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IN the summer of 1823, my friend ******* entered my study
with an air which indicated he had something to communicate.
“Frederic,” says he, “do you know I have been thinking
of a new plan lately?”
“A wise one, no doubt,” replied I; “but, prithee, what is it?”
“Why, to confess the truth, your friend P*******'s remarks
concerning our early history, have half tempted me to write a
New England novel.”
“A novel!” quoth I—“when Waverly is galloping over hill
and dale, faster and more successful than Alexander's conquering
sword? Even American ground is occupied. `The
Spy' is lurking in every closet,—the mind is every where supplied
with `Pioneers' on the land, and is soon likely to be
with `Pilots' on the deep.”
“I know that,” replied he; “Scott wanders over every land
with the same proud, elastic tread—free as the mountain
breeze, and majestic as the bird that bathes in the sunbeams.
He must always stand alone—a high and solitary shrine,
before which minds of humbler mould are compelled to
bow down and worship. I did not mean,” added he, smiling,
“that my wildest hopes, hardly my wildest wishes, had placed
me even within sight of the proud summit which has been
gained either by Sir Walter Scott, or Mr. Cooper. I am
aware that the subject which called forth your friend's animated
observations, owed its romantic coloring almost wholly to
his own rich imagination. Still, barren and uninteresting as
New England history is, I feel there is enough connected with
it, to rouse the dormant energies of my soul; and I would fain
deserve some other epitaph than that `he lived and died.' ”
I knew that my friend, under an awkward and unprepossessing
-- iv --
appearance, concealed more talents than the world
was aware of. I likewise knew that when he once started in
the race, “the de'il take the hindmost” was his favorite motto.
So I e'en resolved to favor the project, and to procure for him
as many old, historical pamphlets as possible.
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A few weeks after, my friend again entered my apartment,
and gave me a package, as he said, “Here are my MSS.,
and it rests entirely with you, whether or not to give them to
the public. You, and every one acquainted with our earliest
history, will perceive that I owe many a quaint expression,
and pithy sentence, to the old and forgotten manuscripts of
“The ardour with which I commenced this task, has almost
“Seriously, Frederic, what chance is there that I, who so
seldom peep out from `the loop-holes of retreat,' upon a gay
and busy world, can have written any thing which will meet
their approbation? Besides, the work is full of faults, which I
have talents enough to see, but not to correct. It has indeed
fallen far short of the standard which I had raised in my own
mind. You well know that state of feeling, when the soul
fixes her keen vision on distant brightness, but in vain
stretches her feeble and spell-bound wing, for a flight so lofty.
The world would smile,” continued he, “to hear me talk thus,
concerning a production, which will probably never rise to the
surface with other ephemeral trifles of the day;—but painful,
anxious timidity must unavoidably be felt by a young author
in his first attempt. However, I will talk no more about it.
`What is writ, is writ—would it were worthier.'
“If I succeed, the voice of praise will cheer me in my solitude.
If I fail, thank Heaven, there is no one, but yourself,
can insult me with their pity.”
Perhaps the public may think me swayed by undue partiality,—
but after I had read my friend's MS. I wrote upon the
outside, “Send it to the Printer.”
Child, Lydia Maria Francis, 1802-1880 , Hobomok (Cummings, Hilliard & Co., Boston) [word count] [eaf041].