Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/56

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42
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

region we get the most distinct of our few glimpses of light as from a tallow-candle held by the crazy scribbler John Dunton. Dunton, a descendant of clergymen, had become a bookseller, and got into various intricate troubles, till, as he tells us, he 'stooped so low as to become an author,' and sank in time to be a 'willing and everlasting drudge to the quill'! In 1705 he published his Life and Errors, a book which makes one long to ask him a few questions. He had seen many people of whom he could have given interesting 'reminiscences.' Unluckily he did not know in what posterity would be interested. We do not much care to know at the present day that Richard Sault was in all probability the true author of the Second Spira, a book of which Dunton sold 30,000 copies in six weeks, and which he now requests his readers to burn if they meet it. I have never had the chance of burning it, and cannot account for his remorse, though I hope that the sale was some consolation. But, besides this, Dunton had published the Athenian Mercury, a sort of anticipatory Notes and Queries, and to it not only this famous Sault, but John Wesley's father and Sir William Temple and Swift had sent contributions. He had known, too, all