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A NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF DAVID CROCKETT,
OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE.
I leave this rule for others when I'm dead,
Be always sure you're right — THEN GO AHEAD!
WRITTEN BY HIMSELF
E. L. CAREY AND A. HART.
ALLEN & TICKNOR.
Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1834,
BY DAVID CROCKETT,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Columbia.
FASHION is a thing I care mighty little about, except when it happens to run just exactly according to my own notion; and I was mighty nigh sending out my book without any preface at all, until a notion struck me, that perhaps it was necessary to explain a little the reason why and wherefore I had written it.
Most of authors seek fame, but I seek for justice, — a holier impulse than ever entered into the ambitious struggles of the votaries of that fickle, flirting goddess.
A publication has been made to the world, which has done me much injustice: and the catchpenny errors which it contains, have been already too long sanctioned by my silence. I don't know the author of the book — and indeed I don't want to know him; for after he has taken such a liberty with my name, and made such an effort to hold me up to public ridicule, he cannot calculate on any thing but my displeasure. If he had been content to have written his opinions about me, however contemptuous they might have been, I should have had less reason to complain. But when he professes to give my narrative (as he often does) in my own language, and then puts into my mouth such language as would disgrace even an outlandish African, he must himself be sensible of the injustice he has done me, and the trick he has played off on the publick. I have met with hundreds, if not with thousands of people, who have formed their opinions of my appearance, habits, language, and every thing else from that deceptive work.
They have almost in every instance expressed the most profound astonishment at finding me in human shape, and with the countenance, appearance, and common feelings of a human being. It is to correct all these false notions, and to do justice to myself, that I have written.
It is certain that the writer of the book alluded to has gathered up many imperfect scraps of information concerning me, as in parts of his work there is some little semblance of truth. But I ask him, if this notice should ever reach his eye, how would he have liked it, if I had treated him so? — if I had put together such a bundle of ridiculous stuff, and headed it with his name, and sent it out upon the world without ever even condescending to ask his permission? To these questions, all upright men must give the same answer. It was wrong; and the desire to make money by it, is no apology for such injustice to a fellow man.
But I let him pass; as my wish is greatly more to vindicate myself, than to condemn him.
In the following pages I have endeavour ed to give the reader a plain, honest, homespun account of my state in life, and some few of the difficulties which have attended me along its journey, down to this time. I am perfectly aware, that I have related many small and, as I fear, uninteresting circumstances; but if so, my apology is, that it was rendered necessary by a desire to link the different periods of my life together, as they have passed, from my childhood onward, and thereby to enable the reader to select such parts of it as he may relish most, if, indeed, there is any thing in it which may suit his palate.
I have also been operated on by another consideration. It is this: — I know, that obscure as I am, my name is making a considerable deal of fuss in the world. I can't tell why it is, nor in what it is to end. Go where I will, everybody seems anxious to get a peep at me; and it would be hard to tell which would have the advantage, if I, and the "Government," and "Black Hawk," and a great eternal big caravan of wild varments were all to be showed at the same time in four different parts of any of the big cities in the nation. I am not so sure that I shouldn't get the most custom of any of the crew. There must therefore be something in me, or about me, that attracts attention, which is even mysterious to myself. I can't understand it, and I therefore put all the facts down, leaving the reader free to take his choice of them.
On the subject of my style, it is bad enough, in all conscience, to please critics, if that is what they are after. They are a sort of vermin, though, that I sha'n't even so much as stop to brush off. If they want to work on my book, just let them go ahead and after they are done, they had better blot out all their criticisms, than to know what opinion I would express of them, and by what sort of a curious name I would call them, if I was standing near them, and looking over their shoulders. They will, at most, have only their trouble for their pay. But I rather expect I shall have them on my side.
But I don't know of any thing in my book to be criticised on by honourable men. Is it on my spelling? — that's not my trade. Is it on my grammar? — I hadn't time to learn it, and make no pretensions to it. Is it on the order and arrangement of my book? — I never wrote one before, and never read very many; and, of course, know mighty little about that. Will it be on the authorship of the book? — this I claim, and I'll hang on to it, like a wax plaster. The whole book is my own, and every sentiment and sentence in it. I would not be such a fool, or knave either, as to deny that I have had it hastily run over by a friend or so, and that some little alterations have been made in the spelling and grammar; and I am not so sure that it is not the worse of even that, for I despise this way of spelling contrary to nature. And as for grammar, it's pretty much a thing of nothing at last, after all the fuss that's made about it. In some places, I wouldn't suffer either the spelling, or grammar, or any thing else to be touch'd; and therefore it will be found in my own way.
But if any body complains that I have had it looked over, I can only say to him, her, or them — as the case maybe — that while critics were learning grammar, and learning to spell, I, and "Doctor Jackson, L.L.D." were fighting in the wars; and if our books, and messages, and proclamations, and cabinet writings, and, so forth, and so on, should need a little looking over, and a little correcting of the spelling and the grammar to make them fit for use, its just nobody's business. Big men have more important matters to attend to than crossing their t's — , and dotting their i's — , and such like small things. But the "Government's" name is to the proclamation, and my name's to the book; and if I didn't write the book, the "Government" didn't write the proclamation, which no man dares to deny!
But just read for yourself, and my ears for a heel tap, if before you get through
you don't say, with many a good-natured smile and hearty laugh, "This is truly the very thing itself — the exact image of its Author,
February 1st, 1834.