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Echoes of the Week

The Illustrated London News, vol. 45, no. 1275, p. 222.

August 27, 1864


That "half a loaf is better than no bread at all" is a proverb, the truth of which no Englishman thinks of doubting, and of which certain American statesmen begin to perceive the truth. It is all very well for contractors for the commissariat of an immense army, and for such recruiting officers whose pleasant duties lead them away from the front, to still cry out "War to the bitter end;" but for those in the front, poor fellows! the bitter end has indeed arrived; and, in justice to their good taste, it must be said that they do not like it. To strike ten thousand dead in one week--of whom three fifths die by war and the rest by pestilence--is an act for which no Government can be applauded, unless it is gilded by the sunshine of success. But in the lurid flames about Petersburg--nay, even at Atlanta and Mobile--there is indeed no real glimmer of that blessed sunshine which we all worship. Foreseeing this, we have for some weeks caught the faint echoes of the word "Peace!" echoes which are growing louder every day, and which must eventually make themselves heard. Amongst the blessed effects of the "Seasons" there is one upon which even Thomson never wrote, and that is, that horrid winter, succeeding golden autumn, does give a pause to the operations of war, and generally terminates what is called a "campaign."

Come, gentle Spring, ethereal mildness, come,

cries Thomson, impatient of Winter; but now we would substitute peace for the second monosyllable, and welcome the hardest American winter that ever split the frozen toes, brittle as icicles, from the feet of a backwoodsman, so that it would only give a pause and inaction which could bring better thoughts to both parties. It will be to the credit of our Government if, with a tender and delicate hand, it urges its good offices to each belligerent. The dove is about to fly from the ark; may it not be furnished with an olive-leaf from this Isle of Liberty?

Out of evil comes good. Everyone knows that our best books are reprinted in America because the duty is so high that it absolutely amounts to a prohibition; the same is the case now with our papers, and publishers and rich people can alone afford to buy them. There is a talk of reproducing Punch in New York, and selling it cheaply there, and also of reprinting many of the best articles from our daily papers and issuing them in a cheaper form. This method has for a long time been pursued with our magazines, and has the advantage of giving our cousins the benefit of a calmer style and of English thought. It cannot fail to do good if the American mind will accept our free criticism as calmly as we take theirs, notably let us say, of Emerson and Hawthorne, the former appreciative, the latter abusive. So susceptible, however, is the Yankee mind, that we hear that in New York a reprint of "The Gentle Life" is to be edited, so that all anti-American reflections of that mild and popular series of essays are to be carefully removed. Let us hope that this will not be the case with all our outspoken and vigorous writers....

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