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A PRELIMINARY NOTE TO THE SECOND
though it well may be reckoned, of all composition, the species at once most delightful and healthy, is a thing which an author, unless he be wealthy and willing to pay for that kind of delight, is not, in all instances, called on to write. Though there are, it is said, who, their spirits to cheer, slip in a new title-page three times a year, and in this way snuff up an imaginary savor of that sweetest of dishes, the popular favor,-much as if a starved painter should fall to and treat the Ugolino inside to a picture of meat.
You remember (if not, pray turn over and look) that, in writing the preface which ushered my book, I treated you, excellent Public, not merely with a cool disregard, but downright cavalierly. Now I would not take back the least thing I then said, though I thereby could butter both sides of my bread, for I never could see that an author owed aught to the people he solaced, diverted, or taught; and, as for mere fame, I have long ago learned that the persons by whom it is finally earned, are those with whom your verdict weighed not a pin, unsustained by the higher court sitting within.
But I wander from what I intended to saythat you have, namely, shown such a liberal way of thinking, and so much aesthetic perception of anonymous worth in the handsome reception you gave to my book, spite of some private piques, (having bought the first thousand in barely two weeks,) that I think, past a doubt, if you measured the phiz of your's most devotedly, Wonderful Quiz, you would find that its vertical section was shorter, by an inch and two tenths, or 'twixt that and a quarter.
You have watched a child playing in those wondrous years when belief is not bound to the eyes and the ears, and the vision divine is so clear and unmarred, that each baker of pies in the dirt is a bard? Give a knife and a shingle, he fits out a fleet, and, on that little mudpuddle over the street, his invention, in purest good faith, will make sail round the globe with a puff of his breath for a gale, will visit, in barely ten minutes, all climes, and find Northwestern passages hundreds of times Or, suppose the young Poet fresh stored with delights from that Bible of childhood the Arabian Nights, he will turn to a crony and cry, “Jack, let's play that I am a Genius!” Jacky straightway makes Aladdin's lamp out of a stone, and, for hours, they enjoy each his own supernatural pow
This is all very pretty and pleasant, but then suppose our two urchins have grown into men, and both have turned authors,--one says to his brother, “ Let's play we're the American somethings or other, (only let them be big enough, no matter what.) Come, you shall be Goethe or Pope, which you choose; I'll be Coleridge, and both shall write mutual reviews.” So they both (as mere strangers) before many days, send each other a cord of anonymous bays. Each, in piling his epithets, smiles in his sleeve to see what his friend can be made to believe; each, in reading the other's unbiased review, thinks-Here's pretty high praise, but no more than is true. Well, we laugh at them both, and yet make no great fuss when the same farce is acted to benefit us. Even I, who, if asked, scarce a month since, what Fudge meant, should have answered, the dear Public's critical judgment, begin to think sharpwitted Horace spoke sooth when he said, that the Public sometimes hit the truth.
In reading these lines, you perhaps have a vision of a person in pretty good health and condition, and yet, since I put forth my primary edition, I have been crushed, scorched, withered, used up and put down, (by Smith with the cordial assist ance of Brown,) in all, if you put any faith in my rhymes, to the number of ninety-five several times, and, while I am writing, I tremble to think of it, for I may at this moment be just on the brink of
it-Molybdostom, angry at being omitted, has begun a critique,-am I not to be pitied ?*
Now I shall not crush them since, indeed, for that matter, no pressure I know of could render them flatter; nor wither, nor scorch them,--no action of fire could make either them or their articles drier; nor waste time in putting them down— I am thinking not their own self-inflation will keep them from sinking; for there's this contradiction about the whole bevy—though without the least weight, they are awfully heavy. No, my dear honest bore, surdo fabulam narras, they are no more to me than a rat in the arras. I can walk with the Doctor, get facts from the Don, or draw out the Lambish quintessence of John, and feel nothing more than a half-comic sorrow, to think that they all will be lying to-morrow tossed carelessly up on the waste-paper shelves, and forgotten by all but their half-dozen selves. Once snug in my attic, my fire in a roar, I leave the whole pack of them outside the door. With Hakluyt or Pur. chas I wander away to the black northern seas or barbaric Cathay; get fou with O'Shanter, and sober me then with that builder of brick-kilnish dramas, rare Ben; snuff Herbert, as holy as a flower on a grave; with Fletcher wax tender, o'er Chapman grow brave; with Marlowe or Kyd take a fine poet-rave; in Very, most Hebrew of Saxons, find peace; with Lycidas welter on vext Irish seas; with Webster grow wild, and climb earthward again, down by mystical Browne's Jacob'sladder-like brain, to that spiritual Pepys (Cotton's version) Montaigne ; find a new depth in Wordsworth, undreamed of before,-that divinely-inspired, wise, deep, tender, grand,-bore. Or, out of my study, the scholar thrown off, nature holds up her shield 'gainst the sneer and the scoff; the landscape, forever consoling and kind, pours her wine and her oil on the smarts of the mind. The waterfall, scattering its vanishing gems; the tall grove of hemlocks, with moss on their stems, like plashes of sunlight; the pond in the woods, where no foot but mine and the bittern's intrudes; these are all my kind neighbors, and leave me no wish to say aught to you all, my poor critics, butpish! I have buried the hatchet; I am twisting an allumette out of one of you now, and relighting my calumet. In your private capacities, come when you please, I will give you my hand and a fresh pipe a-piece.
: * The wise Scandinavians probably called their bards by the queer-looking title of Scald, in a delicate way, as it
were, just to bint to the world the hot water they always get into.
As I ran through the leaves of my poor little book, to take a fond author's first tremulous look, it was quite an excitement to hunt the errata, sprawled in as birds' tracks are in some kinds of strata, (only these made things crookeder.) Fancy an heir, that a father had seen born well-featured and fair, turning suddenly wry-nosed, club-footed,