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In a Prefatory Note which Mr. Lowell prefixed to a later issue of this poem, the history of its inception and publication is thus briefly told: “This jeu d'esprit was extemporized, Í may fairly say, so rapidly was it written, purely for my own amusement and with no thought of publication. I sent daily instalments of it to a friend in New York, the late Charles F. Briggs. He urged me to let it be printed, and I at last consented to its anonymous publication. The secret was kept till after several persons had laid claim to its authorship.” In the Letters it is possible to get a closer view of the author at work. In a letter to Mr. Briggs, written November 13, 1847, he says: “My satire remains just as it was. About six hundred lines I think are written. I left it because I wished to finish it in one mood of mind, and not to get that and my serious poems in the new volume entangled. It is a rambling, disjointed affair, and I may alter the form of it, but if I can get it read, I know it will take. I intend to give it some serial title and continue it at intervals." Or the last day of the same year, he writes to his
correspondent: “I have been hard at work copying my satire, that I might get it (what was finished of it, at least) to you by New-Year's Day as a present. As it is, I can only send the first part. It was all written with one impulse and was the work of not a great many hours, but it was written in good spirits (con amore, as Leupp said he used to smoke), and therefore seems to me to have a hearty and easy swing about it that is pleasant. But I was interrupted midway by being obliged to get ready the copy for my volume, and I have never been able to weld my present mood upon the old one without making an ugly swelling at the joint.
“ I wish you to understand that I make you a New Year's gift, not of the manuscript, but of the thing itself. I wish you to get it printed (if you think the sale will warrant it) for your own benefit. At the same time I am desirous of retaining my copyright, in order that, if circumstances render it desirable, I may
possess a control over it. Therefore, if you think it would repay publishing (I have no doubt of it, or I should not offer it to you) I wish you
would enter the copyright in your own name, weeks later he wrote, May 12: “When I can and then make a transfer to me in considera- sit at my open window and my friendly leaves tion of,' etc.
hold their hands before my eyes to prevent “I am making as particular directions as if their wandering to the landscape, I can sit I were drawing my will, but I have a sort of down and write. I have begun upon the presentiment (which I never had in regard to Fable again fairly, and am making some headanything else) that this little bit of pleasantry way. I think with what I sent you (which I will take. Perhaps I have said too much of believe was about five hundred lines) it will the Centurion. But it was only the comical- make something over a thousand. I have ity of his character that attracted me for the done, since I sent the first half, Willis, Longman himself personally never entered my head. fellow, Bryant, Miss Fuller, and Mrs. Child. But the sketch is clever ?
In Longfellow's case I have attempted no charAgain under date of March 26, 1848: “Since acterization. The same (in a degree) may be I sent you the first half, I have written some- said of S. M. F. With her I have been perfectly thing about Willis and about Longfellow good-humored, but I have a fancy that what and I am waiting for pleasanter weather in I say will stick uncomfortably. It will make order to finish it. I want to get my windows you laugh. So will L. M. C. After S. M. F. open and to write in the fresh air. I ought I make a short digression on bores in general, not to have sent you any part of it till I had which has some drollery. Willis I think good. finished it entirely. I feel a sense of respon- Bryant is funny, and as fair as I could make it, sibility which hinders my pen from running immitigably just. Indeed I have endeavored along as it ought in such a theme. I wish the to be so in all." last half to be as jolly and unconstrained as The volume was affectionately inscribed to the first. If you had not praised what I sent Charles F. Briggs, and furnished with the folyou, I dare say you would have had the whole lowing rhymed title page and preliminary note, of it ere this. Praise is the only thing that a second note being prefixed to a second edican make me feel any doubt of myself.” Six tion.
Reader ! walk up at once (it will soon be too late),
and buy at a perfectly ruinous rate
A FABLE FOR CRITICS:
(I LIKE, AS A THING THAT THE READER'S FIRST FANCY MAY
STRIKE, AN OLD-FASHIONED TITLE-PAGE, SUCH
A GLANCE AT A FEW OF OUR LIT
(MRS. MALAPROP'S WORD)
It being the commonest mode of proced
ure, I premise a few candid remarks TO THE READER:
This trifle, begun to please only myself and my own private fancy, was laid on the shelf. But some friends, who had seen it, induced me, by dint of saying they liked it, to put it in print. That is, having come to that very conclusion, I asked their advice when 't would make no confusion. For though (in the gentlest of ways) they had hinted it was scarce worth the while, I should doubtless have printed it.
I began it, intending a Fable, a frail, slender thing, rhyme-ywinged, with a sting in its tail. But, by addings and alterings not previously planned, digressions chancehatched, like birds' eggs in the sand, and dawdlings to suit every whimsey's demand (always freeing the bird which I held in my hand, for the two perched, perhaps out of reach, in the tree), it
grew by degrees to the size which you see.
I was like the old woman that carried the calf, and my neighbors, like hers, no doubt, wonder and laugh; and when, my strained arms with their grown burthen full, I call it my Fable, they call it a bull.
FROM THE TUB OF DIOGENES;
A VOCAL AND MUSICAL MEDLEY,
A SERIES OF JOKES
Bp A Wonderful Quiz,
WHO ACCOMPANIES HIMSELF WITH A RUB-A-DUB-DUB, FULL
07 SPIRIT AND GRACE, ON THE TOP OF THE TUB.
Set forth in October, the 21st day,
Having scrawled at full gallop (as far as gentle reader, and you. All the characters that goes) in a style that is neither good sketched in this slight jeu d'esprit, though, verse nor bad prose, and being a person it may be, they seem, here and there, whom nobody knows, some people will say rather free, and drawn from a somewhat I am rather more free with my readers too cynical standpoint, are meant to be than it is becoming to be, that I seem to faithful, for that is the grand point, and expect them to wait on my leisure in fol- none but an owl would feel sore at a rub lowing wherever I wander at pleasure, from a jester who tells you, without any that, in short, I take more than a young subterfuge, that he sits in Diogenes' tub. author's lawful ease, and laugh in a queer way so like Mephistopheles, that the Public will doubt, as they grope through my A PRELIMINARY NOTE TO THE rhythm, if in truth I am making fun of
SECOND EDITION, them or with them.
So the excellent Public is hereby assured though it well may be reckoned, of all that the sale of my book is already secured. composition, the species at once most deFor there is not a poet throughout the lightful and healthy, is a thing which an whole land but will purchase a copy or two author, unless he be wealthy and willing to out of hand, in the fond expectation of pay
for that kind of delight, is not, in all being amused in it, by seeing his betters instances, called on to write, though there cut up and abused in it. Now, I find, by a are, it is said, who, their spirits to cheer, pretty exact calculation, there are some- slip in a new title-page three times a year, thing like ten thousand bards in the nation, and in this way snuff up an imaginary of that special variety whom the Review savor of that sweetest of dishes, the popuand Magazine critics call lofty and true, and lar favor, much as if a starved painter about thirty thousand (this tribe is increas- should fall to and treat the Ugolino inside ing) of the kinds who are termed full of to a picture of meat. promise and pleasing. The Public will see You remember (if not, pray turn backby a glance at this schedule, that they can- ward and look) that, in writing the preface not expect me to be over-sedulous about which ushered my book, I treated you, excour ng them, since it seems I have got cellent Public, not merely with a cool disenough fuel made sure of for boiling my regard, but downright cavalierly. Now I pot.
would not take back the least thing I then As for such of our poets as find not said, though I thereby could butter both their names mentioned once in my pages, sides of my bread, for I never could see with praises or blames, let them SEND IN that an author owed aught to the people THEIR CARDS, without further DELAY, to he solaced, diverted, or taught ; and, as for my friend G. P. PUTNAM, Esquire, in mere fame, I have long ago learned that Broadway, where a list will be kept with the persons by whom it is finally earned the strictest regard to the day and the hour are those with whom your verdict weighed of receiving the card. Then, taking them not a pin, unsustained by the higher court up as I chance to have time (that is, if sitting within. their names can be twisted in rhyme), I But I wander from what I intended to will honestly give each his PROPER POSI- say, that you have, namely, shown such TION, at the rate of ONE AUTHOR to each a liberal way of thinking, and so much
Thus a PREMIUM is of- æsthetic perception of anonymous worth in fered sufficiently high (as the magazines
the handsome reception you gave to my say when they tell their best lie) to induce book, spite of some private piques (having bards to CLUB their resources and buy the bought the first thousand in barely two balance of every edition, until they have all weeks), that I think, past a doubt, if you of them fairly been run through the mill. measured the phiz of yours most devotedly,
One word to such readers (judicious and Wonderful Quiz, you would find that its wise) as read books with something behind vertical section was shorter, by an inch and the mere eyes, of whom in the country, two tenths, or 'twixt that and a quarter. perhaps, there are two, including myself, You have watched a child playing – in
those wondrous years when belief is not angry at being omitted, has begun a critbound to the eyes and the ears, and the ique, am I not to be pitied ? vision divine is so clear and unmarred, Now I shall not crush them since, indeed, that each baker of pies in the dirt is a for that matter, no pressure I know of bard ? Give a knife and a shingle, he fits could render them flatter ; nor wither, nor out a fleet, and, on that little mud-puddle scorch them, — no action of fire could over the street, his fancy, in purest good make either them or their articles drier ; faith, will make sail round the globe with nor waste time in putting them down a puff of his breath for a gale, will visit, I am thinking not their own self-inflation in barely ten minutes, all climes, and do will keep them from sinking ; for there 's the Columbus-feat hundreds of times. Or, this contradiction about the whole bevy, suppose the young poet fresh stored with though without the least weight, they are delights from that Bible of childhood, the awfully heavy. No, my dear honest bore, Arabian Nights, he will turn to a crony surdo fabulam narras, they are no more to and cry, “Jack, let 's play that I am me than a rat in the arras.
I can walk Genius !” Jacky straightway makes with the Doctor, get facts from the Don, Aladdin's lamp out of a stone, and, for or draw out the Lambish quintessence of hours, they enjoy each his own super- John, and feel nothing more than a halfnatural powers. This is all very pretty comic sorrow, to think that they all will and pleasant, but then suppose our two be lying to-morrow. tossed carelessly up on urchins have grown into men, and both the waste-paper shelves, and forgotten by have turned authors, one says to his
all but their half-dozen selves. Once snug brother, “ Let 's play we're the American in my attic, my fire in a roar, I leave somethings or other, say Homer or the whole pack of them outside the door. Sophocles, Goethe or Scott (only let them With Hakluyt or Purchas I wander away be big enough, no matter what). Come, to the black northern seas or barbaric Cayou shall be Byron or Pope, which you thay; get fou with O'Shanter, and sober choose: I 'll be Coleridge, and both shall me then with that builder of brick-kilnish write mutual reviews." So they both (as dramas, rare Ben ; snuff Herbert, as holy mere strangers) before many days send as a flower on a grave; with Fletcher wax each other a cord of anonymous bays. tender, o'er Chapman grow brave ; with Each, piling his epithets, smiles in bis Marlowe or Kyd take a fine poet-rave ; in sleeve to see what his friend can be made Very, most Hebrew of Saxons, find peace ; to believe; each, reading the other's un- with Lycidas welter on vext Irish seas ; biased review, thinks - Here 's pretty high with Webster grow wild, and climb earthpraise, but no more than my due. Well, ward again, down by mystical Browne's we laugh at them both, and yet make no Jacob's-ladder-like brain, to that spiritual great fuss when the same farce is acted to Pepys (Cotton's version) Montaigne ; find benefit us. Even I, who, if asked, scarce a new depth in Wordsworth, undreamed a month since, what Fudge meant, should of before, that marvel, a poet divine who have answered, the dear Public's critical can bore. Or, out of my study, the scholar judgment, begin to think sharp-witted thrown off, Nature holds up her shield Horace spoke sooth when he said that the 'gainst the sneer and the scoff ; the landPublic sometimes hit the truth.
scape, forever consoling and kind, pours In reading these lines, you perhaps have her wine and her oil on the smarts of the a vision of a person in pretty good health mind. The waterfall, scattering its vanishand condition ; and yet, since I put forth ing gems; the tall grove of hemlocks, with my primary edition, I have been crushed, moss on their stems, like plashes of sunscorched, withered, used up and put down light ; the pond in the woods, where no (by Smith with the cordial assistance of foot but mine and the bittern's intrudes, Brown), in all, if you put any faith in my where pitcher-plants purple and gentians rhymes, to the number of ninety-five several
1 The wise Scandinavians probably called their bards times, and, while I am writing, — I tremble
by the queer-looking title of Scald in a delicate way, as to think of it, for I may at this moment be
it were, just to hint to the world the hot water they just on the brink of it, - Molybdosto always get into.
hard by recall to September the blue of
and horrible in it. As for me I respect June's sky; these are all my kind neigh- neither women nor men for their gender, bors, and leave me no wish to say aught to nor own any sex in a pen. I choose just you all, my poor critics, but - pish! I've to hint to some causeless unfriends that, as buried the hatchet : I'm twisting an allu- far as I know, there are always two ends mette out of one of you now, and relight- (and one of them heaviest, too) to a staff, ing my calumet. In your private capaci- and two parties also to every good laugh. ties, come when you please, I will give you my. hand and a fresh pipe apiece. As I ran through the leaves of my poor
A FABLE FOR CRITICS little book, to take a fond author's first tremulous look, it was quite an excitement PHÆBus, sitting one day in a laurelto hunt the errata, sprawled in as birds' tree's shade, tracks are in some kinds of strata (only Was reminded of Daphne, of whom it was these made things crookeder). Fancy an
made, heir that a father had seen born well- For the god being one day too warm in his featured and fair, turning suddenly wry- wooing, nosed, club-footed, squint-eyed, bair-lipped, She took to the tree to escape his pursuing; wapper-jawed, carrot-haired, from a pride Be the cause what it might, from his offers become an aversion, — my case was yet
she shrunk, A club-foot (by way of a change) And, Ginevra-like, shut herself up in a in a verse, I might have forgiven, an o's trunk; being wry, a limp in an e, or a cock in an And, though ’t was a step into which he i, - but to have the sweet babe of my
had driven her, brain served in pi! I am not queasy- He somehow or other had never forgiven stomached, but such a Thyestean banquet
her; as that was quite out of the question. Her memory he nursed as a kind of a tonic,
In the edition now issued no pains are Something bitter to chew when he 'd play neglected, and my verses, as orators say, the Byronic, stand corrected. Yet some blunders re- And I can't count the obstinate nymphs main of the Public's own make, which I
that he brought over wish to correct for my personal sake. For By a strange kind of smile he put on when instance, a character drawn in pure fun
he thought of her. and condensing the traits of a dozen in one, “My case is like Dido's,” he sometimes rehas been, as I hear, by some persons ap- marked; plied to a good friend of mine, whom to “When I last saw my love, she was fairly stab in the side, as we walked along chat
embarked ting and joking together, would not be my In a laurel, as she thought — but (ah, how way. I can hardly tell whether a question
Fate mocks !) will ever arise in which he and I should by She has found it by this time a very bad any strange fortune agree, but meanwhile
box; my esteem for him grows as I know him, Let hunters from me take this saw when and, though not the best judge on earth of they need it, a poem, he knows what it is he is saying You 're not always sure of your game when and why, and is honest and fearless, two
've treed it. good points which I have not found so rife Just conceive such a change taking place I can easily smother my love for them,
in one's mistress! whether on my side or t' other.
What romance would be left ?.
who can For my other anonymi, you may be sure
flatter or kiss trees ? that I know what is meant by a caricature, And, for mercy's sake, how could one keep and what by a portrait. There are those
up a dialogue who think it is capital fun to be spattering With a dull wooden thing that will live their ink on quiet, unquarrelsome folk, but and will die a log, the minute the game changes sides and the Not to say that the thought would forever others begin it, they see something savage