In a late lecture on the "Poets and Poetry of America," delivered before an audience made up chiefly of editors and their connexions, I took occasion to speak what I know to be the truth, and I endeavoured so to speak it that there should be no chance of misunderstanding what it was I intended to say. I told these gentlemen to their teeth that, with a very few noble exceptions, they had been engaged for many years in a system of indiscriminate laudation of American books--a system which, more than any other one thing in the world, had tended to the depression of that "American Literature" whose elevation it was designed to effect. I said this, and very much more of a similar tendency, with as thorough a directness as I could command. Could I, at the moment, have invented any terms more explicit, wherewith to express my contempt of our general editorial course of corruption and puffery, I should have employed them beyond the shadow of a doubt; --and should I chink of anything more expressive hereafter, I will endeavour either to find or to make an opportunity for its introduction to the public.
And what, for all this, had I to anticipate? In a very few cases, the open, and, in several, the silent approval of the more chivalrous portion of the press; -- but in a majority of instances, I should have been weak indeed to look for anything but abuse. To the Willises -- the O'Sullivans -- the Duyckincks -- to the choice and magnanimous few who spoke promptly in my praise, and who have since taken my hand with a more cordial and more impressive grasp than ever -- to these I return, of course, my acknowledgements, for that they have rendered me my due. To my villifiers I return also such thanks as they deserve, inasmuch as without what they have done me the honor to say, there would have been much of point wanting in the compliments of my friends. Had I, indeed, from the former, received any less equivocal tokens of disapprobation, I should at this moment have been looking about me to discover what sad blunder I had committed.
I am most sincere in what I say. I thank these, my opponents, for their good will,--manifested, of course, after their own fashion. No doubt they mean me well--if they could only be brought to believe it; and I shall expect more reasonable things from them hereafter. In the mean time, I await patiently the period when they shall have fairly made an end of what they have to say--when they shall have sufficiently exalted themselves in their own opinion -- and when, especially, they shall have brought me over to that precise view of the question which it is their endeavor to have me adopt.E. A. P.