Cave, Edward

, a printer to whom the literary world owes great obligations, was born at Newton, in Warwickshire, Feb. 29, 1691. His father (Joseph) was the younger son of Mr. Edward Cave, of Cave’s in the Hole, a lone house on the street-road in the same county, which took its name from the occupier; but having concurred with his elder brother in cutting off the entail of a small hereditary estate, by which act it was lost from the family, he was reduced to follow in Rugby the trade of a shoemaker. He was a man of good reputation in his narrow circle, and remarkable for strength and rustic intrepidity. He lived to a great age, and was in his latter years supported by his son.

It was fortunate for Edward Cave, that having a disposition to literary attainments, he was not cut off by the poverty of his parents from opportunities of cultivating his faculties. The school of Rugby, in which he had, by the rules of its foundation, a right to be instructed, was then in high reputation, under the rev. Mr. Holyock, to whose care most of the neighbouring families, even of the highest | rank, entrusted their sons. He had judgment to discover, and, for some time, generosity to encourage the genius of young Cave; and was so well pleased with his quick progress in the school, that he declared his resolution to breed him for the university, and recommend him as a servitor to some of his scholars of high rank. But prosperity which depends upon the caprice of others, is of short duration. Cave’s superiority in literature exalted him to an invidious familiarity wjth boys who were far above him in rank and expectations; and, as in unequal associations it always happens, whatever unlucky prank was played, was imputed to Cave. When any mischief, great or small, was done, though perhaps others boasted of the stratagem when it was successful, yet, upon detection or miscarriage, the fault was sure to fall upon poor Cave. At last, his mistress by some invisible means lost a favourite cock; Cave was with little examination stigmatized as the thief or murderer; not because he was more apparently criminal than others, but because he was more easily reached by vindictive justice. From that time Mr. Holyock withdrew his kindness visibly from him, and treated him with harshness which the crime, in its utmost aggravation, could scarcely deserve; and which surely he would have forborne, had he considered how hardly the habitual influence of birth and fortune is resisted; and how frequently men, not wholly without sense of virtue, are betrayed to acts more atrocious than the robbery of a henroost, by a desire of pleasing their superiors. Those reflections his master never made, or made without effect; for, under pretence that Cave obstructed the discipline of the school, by selling clandestine assistance, and supplying exercises to idlers, he was oppressed with unreasonable tasks, that there might be an opportunity of quarrelling with his failure; and when his diligence had surmounted them, no regard was paid to the performance. Cave bore this persecution awhile, and then left the school, and the hope of a literary education, to seek some other means of gaining a livelihood.

He was first placed with a collector of the excise. He used to recount with some pleasure a journey or two which he rode with him as his clerk, and relate the victories that he gained over the exciseman in grammatical disputations. But the insolence of his mistress, who employed him in servile drudgery, quickly disgusted him; and he went up to London in quest of more suitable employment. Here | he was recommended to a timber-merchant at the Bankside, and while he was on liking, is said to have given hopes of great mercantile abilities; but this place he soon left, for whatever reason, and was bound apprentice to Mr. Collins, a printer of some reputation, and deputy alderman. This was a trade for which men were formerly qualified by a literary education; and which was pleasing to Cave, because it furnished some employment for his scholastic attainments. Here, therefore, he resolved to settle, though his master and mistress lived in perpetual discord, ana their house was therefore no comfortable habitation. From the inconveniences of these domestic tumults he was soon released, having in only two years attained so much skill in his art, and gained so much the confidence of his master, that he was sent, without any superintendant, to conduct a printing-house at Norwich, and publish a weekly paper. In this undertaking he met with some opposition, which produced a public controversy, and procured young Cave the reputation of a writer.

His master died before his apprenticeship was expired, and he was not able to bear the perverseness of his mistress. He therefore quitted her house, upon a stipulated allowance, and married a young widow, with whom he lived at Bow. When his apprenticeship was over, he worked as a journeyman at the printing-house of Mr. Barber, a man much distinguished and employed by the tories, whose principles had at that time so much prevalence with Cave, that he was for some years a writer in Mist’s Journal; which, though he afterwards obtained by his wife’s interest a small place in the post-office, he for some time continued. But as interest is powerful, and conversation, however mean, in time persuasive, he by degrees inclined to another party; in which, however, he was always moderate, though steady and determined. When he was admitted into the post-office, he still continued, at his intervals of attendance, to exercise his trade, or to employ himself with some typographical business. He corrected the “Gradus ad Parnassum” and was liberally rewarded by the Company of Stationers. He wrote an “Account of the Criminals,” which had for some time a considerable sale and published many little pamphlets that accident brought into his hands, of which it would be very difficult to recover the memory. By the correspondence which his place in the post-office facilitated, he procured country | news-papers, and sold their intelligence to a journalist in London, for a guinea a week. He was afterwards raised to the office of clerk of the franks, in which he acted with great spirit and firmness; and often slopped franks which were given by members of parliament to their friends, because he thought such extension of a peculiar right illegal. This raised many complaints; and having stopped among others a frank given to the old duchess of Marlborough by Mr. Walter Plummer, he was cited before the house, as for breach of privilege, and accused, perhaps very unjustly, of opening letters to detect them. He was treated with great harshness and severity, but declining their questions by pleading his oath of secrecy, was at last dismissed. And it must be recorded to his honour, that, when he was ejected from his office, he did not think himself discharged from his trust, but continued to refuse to his nearest friends any informationabout the management of the office.

By this constancy of diligence and diversification of employment, he in time collected a sum sufficient for the purchase of a small printing-office, and began the “Gentleman’s Magazine,” a periodical pamphlet, of which the scheme is known wherever the English language is spoken. To this undertaking he owed the affluence in which he passed the last twenty years of his life; and the fortune which he left behind him, though large, had been yet larger, had he not rashly and wantonly impaired it by innumerable projects, of which none succeeded.*


The Gentleman’s Magazine, which has now (1813) subsisted more than eighty years, aud still continues to enjoy the favour of the world, is one of the most successful and lucrative pamphlets which literary history has upon record, and therefore deserves, in this narrative, particular notice.

Mr. Cave, when he formed the project of the Magazine, was far from expecting the success which he found; and others had so little prospect of its consequence, that though he had for several years talked of his plan among printers and booksellers, none of them thought it worth the trial. That they were not restrained by their virtue from the execution of another man’s design, was sufficiently apparent, as soon as that design began to be gainful; for in a few years a multitude of magazines arose, and perished; only the London Magazine, supported by a powerful -association of booksellers, and circulated with all the art and all the cunning of trade, exempted itself from the | general fate of Cave’s invaders, and obtained for some years, though not an equal, yet a considerable sale.

Cave now began to aspire to popularity; and being a greater lover of poetry than any other art, he sometimes offered subjects for poems, and proposed prizes for the best performers. The first prize was 50l. for which, being but newly-acquainted with wealth, and thinking the influence of 50l. extremely great, he expected the first authors of the kingdom to appear as competitors; and offered the allotment of the prize to the universities. But when the time came, no name was seen among the writers that had been ever seen before; the universities, and several private men, rejected the province of assigning the prize*. At all this, Mr. Cave wondered for a while; but his natural judgment, and a wider acquaintance with the world, soon cured him of his astonishment, as of many other prejudices and errors. Nor have many men been seen raised by accident or industry to sudden riches, that retained lees of the meanness of their former state.

He continued to improve his Magazine, and had the satisfaction of seeing its success proportionate to his diligence, till in 1751, his wife died of an asthma. He seemed not at first much affected by her death, but in a few days lost his sleep and his appetite, which be never recovered; but after having lingered about two years, with many vicissitudes of amendment and relapse, fell by drinking acid liquors into a diarrhoea, and afterwards into a kind of lethargic insensibility, in which one of the last acts of reason which he exerted, says Dr. Johnson, was "fondly to press the hand that is now writing this little narrative. 91 He died Jan. 10, 1754, having just concluded the 23d annual collection


The determination was left to Dr. Cromwell Mortimer and Dr. Birch and by the latter the award was made, which may be seen in —Gent. Mag. vol. VI. p. 59.

Mr. —Cave was buried in the church of St. James, Clerkenwell; but the following inscription, from the pen of Dr. Hawkesworth, is placed at Rugby.

Near this place lies

The body of

Joseph —Cave,

Late of this parish,

Who departed this life Nov. 18, 1747,

Aged 79 years.

He was placed by Providence in a

humble station;


Industry abundantly supplied the wants

of Nature,


Temperance blessed him with

Consent and Wealth.

He was an affectionate Father,

He was made happy in the decline

of life

By the deserved eminence of his eldest


Edward —Cave;

| He was a man of a large stature, not only tall but bulky, and was, when young, of remarkable strength and activity. He was generally healthful, and capable of much labour and long application; but in the latter years of his life was afflicted with the gout, which he endeavoured to cure or alleviate by a total abstinence both from strong liquors and animal food. From animal food he abstained about four years, and from strong liquors much longer; but the gout continued unconquered, perhaps unabated.

His resolution and perseverance were very uncommon; in whatever he undertook, neither expence nor fatigue were able to repress him; but his constancy was calm, and, to those who did not know him, appeared faint and languid, but he always went forward, though he moved slowly. The same chillness of mind was observable in his conversation: he was watching the minutest accent of those whom he disgusted by seeming inattention; and his visitant was surprised when he came a second time, by preparations to execute the scheme which he supposed never to have been heard. He was, consistently with this general tranquillity of mind, a tenacious maintainer, though not a clamorous demander of his right. In his youth having summoned his fellow journeymen to concert measures against the oppression of their masters, he mounted a kind of rostrum, and harangued them so efficaciously, that they determined to resist all future invasions; and when the stamp officers demanded to stamp the last half-sheet of the magazines, Mr. Cave alone defeated their claim, to which | the proprietors of the rival magazines would meanly have submitted.

He was a friend rather easy and constant, than zealous and active; yet many instances might be given, where both his money and his diligence were employed liberally for others. His enmity was in like manner cool and deliberate; but though cool, it was not insidious, and though deliberate, not pertinacious. His mental faculties were slow. He saw little at a time, but that little he saw with great exactness. He was long in finding the right, but seldom failed to find it at last. His affections were not easily gained, and his opinions not quickly discovered. His reserve, as it might hide his faults, concealed his virtues btit such he was, as they who best knew him have most lamented.*


Besides the pleasure we have in adorning our work with a life written by Dr. Johnson, we think that Edward —Cave was otherwise worthy of a place in the Biographia Britarmica, as the inventor of a new species of publication, which may be considered as something of an epocha in the literary history of this country. The periodical performances before that time were almost whollyconfmed topolitical transactions, and to foreign and domestic occurrences. But the monthly magazines have opened a way for cverv kind of inquiry and information. The intelligence and discussion contained in them are very extensive and various; and they have been the means of diffusing a ge­ neral habit of reading through the nation, which, in a certain ile^n has enlarged the public understanding. Many young authors, who have afterwards risen to considerable eminence in the literary world, have here made their first attempts in composition. Here, too, are preserved a multitude of curious and useful hints, observations, and facts, which otherwise might have never appeared or, if they had appeared in a more evanescent form, would have incurred the danger of being lost. If it were not an invidious task, the history of them would he no incurious or tmentertaining subject.” Dr. Kippis, in Biographica Britainnica.


Dr. Johnson’s Life, here followed almost literally. additional particulars of —Cave may be found in Nichols’s Buwyer, and in Boswull’s and Hawkuis’s Lives of Dr. Johnson.