DOLORES. By Harro Harring.
We see in the Evening Mirror of Friday, 30th January, a short notice of Harro Harring, and of the work he has written since his arrival among us.—This book was announced, some time ago, as to be published next Spring, and not a few readers looked forward with the strongest interest to its appearance. We see the writer in the Mirror supposes it to be in the press.
But we were informed a few days since that the Publishers have refused to fulfil their contract with regard to the work on the ground that “it is not duly orthodox.”
This rumor struck us as of the most singular character. Can it be that there is a foundation for it?
Should we admit that this is a legitimate position for a publisher, that, to wit, of a censor of doctrines and opinions; in other words, a censor of the Press, silencing not words and sentences only, as is the case with the hireling official of a despotic monarch, but whole works in which other men have expressed such views of life and religion as to their consciences seem orthodox; still such a position would be inappropriate indeed to the eager venders of “The Wandering Jew.” Sue, whatever his pretensions to influence as a man of genius and a seeker for truth, certainly derives none from what is technically styled orthodoxy, by those classes which assume to themselves the right of limitation, and as of all his works “The Wandering Jew” is the one which is especially the exponent of what by the same classes are considered the most pernicious of heresies, it is impossible to suppose that the same Publishers would desire a proprietorship in that and decline it in any other work on the score of want of orthodoxy. That would be literally straining at a gnat to swallow a camel.
Were we in wicked Europe with its finesse and strategy we might suppose that the Publishers declined in this way their contract to create a sensation and would afterward publish the work under some other name, availing themselves of the notoriety thus attained to secure for the work an even larger sale than its own great and original merits would have commanded. But in our own simple republican state of society such stratagems are not to be supposed, and as it is impossible on the grounds we have stated that the reason assigned can be the true one, we can only infer that it covers some mystery not yet ripe for disclosure, and wish joy to the publishers who will now take charge of the book, of the éclat caused by this breach of contract and the law-suit which we understand is to follow, as nothing could be more favorable to securing the book a warm reception while curiosity is so strong a passion in this world of ours. All will run to read the book which was too heterodox to be permitted light and air in the free United States of North America.
What makes the conduct of the Publishers of a more striking singularity is the impossibility that they could have remained in ignorance that the writer of Dolores naturally belongs to the advanced guard in all liberal opinions and would be as unlikely to write an ‘orthodox’ book as a ‘sharp’ tradesman would to have dared the reproofs of the Hebrew prophets against a backsliding nation.—Not only is Harro Harring a distinguished man in Europe, and his history and scope so familiar to foreigners here, that a Publisher had only to ask any one of them to ascertain what the spirit of his work was likely to be; but the memoir of him published by Alexander Everett in the Democratic Review, Nos. of October, November and December, 1844, had acquainted all the cultivated class in this city with the same. The literary counselor of the Publishers must have been remiss indeed if he did not acquaint them that the merits of a book by Harro Harring were likely to consist in genius, nobility, the religion of the soul and the varied experience afforded by his life of heroic endeavor and romantic vicissitude, rather than conformity to any local standard of orthodoxy.
We deplore the mistake, whatever it was, which has given rise to this breach of promise, on account of the rude check it must present to the feelings of of one whom all here should have delighted to honor. Harro Harring, one of the men of Destiny, who, inflamed with an Idea, count not their life more precious than the Christian martyrs did when balanced with its service—a man who, in his desire to redeem mankind from suffering and slavery, has cast aside all the bright prospects which royal favor and his own great powers have repeatedly opened to him for the sake of truth, honor and humanity—whose life has been one struggle against tyranny, leaves at last the countries which no longer afford him any thing but prisons and proscriptions, comes to that land where Europeans dream or have dreamed that mental freedom not only exists but is held sacred as the one precious jewel by the State and the individual. He comes, a champion of the same cause, with the scars upon him of the many battles he has ventured for its sake. Of course he does not meet a welcome. Yes, my fellow citizens, you know and some among you will still have the heart to blush with me that it is so; you know that the noble sentiment which would once have given such a man a brotherly welcome, is stifled now, though, please Heaven, not extinct, beneath the accursed lust of gain. The lowest Irish bog-trotter who comes here without an idea beyond that of satisfying his physical wants is as welcome on these shores as the champion of freedom, or the poet who seeks a free atmosphere that he may grow to his proper stature, and make the land a paradise with the seed of his thought. Selfishness has clouded our eyes.
Harro Harring, then, like others of our more legitimate visitants, who come to us not laden with riches or the titles conferred by conformity to the institutions we have abjured, but rich in the gifts of the spirit which gave national independence to this nation, rich in the culture she so deeply needs in order to prize and use it,—Harro Harring found no welcome. He was not met by the flow of brotherly feeling and by the beam of intelligent eyes, saying: Hail to our friend, our brother in the spirit: Find with us a home and hearts which will bless the free expression of your generous thoughts as they have prized the principles that have caused the sorrows, the renunciations and the struggles of your life hitherto.
Not so was he received. Not only his principles, but his talents remained unhonored. Mr. Everett and a few friends endeavored to set them in the true light, but such was the insensibility that, in this country so indigent in knowledge, so dry and scorched for want of intellectual dews, a man eagerly cherished by the connoisseur King of Bavaria, who filled the place of Metastasio and Körner at Vienna, who elicited even from the Russian Sovereigns admiration of his powers, the author of forty volumes containing works on the most various and important subjects, a man intimately conversant with what we most want to know in the life of Europe, acquainted in theory and practice with the Arts and several languages and their literatures,—this man has been seriously advised to open a cigar shop in this city, this New-York, which thinks itself such a center of knowledge and life.
The effect of such a reception, the temporary effect upon the mind of the exiles who come hither to find their dreams of what Civil Freedom has as yet effected for this country so rudely marred, can be but one; it need not be specified in words. Let us hope that, having recovered from the first shock, the deeply observant man will see causes that excuse, powers at work that will yet reform, this state of things.
But Harro Harring, who had borne the loss of all—happy prospects, home, love, and a free career for his genius in his native land and tongue—who had seen his dearest friends strangled and starved to death in Austrian dungeons, his works suppressed by the censor—who had been denied even a momentary glimpse which home-sicknesses craved of native land and home, who had seen himself disappointed in the course of the patron who seemed so noble in his youth, and of the countries for which he ventured all, and never lost his courage, lost it not now. He no longer asked for love and welcome here. But with the indomitable spirit that has been helm and sail to a course weary and tempest-tossed as that of Ulysses, he planted himself here resolved to fashion a life of his own, and begin a career such as the times permitted. To illustrate the ideas and express the experience that had guided and filled his life hitherto in a series of literary works presented hopes and achievements for the future not unworthy of the past. To be sure his works must be written in his own tongue and translated into English, a process whose difficulties and disappointments might have discouraged a common man, but not one from the “invincible North,” whose youth its keen airs had tempered to the Berserker power of conquest over obstacles.
He has been here two years, fourteen months of which have been engaged in the composition of “Dolores.” Were it according to nature for publishers to feel for authors, those who had contracted with him might feel some pain and remorse that the work which had consumed so many days and nights and seemed the white stone that marked the opening of a new epoch, the career of a free and original mind in a free and new world, should, when finished and translated, be refused permission to see the light by those whose promises had fostered it to birth, and the author find the moment of truce from the pleasing painful labors of composition, give the signal to engage in difficulties of another kind.
We hope, however, that these annoyances will prove temporary. We have examined a part of this work, and find in it a loftiness of sentiment, an ideal greatness, combined with a richness, variety and force in talent and knowledge, that cannot fail to make its publication an era to a large circle of minds. It is a work calculated inevitably to stimulate thought and will rouse many from inertness and dreams of peace where there is no peace. Apart from all this, the scene is laid in South America, where the author has twice sojourned, and describes with great accuracy and vigor some of the scenes and events about which our people are most ignorant and most desirous to be informed. An interest will be aroused by the mysterious prohibition of the work which will call to it an extensive attention, and this is all that is needed. Our guest will yet find that there are scattered here and there in this land minds in whose sympathies he will find a home—minds who will welcome and profit by his thoughts, whether they agree with them or not, since they are the product of a living mind guided by a noble aim.
Previous to the publication of the book we may present some extracts, but at present have not room to give them at such length as to afford any adequate notion of the spirit of the whole. And at present we wish to say a few words farther on the subject in general of publishers and authors.
We have been acquainted with various individuels in both those hostile tribes, scarcely oftener in amity than the Zegris and Abencerrages of fair Grenada, the Authors and Publishers, and should through this, if in no other way, have been fully impressed with that grand truth so incessantly and wearisomely repeated in life’s primer, that there are two sides to every question.
We had, in the beginning, like others, an ideal publisher in our head, a Mæcenas of the noblest, most substantial kind, since he paid for the good he was enabled to do by his own labor and his own intelligence. A man of the world and of practical talent, he knew how to do for genius what it seldom knows how to do for itself—clothe its offspring and usher them into the world under favorable auspices. This was to him a profession, a business, something that he pursued for his own advantage and in use of his peculiar powers. But not for himself alone. A man of sufficient culture and fineness of instincts to appreciate what he could not create; the work was not a mere article of trade to him, nor the author the animal who brought the grist to his mill. He loved and honored genius, and it was his pride to be its friend; his pride that nature had fitted him to be prime minister to her royal order. Thus he felt as a Man. As a man of business he felt that generous way of transacting their mutual affairs was the best for him as well as the other party; that in proportion to hope and success might be the productive powers, and that costly plants required good treatment and favoring airs to ripen much fruit.
With such a man in the mind we listened with dismay to the disgust expressed by authors at the narrow, ignorant and mercenary conduct they found in publishers. With amazement we found that in most cases ninety-nine hundredths of the profit accruing from a work were esteemed the share of the persons who printed, bound and passed it over counters, and one of the producer. We heard with pain that publishers were seldom men who appreciated literature at all, too often mere tradesmen incapable even of that large sagacity that would induce them to foster high talents or give new minds a chance for their own sakes. They had no motive of action beyond a large temporary sale; they were as shy of works not prepared by celebrated names as if all persons had not been obliged to become celebrated gradually, and did not even know enough to choose well their literary counselors or forbear a hard bargain whenever they dealt with those whom fame did not yet enable to command them.
Sad, sad! we thought: must the poor author go forth with his aching head and face all this meanness and stupidity? Ah! Heaven lies too far off from mortal men.
But when we knew the publishers, they showed us yet another side. They sometimes found themselves ignorant and lamented it, but what was to be done? They had come into this trade, naturally, as a trade; they were not aware at first of the range of powers it demanded. They chose their literary advisers as well as they could, but many faults found in their conduct were due to the prejudices of the latter.
They showed the impediments which beset their trade, especially in this country, the great risks to which they were exposed, and the great losses they had to allow for. In fine, they made out a list of difficulties which writers in general are as little fitted to understand as those that attend the vocation of the writer.
In hope of an amiable understanding, it is proposed that a Congress or Convention shall take place some time in the next ten years [the day is not yet fixed] to which the tribe of authors and publishers shall mutually send Delegates, and by a full and candid discussion, settle their relations on a better, or, at least, better understood footing than at present.
Meanwhile there should be present to the minds of authors the truths stated by the Editor of The Tribune apropos to the case of Laman Blanchard. Let them not trust to the pen for pecuniary profit, but acquiring in some other way a frugal subsistence—pursue their noble calling for its own sake, independent of the world.
This, when it is possible—but it must be added that in a vast number of cases it will not be—a man does not plan out his life from the beginning and know whether or not he shall have something to write. If good for any thing, he finds himself called upon in the fullness of time to express his mind because it is full. This call of the Muse may come upon him in any position; it may snatch him from his customary business, and make him neglect and lose it. It may drive and burn him night and day till it be fulfilled. From such causes and many others, the writer may absolutely need the pecuniary profit of a work to ransom the time and pay for the bread he has consumed while creating it. There are harsh fates upon the world of men.
To such authors we can only say, in this condition of the world, struggle on and rise upon your cross to Heaven.
For the consideration of publishers we would suggest:
Make in the first place as fair a bargain with the author as you can, which you will be likely to do, if you try to imagine yourself in his place.
Should a success unexpected to yourself put thousands of dollars in your pocket when you have given the author ten, feel some bond of honor toward him. Do not rejoice selfishly in your gains alone, but make him to some extent a sharer in them.—Even the pirate publishers of foreign lands have shown a gleam of loyalty toward authors and sent them a tithe of what they had made from their works. That is not too much, is it? a tithe to him to whom the gods gave the whole.
One word more as to this matter of censorship of the press.
You do not seem, in general, well qualified for such a position; though some of you may be, and at this moment honored names do rise in memory well qualified to judge and choose what is good.
But if you assume such a responsibility be consistent in it.
If it is a matter of pride to you to see your name on the cover of what you esteem a good book and shame to see it on a bad one, then you feel an intellectual partnership with the author, you do aspire to be the business Mæcenas we have delineated, you are the friend of the author and should, to be consistent, treat him nobly.
But, if you are conscious of acting the mere tradesman, of treating all the books you publish as mere articles of trade, and having no standard in fact about them except the pecuniary profit they are likely to bring, do not assume another character. Your name on the cover means nothing, in truth, but that you think it will sell freely, and you should not affect any other view of the work.
And having rode thus far on our high horse, we pause, and eyeing the publishing world with a farewell glance not unlike to that cast by Charles 1st on his executioner at Whitehall, pronounce like him the mystic injunction, REMEMBER.*
“Publishers and Authors,” New-York Daily Tribune, 3 February 1846, p. 1.