Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

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 disinterested: 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
Of ill-shap'd fishes; and about his shelves
A beggarly account of empty boxes;
Green earthen pots, bladders, and musty seeds,
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

[* Romeo and Juliet, V, I, 42-48.]

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 well-stampted 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 laurels 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 enlisted himself under the banners of the Infidel Palmer, who delivers lectures on Deism at New-York, and is securing for himself and followers considerable grants of land in hell.

My translation introduced me to the acquaintance of some distinguished characters in New-York, and among others that caressed me was the celebrated Colonel Burr, who was in the late election chosen for the office of Vice-President of the United States. The letters interspersed through this narrative will show my intimacy with Mr. Burr, whom I have seen in his social hour; and of whose political character I am perhaps enabled to give the prominent features. The slave of no party, and unbiassed by personal affections, my portrait shall be free as it is unprejudiced.

To a genius of singular perspicacity, Mr. Burr joins the most bland and conciliating manners. With a versatility of powers, of which, perhaps, America furnishes no other example, he is capable of yielding an undivided attention to a single object of pursuit. Hence we find him at the close of the Revolutionary War, in which he took a very honourable part, and in the fatigues of which he bore no common share, practising the law with unrivalled brilliancy and success. Indeed his distinguished abilities attracted so decided a leaning of the Judges in his favour, a deference for his opinions so strongly marked, as to excite in no small degree the jealousy of the bar. So strong was the impression made by the general respect for his opinions, that exclamations of despair were frequently heard to escape the lips of the Counsel whose fortune it was to be opposed by the eloquence of Mr. Burr. I am aware that this language wears

« AnteriorContinuar »