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the eccentricities of genius, and remember that the very ardour and enthusiasm of temperament which makes the author delightful often leads the man astray.”
“A fiddlestick about men of genius!” Warrington cried out, who was a very severe moralist upon some points, though possibly a very bad practitioner. “ I deny that there are so many geniuses as people who whimper about the fate of men of letters assert there are. There are thousands of clever fellows in the world who could, if they would, turn verses, write articles, read books, and deliver a judgment upon them; the talk of professional critics and writers is not a whit more brilliant, or profound, or amusing, than that of any other society of educated people. If a lawyer, or a soldier, or a parson, outruns his income, and does not pay his bills, he must go to gaol ; and an author must go, too. If an author fuddles himself, I don’t know why he should be let off a headache the next morning,—if he orders a coat from the tailor’s, why he shouldn’t pay for it.”
“I would give him more money to buy coats,” said Pen, smiling. “ I suppose I should like to belong to a well-dressed profession. I protest against that wretch of a middle-man whom I see between Genius and his great landlord, the Public, and who stops more than half of the labourer’s earnings and fame.”
“I am a prose labourer,” Warrington said: “ you, my boy, are a poet in a small way, and so, I suppose, consider you are authorised to be flighty. What is it you want ? Do you want a body of capitalists that shall be forced to purchase the works of all authors who may present themselves manuscript in hand ? Everybody who writes his epic, every driveller who can or can’t spell, and produces his novel or his tragedy,—are they all to come and find a bag of sovereigns in exchange for their worthless reams of paper ? Who is to settle what is good or bad, saleable or otherwise ? Will you give the buyer leave, in fine, to purchase or not ? Why, sir, when Johnson sate behind the screen at Saint John’s Gate, and took his dinner apart, because he was too shabby and poor to join the literary bigwigs who were regaling themselves round Mr. Cave’s best tablecloth, the tradesman was doing him no wrong. You couldn’t force the publisher to recognise the man of genius in the young man who presented himself before him, ragged, gaunt, and hungry. Rags are not a. proof of genius; whereas capital is absolute, as times go, and is perforce the bargain-master. It has a right to deal with the literary inventor as with any other ;—if I produce a novelty in the book trade, I must do the best I can with it ; but I can no more force Mr. Murray to purchase my book of travels or sermons, than I can compel Mr. Tattersall to give me a hundred guineas for my horse. I may have my own ideas of the value of my Pegasus, and think him the most wonderful of animals; but the dealer has a right to his opinion, too, and may want a lady’s horse, or a cob for a heavy timid rider, or a sound hack for the road, and my beast won’t suit him.”
“You deal in metaphors, Warrington,” Pen said; “ but you rightly say that you are very prosaic. Poor Shandon! There is something about the kindness of that man, and the gentleness of that sweet creature of a wife, which touches me profoundly. I like him, I am afraid, better than a better man.” ‘
“ And so do I,” Warrington said. “ Let us give him the benefit of our sympathy, and the pity that is due to his weakness: though I fear that sort of kindness would be resented as contempt by a more high-minded man. You see he takes his consolation along with his misfortune, and one generates the other or balances it, as is the way of the world. He is a prisoner, but he is not unhappy.”
“ His genius sings within his prison bars,” Pen said.
“Yes,” Warrington said, bitterly; “ Shandon accommodates himself to a cage pretty well. He ought to be wretched, but he has Jack and Tom to drink with, and that consoles him: he might have a high place, but, as he can’t, why he can drink with Tom and Jack ;—he might be providing for his wife and children, but Thomas and John have got a bottle of brandy which they want him to taste ;—he might pay poor Snip, the tailor, the twenty pounds which the poor devil wants for his landlord, but John and Thomas lay their hands upon his purse ;—and so he drinks whilst his tradesman goes
to gaol and his family to ruin. Let us pity the misfortunes of genius, and conspire against the publishing tyrants who oppress men of letters.”
“What! are you going to have another glass of brandyand-water?” Pen said, with a humorous look. It was at the Back Kitchen that the above philosophical conversation took place between the two young men.
Warrington began to laugh as usual. “Video 'meliom proboque—I mean, bring it me hot, with sugar, John,” he said to the waiter.
“ I would have some more, too, only I don’t want it,” said Pen. “It does not seem to me, Warrington, that we are much better than our neighbours.” And Warrington’s last glass having been despatched, the pair returned to their chambers.
They found a couple of notes in the letter-box, on their return, which had been sent by their acquaintance of the morning, Mr. Bungay. That hospitable gentleman presented his compliments to each of the gentlemen, and requested the pleasure of their company at dinner on an early day, to meet a few literary friends.
“ We shall have a grand spread,” said Warrington. “ We shall meet all Bungay’s corps.”
“All except poor Shandon,” said Pen, nodding a‘goodnight to his friend, and he went into his own little room. The events and acquaintances of the day had excited him a good deal, and he lay for some time awake thinking over them, as Warrington’s vigorous and regular snore from the neighbouring apartment pronounced that that gentleman was engaged in deep slumber.
Is it true, thought Pendennis, lying on his bed and gazing at a bright moon without, that lighted up a corner of his dressing-table, and the frame of a little sketch of Fairoaks drawn by Laura, that hung over his drawers—is it true that I am going to earn my bread at last, and with my pen ? that I shall impoverish the dear mother no longer; and that I may gain a name and reputation in the world, perhaps ? These are welcome if they come, thought the young visionary, laughing and blushing to himself, though alone and in the night, as he thought how dearly he would relish honour and fame if they could be his. If Fortune favours me, I laud her ; if she frowns, I resign her. I pray Heaven I may be honest if I fail, or if I succeed. I pray Heaven I may tell the truth as far as I know it: that I mayn’t swerve from it through flattery, or interest, or personal enmity, or party prejudice. Dearest old mother, what a pride will you have, if I can do anything worthy of our name! and you, Laura, you won’t scorn me as the worthless idler and spendthrift, when you see that I— when I have achieved a—psha! what an Alnaschar I am because I have made five pounds by my poems, and am engaged to write half a dozen articles for a newspaper. He went on with these musings, more happy and hopeful, and in a humbler frame of mind, than he had felt to be for many a day. He thought over the errors and idleness, the passions, extravagances, disappointments, of his wayward youth: he got up from the bed: threw open the window, and looked out into the night: and then, by some impulse, which we hope was a good one, he went up and kissed the picture of Fairoaks, and flinging himself down on his knees by the bed, remained for some time in that posture of hope and submission. When he rose, it was with streaming eyes. He had found himself repeating, mechanically, some little words which he had been accustomed to repeat as a child at his mother’s side, after the saying of which she would softly take him to his bed and close the curtains round him, hushing him with a benediction.
The next day, Mr. Pidgeon, their attendant, brought in a large brown-paper parcel, directed to G. Warrington, Esq., with Mr. Trotter’s compliments, and a note which Warrington read.
“ Pen, you beggar! ” roared Warrington to Pen, who was in his own room.
“ Hullo ! ” sung out Pen.
"Come here, you’re wanted,” cried the other, and Pen came out. " What is it? ” said he.
“ Catch.’ ” cried Warrington, and flung the parcel at Pen’s head, who would have been knocked down had he not caught it.
“It’s books for review for the Pall Mall Gazette; pitch into ’em,” Warrington said. As for Pen, he had never been so delighted in his life: his hand trembled as he cut the string of the packet, and beheld within a smart set of new neat calico-bound books, travels, and novels, and poems.
“ Sport the oak, Pidgeon,” said he. “I’m not at home to anybody to-day.” And he flung into his easy chair, and hardly gave himself time to drink his tea, so eager was he to begin to read and to review.