My Book

THE trouble about biographies is that by the time they are written the person is dead. You have heard of him remotely. You know that he sang a world’s songs, founded great empires, won brilliant victories, did heroes’ work; but you do not know the little tender touches of his life, the things that bring him into near kinship with humanity, and set him by the household hearth without unclasping the diadem from his brow, until he is dead, and it is too late forevermore. Then with vague restlessness you visit the brook in which his trout-line drooped, you pluck a leaf from the elm that shaded his regal head, you walk in the graveyard that holds in its bosom his silent dust, only to feel with unavailing regret that no sunshine of his presence can gleam upon you. The life that stirred in his voice, shone in his eye., and fortressed itself in his unconscious bearing, can make to you no revelation. It is departed, none knows whither. He is as much a part of the past as if he had tended flocks for Abraham on the plains of Mamre.

This, when biographies are at their best. Generally, they are at their worst. Generally, they don’t know the things you wish to learn, and when they do, they don’t tell them. They give you statistics, facts, reflections, eulogies, dissertations ; but what you hunger and thirst after is the man’s inner life. Of what use is it to know what a man does, unless you know what made him do it ? This you can seldom learn from memoirs. Look at the numerous brood that followed in the wake of Shelley’s fame. Every one gives you, not Shelley, but himself, served up in Shelley sauce. Think of your own experience: do you not know that the vital facts of your life are hermetically sealed ? Do you not know that you are a world within a world, whose history and geography may be summed up in that phrase which used to make the interior of Africa the most delightful spot in the whole atlas,— “ Unexplored Region ” ? One person may have started an expedition here, and another there. Here one may have struck a river-course, and there one may have looked down into a valley-depth, and all may have brought away their golden grain; but the one has not followed the river to its source, nor the other wandered bewilderingly through the valley-lands, and none have traversed the Field of the Cloth of Gold. So the geographies are all alike: boundaries, capital, chief towns, rivers, mountains, and lakes. And what is true of you is doubtless true of all. Faith is not to be put in biographies. They can tell what your name is, and what was vour grandfather's coat of arms, when you were born, where you lived, and how you died,—though, if they are no more accurate after you are dead than they are before, their statements will hardly come under the head of “reliable intelligence.” But even if they are accurate, what then ? Suppose you were born in Pikesville : a thousand people drew their first breath there, and not one of them was like you in character or fate. You were born in some year of our Lord. Thousands upon thousands date from the same year, and each went his own way, —

“ One to long darkness and the frozen tide,
One to the peaceful sea! ”

All this is nothing and accounts for nothing, yet this is all. Whether you were susceptible of calmness or deeply turbulent,—whether you were amiable, or only amiably disposed,—whether you were inwardly blest and only superficially unrestful, safely moored even while tossing on an unquiet sea, — what you thought, what you hoped, how you felt, yes, and how you lived and loved and hated, they do not know and cannot tell. A biographer may be ever so conscientious, but he stands on the outside of’ the circle of his subject, and his view will lack symmetry. There is but one who, from his position in the centre, is competent to give a fair and full picture, and that is your own self. A few may possess imagination, and so partially atone for the disadvantages of position ; but, ten hundred thousand to one, they will not have a chance at your life. You must die knowing that you are at the mercy of whoever can hold a pen.

Unless you take time by the forelock and write your biography yourself ! Then you will be sure to do no harm, inasmuch as no one is obliged to read your narrative; and you may do much good, because, if any one does read it and become interested in you, he will have the pleasant consciousness of living in the same world with you. When he drives through your street, he can put his head out of the carriage-window and stand a chance of seeing you just coming in at the front gate. Also, if you write your biography yourself, yon can have your choice as to what shall go in and what shall stay out. You can make a discreet selection of your letters, giving the go-by to that especial one in which you rather — is there such a word as spooneyly ? — offered yourself to your wife. Every word was as good as the Bank of England to her, for to her you were a lover, a knight, a great brownbearded angel, and all metaphors, however violent, fell upon good ground. But to the people who read your life you will be a trader, a lawyer, a shoemaker, who pays his butcher’s bills and looks after the main chance, and the metaphors, emptied of their fire, but retaining their town, will Seem incongruous, not to say ridiculous. I do not say that your wife’s lover and knight and angel are not a higher and a better, yes, and a truer you, than the world’s trader and lawyer; still your love-letters will probably do better in the bosom of the love-lettered than on a bookseller’s shelves. Besides these advantages, there is another in præ-humous publication. If you wait for your biography till yon are dead, it is extremely probable you will lose it altogether. The world has so much to see to ahead that it can hardly spare a glance over its shoulder to take note of what is behind. Take the note yourself and make sure of it. You will then know where you are, and be master of the situation.

I purpose, therefore, to write the history of my life, from my entrance upon it down to a period which is within the memory of men still living. In so doing, I shall not be careful to trace out that common ground which may be supposed to underlie all lives, but only indicate those features which serve to distinguish one from another. Everybody is christened, cuts his teeth, and eats bread and molasses. Silently will we, therefore, infer the bread and molasses, and swiftly stride in seven-league boots from mountain-peak to mountain-peak.

I was born of parents who, though not poor, were respectable, and I had also the additional distinction of being a precocious child. I differed from most precocious children, however, in not dying young, and that opportunity, once let slip, is now forever gone. I believe the precocious children who do not die young develop into idiots. My family have never been without well-grounded fears in that line.

Nothing of any importance happened to me after I was born till I grew up and wrote a book. Indeed, I believe I may say even that never happened, for I did not write a book. Rather a book came to pass,—somewhat like the goklsmitliery of Aaron, who threw the car-rings into the fire, and “ there came out this calf” ! I went out one day alone, as was my wont, in an open boat, and drifted beyond sight of land. I had heard that shipwrecked mariners sometimes throw out a bottle of papers to give posterity a clue to their fate. I threw out a bottle of papers, less out of regard to posterity than to myself. They floated into a printing-press, stiffened themselves, and came forth a book, whereon I sailed safely ashore, grateful. Alas, in another confusion will there be another resource ?

It is this book which is to form the first, and quite possibly the last chapter of my life and sufferings, for I don’t suppose anything will ever happen to me again. To be sure, in the book I have just been reading a girl marries her groom, leaves him, rejects two lovers, kills her husband, accepts one lover, loses him, marries the second, first husband comes to light again and is shot, marries second husband over again, and goes a-journeying with second husband and first lover, first cousin and two children, in the South of France, before she is twenty-two years old. But in my country girls think themselves extremely well off for adventures with one marriage and no murder. But then the girls in my country do not have the murderous black eyes which shine so in romances.

My book being fairly wound up and set a-going, of course you wish to know what came of it. Don’t pretend you don’t care, for you know you do. Only don’t look at me too closely, or you will disconcert me. Veil now and then your intent eyes, or my story will surely droop under their steadfastness. Look sometimes into yonder sunset sky and the beautiful reticulations drawn darkly against its glowing sheets of color. You will none the less listen, and I shall all the more enjoy.

You have read much about the anxieties, the forebodings, the anticipatory tremors of new authors. So have I, but I never felt them, — not a single foreboding. I was delighted to write a book, and it never occurred to me that everybody would not be just as delighted to read it. The first time my book weighed on me was one morning when a thin, meagre little letter came to me, which turned out to be only a card bearing the laconic inscription,—

“ Twelve copies ' New Sun ’ sent by express, with the compliments of the Publishers.”

The “ New Sun ” was my book. I put on my hat and walked straightway up to the hole in the rock, about a mile round the corner, where the expressman always leaves my parcels, and took up the package to bring home. It was very heavy. I balanced it first on one arm and then on the other, until, as the poet has it, —

“ Both were nigh to breaking.”

Then I lifted it by the cords, but they cut my fingers. Then I remembered the natural law, that internal atmospheric pressure prevents any consciousness of the enormous external pressure exerted by an atmosphere forty-five miles thick, and applied the law, saying, “ These books have all been upon the inside of my head, of course I shall not. feel them on the outside.” So I put the package on my head, and walked on, making believe I was in a gymnasium, keeping a sharp watch fore and aft, and considering the distant rumbling of wheels a signal for lowering my colors. In my country people do not carry their burdens on their heads, nor would they be likely to account for me on the principles of Natural Philosophy. I might have been apprehended as a lunatic, but for my timely caution.

Thus the “New Suns” came home and were speedily divested of their dun wrappings. I lingered over them, admiring their clear type, their fragrance, their crispness. I opened them wide, because they would open so frankly. I delighted myself with their fair, fine smoothness. And then 1 began to read. I am ashamed to say I never read a more interesting book!

How very true it is that suffering is about equally distributed, after all! If you don’t have your troubles spread out, you have them in a lump. The furies may seem to be held in abeyance, but they will only lay on their lashes all the harder when they do come. My unnatural calmness was succeeded by a storm of consternation. I pass over the few days that followed. If you ever put yourself into a pillory in the night just to see how it Seemed, and then found yourself fastened there in good earnest, and day dawning, and all the marketmen and shopkeepers up and stirring, and everybody coming by in a few minutes, you will not need to ask how I felt. When you write a book, you are quite alone and your pen is entirely private; but when it comes to you so unquestionably printed, and inexorable, and out-of-doors—All, me ! It did not seem like a book at all,—not at all the abstraction and impersonality that were intended, but my proper self bevelled and (with another syllable inserted) walking out into the world with malice aforethought.

But though a writer is before critics, did it never occur to you that the critics are just as much before the writers ? A critic’s talk about a book is just as truly a revelation of the critic as the writer’s talk in the book is a revelation of the writer. One man gives you an opinion that implies attention. He does not go into the depths of the matter, but he tells you honestly what he likes and what he does not like. This is good. This is precisely what you wish to know, and will indirectly help you. Another, from the steps of a throne, in a few sentences, it may he, or a few columns, classifies you, interprets you not only to the world, but to yourself; and for this you are immeasurably glad and grateful. It is neither praise nor censure that you value, but recognition. Let a writer but feel that a critic reaches into the arcana of his thought, and no assent is too hearty, nor any dissent too severe. Another glances up from his eager political strife, and with the sincerest kindness pens you a nice little sugar-plum, chiefly dour and water, but flavored with sugar. Thank you ! Another flounders in a wash of words, holding in solution the faintest salt of sense. Heaven help him ! Another dips his spear-point in poison and lets fly. Do you not see that these people are an open book ? Do you not read here the tranquillity of a self-poised life, the inner sight of clairvoyance, the bitterness of disappointed hopes and unsuccessful plans, the amiability that is not founded upon strength, the pettiness that puts pique above principle, the frankness that scorns affectation, the comprehensiveness that embraces all things in its vision, and commands not only acquiescence, but. allegiance, the great-heartedness that by virtue of its own magnetism attracts all that is good and annihilates all that is bad ?

When my poor little ewe-lamb went ont into the world, I did not fear any shearing he might encounter in America. I don’t mind my own countrymen. I like them, but I am not afraid of them. Two elements go to make up a book : matter and manner. The former, of course, is its author’s own. lie maintains it against all comers. Opposition does not terrify him, for it is a mere flitfere nee of opinion. One is just as likely to be right as another, and in a hundred years probably we shall all be found wrong together. But manner can be judged by a fixed standard. Bad English is bad English this very day, whatever you or I think about it; and bad English is a bad thing. When [ know it, I avoid it, except under extreme temptation; but the trouble is, T don’t know it. I am continually learning that words in certain relations are misplaced where I never suspected the smallest derangement, and, no doubt, there are many dislocations which I have not yet discovered. So far as my own people are concerned, I don’t take this to heart, — because my countryman very likely perpetrates three barbarisms in correcting my one. lie knows this thing that I did not, but then I know something else that he does not, and so keep the balance true. Moreover, my America, if I don’t use good English, whose fault is it? You have had me from the beginning. The raw material was as good as the average; why did you not work it up better ? I went to the best schools you gave me. I learned everything I was set to learn. You can nowhere find a teacher who will tell you that I ever evaded a lesson. I was greedy of gain. I spared neither time nor toil. I lost no opportunity, and here I am, just as good as you made me. So, if there is any one to blame, it is you, for not giving me better facilities. The Children’s Aid Society warned Yew York a dozen years ago that a “dangerous class of untaught ” pagans was growing up in her streets; but she did not think it worth while to arouse herself and educate them, and one morning she found them burning her house over her head. You too, my country, have been repeatedly warned of your dangerous class, a class whom, with malice aforethought, you leave half educated, and, from ignorance, idle, — and now comes Nemesis! New York had a mob, and you have — me.

The real ogre was those terrible Englishmen. I was brought up on the British Quarterlies. Their high and mighty ways entered into my soul. I never did have any courage or independence, to begin with ; and when they condescended to tread our shores with such lordly airs, I should have been only too glad to burn incense for a propitiation. So impressive was their loftiness, their haughty patronage, that their supercilious sneers at our provincialism were heart-rending. I came to look at everything with an eye to English judgment. It was not so much whether a book or a custom were good as whether it would be likely to meet with English approval. To be the object of their displeasure was a calamity, and at even a growl from their dreadful throats I was ready to die of terror. And this slavish subservience lasted beyond the school-room.

But it so happened that by the time my book was set afloat, the Reviewers had lost their fangs. The war came, and they went over to the enemy, every one: “North British,” “London Quarterly,” “Edinburgh,” and even the liberal “ Westminster,” had but one tone. “ Blackwood ” was seized with an evil spirit, and wallowed foaming. The English people may be all right at the heart. Their slow, but sure and sturdy sense may bring them at length within hailing distance of the truth. Noble men among them, Mill and Cairnes and Smith and their kind, made their voices heard in the midst of opposing din, even through the very pages which had rung with Southern cheers : but it is not the English people who make up the Quarterly Reviews. It was not the voice of NJill or Cairnes that answered first across the waters to the boom of Liberty’s guns. When our blood was hot and our hearts high, and sneers were ten thousand times harder to bear than blows, we found sneers in plenty where we looked for God-speed. It may not have been the English heart, only the English head. But we could not get at the English heart, and the English head was continually thrust against ours. The fires may have burned warmly on many a hearth, but we could not see them. The only light that shot athwart the waters was from the high watch-towers, and it was lurid. This wrought a change. The English may take on airs in literature; for our little leisure leaves us short repose, and it would be strange indeed, if their civilization of centuries had not left its marks in a finer culture and a deeper thought. But when, leaving literature and coming down into the fastnesses of life, they gave us hatred for love, and scorn for reverence,—when they sneered at that which we hell sacred, and reviled that which we counted honorable, — when, green-eyed and gloating, they saw through their glasses not only darkly, but disjointed and askance,—when devotion became to them fanaticism, and love of liberty was lust of power,— did virtue go out of them, or had it never been in ? This, at least, was wrought: when one part of the temple of our reverence was undermined, the whole structure came ' down. They who showed themselves so morally weak cannot maintain even the intellectual or aesthetic superiority which they have assumed. Henceforth their blame or praise is not wbat it was hitherto. When a man rails at my country, it is little that he rails at me. If they have called the master of the house Beëlzebub, they of his household would as soon be called little flies as anything else.

(As a matter of fact, I don’t suppose my little venture has over been heard of across the ocean. You think it is very presumptuous in me ever to have thought of it; but I did not think of it. I was only afraid of it. Suppose the British Quarterly has not vision microscopic enough to discern you ; you like to know how you would feel in a certain contingency, even if it should never happen. Besides, so many strange things arise every day, that incongruity seems to have lost its force. Nothing surprises. Cause and effect are continually dissolving partnership. Merit and reward do not hunt in couples. If the Tycoon should send a deputation requesting me to come over at once and settle matters between himself and his Daimios, I should simply tell him that I had not the time, but I should not be surprised.)

But if we only did reverence England as once we reverenced her, this is what I would say :—“ Upon my country do not visit my sins. Upon my country’s fame let me fasten no blot. Wherever I am wrong, inelegant, inaccurate, provincial, visit all your reprobation upon me,—

‘Me, me. adsum, qui feci; in me convertite ferrum,
O Angli! men fraus omnis,’ —

upon me as a writer, not upon me as an American. Do not regard me as the exponent of American culture, or as anywhere near the high-water mark of American letters. I am not one of the select few, but of the promiscuous many. Born and bred in a farm-yard, and pattering about among the hens and geese and calves and lambs when other children were learning to talk like gentlemen and scholars, what can you expect of me ? It is a wonder that I am as tolerable as I am. It is a sign of the greatness of my country, that I, who, if I lived in England, should he scattering my h-s in wild confusion, and asking whether Americans were black or copper-colored, am able in this land of free schools and equal rights to straighten out my verbs and keep my nouns intact. If you will see the highest, look on the heights. If you look at me, look at me where I am : not among those whose infancy was cradled in leisure and luxury, whose life from the beginning has been carefully attuned to the finest issues, who for purity of language and dignity of mental bearing may throw down the gauntlet to the proudest nation in the world,—but among those children of the soil who take its color, who share its qualities, who give out its fragrance, who love it and lay their hearts to it and grow with it, rocky and rugged, yet cherish, it may be hoped, its little dimples of verdure here and there,—who show not what, with closest cultivation, it might become, but what, under the broad skies and the free winds and the common dews and showers, it is. Our conservatories can boast hues as gorgeous, forms as stately, texture as fine as yours; but don’t look for camellias in a cornfield.”

Does this seem a little inconsistent with what I was saying just now to my homemade critics ? Very likely. But truth is many-sided, and one side you may present at home and the other abroad, according to the exigencies of the case. You may lecture your country in one breath, and defend her in the next, without being inconsistent.

Oh, England, England ! what shall recompense us for our Lost Leader? Great and Mighty One, from whose brow no hand but thine own could ever have plucked the crown ! Beautiful land, sacred with the ashes of our sires, radiant with the victories of the past, brilliant with hopes for the future, —

“O Love, I have loved you! O my soul,
I have lost you! ”

Ah, if these two fatal years might be blotted out! If we could stand once again where we stood on that October day when the young Prince, whose gentle blood commanded our attention, and whose gentle ways won our hearts, bore back to his mother-land and ours the benedictions of a people ! Upon that pale, that white-faced shore I shall one day look, but woe is me for the bitter memories that will spring up for the love and loyalty so ruthlessly rent away !

So I borrow your ears, my countrymen, and tell you why it is impossible to defer to you as much as one would like. Party, it is because you talk so wide of the mark. It may not be practicable or desirable to say much; but so much the more ought what you do say to be to the point. A good carpenter needs not to vindicate his skill by hammering away hour after hour on the same shingle; but while he does strike, he hits the nail on the head. Moreover, you show by your remarks that you have such — such—well, stupid is what I mean, but I am afraid it would not be polite to employ that word, so I merely give you the meaning, and leave you to choose a word to your liking — ideas about the nature, the facts, and the objects of writing. Look at it a moment. With your gray goose-quill you sit, O Rhadamanthus, and to your waiting audience, pleasantly enough affirm that I have “ taken Benlomond for my model.” But when I happen to remember that the larger part of my book was written and printed not only before I had ever met Benlornond, but before he had ever been heard of in this country at least, what faith can I have in your sagacity ? And when, remembering those remarkable coincidences which sometimes surprise and baffle us, which in science make Adams and Le Vender discover the same planet at the same time without knowing anything of each other’s calculations, and which in any department seem to indicate that a great tide sweeps over humanity, bearing us on its bosom whithersoever it will, so that

“ God’s puppets, best and worst,
Are we; there is no last nor first,” —

I institute an examination of Benlomond to discover those generic or specific peculiarities which are supposed to have made their mark on me, why, I find for resemblance, that the situations, look you, is both alike. There is a river in Macedon ; there is also, moreover, a river in Monmouth : ’t is as like as my fingers to my fingers, and there is salmons in both !

Have I taken Benlomond for my model ? But why not Josephus and Ricardo and François and Michel, any and all who have poured their fancies and feelings into this mould ? Why select the last disciple and ignore the first apostle ? Many prophets have been in Israel whom I resemble as much, to say the least, as this Benlomond. Is it not, my friend, that, in the multitude of your words and ways, you have not found time to renew your acquaintance with these ancient worthies, and so their features have somewhat faded from your memory ? but Benlomond came in but yesterday, and because he is a newspaper-topic, him you know; and because at the first blush you running can read that there is a river in Monmouth and also a river in Macedon, and salmons in both, — ’t is as like as my fingers to my fingers, and Monmouth was built on the model of Macedon ! Ah, my eagle-eyes, Judea, too, had its Jordan, and Damascus its Abana and Pharpar, and little Massachusetts its Memmac, which,

“ poet-tuned, Goes singing down his meadows.”

But Judea did not type Damascus. The Merrimac bears not the sign of Abana, nor was Abana born of Jordan : all, obedient to the word of the Lord, trickled forth from their springs among the hills, and wander down, one through his vineland, one through his olive-groves, and one to meet the roaring of the millwheel's rage.

I lay no claim to originality. Uttering feebly, but only

“The thoughts that arise in me,”

I know full well that the soil has been tilled and the seed scattered of all that is worthy in the world. Where giants have wrestled, it is not for pigmies to boast their prowess. Where the gods have trodden, let mortals walk unsandalled. The lowliest of their learners, I sit at the feet of the masters. To me, as to all the world, the great and the good of the olden times have left their legacy, and the monarchs of to-day have scattered blessing. Upon me, as upon all, have their grateful showers descended. My brow have they crowned with their goodness, and on my life have their paths dropped fatness. Dreaming under their vinos and fig-trees, I have gathered in my lap and garnered in my heart their mellow fruits.

“ With them I take delight in weal
And seek relief in woe,
And while I understand and feel
How much to them I owe,
My cheeks have often been bedewed
With tears of heartfelt gratitude.”

But, though with gladness and joy I render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, he shall not have that which does not belong to him. Neither Benlomond, nor any living man, nor anyone man, living or dead, has any claim to my fealty, be it worth much or little. If I cannot go in to the banquet on Olympus by the bidding of the master of the feast, I will forswear ambrosia altogether, and to the end of my days feed on millet with the peasants in the Vale of Tempe.

Then you sail on another tack, smile and shake your head and say, “ it is all very well, but it has not the element of immortality. Observe the difference between this writer and Charles Lamb. One is ginger-pop beer that foams and froths and is gone, while the other is the sound Madeira that will be better fifty years hence than now.”

Well, what of it? Do you mean to say, that, because a man has no argosies sailing in from the isles of Eden, freighted with the juices of the tropics, he shall not brew hops in his own cellar? Because you will have none but the vintages of dead centuries, shall not the people delight their hearts with new wine? Because you are an epicure, shall there be no more cakes and ale ? Go to ! It is a happy fate to be a poet’s Falernian, old and mellow, sealed in amphoræ, to be crowned with linden-garlands and the late rose. But for all earth’s acres there are few Sabine farms, whither poet, sage, and statesman come to lose, in the murmur of Bandusian founts the din of faction and of strife ; and even there it is not always Ckecubau or Calenian, neither Formian nor Falernian, but the vile Sabinum in common cups and wreathed with simple myrtle, that bubbles up its welcome. So, since there must be lighter draughts, or many a poor man go thirsty, we who are but the ginger-pop of life may well rejoice, remembering that ginger-pop is nourishing and tonic,—that thousands of weary wayfarers who could never know the taste of the costly brands, and who go sadly and wearily, will be fleeter of foot and gladder of soul because of its humble and evanescent foam.

Ginger-pop beer is it that you scoff? Verily, you do an unconsidered deed. When one remembers all the liquids, medicinal, soporific, insipid, poisonous, which flood the throat of humanity, one may deem himself a favorite of Fortune to be placed so high in the catalogue. Though upon his lowliness gleam down the rosy and purple lights of rare old wines aloft, yet from his altitude he can look below upon a profane crowd in thick array of depth immeasurable, and rejoice that he is not stagnant water nor exasperated vinegar nor disappointed buttermilk. Nay, I am not only content, but exultant. It may be an ignoble satisfaction, yet I believe I would rather flash and fade in one moment of happy daylight than be corked and cobwebbed for fifty years in the dungeons of an unsunned cellar, with a remote possibility, indeed, of coming up from my incarceration to moisten the lips of beauty or loosen the tongue of eloquence, but with a far surer prospect of but adding one more to the potations of the glutton and wine-bibber.

And what, after all, is this oblivion which you flaunt so threateningly ? Even if I do encounter it, no misfortune will happen unto me but such as is common unto men. • Of all the souls of this generation, the number that will sift through the meshes of the years is infinitesimally small. The overwhelming majority of names will turn out to be chaff, and be blown away. I shall be forgotten, but I shall be forgotten in very good company. The greater part of my kin-folk and acquaintance, your own self, my critic, and your family and friends, will go down in the same darkness which ingulfs me. When I am dead, I shall be no deader than the rest of you, and I shall have been a great deal more alive while I was alive.

I am not afraid to be forgotten. Posterity will have its own soothsayers, and somewhere among the stars, I trust, I shall be living a life so intense and complete that I shall never once think to lament that I am not mulling on a bookshelf down here. Besides, if you insist upon it, I am not going to be forgotten. You don’t know anything more about it than I do. Knowledge is not always prescience. “ This will never do,” ruled Jeffrey from his judgment-seat. “ Order reigns in Warsaw,” pronounced Sebastiani. “I have now gone through the Bible,” chuckled Tom Paine, “ as a man would go through a wood with an axe on his shoulder, and fell trees. Here they lie, and the priests, if they can, may replant them. They may, perhaps, stick them in the ground, but they will never make them grow.” But Wordsworth to-day is reverenced by the nation that could barb no arrow sharp enough to shoot at him. The evening sky that bends above Warsaw is red with the watch-fires of her old warfare bursting anew from their smouldering ashes. And the oaks that doughty Paine fancied himself to have levelled show not so much as a scratch upon their sturdy trunks. Nay, I do not forget that even Charles Lamb was fiercely belabored by his own generation. So, when upon me you pass sentence of speedy death, I assure you that I shall live a thousand years, and there is nobody in the world who can demonstrate that I am in the wrong. Even if alter a while I disappear, it proves nothing; you cannot tell whether 1 am really submerged, or only lying in the trough of the sea to mount the crest of the coming wave. Till the thousandth year proves me moribund, I shall stoutly maintain that I am immortal.

Concerning Charles Lamb the less you say the better. It is easy to build up a reputation for sagacity by offering incense to the gods who are already shrined. Or course there is a difference between us. A pretty rout you would make, if there were not. I3ut, for all your adoration of Charles Lamb, I dare say he would have liked me a great deal better than he would you. Would ? Why should I intrench myself in hypothesis ? Does he not ? When I knock at the door of the Inner Temple, does he not fling it wide open, and does not his face welcome me ? When the red fire glows on the hearth, have I not sat far into the night, Bridget sitting beside me with heaven’s own light shining in her beautiful eyes, and above her dear head the white gleam of guardian angels hovering tenderly ? And when Elia arches his brows, and lowers at me his stormclouds, which I do not mind for the sunshine that will not be hidden behind them, — when in the sweet play of dune lights and shadows, and the golden haze of Indian-summer, I forget even the kingly words that go ringing through the land, waking the mountain-echo,— when I look out upon this gray afternoon, and see no leaden skies, no pinched and sullen fields, but green paths, gem-bestrewn from autumn’s jewelled hand, and warm light glinting through the apple-trees under which he stood that soft October day, till

“ Conscious seems the frozen sod
And beechen slope whereon he trod,” —

O Alexander, get out of my sunshine with your bugbear of a Charles Lamb! “ I have heard you for some time with patience. I have been cool,—quite cool; but don’t put me in a frenzy ! ”

Well, friend, when you have satisfied yourself with the limiting, you begin on the descriptive adjectives, and pronounce me egotistical. Certainly. I should be unlike all others of my race, if I were not. It is a wise and merciful arrangement of Providence, that every one is to himself the centre of the universe. What a fatal world would this be, if it were otherwise ! When one thinks what a collection of insignificances we are, how dispensable the most useful of us is to everybody, how little there is in any of us to make any one care about us, and of how small importance it is to others what becomes of us, — when one thinks that even this round earth is so small, that, if it should fall into the arms of the sun, the sun would just open his mouth and swallow it whole, and nobody ever suspect it, (vide Tyndall on Heat,) one must see that this self-love, self-care, and self-interest play a most important part in the Divine Economy. If one did not keep himself afloat, he would surely go under. As it is, no matter how disagreeable a person is, he likes himself, — no matter how uninteresting, he is interested in himself. Everybody, you, my critic, as well, likes to talk about himself, if he can get other people to listen; and so long as I can get several thousand people to listen to me, I shall keep talking, you may be sure, and so would you, — and if you don’t, it is only because you can’t! You are just as egotistical as I am, only you won’t own it frankly, as I do. True, I might escape censure by using such circumlocutions as “ the writer,” “ the autlior,” or still more cumbrously by dressing out some lay figure, calling it Frederic or Frederika, and then, like the Delphic priestesses, uttering my sentiments through its mouth, for the space of a folio novel ; but at bottom it would be my own self all the while; and besides, in order to get at the thing I wanted to say, I should have to detain you on a thousand things that I did not care about, but which would be necessary as links, because, when you have made a man or a woman, you must do something with him. You can’t leave him standing, without any visible means of support. One person writes a novel of four hundred pages to convince you in a roundabout way, through thirty different characters, that a certain law, or the mode of administering it, is unjust. He does not mention himself, but makes his men and women speak his arguments. Another man writes a treatise of forty pages and gives you his views out of his own mouth. But he does not put himself into his treatise any more than the other into his novel. For my part, I think the use of “ I ” is the shortest and simplest way of launching one’s opinions. Even a we bulges out into twice the space that I requires, besides seeming to try to evade responsibility. Better say ”I“ straight out, — “I,” responsible for my words here and elsewhere, as they used to say in Congress under the old régime. Besides being the most brave, “I” is also the most modest. It delivers your opinions to the world through a perfectly transparent medium. “I” has no relations. It has no consciousness. It is a pure abstraction. It detains you not a moment from the subject. "The writer" does. It brings up ideas entirely detached from the theme, and is therefore impertinent. All you are after is the thing that is thought. It is not of the smallest consequence who thought it. You may be certain that it is not always the people who use “ I ” the most freely who think most about themselves; and if you are offended, consider whether it may not be owing to a certain morbidness of your taste as much as to egotism in the offender.

Remember, also, that, when a writer talks of himself, he is not necessarily speaking of his own definite John Smithship, that does the marketing and pays the taxes and is a useful member of society. Not at all. It is himself as one unit of the great sum of mankind, He means himself, not as an isolated individual, but as a part of humanity. His narration is pertinent, because it relates to the human family. He brings forward a part of the common property. He does not touch that which pertains exclusively to himself. His self is selfcreated. His imaginative may have as large a share in the person as his descriptive powers. You don’t understand me precisely ? Sorry for you.

You think me arrogant. You would think so a great deal more, if you knew me better. At heart I believe I incline very much to the opinion of a charming friend of mine, that, “ after all, nobody in the world is of much account but Susy and me,” — only in my formula I leave out Susy. Don’t, therefore, think solely of the arrogance that is revealed, but think also of the masses concealed, and in consideration of the greater repression pardon the great expression. It is not the persons who sin the least, but those who overcome the strongest temptations, who are the most virtuous. .People endowed by Nature with a sweet humility do not deserve half the credit for their lovely character that those who are naturally selfish and arrogant often deserve for being no more disagreeable than they are. Yes, it must be confessed, you are right in attributing arrogance, — though, after this meek confession and repentance, if you do not forgive me freely and fully, for past and future, your secondary will be a great deal worse than my original sin ;— but you never would accuse me of “ an arrogance that disdains docility,” if you had seen the mean-spirited way in which I sit down by the side of an editor and let him ram-page over my manuscript. Out fly my best thoughts, my finest figures, my sharpest epigrams, — without chloroform, — and I give no sign. I have heard that successful authors can always have everything their own way. I must be the greatest — or the smallest — failure of the age.

“it will be much better to omit this,” says the High Inquisitor, turning the tliumb-screw.

“ No,” I writhe. “ Take everything else, but leave that.”

“ I am glad to see that you agree with me,” he responds, with Mephistophelian courtesy; and away it goes, and I say nothing, thankful that enough is left to hobble in at all.

“ Revealing somewhat of the arrogance of success,” you comment, directed by your Evil Genius, upon that especial chapter which was written in a gully of the Valley of Humiliation, when I was gasping under an Ætna of rejected manuscripts, — when there was not a respectable newspaper in the country by which I had not been “ declined with thanks,”—when, in the desperation of my determination, I had recourse to bribery, and sent an editor a dollar with the manuscript, to pay him for the fifteen minutes it would take to read it. (Mem. I never heard from editor, manuscript, or dollar.) No, it may be arrogance, but it is not the arrogance of success. Whatever it was, it was in the grain. And, to look at it in another light, I cannot have been “ spoiled by the indulgent praise which my early efforts received,” because, on the other hand, I have always been praised,—

“Lika to the Pontic monarch of old days,
I fed on poisons, till they had no power,
But were a kind of nutriment.”

The earliest event I remember is being presented with two cents by one of the “ Committee ” visiting the school. And if I could stand two cents in my tender infancy, don’t you suppose I can stand your penny-a-lining now I am grown up? I may have been spoiled, or I may not have been worth much to begin with; but the mischief was all done before you ever heard of me. Confine yourself to facts: dismiss conjectures. State actions : shun motives. Give results : avoid causes, if you would insure confidence in your sagacity.

But all this will I forgive and forget, if you will not tell me to stop writing. That I cannot and will not do. You may iterate and reiterate, that the public will tire of me. I am sorry for the public, but it is strong and will be easily rested. Sorry ? No, I am not; I am glad. I should like to pay back a part of the weariness which the public has inflicted on me in the shape of lectures, lessons, sermons, speeches, customs, fashions. Why should it have the monopoly of fatiguing ? Minorities have their rights as well as majorities. The spout of a tea-kettle is not to be compared, in point of bulk, to the tea-kettle, but it puts in a claim for an equal depth of water, and Nature acknowledges the claim. I cannot think of reining in yet. I have but just begun. And everything is so interesting. Nothing is isolated. Nothing is insignificant. Everything you touch thrills. It does not seem to matter much what you look at: only look long enough, and a life, its life, starts out. You see that it has causes and consequences, dependencies, bearings, and all manner of social interests ; and before you know it, you have become involved in those interests and are one of the family. For the time, you stake all on that issue, and fight to the death. As soon as that is decided, and you stop to take breath a moment, something else comes equally interesting and seeming equally important, and again your lance is in rest. When it comes to the quantities of morals, there is n’t much difference between one thing and another. And you ask me to fold my hands and sit still! Not I. One of my youthful maxims was, “ Do something, if it ’s mischief”; and I intend to follow it, especially the condition. I promise to do the best I can, but I shall do it. I will never write for the sake of writing, but I will say my say. I have not been rambling underground all my life, to find a volcano at last, and then let it be choked up after a single eruption. There are rows of blocks standing arouud the walls of my workshop, waiting to be chiselled. They won’t be Apollos, — but even Puck is a Robin Goodfellow, since,

“ In one night, ere glimpse of morn,
His shadowy flail hath threshed the corn
That ten day-laborers could not end.”

And I shall not confine myself to my sphere. I hate my sphere. I like everything that is outside of it, — or, better still, my sphere rounds out, infinitely into space. Nihil humani a me alienum puto. I was born into the whole world. I am monarch of all I survey. Wherever I see symptoms of a pie, thither shall my fingers travel. Wherever a windmill flaps, it shall go hard but I will have a tilt at it. I shall not wait till I know what I am talking about. If I did, I never should talk at all. It is a wellknown principle in educational science, that the surest way to learn anything is to teach it. How fast would Geology get on, if its professors talked only of what they knew ? Planting their feet firmly on facts, they feel about in all directions for theories. By carefully noting, publishing, comparing, discussing their uncertainties, they presently arrive at a certainty. Horace might advocate nine years’ delay. He was building for himself a monument that should defy the rolling years. He was setting to work in cool blood to compass immortality, and a little time, more or less, made no difference. Apollo and Bacchus could afford to wait. Beautiful daughters of beautiful mothers will exist to the world’s end, and their praises will always be in order. But when, unmindful of the next generation, which will have its books and its memories, though you are unread and torgotten, mindful only of this generation which groans and travails in pain, you look on suffering that you yearn to assuage, danger of which you long to warn, sadness which you would fain dispel, burdens which you would strive, though ever so little, to lighten, delay, even for things so desirable as complete knowledge and perfect polish, becomes not only absurd, but impossible. Better shoot into the cavern, even if you don’t know in what precise part of it the dragon lies coiled. The flash of your powder may reveal his whereabouts to a surer marksman. A transient immortality is of no importance ; it is of importance that hearts be purified, homes made happy, paths cleared, clouds dispelled. Is that ignoble? Very well. But the noblest way to benefit posterity is to serve the present age,—to serve it by doing one’s best, indeed, but, by doing it now, not waiting for some distant day when one can do it better. A writer deserves no pardon for careless or hurried writing. As much time as he has mental ability to spend on it, so much time he should devote to it. But then speed it on its way. Shut it up for a term of years, and you will perhaps have a manuscript that says begin where it used to say commence, but in the mean time all the people whom you wished to save have died of a broken heart, — or lived with one, which is still worse. Besides, even for improvement, it is better to publish your paper than to keep it in the drawer. There, all the amendments it can receive will come from the few feeble advances in knowledge which you may be so fortunate as to make. But print it and every one immediately gives you especial attention and the benefit of his judgment. If you should happen to serve in the right wing of Orthodoxy, you will have the inestimable boon of the freest criticism from the left wing. And it is the religious newspapers for not mincing matters. Between Jew and Gentile hostility is the normal condition of things, and is carried on peaceably enough; but when Jew meets Jew, then comes the tug of war! These people obey to the letter the Apostolic injunction, and confess your faults one to another with a relish that is marvellous to behold, and which must furnish to the unbelieving world a lively commentary on the old text, Behold how these Christians love one another ! ” When their own list of your shortcomings is exhausted, ten to one they will take up the parable of somebody else; and if little Johnny Horner sitting in the corner of his sanctum has not room in his crowded columns for the whole pie in which his brother Horner has served you up, never fear but he will put in his thumb and pick out the plums to enliven his feast withal.

No. I shall keep on writing,—hit, if I can, miss, if I must, but shoot any way. There is a great deal of firing that kills no men and breaches no walls, but it worries the enemy. John Brown did not in the least know what he was doing. His definite attempt was a fatal failure ; but the great and guilty conspiracy behind, of which he saw nothing, was smitten to the heart under his random blows; his sixteen white men and five negroes, flung blindly and recklessly against the ramparts of Slavery, were but the precursors of that great host, black and white, which has since gone down, organized and intelligent, to tread the wine-press of the wrath of God.

I fear I am committing the rhetorical error of comparing small things with great; but, if Virgil could bring in the Cyclops and their thunderbolts to illustrate his bees, and Demetrius Phalereus justify it, you will hardly count it a capital offence in me, — and I don’t much care if you do, if I can only convince you that I am not going to be silent because I don’t know the Alpha and Omega of things. I don’t pretend to be logical, or consistent, or coherent. Nature is not. A forest of oaks burns down or is cut down, and do oaks spring again ? No. Pines. Logic is baffled, but the land is bettered. A field of corn is planted, and Nature does not set herself to protect it, but sends a flock of crows to devour it; the farmers grumble, but the crows are saved alive. Freezing water contracts awhile, and then without any provocation turns right about face and expands; if your pitcher-stands in the way, so much the worse for your pitcher, but the little fishes are grateful; and with all her whims and inconsequences, Nature gets on from year to year without once failing of seed-time and harvest, cold or, heat. How is it with you and your logic, you men who have been to college and discovered what you are talking about ? You who discuss politics and decide affairs, are you not continually accusing each other of sophistry, inconsistency, and shying away from the point? Take up any political or religious newspaper, and see, if any faith is to be put in testimony, how deficient in logic are all these logic-mongers,—how all the learned and logical are accused by other learned and logical of false assumptions, of invalid reasoning, of foregone conclusions, of pride and prejudice and passion. One would say that the result of your profound researches was only to make you more intensely illogical than you could otherwise be.

“ As skilful divers to the bottom fall
Swifter than they who cannot swim at all,
So in the sea of sophisms, to my thinking,
You have a strange alacrity in sinking.”

(Ego et Dorset fecimus ! )

Sure I am my humble ability in the way of unreason can never compass fallacies so stupendous as those which you attribute to each other; and if this is all the result of your logic, I will none of it, satisfied to possess at least the advantage, that, when I write nonsense, I know it is nonsense, while you write it and think it sense. But your thinking so does not make it so, and you need not rule me out of court on the strength of it. I acknowledge, in the domain of letters, none hut Squatter Sovereignty. In literature, unlike morals, might makes right If I think you are cultivating the soil to its utmost capacity, I shall not meddle; but if it seems to me that you are letting it lie fallow while I can draw a furrow to some purpose, you need not warn me off with your old title-deeds; in my ploughshare shall drive. To a better farmer I will yield right gladly, but I will not be scared away by a sign-board.

Nor need you go very far out of your way to affirm that I have not the requisite experience for writing on such and such topics. As a principle your remark is absurd. Cannot a doctor prescribe for typhus fever, unless he has had typhus fever himself? On the contrary, is he not the better able to prescribe from always having had a sound mind in a sound body ? As a fact, my experience in those things concerning which you allege its insufficiency has never been presented to you for judgment, and its discussion is therefore entirely irrelevant. If my statements are false, they are .false; if my arguments are inconclusive, they are inconclusive: disprove the one and refute the other. But whether this state of things be owing to a want of experience, or inability to use experience aright, or any personal circumstance whatever, is a matter in regard to which all the laws of literary courtesy forbid you to concern yourself.

And pray, Gentle Critic, do not tell me that I must be content simply to amuse, or must — anything else. Must is a hard word ; be not over-confident of its power. I feel a grandmotherly interest in the world and its ways; and much as I should like to amuse it, I shall never be content with that. You may not tike to be instructed, my dear children, but instructed you shall be. You read long ago, in your story-book, that little Tommy Piper did n’t want his face washed, though he was very willing to be amused with soap-bubbles; but his face needed washing and got it. I come to you with soap-bubbles indeed, but with scrubbing-brushes also. If you take to them kindly, it will soon be over; but if you scream and struggle, I shall not only scrub the harder, but be all the longer about it.

Sometimes your grave refutations are very amusing. It is astonishing to see how crank-proof sundry minds are. Everything seems to them on a dead level of categorical proposition. They walk up to every statue with their measuring-line of Barbara, Celarent, Darii, FerioquePrioris, and measure them off with equal solemnity, telling you severely that this nose is far longer than the classic rule admits, and this arm has not the swelling proportions of life, — never seeing, that, though another statue was indeed designed for an Antinoiis, this was never meant to be anything but a broomstick dressed in vour grandfather’s cloak, with a lantern in a pumpkin for a head. Oh, the dreariness of having to explain pleasantry! of appending to your banter Artemas Ward’s parenthesis, “ This is a goak ” ! of dealing with people who do not know the difference between a blow and a love-pat,” between Quaker guns and an Armstrong battery, between a granite paving-stone and the moonshine on a mud-puddle!

Dear Public, don’t begin to be tired yet. I am not. There are many books still to come, if they can ever be brought to light. They were ready long ago, but no publisher could be found ; and now that I have found a publisher, I cannot find the books. There is a treatise on the Curvature of the Square,—a Dissertation on Foreign Literature,—two or three novels, — a book on Human Life, that is going to turn the world upside down, — a book on Theology, dull enough to be sensible, that is going to turn it back again, — and a bandboxful of children’s stories. Still, in spite of this formidable prospect, take the consolation that an end is sure to come. There is not a particle of reserved force or dormant power or anything of the kind for you to dread. All there is of me is awake. I have struck twelve, and at longest it will be but a little while before I shall run down, —

“ And silence like a poultice come To heal the blows of sound.”

And does not the exquisite sensation of departed pain almost atone for the discomfort of its presence ? How heartily, for your sake, would I be the most profound and able writer in the world, and how gladly should all my profundity and ability be laid at your feet! And since

“ The good but wished with God is done,” can you not find it in your heart to "yearn o’er my little good and pardon my much ill ” ?

Public, you must, whether you can or not. It is a case of life and death. I am good for nothing but writing; and if you take that resource away,—you know what the book says about mischief and Satan and idle hands ! and you certainly will take it away, if you do not speak peaceably unto me. All that I said before was only bravado,—just to keep a bold front to the foe. I can confide to you under the rose, that, though without are fightings, within are fears. Pope, was it, who used to look around upon the missives hurled at him, and say, "These are my amusement ” ? But they are not mine. I want you to like me and be goodnatured. It is not that you must always agree with opinions, or not take exception to what is exceptionable ; it is only that you shall not say things in a sour, cross, disagreeable way. Impale the bait on your arming-wire, but handle it as if you loved it. Talk thunderbolts, if necessary, but don’t “ make faces.” The soft south-wind is very charming; the northwest-wind, though sharp, is bracing and healthful; but your raw eastwinds, — oh ! chain them in the caverns of Æolia, the country of storms.

Bear with me a little longer in my folly; and, indeed, bear with me, you who are strong, for the sake of the weak. Many and many there may be to whom the meat of your metaphysics is indigestible and unpalatable, but who find strength and cheer in the sincere milk of such words as I can give. To you who have already set your feet on the high places, that may be but a bruised reed which is a staff to those who are still struggling up. Do you go on churning the cream of thought, and salting down its butter for future ages ; I will spread it on thin for the weak digestions of this. Let scarfs, garters, gold amuse your riper stage, and beads and prayer-books be the toys of age, but wax not over-wroth, when you behold the child, by Nature’s kindly law, pleased with a rattle !

And after all, Dear Public, it is partly your own fault that I venture to make still further draughts upon your patience. Though I have trimmed my sails to opposing rather than to favoring gales, it is not because the latter have been wanting. But a pin that pricks your finger attracts to itself far more attention for the time than the thousand influences that wrap you about only to soothe and delight. The reception that has been harsh and unfriendly bears no manner of proportion to that which has been genial and generous. So where you have given me an inch I take an ell, and commission this bright morning-shine to bear to you my thanks. For every kind word, whether it have come to me through the highways or the by-ways, from far or near, from known or unknown, I pray you receive my grateful acknowledgment. And do not fail to remember, that he, who, even though self-impelled, goes out from the shelter of his selfhood into the presence of the great congregation, incurs a Loss which no praise can make good, encounters a Fate against which no appreciation is a shield, invokes a Shadow in which the mens conscia recti is the only resource, and the knowledge of shadows dispelled the only consolation.