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WHAT! another book upon America? What! with Lyell, Dickens, Basil Hall, Mrs. Trollope, Mackay, Lady Stuart Wortley, Marryat, and a host of others, staring you in the face, to have the effrontery to add to their excellences, or absurdities (as a jury of readers may determine), and not satisfied with writing, venture to publish what you have written! "Certainly, Sir," say we, in the concise and determined language of American response. A very few words upon our object in writing, and what we are going to write about, will suffice.
Every man with a pair of eyes in his head may see as far as his fellow; but he may take a different view of things coming within the scope of his observation. We are not bound to accept the ipse dixit of any one for a fact, when it is recollected that prejudice, ignorance, doubt, or intention, may have warped and misdirected his judgment. If we had implicitly believed onehalf of what we have read upon the subject, we should either never have visited America, or have speedily returned from it in disgust. If our aim were rather to criticize the commentary of others than to place a reliance on our own, we might possibly detect a series of misstatements, equally unjust in their fabrication, as dangerous in their tendency. There is nothing after all like judging for oneself, even if the conclusions you arrive at subjeet you from others to the same degree of severe condemnation you may have extended to them. We do not all see with the
*The more accepted mode of answering, nowadays, when an American means there should be no mistake, is, “ Yes, Sir-ee."
same eyes, or think with the same mind; and it is lucky for us that we do not.
We are not about to write any history (natural or unnatural); nor on any especial geography, topography, or any other 'ography; nor on psychology, biology or any other 'ology; nor on the stratum or substratum of an empire, and their component qualities. Our purpose is to hook you by the button-hole, and have a cozy chat with you over many things which you have not seen, and many more you ought to see; to "take a drink, stranger,' with you, and over it make you laugh at matters that made us laugh-in short, to have neither more nor less than a colloquy about the sayings and doings of a great land, in which none can take a more absorbing interest than the people of the great land from which we write. There are plenty of other writers, and far better, to tell you of the exact circumference of any city, or the circumvallation of any fort; of what peculiar brick this is built of, or the extraordinary granite that is composed of; of primeval caves and coeval forests, where untamed beasts and wild Indians once held savage companionship. We may make reference to wondrous places, where the wonder is peculiarly apparent; and we shall talk of great men, where we can extract any amusement out of their greatness; but we must eschew the duties of the dry historian, the rigid inquirer, and the poring student, not aspiring, as a mighty bard expresses himself,
"To have, when the original is dust,
A dd bad picture, and worse bust."
Should we be detected indulging in any particular style, we should prefer the accusation of being as easy in our writing as if we were conversing; and while bearing in mind the sound advice of Polonius, to be "familiar, but by no means vulgar," we shall aim at the accomplishment of the one, and endeavor to avoid any commission of the other, as far as in us lies.
We, therefore, meet, good stranger, on very fair terms. You know what you have to expect, because we have told you what we are going to give you; and if, having honestly read through
these pages, you can honestly say you do not regret having entered upon the undertaking, our ends will be mutually accomplished.
A work we published some years since, entitled "The Stage both Before and Behind the Curtain," obtained, we may say, without any nonsensical swagger, a more than ordinary success; an event which led to its being pirated in America, and published, as soon as possible after its publication in London. Having enjoyed the courtesy of being placed, as a free visitor, on the books of the New York Society Library immediately on our arrival, in the first page of its catalogue we opened, we found the said work duly registered, as printed by Messrs. Lea and Blanchard of Philadelphia, and sold for them by Mr. A. Hart,* of the same place, at the charge of a dollar, we believe-the price in this country having been £1 11s. 6d. This is putting your finger in another man's pie, to a pretty good purpose; for the said cheap edition had a rapid sale, is entirely out of print, nor could we procure a copy of it for love or money. It must be apparent to any one that such a state of things as this ought not to exist; and that, as international copy-right treaties have been concluded upon and exchanged between England and France, similar treaties should at once be established between the only two countries on earth whose mother tongue is the same. The product of some men's brains may not, to be sure, be worth much; but at all events, it must be worth something, when people are to be found who think it of sufficient importance to filch it, and realize a profit out of what they cannot honestly have any kind of interest in, and certainly no right to.†
* The author is in error respecting A. HART's name being on the title of the work, as at that time the firm was CAREY & HART, and neither their name nor his own appeared on the title-page, nor were they interested in its publication.-[AMERICAN PUBLISHER.]
+ The practice is universal—that is, where the work is considered one that will pay for the expense of pirating-and though it has been enforced in the case of many "a worthier son of Sparta" than ourselves, we only speak for ourselves. We were introduced to Messrs. Hall and Son, music
The attention of the American Government and the people generally has been directed to this subject; and it was hoped that a treaty, drawn up and executed between the representatives of the two countries, would have been sanctioned by the late Congress, previous to its dissolution; an expectation warmly indulged in by Mr. Crampton, the British Minister, and Mr. Everett, at that time the American Secretary of State-with both of whom we had the honor of conferring at Washington, after the treaty had been submitted to the Senate. In addition to public opinion at large, the matter has been gravely considered by all principal transatlantic publishers, gentlemen of high talent and high standing, and (just before the late transfer of any discussion hereon to the next session, in December) by a leading one, Mr. Putnam, of New York, who announced, at full length, through the columns of the press, his entire approval of the measure.*
The outcry that has been made about the supposititious ruin it would inflict upon the paper-mills, type-foundries, printingoffices, "binderies," &c., which so plentifully contribute to the manufacture of books there, as here, was a case of unadulterated fudge-a true specimen of that venerable proverb, "great cry and little wool;" for any dog in office, however obtuse the lining of his skull may be, can frame a clause whereby protection may be extended to every man, woman, and child engaged in such operations. The treaty, slightly modified perhaps, will very probably pass during the next session of Congress; but, as it too frequently happens that while the grass is growing the steed is starving, we have taken the liberty of procuring the animal some provender, for consumption during the interreg
sellers, in Broadway, and perceiving their counters strewn with American copies of almost every ballad we have been guilty of writing, we inquired, in a half-jocular tone, whose permission they had for doing all that. Upon which one of the firm replied, "Oh, we live in a country where it is not necessary to ask any one's permission but our own.” *See chap. xviii. page 232.