Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/52

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38
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

of the Press.[1] Yet I have found even in such books phrases which seem to imply a misconception allusions, for example, to the 'editor and staff' of a newspaper in the days of Queen Anne. Such a slip occurs in the most perfect presentment of the spirit of that period, Thackeray's Esmond. Esmond goes to see the printer of The Postboy, and in the house encounters Swift. 'I presume you are the editor of The Postboy, sir?' says Swift. 'I am but a contributor,' replies Esmond. The scene is otherwise quite accurate, but Esmond, in his anxiety to be smart upon Swift, makes an anachronism. I do not know who wrote The Postboy at this period (1712), but it was shortly before written by Abel Boyer. Boyer was a French refugee who had to toil in Grub Street for his living. Some of his painful compilations are still known to antiquarians, and his French dictionary, or a dictionary which continued to pass under his name, survived till quite recently, if it be not still extant. He was employed by one Roper[2] to write The Postboy, but was turned off in 1709.

  1. I may especially refer to the last of these, Mr. Fox Bourne's History of Newspapers, from which I have appropriated some facts.
  2. In Esmond, the printer of The Postboy is Leach, who really printed The Postman. Whether Kemp, the writer mentioned by Thackeray, was a real person, I do not know.