Page images

are afraid of him; they are ignorant of the value of what he would utter, and they see no mark by which they can even guess what it will pass for in the market. His thoughts have not been through the mint of public opinion, and therefore must be debarred from general circulation. In this case he must have his own medium of communication, organs of his own through which he can speak, or else he must remain silent. Perhaps the world would lose nothing were he to remain silent; but silence, when one's thoughts are pressing hard for utterance, when they are even rending one's bosom, and resolving they will out and to the world, is a thing not entirely at one's command. There are times when I experience something like this, and when, do what I will, hold my peace I cannot. I must and will speak. What I say may be worth something, or it may be worth nothing, yet say it I will. But in order to be able to do this, I must have an organ of utterance at my own command, through which I may speak when and what I please. Hence, the Boston Review.

I ought in justice to the periodical press of the country to say, that it has always been at my service as far as I have sought to use it. With one or two insignificant exceptions, I have never asked the privilege of inserting an article, which has not been granted. The Christian Examiner, a periodical for freedom and freshness unsurpassed in the world, has always been open to me; and, for aught I have reason to think, still would be ; but that removes not the difficulty. There is a possibility of refusal. The editor's imprimatur must be obtained. The censorship may be indulgent, liberal, obliging, yet it is censorship, and that is enough. The oracle within will not utter his responses, when it depends on the good will of another whether they shall to the public ear or not. The evil of the thing does not consist in the refusal to publish what is written, but in hindering one from writing what he otherwise might. This is after all a small affair ; but who is there that is not disturbed by small affairs more than by great ?

[ocr errors]

I undertake this Review, then, for myself; not because I am certain that the public wants it, but because I want it. I want it for a medium through which I may say to those who may choose to listen to my voice, just what I wish to say, and through which I may say it in my own way and time. This is the specific object for which I undertake it. I cannot say whether what I shall utter will be for the public good or not. What is for the public good? Who knows? I do not. This or that may seem to me to-day for the public good, and to-morrow's eve proves me mistaken; and yet how know I that? That, which I shall to-morrow's eve account a public evil, may turn out to have been a public blessing. Man seeth not the end, and knoweth not the termination of events. He cannot say which is the blessing or which is the curse. All that is for him is, what his hand findeth to do, to do it, and the word which is pressing for utterance, to utter it, and leave results to God, to whom alone they belong. I am not wise enough to say dogmatically what is or what is not for the public good; but I know what I think, what comes to me as truth ; and as a watchman I would tell what I see, or seem to see, and let them of the city treat it as they will. Man is a seer and it is each man's duty to declare simply what he sees, without attempting to fix its precise value, and without allowing himself to be disturbed because others may not rate its value precisely as he does.

I would not, however, leave it to be inferred from this, that I am indifferent to the welfare of my fellowmen. Perhaps their interest is dear to me; and it may be that I would do them good; but I dare not say that this or that is for their good, and that they must do as I bid them. Once in my life I set up to be a Reformer, a bold Innovator, but not now. I would aid a reform, it is true, but I dare not say, that what I may propose, or what seems to me as desirable, ought to be adopted, and must be adopted, in order to obtain that greater good, after which Humanity

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

yearns and struggles. All I can do, all I have a right to do, is to throw my opinion into the common mass of opinion, and let it go for what it is worth. It may be worth something, as is every man's independent opinion, but it cannot be worth much. No man's opinion is worth much, except to himself. Men themselves, in the great movements of Humanity, count for less than they imagine. There is a Power above man, call it Fate, Necessity, or God, that carries all things along as they should and must go, without any deference to individuals, and without any aid from human volitions. What a man wills, says, and does, is of grave import, as concerns himseif, his own moral character, his acquital or condemnation before the august tribunal of conscience; but it alters not the fate of nations, and neither hastens nor retards the progress of Humanity. The Power above achieves his own work with or without human coöperation in his own way and time, and in my humble belief, makes all things at last turn out for the best. With belief

my mind rests easy as to the final result. With this belief I come forward merely to play my part, utter my word, do my duty, and then pass off, satisfied if I have executed my mission, whatever it may be, to the acceptance of my Master, I would say, my Father, that I need not be at all uneasy about the consequences.

It may easily be inferred from what I have said, that I have no very definite objects to accomplish. I establish no journal to carry this or that proposed measure, to give currency to this or that doctrine, to support this or that party, this or that class. I belong to no party under Heaven, to no sect on earth, and swear allegiance to no creed, to no dogma. I have no wish to build up one party or to pull down another, to aid one sect or to depress another, or to recommend this school in preference to that. I would discourse freely on what seem to me to be great topics, and state clearly and forcibly what I deem important truths ; - push inquiry into all subjects of general interest, awaken a love of investigation, and create a habit of looking into even the most delicate and exciting matters, without passion and without fear. This is all.

I own, however, that I am desirous of contributing something to the power of the great Movement Party of mankind, or rather of showing that I have the will, if not the ability, to aid onward the great Movement commenced by Jesus of Nazareth, and which acquires velocity and momentum in proportion as it passes through successive centuries, and which is manifesting itself now in a manner that makes the timid quake, and the brave leap for joy. With this Movement, whether it be effecting a reform in the Church, giving us a purer and more rational theology; in philosophy seeking something profounder and more inspiriting than the heartless Sensualism of the last century; or whether in society demanding the elevation of labor with the Loco foco, or the freedom of the slave with the Abolitionist, I own I sympathize, and I thank God that I am able to sympathize. I sympathize with the progress of Humanity wherever I see it; and it is my life and my delight to contemplate and try to aid it.

But I am growing too egotistical; what I have said will disclose the character of this Review as far as it needs to be disclosed in an introduction. I will only add, that it will probably be very heretical, and show a fellow feeling for heretics of every name and nature. All, who are afraid of heresy, who want the nerve to look even the most arch-heresy in the face, had better not patronize it, nor even undertake to read it. It is not designed for them, and will by no means do them any good. It is addressed only to those who love truth, and are willing to follow wherever her light may lead, to those only who are willing to “prove all things” and have the desire to “hold fast that which is good.” How many such there be I know not; perhaps I shall not find out; but I venture to say that they are three times more numerous than most people think, and their number is every day increasing.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

One word as to the name I have selected. I call it a Review, because that term is indefinite, and allows me to discourse on any thing I please. Moreover it has nothing in it offensive like the name “ New Views,” which I was sometime ago so foolish, not to say presumptuous, as to give to a little work I thought worth the publishing, though hardly any body seems to have thought it worth the reading.

I add the epithet Boston, both to designate the place whence it is published, and to pay a sort of compliment to this goodly city. Boston is, of all the cities in the Union, the one in which thought is freest and boldest, and in which progress finds its warmest and most enlightened friends. I may say this, for I am not a Bostonian. I know Boston is called an aristocratic city, and I know also that democracy is a word for which it has no slight aversion; but in point of fact, it has less aristocracy than any other of our cities, and is more truly democratic in its practice. One may indeed see now and then the representative of a by-gone generation, walking the streets with an antique air and dress, but he is, after all, one who makes us doubt whether we have advanced much on our fathers. True, there is here and there a purseproud parvenu, and a poor worshipper of Fashion, but even these it has been conjectured, and not without reason, have souls, and even hearts with proper applications be made to beat with something like sympathy with Humanity, and admiration of a generous sentiment or a heroic deed. Boston is, say what you will of it, the city of “notions,” and of new notions too; and in the progress of liberal ideas in this country, it ever has and ever will take the lead. Elsewhere there may be more bustle, more pretence, more profession of liberty, of reform, of progress, of democracy; but when it comes to the reality, Boston need not blush in the presence of any of her sisters. This being the case, it is proper that I should


which may

* Sartor Resartus,

« PreviousContinue »