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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

An Editor of the Last Century

By Joseph Tinker Buckingham (1779–1861)

[Born in Windham, Conn., 1779. Died in Cambridge, Mass., 1861. Specimens of Newspaper Literature. 1850.]

I HAVE a vivid recollection of Dennie’s personal appearance, in 1796, when I began my apprenticeship in the printing-office of David Carlisle. In person, he was rather below than above the middling height, and was of a slender frame. He was particularly attentive to his dress, which, when he appeared in the street, on a pleasant day, approached the highest notch of the fashion. I remember, one delightful morning in May, he came into the office, dressed in a pea-green coat, white vest, nankeen small-clothes, white silk stockings, and shoes, or pumps, fastened with silver buckles, which covered at least half the foot from the instep to the toe. His small-clothes were tied at the knees, with ribbon of the same color, in double bows, the ends reaching down to the ankles. He had just emerged from the barber’s shop. His hair, in front, was well loaded with pomatum, frizzled, or craped, and powdered; the ear-locks had undergone the same process; behind, his natural hair was augmented by the addition of a large queue (called, vulgarly, the false tail), which, enrolled in some yards of black ribbon, reached half-way down his back. Thus accommodated, the Lay Preacher stands before my mind’s eye, as life-like and sprightly as if it were but yesterday that I saw the reality.

Among his familiar acquaintance, and in the company of literary men, Dennie must have been a delightful and fascinating companion. In the printing-office, his conversation with the apprentices was pleasant and instructive. His deportment towards them was marked with great urbanity and gentleness. Being the youngest apprentice,—in vulgar phrase, the printer’s devil,—it was my lot to call upon him for copy, and carry the proof to him. Thus, for seven or eight months, my intercourse with him was almost daily, and was as familiar as propriety would sanction between an editor and an apprentice. I never saw him otherwise than in good-humor.

Dennie wrote with great rapidity, and generally postponed his task till he was called upon for copy. It was frequently necessary to go to his office, and it was not uncommon to find him in bed at a late hour in the morning. His copy was often given out in small portions, a paragraph or two at a time; sometimes it was written in the printing-office, while the compositor was waiting to put it in type. One of the best of his Lay sermons was written at the village tavern, directly opposite to the office, in a chamber where he and his friends were amusing themselves with cards. It was delivered to me by piecemeal, at four or five different times. If he happened to be engaged in a game, when I applied for copy, he would ask some one to “play his hand for him, while he could give the devil his due.” When I called for the closing paragraph of the sermon, he said, “Call again in five minutes.” “No,”—said Tyler—“I’ll write the improvement for you.” He accordingly wrote a concluding paragraph, and Dennie never saw it till it was in print.