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Such contributors continue clamorous for years. Some of them go mad -others get silly; but though they never tax the elements with unkindness, they never cease abusing Old Christopher North, who keeps his temper to a miracle-lets them weary the Post-office with letters ed, disappointed, unreceived,”-and merely once a-month wishes them and their articles all at the devil.
Now we put it to all such impatient and irritable contributors, if it be not most unreasonable to lose their tempers at that rate, and to take offence when and where no offence is intended, but, on the other hand, the utmost amenity and mild manners ? Time and tide wait for no man, and chance rules the world. Are we alone to be denied the privilege of submission to these powers ? What though their articles “lot in cold obstruction” for a time, times, and half a time? Think of the thousand and one causes that may have, without much or any blame on our part, condemned them to a temporary or an eternal oblivion ! How often are jewels mislaid? “ We hunt half a day for a forgotten dream,” nor recover it at last, though all the laws of association have been brought into play. So must it often be with articles. Most mysteriously do they slip aside, and disappear into crannies in the “great globe itself,” wherein, no doubt, they will be found by future ages, and the unrolled papyri deciphered for the benefit of generations yet unborn. Many fly up to the moon, and the Man there publishes them in his Magazine. Human life is proverbially short, and is it to be expected or wished by any contributor professing the Christian creed that We, upwards of seventy, should, instead of preparing ourselves for another world, waste the few fleeting hours yet left to us in hunting, night and day, even in “ impossible places,” for lost articles ? Besides, we are not only always very old, but also often very sick; and our gout alone, to say nothing of almost periodical attacks of cholera morbus, ought, with all men of common humanity, to be sustained as a valid excuse for the irrecoverable loss of an occasional article. Then are we to be debarred the ordinary amusements of this weary world ? May we not, like the rest of our brethren of mankind, make a tour of the Lakes, or the Highlands, or Switzerland, or the Tyrol ? And during our absence, must not hundreds of articles lie dormant ? The man lives not to whom we would trust the keys. We hate descending into particulars but we owe it to our much injured selves to remind all such captious and querulous contributors that, for months past, we have been on the move from No. 17, Prince's Street to 45, George's Street—and that in that long-protracted bustle a thousand things have been necessarily forgotten for a time, or lost to all eternity. The Balaam-Box itself made a narrow escape. A strong-backed villain, obviously in the pay of one of the Southron Magazines, clutched it out of the hurley, and off with it on his shoulders down Leith Walk, before a west wind that was then filling the sails of a London-bound Berwick smack. Providentially We were hobbling from our lunch at Picardy's, and met the mid-day highway robber full in the face. We should have known the Balaam-Box among ten thousand trunks. One tip of the crutch laid the bearer in the kennel-and Sir David Gam and Tappitoury who had been eyeing us from a window, were instantly on the spot, and proud were they to bear the treasure to the Sanctum Sanctorum. If, after considering these things, and a thousand collateral circumstances, the contributors to whom we allude still regard us with angry feelings, we have only to say,
“ Away to heaven, respective Lenity,
And fire-eyed Fury be my conduct now !" And here we are reminded of one especial blockhead, who transmitted to us a good many months ago, through a distinguished friend, some elegant and graceful verses by a lady. We had designed them a place of honour, but our arrangements prevented their appearance at the time we wished; and perhaps we should have stated to the fair writer the reason of the inevitable delay. We now request her to accept our humble apology, and the assurance of our high esteem. The person who demanded the verses back, and who occupies, we believe, some humble and obscure place under goyernment, informed us, in his ill-spelt letter, with much severity and little
grammar, that the itch was the Scottish plague. That is a Cockney notion. Cutaneous diseases are more or less prevalent in all countries, and we believe especially in poor ones—such as the Highlands of Scotland, where the people live chiefly on oatmeal. But the Highlanders—though poorare hospitable-generous—and brave; and their hands, though haply sometimes rather rough in the cuticle, can well handle the claymore and the bayonetted musket. Beyond all the nations of the earth, in manners they are-even the poorest of the poor-gentlemen; and that would be painfully felt by this wretched creature, were he ever to stoop his head as low beneath the door-lintel of a Highland hut, as he stoops it every day before the master who gives him bread. A slight eruption on the skin-rare now in any part of Scotland, for English cleanliness has of late years become domesticated here-is a mere trifle compared with a leprosy of the liver the incurable disease in which he pines; and oatmeal, earned by honest labour, even although, but for the gracious antidote of Glenlivet, it may sometimes induce the itch, is preferable food to turtle-soup purchased by the proceeds of a shameless sinecure; nor is the worst scurvy that can afflict the body so calamitous as the scurvy that eats into the soul. The one is a misfortune, which religion enables a good man to bear—the other is a vice, which any little religion the sufferer may possess serves but to shew more odious, and which an evil conscience renders altogether unendurable. Hinc illa lachryme!
But now that we are established in our new Sanctum, we shall speedily bring up all our arrears. The clerk of the Balaam-Box shall be kept more assiduously to his duty-and our Contributors may depend, erelong, on a general jail-delivery of all our Escrutoires. Much misconception prevails in the public mind respecting the character of the contents of the BalaamBox. Many brilliant articles are hidden in that gloom--but like comets their tails are too long, and would, if admitted into the heaven of Maga, sweep out the stars. But a comet judiciously curtailed may occasionally illumine the horizon-nay, we have known a planet there brighter than any fixed star—than either Castor or Pollux ;-and the Georgium Sidus has sometimes“ paled its ineffectual light” beside a wandering luminary under the name of Balaam. As for our Escrutoires--they possess treasures beyond the Treasures of the Deep, so beautifully sung by The Hemans-and we purpose, before another moon wanes, to descend in a diving-bell into their abysses, and to rifle the mermaid's caves of all their pearls-therewith to adorn the brow of Maga, to the joy of all Contributors.
We have been wafted away on the wings of poetry from the querulous disturbers of our peace. But some contributors there are, of a far other character and complexion indeed—and them to reject Christopher could
Nay- he rejects them not. Their pretty poems—their elegant prose-essays—their graceful epistles--and their touching tales-he peruses with pleasure and with pride. Their sex protects them—and he puts them gently into the Escrutoire called the Dovecot, where they soon murmur themselves asleep. Now and then he selects a sonnet, or an elegy, or a tale,-and in Maga, it meets the eyes, perhaps, of the fair enthusiast, who breathed it when a virgin, and who now blushes, while she reads, to look down on a couple of chubby boys pulling one another's noses in frantic quarrel about some seedcake, at the knee of her a six-year's wedded wife, still lovely, though her waist be not so slim as we once knew it by about three quarters of a yard.
There are a prodigious number of clever people at present alive and kicking-and, judging from our own list, we should suppose, that in Great Britain and Ireland, contributors must amount to a million. There is a contributor in about every fourth family. In one domestic circle he is papa-a stout gentleman about forty, with red cheeks, and a brown wig; in another, grand-papa, a fine military-looking old fellow, six feet high, with hair white as snow—nay, an article is now penes me, the handwriting of which could only have been put upon paper by the “ oldest inhabitant, rejoicing in the third consecutive little Tommy, all lineally descended from himself, the great Tom of Lincoln. In another family again, the happy mother of ten children is, we are sorry to say it, the unhappy mother of twenty
articles. In this house, a pale delicate girl-an only daughter-who can scarcely walk in the wind without being wafted away to heaven like a fea, ther-is inditing a tender epistle to Odoherty ; in that, thrée red-armed sisters, well to do in the world-with constitutions strong as horses--and each on the death of her father, the tallow-chandler, entitled to a fortune of fifteen hundred pounds, are all hard at work with their respective articles, -one at the pathetic, another at the picturesque, and the eldest and most formidable at the sublime. Now, not to indulge farther in imaginary pictures, drawn from the contributing population of these realms, we appeal to the candour of that population—nay, we fling ourselves upon it—and ask the Million to reflect for a few moments with themselves, in society or solitude, on the condition of an Editor in this life. For our single selves, we lay our hands upon our hearts, and before heaven, declare, that it would not be in our power to overtake and satisfy even our fair friends-our female contributors alone—were we the Editor, publisher, and proprietor, of twenty periodicals, instead of Editor of merely one. Add to them the male monsters, with swingeing articles twenty pages long, and the multitudes of children, who, in this precocious age, have absolutely all their little articles ready ere they are twelve years old, and the most stony-hearted will concede, that Christopher North is to be compassionated as much as admired, and that he is far less an object of envy than the vain world, blinded by the blaze of his glory, has for so many years so foolishly supposed ;—He is often sick of life.
You might think that it never could be our interest to quarrel with clever contributors. But if you think so, we assure you that you are mistaken, and that clever contributors have brought many a periodical to an untimely grave. Pray, what is the meaning of the word clever? Try it by examples : a clever horse is a horse of good action-who can trot easily twelve miles an hour-clear a four-foot fence—and who never refuses his oats. At present, as horses go, he may be worth about five-and-thirty pounds. He car: ries you to cover—but surely you do not hunt him ? Clever as he is, if you do that, he is blown on the first burst, and, during a run of twenty minutes, has been regularly tailing it, till at the death, while the Duke, and Elcho, and Reddie, and Stein, are all in, you are not only out, but appear to the rustics of another county to be a regular Bagman. Just so with your
clever contributor. He can perform a paragraph at a fair pace-a short article on the corn laws, perhaps, or the Methuen Treaty ; but when the work to be done requires not only bone but blood, say a review of Moore's Byron, or Monk's Bentley, or Wellington's Waterloo, then your clever contributor breaks down, and you wish him back in his original dray. In the affairs of common life, we have no great objection to a clever contributor; but from this Magazine “ Procul ! o procul, este, profani,”—for about some seven years ago, such was the rush upon us of clever contributors, that our sale, for two months stationary, began on the third absolutely to retrograde. We immediately unharnessed about a dozen clever contributors, turned them out of the team, and away went Maga, up hill and down dale, along the royal road of philosophy, literature, and human life, like a young one, with all the other eighty monthlies dragged in triumph at her chariotwheels!
But to be less figurative. It is one thing to be even extremely clever in the circle in which you move, and another thing to be rather clever in Blackwood. An old or elderly maid or virgin, who has cultivated her conversational talents at tea-tables through the long space of fifty revolving years, and been handed about in manuscript, up and down various brilliant coteries-while her chin, “ bearded like the pard,” is sunk on her midnight pillow, is visited, we shall suppose, in a dream, by Christopher North. He calms her agitation, and assures her that she has no need to shriek. All that he wants is an article. The phantom melts away from her longing arms—and turning herself in bed, lo! by the rosy dawn, George Buchanan, with a beard considerably longer than her own, lying, chin by chin, with Deborah on the self-same bolster. Aye, many are the virgins-young-old --and middle-aged, who sleep with Blackwood in their bosom." Rapt, in
spired,” the tea-table oracle mounts her tripod, and in obedience to her Magnus Apollo, Christopher North, indites an article. Remember that she is, without one single exception-and for half a century has been—the cleverest–out of all sight, the cleverest person of her sex in all her native city, -a city, by the last census, taken ten years ago-containing upwards of two hundred thousand souls. Such an article! O, Lord Byron's Heaven and Earth, and Mr Moore's Loves of the Angels, what an article! Is it a declaration of love, and a proposal of marriage ? A scheme for paying off the National Debt? or a treatise on gooseberry wine ? Now she seems to be all fire and fury on Don Juan, and now the fair writer tumbles head over ears like a supralapsarian into the Row Heresy. By Montgomery's Satan, the old lady has forgotten either her own sex or ours, and is personating Christopher North! And hark! how clamorous for instant insertion ! Her article cannot wait a single day—and proofs must be sent to the old Princess Rusty Fusty, by the very first Glasgow post.
It is known throughout all the literary circles of the West, that Miss Deborah is to exhibit in the next number of Blackwood her opening article. What a brandishing of paper-folders on the First of the Month! Lo and behold,“ Christopher in his Sporting Jacket!" “ Can this indeed be our Debby's opening article?" is the general pur. “ But you know she is so clever she can hit off all our styles to a tea. It must be Debby's—it is Debby's Debby's in every line. Ob, rare Debby! There's no so clever a woman in all Edinburgh!
To be serious-nay savage. There are not at this hour more than six women alive entitled to send articles to Ebony :-Mrs Hemans, Mrs Norton, Miss Bowles, Miss Mitford, Miss Jewsbury-Let us consider—who the deuce is the sixth ? Oh! yes, yes—but not to hurt the feelings of so many thousands, she, for the present, shall be “ strictly Anonymous.” She herself knows whom we have in our loving eye, and would fain have in our loving arms—in a fine fit of Platonics.
“ These six are women, therefore may be woo'd ;
These six are women, therefore may be won"Nay, they are all already wooed and won by us; and largely do they contribute to our delight. Aye, aye, Mr North,” quoth our beloved Shepherd to us tother day, “ that's what ye mean by being a Sexagenarian.” With these charming exceptions, we beseech the Sex to besiege other Editors. We love to concentrate rather than diffuse our affections; at our time of life it would be unseemly to be seen running after young ladies, however literary; and the cardinal virtue of an Editor is FIDELITY TO THE Fair CHOSEN FEw.
Yet let us not be misunderstood by the thousands on thousands of lovely ladies that in these days throughout these realms cultivate letters. Never in
age stood so high the character of woman. Culture gives the sex now not mere accomplishments alone,—but their hearts are fertile of noble feelings, and their minds of noble thoughts. Never shone female literature,—if that expression may be allowed-with such pure and strong lustre. A few stars are conspicuous in the firmament above all the rest; but how many sweet stars are there, unambitious of our gaze, though they irresistibly attract it on cloudless nights,
“ When Heaven and Earth do make one imagery," and the heart of the shepherd is glad on the mountain! Some of these gentle luminaries delight to shine on us. We know their names-single or in constellation. Nor, among them all at their brightest, are we ever at a loss to single out that particular Star, which, rising over the green hills of Fife, steeps its reflection in our magnificent Firth, and often, as we are taking our night-walk on the Calton, or Arthur's Seat, seems to possess in its own glory both Heaven and Sea.
With regard to male contributors, again, we cannot be equally complimentary and equally sincere. Young Scotchmen are all too philosophical most young Englishmen too little so,-but on the whole we wish the South
ron sun to be in the ascendant. In vile and odious nationality the Scotch speak of “ slender clerks” beyond the Tweed. Yet are they not“ sprung of earth's first blood, have titles manifold?" Still, their articles are too often but “ the produce of the common day.” Too often their authors want “ the vision and the faculty divine,”—and were we to compose two consecutive numbers of their lucubrations, the third would be our last. Edinburgh never gave us one first-rate contributor---the Knights of Ambrose excepted-London has given too few,—but some she has given us of strongest and steadiest power,— and as we plough the mare magnum with them on board, we can trust to our crew, and lie in storm on a lee-shore, without fear of being stranded,-for then our ship will swing round by her sheet-anchor into the wind's eye, and hold at defiance all the blasts of Heaven.
But to merely clever ladies and gentlemen in general, be this our advice:Be satisfied with being the Cocks and Hens of your own companies-your own coteries. Do not write for because you never can write in—Blackwood. Clap your wings and crow_drop your wings and chuckle-put your nebs below your wings and go to roost. But do not tell lies. Do not hint by sideling looks, and dubious words, and “
spare my blushes,” yet assert, with brazen cheeks, and solemn oaths, and “split my timbers,” that you write in Blackwood. You may live for a year or two on the credit of that belief among your townsfolk, and be stared at as a contributor. But the day of shame assuredly comes to all impostors. Then you are seen hopping about the outskirts of your native village like a naked magpie, who had stripped her or himself of her or his not unpretty plumage, to fit closer to the skin that of the Cock of the North, and who thenceforth haunts obscure places, featherless and forlorn, emitting at intervals a feeble scrauch, and excluded from augury of death or marriage.
The truth is, that it requires ten-aye, twenty times the talent to write a first-rate article for a first-rate periodical, say Maga—that it requires to write a first-rate book. It is the easiest thing in the world to write a second or third-rate book—and to write a first-rate one cannot be very difficult, when one looks into the faces of some sumphs who have performed that achievement. You have only to lay hold of some great, big, huge, hulking subject--a nation for example-and to write its history,-or rather to take its own history which it has been writing away at ever since its fingers could hold the pen, and to lick the cub into some sort of shape, till he bears some sort of resemblance to a Christian, or at least a human volume. In short, you have only to collect your materials, which any body can do for love or money, who knows about libraries ; and chapter after chapter-story after story-that is, flat after flat, arises of its own accord-and lo! the House that Jack built-or Sir James Mackintosh's History of England, in two volumes, for Dr Lardner's excellent Cyclopædia ! But a first-rate article for Maga is another affair. To produce it your genius must be bright and balmy, fair and fertile as the blue skies and green fields of the spring
An article must be an emanation from heaven-or a production from earth—a star or a flower-a shower of sunbeams or a shower of blossoms.
Many an excellent book has been written by sumphs and sumphesses, but never an excellent article. Nay, we suspect that no separate volume of merit was ever yet written-or if that be too sweeping an assertion, written in our life and times—by either gentleman or lady in whose idiosyncrasy there was not something decidedly sumphish. Some slight sumphishness seems to be implied in the simple conception of a separate book, how much more in the continued execution! Gibbon himself, sitting year after year in that summer-house at Lausanne, insensible to all events but those involved in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which had declined and fallen many centuries before he was born, has always seemed to our imagination the beau-ideal of a sumph, only to be equalled, perhaps, by Adam Smith in a back parlour in the “lang-toun o' Kirkaldy,” revelling all day in the Wealth of Nations, and in the evening, (a true anecdote,) in vain scheming to baffle or elude the vigilance of his Argus-eyed housekeeper, grimly a-watch of the sugar-bowl on the pictured tea-tray, on which the economist, as he paced to