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A DISTINGUISHED CHARACTER.
N order to prevent conjectures which IN
of admirers no doubt re
my might not be entirely pleasant to member, - I soon perceived the unone or two persons whom I have in my stable character of my reputation. I mind, I prefer to state, at once and was at the mercy of the next man who frankly, that I, Dionysius Green, am should succeed in inventing a the author of this article. It requires slang, or a funnier way of spelling. some courage to make this avowal, I These things, in literature, are like am well aware ; and I am prepared to “ fancy drinks "
among the profane. experience a rapid diminution of my They tickle the palates of the multipresent rather extensive popularity. tude for a while, but they don't wear One result I certainly foresee, namely, like the plain old beverages. I saw a great falling-off in the number of ap- very plainly, that much more was to plications for autographs ("accompa- be gained, in the long run, by plantnied with a sentiment”), which I dailying myself — not with a sudden and receive ; possibly, also, fewer invita- startling jump, but by a graceful, tions to lecture before literary societies cautious pirouette -- upon a basis of next winter. Fortunately, my recent the Moral and the Didactic. I should marriage enables me to dispense with thus reach a class of slow, but very a large portion of my popularity, with tough stomachs, which would equire out great inconvenience; or, rather, I ample time to assimilate the food I inam relieved from the very laborious tended to offer. If this were somenecessity of maintaining it in the face what crude, that would be no obof so many aggressive rivalries. jection whatever : they always mistake
The day may arrive, therefore, when their mental gripings for the process I shall cease to be a Distinguished of digestion. Why, bless your souls ! Character. Since I have admitted this I have known Tupper's “ Proverbial much, I may as well confess that my Philosophy” to fill one of them to rereputation — enviable as it may be pletion, for the space of ten years ! considered by the public — is of that I owe this resolution to my natural kind which seems to be meant to run acuteness of perception, but my sucfor a certain length of time, at the ex- cess in carrying it into execution was piration whereof it must be wound up partly the result of luck. The field, again. I was fortunate enough to dis- now occupied by such a crowd, (I name cover this secret betimes, and I have no names,) was at that time nearly since then known several amiable and clear ; and I managed to shift my cosworthy persons to slip out of sight, tume before the public fairly knew from the lack of it. There was Mr. what I was about. I found, indeed,
for example, whose comic ar- that a combination of the two styles ticles shook the fat sides of the na- enabled me to retain much of my old tion for one summer, and whose pseu- audience while acquiring the new. It donyme was in everybody's mouth. was like singing a hymn of serious Alas ! what he took for perpetual mo- admonition to a lively, rattling tune. tion was but an eight-day clock, and One is diverted: there is a present I need not call your attention to the sense of fun, while a gentle feeling of present dead and leaden stillness of its the grave truths inculcated lingers in pendulum.
one's mind afterwards. The pious can Although my earliest notoriety was find no fault with the matter, nor the achieved in very much the same way, — profane with the manner. Instead of that is, by a series of comic sketches, approaching the moral consciousness
of one's readers with stern, lugubrious I gain in sound knowledge and indecountenance, and ponderous or lamen- pendent common-sense,) I should like table voice, you make your appearance to describe, for the contemplation of with a smile and a joke, punch the future ages, some of the penalties atreader playfully in the ribs, and say, as tached to popularity at present. it were,
“ Ha! ha! I've a good thing I was weak enough, I admit, to be to tell you !” Although I have many immensely delighted with the first imitators, some of whom have attained which I experienced, — not foreseeing an excellence in the art which may be whitherward they led. The timid, enconsidered classic, yet I may fairly thusiastic notes of girls of fifteen, with claim to have originated this branch of the words “ sweet » and “exquisite,” literature, and, while it retains its pres- duly underscored, the letters of asent unbounded popularity, my name piring boys, enclosing specimens of cannot wholly perish.
their composition, and the touching Nevertheless, greatness has its draw- pleas of individuals of both sexes, in backs. I appeal to all distinguished reduced circumstances, were so many authors, from Tupper to Weenie Wil- evidences of success, which I hugged lows, to confirm the truth of this asser- to my bosom. Reducing the matter to tion. I have sometimes, especially of statistics, I have since ascertained that late, doubted seriously whether it is a about one in ten of these letters is dicgood thing to be distinguished. Alas ! tated either by honest sympathy, the my dear young gentleman and lady, warm, uncritical recognition of youth whose albums would be so dismally in- (which I don't suppose any author complete without my autograph (“ac- would diminish, if he could), or the companied with a sentiment"), would craving for encouragement, under unthat you
could taste the bitter with the propitious circumstances of growth. sweet, — the honey and aloes of an But how was I, in the beginning, to American author's life! At first, it is guess at the motives of the writers ? exceedingly pleasant. You are like a They offered sugar-plums, which I newly-hatched chicken, or a pup at the swallowed without a suspicion of the end of his nine-days' blindness. You drastic ingredients so many of them are petted, and stroked, and called sweet contained. Good Mrs. Sigourney kept names, and fed with dainties, and carried a journal of her experiences in this in the arms of the gentlemen, and cud- line. I wish I had done the same. dled in the laps of the ladies. But The young lady correspondent, I when you get to be a big dog or a full- find, in most cases replies to your regrown game-cock, take care! If peo- ply, proposing a permanent correspondple would but fancy that you still wore The young gentleman, who deyour down or silken skin, they might sires, above all things, your "candid continue to be delighted with every opinion of the poems enclosed, — be gambol of your fancy. But they sus- sure and point out the faults, and how pect pin-feathers and bristles, whether they can be improved," - is highly inthe latter grow or not; and, after do- dignant when you take him at his word, ing their best to spoil you, they sud
and do so. You receive a letter of denly demand the utmost propriety of defence and explanation, showing that behavior. However, let me not antici- what you consider to be faults are not pate. I can still call myself, without such, Moreover, his friends have asthe charge of self-flattery, a Distin- sured him that the poem which you guished Character; at least I am told advise him to omit is one of his finest so, every day, each person who makes things! The distressed aspirant for the remark supposing that it is an en- literary fame, who only requests that tirely original and most acceptable com- you shall read and correct his or her pliment. While this distinction lasts, manuscript, procure a publisher, and (for I find that I lose it in proportion as prefix a commendatory notice, signed
with your name, to the work, writes “I thought you were aware that poets that he or she is at last undeceived in are bound to no rules!” regard to the character of authors. “I What could I do with such a man ? thank you, Mr. Green, for the lesson! What, indeed, but to return him the The remembrance of your former strug- manuscript with that combined gentlegles is happily effaced in your present ness and grace which I have endeavsuccess. It is hard for a heart throb- ored to cultivate in my demeanor, and bing with warmth to be chilled, and a to suggest, in the tenderest way, that guileless confidence in human brother- he should be content to write, and not hood to be crushed forever! I will publish? He got up, stiffened his backstrive to bury my disappointed hopes bone, placed his conventional hat hard in my own darkened bosom; and that upon his head, gave a look of mingled you may be saved from the experience mortification and wrath, and hurried which you have prepared for another, away without saying a word. That is the wish of, Sir, yours, —." man, I assure you, will be my secret
For a day or two I went about with a enemy to the day of his death. He is horrible feeling of dread and remorse. no doubt a literary authority in a small I opened the morning paper with circle of equal calibre. When my name trembling hands, and only breathed is mentioned, he will sneer down my freely when I found no item headed rising fame, and his sneer will control "Suicide" in the columns. A year the sale of half a dozen copies of my afterwards, chance threw me in the last volume. way of my broken-hearted victim. I This is a business view of the subdeclare to you I never saw a better ject, I grant; but then I have always specimen of gross animal health. She followed ature with an eye to busi- no, he (on second thoughts, I won't The position of a popular writer say which) was at an evening party, is much more independent than that of laughing boisterously, with a plate of a teacher or a clergyman, for which chicken-salad in one hand and a glass reason I prefer it. The same amount of champagne in the other.
of intellect, made available in a differOne of my first admirers was ent way, will produce material results gentleman of sixty, who called upon just as satisfactory. Compensation, me with a large roll of manuscript. however, is the law of the world ; He had retired from business two hence I must pay for my indepenyears before, so he informed me, and, dence; and this adventure with the old having always been a great lover of gentleman is one of the many forms poetry, he determined to fill up the in which the payment is made. tedium of his life of ease by writing When the applications for autosome for himself. Now everybody graphs first began to pour in upon knows that I am not a poet, — the few me, I gladly took a sheet of Delarue's patriotic verses which I wrote during creamiest note-paper and wrote therethe war having simply been the result on an oracular sentence from one of of excitement, — and why should he my most popular papers. After a while apply to me? O, there was a great my replies degenerated to “Sincerely, deal of poetry in my prose, he said. Your Friend, Dionysius Green,” and My didactic paper called “Wait for finally, (daily blessings come at last to the Wagon!” showed such a knowl- be disregarded,) no application was faedge of metaphor ! I looked over the vored, which did not enclose a postageinnumerable leaves, here and there stamp. When some school-boy reventuring the remark that “rain" and quested an autograph, "accompanied "shame ” were not good rhymes, and with a sentiment,” and forwarded slips that my friend's blank verse had now of paper on behalf of “two other boys," and then lines of four and six feet. I sometimes lost my patience, and left “Poetic license, sir!” was the reply. the letters unanswered for a month at
a time. There was a man in Tennessee, (the city would be preferable, if you just before the war, who had a printed could keep your name out of the Dicircular, with a blank for the author's rectory,) the number of applicants in name ; and I know of one author who person is limited; and as for the replied to him with a printed note, and letters, we know that the post-office a printed address on the envelope, not department is very badly managed, and a word of manuscript about it!
a great many epistles never reach their Next in frequency are the applica- destination. Besides, it's astonishing tions for private literary contributions, how soon and how easily an author - such as epithalamia, obituaries, ad- acquires the reputation of being undresses for lovers, and the like. One approachable. If he don't pour out mourning father wished me to write an his heart, in unlimited torrents and article about the death of his little girl, cascades of feeling, to a curious stranaged four months, assuring me that ger, the latter goes away with the re“her intellect was the astonishment of port that the author, personally, is all who knew her." A young lady “icy, reserved, uncommunicative; in wished for something that would “over- the man, one sees nothing of his whelm with remorse the heart of a gen- works; it is difficult to believe that tleman who had broken off an engage that cold, forbidding brow conceived, ment without any cause." A young those rigid, unsmiling lips uttered, and gentleman, about to graduate, offered that dry, bloodless hand wrote, the ferfive dollars for an oration on “ The vid passion of” — such or such a book. Past and Probable Future History of When I read a description of myself, the Human Race,” long enough to oc- written in that style, I was furious ; cupy twenty minutes in speaking, and but I afterwards noticed that the num“to be made very fine and flowery.” ber of my visitors fell off very rapidly. (I had a mind to punish this youth by Most of us American authors, howcomplying with his request, to the very ever, now go to the people, instead of letter !) It is difficult to say what peo- waiting for them to come to us. And ple won't write about, when they write this is what I mean by coming to the to a Distinguished Character.
worst. Four or five years ago, I deterThere is a third class of correspond- mined to talk as well as write. Everyents, whose requests used to aston- body was doing it, and well paid ; nothish me profoundly, until I surmised ing seemed to be requisite except a that their object was to procure an little distinction, which I had already autograph in a roundabout way. One acquired by my comic and didactic wants to know who is the publisher of writings. There was Mr. E--- de
There wa your book; one, whether you can give claiming philosophy; Drs. B- and the post-office address of Gordon Cum- C- occupying secular pulpits ; Mr. ming or Thomas Carlyle ; one, which C— inculcating loftier politics; Mr. is the best Latin Grammar; one, T talking about all sorts of counwhether you know the author of that tries and people ; Mr. W- reading exquisite poem, “The Isle of Tears”; his essays in public; and a great many and one, perhaps, whether Fanny For- more, whom you all know. Why should rester was the grandmother of Fanny I not also “pursue the triumph and Fern. And when you consider that partake the gale”? I found that the what letters I get are not a tithe of lecture was in most cases an essay, what older and more widely known au- written in short, pointed sentences, and thors receive, you may form some idea pleasantly delivered. The audience of the immense number of persons en- must laugh occasionally, and yet regaged in this sort of correspondence. ceive an impression strong enough to
But I have not yet come to the last until next morning. The style worst. So long as you live at home, which, as I said before, I claim to have whether it's in the city or country, invented, was the very thing! I noticed, further, that there was a great deal in strength of my earlier writings) as one the title of the lecture. It must be of themselves, would slap me on the alliterative, antithetical, or, still better, back, call me familiarly “ Dionysius," paradoxical. There was profound skill and insist on my drinking with them. in Artemus Ward's “ Babes in the Others, again, occupied a middle or Wood.” Such titles as “ Doubts and doubtful ground; they did not consider Duties,” “ Mystery and Muffins," that my personal views were strictly “Here, There, and Nowhere," “ The defined, and wanted to be enlightened Elegance of Evil,” “ Sunshine and on this or that point of faith. They Shrapnel,” “The Coming Cloud,” “The gave me a deal of trouble. Singularly Averted Agony,” and “ Peeps at Pecca- enough, all these classes began their dillos,” will explain my meaning. The attacks with the same phrase, “O, we latter, in fact, was the actual title of my have a right to ask it of you : you ’re a first lecture, which I gave with such Distinguished Character, you know ! !" signal success, – eighty-five times in It is hardly necessary to say that I one winter.
am of rather a frail constitution : so The crowds that everywhere thronged many persons have seen me, that the to hear me gave me a new and deli- public is generally aware of the fact. cious experience of popularity. How A lecture of an hour and a quarter grand it was to be escorted by the quite exhausts my nervous energy. president of the society down the cen- Moreover, it gives me a vigorous tral aisle, amid the rustling sound of appetite, and my two overpowering turning heads, and audible whispers of desires, after speaking, are, first to “There he is ! there he is !” And al- eat, and then to sleep. But it freways, when the name of Dionysius quen happens that I am carried, perGreen was announced, the applause force, to the house of some good but which followed! Then the hush of ex- ascetic gentleman, who gives me a glass pectation, the faint smile and murmur of cold water, talks until midnight, and coming with my first unexpected flash then delivers me, more dead than alive, of humor (unexpectedness is one of my to my bed. I am so sensitive in regard strong points), the broad laugh break- to the relation of guest and host that I ing out just where I intended it, and can do naught but submit. Astræa, I finally the solemn peroration, which am told, always asks for what she showed that I possessed depth and ear- wants, and does what she feels inclined nestness as well as brilliancy! Well, to do, - indeed, why should n't she?I must say that the applauses and but I am cast in a more timid mould. the fees were honestly earned. I did There are some small country places my best, and the audiences must have which I visit where I have other sufferbeen satisfied, or the societies would ings to undergo. Being a Distinguished n't have invited me over and over Character, it would be a neglect and a again to the same place.
slight if I were left alone for two minIf my literary style was so admirably utes. And the people seem to think adapted to this new vocation, it was, on that the most delightful topic of converthe other hand, a source of great annoy- sation which they can select is – myance. Only a small class was suffi- self. How weary of myself I become! ciently enlightened to comprehend my I have wished, a thousand times, that true aim in inculcating moral lessons my popular work, “The Tin Trumpet,” under a partly humorous guise. All had never been written. I cannot the rest, unfortunately, took me to be blame the people, because there are either one thing or the other. While and —, who like nothing better some invited me to family prayer than to be talked about to their faces, meetings, as the most cheering and and to take the principal part in the welcome relief after the fatigue of conversation. Of course the people speaking, the rougher characters of think, in regard to lecturers, ex uno the place would claim me on the disce omnes.