by Edward Everett Hale
[I am tempted to include this little burlesque in this
simply in memory of the Boston Miscellany, the magazine in
was published, which won for itself a brilliant reputation in
short career. There was not a large staff of writers for the
Miscellany, but many of the names then unknown have since won
distinction. To quote them in the accidental order in which I
them in the table of contents, where they are arranged by the
alphabetical order of the several papers, the Miscellany
contributors were Edward Everett, George Lunt, Nathan Hale,
Nathaniel Hawthorne, N. P. Willis, W. W. Story, J. R. Lowell,
Emerson, Alexander H. Everett, Sarah P. Hale, W. A. Jones,
Cornelius Matthews, Mrs. Kirkland, J. W. Ingraham, H. T.
Evart A. Duyckinck, Francis A. Durivage, Mrs. J. Webb, Charles
Powell, Charles W. Storey, Lucretia P. Hale, Charles F.
William E. Channing, Charles Lanman, G. H. Hastings, and
B. Barrett, now Mrs. Browning, some of whose earliest poems
published in this magazine. These are all the contributors
names appear, excepting the writers of a few verses. They
nine tenths of the contents of the magazine. The two Everetts,
Lowell, William Story, and my brother, who was the editor,
principal contributors. And I am tempted to say that I think
all put some of their best work upon this magazine.
The misfortune of the Miscellany, I suppose, was that its
publishers had no capital. They had to resort to the claptraps
fashion-plates and other engravings, in the hope of forcing an
immediate sale upon persons who, caring for fashion-plates,
care for the literary character of the enterprise. It gave a
happy escape-pipe, however, for the high spirits of some of us
had just left college, and, through my brother's kindness, I
sometimes permitted to contribute to the journal. In memory of
those early days of authorship, I select The South American
Editor to publish here. For the benefit of the New York
I will state that the story is not true. And lest any should
complain that it advocates elopements, I beg to observe, in
seriousness of mature life, that the proposed elopement did
succeed, and that the parties who proposed it are represented
having no guardians or keepers but themselves. The article was
first published in 1842.]
It is now more than six years since I received the following letter
from an old classmate of mine, Harry Barry, who had been studying
divinity, and was then a settled minister. It was an answer to a
communication I had sent him the week before.
TOPSHAM, R. I., January 22, 1836.
To say the truth, my dear George, your letter startled me a
little. To think that I, scarcely six months settled in the
profession, should be admitted so far into the romance of it
unite forever two young runaways like yourself and Miss Julia
What's-her-name is at least curious. But, to give you your
have made a strong case of it, and as Miss (what is her
have not yours at hand) is not under any real guardianship, I
not see but I am perfectly justified in complying with your
odd request. You see I make a conscientious matter of it.
Write me word when it shall be, and I will be sure to be
Jane is of course in my counsels, and she will make your
wife feel as much at home as in her father's parlor. Trust us
I met her last week
But the rest of the letter has nothing to do with the story.
The elopement alluded to in it (if the little transaction deserves
so high-sounding a name) was, in every sense of the words, strictly
necessary. Julia Wentworth had resided for years with her grandfather,
a pragmatic old gentleman, to whom from pure affection she had long
yielded an obedience which he would have had no right to extort, and
which he was sometimes disposed to abuse. He had declared in the most
ingenuous manner that she should never marry with his consent any man
of less fortune than her own would be; and on his consent rested the
prospect of her inheriting his property.
Julia and I, however, care little for money now, we cared still less
then; and her own little property and my own little salary made us
esteem ourselves entirely independent of the old gentleman and his
His intention respecting the poor girl's marriage was thundered in
her ears at least once a week, so that we both knew that I had no need
to make court to him; indeed, I had never seen him, always having met
her in walking, or in the evening at party, spectacle, concert, or
lecture. He had lately been more domineering than usual, and I had but
little difficulty in persuading the dear girl to let me write to Harry
Barry, to make the arrangement to which he assented in the letter which
I have copied above. The reasoning which I pressed upon her is obvious.
We loved each other,the old gentleman could not help that; and as he
managed to make us very uncomfortable in Boston, in the existing state
of affairs, we naturally came to the conclusion that the sooner we
changed that state the better. Our excursion to Topsham would, we
supposed, prove a very disagreeable business to him; but we knew it
would result very agreeably for us, and so, though with a good deal of
maidenly compunction and granddaughterly compassion on Julia's part, we
I have said that I had no fortune to enable me to come near the old
gentleman's beau ideal of a grand-son-in-law. I was then living
on my salary as a South American editor. Does the reader know what that
is? The South American editor of a newspaper has the uncontrolled
charge of its South American news. Read any important commercial paper
for a month, and at the end of it tell me if you have any clear
conception of the condition of the various republics (!) of South
America. If you have, it is because that journal employs an individual
for the sole purpose of setting them in the clearest order before you,
and that individual is its South American editor. The general-news
editor of the paper will keep the run of all the details of all the
histories of all the rest of the world, but he hardly attempts this in
addition. If he does, he fails. It is therefore necessary, from the
most cogent reasons, that any American news office which has a strong
regard for the consistency or truth of its South American intelligence
shall employ some person competent to take the charge which I held in
the establishment of the Boston Daily Argus at the time of which I am
speaking. Before that enterprising paper was sold, I was its South
American man; this being my only employment, excepting that by a
special agreement, in consideration of an addition to my salary, I was
engaged to attend to the news from St. Domingo, Guatemala, and
Monday afternoon, just a fortnight after I received Harry Barry's
letter, in taking my afternoon walk round the Common, I happened to
meet Julia. I always walked in the same direction when I was alone.
Julia always preferred to go the other way; it was the only thing in
which we differed. When we were together I always went her way of
course, and liked it best.
I had told her, long before, all about Harry's letter, and the dear
girl in this walk, after a little blushing and sighing, and half
faltering and half hesitating and feeling uncertain, yielded to my last
and warmest persuasions, and agreed to go to Mrs. Pollexfen's ball that
evening, ready to leave it with me in my buggy sleigh, for a three
hours' ride to Topsham, where we both knew Harry would be waiting for
us. I do not know how she managed to get through tea that evening with
her lion of a grandfather, for she could not then cover her tearful
eyes with a veil as she did through the last half of our walk together.
I know that I got through my tea and such like ordinary affairs by
skipping them. I made all my arrangements, bade Gage and Streeter be
ready with the sleigh at my lodgings (fortunately only two doors from
Mrs. Pollexfen's) at half-past nine o'clock, and was the highest
spirited of men when, on returning to those lodgings myself at eight
o'clock, I found the following missives from the Argus office, which
had been accumulating through the afternoon.
4 o'clock, P. M.
DEAR SIR:The southern mail, just in, brings Buenos Ayres
six days later, by the Medora, at Baltimore.
In haste, J. C.
(Mr. C. was the gentleman who opened the newspapers, and arranged
the deaths and marriages; he always kindly sent for me when I was out
of the way.)
5 o'clock, P. M.
DEAR SIR:The U. S. ship Preble is in at Portsmouth; latest
from Valparaiso. The mail is not sorted.
Yours, J. D.
(Mr. D. arranged the ship news for the Argus.)
6 o'clock, P. M.
DEAR SIR:I boarded, this morning, off Cape Cod, the
from Carthagena, and have a week's later papers.
Truly yours, J. E.
(Mr. E. was the enterprising commodore of our news-boats.)
6¼ o'clock, P. M.
DEAR SIR:I have just opened accidentally the enclosed
from our correspondent at Panama. You will see that it bears a
Orleans post-mark. I hope it may prove exclusive.
Yours, J. F.
(Mr. F. was general editor of the Argus.)
6½ o'clock, P. M.
DEAR SIR:A seaman, who appears to be an intelligent man, has
arrived this morning at New Bedford, and says he has later
the rebellion in Ecuador than any published. The Rosina (his
vessel) brought no papers. I bade him call at your room at
o'clock, which he promised to do.
Truly yours, J. G.
(Mr. G. was clerk in the Argus counting-room.)
7½ o'clock, P. M.
DEAR SIR:The papers by the Ville de Lyon, from Havre, which
have just received, mention the reported escape of M. Bonpland
Paraguay, the presumed death of Dr. Francia, the probable
of the government, the possible establishment of a republic,
great deal more than I understand in the least.
These papers had not come to hand when I wrote you this
I have left them on your desk at the office.
In haste, J. F.
I was taken all aback by this mass of odd-looking little notes. I
had spent the afternoon in drilling Singleton, the kindest of friends,
as to what he should do in any probable contingency of news of the next
forty-eight hours, for I did not intend to be absent on a wedding tour
even longer than that time; but I felt that Singleton was entirely
unequal to such a storm of intelligence as this; and, as I hurried down
to the office, my chief sensation was that of gratitude that the cloud
had broken before I was out of the way; for I knew I could do a great
deal in an hour, and I had faith that I might slur over my digest as
quickly as possible, and be at Mrs. Pollexfen's within the time
I rushed into the office in that state of zeal in which a man may do
anything in almost no time. But first, I had to go into the
conversation-room, and get the oral news from my sailor; then Mr. H.,
from one of the little news-boats, came to me in high glee, with some
Venezuela Gazettes, which he had just extorted from a skipper, who,
with great plausibility, told him that he knew his vessel had brought
no news, for she never had before. (N.B. In this instance she was the
only vessel to sail, after a three months' blockade.) And then I had
handed to me by Mr. J., one of the commercial gentlemen, a private
letter from Rio Janeiro, which had been lent him. After these delays,
with full materials, I sprang to workread, read, read; wonder,
wonder, wonder; guess, guess, guess; scratch, scratch, scratch; and
scribble, scribble, scribble, make the only transcript I can give of
the operations which followed. At first, several of the other gentlemen
in the room sat around me; but soon Mr. C., having settled the deaths
and marriages, and the police and municipal reporters immediately after
him, screwed out their lamps and went home; then the editor himself,
then the legislative reporters, then the commercial editors, then the
ship-news conductor, and left me alone.
I envied them that they got through so much earlier than usual, but
scratched on, only interrupted by the compositors coming in for the
pages of my copy as I finished them; and finally, having made my last
translation from the last Boletin Extraordinario, sprang up,
shouting, Now for Mrs. P.'s, and looked at my watch. It was half past
one! I thought of course it had stopped,no; and my last manuscript
page was numbered twenty-eight! Had I been writing there five hours?
Reader, when you are an editor, with a continent's explosions to
describe, you will understand how one may be unconscious of the passage
I walked home, sad at heart. There was no light in all Mr.
Wentworth's house; there was none in any of Mrs. Pollexfen's
windows; and the last carriage of her last relation had left her
door. I stumbled up stairs in the dark, and threw myself on my bed.
What should I say, what could I say, to Julia? Thus pondering, I fell
If I were writing a novel, I should say that, at a late hour the
next day, I listlessly drew aside the azure curtains of my couch, and
languidly rang a silver bell which stood on my dressing-table, and
received from a page dressed in an Oriental costume the notes and
letters which had been left for me since morning, and the newspapers of
I am not writing a novel.
The next morning, about ten o'clock, I arose and went down to
breakfast. As I sat at the littered table which every one else had
left, dreading to attack my cold coffee and toast, I caught sight of
the morning papers, and received some little consolation from them.
There was the Argus with its three columns and a half of Important
from South America, while none of the other papers had a square of any
intelligibility excepting what they had copied from the Argus the day
before. I felt a grim smile creeping over my face as I observed this
signal triumph of our paper, and ventured to take a sip of the black
broth as I glanced down my own article to see if there were any glaring
misprints in it. Before I took the second sip, however, a loud peal at
the door-bell announced a stranger, and, immediately after, a note was
brought in for me which I knew was in Julia's handwriting.
DEAR GEORGE:Don't be angry; it was not my fault, really it
not. Grandfather came home just as I was leaving last night,
was so angry, and said I should not go to the party, and I had
sit with him all the evening. Do write to me or let me see
What a load that note took off my mind! And yet, what must the poor
girl have suffered! Could the old man suspect? Singleton was true to me
as steel, I knew. He could not have whispered,nor Barry; but that
Jane, Barry's wife. O woman! woman! what newsmongers they are! Here
were Julia and I, made miserable for life, perhaps, merely that Jane
Barry might have a good story to tell. What right had Barry to a wife?
Not four years out of college, and hardly settled in his parish. To
think that I had been fool enough to trust even him with the
particulars of my all-important secret! But here I was again
interrupted, coffee-cup still full, toast still untasted, by another
SIR:I wish to see you this morning. Will you call upon me,
appoint a time and place where I may meet you?
Yours, JEDEDIAH WENTWORTH.
Send word by the bearer.
Tell Mr. Wentworth I will call at his house at eleven o'clock.
The cat was certainly out; Mrs. Barry had told, or some one else
had, who I did not know and hardly cared. The scene was to come now,
and I was almost glad of it. Poor Julia! what a time she must have had
with the old bear!
At eleven o'clock I was ushered into Mr. Wentworth's sitting-room.
Julia was there, but before I had even spoken to her the old gentleman
came bustling across the room, with his Mr. Hackmatack, I suppose;
and then followed a formal introduction between me and her, which both
of us bore with the most praiseworthy fortitude and composure, neither
evincing, even by a glance, that we had ever seen or heard of each
other before. Here was another weight off my mind and Julia's. I had
wronged poor Mrs. Barry. The secret was not outwhat could he want? It
very soon appeared.
After a minute's discussion of the weather, the snow, and the
thermometer, the old gentleman drew up his chair to mine, with I
think, sir, you are connected with the Argus office?
Yes, sir; I am its South American editor.
Yes! roared the old man, in a sudden rage. Sir, I wish South
America was sunk in the depths of the sea!
I am sure I do, sir, replied I, glancing at Julia, who did not,
however, understand me. I had not fully passed out of my last night's
My sympathizing zeal soothed the old gentleman a little, and he said
more coolly, in an undertone: Well, sir, you are well informed, no
doubt; tell me, in strict secrecy, sir, between you and me, do youdo
you place full creditentire confidence in the intelligence in this
Excuse me, sir; what paper do you allude to? Ah! the Argus, I see.
Certainly, sir; I have not the least doubt that it is perfectly
No doubt, sir! Do you mean to insult me?Julia, I told you so; he
says there is no doubt it is true. Tell me again there is some mistake,
will you? The poor girl had been trying to soothe him with the
constant remark of uninformed people, that the newspapers are always in
the wrong. He turned from her, and rose from his chair in a positive
rage. She was half crying. I never saw her more distressed. What did
all this mean? Were one, two, or all of us crazy?
It soon appeared. After pacing the length of the room once or twice,
Wentworth came up to me again, and, attempting to appear cool, said
between his closed lips: Do you say you have no doubt that Rio Janeiro
is strictly blockaded?
Not the slightest in the world, said I, trying to seem
Not the slightest, sir? What are you so impudent and cool about it
for? Do you think you are talking of the opening of a rose-bud or the
death of a mosquito? Have you no sympathy with the sufferings of a
fellow-creature? Why, sir! and the old man's teeth chattered as he
spoke, I have five cargoes of flour on their way to Rio, and their
captains willDamn it, sir, I shall lose the whole venture.
The secret was out. The old fool had been sending flour to Rio,
knowing as little of the state of affairs there as a child.
And do you really mean, sir, continued the old man, that there is
an embargo in force in Monte Video?
Certainly, sir; but I'm very sorry for it.
Sorry for it! of course you are;and that all foreigners are sent
out of Buenos Ayres?
Undoubtedly, sir. I wish
Who does not wish so? Why, sir, my corresponding friends there are
half across the sea by this time. I wish Rosas was in and that the
Indians have risen near Maranham?
Undoubtedly! I tell you, sir, I have two vessels waiting for
cargoes of India-rubbers there, under a blunder-headed captain, who
will do nothing he has not been bidden to,obey his orders if he
breaks his owners. You smile, sir? Why, I should have made thirty
thousand dollars this winter, sir, by my India-rubbers, if we had not
had this devilish mild, open weather, you and Miss Julia there have
been praising so. But next winter must be a severe one, and with those
India-rubbers I should have madeBut now those Indians,pshaw! And a
revolution in Chili?
No trade there! And in Venezuela?
Yes, sir; yes, sir; yes, sir; yes, sir! Sir, I am ruined. Say 'Yes,
sir,' to that. I have thirteen vessels at this moment in the South
American trade, sir; say 'Yes, sir,' to that. Half of them will be
taken by the piratical scoundrels; say 'Yes, sir,' to that. Their
insurance will not cover them; say 'Yes, sir,' to that. The other half
will forfeit their cargoes, or sell them for next to nothing; say 'Yes,
sir,' to that. I tell you I am a ruined man, and I wish the South
America, and your daily Argus, and you
Here the old gentleman's old-school breeding got the better of his
rage, and he sank down in his arm-chair, and, bursting into tears,
said: Excuse me, sir,excuse me, sir,I am too warm.
We all sat for a few moments in silence, but then I took my share of
the conversation. I wish you could have seen the old man's face light
up little by little, as I showed him that to a person who understood
the politics and condition of the mercurial country with which he had
ignorantly attempted to trade, his condition was not near so bad as he
thought it; that though one port was blockaded, another was opened;
that though one revolution thwarted him, a few weeks would show another
which would favor him; that the goods which, as he saw, would be
worthless at the port to which he had sent them, would be valuable
elsewhere; that the vessels which would fail in securing the cargoes he
had ordered could secure others; that the very revolutions and wars
which troubled him would require in some instances large government
purchases, perhaps large contracts for freight, possibly even for
passage,his vessels might be used for transports; that the very
excitement of some districts might be made to turn to our advantage;
that, in short, there were a thousand chances open to him which skilful
agents could readily improve. I reminded him that a quick run in a
clipper schooner could carry directions to half these skippers of his,
to whom, with an infatuation which I could not and cannot conceive, he
had left no discretion, and who indeed were to be pardoned if they
could use none, seeing the tumult as they did with only half an eye. I
talked to him for half an hour, and went into details to show that my
plans were not impracticable. The old gentleman grew brighter and
brighter, and Julia, as I saw, whenever I stole a glance across the
room, felt happier and happier. The poor girl had had a hard time since
he had first heard this news whispered the evening before.
His difficulties were not over, however; for when I talked to him of
the necessity of sending out one or two skilful agents immediately to
take the personal superintendence of his complicated affairs, the old
man sighed, and said he had no skilful agents to send.
With his customary suspicion, he had no partners, and had never
intrusted his clerks with any general insight into his business.
Besides, he considered them all, like his captains, blunder-headed to
the last degree. I believe it was an idea of Julia's, communicated to
me in an eager, entreating glance, which induced me to propose myself
as one of these confidential agents, and to be responsible for the
other. I thought, as I spoke, of Singleton, to whom I knew I could
explain my plans in full, and whose mercantile experience would make
him a valuable coadjutor. The old gentleman accepted my offer eagerly.
I told him that twenty-four hours were all I wanted to prepare myself.
He immediately took measures for the charter of two little clipper
schooners which lay in port then; and before two days were past,
Singleton and I were on our voyage to South America. Imagine, if you
can, how these two days were spent. Then, as now, I could prepare for
any journey in twenty minutes, and of course I had no little time at my
disposal for last words with Mr. andMiss Wentworth. How I won on the
old gentleman's heart in those two days! How he praised me to Julia,
and then, in as natural affection, how he praised her to me! And how
Julia and I smiled through our tears, when, in the last good-bys, he
said he was too old to write or read any but business letters, and
charged me and her to keep up a close correspondence, which on one side
should tell all that I saw and did, and on the other hand remind me of
all at home.
I have neither time nor room to give the details of that South
American expedition. I have no right to. There were revolutions
accomplished in those days without any object in the world's eyes; and,
even in mine, only serving to sell certain cargoes of long cloths and
flour. The details of those outbreaks now told would make some
patriotic presidents tremble in their seats; and I have no right to
betray confidence at whatever rate I purchased it. Usually, indeed, my
feats and Singleton's were only obtaining the best information and
communicating the most speedy instructions to Mr. Wentworth's vessels,
which were made to move from port to port with a rapidity and intricacy
of movement which none besides us two understood in the least. It was
in that expedition that I travelled almost alone across the continent.
I was, I think, the first white man who ever passed through the
mountain path of Xamaulipas, now so famous in all the Chilian
picturesque annuals. I was carrying directions for some vessels which
had gone round the Cape; and what a time Burrows and Wheatland and I
had a week after, when we rode into the public square of Valparaiso
shouting, Muera la Constitucion,Viva Libertad! by our own
unassisted lungs actually raising a rebellion, and, which was of more
importance, a prohibition on foreign flour, while Bahamarra and his
army were within a hundred miles of us. How those vessels came up the
harbor, and how we unloaded them, knowing that at best our revolution
could only last five days! But as I said, I must be careful, or I shall
be telling other people's secrets.
The result of that expedition was that those thirteen vessels all
made good outward voyages, and all but one or two eventually made
profitable home voyages. When I returned home, the old gentleman
received me with open arms. I had rescued, as he said, a large share of
that fortune which he valued so highly. To say the truth, I felt and
feel that he had planned his voyages so blindly, that, without some
wiser head than his, they would never have resulted in anything. They
were his last, as they were almost his first, South American ventures.
He returned to his old course of more methodical trading for the few
remaining years of his life. They were, thank Heaven, the only taste of
mercantile business which I ever had. Living as I did, in the very
sunshine of Mr. Wentworth's favor, I went through the amusing farce of
paying my addresses to Julia in approved form, and in due time received
the old gentleman's cordial assent to our union, and his blessing upon
it. In six months after my return, we were married; the old man as
happy as a king. He would have preferred a little that the ceremony
should have been performed by Mr. B, his friend and pastor, but
readily assented to my wishes to call upon a dear and early friend of
Harry Barry came from Topsham and performed the ceremony, assisted
by Rev. Mr. B.
ARGUS COTTAGE, April 1, 1842.
 I do not know that this explanation is at all clear. Let me, as
the mathematicians say, give an instance which will illustrate the
importance of this profession. It is now a few months since I received
the following note from a distinguished member of the Cabinet:
WASHINGTON, January , 1842.
DEAR SIR:We are in a little trouble about a little thing.
are now in this city no less than three gentlemen bearing
credentials to government as Chargés from the Republic of
They are, of course, accredited from three several home
governments. The President signified, when the first arrived,
he would receive the Chargé from that government, on the 2d
proximo, but none of us know who the right Chargé is. The
newspapers tell nothing satisfactory about it. I suppose you
can you write me word before the 2d?
The gentlemen are: Dr. Estremadura, accredited from the
'Constitutional Government,'his credentials are dated the 2d
November; Don Paulo Vibeira, of the 'Friends of the People,'
November; M. Antonio de Vesga, 'Constitution of 1823,' October
27th. They attach great importance to our decision, each
scrip to sell. In haste, truly yours.
To this letter I returned the following reply:
SIR:Our latest dates from Oronoco are to the 13th ultimo.
'Constitution of '23' was then in full power. If, however, the
policy of our government be to recognize the gentlemen whose
principals shall be in office on the 2d proximo, it is a very
You may not be acquainted with the formulas for ascertaining
duration of any given modern revolution. I now use the
which I find almost exactly correct.
Multiply the age of the President by the number of statute
from the equator, divide by the number of pages in the given
Constitution; the result will be the length of the outbreak,
days. This formula includes, as you will see, an allowance for
heat of the climate, the zeal of the leader, and the verbosity
the theorists. The Constitution of 1823 was reproclaimed on
25th of October last. If you will give the above formula into
hands of any of your clerks, the calculation from it will show
that government will go out of power on the 1st of February,
minutes after 1, P. M. Your choice, on the 2d, must be
between Vibeira and Estremadura; here you will have no
Bobádil (Vibeira's principal) was on the 13th ultimo confined
sentence of death, at such a distance from the capital that he
cannot possibly escape and get into power before the 2d of
February. The 'Friends of the People,' in Oronoco, have always
moved slowly; they never got up an insurrection in less than
nineteen days' canvassing; that was in 1839. Generally they
even longer. Of course, Estremadura will be your man.
Believe me, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
The Cabinet had the good sense to act on my advice. My information
proved nearly correct, the only error being one of seven minutes in the
downfall of the 1823 Constitution. This arose from my making no
allowance for difference of longitude between Piaut, where their
government was established, and Opee, where it was crushed. The
difference of time between those places is six minutes and fifty-three
seconds, as the reader may see on a globe.
Estremadura was, of course, presented to the President, and sold his
 Newspaper men of 1868 will be amused to think that half past one
was late in 1836. At that time the Great Western Mail was due in
Boston at 6 P. M., and there was no later news except local, or an
occasional horse express.
 The reader will observe the Arcadian habits of 1836, when the
German was yet unknown.