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[263]

Chapter 13:


In the spring of the year 1850 Mr. Ticknor went to Washington for the first time since 1828, taking his eldest daughter with him, and the fortnight he passed there was very animated, owing to the presence in the society of the capital that season, of a number of persons with whom he could not fail to have interesting and agreeable intercourse. Mr. Webster was in Washington as Senator; so was Mr. Clay, who occupied rooms near Mr. Ticknor's in the hotel, and frequently came in as a friendly neighbor; Mr. Calderon was Spanish Minister; Mr. R. C. Winthrop was member of the House of Representatives from Boston; and many other friends and acquaintances were there, officially or for pleasure. Sir Henry Bulwer, as English Minister, was a brilliant acquisition to the society of the place; the Chevalier Hulsemann, Austrian Charge d'affaires, recollected seeing Mr. Ticknor once in the riding-school in Gottingen, thirty-five years before, and remembered his appearance so well, he said he should have recognized him; a son of that Marquis de Sta. Cruz who had so often been his host in Madrid was a member of the Spanish Legation; and, finally, the White House, as presided over by good General Taylor and his attractive daughter, Mrs. Bliss, was, socially, more agreeable than usual.

The constant dinner-parties at which this circle met were uncommonly bright with clever conversation, and the mornings passed with Mr. Webster, or in the Houses of Congress and the Supreme Court, were interesting. Unfortunately Mr. Ticknor [264] was not well during this visit, and unfortunately, also, his letters, though filled with the daily record of what he did, contain almost nothing in a form to be appropriate here.

On one occasion he writes:—

As Judge Wayne says, ‘the demonstration in favor of Webster's speech1 is triumphant.’ The number of letters he receives about it is prodigious; and the flood still comes in, as if none had flowed before. He has sent me a roll of a few hundred, with which I have been amusing myself this morning; and from their look, and from what I hear, he could have, from any part of the country, a list of names as significant of its public opinion as the list from Boston. The great West goes for him with a rush.

In another letter he says:—

The dinner at Webster's was very agreeable, quite agreeable; though having risen at three in the morning to prepare his great case in the Supreme Court, then having argued it, and, finally, having had a little discussion in the Senate as late as five o'clock, he grew tired about nine, and showed a great infection of sleep. But at the table he was in excellent condition.

Again he writes:—

The first half of the evening I spent with Clay, who had with him Foote and Clingman; and a curious conversation we had about slavery, I assure you. . . . .

At last, however, mentioning the arrival of Mr. Prescott with a party of friends, he adds, ‘They will stay till Friday, so as to dine at the President's on Thursday, for which we have invitations, but I would not stop here next week to dine with the Three Holy Kings of Cologne.’2

This visit to Washington is mentioned in the following letter to Mr. Milman:— [265]

To the Rev. H. H. Milman, London.

Boston, April 30, 1850.
my dear Mr. Milman,—I am indebted to you for a most kind letter concerning my ‘History of Spanish Literature.’ Such approbation as your kindness has given is the true and highest reward an author receives; for though the public may read,—and in this country the reading public is very large,--yet it is the few who decide. . . . .

I have lately spent a fortnight in Washington. The times there are very stirring, the passions of men much excited. But no permanent mischief will come from it. The people of the North have neither been frightened nor made angry, and are not likely to be. . . . . The result will be, that after much more angry discussion a ground of compromise and adjustment will be found which will settle the controversy once and forever, as we hope. This will be mainly owing to the conciliatory tone taken by Mr. Webster, which has much quieted the popular feeling at the North; for if he had assumed the opposite tone, the whole North would have gone with him, and the breach would have been much widened, if not made irreparable. . . .

Meantime the country advances with gigantic strides, and as the new States get on and take their permanent places in the Confederacy, they feel a new power coming upon them, which is destined to have a preponderating authority to keep the peace in all conflicts that may hereafter arise between the North and the South. I mean the great basin of the Upper Mississippi, with its free States, which, after the census of 1850, and the representation which will be organized upon its basis, will have upon all national questions a decisive power, and never endure for a moment a state of things that can tend to making New Orleans a foreign port. This power will be eminently conservative, hostile to the spirit of slavery, and every year will become more so. This makes the present contest in Congress very important, and will explain to you much of its fierceness. . . .

I have ventured to write to you about our political affairs, because they are of so broad a nature that they become a part of the concerns of the whole human family, and can be alien from no man's heart who feels what belongs to Christendom and its interests. It is, besides, the uppermost subject here now. Mr. Webster made a bold and manly speech about it in one of our public squares yesterday afternoon, as he arrived at his hotel from Washington [266] for a few days, and I have just been talking with him about it.3 . . . .

Hoping that when your leisure permits we may hear from you again,

Very sincerely yours,


To Prince John, Duke of Saxony, Dresden.

Boston, July 22, 1850.
my dear Prince,—I have desired to write to you for some time, and acknowledge the receipt of a very interesting and instructive letter which you sent me in the spring, and a note of May 9, in which you speak with your accustomed kindness of my ‘History of Spanish Literature,’ of which I had early ventured to send you a copy. But the state of our public affairs, on which I wished to say something, seemed every week to be likely to take a decisive turn . . . . I have waited, however, in vain. The debates are still going on, the decision is still somewhat uncertain, and the disturbed and excited state of public opinion and feeling is still unappeased.

But in the midst of this angry discussion has come a melancholy event, of which you have already heard,—I mean the very sudden death of the President of the United States; an event which, perhaps, will not exercise a great influence on the course of public affairs, but is worth particular notice, from the circumstance that what has accompanied and followed it throws a strong light on the nature and operation of the free institutions of this country. . . . . . The shock was very great; and, in a despotism, the loss of the head of the government, under circumstances of such national embarrassment, would have undoubtedly, I think, brought on a period of confusion. But here, the course of things was not in the least shaken. The next day [267] at noon, July 10, the Vice-President was publicly sworn into office, with the greatest solemnity, and in the presence of both Houses of Congress, but without the least show or bustle, not a soldier being visible on the occasion, nor any form observed or any word spoken but the accustomed simple and awful oath of fidelity to the Constitution.

Nor was the effect on the country different from what it was in the Capitol Men were everywhere shocked by it, as a warning of God's power, and felt grieved for the loss of one in whose faithfulness, moderation, and wisdom even those originally opposed to his election had come very generally to place great confidence. But there was no convulsion, no alarm. Neither private nor public credit was affected to the amount of a penny, nor did any man in the country feel as if his personal happiness and security, or those of his children, were to be any way involved in this sudden death of the political head of the nation . . . .

Nor has there been any ground for alarm. The popular will, which gives the main impulse to all governmental action in free institutions like ours, will be as efficient in carrying on the state under Mr. Fillmore as it was under General Taylor. The people know this, and therefore feel little affected by the change. And Mr. Fillmore, on his part, knows that power will be given to him by this popular will only so far as he consults the real interests of the whole country, or what the whole people—little likely to be deceived on such great matters affecting themselves—believe to be their real interests . . . .

The affair of Cuba, I suppose, made much noise for a time in Germany, and perhaps the American government was blamed. But it did not deserve to be. We have, as you know, no secret police, nor anything approaching it; the numbers concerned in the piratical expedition4 were inconsiderable; and they were embarked cunningly for Chagres,—as if they were going to California,—in a regular packet from New Orleans, and then, when at sea, were transferred to the steam-vessel that carried them to Cuba. The government officers and the agents of the Spanish Minister at Washington, who suspected what was going on, had been watching for some time at New Orleans, New York, and Philadelphia, and made several seizures of vessels not concerned in the attempt; but the true one escaped them. Those who have returned to the United States, and others suspected of being concerned with them, have been arrested, and will be tried. It was a [268] piratical affair altogether. The persons engaged in it were chiefly foreigners, and the money to carry it on came from Cuba. The death of Sir Robert Peel will be felt in the affairs of Europe; in England his great administrative talents will be excessively missed . . . . I have finished your ‘Paradiso,’ and have been more and more struck, as I went on, with the extraordinary mediaeval learning with which it abounds. No man hereafter, I think, can be accounted a thorough scholar in Dante who has not studied it. I give you anew my thanks for it. I hope you will soon permit me to hear again from you on the subject of European affairs. At this distance things look more quiet only; hardly more hopeful. But I trust we are mistaken.

I remain always very faithfully, my dear Prince,

Your friend and servant,


To the Hon. Edward Everett.

Manchester [Massachusetts], July 31, 1850.
my dear Everett,—I have just read your oration of the 17th of June. I made an attempt in the ‘Advertiser,’ but broke down from the obvious misplacing of some paragraphs, and I am glad I failed, for I have enjoyed it much more here in this quietness, reading the whole without getting up out of my chair, and then looking over certain parts of it again and again, till I had full possession of them. It was a great pleasure, and I thank you for it. Perhaps some of your earlier efforts were more brilliant, but for real power, as it seems to me, you have never done anything equal to it. Its philosophical views will strike many persons in Europe, and will be hereafter referred to as authority at home. So much I have thought I might say to you, but to anybody else I should gladly talk on much longer.

We are having a deliciously cool and pleasant summer here, with a plenty of agreeable occupations for the forenoon, and beautiful drives in the afternoon. I wish you would come down and see us. The beach is as smooth as it was when you bathed on it last year; but I would rather you should come and pass a night, for ‘the evening and the morning’ make the day here, as much as they did in the Creation . . . .

Yours very sincerely,


[269]

To Sir Edmund Head, Bart., Fredericton, N. B.5

Boston, November 19, 1850.
my dear Sir Edmund,—I thank you, we all thank you, for your letter of October 30, with the criticisms on Allston. . . . . For myself, I thank you for your offer of rare and precious Spanish books, which I receive exactly in the spirit in which it is made; that is, I accept the last of the six volumes, and leave the rest to somebody that has better claims on them. The book I refer to is, ‘Historia de San Juan de la Peña, por su Abad Juan Briz Martinez,’ Zaragoza, 1620. Of the five others, I possess the ‘Diana’ in sundry editions, including the first. . . . . I accept thankfully the old Abbot Martinez, because in such books I almost always find something to my purpose. . . . .

Sir Henry Bulwer has been here lately, and is just gone. He is a good deal de labre, or, as we say in Yankeedom, ‘used up,’ but is shrewd, vigilant, sometimes exhibiting a little subacid, but on the whole very agreeable. He took kindly to the town, and we met him constantly in the houses of our friends at dinner, to say nothing of quantities of gossip that went on in our own library. Lady Bulwer did not come with him. His relations with the present Administration are no doubt very satisfactory to him, but with his shattered nerves, I should think a residence in Washington would be anything but agreeable.

Webster, too, has been here, and hurried off yesterday to his post, better in health than he was a month ago, but almost sixty-nine years old, and showing decidedly the approach of age. Still, he is capable of great things, because he works so easily, and in the forty years and more that I have known him well, he never seemed to me so wise and great as he does now. If his strength is continued, he alone will carry us through our present troubles. [270]

. . . . I am curious to know what you think about the restoration of the Papal titles, etc., in England. It strikes me that all compromises like that of Puseyism must now be given up; and, however indiscreet it may have been in the good Pio Nono——as foolish people called him—to throw down the gauntlet, nothing remains for your National Church but to fight it out with him on the most absolute grounds of Protestantism, or to fall before dissent in its many forms. However, I am only a looker — on from a great distance. Dominus providebit. Protestantism, in some shape or other, must prevail.

Mrs. Ticknor is writing to Lady Head, . . . . but there is no harm in adding her kindest regards to mine and the daughters' for both of you. Duplicates in such cases are like surplusage in law, non nocent.

Yours faithfully,


To Sir Edmund Head.

Boston, January 7, 1851.
my dear Sir Edmund,—Mrs. Ticknor some days ago told Lady Head that the fine copy of good old ‘Abbot Martinez’ had come safely to hand, and I now add my sincere thanks for it, as a curious book, out of which I have already dug one fact of some consequence to me, which I was never able elsewhere to settle as exactly as I wanted to. I like these old chronicling histories, full of monkish traditions, and often waste a deal of time over them.

Lately I have been looking again over another sort of book, on similar matters, and—so far as I can judge—one of very accurate and rare learning; I mean Dozy, ‘Recherches sur l'histoire politique et litteraire de l'espagne, pendant le moyen âge,’ Tom. I. The author, I believe, is a Dutchman, and certainly writes in most detestable French; but his knowledge of the Arabic history of Spain, and his access to original materials for it, are quite remarkable. The way in which he shows up the Cid as a savage marauder, who burnt people alive by the dozen and committed all sorts of atrocities, sometimes against Christians and sometimes against Moors, with a considerable air of impartiality, is truly edifying.

Once he hits upon a man who had seen the Cid, and so gives a coup-de-grace to Masdeu, if indeed that person of clumsy learning has survived the blows given him by others. For all he says, Master Dozy gives the original Arabic, with translations, and generally relies [271] only on contemporary documents, so rare at the period of Spanish history which he has chiefly examined thus far. . . . . I shall be very curious to see the continuation of his work, for this first volume —1849—comes down only through the Chronicle and old poems on the Cid, concerning which his discussions are very acute, if not always satisfactory.

You keep the run of our politics from the ‘Advertiser,’ . . . . and in that case you have not missed reading Webster's letter to Hulsemann, the Austrian Charge, on the subject of the agent we sent towards Hungary, during their troubles. I refer to it, therefore, only to say that it is satisfactory to the whole of this country, without distinction of party. . . . .

I had a letter from Stirling last steamer. He has been in Russia, and talks of coming here at some indefinite time. Lord Carlisle's lecture about America is very flattering to some of us, and for one I feel grateful to him for his notice of me, but I think its tone is not statesmanlike. . . . . However, it seems to have given general satisfaction in England, and I suppose the rest is no concern of ours. Let me hear from you at your leisure, of which you must have some in the long evenings.

Yours faithfully,


To Sir Charles Lyell, Bart.

Boston, June 24, 1851.
my dear Lyell,—There is no use in trying to stir up our people to make a decent show of themselves at the Crystal Palace; they won't do it. As soon as I received your letter of May 20, I wrote an article for the ‘Courier,’ which was copied into other papers, and our friend Hillard went to the Secretary of our Commission about it. But the answer was prompt all round: ‘The French, the Russians, and the Germans send their goods to England as a means of advertising them all over the world; we look for no sale out of our own country. Why should we take the trouble and expense to advertise abroad?’

One very ingenious person, who has invented a most extraordinary machine for weaving Brussels and other carpets, said he was very desirous to send a working model to the Exhibition, but found it would cost him $5,000 to put it up there and run it for four months; too much, he thought, for the price of such a whistle. [272] Others came to the same conclusion, and the upshot of the matter is, that from the moment the proposition was fairly examined and understood, there has been no stir at all about it . . . . . I ought to add, however,—what is strictly true,—that everybody enjoys the splendor and success of the Exhibition just as much as if we were a substantial part of it; every newspaper in the country, I believe, glorifying it, with the arrival of fresh news of it by every steamer. . . .

As I am sending a parcel, I put into it a copy of Webster's late speeches in the State of New York. Your people neither comprehend that we had a moral right to make the stipulation in the Constitution of 1788, to deliver up fugitive slaves,—as we always had done before,—nor that we have a right to fulfil that stipulation now; nor that, if we were to separate from the slave States rather than fulfil it, we should be obliged to renew it in the form of a treaty, or enter into an endless war with them, which would be no better than a civil conflict. The object of the law of 1850 is rather to prevent slaves from running away than to restore them; this it effects. . . . . But as I have told you before, the great difficulty which underlies all these political questions is the difference of race; more formidable than any other, and all others. . . . .

Your friends here are, I believe, all well. Prescott, with a gay party, is gone to Niagara, and sends pleasant accounts back, coming himself in a few days. We go off before long. . . . .

Yours faithfully,


To Mr. Webster, Washington, D. C.

Bellows Falls, Vermont, July 9, 1851.
my dear Sir,—I thank you for a copy of your speeches at Albany, which followed me here last night from Boston, and which I am glad to have in a permanent form, and to read again, with few typographical errors.

However, I should hardly trouble you with my thanks if the same post that brought your parcel had not brought me a letter which you must in part answer. It was from Sir Edmund Head, Lieutenant-Governor6 of New Brunswick; a person who is very much of a man, and a most accomplished and agreeable one, with a wife to match. He says to me,—Fredericton, July 2,—‘What I am now going to [273] say is quite private. A report has reached me that Mr. Webster may visit the British Provinces in his vacation. I have also heard that he is fond of fishing. Now, if you have an opportunity, pray say that I shall be delighted to see him, either officially or incognito, whichever he may prefer. If the latter, I will go into the woods with him myself, and show him what sport can be got. Salmon fishing is uncertain in August, but good trout fishing, with the chance of salmon, I could insure. Observe, I may be mistaken altogether, but nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see him, if he have any notion of seeking relaxation among the “Blue Noses.” ’

I suppose Sir Edmund is wrong, for I think you will hardly have vacation enough to go so far, though it is barely possible you may feel yourself to be driven over the line to get any vacation at all. At any rate, nobody but yourself can give me the means of answering the question . . . .

I cannot tell you what strange thoughts my present position gives me; mingled up, as they are, with recollections of journeyings through the woods, and the ‘Indian Charity School,’ and President Wheelock's cocked hat at the end of them. Just half a century ago this month, stage-coaches being yet unknown hereabouts, it took a pair of horses six mortal days to carry my father and mother from Boston to Hanover, saddle-horses being put in requisition to help us along part of the time. Now, I am living with my family in a grand hotel, capable of containing comfortably a hundred persons, with a nice private parlor, a luxurious table, silver forks, champagne, and good carriages and horses, as in Boston, for drives . . . . . It is, on a small scale, one of the thousand exemplifications of what you so magnificently set forth about the whole country, on the 4th, at Washington. But it is to me, as it would be to you, if you were here, a very striking one. . . . .

Yours faithfully,


To Sir Charles Lyell.

Boston, November 25, 1851.
my dear Lyell,—I have been attending a good many lectures of a course now going on at the Lowell Institute, by Dr. Dewey, and they have made me think often of you and of your projects for next year. Dewey's lectures—which might make another Bridgewater Treatise—are very brilliant and able, and keep together an intelligent audience that fills the hall. But he has one advantage, which [274] has served him well thus far, and which I wish you—if it be consistent with your other arrangements in the United States—to secure for yourself; I mean the period for lecturing. He has the first course of the season; it is usually the time when we have the finest weather,—October and November,—and the audiences are fresh and eager. Please think of this. It is a matter of somewhat more consequence than it was when you were here before, because lectures of all kinds are less run after. Three full, large audiences, however, still listen to three different courses weekly, and several minor ones are going on at the same time . . . .

Please offer to Mr. J. L. Mallett my best thanks for the copy of the life of his father he has sent me. His father's name has been familiar to me from my boyhood, when I read his ‘Considerations on the French Revolution,’—published here,—and received a direction to my opinions on that subject which I think has not been materially altered since. I am, therefore, much interested in a full account of their author, . . . . who was undoubtedly one of the best, as well as most far-seeing men who entered into the French Revolution.

One of the most important points connected with that momentous movement was the change it made in the laws for the tenure and descent of property, and the constantly widening results that follow from it. I have at different times, and now again lately, considered this subject, and on talking it over one day at dinner with Mr. Tremenheere7 he told me Lord Lovelace had published a most important pamphlet about it . . . . . Will you do me the favor to make some inquiry about it, and if there be such a pamphlet send me a copy of it. Affectionate regards to dear Lady Lyell from all of us, as well as to yourself.

Yours faithfully,


To F. Wolf, Vienna.

Boston, April 6, 1852.
my dear Sir,—I thank you for the curious and interesting tracts you have been so good as to send me on Castillejo, and on Don Francis de Zuniga, but especially for your admirable paper on the remarkable collection of Spanish Ballads, that you found at Prague. [275] The settlement of the date of Castillejo's death is important, and gets over a difficulty which everybody who has looked into his life must have felt; and the discussion about the old Romances sueltos has the thoroughness, finish, and conscientious exactness which marks everything of yours that I have seen. I have studied all four of them with care, and have no doubt you are right in the result of your investigations in each case. For the kindness with which you speak of me, I beg leave to make you my best acknowledgments.

I should have thanked you long before this time for these proofs of your remembrance and good-will, and for the very interesting letter that came with them, if I had not been constantly hoping to receive from Germany a copy of my ‘History of Spanish Literature,’ translated by Dr. Julius, and enriched by dissertations from you on. the Romanceros and Cancioneros. Five months ago half of it was printed, but since that time I have heard not a word about it. I have resolved, therefore, to wait no longer, but to send you now my very hearty acknowledgments; indeed, to thank you beforehand for what I know you have done to render my History more valuable in my own eyes, as well as those of all who are interested in its subject.

Prescott is well, and is busy with his ‘Philip II.,’ but the state of his eyes compels him to work slowly.

I hope I may soon hear from you, and soon see the German volumes, in which my name will have the honor of being associated with yours.

Very faithfully your friend and servant,


To Sir Edmund Head.

Boston, June 14, 1852.
my dear Sir Edmund,—I begin with business, for I observe that you are very accurate in such matters, and I mean to be, though I fail sometimes . . . .

Thank you for the reference to the passage copied by Southey, from Zabaleta, about las ambas silas.8 It seems, there, to be used in its primitive and literal sense, though I do not quite make out what are the two particular sills referred to. As a proverbial expression, [276] sometimes ambas sillas, referring to the silla a la quieta and the albarda, and sometimes de todas sillas, referring to all modes of mounting and riding, I suppose it means what we mean when we say a man ‘is up to anything,’ just as the converse, no ser para silla ni para albarda, means a blockhead. . . . .

Thank you, too, very much for the note about the New Testament of Juan Perez. I never saw the book, and do not understand whether you have a copy, or only saw one at Thorpe's. But, if you have one at hand, I should be much obliged if you will give me a little bibliographical account of it.

I am much struck by what you say about Francis Newman and his ‘Phases of Faith’; the more so, because only the Sunday before your letter came, I read a book, by William Rathbone Greg, called ‘The Creed of Christendom,’ to which your account of Newman's could be applied verbatim. It came to me from the author. . . . It is a formidable book, not too long to be popular,—a small 8vo,— nor too learned, but logical, fair-minded, and well written. . . . . He takes ground similar to that of Strauss and Theodore Parker, but still is original to a certain degree. He draws heavily on the Germans, with whom he is evidently at home, and to whom he owes much. . . . .

Kindest regards to Lady Head from all of us.

Yours faithfully,


To Sir Charles Lyell.

Boston, June 26, 1852.
my dear Lyell,—The postponement of your visit to America till the first of September hardly interferes with our satisfaction at the prospect of it, because we cannot, without sacrificing much of the benefit of a summer residence in the country, return before the middle or the 20th of that month . . . . . But you must not cut off from the other end; or rather you must in fairness add to the end of your visit what you take off from the beginning. . . . .

The Presidential nominations are made, as you know, and the Democratic candidate, General Pierce, will be chosen by a large majority of the electoral votes. . . . .

Kossuth is in New York, about to embark for England. His mission here has not turned out better than I predicted to you, in any respect; in some respects not so well. He has injured his dignity by making speeches for money, and he has injured his respectability [277] by issuing ‘Hungarian bonds,’ as they were called, down to a dollar, to serve as tickets of admission. The whole number of his addresses has been about six hundred; the whole sum he has collected in all ways, about ninety thousand dollars. . . . . But he is a brilliant orator and rhetorician; showing marvellous power in different languages not his own, almost as if he had the gift of tongues; and acting sometimes on the masses as if he were magnetizing them. . . . . I did not see him in private; indeed, he was hardly seen by anybody, his time being wholly given to his great public objects. . . . .

Whenever you arrive, you must come directly to our house, whether we are at home or not; for in any event, I think, you would be better off than you would be at the Tremont. Most of our servants will be there . . . .

Yours, always faithfully,


To G. T. Curtis, Esq.

Clifton House [Canada], Niagara Falls, July 29, 1852.
my dear George,—I received, some days ago, your note written at Newport. We were then on the other side of the river, where we stayed ten days, our rooms—or at least the balcony before them overhanging the Rapids, right opposite Goat Island, . . . . making the island our great resort, seeing the sunset there daily, and passing two evenings of superb moonlight there. Five days ago we came over here, and established ourselves in a neat, cheerful little cottage, with a large garden before it; the only thing there is between us and the excellent hotel where we get our meals. We have it all to ourselves, and live in great quiet, with the awful grandeur of the Falls before us whenever we lift our eyes, and their solemn roar forever in our ears . . . .

Last night Frankenstein, a painter from Ohio,—whom we had known before,—took us in a boat, and rowed us about for near an hour. Nobody has done such things before; not because they are dangerous, but because no eye for picturesque effect had ever detected its power. The moon was nearly full, and I cannot describe the awful solemnity, magnificence, and in one instance preternatural gorgeous glories, of the scene. We went quite near the American Falls, and when we emerged from the shade of the grim shores, and the moon began to illumine the edge of the waters above us, as they plunged down, there was a quivering mass of molten silver, that ran [278] along the whole mighty flood of the waters as they rushed over, that was a thing of inconceivable brilliancy. . . . .

I enclose you a few notions about international copyright. . . . You can send them to Mr. Webster; adding that I am always at his service. . . . .

In the matter of international copyright three things, I suppose, are to be considered,—the rights of the author, the interests of the manufacturer of books as marketable commodities, and the interests of the public as consumers.

On the rights of the author you will find a discussion worth looking at, by Dr. Johnson, in ‘Boswell,’—somewhere, I think, in the first half of the book,—and a more ample, but a more prejudiced examination of it, in a little volume by Talfourd. . . . . This, however, relates only to the rights of the author in his book, within the limits of his own country, or, in other words, the common question of copyright; but this, it should be observed, is the foundation of the whole matter so far as the author is concerned. It is his right of property in the book he has written, the thing he has created. Now, it does not seem to me clear, why this author is not, in the nature of things, entitled to a protection of his property in his book, as far as a merchant may rightfully claim it in his bale of goods; for, after all, a book is peculiarly its author's work, since without him it would not exist, and nothing, therefore, as it seems to me, should control or limit his right of property in it, except that high public expediency which, like the right of eminent domain, overrides other rights and takes the property of one for the benefit of all; not, however, in any case without compensation, which compensation, in the case of authorship, is to be found in the copyright law, whose peculiar provisions are regarded as a remuneration to the author for the right of property, which he loses when that law no longer protects him. The author, therefore, it seems to me, is entitled to the privilege of following his book—his property—into a country not his own, and claiming a part of his compensation wherever this property is used; one reason in favor of it being that nowhere, either at home or abroad, can he receive compensation except exactly in proportion as he confers benefit, for where his book is not sold he can receive nothing from it.

This I take to be the moral view of the case, and I think it is a strong one for the author, especially when you consider that nine authors out of ten fail utterly, and sacrifice their lives to the public and the world for nothing; so that the few prizes open to their class [279] ought to be made as good as possible, to induce them to adventure in a lottery so beneficial to society, but so dangerous to themselves.

As to the interests of the bookseller, the case is not so clear; though it is quite clear that if the author have an absolute right of property in his book, it ought to control the interest of the bookseller, who, in that case, should acquire no right but such as he may obtain from the author. Still, I think the booksellers and publishers would be quite as well off with an international copyright as they are now. What they should publish would be their own protected property, just as much if the book were the work of a foreign author as if it were the work of a citizen. No man could publish it in competition with them. Now it is well known that the profits of the American publisher are greater on a book protected to him by copyright, than they are on the books he reprints without such protection. His great enemies are rival publishers, who compel him, by the fear of competition, or by the actual competition itself, to print his books in most cases poorly, and to sell them at very small profit. I think, therefore, the American publisher would lose nothing by an international copyright, certainly nothing to which he has so good a right as the foreign author upon whom he feeds or starves.

But how is it in the third place, with the interests of the public, which often seem to rise to the dignity of rights by their mere weight and importance, with little or no regard to their moral qualities? Two circumstances, I think, will tend to show that the interests of the public—the book consumers—will be served by a becoming international copyright treaty.

First, such a treaty would prevent, to a great degree, the republication here of trashy English books, now so common. Few of them would bear to have even a small amount of copyright money added to the price of manufacturing the books here, and a right to reprint without it would rarely be asked of the English owner by the American publisher, and still more rarely granted. I cannot doubt, therefore, that the circulation of worthless or mischievous English books would be materially diminished by an international copyright.

And, second, I think it would greatly increase the number of American authors. We can now make as good books upon all subjects as the English,—upon some, such as school-books and children's books generally, we make better,—and, with proper encouragement, we should do nearly the whole of our own work of writing books for the mass of the people. In this respect, I conceive, the question stands on the same ground with that of a proper tariff. We already exclude [280] English school-books from our market, just as we do the coarser cottons, and for the same reason, and by the same process. With the encouragement of an international copyright, we should soon supply our market entirely, and supply it with books more wisely adapted to our wants generally, but never by any possibility excluding the better sort of English books, because we can reprint them so much cheaper than the English publishers can furnish them to us. . . . .

One thing more. France has made an international copyright treaty with England, and the cases of France and the United States in this particular are so nearly parallel, that, if it is for her interest to have such a treaty, it can hardly fail to be for ours. For France prints great numbers of English books; England prints hardly any French books; nothing so many as she prints of American. If reciprocity be desirable, therefore, it is much more nearly to be attained between England and the United States, than between England and France. Moreover, this principle of reciprocity between us and England tends every year more towards an even balance, for the English print ten of our books now, to where they printed one a dozen years ago. True, our books are now protected in copyright, by a recent decision of their courts of law; but true it is also that if we do not give equal protection to their books, we shall lose it for our own, by act of Parliament, very speedily; and this protection is constantly growing more important to us. It may in time be more important to us than it is to them.

Half a century ago I was fitted for college in none but grammars, etc., printed in England, for no others were to be had. It is vastly more probable now that, half a century hence, English boys will be using manuals printed in the United States for this purpose,—indeed, some are using them now,—than it was, in 1800, that we should, in fifty years, be printing what we now print.

The argument of future benefit is, therefore, I conceive, much stronger on our side than it is on the English. But so, I think, is the argument of present benefit. Through the means of a wise international copyright treaty, I think we could, by the exclusion of worthless and injurious English books, and by the encouragement of American authors and publishers, fill the country with useful, interesting, healthy reading, to a degree never known before, and with beneficial consequences, all of which cannot now be foreseen. We could, in fact, adapt our reading to our real wants and best interests much more than we do now, and so do much more by it for the general improvement and elevation of the national character.


[281]

To C. S. Daveis, Portland.

Caldwell, Lake George, August 22, 1852.
my dear Charles,—By this time you may, perhaps, be curious touching our whereabouts; and if you are not, I have some mind to give you an account of what we have done since I saw you last, and what we propose to do, peradventure, in the course of the next two or three weeks.

Our first hit was Niagara, and a very happy one, as it turned out. We spent ten days on the American side, . . . . but the Lundy's Lane gathering approached,9 and we moved over to the other side, where we passed twelve days most agreeably, in a nice comfortable cottage. . . . . It satisfied all my expectations of Niagara,—the views, the walks, the drives, and above all certain excursions by the full moon on the river, where we rowed about in front of the American Falls, keeping partly in their shade, till the water seemed to rush over like sparkling molten silver, or like a line of living fire, jumping and dancing for a moment on the perilous edge, and then plunging into the roaring, boiling abyss, on whose verge our little boat was all the while tossing. It was grand, brilliant, awful beyond anything I ever saw; quite beyond Mont Blanc or the Jungfrau . . . . . There is no real danger in it, and at the full moon everybody will go on the river, I think, to see it. We went repeatedly.

From Niagara we went to Geneseo, and passed three or four sad days with our friend Mrs. William W. Wadsworth, whose husband died after six years illness, while we were at Niagara. The beauty of everything without, and the luxury, finish, exactness, of everything within, contrasted strongly with the noiseless stillness of a house of death . . . .

Here, again,—Lake George,10—is another contrast to the rushing glories of Niagara, for the beautiful, quiet lake is always before us, and nearly every one of our pleasures is connected with it. Agreeable people, however, we have in the house, several fixtures, the same we had last year,—Dr. Beck, the author of the book on legal medicine; Dr. Campbell, the popular preacher in Albany; and two or three others, . . . . with whom we have agreeable, easy intercourse. The ruins of the old Forts, from the time of Dieskau and Montcalm, with [282] the graves of the soldiers who perished in them and around them, are full of teachings; while at the other end of the lake is Ticonderoga, with its old ruins and traditions . . . .

This week, we start for the North River, the younger portion of the party having never seen Catskill, and all of us being pleased to pass a little time at West Point, after which it is likely enough we may fetch a circuit by Newport, to see Mrs. Norton, and reach home about September 15.


1 The famous 7th of March speech.

2 The description, in the ‘Life of Prescott,’ of the attentions showered upon his friend, might be applied with equal truth to the welcome Mr. Ticknor himself received.

3 During this visit in Boston Mr. Webster one day sent a note to Mr. Ticknor asking him to come to his hotel in the afternoon, and having detained him in conversation till a party of gentlemen had assembled who had united to give a semi-public dinner in his (Mr. Webster's) honor, Mr. Ticknor was induced to sit down with them. When the after-dinner speaking began, one of the guests suddenly called on Mr. Ticknor, whom, he said, in all his large experience of public dinners he had never before seen on such an occasion; and, without a moment's chance for preparation, Mr. Ticknor responded with what a person present asserts was one of the happiest and most effective little speeches he had ever heard. This was the only time Mr. Ticknor was ever entrapped into such a performance; a fact as significant of his tastes, as the testimony to his success is significant of his gifts.

4 Walker's.

5 Sir Edmund Head was, at this time, Governor of New Brunswick. He and Lady Head had paid a visit to Boston in October, and he wrote thus to Mr. Ticknor afterwards: ‘Sir Charles Lyell says of Mr. Prescott, “Prescott's visit has been a source of great pleasure to us, and, though I can by no means sympathize with MacAULAYulay's astonishment that, being what he is, he should ever go back to Boston, I cannot help regretting that the Atlantic should separate him and you from us.” nor can I,’ continues Sir Edmund, ‘sympathize with MacAULAYulay's astonishment, since I have had the great pleasure of receiving your kindness and enjoying your conversation at Boston. Those few days are days on which Lady Head and myself shall always look back with sincere satisfaction. We only regret that they were so few.’

6 The official title.

7 Hugh Seymour Tremenheere, one of the many cultivated Englishmen who in these years were familiar guests at Mr. Ticknor's house. He was author of ‘Political Experience of the Ancients in its Bearing upon Modern Times,’ and ‘Constitution of the United States compared with our own.’

8 Sir E. Head to Mr. Ticknor, June 5, 1852: ‘Have you got the first volume of Southey's “Commonplace book” ? If so, you will see, at page 62, a passage illustrating the use of the phrase las dos sillas. It appears there to mean the seat of war and the seat of peace; of the manage and the road.’

9 A political meeting connected with the Presidential election and the candidacy of General Scott.

10 In the years from 1851 to 1855, inclusive, Mr. Ticknor and his family passed a part of each summer on the shores of this lovely lake.

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