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SKETCH BY AN EDITOR.
THE POET AND HIS SISTER.
ONE of the most dramatic situations I was ever placed in was meeting accidentally a worthy fellow whose octavo I had just rather freely dissected. There was a half checked stage start from both parties on our being introduced, and such a deliberate tragedy dignity-such artificial courtesies-such awkward ease—such feverish indifference! But I am wrong—there was one crisis in my editorial existence, more striking and picturesque, and, indeed, from the same cause. I can always, if the worst must come, stand the glance of a man with some show of coolness and composure. If he is impertinent, of course embarrassment is at an end. If he is argumentative, I can reason and explain; if distant, I can be stately; if importunate, I can “rant” as well as he; and if he meets me with a frank and graceful cordiality, and a noble forgetfulness of the past, I have my own way of putting things to rights; but I am not so confident, by half, of navigating among the shoals and quicksands of female prejudices. They do not understand business—at least they do not comprehend the imperative force which business considerations exert upon the minds of men. They feel more than they reason, and have different standards of estimating objects and events. To them, home is the centre of the world, and domestic avocations are paramount to all other matters. They are deaf and blind to the positive necessity sometimes existing for sacrificing private and personal wishes to the public good. The happiness of a dear circle around an evening hearth, is infinitely more valuable in their eyes than the remote general interests of literature or science, or even of justice. The wife looks on the judge as a tyrant who refuses to petition for the pardon of her guilty condemned husband. The unhappy girl attached to Andre, thought Washington a monster for persisting in one of the most Roman acts that has graced
modern times. The same principle of female character descends into the minute circumstances of life; and in the incident which I have alluded to, I was unhappily the instrument of illustrating it. An anonymous correspondent sent a volume of poems, charmingly printed, with uncut leaves, and damp from the press. It was accompanied by a few lines on blue paper, and in a flowing neat female hand, that had never been roughened and deepened by the hacknied drudgeries of business. Then it was folded so carefully, and sealed with a wax sprinkled over with gold, and, in the prettiest sentence I ever read, solicited my favorable attention to the poetry. On examining the book I found it bad-common place-full of plagiarisms. The author was a gentleman, but the volume was shameful. I said soand yielding to a temptation sometimes too strong for my principles of duty, I heightened the censure with several attempts at satire, thus making myself merry at the author's expense. Several months after I met him with some lively friends. He was a generous and very sensible fellow, careless and good humored, and it would take a heavy critique, I soon discovered, to break a sleep of his; but there was a fair and queenly looking girl hanging on his arm (I spare you the description) and on the mention of my name (she was his sister) there came over her face, for a moment, a slight crimson, and a half veiled flash from her fine eyes, and an expression of indescribable scorn about her lips, that made me wish the remote interests of literature and all my lurking propensities for satire at the furthermost corner of the earth. That same hand which hung so familiarly on my friend's shoulder, had traced the lines on the blue paper,' which, rash man, I had so admired, and so rudely neglected. She was for sometime all smiles and gaiety, but half an hour after, while I was busily conversing with another, I accidentally beheld her seated in the shadow of a half open door, her look expressive of the deepest seriousness, and her large eyes resting full on my face, with a displeasure not wholly unmingled with contempt. It came over me like a north easter on turning a corner suddenly. It was evident I had offended her; and although I possess a stoical indifference to worldly opinion, in the abstract, yet, I cannot deny it,
there is, when thus put to the test, something exceedingly disagreeable in the conviction that you are despiseddespised by any one, and more especially by a womanyoung, pure, accomplished, and beautiful. I inwardly foreswore criticism from that moment; but I suspect Jove laughs at editors' vows as well as at lovers'.
Careless readers would not believe the vexations I am thus put to, and how many things I am forced to consider beside the main thing. I shall open a communication with the kowing ones about town, by way of aiding me in these matters. It is getting to be a serious affair. I was nearly shot the other day, (thank the statute against duelling for my escape,) in consequence of having reviewed a book severely-the author of which was much troubled with the liver complaintI must, therefore, endeavor to find out whether the writers of books are afflicted with any serious disorder, or have sisters, before I hereafter presume to offer my opinion of their merits.
I HAVE exausted many artifices in endeavoring to procure for my family a cook, a nurse and a waiting man. My attempts were truly unlucky. The intelligence office poured in upon us one after another with the best of characters, but we could not endure them. One came with a certificate from a respectable family, in which her honesty, industry, and sobriety, were praised in the strongest terms; but happening one day to enter the room suddenly, I found Miss Sobriety at the sideboard, with the decanter of brandy and her lips in such a relative situation as let me into a very important secret respecting the young woman's disposition. I accordingly told her, in a mild way, that if she had desired any refreshment, she should have asked her mistress for it, by which means she would, doubtless, have procured it: as matters stood, I was sorry to be compelled to say we should not hereafter require her services. After beg
ging, apologizing, and explaining with vehemence, she burst into tears-declared she was the mother of two infants, whom her husband had cruelly abandoned, and hoped that the gentleman would not take the bread out of the mouth of a poor defenceless woman, but would at least give her a good character. Not choosing to inflict the lady upon any unwary stranger, and not particularly inclined to credit her recital, I positively refused; upon which, with the suddenness with which Milton mentions that the arch fiend, "squat like a toad," at the ear of our prime mother, resumed his original form at the touch of Ithuriel's spear-the poor, defenceless creature assumed the impudent demeanor of an Amazonian virago, and astounded me with such a mingled shower of oaths and threats, and revealed such a licentious recklessness of character, as made me rejoice that I had escaped without having my wife's throat cut, or my children poisoned. This custom among decent people of giving a good character to persons with whom they are dissatisfied, merely from a weak feeling of pity, or a selfish desire to be rid of them as quietly as possible, is pernicious. It is a kind of fraud, not the less censurable, because you do not know whom it will cheat. It is a lie, which must eventually be detected. It procures only a temporary benefit to the bearer-disgraces yourself—and casts a general odium upon all the classes of honest and hard laboring people whom Providence has placed in that station.
My waiting man, John, was of a different construction. He possessed all the requisites for an excellent servant, and was in reality a great favorite of my own. But he was cursed with an incurable propensity to officiousness, and a ludicrous habit of acting as if he were one of the company rather than a waiter. My friends have been thunderstruck, at a dinner party, after the recital of some amusing anecdote, and the first burst of laughter had subsided, to hear the peal of friend John at their elbow, his approving slap on his knee, followed by some frank opinion, as "that's the best one yet," or "that fellow must have been a queer chap," or "there's no mistaking him." I should have kept him, however; but an English lady, of an aristocratical disposition, and who seldom condescended to any thing like a republi
can familiarity with any body, having paid a long visit to my wife, John told her one day at dinner, that he “recommended the soup," as it was "very fine." She either did not, or rather, I presume, would not hear him ; upon which, he took hold of her little finger, with a gentle shake, and placing his face within a most sacrilegious proximity to the haughty dame's, pronounced the monosyllable soup," in an elevated interrogatory key. Have you ever seen a cat bristle up with bended neck against the wall, or under the sofa, with round, green, glaring eyes flashing out from the shadow at the approach of some great, good natured dog? Imagine, then, the air with which the venerable and respectable maiden lady turned round upon her foe. Poor John! he had to start; and in his place I hired an obsequious, cringing scoundrel, who moved about the house like a sloth, drank every thing that came in his way, and stole my money into the bargain.
With nurses we have been equally unfortunate. One was kind hearted, but she had such a vulgar speech, that I was unwilling she should associate with my children; another was fine spoken, but pert and saucy. Susan told them ghost stories; Sally pinched them when she was out of humor; and Peggy was a slattern, and too lazy to speak. I really once thought I was suited. Miss Arabella was apparently just what she should be neat, obedient, industrious, modest, sober, and honest. But nature had endowed her with a pretty face and genteel carriage, and she was inspired with ideas of gentility and fashion. I came home one Sunday afternoon, and met a lady on the steps elegantly dressed. At first I thought it was my wife; but then she was not accustomed to such a dashing apparel. As I approached, I touched my beaver respectfully, and was about to inquire if the honor of this visit was intended for Mrs. S., when the stranger exclaimed, "I'll go down through the kitchen way, if you please, sir, and let you in." In a little time I found Miss Arabella saw more company than I did; and I have been surprised when at tea to descry three or four fashionable looking gentlewomen, rustling, nodding, and glittering down stairs and along the entry, in single file, till I scarcely knew whether I was in my own house or not. When