, rather than on the book he criticises–proud of insinuating that he gives, in a dozen pages, what the author himself has not been able to perform in his volumes. Should he gain confidence by a popular delusion, and by unworthy conduct, he may chance to be mortified by the pardon or by the chastisement of insulted genius. The most noble criticism is that in which the critic is not the antagonist so much as the rival of the author.