« ForrigeFortsæt »
In addition to these pleasing traits of disposition, I had others which seemed to mark my future character more strongly: I had so little respect for the civil rights of persons, and the laws of property, that there was not an orchard within ten miles that I had not robbed, nor a farmer's yard where I had not committed a trespass; and as I conceived one person ought to live just as well as another, I never failed to put my fingers into the best filled dishes, was remarkably fond of a sop in the pan, and had a very early notion of the loaves and fishes.
It is amazing with what spirit I sustained the misfortunes of my youth; through all the lectures of my father and the buffetings of my mother I remained perfectly undaunted; the spirit of defiance kept me up; I sought for argument on every occasion, and found the greatest of all pleasures in contradiction, which last disposition, it is easy to suppose, I imbibed from the female part of my family. How beautifully blended in the child were the talents and qualifications of the parents, the vis liberti was engrafted in my character, and I preserved it inviolate to grow and expand for greater purposes,
I was, at fourteen years of age, bound an apprentice to a printer, which business my father, whose foresight was very great, chose for me; and as I was the sharp keen boy that I have described, I improved beyond expectation; in short, my abilities were not suffered to lie dormant, I was taken into wonderful
favour, and was presently allowed to be the cleverest devil my master had; I was let into the arcana of the newspaper business, and the hidden mysteries of communication and intelligence; I was, 'tis true, a little staggered at first with letters from Hamburgh, murders from Dublin, and Yorkshire accidents, but these presently became familiar. I discovered that the newspapers contained a great deal of matter, and usually one article of truth—the list of bankrupts.
After my apprenticeship was expired, as my turn for invention and abuse were pretty generally known, I did not wait long for employ. I was engaged in one of the chief departments of the office, and was near being appointed a joint editor to a morning print, when I was stopt short in my career by a somewhat extraordinary adventure. I happened one evening to be left alone in the office adjoining the printing-loft, correcting the press of a new work, entitled, Galvanic Experiments on the Human Mind, by professor Humbug, by the help of which the famous archbishop of Grenada, in Gil Blas, might have given another fillip to his decayed mental powers that would have astonished the hearers of his homilies; when, in an instant, I beheld seated on the stool opposite to me, on the other side of the desk, the figure of a little old man, leaning forwards upon a crutch stick, a huge periwig upon his head, and a bundle of faggots on his back. Had I not been used to the marvellous, I should doubtless have leapt out of the window with fright; but I had dealt so long in fiction, that I could not
readily conceive the reality of an apparition, and was combating with the powers of the imagination, when my unexpected visitor, with a smile upon his countenance, addressed me very familiarly, “ How d'ye do, Master Printer ?” To which interrogatory I had not the power to answer à syllable. I hope (continued he, after a pause) that you are not frightened. Not at all, replied I, (shaking every limb); not in the least, sir. The Old Gentleman had by this time shoved his stool to the side of the stove, next mine, resting his hands upon his knees with great gravity, in the attitude of a judge on the bench at the assizes, looking me full in the face. Pray, sir, cried I, in a tremulous tone, may I take the liberty to ask how you came in here, and who you are? I came in, answered he, through the hole in the window-shutter, and I am that extraordinay personage called or known by the inhabitants of the earth by the name of the MAN IN THE MOON.
The reader may judge my astonishment. THE MAN IN THE Moon, repeated I, surveying him more attentively, and at the same time mustering up my courage to pay him les hommages respectueux, I managed to hand him a chair, which stood in a corner of the office for the accommodation of authors to read over their proofs, and making a profound bow, resumed my seat on the high stool.
And pray, sir, (said I), may I ask to what extraor. dinary circumstance I am indebted for the honour of
this visit? A matter of business (replied he). It is my design to publish with you; do you think my works will sell ? No man upon earth, sir, (replied*I), has reason to expect greater success than-The Man in the Moon.
I was so much enraptured with the idea of retaining so novel an author, that numberless ideas of profit and advantage rushed at once upon my mind. Doubtless, sir, (cried I), you will touch upon politics, classics, morality, inebriety, cookery, paper credit, galvanism, the acts of parliament, children's books, the philosophy of banking, or the experiments of omnium. Hold! for heaven's sake! (cried the Old Gen. tleman); what variety of employment! but if we are to do business together, you will, if you please, leave me to the choice of my subjects. I have already brought you some manuscript; but as I can only pay you a visit in the time of an eclipse, or steal half an hour's absence now and then, as at present, I shall contrive to send you the copy by one of the moonbeams, in the same way as boys convey a messenger to a kite, and which will be transmitted to you through the same aperture in the window-shutter which gave me admission. I could not help admiring the facility of this communication, and begged that my new correspondent would on no account delay the press. The Old Gentleman now rose to take his leave, when he hinted, that the chief motive of his publishing the papers to be called after his name, was from a tradition that the spell, by which he had been so long confined in the moon, would end at the time
when the manners of men should become so chaste and pure, as to exclude from among them malice, hatred, revenge, lust, and avarice, with the necessity of imprisonment and war, the approach of which millennium he hoped to be the means of hastening by his opinions and reflections upon good and evil. I could not, however, help shrugging up my shoulders at so chimerical an undertaking, and seized the first opportunity to ask him a few general questions; such as what he thought of Cobbett's Register? of the Income Bill? of little Byrne's Hornpipe? and of Buonaparte's Invasion? to which last question he only replied with a smile, and in the words of Lucan,
Impiger et fortis virtute coacta.”
By a forced valour, resolute and brave. After a promise to supply me regularly with copy, the Old Gentleman shook hands with me, and I observed his form gradually diminish to about the size of a marmozet monkey, when seating himself across a beam of the moon, he was presently drawn up to the hole in the window-shutter, at the circle of which he stopt an instant to wish me a good night, and then took his leave, while I sat down to read over the manuscript he had left; the contents of which will be given to the reader in the next Number.
ERRATUM.—No. I. p.5, 1. 9, for soliary read solitary.