Henry Austin Dobson

(18 January 1840 – 2 September 1921 / Plymouth)

An Epistle To An Editor


'A new Review!' You make me tremble
(Though as to that, I can dissemble
Till I hear more). But is it 'new'?
And will it be a _real_ Review?--
I mean, a Court wherein the scales
Weigh equally both him that fails,
And him that hits the mark?--a place
Where the accus'd can plead his case,
If wrong'd? All this I need to know
Before I (arrogant!) say 'Go.'

'We, that are very old' (the phrase
Is STEELE'S, not mine!), in former days,
Have seen so many 'new Reviews'
Arise, arraign, absolve, abuse;--
Proclaim their mission to the top
(Where there's still room!), then slowly drop,

Shrink down, fade out, and _sans_ preferment,
Depart to their obscure interment;--
We should be pardon'd if we doubt
That a new venture _can_ hold out.

It _will_, you say. Then don't be 'new';
Be 'old.' The Old is still the True.
Nature (said GAUTIER) never tries
To alter her accustom'd dyes;
And all your novelties at best
Are ancient puppets, newly drest.
What you must do, is not to shrink
From speaking out the thing you think;
And blaming where 'tis right to blame,
Despite tradition and a Name.
Yet don't expand a trifling blot,
Or ban the book for what it's not
(That is the poor device of those
Who cavil where they can't oppose!);
Moreover (this is _very_ old!),
Be courteous--even when you scold!

Blame I put first, but not at heart.
You must give Praise the foremost part;--
Praise that to those who write is breath
Of Life, if just; if unjust, Death.
Praise then the things that men revere;
Praise what they love, not what they fear;
Praise too the young; praise those who try;
Praise those who fail, but by and by
May do good work. Those who succeed,
You'll praise perforce,--so there's no need
To speak of that. And as to each,
See you keep measure in your speech;--
See that your praise be so exprest
That the best man shall get the best;
Nor fail of the fit word you meant
Because your epithets are spent.
Remember that our language gives
No limitless superlatives;
And SHAKESPEARE, HOMER, _should_ have more
Than the last knocker at the door!

'We, that are very old!'--May this
Excuse the hint you find amiss.
My thoughts, I feel, are what to-day
Men call _vieux jeu_. Well!--'let them say.'
The Old, at least, we know: the New
(A changing Shape that all pursue!)
Has been,--may be, a fraud.
--But there!
Wind to your sail! _Vogue la galère!_

Submitted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Edited: Wednesday, January 18, 2012

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