The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey CrayonWashington Irving / Fantasy
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THE SKETCH BOOK OF GEOFFREY CRAYON, GENT.
By Washington Irving
Preface The Author's Account of Himself The Voyage Roscoe The Wife Rip Van Winkle English Writers on America Rural Life in England The Broken Heart The Art of Book-making A Royal Poet The Country Church The Widow and her Son A Sunday in London The Boar's Head Tavern The Mutability of Literature Rural Funerals The Inn Kitchen The Spectre Bridegroom Westminster Abbey Christmas The Stage-Coach Christmas Eve Christmas Day The Christmas Dinner London Antiques Little Britain Statford-on-Avon Traits of Indian Character Philip of Pokanoket John Bull The Pride of the Village The Angler The Legend of Sleepy Hollow L'Envoy
THE SKETCH-BOOK OF GEOFFREY CRAYON, GENT.
I have no wife nor children, good or bad, to provide for. A merespectator of other men's fortunes and adventures, and how they playtheir parts; which, methinks, are diversely presented unto me, as from acommon theatre or scene.--BURTON.
PREFACE TO THE REVISED EDITION.
THE following papers, with two exceptions, were written in England, andformed but part of an intended series for which I had made notes andmemorandums. Before I could mature a plan, however, circumstancescompelled me to send them piecemeal to the United States, where theywere published from time to time in portions or numbers. It was not myintention to publish them in England, being conscious that much of theircontents could be interesting only to American readers, and, in truth,being deterred by the severity with which American productions had beentreated by the British press.
By the time the contents of the first volume had appeared in thisoccasional manner, they began to find their way across the Atlantic,and to be inserted, with many kind encomiums, in the London LiteraryGazette. It was said, also, that a London bookseller intended to publishthem in a collective form. I determined, therefore, to bring themforward myself, that they might at least have the benefit of mysuperintendence and revision. I accordingly took the printed numberswhich I had received from the United States, to Mr. John Murray, theeminent publisher, from whom I had already received friendly attentions,and left them with him for examination, informing him that should he beinclined to bring them before the public, I had materials enough onhand for a second volume. Several days having elapsed without anycommunication from Mr. Murray, I addressed a note to him, in which Iconstrued his silence into a tacit rejection of my work, and begged thatthe numbers I had left with him might be returned to me. The followingwas his reply:
MY DEAR SIR: I entreat you to believe that I feel truly obliged by yourkind intentions towards me, and that I entertain the most unfeignedrespect for your most tasteful talents. My house is completely filledwith workpeople at this time, and I have only an office to transactbusiness in; and yesterday I was wholly occupied, or I should have donemyself the pleasure of seeing you.
If it would not suit me to engage in the publication of your presentwork, it is only because I do not see that scope in the nature of itwhich would enable me to make those satisfactory accounts between us,without which I really feel no satisfaction in engaging--but I willdo all I can to promote their circulation, and shall be most ready toattend to any future plan of yours.
With much regard, I remain, dear sir, Your faithful servant, JOHN MURRAY.
This was disheartening, and might have deterred me from any furtherprosecution of the matter, had the question of republication in GreatBritain rested entirely with me; but I apprehended the appearance of aspurious edition. I now thought of Mr. Archibald Constable as publisher,having been treated by him with much hospitality during a visit toEdinburgh; but first I determined to submit my work to Sir-Walter (thenMr.) Scott, being encouraged to do so by the cordial reception I hadexperienced from him at Abbotsford a few years previously, and by thefavorable opinion he had expressed to others of my earlier writings. Iaccordingly sent him the printed numbers of the Sketch-Book in a parcelby coach, and at the same time wrote to him, hinting that since I hadhad the pleasure of partaking of his hospitality, a reverse had takenplace in my affairs which made the successful exercise of my penall-important to me; I begged him, therefore, to look over the literaryarticles I had forwarded to him, and, if he thought they would bearEuropean republication, to ascertain whether Mr. Constable would beinclined to be the publisher.
The parcel containing my work went by coach to Scott's address inEdinburgh; the letter went by mail to his residence in the country. Bythe very first post I received a reply, before he had seen my work.
I was down at Kelso, said he, when your letter reached Abbotsford. Iam now on my way to town, and will converse with Constable, and do allin my power to forward your views--I assure you nothing will give memore pleasure.
The hint, however, about a reverse of fortune had struck the quickapprehension of Scott, and, with that practical and efficient good-willwhich belonged to his nature, he had already devised a way of aiding me.A weekly periodical, he went on to inform me, was about to be set upin Edinburgh, supported by the most respectable talents, and amplyfurnished with all the necessary information. The appointment of theeditor, for which ample funds were provided, would be five hundredpounds sterling a year, with the reasonable prospect of furtheradvantages. This situation, being apparently at his disposal, he franklyoffered to me. The work, however, he intimated, was to have somewhat ofa political bearing, and he expressed an apprehension that the tone itwas desired to adopt might not suit me. Yet I risk the question, addedhe, because I know no man so well qualified for this important task,and perhaps because it will necessarily bring you to Edinburgh. If myproposal does not suit, you need only keep the matter secret and thereis no harm done. 'And for my love I pray you wrong me not.' If on thecontrary you think it could be made to suit you, let me know as soon aspossible, addressing Castle Street, Edinburgh.
In a postscript, written from Edinburgh, he adds, I am just come here,and have glanced over the Sketch-Book. It is positively beautiful, andincreases my desire to crimp you, if it be possible. Some difficultiesthere always are in managing such a matter, especially at the outset;but we will obviate them as much as we possibly can.
The following is from an imperfect draught of my reply, which underwentsome modifications in the copy sent:
I cannot express how much I am gratified by your letter. I had begun tofeel as if I had taken an unwarrantable liberty; but, somehow or other,there is a genial sunshine about you that warms every creeping thinginto heart and confidence. Your literary proposal both surprises andflatters me, as it evinces a much higher opinion of my talents than Ihave myself.
I then went on to explain that I found myself peculiarly unfitted forthe situation offered to me, not merely by my political opinions, but bythe very constitution and habits of my mind. My whole course of life,I observed, has been desultory, and I am unfitted for any periodicallyrecurring task, or any stipulated labor of body or mind. I have nocommand of my talents, such as they are, and have to watch the varyingsof my mind as I would those of a weathercock. Practice and trainingmay bring me more into rule; but at present I am as useless for regularservice as one of my own country Indians or a Don Cossack.
I must, therefore, keep on pretty much as I have begun; writing when Ican, not when I would. I shall occasionally shift my residence and writewhatever is suggested by objects before me, or whatever rises in myimagination; and hope to write better and more copiously by and by.
I am playing the egotist, but I know no better way of answering yourproposal than by showing what a very good-for-nothing kind of being Iam. Should Mr. Constable feel inclined to make a bargain for the wares Ihave on hand, he will encourage me to further enterprise; and it will besomething like trading with a gypsy for the fruits of his prowlings, whomay at one time have nothing but a wooden bowl to offer, and at anothertime a silver tankard.
In reply, Scott expressed regret, but not surprise, at my declining whatmight have proved a troublesome duty. He then recurred to the originalsubject of our correspondence; entered into a detail of the variousterms upon which arrangements were made between authors and booksellers,that I might take my choice; expressing the most encouraging confidenceof the success of my work, and of previous works which I had producedin America. I did no more, added he, than open the trenches withConstable; but I am sure if you will take the trouble to write to him,you will find him disposed to treat your overtures with every degree ofattention. Or, if you think it of consequence in the first place tosee me, I shall be in London in the course of a month, and whatever myexperience can command is most heartily at your command. But I can addlittle to what I have said above, except my earnest recommendation toConstable to enter into the negotiation.*
* I cannot avoid subjoining in a note a succeeding paragraph of Scott's letter, which, though it does not relate to the main subject of our correspondence, was too characteristic to be omitted. Some time previously I had sent Miss Sophia Scott small duodecimo American editions of her father's poems published in Edinburgh in quarto volumes; showing the nigromancy of the American press, by which a quart of wine is conjured into a pint bottle. Scott observes: In my hurry, I have not thanked you in Sophia's name for the kind attention which furnished her with the American volumes. I am not quite sure I can add my own, since you have made her acquainted with much more of papa's folly than she would ever otherwise have learned; for I had taken special care they should never see any of those things during their earlier years. I think I have told you that Walter is sweeping the firmament with a feather like a maypole and indenting the pavement with a sword like a scythe--in other words, he has become a whiskered hussar in the 18th Dragoons.
Before the receipt of this most obliging letter, however, I haddetermined to look to no leading bookseller for a launch, but to throwmy work before the public at my own risk, and let it sink or swimaccording to its merits. I wrote to that effect to Scott, and soonreceived a reply:
I observe with pleasure that you are going to come forth in Britain. Itis certainly not the very best way to publish on one's own accompt; forthe booksellers set their face against the circulation of such works asdo not pay an amazing toll to themselves. But they have lost the art ofaltogether damming up the road in such cases between the author and thepublic, which they were once able to do as effectually as Diabolus inJohn Bunyan's Holy War closed up the windows of my Lord Understanding'smansion. I am sure of one thing, that you have only to be known to theBritish public to be admired by them, and I would not say so unless Ireally was of that opinion.
If you ever see a witty but rather local publication called Blackwood'sEdinburgh Magazine, you will find some notice of your works in the lastnumber: the author is a friend of mine, to whom I have introduced youin your literary capacity. His name is Lockhart, a young man of veryconsiderable talent, and who will soon be intimately connected withmy family. My faithful friend Knickerbocker is to be next examined andillustrated. Constable was extremely willing to enter into considerationof a treaty for your works, but I foresee will be still more so when
Your name is up, and may go From Toledo to Madrid.
----And that will soon be the case. I trust to be in London about themiddle of the month, and promise myself great pleasure in once againshaking you by the hand.
The first volume of the Sketch-Book was put to press in London, as I hadresolved, at my own risk, by a bookseller unknown to fame, and withoutany of the usual arts by which a work is trumpeted into notice.Still some attention had been called to it by the extracts which hadpreviously appeared in the Literary Gazette, and by the kind wordspoken by the editor of that periodical, and it was getting into faircirculation, when my worthy bookseller failed before the first month wasover, and the sale was interrupted.
At this juncture Scott arrived in London. I called to him for help, as Iwas sticking in the mire, and, more propitious than Hercules, he put hisown shoulder to the wheel. Through his favorable representations, Murraywas quickly induced to undertake the future publication of the workwhich he had previously declined. A further edition of the first volumewas struck off and the second volume was put to press, and from thattime Murray became my publisher, conducting himself in all his dealingswith that fair, open, and liberal spirit which had obtained for him thewell-merited appellation of the Prince of Booksellers.
Thus, under the kind and cordial auspices of Sir Walter Scott, I beganmy literary career in Europe; and I feel that I am but discharging, ina trifling degree, my debt of gratitude to the memory of thatgolden-hearted man in acknowledging my obligations to him. But who ofhis literary contemporaries ever applied to him for aid or counsel thatdid not experience the most prompt, generous, and effectual assistance?