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Chapter 11: the firm continues

The firm of Greeley and Story was not seriously injured by the failure of the Morning Post. They stopped printing it in time, and their loss was not more than fifty or sixty dollars. Meanwhile, their main stay was Sylvester's Bank Note Reporter, which yielded about fifteen dollars' worth of composition a week, payment for which was sure and regular. In a few weeks Mr. Story was fortunate enough to procure a considerable quantity of lottery printing. This was profitable work, and the firm, thenceforth, paid particular attention to that branch of business, and our hero acquired great dexterity in setting up and arranging the list of prizes and drawings.

Among other things, they had, for some time, the printing of a small tri-weekly paper called the Constitutionalist, which was the organ of the great lottery dealers, and the vehicle of lottery news, a small, dingy, quarto of four pages, of which one page only was devoted to reading matter, the rest being occupied by lottery tables and advertisements. The heading of this interesting periodical [147] was as follows: ‘the Constitutionalist, Wilmington, Delaware. Devoted to the Interests of Literature, Internal Improvement, Common Schools, &c., &c.’ The last half square of the last column of the Constitutionalist's last page contained a standing advertisement, which read thus:—

Greeley and Story, No. 54 Liberty-street, New York, respectfully solicit the patronage of the public to their business of Letter-Press Printing, particularly Lottery Printing, such as schemes, periodicals, &c., which will be executed on favorable terms.

Horace Greeley, who had by this time become an inveterate paragraphist, and was scribbler-general to the circle in which he moved, did not disdain to contribute to the first page of the Constitutionalist. The only set of the paper which has been preserved I have examined; and though many short articles are pointed out by its proprietor, as written by Mr. Greeley, I find none of the slightest present interest, and none which throw any light upon his feelings, thoughts or habits, at the time when they were written. He wrote well enough, however, to impress his friends with a high idea of his talent; and his prompt fidelity in all his transactions, at this period, secured him one friend, who, in addition to a host of other good qualities, chanced to be the possessor, or wielder, of extensive means. This friend, at various subsequent crises of our hero's life, proved to be a friend indeed, because a friend in need. They sat together, long after, the printer and the patron, in the representative's hall at Washington, as members of the thirtieth Congress. Why shall I not adorn this page by writing on it the name of the kindly, the munificent Dudley S. Gregory, to whose wise generosity, Jersey City, and Jersey Citizens, owe so much; In whose hands large possessions are far more a public than a private good?

Mr. Gregory was, in 1833, the agent or manager of a great lottery association, and he had much to do with arranging the tables and schemes published in the Constitutionalist. This brought him in contact with the senior member of the firm of Greeley and Story, to whose talents his attention was soon called by a particular circumstance. A young man, who had lost all his property by the lottery, in a moment of desperation committed suicide. A great hue and cry arose all over the country against lotteries; and many [148] newspapers clamored for their suppression by law. The lottery dealers were alarmed. In the midst of this excitement, Horace Greeley, while standing at the case, composed an article on the subject, the purport of which is said to have been, that the argument for and against lotteries was not affected by the suicide of that young man; but it simply proved, that he, the suicide, was a person of weak character, and had nothing to do with the question whether the State ought, or ought not, to license lotteries. This article was inserted in one of the lottery papers, attracted considerable attention, and made Mr. Gregory aware that his printer was not an ordinary man. Soon after, Mr. Greeley changed his opinion on the subject of lotteries, and advocated their suppression by law.

Greeley and Story were now prosperous printers. Their business steadily increased, and they began to accumulate capital. The term of their co-partnership, however, was short. The great dissolver of partnerships, King Death himself, dissolved theirs in the seventh month of its existence. On the 9th of July, Francis Story went down the bay on an excursion, and never returned alive. He was drowned by the upsetting of a boat, and his body was brought back to the city the same evening. There had existed between these young partners a warm friendship. Mr. Story's admiration of the character and talents of our hero amounted to enthusiasm; and lie, on his part, could not but love the man who so loved him. When lie went up to the coffin to look for the last time on the marble features that had never turned to his with an unkind expression, he said, ‘Poor Story! shall I ever meet with any one who will bear with me as he did?’ To the bereaved family Horace Greeley behaved with the most scrupulous justice, sending Mr. Story's mother half of all the little outstanding accounts as soon as they were paid, and receiving into the vacant place a brother-in-law of his deceased partner, Mr. Jonas Winchester, a gentleman now well known to the press and the people of this country.

A short time before, he had witnessed the marriage of Mr. Winchester by the Episcopal form. He was deeply impressed with the ceremony, listening to it in an attitude expressive of the profoundest interest; and when it was over, he exclaimed aloud, ‘That's the [149] most beautiful service I ever saw. If ever I am married it shall be by that form.’

The business of ‘Greeley and Co.’ went on prospering through the year; but increase of means made not the slightest difference in our hero's habits or appearance. His indifference to dress was Chronic complaint, and the ladies of his partner's family tried in vain to coax and laugh him into a conformity with the usages of society. They hardly succeeded in inducing him to keep his shirt buttoned over his white bosom. ‘He was always a clean man, you know,’ says one of them. There was not even the show or pretence of discipline in the office. One of the journeymen made an outrageous caricature of his employer, and showed it to him one day as he came from dinner. ‘Who's that?’ asked the man. ‘That's me,’ said the master, with a smile, and passed in to his work. The men made a point of appearing to differ in opinion from him on every subject, because they liked to hear him talk; and, one day, after a long debate, he exclaimed, ‘Why, men, if I were to say that that black man there was black, you'd all swear he was white.’ He worked with all his former intensity and absorption. Often, such conversations as these took place in the office about the middle of the day:

(H. G., looking up from his work)—Jonas, have I been to dinner?

Mr. Winchester)—You ought to know best. I don't knowZZZ

(H. G.)—John, have I been to dinner?

(John)—I believe not. Has he, Tom?

To which Tom would reply “no,” or yes, according to his own recollection or John's wink; and if the office generally concurred in Tom's decision, Horace would either go to dinner or resume his work, in unsuspecting accordance therewith.

It was about this time that he embraced the first of his two ‘isms’ (he has never had but two). Graham arose and lectured, and mode a noise in the world, and obtained followers. The substance of his message was that We, the people of the United States, are in the habit of taking our food in too concentrated a form. Bulk is necessary as well as nutriment; brown bread is better than white; and meat should be eaten only once a day, or never, said the Rev. Dr. Graham. Stimulants, he added, were pernicious, and their apparent necessity arises solely from too concentrated, and [150] therefore indigestible food. A simple message, and one most obviously true. The wonder is, not that he should have obtained followers, but that there should have been found one human being so besottedly ignorant and so incapable of being instructed as to deny the truth of his leading principles. Graham was a remarkable man. He was one of those whom nature has gifted with the power of taking an interest in human welfare. He was a discoverer of the facts, that most of us are sick, and that none of us need be; that disease is impious and disgraceful, the result, in almost every instance, of folly or crime. He exonerated God from the aspersions cast upon his wisdom and goodness by those who attribute disease to his ‘mysterious dispensations,’ and laid all the blame and shame of the ills that flesh endures at the door of those who endure them. Graham was one of the two or three men to whom this nation might, with some propriety, erect a monument. Some day, perhaps, a man will take the trouble to read Graham's two tough and wordy volumes, and present the substance of them to the public in a form which will not repel, but win the reader to perusal and conviction.

Horace Greeley, like every other thinking person that heard Dr. Graham lecture, was convinced that upon the whole he was right. He abandoned the use of stimulants, and took care in selecting his food, to see that there was the proper proportion between its bulk and its nutriment; i. e. he ate Graham bread, little meat, and plenty of rice, Indian meal, vegetables and fruit. He went, after a time, to board at the Graham house, a hotel conducted, as its name imported, on Graham principles, the rules and regulations having been written by Dr. Graham himself. The first time our friend appeared at the table of the Graham House, a silly woman who lived there tried her small wit upon him.

‘It's lucky,’ said she to the landlady, ‘that you've no cat in the house.’

‘Why?’ asked the landlady.

‘Because,’ was the killing reply, ‘if you had, the cat would certainly take that man with the white head for a gosling, and fly at him.’

Gentlemen who boarded with him at the Graham House, remember him as a Portentious Anomaly, one who, on ordinary occasions, [151] said nothing, but was occasionally roused to most vehement argument; a man much given to reading and cold-water baths.

In the beginning of the year 1834, the dream of editorship revived in the soul of Horace Greeley. A project for starting a weekly paper began to be agitated in the office. The firm, which then consisted of three members, H. Greeley, Jonas Winchester, and E. Sibbett, considered itself worth three thousand dollars, and was further of opinion, that it contained within itself an amount of editorial talent sufficient to originate and conduct a family paper superior to any then existing. The firm was correct in both opinions, and the result was—the New Yorker.

An incident connected with the job office of Greeley & Co. is, perhaps, worth mentioning here. One James Gordon Bennett, a person then well known as a smart writer for the press, came to Horace Greeley, and exhibiting a fifty-dollar bill and some other notes of smaller denomination as his cash capital, invited him to join in setting up a new daily paper, the New York Herald. Our hero declined the offer, but recommended James Gordon to apply to another printer, naming one, who he thought would like to share in such an enterprise. To him the editor of the Herald did apply, and with success. The Herald appeared soon after, under the joint proprietorship of Bennett and the printer alluded to. Upon the subsequent burning of the Herald office, the partners separated, and the Herald was thenceforth conducted by Bennett alone.

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