From The Critic Vol. 23 No. 697 (Jun 29, 1895)

The Lounger

There is a certain Boston publisher, who has been on bad terms with himself for the past four or five years. The trouble came about in this way: A few years ago, an old school-fellow of his, a lady living in a New England village, wrote him a letter and told him that among the village girls was one who wrote stories, which, she thought, showed promise. She invited the publisher to pay her a visit, saying that she would ask the young girl to come in and show him her manuscripts. The publisher had heard this sort of thing before, as all publishers have, and did not think that there was much in it. It was sure to be the same old story — a sentimental girl with a taste for scribbling, and it would be embarrassing to have to tell her, as well as his friend, that the stories were not good. He was a busy man, with little time for visiting, so he wrote that he hoped to come some day, but could not say just when. Then he forgot all about it. A year or two later, he met his friend in Boston, and she reproached him for not having accepted her invitation. He began making excuses. “I regret it more on your account than my own,” she said, “for the young woman of whose stories I wrote you has been to a New York publisher, who is going to publish a volume of her stories.” “Indeed!” said the Boston publisher, “she is a fortunate young author. Her stories must be good. I regret that I did not accept your invitation.” “You will regret it more when I tell you her name,” said the lady, “perhaps you have seen it in Harper's: it is Mary Wilkins!” The publisher did not have to put his regret into words. The expression of his face betrayed his feelings plainly enough, and his friend had her triumph.

While this publisher may be blamed by the layman for not having packed his bag and gone at once to see his friend and read the manuscripts, those who are at all acquainted with the workings of a publishing-house know that not a day passes without some such letter being received by a publisher. Everyone he knows has some friend or acquaintance who writes prose or poetry, and experience has told him that not once in a thousand times does the novice amount to anything. It is well, however, for the publisher to inquire into every case, for, even though good writers are scarce, they are worth searching for. There are few things more tiresome than the reading of manuscripts. The digging for gold, I dare say, is equally distasteful to the miner, but the joy of the reader who finds a Mary Wilkins is as great as that of the miner who strikes a new vein. I don't know who “discovered” Mrs. Graham, the author of “Stories of the Foot-Hills,” but I can imagine his delight, if he took up the manuscript expecting nothing, and found such a gold mine.