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SKETCHES AND REPORTS OF PHILOSOPHY, RELIGION, HISTORY,
EDITED BY A SOCIETY OF GENTLEMEN.
Omnes undique flosculos carpam atque deliber.
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY T. B. WAIT AND CO.
THE ADDRESS OF THE EDITORS.
As we have only one opportunity in a year of directly addressing the publick in our private capacity, to neglect it would seem churlish, as well as a violation of former custom. It affords us too an occasion to greet heartily our old, tried friends, and to offer our compliments to some new ones that have arisen within the year. Though the number of these may not be so great, as either we or our publishers might have expected, we will try to derive consolation from disappointment itself, by thinking that our gratitude, which would have been enfeebled in being widely spread, will be quite perceptible when divided among a few.
We have completed the seventh volume; a great age among the literary ephemera of this country. Having arrived at this degree of maturity, in spite of innumerable predictions to the contrary, we almost begin to flatter ourselves, that our constitution and temperament are more vigorous, than those of most others in the class to which we belong; and that this uncommon duration is not accidental or artificial, but is the evidence of something sound in our stamina, and pertinacious in our structure. Still the wonder and mystery of our existence, more extraordinary to us than it can be to the world, was so impressed on our minds, that when we have been confidently told we were speedily destined to perish, we have assented to the declaration with almost as much humility and conviction, as we should to the same truth, when applied to us more seriously as individuals. Yet after acquiescing in these predictions of the certitude of our fate, the elasticity of hope, or the force of vanity has made us the next moment exclaim, to compare small things with great, like Galileo rising from his recantation before the tribunal of the holy inquisition, PERO SI MUOVE *.
* It moves still.
It must be the lot of all those who have any intercourse with the publick, to condescend sometimes to notice accusations palpably absurd. The Anthology is conducted by a society of gentlemen, who derive no direct emolument from their labour, and persist in it, though many a shrewd, wise countenance may be covered with a smile at their simplicity, in still continuing to "scribble, scribble." This smile, which is really excited more by good-natured wonder, than contempt, they can return with one of the same character. Plutus then not being in the number of our household gods, it could hardly be supposed we should be subject to any other reproaches, than those of sterility. In this case it would be prudent to be silent, as mediocrity can only hope for toleration, while it is submissive and defenceless. But we have been accused of wishing to depreciate our own country, of fostering without discrimination every thing exotick, and depreciating every thing indigenous. Can there be an accusation. more opposed to our very existence, more boldly ridiculous?
In all the more liberal and noble branches of science and literature, it would certainly be difficult, perhaps mischievous, to attempt very accurate limits of our nationality. Formed as we have been on the English school, as far as the English language is concerned, we can hardly establish a separate one, and if our esprit du corps as a nation is as marked, as that of the Scotch in the republick of literature, that will be the extent of its force. We have a sensation of delight, which to very enlarged minds may seem founded on narrow feelings, when we see any countryman of ours justly attracting notice in this republick; and if wishing were a suitable employment, we should wish that we could boast of a greater number, who hold conspicuous stations in it; of more men, who possess the wit and sagacity of Franklin, or the eloquence of Ames.
It is owing mainly to some glaring faults in our scheme of widespread, superficial education, that we are harrassed with a class of authors, we are sorry to degrade the name, who are incomparably more numerous here, in proportion, than in any other country. We allude to those, who have triumphed over an audience in some species of occasional discourse, orations, sermons, &c. who have occupied the poet's corner, or a column of a newspaper, or whose vanity and attainments are shewn in the meanest manner, in eulogies and characters of deceased insignificance. To almost every one of this numerous description, the familiar Latin proverb,
that, on occasions, Socco dignus cothurno incedit, may be fairly applied. These worthless weeds spring up prematurely, and though it is an irksome, fatiguing employment, we are bound to contribute our efforts to eradicate them, lest they stifle and exhaust the nourishment from the valuable plants, that are slower in their growth, but which will be in perfection, long after these have perished. To these may be added all who are stirrers up of sedition, in either church or state, and who of course address themselves to the most ignorant of the community; all those well-meaning men, who have mistaken virtuous, patriotick sentiments in rhyme, for poetick inspiration; the whole class of book-makers, the grand pest in Europe, but who in this country are still covered with their pinfeathers, and are just trying their wings, and whose only plausible plea must be founded on the favour due to domestick manufactures. All these classes would naturally accuse us of being deficient in national feeling, or what, in poor imitation of English arrogance, is called American feeling; and as we are willing to flatter ourselves, that the accusation will come from no one else, we hope our tranquillity on this account is not unreasonable.
We turn eagerly to a more grateful theme, an expression of thanks to those who have at any time been pleased with our labours. Studied praise is always fatiguing; but when we discard all desires and intentions of gain, and wish only to be thought to have done the state some service," our satisfaction must arise from the satisfaction of others. A word of encouragement, even an exclamation, or a look that denotes sympathy, a degree of excitement, of fellow-feeling; all these tend, and we may be indulged in saying, have tended to animate and encourage us. We have not been in the habit of holding out many promises; we are not going to begin the practice now, but we may be excused for suggesting an obvious remark. It may be reasonably presumed, from the slightest knowledge of human nature, that the care, the animation, the reflection of him, who is writing for the publick, will be inevitably influenced and modified by the idea, that he is to be read by a few, or by many.
We have had the pleasure of recently acquiring as honorary associates, in this, and in other states, individuals, whom if we were to name, we should be accused of inordinate vanity. We expect that some of the fruits of their leisure will enrich our columns.