The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vol. XIII: ItalianSpanish
Joys of Journalism
By Mariano José de Larra (18091837)
From The Articles
AT last I am a journalist! I exclaimed enthusiastically, and immediately began to conceive articles, fully determined to grind in the mortar of my criticism any writer who might be unfortunate enough to invade the territory covered by my jurisdiction. Fool that I was! I shall recount briefly my experiences, without, however, revealing the secret springs that set in motion the complicated machinery of a magazine, or lifting the veil of prestige that drapes its altars. My story is unexaggerated and impartial, and I leave the reader to judge if it be not preferable to subscribe to a periodical than to be obliged wisely and hurriedly to provide reading matter for it.
Now, be it understood that I write for the public, and the public, it seems to me, deserves the truth. The comedy in question is ridiculous. The actor, A, is bad, and the actress, B, is worse. Great heavens! It never would have occurred to me to choose the stage as my subject. What is to be done when the author of a comedy pronounces it excellent and the critic acephalous? The actors will use bad language, the authors future plays will be refused, and every one will be disgusted. Who is this critic, anyhow? An incompetent, a pedant, a rascal! And all this obloquy falls on the unlucky head of the poor friend of beauty and of truth.
I fly precipitately from the stage to literature. A presumptuous individual has just published a quite indigestible work. Sir, he begins a seductive letter, I confide in your talent and in your friendship for myself, of which I have ample proof (which unfortunately is quite true), that you will honor my work with a just and impartial criticism (by impartial he means favorable), and I hope that you will do me the honor to dine with me, in order that we may together discuss certain ideas that might be touched upon etc.
Ignore these insinuations, and you will have to choose between ingratitude and falsehood. Both vices have their stern detractors, and the wrath of at least one of them will be vented on the unlucky Figaro.
I will translate foreign news, then. I sharpen my pen, arrange a vast pile of periodicals, and set to work. Three columns are soon written. Three columns, did I say? On the following day I look for them in the Review, but in vain.
Because it will ruin my magazine. Who do you think will read it, if it is not jocular, malicious, or superficial? Besides, it takes up five columnsall that I have left. No, Mr. Figaro, let us have no more scientific articles. You are wasting your time.
Politics and more politics. What else is left to me? It is true that I do not know anything about it, but what difference will that make? Shall I be the first to write ignorantly on politics? I set to work, then, and string together a batch of words such as these: conferences, protocols, rights, representation, monarchy, legality, cabinets, courts, centralization, nations, happiness, peace, illusions, treason, war, inexpedience, belligerents, armistice, forces, unity, governments, maxims, systems, disquisitions, revolution, order, center, left, modification, bill, reforms, etc. I write my article, but, merciful heavens! the editor sends for me.
If this were only all for which poor Figaro stands responsible, it would not be so bad. Even if the author were not mediocre, nor the actor offended, nor the article displeasing, some confounded imp of a printer would be sure to make some silly mistake in spelling. And then who would be responsible? Figaro, of course! It is probable that I shall soon be obliged to print my own articles.
And to think that I once cherished a desire to enter the journalistic field! I confess to you, dear reader, that I have a weak character, and never knew what I wanted. And this you may judge from the long list of my unfortunate writings, which, however, I shall do my best to abridge, henceforth, as much as I can.