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The Committee upon a National Hymn placed some of the most meritorious” and otherwise noticeable » songs received by them in the hands of Messrs. Rudd & Carleton for publication under my editorial care. There were very few of these—not thirty, all told ; and those which were remarkable for lyric excellence were gradually so reduced in numbers by the withdrawal of manuscripts by their authors, that after a while the original project was abandoned.
Of all the motives which may have induced a withdrawal of consent to publication, or a withholding of it where it was reasonably expected, it is not necessary, or, indeed, proper, here to speak. Upon such a point every author has not only the right of deciding for bimself, but of doing so unquestioned. It is proper, however, to say that in some instances consent to publication was refused owing to the disposition shown by many competitors to make themselves disagreeable, and to say as many unpleasant things as their ingenuity could devise about the committee and its doings. As some, though
by no means all, of the best songs were written by authors of reputation, it was natural that a part of these, at least, should shrink from exposure to the threatened consequences. One of them remarked, “If I were at the beginning of my career, I should not mind such talk; but as it is plain that everything ill-natured that can be said is to be said, I had rather not put myself into such a pillory.” It is right also to add that this pitiful conduct was exhibited invariably by those competitors who had no claim whatever to special consideration. Certain of the hymns which would otherwise have been published were withdrawn by their authors in a very courteous and good-natured manner; but the people who talked and fumed, who wearied the members of the committee with calls and letters of remonstrance and inquiry, who waylaid them in the streets, who entered the office of the publishers big with bombast and terrible with threats—some, if their verses were published, some, if they were not-were invariably those whose manuscripts had fallen on the first reading dead into the waste basket, leaving not even a trace behind them in the memory to aid a guess at what their incensed authors were raving about.
But although the notion of publishing the projected volume was therefore given up, it was afterwards thought by some of those who had been interested in the undertaking that some discussion of the subject of national hymns, with an account of the origin and proceedings of the committee in question, illustrated by songs selected in part from those which had been left at the disposal of the committee would be acceptable to many persons; and therefore I have given a few days to the preparation of this little book. For it I only am
responsible. I have not the right, had I the desire, to claim the support of any of my colleagues for a single opinion set forth in it. In scope, it has falsified the Horatian warning as to the unexpected issue of the turning wheel. I undertook only a few pages of introductory remarks and narrative; but my work grew under my hand, and the result, though still a trifle, is something more, as well as something other, than that which I sat down to write. If many of my readers find in the little book only what they had already learned, I shall be pleased that I address so well-informed a circle; and let them be thankful that they know so much more than their neighbors. If any intelligent reader disapproves of what is here written, he will owe me something for having furnished him with a topic of elegant social discussion with some other more intelligent reader who approves.
The more animated and general the dispute, the better for the publishers, who have invested money in paper which might have made cartridges, and type which might have done service as bullets.
I have some friends in England, and more in America, who know the deep and abiding love and reverence I have for all that is good, and great, and honorable in English character, in English history and letters—and there is so much of it—and how I prize my English birthright. These may wonder at some passages in this little volume, until they reflect a moment upon
obvious fact, that those passages do not touch upon what I regard as lovely and venerable in the English character, or-as I am at once glad and sorry to say-as essentially English at all. So, too, I have friends among my Southern fellow-citizens who know