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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 form, 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 prae-humous publication. If you wait for your biography till you are dead, it is extremely probable you will lose it altogether. The world has so much to sec 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. 1 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 nev
er 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 goldsmithery of Aaron, who threw the ear-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 yondersunset sky and the beautiful reticulations drawn darkly against its glowing sheets of color. You will none the leas 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 liook 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 pout . ha.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 fuel them on the outride." 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 wonld they be likely to account for me on the principles of Natural Philosophy. I might have been apprehended M 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, ad
miring 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 I began to read. I am ashdmed to say I never read a more interesting book I
How very true it is that suffering is about equally distributed, after all I 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-ofdoors Ah, me! It did not seem like
a book at all, — not at all the abstraction and impersonality that were intended, but iny proper self bevelled and (with another syllable inserted) walking out into the world with malice aforethought.
But though a writer is before crities, did it never occur to you that the critics are just as much before the writers? A critie'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 ho 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 be, 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 flour 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 out 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. He maintains it against all comers. Opposition does not terrify him, for it is a mere difference 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 I know it, I avoid it, except under extreme temptation; but the trouble is, I don't know it. I am continually leaining that words in certain relations are misplaced where I never suspected the smallest derangement, and, no "doubt, tu-ere 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 barbari•ms in correcting my one. He 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 New 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 affoat, the Reviewers had lost their fangs. The war came, and they went over to the enemy, every one: "North British," "London Quar*erly," "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 Mill 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 fband sneers in plenty where we looked for God-slH-ed. 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 held 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 (esthetic superiority which they have assumed. Henceforth their blame or praise is not what 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 Beelzebub, 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 ever 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 bunt 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. UlKin my country's fame let me fasten no blot. Wherever I am wrong, inelegant, inaccurate, provincial, visit all your reprobation upon me, —
'Me, me. adsuni, qiti feci; in me convertit*
ferrum, O Angli! mea fraua 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 be 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 mo, look at me where I am: not among those whose infa-ncy 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 aud 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 crities? 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, —
"0 Love, I have loved you! 0 my sonl, 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-laud 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 I
So I borrow your cars, my countrymen, and tell you why it is impossible to defer to you as much as one would like. Par'.iy, 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 Benlomond, but before he had ever been heard of in this country at least, what faith can I have in your sagacity? And when, re