The Greatest Writer of the 19th Century » Brownson's Writings » Valedictory


 [From Brownson’s Quarterly Review for October, 1875]

            This number not only completes the third volume of  the present series, but closes the Review itself.  The Review bears so much the personal character of the editor, is so completely the expression of his single mind, that none could continue it after him, or would be willing to attempt it.  The Review originated with me.  Though I have had much of valuable assistance in conducting it from dear friends,- most of whom, I trust, are in a better world,- for which I am duly grateful, it must die with me.  Others may publish a quarterly review far more valuable than mine has ever been, but no other man can produce Brownson’s Quarterly Review.  Hundreds may produce a better periodical, but no one can produce it.  This may be no cause for regret, but it is a reason why my Review must die when I cease to conduct it.

            I close my Review, not from lack of support, nor from lack of sympathy on the part of those whose sympathy I prize.  It is true that I have not pleased, nor have I sought to please, everybody; but no adverse criticism or antagonism causes me to discontinue it.  I discontinue it solely on account of my precarious health, and the failure of my eyes; and circumstances render it inconvenient to keep a secretary, or to employ an amanuesis.  I have been obliged to republish several articles from early volumes of the Review, because I was too ill to fill out the numbers with new matter expressly prepared for them.  Much of the time for the present year I have been unable to hold a pen in my hand.  The present number, indeed, with the exception of extracts from works reviewed, is all written with my own hand, and if I could be assured as being as well for the year to come as I am just now, I would not discontinue the publication.  But of that I have and can have no reasonable assurance.  No man willingly gives up what has been his life’s vocation, and I have loved my vocation as a reviewer: but I feel myself unequal to its continuance: many things admonish me that it is time for me to retire, and leave the field to younger and more vigorous laborers, to men who have hands, eyes, and memory unimpaired.

            In taking my leave of the Catholic public, with whom I have had the intimate relation of a Catholic reviewer, with the exception of eight years, since 1845, I have no complaints to make, and no apologies to offer.  That there has been more or less of antagonism between the Review and the Irish Catholic press published in this country, it were idle to attempt to deny; and that the Review has, at times, forgotten that the Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots, it were equally idle to deny; but no antagonism of this sort has anything to do with the discontinuance of the Review. The warmest and most esteemed friends of its editor, and its firmest and most generous supporters, have been among Catholics of Irish birth and Irish descent, as is the great body of our English-speaking Catholics.

            I am as sensible, as any one can be, of the defects and mistakes of the Review,  and I have never been able to realize in it my ideal of what a Catholic review should be; but I have done the best, being what I am, that I could.  Others in my place might have done more and better, and I hope there will be no lack of others that will try their hand at it, and no one will rejoice more than myself at their success.  Yet none will be found more sincerely Catholic, or more earnestly devoted to Catholic interests, though, no doubt, men may be found with more prudence, and with a far better understanding of those interests, as well as ability to advance them.

            I have recently received a letter signed “A Catholic” telling me that the bishops and clergy, have no confidence in me, and when they can no longer use me, they will repudiate me, knowing that I am too independent, when brought to the test, to submit to their tyranny.  The letter goes on and exhorts me to open a correspondence with Dr. Dollinger, to repudiate the council of the Vatican, and to turn the Review to the defence of the “Old Catholics.” By so doing, it assures me, I may become immensely popular, and gain for the review and almost unlimited circulation; and, it might have added, belie all my convictions and the whole Catholic faith, and damn my own soul.  If suggestions such as this could have moved me, I should never have become a Catholic.  I did not seek admission into the church for the sake of wealth, honors, or popularity.  If I am, as I know I am, measurably unpopular, even with Catholics, I can only say truly that I have never sought popularity, but rather have despised it.  Yet I have received more marks of  confidence from our venerable bishops and clergy than I have deserved, more honor than I desired, and have even been more popular with Catholics than I ever expected to be.  Speak of wealth!  Why, what could I do with it, if I had it, standing, as I do, on the brink of the grave?  The generosity of Catholics, in an annuity reasonably secure, has provided for my few personal wants.  She, who, for nearly half a century, was my faithful companion and devoted wife, is, I devoutly trust, safe with the saints; my children, three out of eight, all that are left me, are able to take care of themselves, and no one depends on me but an aged sister.  What do I want of wealth? What do I care for popularity, which I never sought, and on which I turned my back when not yet of age?

            I have, and I desire to have, no home out of the Catholic Church, with which I am more than satisfied, and which I love as the dearest, tenderest, and most affectionate mother.  My only ambition is to live and die in her communion.  I love my Catholic brethren, I love and venerate the clergy and bishops of the Catholic Church, especially of the church in my own country.  I am deeply indebted to them, beyond any power of language of mine to express.  I hope I am grateful to them, but only God can adequately reward them.  To the Catholic community, both clergy and laity, whom for thirty-one years I have served as a Catholic publicist, less efficiently than I wished, I am deeply grateful for the generous support they have given, and the measure of confidence they have placed in me and my Review, and it is not without a pang at parting with old and dear friends, that I take my leave of them as a reviewer.  But it must be; though, in some other way, I may continue to labor, as long as I am able, for the cause so dear to me and to them, and I hope they will not forget to remember me in their prayers.  Valete, dear friends, and the blessing of God rest on you and your labors.