1828 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Neele

John Neal, "Henry Neele" The Yankee [Portland] 1 (9 April 1828) 120.



This fine-spirited man, whose talents by the way appear to be very much overrated in this country, though they never were in England, has probably fallen a sacrifice to the trade of authorship. We do not say certainly, but probably; for we know that he has been a contributor for several years to two or three of the principal magazines, and to most of the yearling literature of the day; and we know enough to believe that no mortal man would continue to do either, if no were not obliged thereto by his poverty — for of all the precarious and exhausting modes of life that a man of high spirits and free sensibility ever betook himself to, that of authorship in England, where he is better paid than any where else on earth, and would appear to be most at liberty with his subject and his way of treating it, is decidedly the worst and the cruellest. A few years — a very few — and the most popular writer is no more. To-day his book will be found on every sofa and work-table of the country — one year from to-day, it would be old-fashioned to speak of it. Of all the writers of the British empire, they only are permanently respectable who contrive to add a profession to the trade of authorship, or the trade of authorship to a profession, (like Jeffery) or to an office. The mere author is a beggar — and he, who knowing this, would continue to be an author, deserves to be a beggar — there and every where else.

Hereafter — when we have come to that department of our papers in England, we shall try to give our young and ambitious brotherhood of this country a detailed picture of what they have to expect, who are successful in that country, where success, according to the opinion of our people, is but another name for being crowned and sceptred forever. Fools! — fools! — authors and milliners have about the same chance in our day for a permanent immortality. Look at Sir Walter Scott; — his poetry and his prose. Look at Byron, (his last poems did not pay the cost of publication.) Look at Irving; look at fifty others. Yet Walter Scott has a trade as well as an office to support him; Byron is dead; and Irving has the field to himself — as the only American writer now in Europe.