Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

Thomas Hood

Now almost the last light has gone out of the galaxy that made the first thirty years of this age so bright. Wordsworth and Moore alone remain.1 And the dynasty that now reigns over the world of wit and poetry is poor and pale, indeed, in comparison. We are anxious to pour due libations to the departed; we need not economize our wine; it will not be so often needed now.

Hood has closed the most fatiguing career in the world, that of a professed wit;2 and we may say with deeper feeling than of others who shuffle off the load of care, may he rest in peace! The fatigues of a conqueror, a missionary preacher, even of an active philanthropist, like Howard, are nothing to those of a professed wit.3 Bad enough when he is only a man of society, by whom everyone expects to be enlivened and relieved, who can never talk gravely in a corner without those around observing that he must have heard some bad news to be so out of spirits—who can never make a simple remark while eating a peaceful dinner without the table being set in a roar of laughter, as when Sheridan, on such an occasion, opened his lips for the first time to say that “he liked currant jelly.”4 For these unhappy men there are no intervals of social repose, no long silences fed by the mere feeling of sympathy or gently entertained by observation, no warm quietude in the mild liveries of green or brown, for the world has made up its mind that motley is their only wear and teases them to jingle their bells forever.

But far worse is it when the professed wit is also by profession a writer, and finds himself obliged to coin for bread those jokes, which in the frolic exuberance of youth, he so easily coined for fun. We can conceive of no existence more cruel, so tormenting, and, at the same time, so dull. We hear that Hood was forever behind hand with his promises to publishers; no wonder! But

____________________
1
Thomas Moore (1779–1852), Irish poet.
2
Thomas Hood died on 3 May 1845.
3
John Howard (1726–90), English philanthropist and prison reformer.
4
Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816), English dramatist and statesman.

-161-

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