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that preceded this interview had prepared us for something of high and solemn import to follow, and though the opening of the audience had left us nothing to divine respecting the being that thus deigned to accord it, still, when we thus found ourselves beyond all doubt in the actual presence of the great Historian of New-York, the Dutch Herodotus, (as in compliment to the Greek annalist he has been called,) so overcome, so overwhelmed were we with the momentousness of the occasion, that the few incoherent sentences which first escaped us in reply to his address passed from our memory as soon as they were uttered, and we have only now a general impression of the part we took at the opening of this singular confer
After stating to the sage that he had misconceived our design, in thinking we meditated any thing so presumptuous as supplying his place, as the quondam guardian of his favorite city, and that we had only assumed his name as good catholics when they take the cowl sometimes adopt that of their tutelar saint, we briefly mentioned those details of our design, with which the reader is already sufficiently acquainted from the prospectus, and then went on to observe That we well knew our publication must, at starting, owe its chief value and patronage to that pride of citizenship, widely distinct from a narrow cockney spirit, which, though latent, was still strong among the townsmen of the immortal Diedrich; but, that, though confidently relying upon this genial feeling, as the fulcrum of our first endeavors, it was upon broader and more general grounds we placed our hopes of final success. For as the rest of the country naturally looked to this metropolis for the mart of intelligence, as well as that of business, each organ that aided the emanation of literature hence, would tend also to concentrate it here, and—while our pages were open to the contribution of talent generally, when presented in a concise and animated form, provided only that sectarian discussion and party politics were not ingredients—we therefore expected to enlist ability, and consequently patronage, from every part of the country.
And much else did we add to the same purpose, which, dull and uninteresting as it is to the reader, the illustrious shade seemed to take in very good part, and even listen to in a manner highly flattering to us. After readily forgiving us the liberty taken with his name, in consideration of our having restored it to its ancient spelling, a little
matter, but which in fact tickled him mightily, especially when we informed him that it was in consequence of a request officially preferred by the Burgomasters of the ancient city of Albany, the Historian pursued his remarks in a sly vein of banter, that showed his joking propensities had survived even in the grave. The subdued tone of quiet humor in which they were uttered, however, is lost entirely, when we attempt to transfer what he said to paper.
“ It is well, Mr. Editor, as I suppose it now becometh me to call thee; it is well for this inexperienced country that there are sober ones, who, like thyself, come forward, and taking the young and frisky public under their wing, thereby prevent its getting into those manifold scrapes to which the prevailing incontinence of scribbling would otherwise expose it. For in our reasoning land, so madly do people go together by the ears, upon questions of whatever concernment, that were it not for publications such as thine, which operate as safety-valves to that grand boiler, society, the ways of literature, like those of politics, would become as dangerous as the deck of a high-pressure steamboat, and wild theories and conflicting opinions would be constantly generating and exploding in quartos and octavos, instead of, as now, oozing away harmlessly through the medium of periodicals. Again, there is something right valiant in thy thus taking the bull of opinion by the horns, something exceeding magnanimous in thus assuming the direction of public taste, in thus”
“ You overrate-you mistake, venerable sir,” interrupted we in a subdued voice of respect, " the nature of our undertaking, and the responsibility of the task we are about to assume. We purpose but to act as the usher of others into the presence of the public, and to form one of the crowd only when we appear ourselves. The object of our Magazine is to represent life and letters as existing here, not to assume their regulation; to call out talent, not to supply it ourselves. The chief burthen of the undertaking must indeed, in any event, rest upon these shoulders, and they will of course sink under it, should any large portion of the aid expected be not realized. But the cordial alacrity with which it has been proffered, would render a doubt of receiving it as inexcusable, as if, after the liberal and spontaneous patronage of the public at the very outset of our undertaking, we should have misgivings of the continuance of their favour."
“ Didst thou never read, my son,” said the ancient, shaking his head, “ of a usage they have in the Nicobar islands, when they wish to get rid of a restless spirit, of provisioning a little raft for a few days, towing it out to sea, and turning the frail craft with its solitary voyager adrift to perish? If haply thou hast, why may we not apprehend, while launching here thy shallop so boldly from the shore, lest the alacrity and liberality with which it has been fitted out and started upon this adventurous voyage, be a Nicobar stratagem to get rid of thee forever?"
“ We are indeed, sir, at some loss to account for the unexpected and undeserved confidence with which our design hath been seconded the moment it became public; but the fate of a perturbed spirit could hardly be intended for so quiet a one as ours, nor do we know any reason why our civilized and enlighted community should adopt the usages of a simple-minded and barbarous people, seeing that they can neither affect the price of stocks, nor have any political bearing whatsoever. Then, too, as for those already engaged to assist us, their kind offices are alone a warrant of success. There are names, not quite unknown, nor known disadvantageously, whose influence and assistance have been already most courteously tendered; but high as are our expectations from these, they are by no means our principal dependance. Such good friends as they and the public will always meet with mutual satisfaction, and we shall be happy to be the means of bringing them more frequently together—"
“Though neither side has special need of you as the medium of communication,” ejaculated the ancient.
“ True! venerable sir, but there is another class, a most numerous class, and one that in its unions would be mighty, who have need of us (or of some one in our place) and of the public, and the public and we have need of them. It is the class of hidden capacities of scattered, obscure, and disunited talents—and our chicfest task will be to gather in some of these from their manifold dispersion; and to invent, if possible, some new divining rod, wherewith to bring out upon the surface of our society, the thousand springs of its own fresh and latent talent."
“But why," interrupted the sage, “ should such magical means be requisite to elicit ability. Doth not talent, as in my day, become soon conspicuous, and as the most vigorous saplings of the forest, shoot above their fellows, and seek the
sky, spring toward the light of favor of its own accord ? That he who is conscious of his own acquirements, desires the fame of possessing them, hath been proverbial since the time of Persius, and in my day”—
“Pardon me, oh learned phantom, in thy day pedantry was not the bug-bear which it now is; though even then, genius was held synonimous with folly, and to be suspected of being a poet did as now seriously affect one's success in any respectable business. But whether it is owing to these considerations, or others that may be mentioned, it is only by some extraordinary powers of quest and inquisition, that we can find out people among whom we are daily and hourly conversant. We meet in the busy and in the gay world upon such common-place grounds—we have so many matters of fact or indifferent nothings, which, according to the requisitions of society must be more or less discussed, that the brief moments pass in the interchange of conversational currency, while our real coin grows rusty in our pockets. And yet among the cultivated classes there are unsuspected powers, in the recesses, in the eddies of our society, which might be gathered to a mighty stream that should tend with a general effect toward a general object, and should attain it in the general discovery and consequent inerease of its own effective energies."
“ Thou speakest, my son, under the influence of vivid feel ings and flattering hopes and prospects. Much doth it fear me lest thou confidest too much in these hidden and uncertain resources. Bethink thee, should they fail, where but upon thy rash head will the blame and the burthen fall. Abandon then thy design, while there is time to avail thyself of the counsel conveyed in the Chinese proverb—' it is easier to mount a tiger than to get off his back when once seated.'”
“ Allow us to think otherwise and to indulge the belief, that if we do our part, “the blame,' in case of failure, will only, among fair-judging people, fall where it is justly due. And for the burthen,' as we sanguinely think it will, so do we know that it must, be divided by others. The time has long gone by, at least in the civilized world, when the might of one man's hand could govern, or the abundance of one man's intellect could nourish the strength and thoughts of many.
Literature is tending like civil polity to republicanism and distribution: to a distribution which enriches the many without impoverishing the few, but which makes the conferring of acceptable gifts on the former hourly more difficult; for though the
riches of the giver are not diminished, though they are indeed increased, yet the poverty of the receivers is diminished in a more than like proportion. Their taste is become more fastidious; their curiosity less eager; and if he who would cater for them be deficient in variety and novelty, they discharge the unprofitable servant and take an independent stand upon their own resources. We say their own resources, for we mean the resources of the general mind, the many hoarded individual stores which should be general and public”
“But which too often,” observed the sage, “are buried in the bosom of their miser-like owners, as if mind as well as money did not owe its chief value to active circulation; leaving it too for others to dig as much at random for their treasures, as those industrious vagrants whose researches after Captain Kidd's money,' have disturbed every mound upon the coast, and even troubled the
my own bones.' “ Yet these,” we resumed, “these private accumulations of the general wealth are the only coffers adequate to the supply of an enlightened and still advancing community, and upon these shall we repose, trusting fully to the active principle of the present age for the effect_variety of design, and what the political æconomist calls division of labor. There is probably no man living who cannot do something well, and the man of our age who has caused the greatest things to be done, was he who possessed a power, that seemed like inspiration, of divining and putting into action the talents of those who were most capable of effecting his purposes. That was his arm of conquest and the staff of his strength, and there is none to wield it after him. But still the example of his success is there to prompt us, as far as we may, to fashion our little weapons in our narrower sphere upon the art he has revealed to us.”
· Aye, indeed I have heard much of that great captain's doings, even in those shadowy realms, where many a lofty soul like his moves in the dim crowd of disembodied spirits, undistinguished from those who in life would have quailed beneath their glance. But touching those weapons,' my son, of which thou spakest but now, surely thou meanest not to encourage the vile spirit of satire in thy publication.”
" It was but metaphorically we used the term; nor do we mean that our work shall be the vehicle of bitterness or malice in any shape; yet, while we well know that the prevailing fondness for speaking with levity on the gravest subjects, with ridicule of the noblest sentiments, and be-littling every thing