Judith Sargent Murray Society
JSM's dates: 1751-1820
The Reaper. No. I.
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This essay appeared in the Monday, October 20, 1794 edition of the Federal Orrery. In it, Judith as "The Reaper" introduces herself to her readers.

The Reaper. No. I.
The circumscribed limits, by which the ambition of a news-paper writer is hedged about, will scarcely admit of an exordium--Yet it is very hard upon a poor quill-driver, to be obliged, sans ceremonie, to obtrude pell-mell upon the reader, without the smallest regard to etiquette, or a single phrase, by way of introduction. It is true that, the observers of the Federal Orrery, absorbed in the contemplation of its primary planets, and dazzled by the invigorating effulgence of the central, creative, and sustaining orb, around which the whole system is to revolve, may not find eyes for the revolutions of a secondary erratic star. Yet, ever since that catastrophe, which involved, in its consequence, a third part of the celestial world, such have been its contaminating effects, that every pretender to intelligence, however opaque the body, in which he is enveloped, hath unavoidably partook a degree of arrogance and self-elevation, by which, aspiring at distinction, and, fond of aping dignities, he has commissioned his satellites to grace, ascertain, or serve as the harbingers of his path.

Well then, as I am not at an exemption from a mania, that seems to have pervaded all created beings, I take upon me to announce myself to the public, as a scribbler, who is extremely solicitous to please, who has no idea of a more honorary crown, than that which invests the brow of literary merit, and who would gladly purchase eminence, among the sons and daughters of genius, and the expense of fortune, coronets, or whatever else is deemed valuable by the votaries of Plutus, or the anxious candidates for those fancied dignities, that are said to ennoble little men.

Yes, I am a REAPER -- the world is my field; -- my domain is ample; -- the harvest is full, and I will not delay to thrust in my sickle. -- Yes, I have through life been a REAPER;-- various were the advantages, which I reaped from parental tenderness, and as I have progressed on, I have still reaped numerous benefits. Relatives, friends, associates, enemies -- from all these I have not failed to reap, and my emoluments have been immeasurable. Moreover, it is my determination henceforward to examine more industriously my extensive grounds. -- The growth of every soil shall pass in review; and, ardent in my pursuit, solicitous to inhale the salubrious gale of praise, impetuously seeking to extort applause, my unremitted efforts may possibly snatch a sprig, even from some Parnassian mound, which, interwoven with the multifarious collection, may give an interest to, and claim acceptance for, the motley articles, which will constitute my catalogue. Industry, persevering industry, is the prominent excellence, in the character of the indefatigable manufacturer of the Hyblean store; -- and by virtue of his assumed prerogative, he flies from flower, to flower, sipping the honied sweets of every perfumed tendril, cup or leaf. The bee shall be my exemplar, and I pledge myself for an attempt at an accurate copy.

Reader, this is my introduction; -- if thou likest my plan, we will proceed together;-- but, if, disgusted by the sample, thou withholdest the sanction of thy smiles, and disclaimest all further intercourse with me, I intreat thee, nevertheless, to take with thee those sincere wishes for thy welfare, which I have reaped from benevolence, and which I will never fail to breathe for the general happiness of my species.


2008 © Bonnie Hurd Smith

Independent scholar and author Bonnie Hurd Smith is the president and CEO of History Smiths, a marketing company that works with businesses to incorporate history -- their own and their community's -- into their branding, marketing, and community outreach to attract customers, boost customer loyalty, and secure a high status reputation in the communities they serve.