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THE LAW EXCHANGED FOR LETTERS

But thou, my country, thou shalt never fall,
Save with thy children-thy maternal care,
Thy lavish love, thy blessings showered on all-
These are thy fetters-seas and stormy air
Are the wide barrier of thy borders, where,
Among thy gallant sons who guard thee well,
Thou laugh'st at enemies: who shall then declare
The date of thy deep-founded strength, or tell
How happy, in thy lap, the sons of men shall dwell!

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But the law was not his chosen vocation. He became disgusted with the technicality and chicanery which often accompanied its practice. He saw himself

forced to drudge for the dregs of men,

And scrawl strange words with the barbarous pen,
And mingle among the jostling crowd,

Where the sons of strife are subtle and loud.

He longed for an opening into some form of literary activity. This was furnished him in the city of New York, where, after a year of work upon a purely literary and short-lived review, he became, first, associate editor, and then chief editor and owner, of "The Evening Post."

The change from country to city was a momentous one. Yet the New York of 1825 was not the New York of to-day. It numbered only 180,000 inhabitants, and the city extended no farther north than Fourth Street. Bryant found much of country scenery within easy reach, for he tells us that he delighted to ramble along the wooded shores of the Hudson above Canal Street. The city, indeed, was solidly built only so far as Canal. City life was not yet differentiated from the

"Green River."

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life of the country. Though the poet was a lawyer, with nine years' experience of litigation and of mingling with his kind, he was by nature a modest man, and he hated publicity. In Great Barrington he had held the positions of tithing-man, town clerk, and justice of the peace, with an aggregate compensation of five dollars a year for all the three. For obvious reasons he afterward declined public office. In the great city he gave himself strictly to his business as editor. For forty-six years he followed what he regarded as his peculiar calling. He did more than any other man to elevate the tone of American journalism. It greatly needed elevating, as Dickens and Trollope have shown us to our sorrow.

No one who has reached the age of seventy can remember without shame the personalities and vulgarities of the daily press of fifty years ago. Bryant dealt with principles rather than with persons. He was at first a Federalist, because he feared the Jeffersonian tendency to sectionalism and individualism. After a time he became an advocate of Free Trade, because he detested all restrictions upon commerce; indeed, he demonstrated his independence of judgment and the courage of his convictions by standing many years for Free Trade when in all the country he was its only advocate. The same general principle of liberty under law, that made him first a Federalist and then a Democrat, led him at last, when the slavery agitation began, to take sides with the Republican party, and with that party he continued to act through the remainder of his life. He was no doctrinaire, like Greeley, and he had not the sarcastic and bitter pen of Godkin, his

THE JOURNALIST AND CITIZEN

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successor; but he was an almost ideal editor, for sound judgment and ability to guide public opinion.

We owe him a great debt. If we abhor yellow journalism, it is because he set for us the true standard. He did not cater to popular taste, but aimed to form that taste. Not simply news, but leadership; not mere reflection of the good and evil of the day, but inculcation of right views in politics, art, and conductthese were his aims. He loved his work as editor, because it was so impersonal. He could teach men to weigh reasons, instead of being led by passion and prejudice. But he could not be hid. He became known as the first suggester of the present park system of New York, and his statue now very properly stands behind the new building of the Public Library, and facing the park which bears his name. He was the founder of the Century Club, and its president when he died. He was also the founder of the National Academy of Design. He was called upon for addresses in commemoration of Cole the painter, of Cooper the novelist, of Washington Irving, Samuel F. B. Morse, Shakespeare, Scott, Halleck, and last of all, Mazzini. Indeed, it was just after his address in honor of Mazzini that, on entering the house of a friend, "that good gray head that all men knew" fell backward and struck the stone pavement, so that fourteen days afterward Bryant expired.

It is calculated that his editorial writing, during the half-century of his connection with "The Evening Post," would fill a hundred octavo volumes of five hundred pages each. He wrote upon manifold subjects of politics, history, biography, travel, art; but always

18 PHYSICAL CONDITIONS OF BRYANT'S ENERGY

with pellucid clearness and straightforwardness, and with a view to immediate effect. He went seven times to Europe, and made one stay of two years abroad. He was a scholar in several languages, and made translations from Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, and French poems. He recited Dante in Italian, to match Zachos's recitation of Greek. He engaged in no financial speculations, and he never sold his editorial influence to any man or to any party. But he was all the more recognized as the leader of the American press, and his business sagacity and success were so great that at his death he left to his family a fortune of half a million dollars.

We cannot understand this untiring energy without some knowledge of its physical conditions. Bryant had one of those calm natures to which work seems easy and inevitable. There were no idle hours. Industry was bred in the bone. He tells us that his regular practice was to rise at five in summer, and at half past five in winter; to spend the first hour of the day in gymnastic exercise; then to bathe; to breakfast mainly on cereals; to avoid tea and coffee altogether; to walk three miles each morning to his office, and to reach that office by eight o'clock. The afternoon journal necessitated early hours in its editor. When his editorial work was over, he walked home again. But he took no office cares with him. He lived two lives. When the life of the editor closed with the day, the life of the poet began. His house at Roslyn on Long Island was a rural retreat, with forty acres of lawns and trees and shrubs and flowers about it. But within was a library of several thousand books, the sifted and

CHARACTER FOUNDED IN BELIEF IN GOD 19

garnered wisdom and product of the ages. Here he luxuriated, and received many a distinguished guest. And here he continued to write poetry, though the pruning-knife and the waste-basket made the final product small. Toward the close of his life it was only on great occasions that he spent a night in his city house. Public dinners always sought him, and he frequently attended them. He was not a vegetarian, though he ate little meat; he was not a total abstainer, but his taking of wine was very rare and very sparing. He never used tobacco, though he provided it for his friends. At the age of eighty, though "a million wrinkles carved his skin," his senses of sight and of hearing were as perfect as when he was a boy. He never wore spectacles, and he was never confined to his bed by illness. His only answer, as to the secret of this wonderful endurance, was the one word, “ Moderation."

But he was more than an editor, and more than a poet; he was a man. The foundation of his indomitable character was his belief in God. He was not given to voluble expression of his feelings; he thought, not altogether wisely, as I think, that a gentleman should never talk of his religion or of his love-affairs. We have few glimpses of his inner life, except those which are furnished by his poems. His actions, however, speak louder than words. In his family, every Sunday morning, there was the reading of a chapter of the Bible and of prayers. He was, from his youth to his age, an invariable attendant upon the Sunday services of the church. In New England he worshiped with the Congregationalists, on Long Island with Presby

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