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For the Columbian Magazine.
The Rhapsodist, No. III.

IT was but two days since, that
the letter mentioned in my se-
cond number, was presented to me.
In vain the Rhapsodist announces
to his Readers, that he hates the
intrusion of a visitor. Nothing
but the rights of the strictest
friendship (for the circle of my
friends is numerous, though, my
disposition is averse to friendship)
will entitle any one to demand a
private audience from him. In
spite of my pretensions to unlimit-
ed sovereignty over my own person
and actions. In spite of my strong
original propensity to silence and
reserve, I am, in some measure,
compelled to pay obedience, tho'
grudgingly, to the laws of society.
Thus, indeed, it fares with every
one who aspires to the fame of sin-
gularity. He, who affects the man-
ners of a recluse, and demeans him-
self in the midst of a populous ci-
ty, like the lonely inhabitant of a
desert, will often incur the censure
of inveterate folly. While he feels
his imaginary rights infringed, and
the sanctity of the hermit disre-
garded; men are little prone to
spare the weakness of a fellow-
creature. Among those who are
apparently united by the closest in-
timacy, a strong propensity to ridi-
cule most commonly prevails, and
ruins the fairest prospect of open-
ing friendship. If then a long ac-
quaintance with a person's natural
inherent disposition, and a tho-

rough knowledge of his character,
cannot entitle him to mild forbear-
ance, or save his most innocent foi-
bles from the wasting edge of wit.
It would be very absurd and un-
reasonable to expect pity and for-
giveness to our failings in our in-
tercourse with strangers. To dis-
play our characteristic humour in
every company, or to prostitute our
talents upon all occasions, iscon-
sidered by every man of common
sense, as the most ridiculous excess
of pride or folly. By such conduct,
tho' we aim at acquiring esteem and
dignity, we only expose ourselves
to derision. The bulk of mankind
are contented if they find a mode-
rate capacity in their friends, and
from strangers they expect the no-
tice and civility which fashion au-
thorises, and which is usually giv-
en on the like occasions. But even
among those few whose tempers are
composed of charity and benevo-
lence, it is impossible to pardon un-
til they know the causes of misbe-
haviour. It is therefore extremely
difficult for those who go under the
denomination of oddities, to act
with consistent uniformity in every
different situation; they find it
most expendient to be guided by the
spur of the occasion to divest them-
selves of prejudice and whim,
when any critical emergency oc-
curs; and, in short, to wear their
principles so loosely about them,
that they may be able to put off,

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or resume them at pleasure. Those
who act conformably to this de-
scription are not absolutely hair-
or (as I take the meaning
of the word to be) stubborn, blind,
and inveterately foolish. They suit
themselves to their stations, and are
not backward in yielding to neces-
sity. Among this ambiguous tribe
of oddities I have thought proper
to rank myself. Truth demands
this sacrifice from me, and I own it
is with great reluctance that I thus
submit to her authority. I am in-
deed at present little more than a
Rhapsodist in theory. There was
a time when I sustained that cha-
racter in all its purity and vigour;
but it was in the midst of a wilder-
ness, where few traces of popula-
tion could be found. If a human
creature resided within five miles
of my dwelling, he was considered
as a very near neighbour. In such
a scanty neighbourhood, notwith-
standing the mutual intercourse of
friendship and good offices which
were assiduously kept up, and sub-
sisted in full vigour in spite of rug-
ged paths, and impenetrable thick-
ets. The joys of social life were
scarcely known without the circle
of my own family: I therefore ne-
cessarily under went fewer interrup-
tions from the presence of strangers,
and a melancoly silence upon all
occasions was less noticed by those
who had been long accustomed to
my company.

Let no one conclude from the
last observation that I was dumb,
or affected to be so, by no means,
but I loved to be alone, and spoke
in a language unintelligable to any
but myself. I sought industriously
the most sequestered scenes, and in
the depth of solitude and silence,
audibly invoked the genius of the
place to be present to my medita-
tions. But I was by no means un-

easy when I was made sensible that
my ravings had been overheard.—
If he whose curiosity led him to
follow unobserved my steps, kept
himself concealed, or at a reasona-
ble distance from the scene of im-
mediate inspiration, I never put
myself to the trouble of detecting
him. My loquacity when alone
was therefore equally celebrated
with my profound taciturnity when
in company. This strange peculi-
arity, tho' at first it attracted their
attention, never subjected me to
their censure. For I had little
reason to dread the touch of blame,
where there was so few to question
the propriety of my behaviour.
By those, with whom I was obliged
at certain seasons to associate, eve-
ry singularity in my deportment,
was naturally ascribed to the same
genius which enabled me to write
memorandums, and to read English
in a book. My aukward admirers
were as little able to comprehend
the means by which these vast ac-
quisitions were effected, as the
barbarous Naudowessies themselves.
Nothing could equal their astonish-
ment when they saw me open the
first letter which Thomson the
waggoner brought me from Phila-
delphia, and when, fixing my eyes
attentively on the strange charac-
ters written on the inside, I seem-
ed, by the frequent alterations in
my countenance, to comprehend
their meaning. When a stranger
happened to remark with surprize,
that I carefully avoided putting my
foot on a cockroach that had rash-
ly left his hole at noon-day, and
had strayed unwarily into the midst
of his enemies, or that I left my
book in a hurry, and stooping
down to a mouse-trap that was
baited in the corner, delivered the
little trembling animal from his
direful prison at the evident risque

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of my own fingers. When a stran-
ger, I say, happened to express his
astonishment on those occasions,
my landlady, after I left the room,
would very shrewdly remark,
“This comes of larning.” I
have in this place reason to dread
the possible correctness of my rea-
der's judgment, and the excessive
delicacy of his taste, which would
prompt him to disregard these ru-
ral anecdotes, as too mean and vul-
gar to claim the notice of a man of
polite imagination. To him vul-
garity will still continue to be
loathsome and abhorred, though
disguised in the artful covering of
simplicity. The character of a
carter and a cockroach—though,
within the precincts of a country
kitchen, are entitled to every re-
spect, which extraordinary power,
for mischief or utility can bestow,
though they are not sufficiently
dignified to raise amusement in a
city circle. I know the danger I
incur by introducing them, and
was unwilling to descend to such
minute particulars; but the me-
mory of past events is to me so pe-
culiarly pleasing, and every circum-
stance of my youth, is so immedi-
ately present to my recollection,
that it is scarcely possible to avoid
the repetition of minute incidents,
though they may possibly appear
trivial and uninteresting to the
greatest part of my readers. I will
now leave them, and resume my
original purpose.

Happy at this tranquil period
was the rising of the day, happy
the closing of the evening. My
felicity prrincipally consisted in the
liberty I then enjoyed to follow the
dictates of my own inclination, in-
to whatever seeming error, or ab-
surdity, it might chance to lead
me.—But since, in a black mo-
ment of despair, I forsook my wont-

ed habitation, and transported my-
self from the solitary banks of the
Ohio, into the thronged streets of
this metropolis; I have been com-
pelled to wage perpetual war with
my inclination, and to wear the
garb not of reason or convenience,
but of fashion. I often relate, with
a pleasure known only to old men,
the surprising adventures which be-
fel me, at my first arrival from the
country. I shall not however, ven-
ture to repeat them at present—
I am not quite sure they would re-
ward the curiosity of enlightened
readers. It is rathar the resem-
blance of those sensations which
were produced by the occur-
rence of some extraordinary events,
than the recollection of the circum-
stance itself, which is cherished,
with so much fondness in our
minds. I did not consume the
flower of my days in abstracted
speculation only. I viewed man-
kind at a distance, and contempla-
ted the fabric of human nature as
it appears in a book. I was tho-
roughly conversant with the man-
ners, literature, and politics, of
antient and modern times, before
I left my retreat. But there is an
immense difference between the
scenes of fancy and reality, tho' I
was well acquainted with the œco-
nomy of European cities, and in-
deed had frequently traversed in
idea the whole extent of the habi-
table globe from the western ex-
tremity of America to the isles of
Japan. Though I have alternate-
ly spent my life in the wilds of
Columbian woods, and in the sera-
glioes of the East. In short, tho'
I had gained that universal know-
ledge which may be gleaned from
ten years of leisure, and the inex-
haustible sources of information
which a well chosen library con-
tained, I was at last deceived by

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the warmth of my imagination;
and felt how unavailing is know-
ledge unless it be derived from the
wholesome precepts of experience.
Hence upon my entrance into this
city I experienced a temporary pa-
roxism of phrenzy, my fancy was
altogether ungovernable, and I fre-
quently mistook the scene which
was passing before me for the lively
representation of a dream. The con-
sequences of this mistaken notion
were sometimes ludicrous, frequent-
ly full of serious danger; many
were the perils I underwent before
I could perswade myself wholly to
relinquish the manners of a solita-
ry, and consent to live according
to the forms of polished life. I
have now attained to some com-
mand over my passions, and can
easily recal a wandering imagina-
tion, when it exerts itself unsea-
sonably. I endeavour to retain as
much of my former character, as
is consistent with my present situ-
ation, and though I refrain from
mixing with the multitude, there
are a few, with whom I am upon
the most familiar footing. I am
also extremely circumspect in the
choice of my correspondents. To
honour the above mentioned letter
with my notice, is, I confess, a fla-
grant violation of these established
rules by which I regulate my con-
duct in this particular. But as it
is addressed to me in the character
of an author. I could not be jus-
tified in suppressing it. The claim
of the public to its contents, is
superior to mine.

To The Rhapsodist,


I know not in what manner to
address a person in your circum-

stances. First appearances deceive
us, more especially in an author,
who speaks, as it were from be-
hind a curtain. And while he re-
veals himself to our view only in
the most engaging attitudes, may,
by the help of his disguise, render
the unfavourable parts of his cha-
racter perfectly secure from the
searching eye of curiosity. I judge
candidly of your first productions.
It may therefore be improper to
commence so early an acquaint-
ance with you. But I was afraid
lest my resolution might suffer by
delays, and that some unlucky hand,
as was probable, might get the
start of me, and render my cor-
respondence less pleasing, because
divested of its novelty. These
fears were not suggested by my
vanity—you will put no more
than an equitable construction on
my haste, when you ascribe it to
the warm impatience of a friend.
For, tho' unknown to you, I
think I may already venture to as-
sume that title, and leave the se-
quel to prove that my pretensions,
tho' rash and singular, are well
founded. Whether the conscious-
ness of inferior talents, which so
effectually suppressed the ardour
of youthful emulation, has, at last,
in a maturer age forsaken me; or
whether the influence of your ex-
ample, in whom I discover so great
a resemblance to myself in the
common qualifications of an au-
thor, hath effected this change in
my sentiments, I cannot positively
determine: but from one or other
of these causes it is, that I have
unwarily admitted in my bosom,
a belief that literary fame is a prize
not altogether unattainable, and
that I am, even now, entitled to
share with you the honour of pu-

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I am most probably your supe-
rior in age and in a knowledge of
the world; but I will not be asha-
med to act a subordinate character
in your essays, and to contribute
what is in my power, to the repu-
tation of a young writer: for not-
withstanding your disguise, you
will pardon me for intimating my
suspicions, that your age is hardly
suited to your ambition. You are,
indeed, very liberal in your profes-
sions of sincerity, and talk much of
your fondness for solitude; and your
genius for rhapsodising. But your
stile and manner betray you. You
have not been sufficiently careful to
conceal the youth and inexperience
which most certainly lurk beneath
your mask. I am not deficient in
penetration, as this discovery may
evince; and can readily perceive when
you speak the language of your
own heart, and when you assume a
borrowed character. No one, I
trust, will accuse me of flattery,
when I frankly declare my opinion,
that I am now addressing a youth of
amiable disposition, and of talents
not inferior to his cotemporaries:
that his mind is fitted to a higher
station, than that which he at present
occupies, and, in spite of time and
accident, will one day raise him
to his proper level.

You will, I doubt not, be sur-
prised at the singularity of this ad-

dress: and I smile at the astonish-
ment, which you will affect before
the public at my plain declarations
concerning one with whom I am
utterly unacquainted. But, my
friend, the discernment of the pub-
lic is not easily imposed upon; and
it is not impossible, but you may
forfeit the good opinion of the
wise, by such aukward attempts
to deceive. The freedom of my
remarks may possibly offend—I
have indeed offended—I need not
remind you of your privilege—
you are at liberty to suppress this
letter; but so well convinced am I,
that, in this, my sagacity has not
deceived me, and so implicitly do I
confide in my previous knowledge of
your character, that I dispatch this
letter in full confidence of its meet-
ing with success equal to its merit
and my wishes. I shall find an op-
portunity to know you better; per-
haps personally: for it is by no
means difficult to trace the Rhap-
sodist through all his labyrinths.
In the mean time, permit me to
address you as an author, and to
close this epistle with some directi-
ons respecting the composition of
your essays.

The narrow bounds to which I
am restricted, will not suffer me to
insert the whole of this letter at pre-


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