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No 1. SATURDAY, JANUARY 23, 1779
Quis novus bic bospes?
When a stranger is introduced into a numerous company, he is scarcely seated before every body present begins to form some notion of his character. The gay, the sprightly, and the inconsiderate, judge of him by the cut of his coat, the fashion of his periwig, and the ease or awkwardness of his bow. The cautious citizen, and the proud country-gentleman, value him according to the opinion they chance to adopt, the one, of the extent of his rent-roll, the other, of the length of his pedigree ; and all estimate his merit, in proportion as he seems to possess, or to want those qualities for which themselves wish to be admired. If, in the course of conversation, they chance to discover that he is in use to make one in the polite circles of the metropolis ; that he is familiar with the great, and sometimes closeted with the minister ; whatever contempt or indifference they may at first have shewn, or felt themselves disposed to shew, they at once give up their own judgment; every one pays a compliment to his own sagacity, by assuming the merit of having discovered
stranger had the air of a man of fashion ; and all vie in their attention and civility, in hopes of estas blishing a more intimate acquaintance.
An anonymous periodical writer, when he first gives his works to the public, is pretty much in the situation of the stranger. If he endeavour to amuse the young and the lively, by the sprightliness of his wit, or the sallies of his imagination, the grave and the serious throw aside his works as trifling and contemptible. The reader of romance and sentiment finds no pleasure but in some eventful story, suited to his taste and disposition; while with him who aims at instruction in politics, religion, or morality, nothing is relished that has not a relation to the object he pursues. But no sooner is the Public informed that this unknown Author has already figured in the world as a poet, historian, or essayist, that his writings are read and admired by the Shaftesburies, the Addisons, and the Chesterfields of the age ;
than beauties are discovered in every line; he is extolled as a man of universal talents, who can laugh with the merry, and be serious with the grave; who, at one time, can animate his reader with the glowing sentiments of virtue and compassion, and at another, carry him through the calm disquisitions of science and philosophy.
Nor is the world to be blamed for this general mode of judging. Before an individual can form an opinion for himself, he is under a necessity of reading with attention, of examining whether the style and manner of the author be suited to his subject, if his thoughts and images be natural, his observations just, his arguments conclusive, and though all this may be done with moderate talents, and without
any extraordinary share of what is commonly called learning ; yet it is a much more compen. dious method, and saves much time, and labour, and