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Patronage Of Authors








In the reigns of William III., of Anne, and of George I., even such men
as Congreve and Addison could scarcely have been able to live like
gentlemen by the mere sale of their writings. But the deficiency of the
natural demand for literature was, at the close of the seventeenth, and
at the beginning of the eighteenth century, more than made up by the
artificial encouragement--by a vast system of bounties and premiums.
There was, perhaps, never a time at which the rewards of literary merit
were so splendid--at which men who could write well found such easy
admittance into the most distinguished society, and to the highest
honours of the state. The chiefs of both the great parties into which
the kingdom was divided, patronized literature with emulous munificence.

Congreve, when he had scarcely attained his majority, was rewarded for
his first comedy with places which made him independent for life. Rowe
was not only poet laureate, but land-surveyor of the Customs in the port
of London, clerk of the council to the Prince of Wales, and secretary
of the Presentations to the Lord Chancellor. Hughes was secretary
to the Commissioners of the Peace. Ambrose Phillips was judge of the
Prerogative Court in Ireland. Locke was Commissioner of Appeals and of
the Board of Trade. Newton was Master of the Mint. Stepney and Prior
were employed in embassies of high dignity and importance. Gay, who
commenced life as apprentice to a silk-mercer, became a secretary of
Legation at five-and-twenty. It was to a poem on the death of Charles II.,
and to "the City and Country Mouse," that Montague owed his introduction
into public life, his earldom, his garter, and his auditorship of the
Exchequer. Swift, but for the unconquerable prejudice of the queen,
would have been a bishop. Oxford, with his white staff in his hand,
passed through the crowd of his suitors to welcome Parnell, when that
ingenious writer deserted the Whigs. Steele was a Commissioner of
Stamps, and a member of Parliament. Arthur Mainwaring was a Commissioner
of the Customs, and Auditor of the Imprest. Tickell was secretary to the
Lords Justices of Ireland. Addison was Secretary of State.

But soon after the succession of the throne of Hanover, a change took
place. The supreme power passed to a man who cared little for poetry
or eloquence. Walpole paid little attention to books, and felt little
respect for authors. One of the coarse jokes of his friend, Sir Charles
Hanbury Williams, was far more pleasing to him than Thomson's Seasons
or Richardson's Pamela.

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