Page:Memoirs of Henry Villard, volume 1.djvu/72

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In the course of the winter, I conceived the idea of writing some letters for publication in the columns of the Zeitung that appeared daily and weekly in Belleville. I had retained all along my old faith in my ability to write well. The editor, Dr. Wenzel, a German-Bohemian and political refugee, a man of uncommon talents and acquirements, seemed to take quite a fancy to me, and I felt sure that he would be glad to publish any of my contributions. So I concocted two letters of a partly descriptive and partly philosophic-æsthetic character — at least I considered them such — and sent them to him. They were poor attempts, in imitation of Heine and Boerne, rather stilted and labored. Still, they were printed, and Dr. Wenzel complimented me upon them in his letters of acknowledgment. Unfortunately, I had indulged in some rather sarcastic remarks upon the “German philistinism” that was manifested in a great many ways in Belleville. Letters from my relatives soon informed me that my criticisms had stirred up a good deal of ill-feeling against me. My uncle was particularly sharp in his censure of the license of my pen. I certainly had no deliberate intention to offend anybody, but I had, no doubt, been guilty of a pertness that was unbecoming my years, and decidedly improper in view of the circumstances under which I had gone to Belleville, and the cordiality with which I had been received. This untoward production was my first formal attempt at journalism. To be frank about it, while its effect troubled me in no small degree, the attention it attracted rather flattered my vanity.

This incident helped to mature the resolution that the drawbacks to my law-reading were evolving in me. I reasoned myself into the assumption that it would be futile to expect that such studies as I should be able to pursue in the office would make a good lawyer of me in a short or a long time. Mr. Koerner was right, after all, in his original advice to me to spend two years at a law school, had my father's allowance permitted it. Would it not be creditable, then, I asked myself, to try and earn enough in addition