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Chapter 12: editor of the New Yorker.

  • Character of the paper
  • -- its early fortunes -- happiness of the editor -- scene in the office -- specimens of Horace Greeley's poetry -- subjects of his Essays -- his opinions then -- his marriage -- the silk-stocking story -- a day in Washington -- his impressions of the Senate -- pecuniary difficulties -- causes of the New-Yorker's ill-success as a business -- the missing letters -- the editor gets a nickname -- the Agonies of a Debtor -- Park Benjamin -- Henry J. Raymond.

Luckily for the purposes of the present writer, Mr. Greeley is the most autobiographical of editors. He takes his readers into his [152] confidence, his sanctum, and his iron safe. He has not the least objection to tell the public the number of his subscribers, the amount of his receipts, the excess of his receipts over his expenditures, or the excess of his expenditures over his receipts. Accordingly, the whole history of the New Yorker, and the story of its editor's joys and sorrows, his trials and his triumphs, lie plainly and fully written in the New Yorker itself.

The New Yorker was, incomparably, the best newspaper of its kind that had ever been published in this country. It was printed, at first, upon a large folio sheet; afterwards, in two forms, folio and quarto, the former at two dollars a year, the latter at three. Its contents were of four kinds; literary matter, selected from home and foreign periodicals, and well selected; editorial articles by the editor, vigorously and courteously expressed; news, chiefly political, compiled with an accuracy new to American journalism; city, literary, and miscellaneous paragraphs. The paper took no side in politics, though the ardent convictions of the editor were occasionally manifest, in spite of himself. The heat and fury of some of his later writings never characterize the essays of the New Yorker. He was always gentle, however strong and decided; and there was a modesty and candor in his manner of writing that made the subscriber a friend. For example, in the very first number, announcing the publication of certain mathematical books, he says, ‘As we are not ourselves conversant with the higher branches of mathematics, we cannot pretend to speak authoritatively upon the merits of these publications’—a kind of avowal which omniscient editors are not prone to make.

A paper, that lived long, never stole into existence more quietly than the New Yorker. Fifteen of the personal friends of the editors had promised to become subscribers; and when, on the 22d of March, 1834, the first number appeared, it sold to the extent of one hundred copies. No wonder. Neither of the proprietors had any reputation with the public; all of them were very young, and the editor evidently supposed that it was only necessary to make a good paper in order to sell a great many copies. The ‘Publishers’ Address, “ indeed, expressly said:—

There is one disadvantage attending our debut which is seldom encountered [153] in the outset of periodicals aspiring to general popularity and patronage. Ours is not blazoned through the land as,

The Cheapest Periodical in the World, “. ” The Largest Paper ever Published, “ or any of the captivating clap-traps wherewith enterprising gentlemen, possessed of a convenient stock of assurance, are wont to usher in their successive experiments on the gullibility of the Public. No likenesses of eminent and favorite authors will embellish our title, while they disdain to write for our columns. No ” distinguished literary and fashionable characters' have been dragged in to bolster up a rigmarole of preposterous and charlatan pretensions. And indeed so serious is this deficiency, that the first (we may say the only) objection which has been started by our most judicious friends in the discussion of our plans and prospects, has invariably been this:— “You do not indulge sufficiently in high-sounding pretensions. You cannot succeed without humbug.” Our answer has constantly been:— “We shall try,” and in the spirit of this determination, we respectfully solicit of our fellow-citizens the extension of that share of patronage which they shall deem warranted by our performances rather than our promises.”

The public took the New Yorker at its word. The second number had a sale of nearly two hundred copies, and for three months, the increase averaged a hundred copies a week. In September, the circulation was 2,500; and the second volume began with 4,500. During the first year , three hundred papers gave the New Yorker a eulogistic notice. The editor became, at once, a person known and valued throughout the Union. He enjoyed his position thoroughly, and he labored not more truly with all his might, than with all his heart.

The spirit in which he performed his duties, and the glee with which he entered into the comicalities of editorial life, cannot be more agreeably shown than by transcribing his own account of a Scene which was enacted in the office of the New Yorker, soon after its establishment. The article was entitled “Editorial luxuries.”

We love not the ways of that numerous class of malcontents who are perpetually finding fault with their vocation, and endeavoring to prove themselves the most miserable dogs in existence. If they really think so, why under the sun do they not abandon their present evil ways and endeavor to hit upon something more endurable? Nor do we not deem these grumblers more plentiful among the brethren of the quill than in other professions, simply because the groanings uttered through the press are more widely circulated [154] than when merely breathed to the night-air of some unsympathising friend who forgets all about them the next minute; but we do think the whole business is in most ridiculously bad taste. An Apostle teaches us of ‘groanings which cannot be uttered’—it would be a great relief to readers, if editorial groanings were of this sort. Now, we pride ourselves rather on the delights of our profession; and we rejoice to say, that we find them neither few nor inconsiderable. There is one which even now flitted across our path, which, to tell the truth, was rather above the average—in fact, so good, that we cannot afford to monopolize it, even though we shall be constrained to allow our reader a peep behind the curtain. So, here it is:

[Scene. Editorial Sanctum—Editor solusi. e. immersed in thought and newspapers, with a journal in one hand and busily spoiling white paper with the other—only two particular friends talking to him at each elbow. Devil calls for “copy” at momentary intervals. Enter a butternut—colored gentleman, who bows most emphatically.]

Gent. Are you the editor of the New Yorker, sir?

Editor. The same, sir, at your service.

Gent. Did you write this, sir?

Editor. Takes his scissored extract and reads— “So, when we hear the brazen vender of quack remedies boldly trumpeting his miraculous cures, or the announcement of the equally impudent experimenter on public credulity (Goward) who announces, that he ” teaches music in six lessons, and half a dozen distinct branches of science in as many weeks, “ we may be grieved, and even indignant, that such palpable deceptions of the simple and unwary should not be discountenanced and exposed.”

That reads like me, sir. I do not remember the passage; but if you found it in the editorial columns of the New Yorker, I certainly did write it.

Gent. It was in No. 15. ‘The March of Humbug.’

Editor. Ah! now I recollect it—there is no mistake in my writing that article.

Gent. Did you allude to me, sir, in those remarks?

Editor. You will perceive that the name “ Goward” has been introduced by yourself—there is nothing of the kind in my paper.

Gent. Yes, sir; but I wish to know whether you intended those remarks to apply to me.

Editor. Well, sir, without pretending to recollect exactly what I may have been thinking of while writing an article three months ago, I will frankly say, that I think I must have had you in my eye while penning that paragraph.

Gent. Well, sir, do you know that such remarks are grossly unjust and impertinent to me?

Editor. I know nothing of you, sir, but from the testimony of friends and your own advertisements in the papers—and these combine to assure me that you are a quack. [155]

Gent. That is what my enemies say, sir; but if you examine my certificates, sir, you will know the contrary.

Editor. I am open to conviction, sir.

Gent. Well, sir, I have been advertising in the Traveller for some time, and have paid them a great deal of money, and here they come out this week and abuse me—so, I have done with them; and, now, if you will say you will not attack me in this fashion, I will patronize you (holding out some tempting advertisements).

Editor. Well, sir, I shall be very happy to advertise for you; but I can give no pledge as to the course I shall feel bound to pursue.

Gent. Then, I suppose you will continue to call me a quack.

Editor. I do not know that I am accustomed to attack my friends and patrons; but if I have occasion to speak of you at all, it shall be in such terms as my best judgment shall dictate.

Gent. Then, I am to understand you as my enemy.

Editor. Understand me as you please, sir; I shall endeavor to treat you and all men with fairness.

Gent. But do you suppose I am going to pay money to those who ridicule me and hold me up as a quack?

Editor. You will pay it where you please, sir—I must enjoy my opinions.

Gent. Well, but is a man to be judged by what his enemies say of him? Every man has his enemies.

Editor. I hope not, sir; I trust I have not an enemy in the world.

Gent. Yes, you have—I'm your enemy!—and the enemy of every one who misrepresents me. I can get no justice from the press, except among the penny dailies. I'll start a paper myself before a year. I'll show that some folks can edit newspapers as well as others.

Editor. The field is open, sir,—go ahead.

[Exit in a rage,Rev. J. Goward, A. M., Teacher (in six lessons) of everything.]

Another proof of the happiness of the early days of our hero's editorial career might be found in the habit he then had of writing verses. It will, perhaps, surprise some of his present readers, who know him only as one of the most practical of writers, one given to politics, sub-soil plows, and other subjects supposed to be unpoetical, to learn that he was in early life a very frequent, and by no means altogether unsuccessful poetizer. Many of the early numbers of the New-Yorker contain a poem by ‘H. G.’ He has published, in all, about thirty-five poems, of which the New-Yorker contains twenty; the rest may be found in the Southern Literary Messenger, and various other magazines, annuals, and occasional volumes. I [156] have seen no poem of his which does not contain the material of poetry—thought, feeling, fancy; but in few of them was the poet enabled to give his thought, feeling and fancy complete expression. A specimen or two of his poetry it would be an unpardonable omission not to give, in a volume like this, particularly as his poetic period is past.

The following is a tribute to the memory of one who was the ideal hero of his youthful politics. It was published in the first number of the New-Yorker:

On the death of William Wirt.

Rouse not the muffled drum,
Wake not the martial trumpet's mournful sound
For him whose mighty voice in death is dumb;
Who, in the zenith of his high renown,
To the grave went down.

Invoke no cannon's breath
To swell the requiem o'er his ashes poured—
Silently bear him to the house of death:—
The aching hearts by whom he was adored,
He won not with the sword.

No! let affection's tear
Be the sole tribute to his memory paid;
Earth has no monument so justly dear
To souls like his in purity arrayed—
Never to fade.

I loved thee, patriot Chief!
I battled proudly 'neath thy banner pure;
Mine is the breast of woe—the heart of grief,
Which suffer on unmindful of a cure—
Proud to endure.

But vain the voice of wail
For thee, from this dim vale of sorrow fled— [157]
Earth has no spell whose magic shall not fail
To light the gloom that shrouds thy narrow bed,
Or woo thee from the dead.

Then take thy long repose
Beneath the shelter of the deep green sod:
Death but a brighter halo o'er thee throws—
Thy fame, thy soul alike have spurned the clod—
Rest thee in God.

A series of poems, entitled ‘Historic Pencilings,’ appear in the first volume of the New Yorker, over the initials ‘H. G.’ These were the poetized reminiscences of his boyish historical reading. Of these poems the following is, perhaps, the most pleasing and characteristic:

Nero's tomb.

When Nero perished by the justest doom,
Some hand unseen strewed flowers upon his grave.

The tyrant slept in death;
     His long career of blood had ceased forever,
And but an empire's execrating breath
     Remained to tell of crimes exampled never.
Alone remained? Ah! no;
     Rome's scathed and blackened walls retold the story
Of conflagrations broad and baleful glow.
     Such was the halo of the despot's glory!

And round his gilded tomb
     Came crowds of sufferers—but not to weep—
Not theirs the wish to light the house of gloom
     With sympathy. No! Curses wild and deep
His only requiem made.
     But soft! see, strewed around his dreamless bed
The trophies bright of many a verdant glade,
     The living's tribute to the honored dead.

[158] What mean those gentle flowers?
     So sweetly smiling in the face of wrath—
Children of genial suns and fostering showers.
     Now crushed and trampled in the million's path—
What do they, withering here?
     Ah! spurn them not? they tell of sorrow's flow—
There has been one to shed affection's tear,
     And 'mid a nation's joy, to feel a pang of woe!

No! scorn them not, those flowers,
     They speak too deeply to each feeling heart—
They tell that Guilt hath still its holier hours—
     That none may e'er from earth unmourned depart;
That none bath all effaced
     The spell of Eden o'er his spirit cast,
The heavenly image in his features traced—
     Or quenched the love unchanging to the last!

Another of the “Historic Pencilings,” was on the “Death of Pericles.” This was its last stanza:

No! let the brutal conqueror
     Still glut his soul with war,
And let the ignoble million
     With shouts surround his car;
But dearer far the lasting fame
     Which twines its wreaths with peace—
Give me the tearless memory
     Of the mighty one of Greece.

Only one of his poems seems to have been inspired by the tender passion. It is dated May 31st, 1834. Who this bright Vision was to whom the poem was addressed, or whether it was ever visible to any but the poet's eye, has not transpired.


They deem me cold, the thoughtless and light-hearted,
     In that I worship not at beauty's shrine; [159]
They deem me cold, that through the years departed,
     I ne'er have bowed me to some form divine.
They deem me proud, that, where the world hath flattered,
     I ne'er have knelt to languish or adore;
They think not that the homage idly scattered
     Leaves the heart bankrupt, ere its spring is o'er.

No! in my soul there glows but one bright vision,
     And o'er my heart there rules but one fond spell,
Brightening my hours of sleep with dreams Elysian
     Of one unseen, yet loved, aye cherished well;
Unseen? Ah! no; her presence round me lingers,
     Chasing each wayward thought that tempts to rove;
Weaving Affection's web with fairy fingers,
     And waking thoughts of purity and love.

Star of my heaven! thy beams shall guide me ever,
     Though clouds obscure, and thorns bestrew my path;
As sweeps my bark adown life's arrowy river
     Thy angel smile shall soothe misfortune's wrath;
And ah! should Fate ere speed her deadliest arrow,
     Should vice allure to plunge in her dark sea,
Be this the only shield my soul shall borrow—
     One glance to Heaven—one burning thought of thee!

I ne'er on earth may gaze on those bright features,
     Nor drink the light of that soul-beaming eye;
But wander on 'mid earth's unthinking creatures,
     Unloved in life, and unlamented die;
But ne'er shall fade the spell thou weavest o'er me,
     Nor fail the star that lights my lonely way;
Still shall the night's fond dreams that light restore me,
     Though Fate forbid its gentler beams by day.

I have not dreamed that gold or gems adorn thee—
     That Flatt'ry's voice may vaunt thy matchless form;
I little reck that worldlings all may scorn thee,
     Be but thy soul still pure, thy feelings warm; [160]
Be thine bright Intellect's unfading treasures,
     And Poesy's more deeply-hallowed spell,
And Faith the zest which heightens all thy pleasures,
     With trusting love—Maid of my soul! farewell!

One more poem claims place here, if from its autobiographical character alone. Those who believe there is such a thing as regeneration, who know that a man can act and live in a disinterested spirit, will not read this poem with entire incredulity. It appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger for August, 1840.

The faded stars.

I mind the time when Heaven's high dome
     Woke in my soul a wondrous thrill—
When every leaf in Nature's tome
     Bespoke creations marvels still;
When mountain cliff and sweeping glade,
     As morn unclosed her rosy bars,
Woke joys intense—but naught o'er bade
     My heart leap up, like you, bright stars!
Calm ministrants to God's high glory!
     Pure gems around His burning throne!
Mute watchers o'er man's strange, sad story
     Of Crime and Woe through ages gone!
'Twas yours the mild and hallowing spell
     That lured me from ignoble gleams—
Taught me where sweeter fountains swell
     Than ever bless the worldling's dreams.

How changed was life! a waste no more,
     Beset by Want, and Pain, and Wrong;
Earth seemed a glad and fairy shore,
     Vocal with Hope's inspiring song.
But ye, bright sentinels of Heaven!
     Far glories of Night's radiant sky!
Who, as ye gemmed the brow of Even,
     Has ever deemed Man born to die?.

[161] 'Tis faded now, that wondrous grace
     That once on Heaven's forehead shone;
I read no more in Nature's face
     A soul responsive to my own.
A dimness on my eye and spirit,
     Stern time has cast in hurrying by;
Few joys my hardier years inherit,
     And leaden dullness rules the sky.

Yet mourn not I—a stern, high duty
     Now nerves my arm and fires my brain;
Perish the dream of shapes of beauty,
     So that this strife be not in vain;
To war on Fraud entrenched with Power—
     On smooth Pretence and specious Wrong—
This task be mine, though Fortune lower;
     For this be banished sky and song.

The subjects upon which the editor of the New Yorker used to descant, as editor, contrast curiously with those upon which, as poet, he aspired to sing. Turning over the well-printed pages of that journal, we find calm and rather elaborate essays upon “The interests of Labor,” “Our relations with France,” “Speculation,” “The Science of agriculture,” “Usury Laws,” “The Currency,” “Overtrading,” “Divorce of Bank and State,” “ National Conventions,” “International Copyright,” “ Relief of the Poor,” “The public lands,” “Capital punishment,” “The Slavery question,” and scores of others equally unromantic. There are, also, election returns given with great minuteness, and numberless paragraphs recording nominations. The New Yorker gradually became the authority in the department of political statistics. There were many people who did not consider an election “ safe,” or “ lost,” until they saw the figures in the New Yorker. And the New Yorker deserved this distinction; for there never lived an editor more scrupulous upon the point of literal and absolute correctness than Horace Greeley. To quote the language of a proof-reader—‘If there is a thing that will make Horace furious, it is to have a name spelt wrong, or a mistake [162] in election returns.’ In fact, he was morbid on the subject, till time toughened him; time, and proof-readers.

The opinions which he expressed in the columns of the New Yorker are, in general, those to which he still adheres, though on a few subjects he used language which he would not now use. His opinions on those subjects have rather advanced than changed. For example: he is now opposed to the punishment of death in all cases, except when, owing to peculiar circumstances, the immediate safety of the community demands it. In June, 1836, he wrote:— ‘And now, having fully expressed our conviction that the punishment of death is one which should sometimes be inflicted, we may add, that we would have it resorted to as unfrequently as possible. Nothing, in our view, but cold-blooded, premeditated, unpalliated murder, can fully justify it. Let this continue to be visited with the sternest penalty.’

Another example. The following is part of an article on the Slavery Question, which appeared in July, 1834. It differs from his present writings on the same subject, not at all in doctrine, though very much in tone. Then, he thought the North the aggressor. Since then, we have had Mexican Wars, Nebraska bills, etc., and he now writes as one assailed.

To a philosophical observer, the existence of domestic servitude in one portion of the Union while it is forbidden and condemned in another, would indeed seem to afford no plausible pretext for variance or alienation. The Union was formed with a perfect knowledge, on the one hand, that slavery existed at the south, and, on the other, that it was utterly disapproved and discountenanced at the north. But the framers of the constitution saw no reason for distrust and dissension in this circumstance. Wisely avoiding all discussion of a subject so delicate and exciting, they proceeded to the formation of “a more perfect union,” which, leaving each section in the possession of its undoubted right of regulating its own internal government and enjoying its own speculative opinions, provided only for the common benefit and mutual well-being of the whole. And why should not this arrangement be satisfactory and perfect? Why should not even the existing evils of one section be left to the correction of its own wisdom and virtue, when pointed out by the unerring finger of experience?

* * * * * * * * * We entertain no doubt that the system of slavery is at the bottom of most of the evils which afflict the communities of the south—that it has occasioned [163] the decline of Virginia, of Maryland, of Carolina. We see it even retarding the growth of the new State of Missouri, and causing her to fill far behind her sister Indiana in improvement and population. And we venture to assert, that if the objections to slavery, drawn from a correct and enlightened political economy, were once fairly placed before the southern public, they would need no other inducements to impel them to enter upon an immediate and effective course of legislation, with a view to the ultimate extinction of the evil. But, right or wrong, no people have a greater disinclination to the lectures or even the advice of their neighbors; and we venture to predict, that whoever shall bring about a change of opinion in that quarter, must, in this case, reverse the proverb which declares, that “a prophet hath honor except in his own country.”

* * * * * * *

After extolling the Colonization Society, and condemning the formation of anti-slavery societies at the North, as irritating and useless, the editor proceeds:—‘We hazard the assertion, that there never existed two distinct races—so diverse as to be incapable of amalgamation—inhabiting the same district of country, and in open and friendly contact with each other, that maintained a perfect equality of political and social condition. * * * It remains to be proved, that the history of the nineteenth century will afford a direct contradiction to all former experience. * * * We cannot close without reiterating the expression of our firm conviction, that if the African race are ever to be raised to a degree of comparative happiness, intelligence, and freedom, it must be in some other region than that which has been the theatre of their servitude and degradation. They must “come up out of the land of Egypt and out of the house of bondage;” even though they should be forced to cross the sea in their pilgrimage and wander forty years in the wilderness.’

Again. In 1835, he had not arrived at the Maine Law, but was feeling his way towards it. He wrote thus:

Were we called upon to indicate simply the course which should be pursued for the eradication of this crying evil, our compliance would be a far easier matter. We should say, unhesitatingly, that the vending of alcohol, or of liquors of which alcohol forms a leading component, should be regulated by the laws which govern the sale of other insidious, yet deadly, poisons. It should be kept for sale only by druggists, and dealt out in small portions, and with like regard to the character and ostensible purpose of the applicant [164] as in the case of its counterpart. * * * * But we must not forget, that we are to determine simply what may be done by the friends of temperance for the advancement of the noble cause in which they are engaged, rather than what the more ardent of them (with whom we are proud to rank ourselves) would desire to see accomplished. We are to look at things as they are; and, in that view, all attempts to interdict the sale of intoxicating liquors in our hotels, our country stores, and our steam-boats, in the present state of public opinion, must be hopelessly, ridiculously futile. * * * * The only available provision bearing on this branch of the traffic, which could be urged with the least prospect of success, is the imposition of a real license-tax—say from $100 to $1000 per annum—which would have the effect of diminishing the evil by rendering less frequent and less universal the temptations which lead to it. But even that, we apprehend, would meet with strenuous opposition from so large and influential a portion of the community, as to render its adoption and efficiency extremely doubtful.

The most bold and stirring of his articles in the New Yorker, was one on the ‘Tyranny of Opinion,’ which was suggested by the extraordinary enthusiasm with which the Fourth of July was celebrated in 1837. A part of this article is the only specimen of the young editor's performance, which, as a specimen, can find place in this chapter. The sentiments which it avows, the country has not yet caught up with; nor will it, for many a year after the hand that wrote them is dust. After an allusion to the celebration, the article proceeds:

The great pervading evil of our social condition is the worship and the bigotry of Opinion. While the theory of our political institutions asserts or implies the absolute freedom of the human mind—the right not only of free thought and discussion, but of the most unrestrained action thereon within the wide boundaries prescribed by the laws of the land, yet the practical commentary upon this noble text is as discordant as imagination can conceive. Beneath the thin veil of a democracy more free than that of Athens in her glory, we cloak a despotism more pernicious and revolting than that of Turkey or China. It is the despotism of Opinion. Whoever ventures to propound opinions strikingly at variance with those of the majority, must be content to brave obloquy, contempt and persecution. If political, they exclude him from public employment and trust; if religious, from social intercourse and general regard, if not from absolute rights. However moderately heretical in his political views, he cannot be a justice of the peace, an officer of the customs, or a lamp-lighter; while, if he be positively and frankly sceptical in his theology, grave judges pronounce him incompetent to give [165] testimony in courts of justice, though his character for veracity be indubitable. That is but a narrow view of the subject which ascribes all this injustice to the errors of parties or individuals; it flows naturally from the vice of the age and country—the tyranny of Opinion. It can never be wholly rectified until the whole community shall be brought to feel and acknowledge, that the only security for public liberty is to be found in the absolute and unqualified freedom of thought and expression, confining penal consequences to acts only which are detrimental to the welfare of society.

The philosophical observer from abroad may well be astounded by the gross inconsistencies which are presented by the professions and the conduct of our people. Thousands will flock together to drink in the musical periods of some popular disclaimer on the inalienable rights of man, the inviolability of the immunities granted us by the Constitution and Laws, and the invariable reverence of freemen for the majesty of law. They go away delighted with our institutions, the orator and themselves. The next day they may be engaged in “lynching” some unlucky individual who has fallen under their sovereign displeasure, breaking up a public meeting of an obnoxious cast, or tarring and feathering some unfortunate lecturer or propagandist, whose views do not square with their own, but who has precisely the same right to enjoy and propagate his opinions, however erroneous, as though he inculcated nothing but what every one knows and acknowledges already. The shamelessness of this incongruity is sickening; but it is not confined to this glaring exhibition. The sheriff, town-clerk, or constable, who finds the political majority in his district changed, either by immigration or the course of events, must be content to change too, or be hurled from his station. Yet what necessary connection is there between his politics and his office? Why might it not as properly be insisted that a town-officer should be six feet high, or have red hair, if the majority were so distinguished, as that he should think with them respecting the men in high places and the measures projected or opposed by them? And how does the proscription of a man in any way for obnoxious opinions differ from the most glaring tyranny?

In the New Yorker of July 16th, 1836, may be seen, at the head of a long list of recent marriages, the following interesting announcement:

‘In Immanuel church, Warrentown, North Carolina, on Tuesday morning, 5th inst., by Rev. William Norwood, Mr. Horace Greeley, editor of the New Yorker, to Miss Y. Cheney, of Warrentown, formerly of this city.’

The lady was by profession a teacher, and to use the emphatic language of one of her friends, “crazy for knowledge.” The acquaintance had been formed at the Graham House, and was continued [166] by correspondence after Miss Cheney, in the pursuit of her vocation, had removed to North Carolina. Thither the lover hied; the two became one, and returned together to New York. They were married, as he said he would be, by the Episcopal form. Sumptuous was the attire of the bridegroom; a suit of fine black broadcloth, and ‘on this occasion only,’ a pair of silk stockings! It appears that silk stockings and matrimony were, in his mind, associated ideas, as rings and matrimony, orange blossoms and matrimony, are in the minds of people in general. Accordingly, he bought a pair of silk stockings; but trying on his wedding suit previous to his departure for the south, he found, to his dismay, that the stockings were completely hidden by the affluent terminations of another garment. The question now at once occurred to his logical mind, “What is the use of having silk stockings, if nobody can see that you have them ” He laid the case, it is said, before his tailor, who, knowing his customer, immediately removed the difficulty by cutting away a crescent of cloth from the front of the aforesaid terminations, which rendered the silk stockings obvious to the most casual observer. Such is the story. And I regret that other stories, and true ones, highly honorable to his head and heart, delicacy forbids the telling of in this place.

The editor, of course, turned his wedding tour to account in the way of his profession. On his journey southward, Horace Greeley first saw Washington, and was impressed favorably by the houses of Congress, then in session. He wrote admiringly of the Senate:—‘That the Senate of the United States is unsurpassed in intellectual greatness by any body of fifty men ever convened, is a trite observation. A phrenologist would fancy a strong confirmation of his doctrines in the very appearance of the Senate; a physiognomist would find it. The most striking person on the floor is Mr. Clay, who is incessantly in motion, and whose spare, erect form betrays an easy dignity approaching to majesty, and a perfect gracefulness, such as I have never seen equaled. His countenance is intelligent and indicative of character; but a glance at his figure while his face was completely averted, would give assurance that he was no common man. Mr. Calhoun is one of the plainest men and certainly the dryest, hardest speaker I ever listened to. The flow of his ideas reminded me of a barrel filled [167] with pebbles, each of which must find great difficulty in escaping from the very solidity and number of those pressing upon it and impeding its natural motion. Mr. Calhoun, though far from being a handsome, is still a very remarkable personage; but Mr. Benton has the least intellectual countenance I ever saw on a senator. Mr. Webster was not in his place.’ * * * * ‘The best speech was that of Mr. Crittenden, of Kentucky; That man is not appreciated so highly as he should and must be. He has a rough readiness, a sterling good sense, a republican manner and feeling, and a vein of biting, though homely satire, which will yet raise him to distinction—in the National Councils.’ Were Greeley and Co. making their fortune meanwhile? Far from it. To edit a paper well is one thing; to make it pay as a business is another. The New Yorker had soon become a famous, an admired, and an influential paper. Subscriptions poured in; the establishment looked prosperous; but it was not. The sorry tale of its career as a business is very fully and forcibly told in the various addresses to, and chats with, Our Patrons, which appear in the volumes of 1837, that “year of ruin,” and of the years of slow recovery from ruin which followed. In October, 1837, the editor thus stated his melancholy case:

Ours is a plain story; and it shall be plainly told. The New Yorker was established with very moderate expectations of pecuniary advantage, but with strong hopes that its location at the Headquarters of intelligence for the continent, and its cheapness, would insure it, if well conducted, such a patronage as would be ultimately adequate, at least, to the bare expenses of its publication. Starting with scarce a shadow of patronage, it had four thousand five hundred subscribers at the close of the first year, obtained at an outlay of three thousand dollars beyond the income in that period. This did not materially disappoint the publishers' expectations. Another year passed, and their subscription increased to seven thousand, with a further outlay, beyond all receipts, of two thousand dollars. A third year was commenced with two editions—folio and quarto—of our journal; and at its close, their <*> subscriptions amounted to near nine thousand five hundred; yet our <*> again fallen two thousand dollars behind our absolutely necessary <*> tures. Such was our situation at the commencement of <*>of ruin and we found ourselves wholly unable to continue our <*>on the honor and ultimate good faith of our backward subscribe <*>five hundred of them were stricken from our list, and every possible <*>of [168] our expenditures effected. With the exercise of the most parsimonious frugality, and aided by the extreme kindness and generous confidence of our friends, we have barely and with great difficulty kept our bark afloat. For the future, we have no resource but in the justice and generosity of our patrons. Our humble portion of this world's goods has long since been swallowed up in the all-devouring vortex; both of the Editor's original associates in the undertaking have abandoned it with loss, and those who now fill their places have invested to the full amount of their ability. Not a farthing has been drawn from the concern by any one save for services rendered; and the allowance to the proprietors having charge respectively of the editorial and publishing departments has been far less than their services would have commanded elsewhere. The last six months have been more disastrous than any which preceded them, as we have continued to fall behind our expenses without a corresponding increase of patronage. A large amount is indeed due us; but we find its collection almost impossible, except in inconsiderable portions and at a ruinous expense. All appeals to the honesty and good faith of the delinquents seem utterly fruitless. As a last resource, therefore, and one besides which we have no alternative, we hereby announce, that from and after this date, the price of the New Yorker will be three dollars per annum for the folio, and four dollars for the quarto edition.

Friends of the New Yorker! Patrons! we appeal to you, not for charity, but for justice. Whoever among you is in our debt, no matter how small the sum, is guilty of a moral wrong in withholding the payment. We bitterly need it—we have a right to expect it. Six years of happiness could not atone for the horrors which blighted hopes, agonizing embarrassments, and gloomy apprehensions—all arising in great measure from your neglect—have conspired to heap upon us during the last six months. We have borne all in silence: we now tell you we must have our pay. Our obligations for the next two months are alarmingly heavy, and they must be satisfied, at whatever sacrifice. We shall cheerfully give up whatever may remain to us of property, and mortgage years of future exertion, sooner than incur a shadow of dishonor, by subjecting those who have credited us to loss or inconvenience. We must pay; and for the means of doing it we appeal most earnestly to you. It is possible that we might still further abuse the kind solicitude of our friends; but the thought is agony. We should be driven to what is but a more delicate mode of beggary, when justice from those who withhold the hard earnings of our unceasing toil would place us above the revolting necessity! At any rate, we will not submit to the humiliation without an effort.

We have struggled until we can no longer doubt that, with the present currency—and there seems little hope of an immediate improvement—we cannot live at our former prices. The suppression of small notes was a blow to cheep city paper, from which there is no hope of recovery. With a currency including notes of two and three dollars, one half our receipts would come to [169] us directly from the subscribers; without such notes, we must submit to an agent's charge on nearly every collection. Besides, the notes from the South Western States are now at from twenty to thirty per cent. discount; and have been more: those from the West range from six to twenty. All notes beyond the Delaware River range from twice to ten times the discount charged upon them when we started the New Yorker. We cannot afford to depend exclusively upon the patronage to be obtained in our immediate neighborhood; we cannot retain distant patronage without receiving the money in which alone our subscribers can pay. But one course, then, is left us—to tax our valuable patronage with the delinquences of the worse than worthless—the paying for the non-paying, and those who send us par-money, with the evils of our present depraved and depreciated currency.

Two years after, there appeared another chapter of pecuniary history, written in a more hopeful strain. A short extract will complete the reader's knowledge of the subject:

Since the close of the year of ruin (1837), we have pursued the even tenor of our way with such fortune as was vouchsafed us; and, if never elated with any signal evidence of popular favor, we have not since been doomed to gaze fixedly for months into the yawning abyss of Ruin, and feel a moral certainty that, however averted for a time, that must be our goal at last. On the contrary, our affairs have slowly but steadily improved for some time past, and we now hope that a few months more will place us beyond the reach of pecuniary embarrassments, and enable us to add new attractions to our journal.

And this word “attraction” brings us to the confession that the success of our enterprise, if success there has been, has not been at all of a pecuniary cast thus far. Probably we lack the essential elements of that very desirable kind of success. There have been errors, mismanagement and losses in the conduct of our business. We mean that we lack, or do not take kindly to, the arts which contribute to a newspaper sensation. When our journal first appeared, a hundred copies marked the extent to which the public curiosity claimed its perusal. Others establish new papers, (the New World and Brother Jonathan Mr. Greeley might have instanced) even without literary reputation, as we were, and five or ten thousand copies are taken at once—just to see what the new thing is. And thence they career onward on the crest of a towering wave.

Since the New Yorker was first issued, seven copartners in its publication have successively withdrawn from the concern, generally, we regret to say, without having improved their fortunes by the connection, and most of them with the conviction that the work, however valuable, was not calculated to prove lucrative to its proprietors. “You don't humbug enough,” has been the complaint of more than one of our retiring associates; “you ought to [170] make more noise, and vaunt your own merits. The world will never believe you print a good paper unless you tell them so.” Our course has not been changed by these representations. We have endeavored in all things to maintain our self-respect and deserve the good opinion of others; if we have not succeeded in the latter particular, the failure is much to be regretted, but hardly to be amended by pursuing the vaporous course indicated. If our journal be a good one, those who read it will be very apt to discover the fact; if it be not, our assertion of its excellence, however positive and frequent, would scarcely outweigh the weekly evidence still more abundantly and convincingly furnished. We are aware that this view of the case is controvered by practical results in some cases; but we are content with the old course, and have never envied the success which Merit or Pretence may attain by acting as its own trumpeter.

The New Yorker never, during the seven years of its existence, became profitable; and its editor, during the greater part of the time, derived even his means of subsistence either from the business of job printing or from other sources, which will be alluded to in a moment. The causes of the New Yorker's signal failure as a business seem to have been these:

1. It was a very good paper, suited only to the more intelligent class of the community, which, in all times and countries, is a small class. ‘We have a pride,’ said the editor once, and truly, ‘in believing that we might, at any time, render our journal more attractive to the million by rendering it less deserving; and that by merely considering what would be sought after and read with avidity, without regard to its moral or its merit, we might easily become popular at the mere expense of our own self-approval.’

2. It seldom praised, never puffed, itself. The editor, however, seems to have thought, that he might have done both with propriety. Or was he speaking in pure irony, when he gave the Mirror this “first-rate notice.” ‘There is one excellent quality,’ said he, ‘which has always been a characteristic of the Mirror—the virtue of self-appreciation. We call it a virtue, and it is not merely one in itself, but the parent of many others. As regards our vocation, it is alike necessary and just. The world should be made to understand, that the aggregate of talent, acquirement, tact, industry, and general intelligence which is required to sustain creditably the character of a public journal, might, if judiciously parcelled out, form the stamina of, at least, one professor of languages, two brazen lecturers [171] on science, ethics, or phrenology, and three average congressional or other demagogues. Why, then, should starvation wave his skeleton sceptre in terrorem over such a congregation of available excellences.’

3. The leading spirit of the New Yorker had a singular, a constitutional, an incurable inability to conduct business. His character is the exact opposite of that “hard man” in the gospel, who reaped where he had not sown. He was too amiable, too confiding, too absent, and too “easy,” for a business man. If a boy stole his letters from the post-office, he would admonish him, and either let him go or try him again. If a writer in extremity offered to do certain paragraphs for three dollars a week, he would say, ‘No, that's too little; I'll give you five, till you can get something better.’ On one occasion, he went to the post-office himself, and receiving a large number of letters, put them, it is said, into the pockets of his overcoat. On reaching the office, he hung the overcoat on its accustomed peg, and was soon lost in the composition of an article. It was the last of the chilly days of spring, and he thought no more either of his overcoat or its pockets, till the autumn. Letters kept coming in complaining of the non-receipt of papers which had been ordered and paid for; and the office was sorely perplexed. On the first cool day in October, when the editor was shaking a summer's dirt from his overcoat, the missing letters were found, and the mystery was explained. Another story gives us a peep into the office of the New Yorker. A gentleman called, one day, and asked to see the editor. ‘I am the editor,’ said a little coxcomb who was temporarily in charge of the paper. ‘You are not the person I want to see,’ said the gentleman. ‘Oh!’ said the puppy, ‘you wish to see the Printer. He's not in town.’ The men in the composing-room chanced to overhear this colloquy, and thereafter, our hero was called by the nickname of “The printer,” and by that alone, whether he was present or absent. It was ‘Printer, how will you have this set,’ or ‘Printer, we're waiting for copy.’ All this was very pleasant and amiable; but, businesses which pay are never carried on in that style. It is a pity, but a fact, that businesses which pay, are generally conducted in a manner which is exceedingly disagreeable to those who assist in them.

4. The Year of Ruin. [172]

5. The “cash principle,” the only safe one, had not been yet applied to the newspaper business. The New Yorker lost, on an average, 1,200 dollars a year by the removal of subscribers to parts unknown, who left without paying for their paper, or notifying the office of their departure.

Of the unnumbered pangs that mortals know, pecuniary anxiety is to a sensitive and honest young heart the bitterest. To live upon the edge of a gulf that yawns hideously and always at our feet, to feel the ground giving way under the house that holds our happiness, to walk in the pathway of avalanches, to dwell under a volcano rumbling prophetically of a coming eruption, is not pleasant. But welcome yawning abyss, welcome earthquake, avalanche, volcano! They can crush, and burn, and swallow a man, but not degrade him. The terrors they inspire are not to be compared with the deadly and withering fear, that crouches sullenly in the soul of that honest man who owes much money to many people, and cannot think how or when he can pay it. That alone has power to take from life all its charm, and from duty all its interest. For other sorrows there is a balm. That is an evil unmingled, while it lasts; and the light which it throws upon the history of mankind and the secret of man's struggle with fate, is purchased at a price fully commensurate with the value of that light.

The editor of the New Yorker suffered all that a man could suffer from this dread cause. In private letters he alludes, but only alludes, to his anguish at this period. ‘Through most of the time,’ lie wrote years afterwards, ‘I was very poor, and for four years really bankrupt; though always paying my notes and keeping my word, but living as poorly as possible.’ And again: ‘My embarrassments were sometimes dreadful; not that I feared destitution, but the fear of involving my friends in my misfortunes was very bitter.’ He came one afternoon into the house of a friend, and handing her a copy of his paper, said: ‘There, Mrs. S., that is the last number of the New Yorker you will ever see. I can secure my friends against loss if I stop now, and I'll not risk their money by holding on any longer.’ He went over that evening to Mr. Gregory, to make known to him his determination; but that constant and invincible friend would not listen to it. He insisted on his continuing the struggle, and offered his assistance with such [173] frank and earnest cordiality, that our hero's scruples were at length removed, and he came home elate, and resolved to battle another year with delinquent subscribers and a depreciated currency.

During the early years of the New Yorker, Mr. Greeley had little regular assistance in editing the paper. In 1839, Mr. Park Benjamin contributed much to the interest of its columns by his lively and humorous critiques; but his connection with the paper was not of long duration. It was long enough, however, to make him acquainted with the character of his associate. On retiring, in October, 1839, he wrote: ‘Grateful to my feelings has been my intercourse with the readers of the New Yorker and with its principal editor and proprietor. By the former I hope my humble efforts will not be unremembered; by the latter I am happy to believe that the sincere friendship which I entertain for him is reciprocated. I still insist upon my editorial right so far as to say in opposition to any veto which my coadjutor may interpose, that I cannot leave the association which has been so agreeable to me without paying to sterling worth, unbending integrity, high moral principle and ready kindness, their just due. These qualities exist in the character of the man with whom now I part; and by all, to whom such qualities appear admirable, must such a character be esteemed. His talents, his industry, require no commendation from me; the readers of this journal know them too well; the public is sufficiently aware of the manner in which they have been exerted. What I have said has flowed from my heart, tributary rather to its own emotions than to the subject which has called them forth; his plain good name is his best eulogy.’

A few months later, Mr. Henry J. Raymond, a recent graduate of Burlington College, Vermont, came to the city to seek his fortune. He had written some creditable sketches for the New Yorker, over the signature of ‘Fantome,’ and on reaching the city called upon Horace Greeley. The result was that he entered the office as an assistant editor ‘till he could get something better,’ and it may encourage some young, hard-working, unrecognized, ill-paid journalist, to know that the editor of the New York Daily Times began his editorial career upon a salary of eight dollars a week. The said unrecognized, however, should further be informed, that Mr. Raymond is the hardest and swiftest worker connected with the New York Press.

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