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[The BEE, a weekly paper, commenced October the 6th, and terminated with the eighth number, November the 24th, 1759; from the want, as it appears, of public support. Yet the majority of them deserved another reception; and, though neglected at their first appearance, when known some time after to be from the same pen with the ‘Traveller' and the ‘Vicar of Wakefield,’ they were very generally read and admired.
The following is the Prospectus which first announced the Bee: “Saturday next, October the 6th, will be published (to be continued weekly, price three-pence), neatly printed in crown octavo and on good paper, containing two sheets, or thirty-two pages, stitched in blue covers, Number I. of a new periodical paper entitled— “THE BEE. Consisting of a variety of Essays on the Amusements, Follies, and Vices in fashion : particularly the most recent Topics of Conversation: Remarks on Theatrical Exhibitions: Memoirs of Modern Literature, &c. &c. Printed for J. Wilkie, at the Bible in St. Paul's Church Yard. “*." The Publisher begs leave to inform the public, that every twelve numbers will make a handsome pocket volume, at the end of which shall be given an emblematical frontispiece, title, and table of contents. Letters to the author of the Bee, directed to J. Wilkie as above (post-paid), will be duly regarded.” London Chronicle, Sept. 29.-Oct. 2d, 1759.
After the first week another paragraph appeared:
“This day is published, &c. &c. Number II. of a new periodical paper called The Bee. The public is requested to compare this with other periodical performances which more pompously solicit their attention. If upon perusal it be found deficient either in humour, elegance, or variety, the author will readily acquiesce in their censure. It is possible the reader may sometimes draw a prize, and even should it turn up a blank, it costs him but three-pence.” Public Advertiser, Oct. 14, 1759.
The Numbers were collected into a volume and published by Dodsley and Wilkie in the December of the same year, under the title of “The Bee; being Essays on the most Interesting Subjects.”]
THERE is not, perhaps, a more whimsically dismal figure in nature, than a man of real modesty who assumes an air of impudence; who, while his heart beats with anxiety, studies ease, and affects good humour. In this situation, however, a periodical writer often finds himself, upon his first attempt to address the public in form. All his power of pleasing is damped by solicitude, and his cheerfulness dashed with apprehension. Impressed with the terrors of the tribunal before which he is going to appear, his natural humour turns to pertness, and for real wit he is obliged to substitute vivacity. His first publication draws a crowd; they part dissatisfied, and the author, never more to be indulged with a favourable hearing, is left to condemn the indelicacy of his own address, or their want of discernment.
For my part, as I was never distinguished for address, and have often even blundered in making my bow, such bodings as these had like to have totally repressed my
Floriferis ut apes in saltibus omnia
ambition. I was at a loss whether to give the public specious promises, or give none; whether to be merry or sad on this solemn occasion. If I should decline all merit, it was too probable the hasty reader might have taken me at my word. If, on the other hand, like labourers in the Magazine trade, I had, with modest impudence, humbly presumed to promise an epitome of all the good things that ever were said or written, this might have disgusted those readers I most desire to please. Had I been merry, I might have been censured as vastly low ; and had I been sorrowful, I might have been left to mourn in solitude and silence: in short, whichever way I turned, nothing presented but prospects of terror, despair, chandler's shops, and waste paper. In this debate between fear and ambition, my publisher happening to arrive, interrupted for a while my anxiety. Perceiving my embarrassment about making my first appearance, he instantly offered his assistance and advice: “You must know, sir,” says he, “that the republic of letters is at present divided into three classes. One writer, for instance, excels at a plan, or a title page, another works away the body of the book, and a third is a dab at an index. Thus a Magazine is not the result of any single man's industry ; but goes through as many hands as a new pin, before it is fit for the public. I fancy, sir,” continues he, “I can provide an eminent hand, and upon moderate terms, to draw up a promising plan to smooth up our readers a little, and pay them, as Colonel Charteris") paid his seraglio,
(1) [The notorious Colonel Francis Charteris, “a man infamous for all manner of vices,” says Pope; who thus introduces him into his third Moral Essay— ** Riches in effect, No grace of Heaven, or token of the Elect; Giv'n to the fool, the mad, the vain, the evil, To Ward, to Waters, Chartres, and the Devil.”
Hogarth also has given him a conspicuous place in the first plate of his ‘Harlot's Progress.' He died in 1732. For the satirical epitaph on him by Arbuthnot, “Here continueth to rot,” &c., see Pope's Works, vol. iii. p. 273, ed. 1806.]
at the rate of three halfpence in hand, and three shillings more in promises.” He was proceeding in his advice; which, however, I thought proper to decline, by assuring him, that as I intended to pursue no fixed method, so it was impossible to form any regular plan; determined never to be tedious, in order to be logical, wherever pleasure presented, I was resolved to follow. Like the BEE, which I had taken for the title of my paper, I would rove from flower to flower, with seeming inattention, but concealed choice, expatiate over all the beauties of the season, and make my industry my amusement. This reply may also serve as an apology to the reader, who expects, before he sits down, a bill of his future entertainment. It would be improper to pall his curiosity by lessening his surprise, or anticipate any pleasure I am able to procure him, by saying what shall come next. Thus much, however, he may be assured of, that neither war nor scandal shall make any part of it. Homer finely imagines his deity turning away with horror from the prospect of a field of battle, and seeking tranquillity among a nation noted for peace and simplicity.") Happy could any effort of mine, but for a moment, repress that savage pleasure some men find in the daily accounts of human misery ! How gladly would I lead them from scenes of blood and altercation, to prospects of innocence and ease, where every breeze breathes health, and every sound is but the echo of tranquillity. But whatever the merit of his intentions may be, every writer is now convinced that he must be chiefly indebted to good fortune for finding readers willing to allow him any (1) [“But now the God, remote, a heavenly guest, In AEthiopia grac'd the general feast;
degree of reputation. It has been remarked, that almost every character which has excited either attention or praise, has owed part of its success to merit, and part to a happy concurrence of circumstances in its favour. Had Caesar or Cromwell exchanged countries, the one might have been a serjeant, and the other an exciseman. So it is with wit, which generally succeeds more from being happily addressed, than from its native poignancy. A bom-mot, for instance, that might be relished at White's, may lose all its flavour when delivered at the Cat and Bag-pipes in St. Giles's. A jest calculated to spread at a gaming-table, may be received with a perfect neutrality of face, should it happen to drop in a mackrel-boat. We have all seen dunces triumph in such companies, when men of real humour were disregarded, by a general combination in favour of stupidity. To drive the observation as far as it will go, should the labours of a writer who designs his performances for readers of a more refined appetite, fall into the hands of a devourer of compilations, what can he expect but contempt and confusion ' If his merits are to be determined by judges who estimate the value of a book from its bulk, or its frontispiece, every rival must acquire an easy superiority, who with persuasive eloquence promises four extraordinary pages of letter press, or three beautiful prints, curiously coloured from nature. But to proceed: though I cannot promise as much entertainment, or as much elegance as others have done, yet the reader may be assured he shall have as much of both as I can. He shall, at least, find me alive while I study his entertainment; for I solemnly assure him, I was never yet possessed of the secret at once of writing and sleeping. During the course of this paper, therefore, all the wit and learning I have are heartily at his service; which if, after so candid a confession, he should, notwithstanding, still find