The Bell-Ringer of Angel's and Other Stories HTML version

My First Book
When I say that my "First Book" was NOT my own, and contained beyond the title-page
not one word of my own composition, I trust that I will not be accused of trifling with
paradox, or tardily unbosoming myself of youthful plagiary. But the fact remains that in
priority of publication the first book for which I became responsible, and which probably
provoked more criticism than anything I have written since, was a small compilation of
Californian poems indited by other hands.
A well-known bookseller of San Francisco one day handed me a collection of certain
poems which had already appeared in Pacific Coast magazines and newspapers, with the
request that I should, if possible, secure further additions to them, and then make a
selection of those which I considered the most notable and characteristic, for a single
volume to be issued by him. I have reason to believe that this unfortunate man was
actutated by a laudable desire to publish a pretty Californian book—HIS first essay in
publication—and at the same time to foster Eastern immigration by an exhibit of the
Californian literary product; but, looking back upon his venture, I am inclined to think
that the little volume never contained anything more poetically pathetic or touchingly
imaginative than that gentle conception. Equally simple and trustful was his selection of
myself as compiler. It was based somewhat, I think, upon the fact that "the artless
Helicon" I boasted "was Youth," but I imagine it was chiefly owing to the circumstance
that I had from the outset, with precocious foresight, confided to him my intention of not
putting any of my own verses in the volume. Publishers are appreciative; and a self-
abnegation so sublime, to say nothing of its security, was not without its effect.
We settled to our work with fatuous self-complacency, and no suspicion of the trouble in
store for us, or the storm that was to presently hurtle around our devoted heads. I
winnowed the poems, and he exploited a preliminary announcement to an eager and
waiting press, and we moved together unwittingly to our doom. I remember to have been
early struck with the quantity of material coming in—evidently the result of some
popular misunderstanding of the announcement. I found myself in daily and hourly
receipt of sere and yellow fragments, originally torn from some dead and gone
newspaper, creased and seamed from long folding in wallet or pocketbook. Need I say
that most of them were of an emotional or didactic nature; need I add any criticism of
these homely souvenirs, often discolored by the morning coffee, the evening tobacco, or,
heaven knows! perhaps blotted by too easy tears! Enough that I knew now what had
become of those original but never recopied verses which filled the "Poet's Corner" of
every country newspaper on the coast. I knew now the genesis of every didactic verse
that "coldly furnished forth the marriage table" in the announcement of weddings in the
rural press. I knew now who had read—and possibly indited—the dreary hic jacets of the
dead in their mourning columns. I knew now why certain letters of the alphabet had been
more tenderly considered than others, and affectionately addressed. I knew the meaning
of the "Lines to Her who can best understand them," and I knew that they HAD been
understood. The morning's post buried my table beneath these withered leaves of
posthumous passion. They lay there like the pathetic nosegays of quickly fading wild