Horace Greeley: Printer, Editor, Crusader

By Henry Luther Stoddard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVI
"To Write Nobly is Better Than to Rule"

YOU HAVE ONLY to read Greeley's lecture "Literature as a Vocation" to query whether a reputation as great as that which he won in journalism did not await him in the world of letters had he persisted in his earliest ambition. Certainly he had a deep love for literature. As a boy he had turned from farming and at twenty-three had no thought of a newspaper career when as his first venture he established the New Yorker. He slaved for it -- to make it "the magazine I have in my mind's eye" -- even after Thurlow Weed had tempted him into "the boiling sea of politics." On his sixtieth and last Christmas, Greeley confessed that his life had been too hurried to make many friends. That did not annoy him greatly, but, he said, "I most regret the lack of time for reading books." In politics he had alliances with prominent men but they were never counted as friendships; in literary circles, however, he had many prized associations and in such company he passed his only unharried moments.

Greeley's mastery of newspaper publication, his keenness for the detection of public opinion, his industry and his spirit are well-known features of his unique career; but few are equally aware of his intimacy with the masters of world literature -- an intimacy that meant countless hours of thoughtful reading. In his own day there were some observers who regarded the education of Horace Greeley by Horace Greeley as a marvel of achievement, for it resulted in a purity, conciseness and vigor of expression that few writers equaled. Yet he could see to read but dimly,

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