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Ar the close of a year's labour, the Editor of a periodical work is, by custom, allowed the privilege of addressing a few words to his Readers, in order to state the efforts which he has made to gain their favour, and to apologize for whatever real or imaginary defects may have been alleged against his publication. This explanatory privilege is peculiarly due to a new Editor.
The part of his reckoning with the Public which would naturally be the most agreeable to his own selfish feelings, would undoubtedly be the mention of those congratulatory eulogies which have reached him from friends, and from unknown individuals. But the world is not to be addressed by him with self-complacency; and his recency as an Editor makes it proper that he should rather declare the means by which he has endeavoured to deserve success, than that he should boast of having partially obtained it. Those means, it is true, are likely to be the very same which every other periodical publisher takes credit to himself, more or less, for having employed; and it is not his duty to disparage the merit of rivals and contemporaries in the same pursuit — only he will not shrink from a comparison with any of them, in the pains which he has taken to solicit the assistance of able writers; in the terms which he has obtained from the Proprietors of the work, as acknowledgments to its contributors; and in the care which he has exerted, to keep the developement of moral truth and feeling free from all taint of personal animosity or invasion of private character.
It is as deeply the interest of the Editor, as of his Readers, that every obvious and remediable defect of the work should be forthwith amended; and he will
never be deaf to sound admonition. But it is so far from being practicable to obviate all objections to which a publication like this is liable, that it would even be useless to string them together, unless it were for the sake of ludicrously illustrating the diversities of human taste. Such censures pour in, not merely from the impartially rigid, but from the prejudiced and inimical, and from observers who see the self-same object in curiously contrasted lights of falsehood. The medley of counsels on his conduct, which the present Editor has received, rivals a game at cross purposes in whimsicality. He has been upbraided by one epistolary censor for impious criticisms on the metaphors of Ecclesiastes; and cautioned by another to revoke his fanatical praises of the Psalms of David, as savouring of Jumperism. "A Friend to the Church of England" complains that the Work has forsaken the banners of the English Church; whilst a foreign Journalist laments that it is still Englishly illiberal towards the Catholics; although the present Editor has never admitted one disrespectful, much less intolerant, sentiment against that body of believers.
The length of the articles has been sometimes found fault with, as obstructive to variety. Were the Editor really convinced that his papers could be compressed and multiplied with advantage, he would immediately and zealously act on this suggestion. But he has strong grounds for believing, that no benefit could be derived from his doing so. An augmented variety of articles would make it necessary either that individual correspondents should write on a greater number of subjects, some of which would necessarily be foreign to their particular habits and abilities; or that the circle of his contributors should be widely extended. But to a very great number of contributors, it would not be possible for the proprietors of this, or of any other work, to offer acknowledgments for their communications, at all worthy of their acceptance. It is a truth neither unknown nor dishonourable, that no important periodical publication can be supported by gratuitous contributions. And for the usefulness of the literary
profession, it is of no slight consequence that its honest industry should be profitable. But setting aside, if they should be thought indelicate, all ideas of profit, it is still but a sorry invitation to literary men, to tell them that, whether their subject be grave or gay, they must be stinted to a very few pages, and that their sentences are to be counted on the fingers of the Editor. Sometimes, it is true, and with painful feelings, he has been obliged to abridge the contributions of his coadjutors; but, on the whole, the system of compression could not be carried to rigour without either alienating useful writers, or requesting them to contribute mere scraps and fragments. Were the public even clearly disposed to patronize the scrap-system of literature, a spirited editor would be disposed to set his face against their taste. But England has, in fact, of late shewn decided symptoms of a predilection for a very different system of periodical writing.
The Editor pledges himself that whilst the Work remains under his superintendence, it shall inculcate neither licentious nor arbitrary principles. He declares his consciousness, however, of having no pretensions to rank among the periodical publishers of the time, who struggle for the honour of directing, or deeply influencing, political opinion. And he here uses the word honour, not ironically, but in good earnest. For he is aware that it would not be for the interests of the commonwealth, if all journalists, even with a leaning to liberal opinion, were to be equally abstinent with himself in commenting on public men and public measures. It is better, with all its drawbacks, that political zeal should be alive than dead; and its spirit may be honourably warm without outraging authority, or assassinating private character. But it does not follow, from the general utility of political discussion, that it should invariably pervade every species of literary compilation, or that there should be no calm spot in the world of periodical literature where all minds of common charity and candour may meet without the asperities of party feeling. There is no scarcity of polemical writers on political subjects; and there is no call for any man to add himself to
their number, unless he is conscious of his habits and pursuits having peculiarly fitted him to come with power into the contest. Impressed with this consideration, the present Editor the more willingly undertook this work, as the Proprietors declared their wish for its main object to be literary, and not political. Had the case been otherwise, there might have been room to charge him with inconsistency, in abstaining from the most interesting public questions of the day. But the circumstance which has been now mentioned, and the opinions of his countrymen, as far as he has heard them expressed, have set his mind at rest, that the motives of his reserve have not been mistaken. Sooner than be justly chargeable with servile or selfish motives of silence, he would expose his peace and character to any annoyances, in which the declaration of independent opinions could involve him. But, whilst concerned with these volumes, he thinks himself more likely to be usefully employed in stamping the Work with a purely literary character, than by coming forward in the arena of politics.
Whilst he thus declares himself deeply conscious of being answerable for the general character and moral tendency of the Work which he conducts, he must also remark, that his responsibility is not to be too rigorously interpreted as extending to every shade and expression of opinion which the publication may contain. It is impossible to give exact harmony and consistency to the sentiments of a numerous and changing body of contributors; and the spirit and originality of an amusing paper might often be more injured by pruning its eccentricities, than by suffering them to remain.
Under this plea the Editor has no desire to excuse himself for one article, which has given offence, rather too justly, on the other side of the Atlantic. He inserted it without reflection, but had observed its unfairness, and felt dissatisfied with himself for having published it, long before the fair and temperate reply which Mr. Everitt made to it had reached him. In adverting to this paper he will have occasion for once, and he hopes