"It may not be unfit for him who makes a new entrance into the lettered world... to believe that he possibly may deserve neglect." - Samuel Johnson, The Rambler No. 2.
To finesse the proverb: a journey of a thousand miles begins not with a single step, but with a general sense of direction. And so, to christen the launch of what I hope will be a mutually profitable and delightful ramble over the course of the next two years, I’d like to divulge the in and as-pirations of this endeavour so as to kindle your curiosity and douse my own smouldering suspicion that a blog is a blog is a blog.
I met my title in the writings of Dr Samuel Johnson, who in turn was introduced to it by Horace. The profit to which it alludes is not subject to tax. I don’t intend to brick myself behind a paywall, and you won’t receive a pecuniary bean. To miscontextualise Jay-Z feat. Jermaine Dupri: “to hell with the price/ cause the money ain’t a thang." The profit I’m rapping about is a more profound definition of ‘an advantageous gain or return,’ one that seeks to increase the value we extract from our lives and observations of the world, and inflate our delight in them too.
I make the bulk of my money as a writer. Overall, I’m happy in my work, and proud of what I do. But the nature of the job means “we contrive in minutes what we execute in years.” My latest play, for example, was delivered last month after a gestation of thirty-four. It’s a real cracker, the best I’ve ever done, but as I steered my slow and steady ship, I can’t say I wasn’t envious of other writers zipping around in smaller craft, sails filled with the popular breeze. Here you’ll find my pleasure boat, in which I get to hoon.
This blog owes more to the good Dr than the title alone. Between 1750 and 1752 he published an essay, twice a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays, in the form of a twopenny sheet he called The Rambler. It was one of a multitude of such publications, eerily similar to blogs, that stampeded through the streets following technological advances that flattened many of the hurdles between thinking up an idea, and committing it to print.
Johnson embraced the form, but not the prevailing style of the writers of the time, who can be described crudely but not inaccurately as falling over each other to mimic the biases, concerns and vernacular of the general public in order to tickle its balls. Johnson intentionally wrote in elevated prose to pursue a higher-minded expression of higher-minded aims: he believed the task of an author is “either to teach what is not known, or to recommend known truths by his manner of adorning them; either to let new light in upon the mind, and open new scenes to the prospect, or to vary the dress and situation of common objects, so as to give them fresh grace and more powerful attractions.” I quote at length, because I couldn’t put it better myself. I’ve taken his sentiment to heart as both a truth and a dare.
So this is where you’ll find me exercising my resources in the hope of gaining strength; and wrestling common thoughts into higher expressions of sentiment and language. This is not about unrestrained verbosity or trying to show off. My intention is to achieve shades of insight and flavours of meaning that simply can’t be discovered by painting in primary colours, or heaping in the sugar, salt and fat.
My relationship with Johnson is that of mortgagor and mortgagee. Like most borrowers I’ve taken on my debt in hope and haste and with little judgement. Johnson was a genius whose furnished his public with quotes and allusions from the vast and well-stocked cellars of his mind. Although my intentions are as generous, my mental supplies are comparatively scant, and you will often catch me dashing to the metaphorical liquor store. For example, almost everything I’m telling you about Dr J I’ve culled from Wikipedia. I have little reading and less news, but I do have the internet, and a full tank of curiosity to get me from A to Ω.
So here it is, a gentle start I know, but as my wise teacher says “it is more pleasing to see smoke brightening into flame, than flame sinking into smoke.”
I’ll publish a new issue, every Tuesday and Saturday afternoon, my time, from wherever I am in the world. At the moment that’s New York. I’ll remind you via twitter, and Facebook, and if the demand is there I may even create an email list. The subjects under consideration will be many and various; any topic can feel confident of gaining admission so long as it demonstrates its willingness to profit and delight.
In Issue 2, Tuesday September 17, I will propose a novel solution to the career politician, democracy’s original sin.
 Z, Jay-, Vol 2. Hard Knock Life, Roc-A-Fella Records, 1998.
 Johnson, The Rambler, No. 8
 Johnson, The Rambler, No. 3
 Johnson, The Rambler, No. 1
PROFIT & DELIGHT
What I'm thinking about what I'm doing. This blog aspires to a more profound definition of 'profit' and the bog-standard sense of 'delight'.