“The New Year” (from Robert Merry’s Museum, January 1842; pp. 1-3)
There are few days in all the year that are pleasanter than the first of January—New Year’s Day. It is a day when we all salute each other with a cheerful greeting;—when children say to their parents, as they meet in the
morning, “I wish you a happy new year!” and the parents reply, “A happy new year, my dear children!”
The first of January is, then, a day of kind wishes; of happy hopes; of bright anticipations: it is a day in which we feel at peace with all the world, and, if we have done our duty well during the departed year, we feel peaceful within.
Methinks I hear my young readers say, “Would that all our days might be thus cheerful and agreeable!” Alas! this may not be. It is not our lot to be thus cheerful and happy all the days of our lives. A part of our time must be devoted to study, to labor, to duty. We cannot always be enjoying holidays. And, indeed, it is not best we should. As people do not wish always to be eating cake and sugar-plums, so they do not always desire to be sporting and playing. As the cake and sugar-plums would, by and by, become sickening to the palate, so the play would at last grow tedious. As we should soon desire some good solid meat, so we should also desire some useful and instructive occupation.
But as it is now new year’s day, let us make the best of it. I wish you a happy new year, my black-eyed or blue-eyed readers! Nay, I wish you many a happy new year! and, what is more, I promise to do all in my power to make you happy, not only for this ensuing year, but for many seasons to come. And how do you think I propose to do it? That is what I propose to tell you!
In the first place, I am going to tell you, month by month, a lot of stories both useful and amusing. I wish to have a part of your time to myself, and, like my young friend Tom Stedfast, whose portrait I give you at the head of this article, I wish you not only to read my Magazine, but, if you have any little friends who cannot afford to buy it I wish you to lend it to them, so that they may peruse it.
Tom is a rare fellow! No sooner does he get the Magazine than he sits down by the fire, just as you see him in the picture, and reads it from one end to the other. If there is anything he don’t understand, he goes to his father and he explains it. If there are any pretty verses, he learns them by heart; if there is any good advice, he lays it up in his memory; if there is any useful information, he is sure to remember it. Tom resembles a squirrel in the autumn, who is always laying up nuts for the winter season; for the creature knows that he will have need of them, then. So it is with Tom; when he meets with any valuable knowledge—it is like nuts to him—and he lays it up, for he is sure that he will have use for it at some future day. And there is another point in which Tom resembles the squirrel; the latter is as lively and cheerful in gathering his stores for future use, as he is in the spring time, when he has only to frisk and frolic amid the branches of the trees—and Tom is just as cheerful and pleasant about his books and his studies, as he is when playing blind-man’s-buff.
Now I should like to have my young readers as much like Tom Stedfast as possible; as studious, as fond of knowledge, and yet as lively and as good humored. And there is another thing in which I should wish all my young friends to resemble Tom; he thinks everything of me! No sooner does he see me stumping and stilting along, than he runs up to me, calling out, “How do you do, Mr. Merry? I’m glad to see you; I hope you are well! How’s your wooden leg?”
Beside all this, Tom thinks my Museum is first-rate—and I assure you it is a great comfort to my old heart, when
I find anybody pleased with my little Magazine. I do not pretend to write such big books as some people; nor do I talk so learnedly as those who go to college and learn the black arts. But what I do know, I love to communicate; and I am never so happy as when I feel that I am gratifying and improving young people. This may seem a simple business, to some people, for an old man; but if it gives me pleasure, surely no one has a right to grumble about it.
There is another thing in Tom Stedfast which I like. If he meets with anything in my Magazine which he does not think is right, he sits down and writes me a letter about it. He does not exactly scold me, but he gives me a piece of his mind, and that leads to explanations and a good understanding. So we are the best friends in the world. And now what I intend to do is, to make my little readers as much like Tom Stedfast as possible. In this way I hope I may benefit them not only for the passing year, but for years to come. I wish not only to assist my friends in finding the right path, but I wish to accustom their feet to it, so that they may adopt good habits and continue to pursue it. With these intentions I enter upon the new year, and I hope that the friendship already begun between me and my readers, will increase as we proceed in our journey together.