The Author's First Reverse

ON reading A First Acceptance, in the September Contributors’ Club, we wondered if the author had ever contemplated a far more surprising experience than the first acceptance, and that is the first rejection after the first acceptance ! That is indeed a crisis in the young author’s career. Up to the time when he received his first acceptance, the novice, however high his conceit had swelled, as each new plan and aspiration feebly projected itself on paper, had yet in the bottom of his soul realized that his arms were untried, and that he might be riding for a fall. But when tangible proof of his first success had reached him, and the magic words “ The check will follow upon publication ” had dazzled his vision, how proudly he scanned the future which was his by virtue of the ink bottle !

Idea after idea floated before him ; “ songs without words ” to which he would supply noun and adjective ; thoughts inadequately expressed, fancies inhospitably received, which he would succor by the might of his right hand. Or perhaps the didactic devil tempted him, and he fancied the whole world his congregation, to whom he would preach at his leisure.

Alas, fellow scribbler, passing through this Fool’s Paradise, we pity you ; by the Law of the Jungle, —

“ As high as we have mounted in delight,
In our dejection do we sink as low.”

Perhaps the next step will lead you to the Pons Asinorum which ends in the Via Dolorosa. We have crossed it ourselves, we who had thought our feet so firmly planted on the ladder of literature that we needed only to mount higher and higher till we o’ertopped the stars.

When we had spent our first check a thousand times in anticipation, and at least twice in reality, we decided in gratitude to honor with our continued favor that hospitable magazine which had at last recognized our genius.

No longer stealing out at night to conceal the trembling fingers with which we dropped that long white envelope into the post box, but flauntingly, in the garish daylight, in the face of all men, we sent forth our manuscript as a conqueror demanding tribute.

Then we waited ; security is ever serene. Poor tremblers on the threshold may listen with beating heart for the postman’s quick peal of the bell, or look longingly at his non-committal gray coat and his fatal bag. All these sensations were of the past for us ; they belonged to the era before we were recognized.

Then suddenly a bolt from the blue, — that homing pigeon, our manuscript, returns to us again. At first astonishment is paramount, — there must be some mistake. Next wrath, — it is a conspiracy to defraud us of our just reward ; an envious world cannot tolerate our success. Last, a still, small, spiteful voice within us whispers : “ Your bubble is pricked. I always told you that there was n’t much in you, after all! ”

What happens to us then ? Where are our visions of thoughts clamoring to be clothed in winged words ? Where are the songs only waiting to sing themselves through our lips to a silent world ? What has become of our pulpit?

How are the mighty fallen ! How doth the city which we would have enlightened sit solitary ! Ours is no common sorrow; we are none of those who have only suffered the casual buffetings of fortune ; ours is the bitter trial of the man who has faced betrayal in the house of his friend.

Fellow quill drivers, answer us: is there any shock to vanity like unto this, or any lesson in modesty ?