Chapter 17


As soon as Adams came into the room Mr. Barnabas introduced him to the stranger, who was, he told him, a bookseller, and would be as likely to deal with him for his sermons as any man whatever. Adams, saluting the stranger, answered Barnabas that he was very much obliged to him; that nothing could be more convenient, for he had no other business to the great city, and was heartily desirous of returning with the young man, who was just recovered of his misfortune. He then snapt his fingers (as was usual with him), and took two or three turns about the room in an ecstasy. And to induce the bookseller to be as expeditious as possible, as likewise to offer him a better price for his commodity, he assured them their meeting was extremely lucky for himself; for that he had the most pressing occasion for money at that time, his own being almost spent, and having a friend then in the same inn, who was just recovered from some wounds he had received from robbers, and was in a most indigent condition. “So that nothing,” says he, “could be so opportune for the supplying both our necessities as my making an immediate bargain with you.”

As soon as he had seated himself, the stranger began in these words: “Sir, I do not care absolutely to deny engaging in what my friend Mr. Barnabas recommends; but sermons are mere drugs. The trade is so vastly stocked with them, that really, unless they come out with the name of Whitefield or Wesley, or some other such great man, as a bishop, or those sort of people, I don’t care to touch; unless now it was a sermon preached on the 30th of January; or we could say in the title-page, published at the earnest request of the congregation, or the inhabitants; but, truly, for a dry piece of sermons, I had rather be excused; especially as my hands are so full at present. However, sir, as Mr. Barnabas mentioned them to me, I will, if you please, take the manuscript with me to town, and send you my opinion of it in a very short time.”

“Oh!” said Adams, “if you desire it, I will read two or three discourses as a specimen.” This Barnabas, who loved sermons no better than a grocer doth figs, immediately objected to, and advised Adams to let the bookseller have his sermons: telling him, “If he gave him a direction, he might be certain of a speedy answer”; adding, he need not scruple trusting them in his possession. “No,” said the bookseller, “if it was a play that had been acted twenty nights together, I believe it would be safe.”

Adams did not at all relish the last expression; he said “he was sorry to hear sermons compared to plays.”—“Not by me, I assure you,” cried the bookseller, “though I don’t know whether the licensing act may not shortly bring them to the same footing; but I have formerly known a hundred guineas given for a play.”—“More shame for those who gave it,” cried Barnabas.—“Why so?” said the bookseller, “for they got hundreds by it.”—“But is there no difference between conveying good or ill instructions to mankind?” said Adams: “Would not an honest mind rather lose money by the one than gain it by the other?”—“If you can find any such, I will not be their hindrance,” answered the bookseller; “but I think those persons who get by preaching sermons are the properest to lose by printing them: for my part, the copy that sells best will be always the best copy in my opinion; I am no enemy to sermons, but because they don’t sell: for I would as soon print one of Whitefield’s as any farce whatever.”

“Whoever prints such heterodox stuff ought to be hanged,” says Barnabas. “Sir,” said he, turning to Adams, “this fellow’s writings (I know not whether you have seen them) are levelled at the clergy. He would reduce us to the example of the primitive ages, forsooth! and would insinuate to the people that a clergyman ought to be always preaching and praying. He pretends to understand the Scripture literally; and would make mankind believe that the poverty and low estate which was recommended to the Church in its infancy, and was only temporary doctrine adapted to her under persecution, was to be preserved in her flourishing and established state. Sir, the principles of Toland, Woolston, and all the freethinkers, are not calculated to do half the mischief, as those professed by this fellow and his followers.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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