Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Griswold-Headley Controversy...Day Five.

The Courier & Enquirer refused to publish the following unnecessarily lengthy reply to Headley's most recent attacks, so my good friend Horace Greeley agreed to print this in his New York Tribune for November 6th, 1847:

[Rufus W. Griswold having appealed to our personal friendship for an opportunity to reply to certain grave imputations on his conduct and veracity put forth by Mr. J. T. Headley in yesterday’s Courier & Enquirer, we most reluctantly make room for the article yesterday offered by him to the Courier and refused an insertion.  It is as follows.  Ed. Trib.]

NEW YORK.  Friday Morning, Nov. 5, 1847.
To the Editor of the Courier and Enquirer:
            I regretted very much that the publication in your journal of J. T. Headley’s recent attack made it necessary for me to appear as a party to a controversy in which neither myself nor the public has any interest; and I regret still more that—knowing all the circumstances—you should have admitted to the Courier & Enquirer of this morning the letter which compels me to this rejoinder.  The readers of these notes will not need to be informed that I have written and now write in the defensive only, and will believe my assertion that it is with extreme reluctance that I have anything to do in such a conflict or with such an antagonist.
            J. T. Headley charged me distinctly with making myself a party to his controversies, by writing of them in the Literary World, and with reviewing favorably in that journal a rival publication of which I was a principal author and in which I had an interest.  In the Courier & Enquirer of this morning he alleges that in a conversation with me I had admitted the truth of his statements.  But I have not seen him, or had the slightest communication with him, except on one occasion—the 24th of September—for more than a year; while the review in question appeared in the Literary World of the 23rd of October, and the same paper contained every syllable that has ever appeared in that journal respecting his publishing quarrels.  Of course, his first charge was utterly false.  In his last letter he makes a new issue, charging me with the authorship of an article on one of his publications, in the Literary World of the 10th of last July and with having stated in a conversation with him that for that article I was paid as a literary contribution.  All of this is of little consequence, and it has nothing to do with his first accusations.  But as I have before alleged that I never had written in the Literary World for a consideration, I deem it proper now to deny that I ever made a contrary statement.
            I might here terminate my reply to the assertion that I am a party to his quarrels; but, as Mr. Headley has chosen to refer to a private conversation with me, I must be permitted to state what really passed in that conversation, which I am able to do from having for years kept a personal diary.  Upon referring to this, I find that on the morning of the 24th of Sept. I encountered Mr. Headley in Broadway, where, after some conversation irrelevant to the present issue, he charged me with writing an article upon his second volume in the Literary World, and also with writing a book in opposition to his own, for Carey & Hart.  Deeming it absurd for Mr. Headley or any other person to dictate to authors what they should or should not write, I declined any acknowledgement or denial in the premises.  In the conversation which followed, however, I stated that Carey & Hart had applied to me, upon the conclusion of their correspondence with himself, to write the work they proposed to publish; that I had declined, on the ground that while I could not deny the justness of their action, I was unwilling to engage in a work which would lead to controversy, particularly as Mr. Headley was an acquaintance; that I had endeavored to induce them to adjust the matter with him in an amicable manner, which I believe they had attempted to do; that subsequently, on the request of Carey & Hart—who had for several years been my publishers, whom I held in much respect, and to whom I was under obligations for their uniform courtesy and liberality, --I consented to write two or three of the biographies in their collection.  In regard to his assertion respecting an article in the Literary World, I expressed some surprise.  “You need not deny it,” he said; “I knew you wrote it before it had been printed 24 hours.”  “The editor of that journal is responsible for the article, whoever is its author, as he adopted it.”  I answered; “but you have little cause to complain of it, since, if I am not mistaken, it is in a very kindly spirit, recognizing the real merits of your work, and only showing that it is not history, for which you could scarcely have intended it, but dashing historical romance, well enough fitted to attract attention to historical studies.”  He seemed to be irritated, and declared that there was not a book in our literature more accurate in its statements.  “Why,” I observed, “after, describing the defeat of St. Clair, in the Miami country, you allege that Washington, refusing to sympathize with the popular feeling against him, insisted on his retaining his commission, which he wished to resign;” while, in truth, as you would have seen by Washington’s own letter, in the 10th volume of Sparks. St. Claire wished to RETAIN his commission, and Washington insisted upon his instant resignation, for the obvious reason that a commander must be in the field in whom the army had confidence.  In the same chapter, “I continued, “you state that numerous armed galleys, 200 boats, &c. sailed all the night of the evacuation of Ticonderoga, up Wood Creek, which, you should have known, is a small stream, not navigable, dashing precipitously over a ledge of rocks into the Champlain, some twenty miles from the point which the army is acknowledged to have left at midnight.  Your books are full of similar errors, and it is a common duty, when such things are published as history, to correct them.”  I assured him that for the articles I had contributed to Carey & Hart’s volume, they had paid me, and that I had not the slightest interest in the copyright.  He repeated the assertion that I had written a severe criticism of his book, with interested motives.  I said that I was an occasional but always gratuitous contributor to the journals, upon whatever I read that might be made a subject of interesting discussion; and that the errors in his late work were of so strange and amusing a character, that any one might be excused for pointing them out, especially if, immediately after reading it, a friend had asked him for a paper, as had been the case in this instance.  I assured him I had never written a line respecting any author that I thought should be personally offensive; nor did I then, nor do I now admit, that exposing an author’s mistakes should involve a reviewer in his business quarrels with publishers.  Mr. Headley appeared to be very much excited, and exclaimed, “No man shall ever cross my path but I will have my revenge.  You have done so, and I will ruin you, if it costs me all I possess, and a life’s labor.”  Upon this, of course, we parted.
            It will be easy to understand the feeling which induced Mr. Headley to turn aside from his controversy with Carey & Hart to attack me; and I need not urge that one who writes public history, in which he has no personal interest, in such a reckless manner, may err in detailing private conversations, when it becomes necessary to do so to escape from such a position as that in which Mr. Headley had placed himself.  [With this communication I terminate all participation in a conflict into which, it will be confessed, I was most ungenerously forced by the editors of the Courier & Enquirer, by printing an attack upon me as uncalled for as it was unjust.]
                                                                                                Yours, &c.       R. W. Griswold
Note—With regard to the letter of Mr. Baker upon the subject of the Editor of the Literary World having written a portion of Cary & Hart’s book, lately reviewed with favor in that journal, I deem it due to Mr. Hart to state, that he probably derived the impression from myself (last Spring) that the author of the Life of Leisler, in Spark’s collection, would readily undertake the biographies of eminent New-Yorkers, in a similar miscellany—That gentleman’s subsequent accession to the editorship of the Literary World prevented him from furnishing the expected contributions to the work.  The words above which are placed in brackets [ ] have been added to the manuscript since it was offered for publication in the Courier & Enquirer.        R. W. G.


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