Life in the Open Air: Introductory Note

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Life in the Open Air and other papers: Introductory Note  (1863) 
by George William Curtis

This is an introductory note to Life in the Open Air and other papers, an anthology of short works by Theodore Winthrop, published posthumously in 1863.

This is the last volume of Theodore Winthrop's works. The reader will be interested to know that, with a very few slight omissions, they are published precisely as he left them. Beside these, which he had himself prepared for the press, there remains manuscript enough for more than another volume, comprising poems, lectures, sketches, the beginning of another novel, and a completed earlier tale; but not in fit form for publication. A man who wrote so much and so well was not of course indifferent to the publication of his works, for the desire of an audience is part of the author's instinct; and that they are first printed after his death is not owing to any want of effort upon his part, but to circumstances which no author can control. He can but do his work. It is for others to receive or decline it.

At the close of a lecture upon the Fine Arts in America, which he wrote in 1856, Winthrop said: "This composite people may, in its wide realm, attain to the most varied splendor of success in all pursuits that can make its future rich, refined, noble, and happy. But let us not forget that our march must be sustained by a hearty devotion to the true principles of freedom. If we fail of public or private duty,—if we cleave to any national wrong,—this great experiment of mankind will fail, and our life corrupt away, through slow decaying, to dishonorable death."

In that faith Theodore Winthrop wrote and fought,—he lived and died.

G. W. C.
Staten Island, February, 1863.