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THE GALAXY, December 1870




To be the editor of any kind of a newspaper, either country or metropolitan (but very especially the former), is a position which must be trying to a good-natured man. Because it makes him an object of charity whether or no. It makes him the object of a peculiar and humiliating, because an interested, charity -- a charity thrust upon him with offensive assurance and a perfectly unconcealed taken-for granted that it will be received with gratitude, and the donor accounted a benefactor; and at the very same time the donor's chief motive, his vulgar self-interest, is left as frankly unconcealed. The country editor offers his advertising space to the public at the trifle of one dollar and a half or two dollars a square, first insertion, and one would suppose his "patrons" would be satisfied with that. But they are not. They puzzle their thin brains to find out some still cheaper way of getting their wares celebrated -- some way whereby they can advertise virtually for nothing. They soon hit upon that meanest and shabbiest of all contrivances for robbing a gentle-spirited scribbler, viz., the conferring upon him of a present and begging a "notice" of it -- thus pitifully endeavoring to not only invade his sacred editorial columns, but get ten dollars' worth of advertising for fifty cents' worth of merchandise, and on top of that leave the poor creature burdened with a crushing debt of gratitude! And so the corrupted editor, having once debauched his independence and received one of these contemptible presents, wavers a little while the remnant of his self-respect is consuming, and at last abandons himself to a career of shame, and prostitutes his columns to "notices" of every sort of present that a stingy neighbor chooses to inflict upon him. The confectioner insults him with forty cents' worth of ice-cream -- and he lavishes four "squares" of editorial compliments on him; the grocer insults him with a bunch of overgrown radishes and a dozen prize turnips -- and gets an editorial paragraph perfectly putrid with gratitude; the farmer insults him with three dollars' worth of peaches, or a beet like a man's leg, or a watermelon like a channel-buoy, or a cabbage in many respects like his own head, and expects a third of a column of exuberant imbecility -- and gets it. And these trivial charities are not respectfully and gracefully tendered, but are thrust in silently upon the victim, and with an air that plainly shows that the victim will be held to a strict accountability in the next issue of his paper.

I am not an editor of a newspaper, and shall always try to do right and be good, so that God will not make me one; but there are some persons who have got the impression, somehow, that I am that kind of character, and they treat me accordingly. They send me a new fangled wheel-barrow, and ask me to "notice" it; or a peculiar boot jack, and ask me to "notice" it; or a sample of coffee, and ask me to "notice" it; or an article of furniture worth eight or ten dollars, or a pair of crutches, or a truss, or an artificial- nose, or a few shillings' worth of rubbish of the vegetable species; and here lately, all in one day, I receive a barrel of apples, a thing to milk cows with, a basket of peaches, a box of grapes, a new sort of wooden leg, and a patent "composition" grave-stone. "Notices" requested. A barrel of apples, a cow-milker, a basket of peaches, and a box of grapes, all put together, are not worth the bore of writing a "notice," nor a tenth part of the room the "notice" would take up in the paper, and so they remained unnoticed. I had no immediate use for the wooden leg, and would not have accepted a charity grave-stone if I had been dead and actually suffering for it when it came -- so I sent those articles back.

I do not want any of these underhanded, obligation-inflicting presents. I prefer to cramp myself down to the use of such things as I can afford, and then pay for them; and then when a citizen needs the labor of my hands he can have it, and I will infallibly come on him for damages.

The ungraceful custom, so popular in the back settlements, of facetiously wailing about the barren pockets of editors, is the parent of this uncanny present-inflicting, and it is time that the guild that originated the custom and now suffer in pride and purse from it, reflected that decent and dignified poverty is thoroughly respectable; while the flaunting of either a real or pretended neediness in the public face, and the bartering of nauseating "puffs" for its legitimate fruit of charitable presents, are as thoroughly indelicate, unbecoming, and disreputable.

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