Monday, November 10, 2014

The Griswold-Headley Controversy...Day Seven.

The following letter, written by me, appeared in the New York Tribune for November 10, 1847, continuing the idiotic fracas between Headley and myself:

To the Editor of The Tribune:
            I cannot of course take any notice of such a letter as that under the signature of J. T. Headley in The Tribune of this morning.  It did not need your assurance to convince me that you never dreamed of authorizing, in the slightest degree, its imputations by neglecting to rebuke them.  Mr. Headley has utterly abandoned all his original charges; and with a brief recapitulation of his controversy with myself, and a reference to Carey & Hart’s letters in the Courier of today for a statement of his dealing with that house, I leave him to the judgment of the public.
            In a letter written to the Courier and Enquirer, on the 2d inst. he attempted a reply to a card published by Carey & Hart; censured the journals for unwarrantable interference in his “private affairs,” and in this connexion made particular reference to the Richmond Enquirer and the Literary World, remarking of the latter as follows:
            “The Literary World has made itself prominent in this affair, and for the benefit of those who have hitherto considered it a fair literary journal, I would state that the articles on the subject have been written, chiefly, if not wholly, by Rufus W. Griswold, who wrote the first sixty pages of Carey & Hart’s book, and who for certain considerations, growing out of his connection with these publishers, has undertaken their defence in New-York.  Mr. Hoffman has lent the Literary World to this interested person.”
            The accusations are, of making myself a party to his business quarrels, by writing of them in the Literary World; of reviewing favorably a work in which I am interested as an author; and of undertaking in New-York the defence of Carey & Hart, against himself.  Though unwilling to take any notice of so wanton and unjustifiable an attack, I at length concluded, as it was altogether personal in its nature, to publish the following explicit and unqualified denial in the Courier and Enquirer of the 4th inst,:
            “I beg leave to state that every allegation here made is wholly and unqualifiedly false.  Respecting the book I am charged with reviewing, (“Washington and the Generals of the American Revolution,”) or the controversy between J. T. Headley and its publishers, I have not written or published, caused to be written or published, or, (except by reading printed articles on the subject,) known to be written or published, a single syllable.”
            The reader should bear in mind that no review of Carey & Hart’s book has appeared in the Literary World, except the one in the number for the 24th of October, before which time that journal never contained a word which the most ingenious malice could torture into an allusion to Mr. Headley’s difficulties.  That his original charges had exclusive reference to this review of “Washington and the Generals of the American Revolution,” is sufficiently evident from the terms in which they are stated; and it is distinctly admitted in his communication to the Courier and Enquirer of the 5th, in which he quotes a passage from this very review as having suggested a part of his first defamatory letter.  Yet, convinced that they are utterly groundless, instead of ingenuously retracting his accusations, a endeavors to convey an impression that they had reference to an article in the Literary World for the 10th of last July—months before the appearance of Carey & Hart’s book, and, before the public had heard a word of his quarrels with that house!  With an effrontry as shameless as it is shallow, he attempts to divert attention from his conviction and confession of falsehoods, by urging that I was myself, in a conversation held with him last September, his authority for a statement that I was the writer of an article thus dragged into the discussion, as if it were of the slightest consequence to the issues he had raised whether I wrote that article or not.
            There is no “question of veracity” between myself and J. T. Headley, as he has entirely withdrawn from every position that led me to notice him, and has not ventured to meet my denials, even by the objection of his own word—the value of which I will not discuss, as it is sufficiently shown by the letter of Carey & Hart, this day published in the Courier and Enquirer.
Nov. 9, 1847                           Yours, &c.       R. W. GRISWOLD.

Also appearing on November 10 was this piece of commentary on the whole affair, which was published in the New York Evening Mirror, and which seems to take a few swipes at Headley, to my great joy:

HEADLEY AND HIS CRITICS.—We should suggest this title to Mr. Headley as a very good one for a new book of blood and thunder, if he should not be engaged on any similar work just now.  The whigs being about to take possession of the country, and being great lovers of peace and quietness, according to the Tribune, will probably bring the Mexican war to an immediate close, and so destroy the popular taste for smoke, and the slap dash style of literature, which has helped the sale of Mr. Headley’s war sketches to such a frightful extent.  Whether we are indebted to Mr. Headley for the present appetite for bloodshed that prevails in the country, or Mr. Headley be himself indebted for his popularity to the innate existence of such a passion, it is not necessary to inquire; it is enough to know that the passion and the popularity have both existed, although they seem to be both on the wane.  To keep up the excitement, Mr. H. addressed a letter to the Courier and Enquirer, smelling horribly of brimstone, blood and saltpetre, denouncing a respectable book-publisher in Philadelphia, the editor of the Literary World, and Mr. H.’s own special panegyrist, Dr. Griswold, as a trio of literary enemies to himself, and accused them of practices which ought not to be dreamed of as possible by a literary gentleman.
     These gentlemen all deny point blank the charges of their accuser, who then renews his charges in a more offensive form, and threatens war to the—knife, we were going to say, but to a “court of justice;” it seems the “fighting parson” means to carry the cause.  Some of the papers notice this quarrel and speak of it as one with which the public has nothing to do.  But we think it is just one of those cases in which the reading public is particularly interested.  The quarrel between Mr. Headley and Carey & Hart the public have no right to meddle with, as long as they keep their differences to themselves, but the moment they appeal to the public, then the public is bound to take sides in the quarrel, and declare for the injured party.  If the belligerents do not want to be judged harshly, let them keep their affairs to themselves.  The cause of dissension between Carey & Hart and Mr. Headley is a very simple matter.  Messrs. C. & H. wrote a letter to Mr. Headley, stating to that gentleman that they proposed publishing a work to be called Washington and the Generals of the Revolution, or something like it, and asked him if he would undertake to write it; to this letter Mr. Headley replies that he had been thinking of doing something of the kind himself but was not sure of his qualifications for the undertaking, didn’t know exactly where to look for the necessary materials, &c., but neither said that he would, nor that he would not; they hear nothing more from Mr. Headley until they see an announcement by a firm in this city of a new work by that gentleman, to be called Washington and his Generals.  Messrs. Carey & Hart believe that they have been wronged by Mr. Headley, who makes use of their ideas in getting up a new work, and immediately take measures to publish a similar one themselves, which in time they do, and the public is left to choose between the two works.  IN regard to the right of title to the idea of the work, another claimant starts up in the person of George Lippard, of Philadelphia, who says that he had used it before either of the other claimants has suggested it.  By referring to a back number of the Mirror, it will be seen that on the first appearance of Napoleon and his Marshals, we suggested that “Washington and his Generals” would be a good subject for Mr. Headley to employ his pen upon next.

     It will thus be seen that the title of the work was by no means an exclusive idea, but Mr. Headley having been applied to by Carey & Hart before he had taken any measures for the production of the work, or even settled with himself the important point of his fitness to undertake it, they had a prior right of invention in having taken steps to produce it, and their application to Mr. Headley at least gave them a right to his work provided the terms they offered him were equal to those offered by another publisher, even though it did not give them right of title in the plan of the work.  Since the two works have been published, Mr. Headley has accused Mr. Hoffman of writing a part of the work published by Carey & Hart, and of then publishing a review of it in the Literary World, written by Dr. Griswold, who puffed Mr. Hoffman’s portion of it as well as his own, and then accepted pay for writing the review.  To all of these charges these two gentlemen make a plump and unqualified denial.


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