Imágenes de páginas


That the laborer is worthy of his hire, is an axiom which none will contradict; yet it is notorious that in no sphere of industry is it sustained by practice. It has now become almost vain to expect that the craftsmen of either thought or manipulation will ever receive their due proportion of that toil by means of which the capital of their employer is made fruitful : but without impertinence, we may ask if things are ever to remain hopeless with that small class of men, who, if not the thinkers, are certainly the spokesmen of the world. Society long ago has decreed that an article is worth no more than it will bring, and will meet all complaints of manifest injustice, by the saw that it will not and cannot interfere between vendor and purchaser, or in plainer and homelier English, the buyer and the sold. Is it not, however, its duty to do so ? Would the law tolerate a combination which would rob the laborer of nine-tenths of his rights? Will its feeling of right permit men whose achievements ring through their minds even in dreams, which are the cherished ornaments of every fireside, to be the sources of fortune to sycophants who, when once their object is attained, laugh at men who, like Esau, have sold their birthrights for a mess of potage ?

But to lay aside the system of interrogation, there are some statements to be made not uninteresting to the reading community, who have a right to know who spend the money, they, the readers, liberally enough disburse for the books which please them. An ounce of practice in this, and all similar cases, is worth a pound of theory, and it may not be improper here to cite a few instances, to use Lord Bacon's glossary.

In or about the year 1840 or 41, an American author of high popular reputation, produced a romance which in America had great success, and in Europe attracted much attention. For this work the author received $120. And strange enough, this was considered ample remuneration, though the publishers estimated their profits by thousands. In the course of the next year, an American gentleman, who chanced to be in Paris, and to whom French was as familiar as his own tongue, received from Chorpeatier & Co., two thousand francs for a translation of the same work into French. Now one of two things is evident:

the author was underpaid, having received but six hundred francs, or the translator, who received two thousand, was overpaid. The latter was not the case, for the American's countrymen ridiculed the idea of any one being satisfied with two thousand francs for a French work of 300 pages, as they call it, Grant in 18 format Anglais, about equivalent to our duodecimo, but printed in a condensed long primer, occupying but little more space than the type which printers call brevier-solid.

Brockden Brown died a pauper; so did the author and editor of the Plaindealer. Cooper has received less money from his works than their publisher has. Prescott, the author of Ferdinand and Isabella, of the histories of Mexico and Peru, has fared better, and the reason is that he is rich, able to make his own terms, and consequently is substantially his own publisher. This must also be said of Bancroft, of Irving, and of Semmes, and in fine of all who have as yet received anything from the produce of their brains.

The above are facts, and solemn ones. Wherefore however are they facts ? The question is a solemn one, and if the idea were carried out we should find a parallel in every walk of art, however humble or exalted it may be. We should find printers who never stuck a type, rich, while their journeymen are poor ; picture sellers rich, while artists are starving; and members of that craft, eighteen of which are required to make two men, according to good Queen Bess, rolling in carriages, while cutters and sewers are almost without bread. The reason of all this is obvious: the people of England, and other European lands, have set up for themselves an idol in the shape of a king; the people of Rome, of a pope; of America, of a dollar. Thus do we express the great object of the adoration of our own country - $. Now from this there is a consequence. Men worship the man who has the most of these gods, or dollars, and consequently the tailor, picture-seller, or book huckster is more powerful than the producer, that is to say, than the poor sewing tailor, the painter, or poorer than all, the author.

But how can this be prevented or remedied, I fancy I hear people say. What is it to us, if authors make bad bargains, if they sell their books for less than they are worth? I think I can tell you. The class is improvident. God forbid I should call them non mentium compotes, but they need the fostering care of the republic. If you find in the constitution of the nation an authority to justify the sending out of expeditions to explore the Dead Sea of Palestine, why refuse countenance to the hardy navigators of the unknown sea of thought? If you extend protection to the experimentalists of gases and essential oils, why can you not hold forth a helping hand, to the wild dreamers of poetry, to the eager adventurers into the sea of romance.

How though can we do this? Thus, as you enact a law to protect the inventor of the steam engine, make another to protect the author of Evangeline. Say in your solemn Congress, that the author shall receive his quota of the proceeds of his book. Say that for every copy of an author's book he shall receive, onefifth, one-tenth, one-twentieth, or one anything. Thenceforth the author becomes a man, a thing very different from what he is now. The serf, or almost the equivalent, the hireling, the journeyman of one who cannot appreciate his toil or labor. Do this and you will have done no great things, but will have taken one great step towards the righting of the wrongs of classes who have “ done much for Rome."

But besides the book-makers, the great poets, whose footsteps will “ echo through the vaults of time, there is yet another class of writers also worthy of their hire. Let not the supercilious deride. Of these is Macaulay, Talfourd, Jerrold, and others scarcely less known, and were Sir James McIntosh, Dr. Maginis and Sidney Smith. We have no such men in America. As long as the present state of things continues we can not have. The reason is an obvious one. Such men are not paid. Macaulay for his article on Ranke's history of the Popes received two hundred guineas, about one thousand dollars. Fancy an author entering the office of Mr. Bowen of the North American Review, or Mr. Thompson of the Southern Literary Messenger, the two great exponents of the literature of the north and south, and asking one thousand dollars for any article, even for the “Sermon on the Mount," if it had been written since the year 1840. How the worthy editors would stare; they would at once lock up their iron chests, ring for the porter and bid him put the author out, satisfied that he was either a madman or a thief.

Why is this the case in America ? Because our editors are dollar-worshipers, because they judge by quantity rather than quality, and fill up the pages of their magazines with the lucubrations of the Hon. John Jones, M. C., from Piankstank and the love songs of Matilda Diraway, who write for nothing and are amply repaid for ink, paper, and labor, by seeing their names in print, rather than with winged words from men who have a mission from above.

So much from your nameless correspondent at present. By and bye he will resume the subject.




'Tis a sad and painful thing

When loving souls must part,
And the hour is fraught with a nameless sting,

And shadows are on the heart.

Fain would the breast be still

The voice would keep its tone, But the pulse throbs wild, and the senses thrill

With a fear we dare not own.

And oh, how the joyous past,

Fleck'd with memories bright, Sweeps fresh o'er the brain, when a glance is cast

In the black and starless night.

Then sighs are a vain relief,

And vain the tears that flow,
For the future which might console our grief,

Is wrapt in a mist below.



There are some Christian people who are always shocked to hear of the invention of new war-engines, such as monster guns, explosive shells, &c., and who argue forsooth, that these are evidences of an increasing war-spirit in the age. Not a bit of it, with due deference to their opinions; I believe with the bias given to the world by commerce, intercourse between nations consequent upon steam, and the action of science and art opening the eyes of men to their own interests in the matter, renders every new “infernal machine," torpedo, or what not, a decided blessing; and there could not have been selected a more suitable name for that unfortunate cannon of the Princeton, than “ Peace Maker,” bating the accident of course. The more this capacity for “unheard of " missiles developes itself over the world, the more cautious men will be about going to war, with whom, they know-but with what, they know not. There is nothing that keeps the thievishly disposed man out of his neighbor's garden, better than a fear of hidden traps. Syracuse was defended for a long time by a single man, who had spread terror in the besieging army, with his new and terrible engines, so that it only required the sight of a loose timber or a huge stone upon the city wall, to scatter legions of Roman soldiers, who ran, crying, “another infernal machine !" Anything to keep the world peaceable long enough to convince mankind that war is a butcher's game, invented by tyrants for private ambition rather than general good, and then we shall want no war machines at all. Men have been cajoled and bullied on to battle fields, rather because they did not consider their own rights and chances, and knew nothing of the delights of peace; than from any actual love of military glory. Now, when there is a pretty general cessation of arms, and he who was a soldier, returns to his home, altars, and green fields, and amid his happy household, enjoys the fruit of honest toil in all tender affection, it will be found a hard and most difficult matter to lead him away to the tented field.

His soul is no longer “ in arms and eager for the fray,” but quite to the contrary, he abhors all wars that are not founded in justice, or for defence. What great savage barbarian I wonder took it into his head, that war was necessary at all, or honorable

« AnteriorContinuar »