Grub Street Journal, or Objective Khunts?


The Republic of Letters[edit]

French philosopher Pierre Bayle

The term “Republic of Letters” was coined in 1664 by Pierre Bayle in his journal Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres. Towards the end of the 18th century, the editor of Histoire de la République des Lettres en France, a literary survey, described the Republic of Letters as being:

In the midst of all the governments that decide the fate of men; in the bosom of so many states, the majority of them despotic … there exists a certain realm which holds sway only over the mind … that we honour with the name Republic, because it preserves a measure of independence, and because it is almost its essence to be free. It is the realm of talent and of thought.[163]

The Republic of Letters was the sum of a number of Enlightenment ideals: an egalitarian realm governed by knowledge that could act across political boundaries and rival state power.[163] It was a forum that supported “free public examination of questions regarding religion or legislation”.[164] Immanuel Kant considered written communication essential to his conception of the public sphere; once everyone was a part of the “reading public”, then society could be said to be enlightened.[165] The people who participated in the Republic of Letters, such as Diderot and Voltaire, are frequently known today as important Enlightenment figures. Indeed, the men who wrote Diderot’s Encyclopédie arguably formed a microcosm of the larger “republic”.[166]

Many women played an essential part in the French Enlightenment, due to the role they played as salonnières in Parisian salons, as the contrast to the male philosophes. The salon was the principal social institution of the republic[167] and “became the civil working spaces of the project of Enlightenment”. Women, as salonnières, were “the legitimate governors of [the] potentially unruly discourse” that took place within.[168] While women were marginalized in the public culture of the Old Regime, the French Revolution destroyed the old cultural and economic restraints of patronage and corporatism (guilds), opening French society to female participation, particularly in the literary sphere.[169]

Front page of The Gentleman’s Magazine, January 1731

In France, the established men of letters (gens de lettres) had fused with the elites (les grands) of French society by the mid-18th century. This led to the creation of an oppositional literary sphere, Grub Street, the domain of a “multitude of versifiers and would-be authors”.[170] These men came to London to become authors, only to discover that the literary market simply could not support large numbers of writers, who in any case were very poorly remunerated by the publishing-bookselling guilds.[171]

The writers of Grub Street, the Grub Street Hacks, were left feeling bitter about the relative success of the men of letters[172] and found an outlet for their literature which was typified by the libelle. Written mostly in the form of pamphlets, the libelles“slandered the court, the Church, the aristocracy, the academies, the salons, everything elevated and respectable, including the monarchy itself”.[173] Le Gazetier cuirassé by Charles Théveneau de Morande was a prototype of the genre. It was Grub Street literature that was most read by the public during the Enlightenment.[174] According to Darnton, more importantly the Grub Street hacks inherited the “revolutionary spirit” once displayed by the philosophes and paved the way for the French Revolution by desacralizing figures of political, moral and religious authority in France.[175]

The book industry[edit]

ESTC data 1477–1799 by decade given with a regional differentiation

The increased consumption of reading materials of all sorts was one of the key features of the “social” Enlightenment. Developments in the Industrial Revolution allowed consumer goods to be produced in greater quantities at lower prices, encouraging the spread of books, pamphlets, newspapers and journals – “media of the transmission of ideas and attitudes”. Commercial development likewise increased the demand for information, along with rising populations and increased urbanisation.[176]However, demand for reading material extended outside of the realm of the commercial and outside the realm of the upper and middle classes, as evidenced by the Bibliothèque Bleue. Literacy rates are difficult to gauge, but in France the rates doubled over the course of the 18th century.[177] Reflecting the decreasing influence of religion, the number of books about science and art published in Paris doubled from 1720 to 1780, while the number of books about religion dropped to just one-tenth of the total.[18]

Reading underwent serious changes in the 18th century. In particular, Rolf Engelsing has argued for the existence of a Reading Revolution. Until 1750, reading was done intensively: people tended to own a small number of books and read them repeatedly, often to small audience. After 1750, people began to read “extensively”, finding as many books as they could, increasingly reading them alone.[178] This is supported by increasing literacy rates, particularly among women.[179]

The vast majority of the reading public could not afford to own a private library and while most of the state-run “universal libraries” set up in the 17th and 18th centuries were open to the public, they were not the only sources of reading material. On one end of the spectrum was the Bibliothèque Bleue, a collection of cheaply produced books published in Troyes, France. Intended for a largely rural and semi-literate audience these books included almanacs, retellings of medieval romances and condensed versions of popular novels, among other things. While some historians have argued against the Enlightenment’s penetration into the lower classes, the Bibliothèque Bleue represents at least a desire to participate in Enlightenment sociability.[180] Moving up the classes, a variety of institutions offered readers access to material without needing to buy anything. Libraries that lent out their material for a small price started to appear and occasionally bookstores would offer a small lending library to their patrons. Coffee houses commonly offered books, journals and sometimes even popular novels to their customers. The Tatler and The Spectator, two influential periodicals sold from 1709 to 1714, were closely associated with coffee house culture in London, being both read and produced in various establishments in the city.[181] This is an example of the triple or even quadruple function of the coffee house: reading material was often obtained, read, discussed and even produced on the premises.[182]

Denis Diderot is best known as the editor of the Encyclopédie

It is extremely difficult to determine what people actually read during the Enlightenment. For example, examining the catalogs of private libraries gives an image skewed in favor of the classes wealthy enough to afford libraries and also ignores censored works unlikely to be publicly acknowledged. For this reason, a study of publishing would be much more fruitful for discerning reading habits.[183]

Across continental Europe, but in France especially, booksellers and publishers had to negotiate censorship laws of varying strictness. For example, the Encyclopédie narrowly escaped seizure and had to be saved by Malesherbes, the man in charge of the French censor. Indeed, many publishing companies were conveniently located outside France so as to avoid overzealous French censors. They would smuggle their merchandise across the border, where it would then be transported to clandestine booksellers or small-time peddlers.[184] The records of clandestine booksellers may give a better representation of what literate Frenchmen might have truly read, since their clandestine nature provided a less restrictive product choice.[185] In one case, political books were the most popular category, primarily libels and pamphlets. Readers were more interested in sensationalist stories about criminals and political corruption than they were in political theory itself. The second most popular category, “general works” (those books “that did not have a dominant motif and that contained something to offend almost everyone in authority”), demonstrated a high demand for generally low-brow subversive literature. However, these works never became part of literary canon and are largely forgotten today as a result.[185]

A healthy, legal publishing industry existed throughout Europe, although established publishers and book sellers occasionally ran afoul of the law. For example, the Encyclopédie condemned not only by the King, but also by Clement XII, nevertheless found its way into print with the help of the aforementioned Malesherbes and creative use of French censorship law.[186] However, many works were sold without running into any legal trouble at all. Borrowing records from libraries in England, Germany, and North America indicate that more than 70 percent of books borrowed were novels. Less than 1 percent of the books were of a religious nature, indicating the general trend of declining religiosity.[163]


Author: rogerglewis Looking for a Job either in Sweden or UK. Freelance, startups, will turń my hand to anything.

38 thoughts on “Grub Street Journal, or Objective Khunts?

  1. Overview of the three-book Dunciad
    The cultural attack is broader than the political one, and it may underlie the whole. Pope attacks, over and over again, those who write for pay. While Samuel Johnson would say, half a century later, that no man but a blockhead ever wrote but for money, Pope’s attack is not on those who get paid, but those who will write on cue for the highest bid. Pope himself was one of the earliest poets to make his living solely by writing, and so it is not the professional author, but the mercenary author that Pope derides. He attacks hired pens, the authors who perform poetry or religious writing for the greatest pay alone, who do not believe in what they are doing. As he puts it in book II, “He (a patron) chinks his purse, and takes his seat of state… And (among the poets) instant, fancy feels th’ imputed sense” (II 189–91). He objects not to professional writers, but to hackney writers. His dunce booksellers will trick and counterfeit their way to wealth, and his dunce poets will wheedle and flatter anyone for enough money to keep the bills paid.

  2. A Book II

    “As when a dab-chick waddles thro’ the copse,
    On feet and wings, and flies, and wades, and hops;
    So lab’ring on, with shoulders, hands, and head,
    Wide as a windmill all his figure spread . . .
    Full in the middle way there stood a lake,
    Which Curl’s Corinna chanc’d that morn to make,
    (Such was her wont, at early down to drop
    Her evening cates before his neighbour’s shop,)
    Here fortun’d Curl to slide; loud shout the band,
    And Bernard! Bernard! rings thro’ all the Strand.” (II 59–70)
    The race seemingly having been decided by progress through bed-pan slops, Curll prays to Jove, who consults the goddess Cloacina. He hears the prayer, passes a pile of feces down, and catapults Curll to the victory. As Curll grabs the phantom Moore, the poems it seemed to have fly back to their real authors, and even the clothes go to the unpaid tailors who had made them (James Moore Smythe had run through an inherited fortune and bankrupted himself by 1727). Dulness urges Curll to repeat the joke, to pretend to the public that his dull poets were really great poets, to print things by false names. (Curll had published numerous works by “Joseph Gay” to trick the public into thinking they were by John Gay.) For his victory, she awards Curll a tapestry showing the fates of famous Dunces. On it, he sees Daniel Defoe with his ears chopped off, John Tutchin being whipped publicly through western England, two political journalists clubbed to death (on the same day), and himself being wrapped in a blanket and whipped by the schoolboys of Westminster (for having printed an unauthorised edition of the sermons of the school’s master, thereby robbing the school’s own printer).

    The next contest Dulness proposes is for the phantom poetess, Eliza (Eliza Haywood). She is compared to their Hera. Whereas Hera was “cow-eyed” in Iliad, and “of the herders,” Haywood inverts these to become a

    “. . . Juno of majestic size,
    With cow-like-udders, and with ox-like eyes” (II 155–6).
    The booksellers will urinate to see whose urinary stream is the highest. Curll and Chetham compete. Chetham’s efforts are insufficient to produce an arc, and he splashes his own face. Curll, on the other hand, produces a stream over his own head, burning (with an implied case of venereal disease) all the while. For this, Chetham is awarded a kettle, while Curll gets the phantom lady’s works and company.

    The next contest is for authors, and it is the game of “tickling”: getting money from patrons by flattery. A very wealthy nobleman, attended by jockeys, huntsmen, a large sedan chair with six porters, takes his seat. One poet attempts to flatter his pride. A painter attempts to paint a glowing portrait. An opera author attempts to please his ears. John Oldmixon simply asks for the money (Oldmixon had attacked Pope in The Catholic Poet, but Pope claims that his real crime was plagiarism in his Critical History of England, which slandered the Stuarts and got him an office from the Whig ministry), only to have the lord clench his money tighter. Finally, a young man with no artistic ability sends his sister to the lord and wins the prize.

    “‘Twas chatt’ring, grinning, mouthing, jabb’ring all,
    And Noise, and Norton, Brangling, and Breval,
    Dennis and Dissonance; and captious Art,
    And Snip-snap short, and Interruption smart.
    ‘Hold (cry’d the Queen) A Catcall each shall win,
    Equal your merits! equal is your din!” (II 229–234)
    The critics are then invited to all bray at the same time. In this, Richard Blackmore wins easily:

    “All hail him victor in both gifts of Song,
    Who sings so loudly, and who sings so long.” (II 255–6)
    (Blackmore had written six epic poems, a “Prince” and “King” Arthur, in twenty books, an Eliza in ten books, an Alfred in twelve books, etc. and had earned the nickname “Everlasting Blackmore.” Additionally, Pope disliked his overuse of the verb “bray” for love and battle and so had chosen to have Blackmore’s “bray” the most insistent.)

    The assembled horde go down by Bridewell (the women’s prison) between 11:00 am and 12:00 pm, when the women prisoners are being whipped, and go “To where Fleet-ditch with disemboguing streams/ Rolls the large tribute of dead dogs to Thames” (II 267–8). At the time, Fleet Ditch was the city’s sewer outlet, where all of the gutters of the city washed into the river. It was silted, muddy, and mixed with river and city waters.

    In the ditch, the political hacks are ordered to strip off their clothes and engage in a diving contest. Dulness says, “Who flings most filth, and wide pollutes around/ The stream, be his the Weekly Journals, bound” (II 267–8), while a load of lead will go to the deepest diver and a load of coal to the others who participate. “The Weekly Journals” was a collective noun, referring to London Journal, Mist’s Journal, British Journal, Daily Journal, inter al. In this contest, John Dennis climbs up as high as a post and dives in, disappearing forever. Next, “Smedly” (Jonathan Smedley, a religious opportunist who criticised Jonathan Swift for gain) dives in and vanishes. Others attempt the task, but none succeed like Leonard Welsted (who had satirised Pope, Gay, and Arbuthnot’s play Three Hours after Marriage in 1717), for he goes in swinging his arms like a windmill (to splash all with mud): “No crab more active in the dirty dance,/ Downward to climb, and backward to advance” (II 296–7). He wins the Journals, but Smedly reappears, saying that he had gone all the way down to Hades, where he had seen that a branch of Styx flows into the Thames, so that all who drink city water grow dull and forgetful from Lethe.

  3. A Book III

    Settle gives Theobald full knowledge of Dulness. This is his baptism: the time when he can claim his divine role and begin his mission (in a parody of Jesus being blessed by the Holy Spirit). Settle shows Theobald the past triumphs of Dulness in its battles with reason and science. He surveys the translatio stultitia: the Great Wall of China and the emperor burning all learned books, Egypt and Omar I burning the books in the Ptolemean library. Then he turns to follow the light of the sun/learning to Europe and says,

    “How little, mark! that portion of the ball,
    Where, faint at best, the beams of Science fall.
    Soon as they dawn, from Hyperborean skies,
    Embody’d dark, what clouds of Vandals rise!” (III 75–8)
    Goths, Alans, Huns, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, and Islam are all seen as destroyers of learning. Christianity in the medieval period is also an enemy of learning and reason in Settle’s view:

    “See Christians, Jews, one heavy sabbath keep;
    And all the Western World believe and sleep.” (III 91–2)
    Pope lambastes the medieval popes for destroying statuary and books that depicted Classical gods and goddesses and for vandalising others, for making statues of Pan into Moses.

    Settle then surveys the future. He says that Grub Street will be Dulness’s Mount Parnassus, where the goddess will “Behold a hundred sons, and each a dunce” (III 130). He names two sons of contemporary dunces who were already showing signs of stupidity: Theophilus Cibber (III 134) and the son of Bishop Burnet.

    Settle turns to examine the present state of “duncery”, and this section of the third book is the longest. He first looks to literary critics, who are happiest when their authors complain the most. Scholars are described as:

    “A Lumberhouse of Books in every head,
    For ever reading, never to be read.” (III 189–90)

    William Hogarth made this engraving entitled “A Just View of the English Stage” in 1727. It shows the managers of the Drury Lane theatre (including Colley Cibber (center)) concocting an absurd farce with every possible stage effect, simply to get the better of John Rich. The toilet paper in the privy is labelled “Hamlet” and “Way of Ye World.”
    From critics, he turns to the contrastive of triumphant dunces and lost merit. Orator Henley gets special attention here (lines 195 ff.). Henley had set himself up as a professional lecturer. On Sundays, he would discuss theology, and on Wednesdays any other subject, and those who went to hear him would pay a shilling each (“Oh great Restorer of the good old Stage,/ Preacher at once, and Zany of thy Age!” 201–202), while learned bishops and skilled preachers spoke to empty congregations. Next come the theatres: a Dr. Faustus was the toast of the 1726–1727 season, with both Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Drury Lane competing for more and more lavish stage effects to get the audiences in:

    “Gods, imps, and monsters, music, rage, and mirth,
    A fire, a jig, a battle, and a ball,
    Till one wide Conflagration swallows all.” (III 233–6)
    Even though Pope was on good terms with some of the men involved (e.g. Henry Carey, who provided music for the Drury Lane version), the two companies are fighting to see who can make the least sense. This competition of vulgarity is led by two theatres, and each has its champion of decadence. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields is the “Angel of Dulness,” John Rich:

    “Immortal Rich! how calm he sits at ease
    Mid snows of paper, and fierce hail of pease;
    And proud his mistress’ orders to perform,
    Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm.” (III 257–260)

    Settle then surveys the future. He says that Grub Street will be Dulness’s Mount Parnassus, where the goddess will “Behold a hundred sons, and each a dunce” (III 130). He names two sons of contemporary dunces who were already showing signs of stupidity: Theophilus Cibber (III 134) and the son of Bishop Burnet.

    Settle turns to examine the present state of “duncery”, and this section of the third book is the longest. He first looks to literary critics, who are happiest when their authors complain the most. Scholars are described as:

    “A Lumberhouse of Books in every head,
    For ever reading, never to be read.” (III 189–90)

    Settle then reveals some current triumphs of dullness over good sense. He mentions William Benson as the proper judge of architecture,

    “While Wren with sorrow to the grave descends,
    Gay dies un-pension’d with a hundred Friends.
    Hibernian Politicks, O Swift, thy doom,
    And Pope’s translating three whole years with Broome.” (III 325–328)
    William Benson was a fool who had taken the place of Sir Christopher Wren and told the House of Lords that the house was unsound and falling down. It was not. John Gay never obtained a pension and yet was often remarked as one of the most jovial, intelligent, and compassionate wits of the age. Jonathan Swift had been “exiled” to Ireland, where he had become involved in Irish politics. Pope himself had spent three years translating Homer. Settle sees in these things great prospects for the coming age of darkness.

    The poem ends with a vision of the apocalypse of nonsense:

    “Lo! the great Anarch’s ancient reign restor’d,
    Light dies before her uncreating word.” (III 339–40)
    Settle invokes the second coming of stupidity, urging,

    “Thy hand great Dulness! lets the curtain fall,
    And universal Darkness covers all.” (III 355–6)
    At the very conclusion, Theobald cannot take any more joy, and he wakes. The vision goes back through the ivory gate of Morpheus.

  4. The four book Dunciad B of 1743
    In 1741, Pope wrote a fourth book of the Dunciad and had it published the next year as a stand-alone text. He also began revising the whole poem to create a new, integrated, and darker version of the text. The four-book Dunciad appeared in 1743 as a new work. Most of the critical and pseudo-critical apparatus was repeated from the Dunciad Variorum of 1738, but there was a new “Advertisement to the Reader” by Bishop Warburton and one new substantial piece: a schematic of anti-heroes, written by Pope in his own voice, entitled Hyper-Critics of Ricardus Aristarchus. The most obvious change from the three book to the four book Dunciad was the change of hero from Lewis Theobald to Colley Cibber.

    Colley Cibber: King of Dunces
    Pope’s choice of new ‘hero’ for the revised Dunciad, Colley Cibber, the pioneer of sentimental drama and celebrated comic actor, was the outcome of a long public squabble that originated in 1717, when Cibber introduced jokes onstage at the expense of a poorly received farce, Three Hours After Marriage, written by Pope with John Arbuthnot and John Gay. Pope was in the audience and naturally infuriated, as was Gay, who got into a physical fight with Cibber on a subsequent visit to the theatre. Pope published a pamphlet satirising Cibber, and continued his literary assault until his death, the situation escalating following Cibber’s politically motivated appointment to the post of poet laureate in 1730. Cibber’s role in the feud is notable for his ‘polite’ forbearance until, at the age of 71, he finally became exasperated. An anecdote in “A Letter from Mr. Cibber, to Mr. Pope”, published in 1742, recounts their trip to a brothel organised by Pope’s own patron, who apparently intended to stage a cruel joke at the expense of the poet. Since Pope was only about 4′ tall, with a hunchback, due to a childhood tubercular infection of the spine, and the prostitute specially chosen as Pope’s ‘treat’ was the fattest and largest on the premises, the tone of the event is fairly self-apparent. Cibber describes his ‘heroic’ role in snatching Pope off of the prostitute’s body, where he was precariously perched like a tom-tit, while Pope’s patron looked on, sniggering, thereby saving English poetry. In the third book of the first version of Dunciad (1728), Pope had referred contemptuously to Cibber’s “past, vamp’d, future, old, reviv’d, new” plays, produced with “less human genius than God gives an ape”. While Cibber’s elevation to laureateship in 1730 had further inflamed Pope against him, there is little speculation involved in suggesting that Cibber’s anecdote, with particular reference to Pope’s “little-tiny manhood”, motivated the revision of hero. Pope’s own explanation of the change of hero, given in the guise of Ricardus Aristarchus, provides a detailed justification for why Colley Cibber should be the perfect hero for a mock-heroic parody.

  5. The four book Dunciad B of 1743

    B Book II

    “Next plung’d a feeble, but a desp’rate pack,
    With each a sickly brother at his back:
    Sons of a Day! just buoyant on the flood,
    Then number’d with the puppies in the mud.
    Ask ye their names? I could as soon disclose
    The names of these blind puppies as of those.” (B 305–310)
    These “sons of a day” are the daily newspapers that only had lifespans of a single issue. They were frequently printed with two different papers on the same sheet of paper (front and back), and Pope quotes the investigation into Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford (conducted by Walpole’s administration) as showing that the Tory ministry of Pope’s friends had spent over fifty thousand pounds to support political papers. The dead gazettes are mourned only by “Mother Osborne” (James Pitt, who had run the London Journal under the name of “Father Osborne”; he had been called “Mother Osborne” for his dull, pedantic style).

  6. Book IV
    Book IV was entirely new to the Dunciad B and had been published first as a stand-alone concluding poem. Pope himself referred to the four-book version “the Greater Dunciad,” in keeping with the Greater Iliad. It is also “greater” in that its subject is larger. Book IV can function as a separate piece or as the conclusion of the Dunciad: in many ways its structure and tone are substantially different from the first three books, and it is much more allegorical.

    It opens with a second, nihilistic invocation:

    “Yet, yet a moment, one dim Ray of Light
    Indulge, dread Chaos, and eternal Night!” (B IV 1–2)
    “Suspend a while your Force inertly strong,
    Then take at once the Poet, and the Song.” (ibid. 7–8)
    The fourth book promises to show the obliteration of sense from England. The Dog-star shines, the lunatic prophets speak, and the daughter of Chaos and Nox (Dulness) rises to “dull and venal a new World to mold” (B IV 15) and begin a Saturnian age of lead.

  7. Dulness takes her throne, and Pope describes the allegorical tableau of her throne room. Science is chained beneath her foot-stool. Logic is gagged and bound. Wit has been exiled from her kingdom entirely. Rhetoric is stripped on the ground and tied by sophism. Morality is dressed in a gown that is bound by two cords, of furs (the ermines of judges) and lawn (the fabric of bishops sleeves), and at a nod from Dulness, her “page” (a notorious hanging judge named Page who had had over one hundred people executed) pulls both cords tight and strangles her. The Muses are bound in tenfold chains and guarded by Flattery and Envy. Only mathematics is free, because it is too insane to be bound. Nor, Pope says, could Chesterfield refrain from weeping upon seeing the sight (for Chesterfield had opposed the Licensing Act of 1737, which is the chaining of the Muses). Colley Cibber, however, slumbers, his head in Dulness’s lap. (In a note, Pope says that it is proper for Cibber to sleep through the whole of Book IV, as he had had no part in the actions of book II, slept through book III, and therefore ought to go on sleeping.)

    Into the audience chamber, a “Harlot form” “with mincing step, small voice, and languid eye” comes in (B IV 45–6). This is opera, who wears patchwork clothing (for operas being made up of the patchwork of extant plays and being itself a mixed form of singing and acting). Opera then speaks to Dulness of the Muses:

    “Chromatic tortures soon shall drive them hence,
    Break all their nerves, and fritter all their sense:
    One Trill shall harmonise joy, grief, and rage,
    Wake the dull Church, and lull the ranting Stage;
    To the same notes thy sons shall hum, or snore,
    And all thy yawning daughters cry, encore.” (B IV 55–60)

  8. There are three classes of dunce. First, there are the naturally dull. These are drawn to her as bees are to a queen bee, and they “adhere” to her person. The second are the people who do not wish to be dunces but are, “Whate’er of mungril no one class admits,/ A wit with dunces, and a dunce with wits” (B IV 89–90). These dunces orbit Dulness. They struggle to break free, and they get some distance from her, but they are too weak to flee. The third class are “false to Phoebus, bow to Baal;/ Or impious, preach his Word without a call” (B IV 93–4). They are men and women who do dull things by supporting dunces, either by giving money to hacks or by suppressing the cause of worthy writers. These people come to Dulness as a comet does: although they are only occasionally near her, they habitually do her bidding.

  9. As soon as she mentions them, the professors of Cambridge and Oxford (except for Christ Church college) rush to her, “Each fierce Logician, still expelling Locke” (196). (John Locke had been censured by Oxford University in 1703, and his Essay on Human Understanding had been banned.)

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