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allin 11-1-47 60581
TO THE PUBLIC.
It is with great diffidence that we appear before the Public as the Editor of a Literary Magazine. Aside from the question of capacity, there is a responsibility attached to an undertaking of this character upon which we cannot look with indifference. We feel that the influence of any periodical, generally circulated, is an important thing; and though the frequent establishment of newspapers, and the licentious tone of newspaper discussion in this country have taken much from the dignity of printed opinions, yet, upon the mass of the people, the principles, whatever they may be, which are disseminated in this form, exert, even in their depreciation, an influence sufficient to affect questions of the greatest moment. But, assuming, as we do, the more dignified form of a Magazine professing to decide upon literary merit, and discuss, not only the lighter topics which interest society, but political questions in their higher and more general bearings, we confess to no little diffidence in our own powers, and a feeling of necessity for much indulgence.
In selecting the most prominent of the literary and political magazines of England as our professed model, we trust we shall not be understood as expecting to equal it. In the present state of American literature, we do not think this possible. The classes of men who are in the pay of the periodicals in that country do not exist here. We have neither idle men, nor professed writers. Our travellers who have observed foreign character and manners, are not wealthy scholars, who return with time on their hands and the ability to embody their knowledge in vivid sketches; and our military men (of which class in England, a great number are authors, have neither seen foreign service, nor, if they had, are they, as there, graduates of colleges and holiday, soldiers when at home. Then we have no writers for a living. The respectable talent goes where it is better paid-into the professions. We must depend for contributions upon clergymen, and lawyers, and statesmen, who lay literature on the shelf with their college classics, and call the little attention they give it, idleness or relaxation. The immense patronage of English periodicals enables them to pay liberally for their material. This we cannot do. The difficulty of transmission over such an immense country, and the comparatively small proportion of literary readers, limit our circulation to a thousand or two, at farthest, and the profit arising from such a subscription is necessarily inadequate to an expensive establishment.
With respect to criticism, we can lay down none but negative rules. We shall give an opinion to the best of our ability, and only upon the merits of the book. With the Author we have nothing to do. We consider personalities in criticism, not only impertinent, but entirely beyond our province. Whatever difficulties we may find in making our Reviews racy or interesting, we shall never descend, either to the ungentlemanly seasoning of personal abuse, or allusions to private differences. We believe the introduction of such ingredients in criticism pernicious, and beneath the dignity of a writer for the public eye, serving no good end, and contributing to the amusement of the malicious, at the expense of feelings which should ever be held sacred.
We shall take no side in Politics. Our pages will be open to fair and manly discussion on every political topic, and by men of every party. We shall, as in criticism, admit nothing personal, and we shall claim, of course, the right of regulating for ourselves, the standard of merit. We believe it is possible to make our magazine a vehicle of truth, without reference to party, and to advance or oppose a measure without committing ourselves to those interested in its success or failure.
Our Miscellaneous Department will be open to articles of every description calculated to interest or amuse. We solicit contributions from the grave and the gay, the essayist upon character, and the satirist upon manners. Descriptions of other countries, and of our own, sprightly Journals, Sketches of picturesque scenery, Tales, Traditions--everything that can convey a moral, or amuse innocently, will be welcome.
For himself, the Editor can only promise his endeavor. He has been before the Public from a very early age, and has met with a lenity and consideration for his youth, as gratifying as it was unexpected. In his brief career as an Author, he has learned some lessons of feeling which may not be lost upon him as a critic. He has been told of his faults temperately and in a spirit of encouragement and regard, and knows how like the dew of heaven such kindness falls on the heart of the thirsty aspirant; and he has been attacked with personal scurrilities, and knows how little such things can affect reputation, and how easy it is to despise the ungentlemanly critic and forget the poor wrong of his criticism. He is aware that the task he has undertaken is, at best, a laborious and responsible one; but he has the promise of able assistance, and he trusts that the kind consideration and encouragement which he has met from the public in every enterprize hitherto, will not now fail him.
N. P. Willis.
TICKLER. I will accompany you on the poker and tongs.
SHEPHERD. I hae nae objections—for you've not only a sowl for music, Sir, but a genius 100, and the twa dinna always gang thegither-moný a man haein' as fine an ear for tunes, as the starnies on a dewy nicht that listen to the grass growin' roun' the vernal primroses, and yet no able to play on ony instrument,-on even the flute-let abee the poker and laugs.
of a young
I am not known as a lover of music. I seldom praise the player upon an instrument or the singer of a song. I stand aside if I listen, and keep the measure in my heart, without beating it audibly with my foot, or moving my head visibly in a practised abstraction. There are times when I do not listen at all; and it may be that the mood is not on me, or that the spell of it is mastered by beauty, or that I hear a human voice whose very whisper is sweeter than it all. There are some who are said to have a passion for music, and they will turn away at the beginning of a song, though it be only a child's lesson, and leave gazing on an eye that was, perhaps, like shaded water, or the forehead of a beautiful woman, or the in girl, to listen. I cannot boast that my love of music is so strong. I confess there are things I know that are often an overcharm, though not always, and I would not give up my slavery to their power, if I might be believed to have gone mad at an opera, or have my • Bravo' the signal for the applause of a city.
There is unwritten music. The world is full of it. I hear it every hour that I wake, and my waking sense is surpassed sometimes my by sleeping—though that is a mystery. There is no sound of simple nature that is not music. It is all God's work, and so harmony. You may mingle and divide and strengthen the passages of its great anthem, and it is still melody,—melody. The low winds of summer blow over the waterfalls and the brooks, and bring their voices to your ear as if their sweetness was linked by an accurate finger; yet
the wind is but a fitful player; and you may go out when the tempest is up, and hear the strong trees moaning as they lean before it, and the long grass hissing as it sweeps through, and its own soleinn monotony over all, and the dimple of that same brook, and the waterfall's unaltered bass shall still reach you in the intervals of its power, as much in harmony as before, and as much a part of its perfect and perpetual hymn. There is no accident of nature's causing which can bring in discord. The loosened rock may fall into the abyss, and the overblown tree rush down through the branches of the wood, and the thunder peal awfully in the sky ;-and sudden and violent as these changes seem, their tumult goes up with the sound of winds and waters, and the exquisite ear of the musician can detect no jar.
I have read somewhere of a custom in the Highlands, which, in connexion with the principle it involves, is exceedingly beautiful. It is believed, that, to the ear of the dying, (which, just before death, becomes always exquisitely acute,) the perfect harmony of the voices of nature is so ravishing, as to make bim forget his suffering, and die gently, like one in a pleasant trance. And so, when the last moment approaches, they take him from close the shieling, and bear him out into the open sky, that he may hear the familiar rushing of the streams. I can believe that it is not superstition. I do not think we know how exquisitely nature's many voices are attuned to harmony, and to each other. The old philosopher we read of might not have been dreaming when he discovered that the order of the sky was like a scroll of written music, and that two stars (which are said to have appeared centuries after his death in the very places he mentioned,) were wanting to complete the harmony. We know how wonderful are the phenomena of color ; how strangely like consummate art the strongest dyes are blended in the plumage of birds, and in the cups of flowers; so that, to the practised eye of the painter, the harmony is inimitably perfect. It is natural to suppose every part of the universe equally perfect, and it is a glorious and elevating thought, that the stars of heaven are moving on continually to music, and that the sounds we daily listen to are but a part of a melody that reaches to the very centre of God's illimitable spheres.
(Pardon me a digression here, reader. Aside from the intention of the custom just alluded to, there is something delightful in the thought of thus dying in the open air. I had always less horror of death than of its ordinary gloomy circumstance. There is somethilig unnatural in the painful and extravagant sympathy with which the dying are surrounded. It is not such a gloomy thing to die. The world has pleasant places, and I would hear in my last hour, the voices, and the birds, and the chance music I may bave loved ; but
better music, and voices of more ravishing sweetness, and far pleasanter places, are found in heaven, and I cannot feel that it is well
, or natural, to oppress the dying with the distressing wretchedness of common sorrow. I would be let go cheerfully from the world. I would have my friends comfort me and smile pleasantly on me, and feel willing that I should be released from sorrow and perplexity and disease, and go up, now that my race was finished, joyfully to my reward. And if it be allotted me, as I pray it will, to die in the summer time, I would be borne out beneath the open sky, and have my pillow lifted that I might see the glory of the setting sun, and pass away, like him, with undiminished light to another world.)
It is not mere poetry to talk of the voices of summer.' It is the day time of the year, and its myriad influences are audibly at work. Even by night you may lay your ear to the ground, and hear that faintest of murmurs, the sound of growing things. I used to think when I was a child that it was fairy music. If you have been used to rising early, you have not forgotten how the stillness of the night seems increased by the timid note of the first bird. It is the only time when I would lay a finger on the lip of nature,—the deep hush is so very solemn. By and by, however, the birds are all up, and the peculiar holiness of the hour declines—but what a world of music does the sun shine on !—the deep lowing of the cattle blending in with the capricious warble of a thousand of God's happy creatures, and the stir of industry coming on the air like the undertones of a choir, and the voice of man, heard in the distance over all, like a singer among instruments, giving them meaning and language ! And then, if your ear is delicate, you have minded how all these sounds grew softer and sweeter as the exhalations of dew floated up, and the vibrations loosened in the thin air.
You should go out some morning in June, and listen to the notes of the birds. They express, far more than our own, the characters of their owners. From the scream of the vulture and the eagle to the low brooding of the dove, they are all modified by their habits of support, and their consequent dispositions. With the small birds the voice seems to be but an outpouring of gladness, and it is pleasant to see that without one articulate word it is so sweet a gift to them. It seems a necessary vent to their joy of existence, and I believe in my heart that a dumb bird would die of its imprisoned fulness.
Nature seems never so utterly still to me as in the depth of a summer afternoon. The heat has driven in the birds, and the leaves hang motionless in the trees, and no creature has the heart, in that faint sultriness, to utter a sound. The snake sleeps on the rock, and the frog lies breathing in the pool, and even the murmur that is heard at night is inaudible, for the herbage droops beneath the sun, and the