The Southern Literary Messenger, 1834-1864/Ninth Volume

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


The year 1843 (volume nine) was a sad one for the Messenger. Though no intimation of it has been given, a dark and deepening shadow is gathering over it. Still, the January number commences with an "Extract from an Unpublished Poem" by E. B. Hale; and then "The Editor's Address," in which he speaks of "looking blithely ahead and forming new plans." He again lays stress upon the necessity of more punctuality in attending to the terms of subscription; but tenders many and hearty thanks. "Notwithstanding the tightness of the times, there is a noble band of those who have stood by us manfully and have proudly borne us along the walks of Literature."

Next, we have "The Navy and the West," being a review of the "Proceedings of the City of Memphis," on the subject of establishing there, by the United States, an Armory and Naval depot and dockyard. Maury's writings in the Messenger did procure such an establishment, but it was abandoned before the Confederate war. He also advocated one on the Atlantic coast of the Southern States. Our Federal Government has vacated the one it had at Port Royal, S.C., but is planting another at Charleston. The rest of this number contains the usual variety, but without any very long articles. Mrs. Mowatt, Paul Granaid, P. Spencer Whitman, J. K. Paulding and E. B. Hale contribute poetry. Maria G. Milward sends a tale in eight chapters; George Waterston, of Washington, D. C., one shorter, "The Wanderer." Mr. S. Teackle Wallis returns vigorously the fire of the Knickerbocker about Irving and Navarrete. Lord Bolingbroke's political character and writings and Miss Lomax's "Love Sketches" are continued.

There are two reviews, Northern and Southern, and neither favoring their circulation, of Mr. Dickens' "American Notes;" and notices of several other new publications, including the Southern Quarterly Review, and Harper's Library of Select Novels. The Messenger heartily seconded the efforts of the publishers to cheapen the cost to the public of good reading. How cheap it is nowadays!

The badge of mourning around the first page of the February Messenger indicates the decease of its remarkable founder. His obituary is from his loving and admiring friend, James E. Heath; who speaks of him as he felt and as his subject richly deserved. As far back as September, at the supper table of the Astor House, in New York, Mr. White was struck, whilst conversing familiarly with a friend, with paralysis. His friends hoped that he might be restored to health and usefulness; but their hopes were delusive. He held out, however, until the 19th of January, when, in the 55th year of his age, he was called to reap the eternal reward of a virtuous and well spent life. The celebrated Rev. Dr. Wm. S. Plumer, in his funeral discourse, paid him a very high tribute.

Its indomitable founder and strenuous maintainer was now taken, but the Messenger had to go on and it did. Messrs. Macfarlane and Fergusson were still in the office; literary friends were in Richmond and Maury in Washington, but becoming more involved in official duties and the demands which his growing reputation caused to be made upon him. Mr. White's son-in-law, Peter D. Bernard, was in Richmond, where he also had a printing office and was occasionally a publisher. He rendered the Messenger such assistance as he could. But there was no one to carry on that extensive and winning epistolization, by which Mr. White had accomplished so much.

Next to the mournful obituary are cases of mutiny at sea, to be continued; articles by officers of both Army and Navy; another " Description of Naples," and neither author seems to have obeyed the injunction, "See Naples and then die;" Consul Andrews continues his "Knights of Malta;" Prof. Minnigerode finishes his Greek Dramatists; Miss Lomax sketches Racine; and Robert L. Wade gives "The Fair Maid of Flanders," a short story.

Poetry is afforded by Payne Kenyon Kilbourn, Lewis J. Cist, a young business man of Cincinnati; Mrs. A. M. F. Annan; Pauline; and Anon, who sings "How to plant and cook potatoes." There is also some poetry by and about the Davidsons and a review, with extracts, of a satirical poem delivered by Park Benjamin, before the Mercantile Library Association of New York, on its 22nd anniversary. The number closes with notices of new books and a picture and announcement of St. Ann's Hall, for Female Education, at Flushing, L. I. Henceforward the name of Mr. White disappears.

The first thing for March is the prize poem. The appointed awarders were Thomas Ritchie, the veteran but vivacious editor of the Enquirer; Dr. Henry Myers, who had won the prize for the Theatre in Norfolk; Dr. Augustus L. Warner, formerly professor of Anatomy in the University of Virginia, and now one of the chief founders of the Richmond Medical College; Wm. B. Chittenden, an Eastern gentleman of recognized literary culture and the secretary of the James River and Kanawha Canal Co., and Jas. E. Heath. They assigned the first place to Miss Evelyn H. Taylor, of Virginia, for her poem, "To a New Pen," which is the leader. Then and afterwards seven of the unsuccessful contestants are given and E. B. Hale and Mrs. E. J. Eames seem to have been among their authors.

For nearly six months the Messenger, though so heavily bereaved, keeps up and on punctually and perseveringly. Many of its old contributors adhere to it and a goodly number of new ones seek its favor. Nasus (Miss Walker) tries poetry as well as prose. Mrs. Sigourney, Judge Meek, Wm. Oland Bourne, Lewis J. Cist, Henry B. Hirst and his sister, Park Benjamin and others still value the Messenger. Judge John Robertson furnishes his "Riego," except Act V. Mr. Heath procures the re-publication of the long poem, "Rhododaphne; or the Thessalian Spell," in the belief that its author was a Virginia poet, Richard Dabney. He had quite a ontroversy in regard to its authorship, which was at last settled against him by Mr. Dabney's sister, who stated that he had disclaimed the authorship.

Consul Andrews now engages in a "Historical Sketch of St. John of Jerusalem." Toga Civilis and an Official Military Seaman have a lengthy discussion about proper rules and regulations for the government of the Navy. Besides his editorial duties, Maury prepares one of his valuable papers, in which he recommends "Blank Charts on Board Public Cruisers." Miss Lomax has become Mrs. Worthington and removed to Ohio; but still writes; and there is a large quantity of excellent reading matter before August arrives. But there is one noticeable feature in several numbers, a great deal of quoted material. Too heavy drafts are made upon Allison's "History of Europe;" Brande's "Encyclopædia;" Murray's "Encyclopædia of Geography;" Johnston's "Farmer's Encyclopædia" and Borrow's "Bible in Spain." By so much borrowing, which was continued from Southey's "Life of Nelson," a heavy burden was laid upon the work, which probably injured it.

Some time before his attack in New York Mr. White had removed the Messenger to the Museum Building, on the southeast corner of the Capitol Square, where Franklin street runs up to it. There was an entrance to the Square on the north side of the Museum. Such it once had been and it was founded by the efforts of a Mr. Lawton, in 18—; but his collection had been scattered and destroyed and the building was rented out by the State, which owned it. It was a large structure of two good stories and a cellar. It was entered by a flight of steps soon after going out of Franklin and had, on each floor, two long and large rectangular rooms and several smaller—ones in front, without interfering with the two stairways in the vestibule. The first floor and one of the large upper rooms were occupied by the Richmond Whig, then edited by John Hampden Pleasants and Alexander H. Mosely. The Southern Literary Messenger had one of the large rooms, on the second floor, for printing, mailing and storing, and two smaller ones one for the fine hand lever press and the other for the editor and proprietor. The editorial room was a marvel of plainness and simplicity. There was no carpet, nor upholstering; only tables, wooden chairs, a small desk with pigeon-holes, in which were some letters from highly distinguished men and women, and a small iron safe, with a solid brass key almost as ponderous as that of the Bastille at Mt. Vernon. Yet Mr. White would have made room for Lord Bacon to have written Shakespeare's plays; or Henry B. Hirst to have composed "The Raven." This editorial room opened into both of the others. The press was worked by a man who could operate like a steam engine. But he would have his sprees and several times gave his employers a terrible scare. During his absence work had to proceed and so much type got locked up in forms and otherwise tied up in matter to be printed, that there was scarcely enough left for daily use. Then, "at the eleventh hour," the pressman would straighten himself and come to his neglected task. After carefully examining a few of his printed wetted sheets, he made his obedient machine roll and fly and bend with such speed and expertness as to relieve the alarm which he had created. Both kindness and expediency prevented his dismissal. The rest of the force were exemplary and punctual. Macfarlane was foreman, clerk and mailing man; the Fergusson brothers and he were compositors and the printed sheets were carried to the house of a Mr. Toler, who folded, stitched and covered them. A tall, strong, good-looking, faithful and polite colored hireling, Wyatt, was janitor and messenger.

Mr. White issued the first number of the Messenger in August, 1834: his connexion with it ended in August, 1843; nine years.