Page images

said nothing, but was occasionally roused to most vehement argument; a man much given to reading and cold-water baths.

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

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



Character of the Paper-Its Early Fortunes-Happiness of the Editor-Scene in the Of fice-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

[ocr errors]

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 occasioL ally 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, 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.

"As we

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' Ad dress,' indeed, expressly said :


"There is one disadvantage attending our debut which is seldom encoun

tered 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 Lux


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 grumblera more plentiful among the brethren of the quill than in other professions, sim ply because the groanings uttered through the press are more widely circu

lated than when merely breathed to the night-air of some unsympathizing friend who forgets all about them the next minute; but we do think the whole business 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 no1 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 can not 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 solus--i. 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 gentle. man, 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 1 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 im pertinent to me?

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

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

Editor. I am open to conviction, sir.

Gent. Well, sir, I have been advertising in the Traveler 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.

Grent. 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. R. 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 unpo etical, 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

« PreviousContinue »