« PreviousContinue »
which, nine out of ten of the small fry of literary gossips would perhaps get very few ideas. We are asked, “Where is our siterature ?!' and God knows, we have little to exhibit, in reply to the sneering interrogation. But instead of creating it, by regular labour and discreet encouragement, talent has been wasted in virulent retorts on the inquirers, and idle abuse of the productions of their countrymen. The strength that should have been exerted in creating a fabric of its own, has been fruitlessly employed in endeavouring to prostrate those of others. Public taste has been led into the same channel; and so completely disagreeable has been the result, that scarcely any book, on whatsoever subject, can give unmingled satisfaction to the reader. It is not judged by its intrinsic and absolute merit, but by comparison and relation. Even the lighter orders of literature are no longer sought for the purpose of pure amusement. Novels, for instance, intended to alleviate the cares of this world, by a well-wrought legend of romance, or sentiment, or real life, are read through the goggles of false criticism; and yield delight, only by the detection of some passage, supposed to be adumbrated from another work,-or some scene, in which the author is supposed to be inferior to himself. And poetry, sacred poetry, which should be the overflowing of the mind in its finest abstraction, and be read only to be felt, is read only to be criticised. These misnamed reviewers, far worse than what Voltaire in his day called “ces excremens de la literature," (and which were too flat reading for one of his heroes,* even during a whole years' imprisonment,) have had all these bad effects. They begin even in the printing office, where the compositors consult their little Walkers, to correct the author's orthography; and amend his punctuation, by certain intuitive systems of their own. I pray you, if our printer keeps any such devils, kick me them out of the shop, before we proceed to business. Our contributors have as good a right to spell their own way, as Mr. Walker; and I do not believe the printers can mend their stops.
PUB.-Do you mean then to exclude reviews entirely ?
We will notice works of genius or talent; and endeavour to point out their excellencies,-perhaps defects; taking care, however, not to run against snaggs, and expose our own conceit and ignorance, under the notion of triumphant superiority, as some of our predecessors have done before us, and some of our cotemporaries do now. Works that are good for nothing we shall not notice at all; unless some of us choose to indulge in harmless merriment, at the expense of fair game. We live in an age of quackery; and quacks of all kinds ought to be exposed. So also we must never hesitate to repel all attacks upon morality, or correct principle, when there is talent enough developed to render them dangerous.
Pub.—Then you will admit essays on all subjects connected with general literature, manners, and morals. Tales
ED. If they be not sentimental.
Ed.-Yes—we must immediately open a correspondence with all the great authors dead and alive. We will publish the posthumous works of some great geniuses who never existed ; and, of course, shall be favoured with communications from some imaginary correspondents. These last will be good contributors, as they will never ask for compensation.
PUB.-You will also occasionally insert scientific communications.
Ed.- If we can get them: they will make good ballast.
Ed.—Yes, alas! we must have some poetry, " men, gods, and columns” to the contrary notwithstanding. I know but one man in this city and county, who is able to write poetry; and he is lazy to a degree. But we will immediately open a correspondence with the only two other American poets, at present extant, and try whether they will aid us in an extremity. If they will not, we must do like Blackwood's people-write verses for them, and swear to their being genuine, in the teeth of the authors themselves. We may serve the prose writers in the same way. I have two contributors, who can imitate any body's style; and, barring the matter, which is, after all, a mere trifle, write as well, if not better, than the originals. This is entre nous. As for magazine poetry, however, it is generally mere slops. I can make it myself, on a pinch, if it is absolute. ly necessary to stop up a hiatus. My verses can fill a gap, as Falstaff?s soldiers did a pit, full as well as any others of the same length.
Pub. Beside what you have mentioned, it may be expedient to give summary notices of new publications. We can find a very good hand for you at that business.
Ep.-It seems then we shall make a regular magazine, treating like the rest, “de omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis."
Pub.-All difficulties seem now removed.
ED. I am very glad to hear it. I should like to know how we are to get up the first number. Commencez par le commencement.
Pub.-We must collect as decent materials as possible. Once fairly started on the plan we propose, we have no doubt that your difficulty will not arise from the paucity, but rather from the redundancy of matter.
ED.-We can find a simple remedy for much of the redundancy, by the seasonable action of caloric. That same power, which some have supposed to have had the principal agency in creating worlds, and by the operation of which our own is one day to be destroyed, can at any time act upon disagreeable manuscript matter; such as long bills, letters from duns or friends in distress, and stupid communications. Let us, then, fairly make our experiment. We will carry our Journal through one year, as manfully as we may. I do not believe it will prove
discreditable to the literary character of our city ; partly, because some pretty clever people will contribute to its pages; and partly, because we never had any particular literary character, to the best of my recollection. Let us uplift our testimony in this queer city; where, according to Mr. Faux, "all the scum of the earth is drifted;" (he must have taken advantage of the tide himself, and where, according to the same veracious agriculturist, there are more than ten thousand people in a state of actual beggary and starvation. By the bye, this traveller must have had good opportunities of becoming acquainted with the “scum of the earth,” as it is drifted over our wharves; since it appears, as the result of the inquiries made by a person curious in such matters, and who visited several sailor boarding houses, with a view of ascertaining where - farmer" Faux lodged, when he condescended to visit us, that he past two days among us, and spent one night in the Washington market, and the other in the watch house. Let us show what are our institutions, and whether they will not stand a comparison with those of our sister cities. Though we should be disappointed in our hopes and expectations, we cannot fail of doing some good. We shall add our efforts, however feeble, to excite an appetite for domestic literature; and develope, or exercise talent, which, though it may be unsuccessful in establishing our Magazine, will assuredly afterwards find itself some other sphere of action. Like the oak, figured by the poet, though prostrated in its original soil, it may form a part of the fabric of some goodly vessel, and impelled by the
Conversation between the Publishers and the Editor. (May,
same popular breath by which it was levelled, ride proudly above the waves.
Spiega per l'onde il volo
Pub.—Suppose then we write a prospectus.
Ed.-Please add the terms and time of publication, according to your own views. We can make no promises as to the contents of our Magazine, when we do not ourselves know what they will be. As we mean to expose all quackery, in a very plain, downright and perspicuous manner, do not let us begin by humbugging both ourselves and the public. One thing alone is certain. We will publish a Magazine. The rest we must leave to fate, and the industry of our contributors.
Pub.--We have heard some objections to the name which we selected yesterday. A young gentleman who is learning French, says that jour means a day, and journal, a daily paper. A wag suggests that the “ Atlantic Log Book” would be more appropriate. Another
Ed.-Never mind the others. If we take the advice of all such learned and ingenious people, we shall never make any headway. But let us christen it the " Atlantic Magazine." I am thankful that I did not make the name myself.
But “ a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Do not let us introduce any metaphors into our very baptismal appellation, as a worthy cotemporary has thought fit to do, who calls his Journal, “ a monthly repository for the speculations of science, the blossoms of genius, and the fruits of industry." Here is astronomy and agriculture lavishly promised to subscribers; and heaven and earth tied in a beautiful nosegay, with admirable taste and activity. Neither let us have any aliases, because it savours of roguery. If we are to be arraigned for our transgressions, let there be no difficulty in drawing the indictment. Let us appear and plead, by our simple christian and surname; since it is upon our merits we must stand or fall; and not alí the he and she appellations of a Spanish grandee can assist us in our jeopardy.
PUB.-Well, then, we must at least have a preface.
En.“I see our friend the stenographer has been very industriously taking down our conversation. Let him write it out at his leisure; and let it go as his contribution. Please also to give him a bonus, for saving me the trouble of writing a PREFACE.
LETTERS FROM A FRENCH GENTLEMAN.
[A contributor has furnished us with several letters, selected from the correspondence of an intelligent French gentleman, who recently visited this country. The translation, as he informs us, is as literal as it could be made, without the introduction of the idiomatic plıraseology. Such letters have been selected as were supposed most interesting to the citizens of New-York. The first is published, as explaining, in some measure, the author's views and feelings; and as a prelude to his observations on this city. We shall continue to print them from time to time.]
New-York, July I have, my dear father, just arrived ; and the departure of one of those fine packets that now trade to Havre, affords me an immediate opportunity of relieving you and my dear mother and sister, from all that gloomy suspense, which I well know has been hanging for these five weeks over the inmates of D. We often reason against these depressions ; but nature will assert its dominion; and I should in truth love you all less than I do, if you did not yield willingly, in some degree, to her soft and touching influence. It has been a delightful consolation to me, during my first absence from my own country, (for the Alps once afforded no frontier to France,) while traversing the waste of waters, to return to the old chateau ; to picture to myself the beloved fireside, and to feel that, at the very same moment, we were reciprocally engaged in aspirations for each others happiness. But let me leave these topics, in which affection delights to revel, and tell you of the incidents of the voyage which I have just completed.
We sailed with an accuracy, heretofore belonging only to the mail, on the day fixed for that purpose, on board one of the American packets, with some French and American gentlemen, and a lady, the wife of one of the latter. The society was mixed, but altogether more agreeable and interesting than one could have anticipated from so promiscuous and accidental an assemblage; and I was fortunate in having an opportunity of not only acquiring greater fluency in speaking English, but much information respecting my future movements in the United States. I am indebted, more particularly, for the latter, to a young gentleman of Boston, of great intelligence; who, though no more than twenty-three years of age, was returning to his country, after having travelled over a large portion of Europe, by way of finishing his education, and preparing himself for the practice of the profession which he had chosen. I Vol. 1. No. I.