Page:Satires and profanities -microform- (1884).djvu/112

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103
SATIRES AND PROFANITIES.

No intelligent man in England, without (which is a contradiction in terms) his ideas are exactly coincident with the non-ideas of Bumble, or without he is rich and independent, can afford to devote himself to honest treatment of any great religious or social, moral or philosophical question. If treated in a book, he must himself pay the expense of publication; if treated in an article, not even by payment could he get the portals of any popular periodical to open unto him. For periodicals—newspapers, magazines, reviews—are the Fools' Paradise of the commonplace, the mediocre, the orthodox, the respectable. As the strength of a chain must be measured by its weakest link, so the thought of a periodical must be measured by the thought of its most imbecile subscribers. A periodical to live must be a commercial success; the faintest thrill of new ideas would affect its circulation by shocking off some of its regular readers; it must suit its articles to the size of its customers—a very little hat for a very little head, a very little thought for a very little brain. Thus, though in thinking of their criticisms I spoke so contemptuously of our critics, I do not doubt that many of them are much wiser than their articles. The most honest of them must live by their pen, so they do not attempt to tell the whole truth though they will not tell a lie; many, however, undoubtedly are as apt for the sin of commission as for the sin of omission.

A noteworthy instance occurs to me as I write. An eminent English author, in some respects even a great author, complained that in our country no one since Fielding had dared to attempt the full and faithful portraiture of a man, and he set himself to the task in a work published by instalments. As he entered upon certain phases of common virile life, the circulation of the serial began to decrease. This author was eminent, well-off, much more honest and wise and brave than ninety-nine authors in a hundred: of course, having begun his work he would honestly finish it, he would not only tell the truth and nothing but the truth, he