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Preface To The Gentleman’s Magazine, 1738
by [?]

The usual design of addresses of this sort is to implore the candour of the publick: we have always had the more pleasing province of returning thanks, and making our acknowledgments for the kind acceptance which our monthly collections have met with.

This, it seems, did not sufficiently appear from the numerous sale and repeated impressions of our books, which have, at once, exceeded our merit and our expectation; but have been still more plainly attested by the clamours, rage, and calumnies of our competitors, of whom we have seldom taken any notice, not only because it is cruelty to insult the depressed, and folly to engage with desperation, but because we consider all their outcries, menaces, and boasts, as nothing more than advertisements in our favour, being evidently drawn up with the bitterness of baffled malice and disappointed hope; and almost discovering, in plain terms, that the unhappy authors have seventy thousand London Magazines mouldering in their warehouses, returned from all parts of the kingdom, unsold, unread, and disregarded.

Our obligations for the encouragement we have so long continued to receive, are so much the greater, as no artifices have been omitted to supplant us. Our adversaries cannot be denied the praise of industry; how far they can be celebrated for an honest industry, we leave to the decision of the publick, and even of their brethren, the booksellers, not including those whose advertisements they obliterated to paste their invectives in our book.

The success of the Gentleman’s Magazine has given rise to almost twenty imitations of it, which are either all dead, or very little regarded by the world. Before we had published sixteen months, we met with such a general approbation, that a knot of enterprising geniuses, and sagacious inventors, assembled from all parts of the town, agreed, with an unanimity natural to understandings of the same size, to seize upon our whole plan, without changing even the title. Some weak objections were, indeed, made by one of them against the design, as having an air of servility, dishonesty, and piracy; but it was concluded that all these imputations might be avoided by giving the picture of St. Paul’s instead of St. John’s gate; it was, however, thought indispensably necessary to add, printed in St. John’s street, though there was then no printing-house in that place.

That these plagiaries should, after having thus stolen their whole design from us, charge us with robbery, on any occasion, is a degree of impudence scarcely to be matched, and certainly entitles them to the first rank among false heroes. We have, therefore, inserted their names[1], at length, in our February magazine, p. 61; being desirous that every man should enjoy the reputation he deserves.

Another attack has been made upon us by the author of Common Sense, an adversary equally malicious as the former, and equally despicable. What were his views, or what his provocations, we know not, nor have thought him considerable enough to inquire. To make him any further answer would be to descend too low; but, as he is one of those happy writers, who are best exposed by quoting their own words, we have given his elegant remarks in our magazine for December, where the reader may entertain himself, at his leisure, with an agreeable mixture of scurrility and false grammar.

For the future, we shall rarely offend him by adopting any of his performances, being unwilling to prolong the life of such pieces as deserve no other fate than to be hissed, torn, and forgotten. However, that the curiosity of our readers may not be disappointed, we shall, whenever we find him a little excelling himself, perhaps print his dissertations upon our blue covers, that they may be looked over, and stripped off, without disgracing our collection, or swelling our volumes.

We are sorry that, by inserting some of his essays, we have filled the head of this petty writer with idle chimeras of applause, laurels and immortality, nor suspected the bad effect of our regard for him, till we saw, in the postscript to one of his papers, a wild[2] prediction of the honours to be paid him by future ages. Should any mention of him be made, or his writings, by posterity, it will, probably, be in words like these: “In the Gentleman’s Magazine are still preserved some essays, under the specious and inviting title of Common Sense. How papers of so little value came to be rescued from the common lot of dulness, we are, at this distance of time, unable to conceive, but imagine, that personal friendship prevailed with Urban to admit them in opposition to his judgment. If this was the reason, he met afterwards with the treatment which all deserve who patronise stupidity; for the writer, instead of acknowledging his favours, complains of injustice, robbery, and mutilation; but complains in a style so barbarous and indecent, as sufficiently confutes his own calumnies.”

In this manner must this author expect to be mentioned. But of him, and our other adversaries, we beg the reader’s pardon for having said so much. We hope it will be remembered, in our favour, that it is sometimes necessary to chastise insolence, and that there is a sort of men who cannot distinguish between forbearance, and cowardice.


[1] The names are thus inserted–“The gay and learned C. Ackers, of Swan-alley, printer; the polite and generous T. Cox, under the Royal Exchange; the eloquent and courtly J. Clark, of Duck-lane; and the modest, civil, and judicious T. Astley, of St. Paul’s Church-yard, booksellers.”–All these names appeared in the title of the London Magazine, begun in 1732.

[2] Common Sense Journal, printed by Purser of Whitefriars, March 11, 1738. “I make no doubt but after some grave historian, three or four hundred years hence, has described the corruption, the baseness, and the flattery which men run into in these times, he will make the following observation:–In the year 1737, a certain unknown author published a writing under the title of Common Sense; this writing came out weekly, in little detached essays, some of which are political, some moral, and others humorous. By the best judgment that can be formed of a work, the style and language of which is become so obsolete that it is scarce intelligible, it answers the title well,” etc.