« AnteriorContinuar »
rence of circumstances had brought me into the company of Mr. Caritat, a bookseller, who, being made acquainted with my situation, addressed me with that warmth, which discovers a desire to be useful, rather than a wish to gratify curiosity.
He inquired into my projects. I told him that my scheme was to get into some family as a private tutor. A private Tutor! said he. Alas! the labour of Sisyphus in hell is not equal to that of a private Tutor in America! Why your project puts me in mind of young Mr. Primrose. And your exclamations, said I, remind me of his cousin in London. Just enough, rejoined Mr. Caritat, and let me examine you a little after the manner of his cousin.
Do you write a good hand, and understand all the intricacies of calculation ? No. Then you will not do for a private Tutor. It is not your Latin and Greek, but your hand-writing and cyphering, that will decide your character. Penmanship, and the figures of arithmetic, will recommend you more than logic and the figures of rhetoric. Can you passively submit to be called School-master by the children, and Cool Mossa by the negroes ? No. Then you will not do for a private Tutor. Can you comply with the humility of giving only one rap at the door that the family may distinguish it is the Private Tutor; and can you wait half an hour with good humour on the steps, till the footman or housemaid condescends to open the door ? No. Then
you will not do for a private Tutor. Can you maintain a profound silence in company to denote your inferiority ; and can you endure to be helped always the last at table, aye even after the clerk of the counting-house? No. Then you will not do for a private Tutor. Can you
hold your eyes with your hands, and cry Amen! when
grace is said ; and can you carry the childrens' bibles and prayer-books to church twice every Sunday ? No. Then you will not do for a private Tutor. Can you rise with the sun, and teach till breakfast ; swallow your breakfast, and teach till dinner ; devour your dinner, and teach till tea-time ; and from tea-time to bed-time sink into insignificance in the parlour ? No. Then you will not do for a private Tutor. Do you expect good wages? Yes. Then you will never do for a private Tutor. No, sir, the place of private Tutor is the last I would recommend you ; for as Pompey, when he entered a tyrant's dominions, quoted a verse from Euripides that signified his liberty was gone, so a man of letters, when he undertakes the tuition of a family in America, may exclaim he has lost his independence.—Though not a countryman of your's, continued Mr. Caritat, I am from the same division of the globe, for I was born and educated in France. I should be happy to serve you, but I have not the hypocrisy to pretend that my offers of service are disinter. ested : interest blends itself with all human actions, and you, sir, have it in your power to be
useful to me ; I know you are skilled in French, because I have conversed with you in that language ; of your own idiom you also discover an intimate acquaintance. Vous etes donc mon homme. I have just imported Buonaparte's campaign in Italy, from Bourdeaux, and the people are eager for a translation. Will you undertake the task ? Will you translate the work for two hundred dollars? This is not the land of literature; booksellers in this country are not the patrons of authors, and therefore the remunerations for literary labour are not munificent. But the notoriety of Buonaparte will sell the work; and the translation make your name known beyond the mountains of the Blue Ridge. In a word, if you will translate the volume, I will pay you two hundred dollars.
Less declamation would have made me 'undertake the translation. I could hardly conceal my transports; and hugging the volume to my breast I danced home to my lodgings.
I lodged with a young man, who called himself a Physician, in Ferry-street, a melancholy alley impervious to the sun. Doctor de Bow, however, in huge gilt letters, adorned the entrance of the house :
“ And in his needy shop a tortoise hung,
An alligator stuff'd, and other skins
Remnants of packthread, and old cakes of roses
Were thinly scattered to make up a shew.” Of the medical skill of the Doctor I cannot pretend to judge; but he had little or no practice in his profession, notwithstanding he dressed in black, maintained a profound gravity, and wore green spectacles on his nose.
While the Doctor was reading the Life of Don Quixote, I was to be seen toiling at my translation like Cruden at his Concordance. The original was an octavo of four hundred pages, and
every time I opened the volume it seemed to increase in bulk; but the golden dream of reputation fortified my diligence, and I corrected the proof-sheets with lively sensibility.
Emolument, and an avidity of reputation, are two powerful incentives to literary industry; and I prosecuted my translation with so much diligence, that on the fourth of June it was ushered into the literary world amidst the acclamations of the Democrats, and the revilings of the Federalists. This was to me extraordinary, for I had professed myself of neither party, but declared my intention never to meddle with the politics of a country, in which I had neither a fixed dwelling, nor an acre of land.
About this period, my friend the Doctor relinquished his house, and rented a little medicinal shop of a Major Howe, who was agreeably situated in Cherry-street. As the Major took boarders, I accompanied the Doctor to his house,
determined to eat, drink, and be merry over my two hundred dollars. With some of the wellstamped coin I purchased a few dozen of Madeira, and when the noontide heat had abated, I quaffed the delicious liquor with the Major and the Doctor under a tree in the garden.
Major Howe, after carrying arms through the revolutionary war, instead of reposing upon the baurels he had acquired, was compelled to open a boarding-house in New York, for the maintenance of his wife and children. He was a member of the Cincinnati, and not a little proud of his Eagle. But I thought the motto to his badge of Omnia reliquit servare Rempublicam, was not very appropriate ; for it is notorious that few Americans had much to leave when they accepted commissions in the army. Victor ad aratrum redit would have been better.
In principles, my military friend was avowedly a Deist, and by tracing the effect to the cause, I shall expose the pernicious tendency of a book which is read with avidity. The Major was once commanding officer of the fortress at West Point, and by accident borrowed of a subaltern the history of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He read the work systematically, and a diligent perusal of that part which relates to the progress of Religion, caused him to become a Sceptic, and reject all belief in revelation. Before this period the Major was a constant attendant on the Established Church, but he now