Henry J. Raymond: A Brief Sketch

 
 
HENRY JARVIS RAYMOND was born in this State, in the little town of Lima, on the 24th of January, 1820; his father being a small farmer, whom Henry assisted in the field while a mere boy. He is said to have been a very hard worker for a little fellow. He hoed potatoes and planted corn like a veteran, and riding horses and driving cows were his favorite recreations.

He very early manifested a fondness for reading, and before he was eleven years of age had consumed all the books within a radius of ten miles of his father's home. Henry attended the Academy of his native village, and in his fifteenth year taught in the District school. After continuing in that capacity for eighteen or twenty months, he went to the University of Vermont, and graduated in 1840. Very soon after, he came to this City and began the study of law, supporting himself in the mean time by teaching a select school for young ladies, and by writing for a weekly literary paper known as the New- Yorker. In his first teens he had shown an aptitude and passion for writing; and while at the Academy and while teaching school in the country he composed verses and plays of a very superior order for one of his years. A remarkable versatility was his even then; and it was observed that he could take almost any view of a subject and write on it with facility and apparent earnestness. In the debating societies, too, to which he belonged, he could espouse the affirmative or negative of a question, and support one as ably as the other. Sometimes—so runs the rumor—he would become confused in his arguments, and leave his hearers at the end of his speeches very much in doubt which side he was on.

The more Raymond learned of law the less he seemed to like it, and the more he wrote for publication the fonder he became of it. A few years in a law office made him conclude journalism was his forte, and when Horace Greeley established the Tribune, Raymond went into the office as associate editor at the princely price of $8 a week, working on an average about thirteen or fourteen hours a day. H. G., who is a perfect fanatic concerning labor, and who thinks that a man only ordinarily industrious is a mere drone, actually urged Raymond not to work so much; and he is the only person the editor-in-chief of the Tribune has ever found it necessary to remonstrate with on that account.

Raymond was a capital reporter, and distinguished himself in that branch of journalism, at a time, too, when reporting was a rare art.

He served two years on the Tribune, and then connected himself with the Courier and Enquirer, where he continued for several years. In 1847 he became a book-reader for the Harpers, doing also different kinds of literary work, and remained with them ten or twelve years. During his connection with the Courier and Enquirer he had a controversy on socialism with Horace Greeley (the latter defending, and Raymond attacking, it) which was carried on with Zeal and ability on both sides, and attracted a great deal of public attention.

In 1849 he was elected to the State Legislature by the Whigs, and was very conspicuous in debate, for which he had unquestionable talent. The peculiarity of his school days was repeated in public life. He seemed by the force of his own argument, to convince himself of the truth of the opposite side from that he espoused. He was re-elected after his term had expired, and having twice served the State he went abroad for his health, which had become delicate, and remained a year. In 1854 he was chosen Lieutenant Governor of the State, and was very recently sent to Congress. He is now out of politics so far as the filling of offices is concerned, and he is reported to have said that he will keep out; having learned at last that a newspaper requires all a man's time, and that the profession of a journalist is the highest and most influential of any in the land.

September 8, 1851, the first number of the Times, which had been for a long while in contemplation, was issued—-Raymond upon it as editor-in-chief—and it is said he had over twelve columns of his matter in the initial issue. The Times was published at first for a cent and afterwards increased to two cents. It was well received from the start, though $90,000 were sunk in the concern before it began to make any return. Of late years it has grown quite profitable, and though its circulation varies considerably its regular profits are about $80,000 per annum.

Raymond is a very fluent and easy writer, and it has often been stated in the office that if the days were a little longer ho would write up the whole paper. Paragraphs, reviews, dramatic and musical criticisms, sketches, general editorials, political leaders, all are alike to him. He is, no doubt, the most versatile writer on the New-York press. One of his most remarkable performances was his article on the death of Daniel Webster. It filled nearly fifteen columns of the Times; was written at one sitting, and in the incredibly short space of twelve hours.

Almost every one remembers the article which appeared in the Times, some years ago, in which "the elbows of the Mincio," "the sweet sympathies of youth" and other incoherent phrases were strangely blended, making a mass of ridiculous confusion that gave it the title of "the drunken editorial." As it was printed while Raymond was in Europe, and after he had figured prominently as an energetic fugitive at Solferino, the Herald and other papers charged its authorship upon him. He never knew anything about it until he came home; and then learned the entire history of the article, which is as follows :

One of the staff, a clever but erratic fellow, now on the World, was in the habit of dining out, and drinking so freely at times that when he came to the office at a late hour his MS. was very uncertain. Consequently the foreman had orders to look closely at Mr.___'s copy, and see if it were safe. If not, to leave it out. On the eventful night the eccentric personage came in, flushed with wine, but sat down and wrote a few "takes" very clearly and intelligibly. The regular foreman examined the first part, pronounced it "all right," told his foreman to- follow copy, and went home.

The heat of the room very soon acted upon the journalist, who mixed up his rhetoric alarmingly. The assistant obeyed orders literally, no doubt relishing the heterogeneous editorial, through that passion for waggery so characteristic of printers. In the morning the article appeared, a very rhapsody of nonsense, to the great amusement of the readers and the horror of the
editors.

Raymond is small in stature and slight, has dark hair, gray or light hazel eyes, a thin, nervous face, with dark side-whiskers, and is quick and energetic in movement. He dresses neatly, but not extravagantly; has pleasant manners; talks fluently and rapidly, and has quite the appearance of a busy man of the world. He would be thought a merchant, by strangers, or, perhaps, a stock-broker, rather than a literary man or a journalist. He was married while quite young; has five or six children, the eldest a son in his eighteenth year. He has made journalism profitable; his income being probably $20,000 to $25,000. He lives very comfortably, having a house in town and one in the country. His wife spends much of the time in Europe, and he himself has made four or five tours of the Continent. He is the author of several books that have had a large sale, and will probably write a dozen before he has surrendered active duties.

Raymond is very sociable; likes company exceedingly, and when he has nothing to do, which is seldom, enjoys conversation and story-telling as well as any journalist in New-York. He has a great fund of anecdotes, knows exactly where the point of a story lies and when it is reached. He is fond of theatrical entertainments; has a keen relish of the good things of life; is in no sense an ascetic or a puritan, but much of a practical optimist, who thinks the World was made for our enjoyment, and that work is necessary to pleasure no less than to health. He is very well liked by his brother journalists, and has a large circle of friends. A great deal has been said of Raymond's inconsistency and trimming. He certainly varies his political course a good deal, but he is sincere in his variations. In conversation with a friend he once spoke of his ability to see two sides of everything. "I always try," he said, "when one side is presented to look at the other, and in turning it round, I am instinctively inclined to favor the reverse of the side I have first examined." This is the true key, no doubt, to Raymond's vagaries, as they are called. They belong to his temperament, and are part of himself as much as the color of his eyes or the curve of his spine.


 
Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Henry J. Raymond: A Brief Sketch
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina

Source:

BIBLIOGRAPHY: The Great Metropolis, A Mirror of New York: By Junius Henri Browne; American Publishing Company-Hartford (1869)
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