An editor describes a common creature.
I am not at all surprised that a countryman, who generally lives upon the fruit of his labour, and breathes the sweet air of real independence, should not understand what a Toad-eater means.
A “COUNTRYMAN” asks me the meaning of the appellation Toad-eater. I am not at all surprised that a countryman, who generally lives upon the fruit of his labour, and breathes the sweet air of real independence, should not understand what a Toad-eater means; I shall, therefore, endeavour to explain its meaning to him.—
A Toad-eater, odd as it may seem, is an animal that walks upon two legs. His chief business in life is to seek his food; and, provided he can obtain the end, he is not delicate about the means; but the quality from which he derives his name, is standing in the gap, and swallowing the satire that would otherwise be forced down the throat of a rich knave or fool, rather than do which there is no man of spirit would not swallow that most loathsome of all creatures, a toad. Hence the name of Toad-eater.—
Toad-eaters are seldom found either in Europe or America, any where but in and about great cities. They are of degrees as different as the services they have to perform. Fools and rogues of great wealth generally look for them amongst the refuse of the three learned professions, where they can rarely make a bad choice. Cashiered officers, and players hissed from the stage, are also a most excellent kind. But all these are above the reach of the small game of satire, who are, therefore, obliged to seek toad-eaters elsewhere. If a pettifogger, a poetaster, a quack, or a spurious envoy, stand in need of a toad-eater, he looks for him among the printers of newspapers. Here he is sure to suit himself; here, for a subscription, or the insertion of an advertisement, he finds mouths of all sizes, and gullets of all dimensions, distended to receive his toad, with as much joy and gratitude as the young ones of the crow receive the carrion from her bill.
—William Cobbett (ed.), Porcupine’s Gazette (January 1799).