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Poverty Of The Learned
by [?]

Rymer, the collector of the Foedera, must have been sadly reduced, by the following letter, I found addressed by Peter le Neve, Norroy, to the Earl of Oxford.

“I am desired by Mr. Rymer, historiographer, to lay before your lordship the circumstances of his affairs. He was forced some years back to part with all his choice printed books to subsist himself: and now, he says, he must be forced, for subsistence, to sell all his MS. collections to the best bidder, without your lordship will be pleased to buy them for the queen’s library. They are fifty volumes in folio, of public affairs, which he hath collected, but not printed. The price he asks is five hundred pounds.”

Simon Ockley, a learned student in Oriental literature, addresses a letter to the same earl, in which he paints his distresses in glowing colours. After having devoted his life to Asiatic researches, then very uncommon, he had the mortification of dating his preface to his great work from Cambridge Castle, where he was confined for debt; and, with an air of triumph, feels a martyr’s enthusiasm in the cause for which he perishes.

He published his first volume of the History of the Saracens in 1708; and, ardently pursuing his oriental studies, published his second, ten years afterwards, without any patronage. Alluding to the encouragement necessary to bestow on youth, to remove the obstacles to such studies, he observes, that “young men will hardly come in on the prospect of finding leisure, in a prison, to transcribe those papers for the press, which they have collected with indefatigable labour, and oftentimes at the expense of their rest, and all the other conveniences of life, for the service of the public. No! though I were to assure them, from my own experience, that I have enjoyed more true liberty, more happy leisure, and more solid repose, in six months HERE, than in thrice the same number of years before. Evil is the condition of that historian who undertakes to write the lives of others, before he knows how to live himself.–Not that I speak thus as if I thought I had any just cause to be angry with the world–I did always in my judgment give the possession of wisdom the preference to that of riches!”

Spenser, the child of Fancy, languished out his life in misery, “Lord Burleigh,” says Granger, “who it is said prevented the queen giving him a hundred pounds, seems to have thought the lowest clerk in his office a more deserving person.” Mr. Malone attempts to show that Spenser had a small pension, but the poet’s querulous verses must not be forgotten–

“Full little knowest thou, that hast not try’d,
What Hell it is, in suing long to bide.”

To lose good days–to waste long nights–and, as he feelingly exclaims,

“To fawn, to crouch, to wait, to ride, to run,
To speed, to give, to want, to be undone!”

How affecting is the death of Sydenham, who had devoted his life to a laborious version of Plato! He died in a sponging-house, and it was his death which appears to have given rise to the Literary Fund “for the relief of distressed authors.”[2]

Who will pursue important labours when they read these anecdotes? Dr. Edmund Castell spent a great part of his life in compiling his Lexicon Heptaglotton, on which he bestowed incredible pains, and expended on it no less than 12,000l., broke his constitution, and exhausted his fortune. At length it was printed, but the copies remained unsold on his hands. He exhibits a curious picture of literary labour in his preface. “As for myself, I have been unceasingly occupied for such a number of years in this mass,” Molendino he calls them, “that that day seemed, as it were, a holiday in which I have not laboured so much as sixteen or eighteen hours in these enlarging lexicons and Polyglot Bibles.”