« PreviousContinue »
forborne, had he considered how hardly the habitual influence of birth and fortune is resisted ; and how frequently men, not wholly without sense of virtue, are betrayed to acts more atrocious than the rubbery of a hen-roost, by a desire of pleasing their superiors.
Those reflections his master never made, or made without effect; for, under pretence that Cave obstructed the discipline of the school, by selling clandestine assistance, and supplying exercises to idlers, he was oppressed with unreasonable tasks, that there might be an opportunity of quarreling with his failure ; and when his diligence had surmounted them, no regard was paid to the performance. Cave bore this persecuti
persecution for a while; and then left the school, and the hope of a literary education, to seek some other means of gaining a livelihood.
He was first placed with a Collector of the Excise. He used to recount with some pleasure a journey or two which he rode with him as his clerk, and relate the victories that he gained over the Excisemen in grammatical disputations. But the insolence of his mistress, who employed him in servile drudgery, quickly disgusted him; and he went up to London in quest of more suitable employment.
He was recommended to a timber-merchant at the Bank side, and, while he was there on liking, is said to have given hopes of great mercantile abilities. But this place he soon left, I know not for what reason, and was bound apprentice to Mr. Collins, a printer of some reputation, and deputy alderman.
This was a trade for which men were formerly qualified by a literary education, and which was pleasing to Cave, because it furnished some employment for his scholastic attainments. Here therefore be resolved to settle, though his master and mistress lived in perpetual discord, and their house could be no comfortable habitation. From the inconveniences of these domestic tumults he was soon released, having in only two years at
tained so much skill in his art, and gained so much the confidence of his master, that he was sent without any superintendant to conduct a printing-house at Norwich, and publish a weekly paper. In this undertaking he met with some opposition, which produced a public controversy, and procured young Cave reputation as a writer.
His master died before his apprenticeship was expired ; and, as he was not able to bear the perverseness of his mistress, he quitted her house upon a stipulated allowance, and married a young widow, with whom he lived at Bow. When his apprenticeship was over, he worked as a journeyrnan at the printing-house of Mr. Barber *, a man much distinguished and employed by the Tories, whose principles had at that time so much prevalence with Cave, that he was for some years a writer in ‘Mist's Journal,' which (though he afterwards obtained, by his wife's interest, a small place in the Post-office) he for some time continued. But, as interest is powerful, and conversation, however mean, in time persuasive, he by degrees inclined to another party ; in which, however, he was always moderate, though steady and determined.
When he was admitted into the Post-office, he stil! continued, at his intervals of attendance, to exercise his trade, or to employ himself with some typographical business. He corrected the “Gradus ad Parnassum,” and was liberally rewarded by the Company of Stationers. He wrote an account of
* Of whom, see before, vol. I. p. 73.
+ This is by no means confined to persons that move in such humble spheres. The appreciating author of the “ Decline, &c." has not only told us, p. 81. c. III. n. 15, that “ officers of the police or revenue easily adapt themselves to any form of government;" but, for fear lest a doctrine that adds so little to the Dignity of Human Nature (on which modern Philosophers lay so much stress) should not be readily admitted, has even condescended to furnish an instance of a person deep in the schemes of Opposition one week, and the next taking his seat at the Board of Trade and Plantations as a Lord thereof." T. F.
the Criminals, which had for some time a considetable sale; and published many little pamphlets that aecident brought into his hands, of which it would be very difficult to recover the memory. By the correspondence which his place in the Post-office facilitated, he procured country news-papers, and sold their intelligence to a journalist of London for a guinea a week.
He was afterwards raised to the office of Clerk of the Franks, in which he acted with great spirit and firmness ; and often stopped franks which were given by Members of Parliament to their friends, because he thought such extension of a peculiar right illegal. This raised many complaints ; and having stopped, among others, a frank given to the old Duchess of Marlborough by Mr. Walter Plummer, he was cited before the House, as for breach of privilege, and accused, I suppose very unjustly, of opening letters to detect them. He was treated with great harshness and severity ; but, declining their questions by pleading his oath of secrecy, was at last dismissed. And it must be recorded to his honour, that when he was ejected from his office, he did not think himself discharged from his trust, but continued to refuse to his nearest friends any information about the management of the office.
By this constancy of diligence, and diversification of employment, he in time collected a sum sufficient for the purchase of a small printing-office, and began The Gentleman's Magazine, a periodical pamphlet, of which the scheme is known wherever the English language is spoken. To this undertaking he owed the affluence in which he passed the last twenty years of his life, and the fortune which he left behind him, which, though large, had been yet larger, had he not rashly and wantonly impaired it by innumerable projects, of which I know not that ever one succeeded.
The Gentleman's Magazine, which has already subsisted three and twenty years, and still continues
equally equally to enjoy the favour of the world *, is one of the most successful and lucrative pamphlets which literary history has upon record, and therefore deserves, in this narrative, particular notice.
Mr. Cave, when he formed the project, was far from expecting the success which he found ; and others had so little prospect of its conséquence, that, though he had for several years talked of his plan among printers and booksellers, none of them thought it worth the trial of. That they were not restrained by their virtue from the execution of another man's design, was sufficiently apparent as soon as that design began to be gainful; for in a few years a multitude of magazines arose, and perished: only The London Magazine, supported by a powerful association of booksellers, and circulated with all the art, and all the cunning of trade, exempted itself from the general fate of Cave's invaders,
* This was written at the beginning of 1754; and it may still with justice be said, that The Gentleman's Magazine, after a period of almost eighty years, stands foremost for literary reputation, as the respectable Correspondence it uniformly continues to enjoy abundantly evinces.
7“ The invention of this new species of publication may be considered as something of an epocha in the Literary History of this Country. The periodical publications before that time were almost wholly confined to political transactions, and to foreign and domestic occurrences. But the Magazines have opened a way for every kind of enquiry and information. The intelligence and discussion contained in them are very extensive and various ; and they have been the means of diffusing a general habit of reading through the Nation; which, in a certain degree, hath enlarged the public understanding. Many young Authors, who have afterwards risen to considerable eminence in the literary world, have here made their first attempts in composition. Here, too, are preserved a multitude of curious and useful hints, observations, and facts, which otherwise might have never åppeared ; or, if they had appeared in a more evanescent form, would have incurred the danger of being lost. If it were not an invidious task, the history of them would be no incurious or unentertaining subject. The Magazines that unite utility with entertainment are undoubtedly preferable to those (if there hare been any such) which have only a view to idle and frivolous amusement."
and obtained, though not an equal, yet a considerable sale *.
Cave now began to aspire to popularity ; and, being a greater lover of poetry than any other art, he sometimes offered subjects for poems, and proposed prizes for the best performances. The first prize was fifty pounds, for which, being but newly acquainted with wealth, and thinking the influence of fifty pounds extremely great, he expected the first Authors of the kingdom to appear as competitors; and offered the allotment of the prize to the Univer sities. But, when the time came, no name was seen among the writers that had been ever seen before ; the Universities and several private men rejected the province of assigning the prize *: At all this Mr. Cave wondered for a while; but his natural judgment, and a wider acquaintance with the world, soon cured him of his astonishment, as of many other prejudices and errors. Nor have many men been seen raised by accident or industry to sudden riches, that retained less of the meanness of their former state.
He continued to improve his Magazine, and had the satisfaction of seeing its success proportionate to his diligence, till in the year 1751 his wife died of an asthma; with which though he seemed not at first much affected, yet in a few days he lost his sleep and his appetite; and, lingering two years, fell, by drinking acid liquors, into a diarrhea, and afterwards into a kind of lethargic insensibility, in which one of the last acts of reason he exerted, was fondly to press
the hand that is now writing this little narrative. He died on January 10, 1754, æt. 63, having just concluded the twenty-third annual collection.
* This was actually the case in 1754 ; but The London Magazine ceased to exist in 1785. See vol. IV. p. 95.
+ The determination was left to Dr. Cromwell Mortimer, and Dr. Birch ; and by the latter the award was made, which may be seen in the Magazine for the year 1736, vol. VI. p. 59.