by Will McKendree Carleton
The Editor sat in his sanctum, his countenance furrowed with care,
His mind at the bottom of business, his feet at the top of a chair,
His chair-arm an elbow supporting, his right hand upholding his head,
His eyes on his dusty old table, with different documents spread:
There were thirty long pages from Howler, with underlined capitals
And a short disquisition from Growler, requesting his newspaper stopped;
There were lyrics from Gusher, the poet, concerning sweet flow'rets and
And a stray gem from Plodder, the farmer, describing a couple of heifers;
There were billets from beautiful maidens, and bills from a grocer or two,
And his best leader hitched to a letter, which inquired if he wrote it,
There were raptures of praises from writers of the weakly mellifluous
And one of his rival's last papers, informing him he was a fool;
There were several long resolutions, with names telling whom they were by,
Canonizing some harmless old brother who had done nothing worse than to
There were traps on that table to catch him, and serpents to sting and to
There were gift enterprises to sell him, and bitters attempting to bite
There were long staring "ads" from the city, and money with never a one,
Which added, "Please give this insertion, and send in your bill when
There were letters from organizations--their meetings, their wants, and
Which said, "Can you print this announcement for the good of our glorious
There were tickets inviting his presence to festivals, parties, and shows,
Wrapped in notes with "Please give us a notice" demurely slipped in at the
In short, as his eye took the table, and ran o'er its ink-spattered trash,
There was nothing it did not encounter, excepting perhaps it was cash.
The Editor dreamily pondered on several ponderous things.
On different lines of action, and the pulling of different strings;
Upon some equivocal doings, and some unequivocal duns;
On how few of his numerous patrons were quietly prompt-paying ones;
On friends who subscribed "just to help him," and wordy encouragement
And had given him plenty of counsel, but never had paid him a cent;
On vinegar, kind-hearted people were feeding him every hour,
Who saw not the work they were doing, but wondered that "printers are
On several intelligent townsmen, whose kindness was so without stint
That they kept an eye out on his business, and told him just what he
On men who had rendered him favors, and never pushed forward their claims,
So long as the paper was crowded with "locals" containing their names;
On various other small matters, sufficient his temper to roil,
And finely contrived to be making the blood of an editor boil;
And so one may see that his feelings could hardly be said to be smooth,
And he needed some pleasant occurrence his ruffled emotions to soothe:
He had it; for lo! on the threshold, a slow and reliable tread,
And a farmer invaded the sanctum, and these are the words that he said:
"Good-mornin', sir, Mr. Printer; how is your body to-day?
I'm glad you're to home; for you fellers is al'ays a runnin' away.
Your paper last week wa'n't so spicy nor sharp as the one week before:
But I s'pose when the campaign is opened, you'll be whoopin' it up to
That feller that's printin' _The Smasher_ is goin' for you perty smart;
And our folks said this mornin' at breakfast, they thought he was gettin'
But I hushed 'em right up in a minute, and said a good word for you;
I told 'em I b'lieved you was tryin' to do just as well as you knew;
And I told 'em that some one was sayin', and whoever 'twas it is so,
That you can't expect much of no one man, nor blame him for what he don't
But, layin' aside _pleasure_ for business, I've brought you my little boy
And I thought I would see if you couldn't make an editor outen of him.
"My family stock is increasin', while other folks' seems to run short.
I've got a right smart of a family--it's one of the old-fashioned sort:
There's Ichabod, Isaac, and Israel, a-workin' away on the farm--
They do 'bout as much as one good boy, and make things go off like a
There's Moses and Aaron are sly ones, and slip like a couple of eels;
But they're tol'able steady in one thing--they al'ays git round to their
There's Peter is busy inventin' (though _what_ he invents I can't see),
And Joseph is studyin' medicine--and both of 'em boardin' with me.
There's Abram and Albert is married, each workin' my farm for myself,
And Sam smashed his nose at a shootin', and so he is laid on the shelf.
The rest of the boys are all growin', 'cept this little runt, which is
And I thought that perhaps I'd be makin' an editor outen o' him.
"He ain't no great shakes for to labor, though I've labored with him a
And give him some strappin' good arguments I know he couldn't help but
But he's built out of second-growth timber, and nothin' about him is big
Exceptin' his appetite only, and there he's as good as a pig.
I keep him a-carryin' luncheons, and fillin' and bringin' the jugs,
And take him among the pertatoes, and set him to pickin' the bugs;
And then there is things to be doin' a-helpin' the women indoors;
There's churnin' and washin' of dishes, and other descriptions of chores;
But he don't take to nothin' but victuals, and he'll never be much,
So I thought it would be a good notion to larn him the editor's trade.
His body's too small for a farmer, his judgment is rather too slim,
But I thought we perhaps could be makin' an editor outen o' him!
"It ain't much to get up a paper--it wouldn't take him long for to learn;
He could feed the machine, I'm thinkin', with a good strappin' fellow to
And things that was once hard in doin', is easy enough now to do;
Just keep your eye on your machinery, and crack your arrangements right
I used for to wonder at readin' and where it was got up, and how;
But 'tis most of it made by machinery--I can see it all plain enough now.
And poetry, too, is constructed by machines of different designs,
Each one with a gauge and a chopper to see to the length of the lines;
And I hear a New York clairvoyant is runnin' one sleeker than grease,
And _a-rentin'_ her heaven-born productions at a couple of dollars apiece;
An' since the whole trade has growed easy, 'twould be easy enough, I've
If you was agreed, to be makin' an editor outen of Jim!"
The Editor sat in his sanctum and looked the old man in the eye,
Then glanced at the grinning young hopeful, and mournfully made his reply:
"Is your son a small unbound edition of Moses and Solomon both?
Can he compass his spirit with meekness, and strangle a natural oath?
Can he leave all his wrongs to the future, and carry his heart in his
Can he do an hour's work in a minute, and live on a sixpence a week?
Can he courteously talk to an equal, and browbeat an impudent dunce?
Can he keep things in apple-pie order, and do half a dozen at once?
Can he press all the springs of knowledge, with quick and reliable touch,
And be sure that he knows how much _to_ know, and knows how to not
know too much?
Does he know how to spur up his virtue, and put a check-rein on his pride?
Can he carry a gentleman's manners within a rhinoceros' hide?
Can he know all, and do all, and be all, with cheerfulness, courage,
If so, we perhaps can be makin an editor 'outen of him.'"
The farmer stood curiously listening, while wonder his visage o'erspread;
And he said, "Jim, I guess we'll be goin'; he's probably out of his head."
But lo! on the rickety stair-case, another reliable tread,
And entered another old farmer, and these are the words that he said:
"Good-morning, sir, Mr. Editor, how is the folks to-day?
I owe you for next year's paper; I thought I'd come in and pay.
And Jones is agoin' to take it, and this is his money here;
I shut down on lendin' it to him, and coaxed him to try it a year.
And here is a few little items that happened last week in our town:
I thought they'd look good for the paper, and so I just jotted 'em down.
And here is a basket of cherries my wife picked expressly for you;
And a small bunch of flowers from Jennie--she thought she must send
You're doin' the politics bully, as all of our family agree;
Just keep your old goose-quill a-floppin', and give 'em a good one for me.
And now you are chuck full of business, and I won't be takin' your time;
I've things of my own I must 'tend to--good-day, sir, I b'lieve I will
The Editor sat in his sanctum and brought down his fist with a thump:
"God bless that old farmer," he muttered, "he's a regular Editor's trump."
And 'tis thus with our noble profession, and thus it will ever be, still;
There are some who appreciate its labors, and some who perhaps never will.
But in the great time that is coming, when loudly the trumpet shall sound,
And they who have labored and rested shall come from the quivering ground;
When they who have striven and suffered to teach and ennoble the race,
Shall march at the front of the column, each one in his God-given place,
As they pass through the gates of The City with proud and victorious
The editor, printer, and "devil," will travel not far from the head.
Last updated April 19, 2018