Page images

chanics' boarding-house. It accommodated about fifty boarders, most of whom were shoe-makers, who worked in their own rooms, or in shops at the top of the house, and paid, for room and board, two dollars and a half per week. This was the house to which Horace Greeley removed, a few days after his arrival in the city, and there he lived for more than two years. The reader of the Tribune may, perhaps, remember, that its editor has frequently displayed a particular acquaintance with the business of shoe-making, and drawn many illustrations of the desirableness and feasibility of association from the excessive labor and low wages of shoemakers. It was at this house that he learned the mysteries of the craft. He was accustomed to go up into the shops, and sit among the men while waiting for dinner. It was here, too, that he obtained that general acquaintance with the life and habits of city mechanics, which has enabled him since to address them so wisely and so convincingly. He is remembered by those who lived with him there, only as a very quiet, thoughtful, studious young man, one who gave no trouble, never went out 'to spend the evening,' and read nearly every minute when he was not working or eating. The late Mr. Wilson, of the Brother Jonathan, who was his roommate for some months, used to say, that often he went to bed leaving his companion absorbed in a book, and when he awoke in the morning, saw him exactly in the same position and attitude, as though he had not moved all night. He had not read all night, however, but had risen to his book with the dawn. Soon after sunrise, he went over the way to his work.

Another of Mr. Wilson's reminiscences is interesting. The reader is aware, perhaps, from experience, that people who pay only two dollars and a half per week for board and lodging are not provided with all the luxuries of the season; and that, not unfrequently, a desire for something delicious steals over the souls of boarders, particularly on Sundays, between 12, M. and 1, P.M. The eatinghouse revolution had then just begun, and the institution of Dining Down Town was set up; in fact, a bold man established a Sixpenny Dining Saloon in Beekman-street, which was the talk of the shops in the winter of 1831. On Sundays Horace and his friends, after their return from Mr. Sawyer's (Universalist) church in Orchardstreet, were accustomed to repair to this establishment, and indulge

in a splendid repast at a cost of, at least, one shilling each, rising on some occasions to eighteen pence. Their talk at dinner was of the soul-banquet, the sermon, of which they had partaken in the morning, and it was a custom among them to ascertain who could repeat the substance of it most correctly. Horace attended that church regularly, in those days, and listened to the sermon with his head bent forward, his eyes upon the floor, his arms folded, and one leg swinging, quite in his old class attitude at the Westhaven school.

This, then, is the substance of what his companions remember of Horace Greeley's first few months in the metropolis. In a way so homely and so humble, New York's most distinguished citizen, the Country's most influential man, began his career.

In his subsequent writings there are not many allusions of an autobiographical nature to this period. The following is, indeed, the only paragraph of the kind that seems worth quoting. It is valuable as throwing light upon the habit of his mind at this time :

[ocr errors]

"Fourteen years ago, when the editor of the TRIBUNE came to this city, there was published here a small daily paper entitled the 'Sentinel,' devoted to the cause of what was called by its own supporters 'the Working Men's Party,' and by its opponents the Fanny Wright Working Men.' Of that party we have little personal knowledge, but at the head of the paper, among several good and many objectionable avowals of principle, was borne the following:

"Single Districts for the choice of each Senator and Member of Assembly.' "We gave this proposition some attention at the time, and came to the conclusion that it was alike sound and important. It mattered little to us that it was accompanied and surrounded by others that we could not assent to, and was propounded by a party with which we had no acquaintance and little sympathy. We are accustomed to welcome truth, from whatever quarter it may approach us, and on whatever flag it may be inscribed. Subsequent experience has fully confirmed our original impression, and now we have little doubt that this principle, which was utterly slighted when presented under unpopular auspices, will be engrafted on our reformed Constitution without serious oppo sition."-Tribune, Dec., 1845.



Leaves West's-Works on the Evening Post-Story of Mr. Leggett- Commercial Advertiser-Spirit of the Times'-Specimen of his writing at this period-Naturally fond of the drama-Timothy Wiggins-Works for Mr. Redfield-The first lift.

HORACE GREELEY was a journeyman printer in this city for fourteen months. Those months need not detain us long from the more eventful periods of his life.

He worked for Mr. West in Chatham street till about the first of November (1831). Then the business of that office fell off, and he was again a seeker for employment. He obtained a place in the office of the 'Evening Post,' whence, it is said, he was soon dismissed by the late Mr. Leggett, on the ground of his sorry appearThe story current among printers is this: Mr. Leggett came into the printing-office for the purpose of speaking to the man whose place Horace Greeley had taken.


"Where's Jones ?" asked Mr. Leggett.

"He's gone away," replied one of the men.

"Who has taken his place, then?" said the irritable editor.

"There's the man," said some one, pointing to Horace, who was 'bobbing' at the case in his peculiar way.

Mr. Leggett looked at 'the man,' and said to the foreman, "For God's sake discharge him, and let's have decent-looking men in the office, at least."

Horace was accordingly-so goes the story-discharged at the end of the week.

He worked, also, for a few days upon the 'Commercial Adveriser,' as a ‘sub,' probably. Then, for two weeks and a half, upon a little paper called 'The Amulet,' a weekly journal of literature and art. `The 'Amulet' was discontinued, and our hero had to wait ten years for his wages.

His next step can be given in his own words. The foll wing is

the beginning of a paragraph in the New Yorker of March 24 1839:

"Seven years ago, on the first of January last—that being a holiday, and the writer being then a stranger with few social greetings to exchange in New York-he inquired his way into the ill-furnished, chilly, forlorn-looking attic printing-office in which William T. Porter, in company with another very young man, who soon after abandoned the enterprise, had just issued the 'Spirit of the Timas ' the first weekly journal devoted entirely to sporting intelligence ever attempted in this country. It was a moderate-sized sheet of indifferent paper, with an atrocious wood-cut for the head-about as uncomely a specimen of the fine arts' as our native talent' has produced. The paper was about in proportion; for neither of its conductors had fairly attained his majority, and each was destitute of the experience so necessary in such an enterprise, and of the funds and extensive acquaintance which were still more necessary to its success. But one of them possessed a persevering spirit and an ardent enthusiasm for the pursuit to which he had devoted himself."

And, consequently, the 'Spirit of the Times' still exists and flourishes, under the proprietorship of its originator and founder, Colonel Porter. For this paper, our hero, during his short stay in the office, composed a multitude of articles and paragraphs, most of them short and unimportant. As a specimen of his style at this period, I copy from the 'Spirit' of May 5th, 1832, the following epistle, which was considered extremely funny in those innocent days:

"MESSRS. EDITORS:-Hear me you shall, pity me you must, while I proceed to give a short account of the dread calamities which this vile habit of turning the whole city upside down, 'tother side out, and wrong side before, on the First of May, has brought down on my devoted head.

"You must know, that having resided but a few months in your city, I was totally ignorant of the existence of said custom. So, on the morning of the eventful, and to me disastrous day, I rose, according to immemorial usage, at the dying away of the last echo of the breakfast bell, and soon found myself seated over my coffee, and my good landlady exercising her powers of volubility (no weak ones) apparently in my behalf; but so deep was the reverie in which my half-awakened brain was then engaged, that I did not catch a single idea from the whole of her discourse. I smiled and said, "Yes, ma'am," "certainly ma'am," at each pause; and having speedily dispatched

my breakfast, sallied immediately out, and proceeded to attend to the busi ness which engrossed my mind. Dinner-time came, but no time for dinner; and it was late before I was at liberty to wend my way, over wheel-barrows, barrels, and all manner of obstructions, towards my boarding-house. All here was still; but by the help of my night-keys, I soon introduced myself to my chamber, dreaming of nothing but sweet repose; when, horrible to relate! my ears were instantaneously saluted by a most piercing female shriek, proceeding exactly from my own bed, or at least from the place where it should have been; and scarcely had sufficient time elapsed for my hair to bristle on my head, before the shriek was answered by the loud vociferations of a ferocious mastiff in the kitchen beneath, and re-echoed by the outcries of half a dozen inmates of the house, and these again succeeded by the rattle of the watchman; and the next moment, there was a round dozen of them (besides the dog) at my throat, and commanding me to tell them instantly what the devil all this meant.

"You do well to ask that," said I, as soon as I could speak, "after falling upon me in this fashion in my own chamber."

"O take him off," said the one who assumed to be the master of the house; "perhaps he's not a thief after all; but, being too tipsy for starlight, he has made a mistake in trying to find his lodgings,"--and in spite of all my remonstrances, I was forthwith marched off to the watch-house, to pass the remainder of the night. In the morning, I narrowly escaped commitment on the charge of 'burglary with intent to steal (I verily believe it would have gone hard with me if the witnesses could have been got there at that unseasonable hour), and I was finally discharged with a solemn admonition to guard for the future against intoxication (think of that, sir, for a member of the Cold Water Society!)

"I spent the next day in unraveling the mystery; and found that my landlord had removed his goods and chattels to another part of the city, on the established day, supposing me to be previously acquainted and satisfied with his intention of so doing; and another family had immediately taken his place; of which changes, my absence of mind and absence from dinner had kept me ignorant; and thus had I been led blindfold into a 'Comedy' (or rather tragedy) of Errors. Your unfortunate,


His connection with the office of a sporting paper procured him occasionally an order for admission to a theater, which he used. He appeared to have had a natural liking for the drama; all intel ligent persons have when they are young; and one of his companions of that day remembers well the intense interest with which he once witnessed the performance of Richard III., at the old Chat

« PreviousContinue »