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قراءة كتاب The Continental Monthly , Vol. 2 No. 5, November 1862 Devoted to Literature and National Policy

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‏اللغة: English
The Continental Monthly , Vol. 2 No. 5,  November 1862
Devoted to Literature and National Policy

The Continental Monthly , Vol. 2 No. 5, November 1862 Devoted to Literature and National Policy

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 8

perfectly absurd and ridiculous thing, he ever heard in all his born days!'

Actually was a nice word. We suffered a loss when it died, and it deserves this obituary notice. It was a pretty word to speak and to write, and there was a crisp exactness about its very sound that gave it meaning. Requiescat in pace. But last and most to be lamented, comes literally. I could be pathetic about that word. So classic—so perfect—it crystallized the asseveration honored with its assistance. And so early dead! Cut off untimely in the green freshness of its days—and I have not even the Homeric satisfaction of burying it! It still wanders in the shades of purgatory, Vox et præterea nihil; being bandied about from mouth to mouth of the profane vulgar. And not even by them alone is disrespect offered it, for the grave and practical Mr. Layard says somewhere in the account of his uncoveries, 'They literally bathed my shoes with their tears!' Idem, sed quantum mutatus ab illo! I am almost tempted to the ambiguous wish that he might have slipped in literally to one of the many graves he robbed figuratively.

Now listen for a moment to Miss Giggley, who is telling of her temptation to laugh at some young unfortunate who thought he was making himself very agreeable. 'Really and truly, upon my word and honor, I positively thought I—should—die: as sure as I'm alive.' You pretty liar! You smiling murderess! You playful puss, gracefully toying with the victims your sweet mouth kills! Those expletives were like five strong men standing in a row, and you were like a bright, innocent-looking electric machine, with its transparent and clear-voiced cylinder, which is capable (give it only enough turnings) of making the men, at a shock, into five long, prostrate heaps of clay, lifeless, useless, and offensive, as are the expletives in question, by reason of a succession of just such shocking assaults as the untruth you this moment swore to.

Anonymous writers, as a class, might be called the Boythorns of Literature. All of them, from Junius down, have shown a great satisfaction in waving a tremendously sharp sword out from behind a fence. Sometimes the hand that has held the weapon was strong enough to have done good service wherever it might have been engaged, but always the wielding is a little more fearless than if the owner's face were visible, and usually it is the better for his cause that it was not. We all know what a very large cannon the monkey touched off, and how, if any one had been in the way, it might have hurt him very much. As when a traveller writes of a far country, he tries to make it seem worth all the trouble he took to go there, so a critic must find enough bad about a book to make his article on it important and interesting.

These exaggerators—these captatores (and occisores) verborum—have no idea of the adaptation of means to ends. They are not deficient in forces—they have a powerful army, but no generalship. Horse, foot, and artillery; it's all vanguard. Right, left, and centre—but all vanguard. At the first glimpse, pioneers and scouts, rank and file, sappers and miners, sutlers and supernumeraries, all come thundering down like a thousand of brick, and gleaming in the purple and gold of imagery, to rout, disperse, and confound their obstacle; even if it's only a corporal's guard of one private!

This specialité in newspapers has occasionally been ridiculed, though not very well. Dickens's Eatonsville Gazette and Independent are perhaps the best caricatures; and they are a very good embodiment of a particular class of partisan provincial papers; but they are utterly inadequate to characterize the exaggeration that runs riot through the whole tribe of periodicals—and amok through the serried ranks of Anglo-Saxon words. See the New York Rostrum; daily, weekly, and semi-weekly. It is rampant! It suspects an abuse, and it ramps against it. It seizes an idea, and it ramps toward its development. All who are not with it are against it, and all who are against it are either fools or knaves. The Rostrum never chronicles railroad accidents. Oh, no! It only tells its readers of dastardly and cowardly outrages, committed by blood-thirsty fiends in the shape of presidents and directors against virtuous and estimable passengers, whole hecatombs of whom are assassinated to gratify the hideous appetite for carnage of the officials aforesaid; every one of whom, from the president to the water-boys, ought to suffer the extremest penalty of the law. It doesn't say that they ought to be hung. No! capital punishment was the most benighted characteristic of barbarism. It is a horrid atrocity to bring it down to the present day. Nobody ought to be subjected to it but the slimy reptiles who advocate its continuance.

Not only does the Rostrum behave like a wild bull of Bashan when it is fairly under way, but it is a perfect rocket at starting. It makes haste to commit itself. It is continually entering into bonds to break the peace. Its principle is not unlike that of the Irishman in a row: 'Wherever you see a head, hit it.' It deals around little doses of shillelah, just by way of experiment; and if the unlucky head does not happen to be that of an enemy, make it one; so it's all right again. It carries whole baskets of chips on its shoulders, knock one off who will.

Forgive me, good Rostrum! I honestly believe thee to be the best paper in this world; and my morning breakfast and car ride would be as fasting and a pilgrimage, without thee! It takes all my philosophy and more than all my piety (besides the lying abed late, and the coffee, which we only have once a week) to dispense with thee on Sunday. No paper is so untrammelled as thou art, for thou hast no shackles but those thou thrustest thine own wrists into; and I prize thee more than a whole sheaf of thy compeers, who always try to decide safely by deciding last. Thou art prompt, brave, and straightforward. In nine cases out of ten, when there are two cages open, thou dashest impetuously into the right one. Verily, thou art a little more headstrong than strong-headed, and a little less long-headed than headlong; but I say, rather let me be occasionally wrong with thee than always mean with some of thy rivals. But why be intemperate in thine advocacy of the nigger question, so overbearing in thine efforts for freedom of speech, or why enslave thyself in the cause of liberty? I could imagine a paper without even thy faults—and for this, I know full well that if thou notice me at all, it will be as a besotted and dangerous old fogy.

To be sure, the Rostrum might be found guilty on other counts of the general crime of word-murder. It has done for the word height by spelling it hight, at the same time giving a supererogatory kick to the good old English participle (already deceased) of the latter orthography. And then, it is not always quite certain whether its events occurred or transpired! The misapplication of this last word is a shocking abuse of our defenceless mother tongue, and one I have not often seen publicly rebuked. It is not long since I saw the poor dissyllable in question evidently misapplied in the dedication of a book, and on Sunday, not long ago, I heard the pastor of one of the first churches in the city preach of the power directing the events which transpire in this world!

There are two ways of getting public duties attended to; one of which is to advertise for proposals,—a very expensive way; and the other is to get up a public meeting or association, when all men think it an honor to be elected officers for the sake of seeing their names in the papers. Now this last way is the best, in so many respects that it shall be adopted without hesitation for our purposes. Let there be a new Humane Society established,