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Reader, try it for once, only for one short twelvemonth.
It was not every week that a fashion of pink stockings came up; but mostly instead of it, some rugged, untractable subject; some topic impossible to be contorted into the risible ; some feature, upon which no smile could play ; some flint, from which po process of ingenuity could procure a distillation. There they lay; there your
appointed tale of brick-making was set before you, which you must finish, with or without straw, as it happened. The craving Dragon—the Public—like him in Bel's temple-must be fed ; it expected its daily rations; and Daniel, and ourselves, to do us justice, did the best we could on this side bursting him.
While we were wringing out coy sprightlinesses for the Post, and writhing under the toil of what is called “easy writing,” Bob Allen, our quondam schoolfellow, was tapping his impracticable brains in a like service for the “ Oracle.” Not that Robert troubled himself much about wit. If his paragraphs had a sprightly air about them, it was sufficient. He carried this nonchalance so far at last, that a matter of intelligence, and that no very important one, was not seldom palmed upon his employers for a good jest; for example sake—“Walking yesterday morning casually down Snow Hill, who should we meet but Mr Deputy Humphreys ! we rejoice to add that the worthy Deputy appeared to enjoy a good state of health. We do not ever remember to have seen him look better.” This gentleman so surprisingly met upon Snow Hill, from some peculiarities in gait or gesture, was a constant butt for mirth to the small paragraph-mongers of the day; and our friend thought that he might have his Aling at him with the rest. · We met A. in Holborn shortly after this extraordinary rencounter, which he told with tears of satisfaction in his eyes, and chuckling at the anticipated effects of its announcement next day in the paper. We did not quite comprehend where the wit of it lay at the time ; nor was it easy to be detected, when the thing came out, advantaged by type and letterpress. He had better have met any thing that morning than a Common Council Man. His services were shortly after dispensed with, on the plea that his paragraphs of late had been
deficient in point. The one in question, it must be owned, had an air, in the opening especially, proper to awaken curiosity ; and the sentiment, or moral, wears the aspect of humanity and good neighbourly feeling. But somehow the conclusion was not judged altogether to answer to the magnificent promise of the premises. We traced our friend's pen afterwards in the “ True Briton,” the “ Star,” the “ Traveller,”—from all which he was successively dismissed, the Proprietors having “no further occasion for his services.” Nothing was easier than to detect him. When wit failed, or topics ran low, there constantly appeared the following—“ It is not generally known that the three Blue Balls at the Pawnbrokers' shops are the ancient arms of Lombardy. The Lombards were the first money-brokers in Europe.” Bob has done more to set the public right on this important point of blazonry, than the whole College of Heralds.
The appointment of a regular wit has long ceased to be a part of the economy of a Morning Paper. Editors find their own jokes, or do as well without them. Parson Este, and Topham, brought up the set custom of “ witty paragraphs” first in the “ World.” Boaden was a reigning paragraphist in his day, and succeeded poor Allen in the Oracle. But, as we said, the fashion of jokes passes away ; and it would be difficult to discover in the Biographer of Mrs Siddons, any traces of that vivacity and fancy which charmed the whole town at the commencement of the present century. Even the prelusive delicacies of the present writer—the curt “ Astræan allusion ”—would be thought pedantic and out of date, in these days.
From the office of the Morning Post (for we may as well exhaust our Newspaper Reminiscences at once) by change of property in the paper, we were transferred, mortifying exchange! to the office of the Albion Newspaper, late Rackstrow's Museum, in Fleet Street. What a transition from a handsome apartment, from rosewood desks, and silver inkstands, to an office—no office, but a den rather, but just redeemed from the occupation of dead monsters, of which it seemed redolent—from the centre of loyalty and fashion, to a focus of vulgarity and sedition ! Here in murky closet, inadequate from its square contents to the receipt of the two bodies of Editor, and humble paragraph-maker, together at one time, sat in the discharge of his new Editorial functions (the “ Bigod” of Elia) the redoubted John Fenwick.
F., without a guinea in his pocket, and having left not many in the pockets of his friends whom he might command, had purchased (on tick doubtless) the whole and sole Editorship, Proprietorship, with all the rights and titles (such as they are worth) of the Albion, from one Lovell ; of whom we know nothing, save that he had stood in the pillory for a libel on the Prince of Wales. With this hopeless concern—for it had been sinking ever since its commencement, and could now reckon upon not more than a hundred subscribers—F. resolutely determined upon pulling down the Government in the first instance, and making both our fortunes by way of corollary. For seven weeks and more did this infatuated Democrat go about borrowing seven-shilling pieces, and lesser coin, to meet the daily demands of the Stamp Office, which allowed no credit to publications of that side in politics. An outcast from politer bread, we attached our small talents to the forlorn fortunes of our friend. Our occupation now was to write treason.
Recollections of feelings—which were all that now remained from our first boyish heats kindled by the French Revolution, when, if we were misled, we erred
in the company of some, who are accounted very good men now-rather than any tendency at this time to Republican doctrines—assisted us in assuming a style of writing, while the paper lasted, consonant in no very under tone to the right earnest fanaticism of F. Our cue was now to insinuate, rather than recommend, possible abdications. Blocks, axes, Whitehall tribunals, were covered with flowers of so cunning a periphrasis—as Mr Bayes says, never naming the thing directly—that the keen eye of an Attorney General was insufficient to detect the lurking snake among them. There were times, indeed, when we sighed for our more gentleman-like occupation under Stuart. But with change of masters it is ever change of service. Already one paragraph, and another, as we learned afterwards from a gentleman at the Treasury, had begun to be marked at that office, with a view of its being submitted at least to the attention of the proper Law Officers—when an unlucky, or rather lucky epigram from our pen, aimed at Sir J— S M— h, who was on the eve of departing for India to reap the fruits of his apostacy, as F. pronounced it (it is hardly worth particularising), happening to offend the nice sense of Lord, or, as he then delighted to be called, Citizen Stanhope, deprived F. at once of the last hopes of a guinea from the last patron that had stuck by us ; and breaking up our establishment, left us to the safe, but somewhat mortifying, neglect of the Crown Lawyers. It was about this time, or a little earlier, that Dan Stuart made that curious confession to us, that he had “ never deliberately walked into an Exhibition at Somerset House in his life.”
[Sir James Mackintosh. 7