Page numbers in issues:1845.1.1-32; January • 1845.1.33-64; February • 1845.1.65-96; March • 1845.1.97-128; April • 1845.1.129-160; May • 1845.1.161-192; June • 1845.2.1-32; July • 1845.2.33-64; August • 1845.2.65-96; September • 1845.2.97-128; October • 1845.2.129-160; November • 1845.2.161-192; December
Nantucket, November 26, 1844.
Mr. Merry: It is now getting to be cold weather, and I can’t play much out of doors. The evenings are also very long. For these reasons I think a great deal of your Museum. I expect to spend a great deal of time in reading your stories this winter. You know we send out vessels from Nantucket, and the men in them catch a great many whales; so we have plenty of oil to read by in the long winter nights. Some of the stories of our whalemen are very amusing. If you will come down here, we will tell you some which will do to put in the Museum. I have now filled up my sheet; so I must close by wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
Philadelphia, November 14, 1844.
Dear Mr. Merry: I have been reading some of your magazines, which my aunt lent me, and which I found very interesting. I have been to Boston, and I think it is a very fine city. I have also been to Europe, and have seen a great many things there.
I think Switzerland is a most beautiful country. It is noted for its cottages and its beautiful scenery. The cottages are very comfortable inside, and are very convenient for travellers.
Italy, also, is a very fine country. It has a great deal of fruit, and especially very fine oranges. The famous volcano of Vesuvius is in Italy, near Naples, and I ascended it. It took me a long time to go up and down Mt. Vesuvius. When I went up it, I started about ten o’clock in the morning, and I was not back again till four or five o’clock in the afternoon. I did not go alone, but with my mother and father, with other persons, and guides. All the way, going up, the road was covered with ashes.
My mother and father saw the ruins of Pompeii, which was destroyed by an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. I have been in almost every country of Europe, and I think the whole is a very fine country. I think London is not a very fine city, it is so dirty in some places; and the fog and rain often prevent any one from going out for a long time; while here, in Philadelphia, it is very fine weather most of the time.
Philadelphia is a very fine city, and has a great many public buildings. Mr. Peale’s Museum is among the principal ones. It is a very fine house, and has a great many curiosities in it. A number of people visit it.
Now I will bid you adieu, Mr. Merry, begging you to make me one of the subscribers to your magazine for children.
Mr. Peale’s Museum: Charles Willson Peale established a gallery of art and natural curiosities in Philadelphia in 1784; in 1846, it was incorporated as Peale’s Philadelphia Museum and Gallery of Fine Arts, managed by Charles’ grandson until financial difficulties forced him to sell it in 1849. (Charles Coleman Sellers. Mr. Peale’s Museum. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1980.) What Henry doesn’t mention is the mastodon skeleton which Peale had unearthed and put on display.
May 6, 1844.
Dear Mr. Merry: I am so delighted with your entertaining Magazine, that I thought I must write to you to thank you for the amusement it affords me and the other children of our family. When my kind brother James brings it home, our little hearts leap for joy at the sight of its pleasant, bright face, so full of pretty stories and pictures. That one of the poultry yard made me think of an event that happened amongst my mother’s fowls. She had a hen who died and left a family of young chickens. They might have met the same fate, if the cock had not taken them under his wing, and brooded them, until he began to lose all his feathers, and he at last died. They said it was contrary to his nature, and that caused his death.
I send you a conundrum. If you think it too trifling, you need not pay any attention to it.
My first conundrum is what Charles the Twelfth of Sweden was said to be. My second is an article. My third is a kind of air. My fourth is what the god of the sea makes his excursions in; and my whole is an island.
Your much obliged friend,
North Tewksbury, 1844.
Messrs. Bradbury, Soden, & Co.: Your little friend and subscriber in Tewksbury, L. Lewis Meriam, the 30th of July last, exchanged the busy scenes and bright hopes of childhood, as we trust, for the enduring joys of that happier home above. He had a great fondness for reading, and was much interested in the Museum, and two years ago, when seven years old, he visited nearly or quite every family in the district, to obtain subscribers.
In kindness of disposition, care of his little sisters, strict adherence to truth, and fixed principles of duty, his example is worthy of imitation by all.
He preserved the Museum with great care, to have them bound.
Respectfully, your friend,
E. L. M.
[Editor: ] The following is sent by a boy ten years old, and we cheerfully give it a place:—
The Adventures of a Snow-Flake.
When I first became aware of my existence, I found myself floating in the air with a thousand of my companions. I gradually descended to the ground, and lay there some time, when a company of boys came out of doors to play; and having resolved upon a game at snowball, one of them, standing near me, caught me up, with a multitude of my companions, and rolled us up together. Away I was thrown through the air, and hit another boy’s cap, where I stuck fast. But I had not been there long, when the sun struck upon me, and I melted away.
Then I have a faint remembrance of being drawn up into the air, and wafted about I hardly knew how or where. But after a time, I was rejoiced to find myself in my former condition, as pretty shaped a flake as you will ever see, going down gently to the ground. But, before I reached it, I chanced to alight on a gentleman’s hat, as he was passing along. There I staid very quietly a little while, till the gentleman bowed to a friend, when down I fell with many of my associates. No sooner had I got fairly settled after my fall, than a giddy boy whisked one of the runners of his sled over my back, and gave me a terrible blow. But I contrived to keep together, though somewhat crushed; and soon a sweet little girl came along and picked me up, and said I looked very white and beautiful. I liked the compliment so well, that I clung to her glove, though she tried to throw me off. Presently, the little girl went into a school-house, where I was greatly amused with the boys and girls whom I saw coming in and going out. But pretty soon the little girl took off her cloak, bonnet, and gloves, and put them in a dark closet, where, before long, I was melted to a water-drop.
When school was dismissed, the boys and girls rushed into the closet to get their things—my little girl among the rest. I still stuck to her glove; but as soon as I got into the open air, I passed away in vapor. Again I made a long journey through the air; but after a while, I resumed my old snow-dress, and hastened away to the earth. It so happened, that a covered sleigh was passing where I intended to alight,—so I came to anchor on the top of the sleigh. But I had not enjoyed the ride long, before a jolt of the sleigh cast me plump on a sidewalk. There a little fellow seized me, to help make up a snowball, which he threw at another boy who [p. 187] was coasting down a bank. The ball fell to pieces by the side of the track, and set me free. There I was till the warm weather of spring came, when I took my departure, and shall not put on my white robes again till another winter prepares them for me.
[Editor: ] The youth who sends us the following bears a name justly honored in Virginia, and I hope he may live to add to its celebrity:—
Warrenton, Fauquier Co., Va., 1845
My dear Mr. Merry: As I find you encourage little boys to write you letters and send puzzles, I take the liberty of sending you two, and hope you will think them worthy of being admitted into your Museum. You will see, from the date of this letter, that I am a Virginian, and I will give you a short description of the place where I live.
It is near the beautiful village of Warrenton, which is surrounded by mountainous and picturesque scenery; where the society is very refined and cultivated, and where we have a large and admirable school, kept there by Mr. Richard M. Smith, who employs the best classical teachers; and we are blessed with health, and every opportunity for getting a good education. We are seven miles from the celebrated Fauquier White Sulphur Springs, which is a beautiful place, and a great resort for strangers during the summer season. And during our August vacation, I frequently have the opportunity of going there, and witnessing their amusements; among others, the tournament, where a number of knights, beautifully dressed and elegantly mounted, with long lances, ride at full speed, to carry of a ring which is suspended in the air. The knight who is successful enough to take off the ring three times in succession, places a beautiful garland of flowers on the brow of the lady whom he selects as the queen of love and beauty. At night there follows a fancy ball, in which a great many characters are well sustained.
I fear I have made my letter too long, and will not trespass longer upon your patience.
Charles P— C—.
Richard M. Smith (b. c1819): school teacher. In 1850 he was the husband of Elen H. and the father of Rebecca D. and William W. S. In 1850 Smith may have owned the school; he is listed as owning real estate worth $17,000. At this time the school employed three other teachers and had sixteen students ranging in age from 12 to 23. [M432. 1850 United States Census. reel #943: 262]
Harvard, A.D. 1845.
My dear Sir: My father takes the Museum for me and my sisters; and I like it very much. I like “Dick Boldhero,” and every thing else in it. I am a boy ten years old, who has three sisters, and one brother. My name is Stephen B. F—, and I live in the town of Harvard, which is bounded on one side by the Nashua River.
I have studied a History of the United States, and Telemachus, and the Henriade, a poem, by Voltaire; all of them in French. I am now studying a history of the Ancient Philosophers, in French. This work is very interesting, and I will give you some specimens of it.
They relate that Epimenides’ father one day sent him to find a lost sheep. Well, he, having found it, entered into a cavern, about noon, to shelter him from the heat, and slept there fifty-seven years. When he waked up, he looked around to find his sheep; but it was not there. He ran out, and found the face of Nature entirely changed. He proceeded to the place whence he had taken the sheep. He found that the house had changed its owner, and that no one knew what he wished to say. He went, all affrighted, to the city of his residence. Every where new faces met his eye. He entered his father’s house, and there they demanded of him who he was, and what he wanted.
It was with much difficulty that he made his brother know him, who was a little boy when he went away; but now was an old man. Well, what do you think was the result of this? It was this: Epimenides was immediately thought the favorite of the gods. Those who did not know him supposed that he occupied these fifty-seven years in travelling to foreign countries, and in the acquisition of knowledge.
I will now tell the death of a philosopher named Empedocles. The story of this philosopher is related very differently. The most common opinion is, that, as he had a very extraordinary desire to make himself pass for a god, and as he saw some people disposed to believe him divine, he resolved to sustain this opinion to the end of life. It was for this that, when he began to feel burdened with old age, he wished to terminate his life by something miraculous. After having healed a woman of Agrigentum, named Pante, who had been abandoned by all her physicians as about to die, he prepared a solemn sacrifice, to which he invited more than eighty persons. To make them believe that he had disappeared, as soon as the feast was ended, and each had gone, some under the trees, others elsewhere, he mounted, without saying any thing, to the top of Mount Ætna, and cast himself into the flames!
This same philosopher believed in the transmigration of souls. He said he remembered having been a little girl, afterwards a fish, then a bird, and even a plant. I forgot to say that, as he always wore brass sandals, when he jumped into Mount Ætna, one of his sandals was cast out by the violence of the flames. Thus poor Empedocles, instead of passing for a god, was discovered to be only a cheat.
I will now make a quotation from the history of Aristippus. A certain man led to him his son, to be instructed, and prayed him to have great care of him. Aristippus demanded of him fifty drachms.
“What! fifty drachms?” answered the father of the child. “Why, that is enough to buy a slave!” [p. 189]
“Very well, go and buy one,” answered Aristippus, “and you will have two.”
I will now add a riddle, which has puzzled me a good deal:—
“I am long, and laid in lots;
I am short, and full of spots.
I am fat, I am lean,
Once was dirty, now am clean.”
Your affectionate friend,
Stephen B. F—,
a constant reader.
Aristippus (c435-350 BCE): philosopher and student of Socrates. Diogenes describes him as a man content with what he had and more concerned with the pleasures of life than with money; Lempriere notes that he “distinguished himself for his epicurean voluptuousness.” A grandson by the same name espoused his philosophy. [J. Lempriere. Bibliotheca Classica, 7th American ed. New York: Collins & Hannay, 1832.]
Dick Boldhero: “Dick Boldhero”, protagonist in “Dick Boldhero,” a popular serial (1844). Dick’s father dies after being bankrupted by an unscrupulous business partner, and Dick journeys through South America in search of his wealthy uncle. After adventures teaching the reader about the continent’s land, people, and wildlife, Dick realizes that those who do evil receive retribution. The serial was reprinted in book form in 1845 (Philadelphia: Sorin & Ball).
Empedocles (484-424 BCE): Sicilian poet and philosopher. He described his various incarnations in a well-known poem. Some maintain that his death was due to curiosity about Aetna, while others repeat Stephen’s story; still others said that he drowned in the sea at an old age.
Epimenides (c600 BCE): epic poet of Crete sometimes listed as one of the seven wise men. The length of his sleep varies: 40 or 47 years; Pliny and Diogenes list it as 57 years. Supposedly he lived to be 289; he was revered as a god after his death. The Museum published a piece on him in May 1855.
Henriade: epic poem by Voltaire (1724) extolling French king Henry IV and his struggle to claim his throne; he was forced to renounce his Protestantism in order to rule Catholic France. In true epic style, Henry receives a vision of heaven and of hell, guided by St. Louis, before returning to conquer his enemies.
Telemachus: Adventures of Telemachus, novel by Archbishop François de Salignac de la Mothe Fenelon (1699). Accompanied by Minerva in the form of a wise old man, Telemachus searches for his father, Ulysses. During his travels through the Mediterranean world, he encounters almost every deity in the Roman pantheon and learns about wisdom, honor, and the principles of government.
[Editor: ] Here is a long letter from the great, long, wide, far-off West! The writer will make a figure yet.
Galena, Illinois, 1845.
Mr. Merry: Respected Sir, I have to-day received the January number of your very interesting and instructive work, combining, as my Latin Grammar has it somewhere, “utile cum dulce,” which, I suppose, being interpreted freely, means the useful with the agreeable.
I look with pleasing anticipation to the arrival of each monthly number, and am always sure to be repaid for the perusal. I do wonder where you manage to pick up such a variety of interesting matter. I suppose it is all true, or nearly all: perhaps you may embellish it a little, but it is none the worse for that.
We are all locked up at present (not in jail but) by the ice and snow. By the way, it is not such a dreadful thing to be locked up in jail either, if it should be in the neighborhood of Mr. Stetson, and somebody else, who keep the Astor House in New York, particularly if New Year’s should come round every month or so. But, Mr. Merry, what do you think of the morality of that proceeding of Mr. Stetson & Co., to send such a fine dinner to three people in jail, in New York, to make their time pass pleasantly, when they are put in jail for the very purpose of being punished because they will not or cannot pay their debts. Why did not the public authorities interfere?
But, to return: I suppose you have never seen Galena, Mr. Merry. Well, it is rather a curious-looking place, surrounded by some of the “everlasting hills” that we read of, and by a great many valuable lead mines, too. The prospect from some of these hills is very fine; but there is one circumstance, or peculiarity, connected with this place. In most other places, people seek the most elevated summits for a fine prospect; but the finest “prospects” here are underground, and some of them pretty deep too. In order to understand the wit of this, you must know, that the miners call their discoveries of minerals in the crevices, before they find the main body, a “prospect.”
You know, Mr. Merry, that we are within a few miles of the Mississippi. Perhaps you have never seen this father, or, I may say indeed, this grand-father of waters. If you have not, then, with all your experience and learning, and opportunity of seeing the world and its wonders, I have the advantage of you; although, you have some considerable rivers in your part of the world, as I learn from my geography. Yet, although this is a more newly-settled country, I doubt if you have any thing equal to the Mississippi; and it is a most fortunate circumstance, that it happens to run right by so many large towns; it is certainly a great advantage. It is the most tearing-downest river, certainly, that I ever saw. Somebody said once, “that the western rivers were frozen over one half of the year, and dried up the other half.” He must have been a monstrous little man, to make such a remark, and powerful weak too, for it is not the fact; so far from it, the fact is quite the reverse!
I suppose we do have the weather a little colder here, in proportion to the population, than you have, and sometimes our rivers, in this region, are frozen over for some months; but it is not true of the Mississippi, that it is dry six months in the year, by some considerable.
I see you have a conundrum occasionally in your Museum, and I have amused myself in trying to solve them. Now, I will give you one, Mr. Merry, and see if somebody can solve it. “Why is a good loaf like the sun?” [p. 190] Because it rises from the yeast (east)! This is not my own, but the solution is. The solution I saw given to it was, “Because it is light when it rises.” Now do you not think mine is as good as this? I suppose you can keep these answers out (No, I cant. R. M.), and see if any body can guess them, if you think them worth the trouble.
My dear Mr. Merry, I do not mean to be impertinent, but will you allow me to inquire whether you are related to Mr. Peter Parley? He lived somewhere in your part of the country; and if you are not, whether you know him, and can tell me whether the old gentleman is yet living. His name and memory live, if he does not. I would go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, almost, to see that man; and, to my mind, you are a great deal like him, only more so! I doubt not, that I shall soon begin to think as much of you, particularly if you happen to be related to him.
Please set my mind at rest on these points without delay. Pray excuse me, Mr. Merry, for being so free with you; but you seem so free and sociable yourself, that, although I have never seen you, it appears to me you are like an old and familiar acquaintance. It is time we were acquainted, at any rate; and as I am not ceremonious, nor disposed to stand upon etiquette, and do not know of any body who can introduce me, I here offer you my hand, and introduce myself as one of your ardent and affectionate admirers and friends, by the name of
P.S. I had very nearly forgotten to say that I enclose one dollar, for my subscription for the coming year. If your Museum continues as good as it has been heretofore, I shall be satisfied. Don’t make it any better: I couldn’t stand it.
My father likes it very much. I never heard him say a word of disapprobation, except in regard to the article upon “whiskers.” He thought that might just as well have been omitted; some folks might consider it personal, inasmuch as some people do wear them, and think they have a right to do so; and even think—some folks do—that it improves their appearance. My father wears whiskers; but that, of course, has nothing to do with the propriety of publishing that article. He would have thought just the same about it, but might not have said any thing. To be candid with you, my mother could not see much wit in it, and spoke rather disparagingly of it. I may observe, that I have heard my mother speak rather admiringly of my father’s whiskers,—but that’s neither here nor there.
Mr. Merry, I shake hands with you, sir. I am proud of your acquaintance, and have been very much profited by reading your Museum, and I feel greatly obliged to you. I am but a boy now; but I am growing up rapidly, and in a few years, if I live, I shall be a man; and I hope to be a useful member of society. And I mean to try to secure a name that will not make my father blush to hear, nor my children either, if I ever have any. Good by, and God bless you.
“utile cum dulce”: usually, utile dulci, Latin: “the useful with the pleasant.”
Mr. Stetson: Charles A. Stetson (1810-1888), hotel-keeper of the Astor from 1837 to 1868. Stetson was known for generosity: during the Civil War he gave the stewards of the hospitals free run of the kitchen and kept open house for Union soldiers. [Matthew Hale Smith. Sunshine and Shadow in New York. Hartford, Connecticut: J. B. Burr & Co., 1869; pp. 313-14]
Astor House: hotel built by John Jacob Astor which opened on 31 May 1836. Costing $350,000, it was the wonder of its time, with 309 rooms filled with black walnut furniture, 17 “bathing rooms”, and a staff of over 100. Under the proprietorship of Charles Stetson, the efficiency of the staff astonished travellers: “[T]here is more order and regularity good attendance than in almost any country inn that I ever saw,” said one, “ … yet for board, lodging, and attendance the price is only two dollars a day; it seems to me quite incomprehensible.” [“Astor House,” The New-Yorker. 1 (4 June 1836): 173. • Jefferson Williamson. The American Hotel. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1930; pp. 33, 49. • John Robert Godley. Letters from America. London: John Murray, 1844; vol 2: 36. • Matthew Hale Smith. Sunshine and Shadow in New York. Hartford, Connecticut: J. B. Burr & Co., 1869; p. 322.]
“everlasting hills”: Bible, Genesis 49:26: “[T]he blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills.”
“prospect”: The earliest example listed in Mathews, from Illinois, is dated 1832. [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]
“tearing-downest”: probably from the noun “tear-down,” a form of “tear.” Mathews: “a spree, frolic, rampage.” The earliest example for “tear” is dated 1849; for “tear-down,” 1831. [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]
“western rivers frozen … ”: Apparently, John Randolph’s reply to Henry Clay, who was arguing to appropriate federal funds to make the Ohio River more navigable. [“Random Sketch of a Trip from the ‘Old Dominion’ to the ‘Crescent’ City of the South.” Southern Literary Messenger 8 (July 1842); p. 451]
“monstrous little”: Bartlett 1848: “Monstrous is much used by the vulgar for very, exceedingly.” [John Russell Bartlett. Dictionary of Americanisms. New York: Bartlett and Welford, 1848.]
“powerful weak”: “powerful”: Bartlett 1848: “Great; very; exceedingly. A vulgar use of the word in some parts of the country.” [John Russell Bartlett. Dictionary of Americanisms. New York: Bartlett and Welford, 1848.]
“some considerable”: Bartlett 1848: “Some. Somewhat; something.” [John Russell Bartlett. Dictionary of Americanisms. New York: Bartlett and Welford, 1848; p. 320]; “This word some is synonymous in its use with [the English] word rather, or its Yankee equivalent ‘kinder,’” Isabella Bird noted in 1856. [Isabella Bird. The Englishwoman in America. London, England: John Murray, 1856. (Repr. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1966)] “Considerable … used adverbially for very, is a common vulgarism. … This word is frequently used in the following manner in the Northern States, ‘He is considerable of a surveyor;’ ‘Considerable of it may be found in the country.’—Pickering.” [John Russell Bartlett. Dictionary of Americanisms. New York: Bartlett and Welford, 1848.] Frances Trollope, in 1832, and Charles Dickens, in 1842, include some version of the phrase as an example of Americanisms. [Frances Trollope. Domestic Manners of the Americans. Ed. Donal Smalley. New York: Vintage, Random House, 1949; p. 208 Charles Dickens. American Notes for General Circulation, ed. John S. Whitley and Arnold Goldman. Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books, 1972; p. 177]
about whiskers: “Cosmopolite” (May 1844): A satirical essay with an illustration of a New Guinea woman, equating the lushness of her hair with the beards worn by American men, who are compared to goats.
Peter Parley: the extremely-popular character created by Samuel Goodrich; beginning in 1827, Peter Parley directly addressed young readers in books calculated to educate them about the world and its inhabitants. Children reacted immediately, loving the old man with the gouty foot so much that unscrupulous publishers appropriated Parley for their own works. Frustrated by the flood of counterfeit Parleys, Goodrich actually “killed off” his creation in Peter Parley’s Farewell, a study of metaphysics published in 1840, and announced his death in the Museum in 1841—to the surprise of several readers.
Steamer “Bois d’Arc,” Red River, April 23, 1845.
Mr. Robert Merry:— Sir: Having occasion to forward some subscribers’ names, which, in my travels in this region, I have received for your Museum, “I reckon”—though, were I in your Yankee land, I might say “I guess”—it will not be amiss to send you a slight sketch, which may give you and your many little friends a glimpse into the mysteries of this crooked and curious river, and of this wild and wonderful country.
Should those of your readers who have not studied French stumble, at the outset, on seeing the queer name of the boat on which I date, we must inform them that, in English, it means Bow-wood—a kind of tree, growing far away up this river, from which the Indians make excellent bows, and of which is made this boat’s bow. If you look on Smith’s large map of the United States, you may see, in the north-west part of Louisiana, on the west side of Red River,—about twenty miles from the Texas line,—the new and flourishing little town of Shreveport. To this, and to the little rural settlement, still nearer to Texas, called Greenwood—a scattered group of log-cabins and small frame houses on a hill, in the Pine Woods—a pleasant and retired place, where they have two schools—you are now requested to introduce some copies of the Museum for 1845. Though, in Shreveport, that dangerous code known as the “Laws of Judge Lynch” has been, from all accounts, quite too prevalent,—and even now, it must be confessed, some of its citizens are “mighty like” to “blaze away,” as they say, at the man who incurs their displeasure,—yet the manners of the place seem to be improving, and promise to make it very respectable when they shall be brought more under the influence of law and ladies—especially the latter, who are now there but few in number.
The town takes its name from Captain Shreve, for his energy and success in removing much of the “great raft,” which formerly extended thirty or forty miles below that point, and as far above it. Having, on the previous day, arrived from Port Caddo in Texas, and completed her lading by adding that which a smaller boat had, on account of the shallowness of the lakes, brought out for her, the Bois d’Arc, yesterday morning left the Landing of S., so heaped up and covered over with about 1100 bales of cotton as to look more like a floating pile of General Jackson’s breastworks, at the battle of New Orleans, than like a steamboat. Her decent cabin and state-rooms accommodated as respectable a company of passengers as one can often find on these waters; and we should be comfortable were it not for the warmth of the weather, made more oppressive from the exclusion of any breeze by the dense forests on both sides of the stream, and the close walls of cotton around us.
This river is rightly named, from the color of its muddy water, and of the soil on its banks. It is very crooked, and in these parts narrow, so that often, in “making a bend,” the boat must strike the shore, lose its headway, swing off, and go on again. Thus we sometimes find ourselves in close quarters with the bushes and limbs of trees. Though from Shreveport to Natchitoches, the next town below, the distance by land is not a hundred miles, it is two hundred and fifty by water. The shores are low, generally subject to overflow, and covered with woods, except here and there a clearing, with some fields of corn and cotton. Of course this scenery is not so interesting as [p. 222] that on the Hudson or Connecticut; but the sportsmen, whose companion is always a gun, amuse themselves and others by “popping” at the alligators, while some read, some play cards, some talk or lounge, and one, at least, you perceive, scribbles. One poor young man, too, far gone with consumption, is trying to reach his friends in another state.
But to the point which I had in mind when I began this story—already, I fear, too long. Perhaps you have not yet seen good reasons for my calling this a curious river and a wonderful country. We have just made our escape from a “raft,” which had detained us twenty hours. This raft was formed by the drift, or the numerous trees, logs, and sticks, which, in floating down the stream, had lodged against a large tree, prostrated across the channel by the force of a hurricane, which passed through this region the day before we arrived. For many miles along the river, the course of the storm is marked by its havoc among the forest-trees, some torn out by the roots, some twisted and broken to shivers above the ground, some stripped of their limbs; and the tall, naked stumps, which had been left standing in the cleared fields of the planters, were strewn over the cultivated ground, while the foliage seemed cut to pieces, and the growing crops beaten down, by the hail.
We found the river, twenty-four hours after the tempest, clogged up for the distance of fifty or sixty rods. The tree being cut off, the raft moved; but the main part soon stopped. A little more work then would doubtless have loosened the whole; but our “Captain Smoker,” not wishing to lose time, attempting to smoke the steamer through, drove her like a wedge into the mass; but failing, backed up and tried again, repeating this operation several times, and reminding one of the combats of certain quadrupeds common in your country. The last time, taking a good start, the steamer made a desperate push, but was brought up, where she was snugly held till morning. In the evening, the “Maid of Kentucky” came up to our stern, where, of course, she had to “lie by.” This morning, after some ineffectual efforts to relieve ourselves by hauling out the logs with the windlass, and after the “South-Western,” had, with much labor, succeeded in clearing away another raft a short distance below us, she came up to our bow, and making fast to hers one large “hauser,” backed away till she broke it then gave us her new one, and finally pulled us, raft and all, out of “a mighty tight place.”
Now if you don’t agree that this is a great country, at least for squalls, and that this is “one droll stream” to navigate, you differ in opinion from
A Friend to Merry
“blaze away”: Bartlett 1848: “To keep up a discharge of fire-arms. A good English phrase.” [John Russell Bartlett. Dictionary of Americanisms. New York: Bartlett and Welford, 1848.]
“drift”: Cassidy: “a mass of natural debris accumulated in a stream”; the earliest use listed is dated 1804. [Frederic G. Cassidy, ed. Dictionary of American Regional English. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, Harvard University Press, 1985-2012.]
“I guess”: Bartlett 1848: “ … the legitimate, English sense of this word is to conjecture; but with us, and especially in New England, it is constantly used in common conversation instead of to believe, to suppose, to think, to imagine, to fancy.” [John Russell Bartlett. Dictionary of Americanisms. New York: Bartlett and Welford, 1848.]
“I reckon”: Bartlett 1848: “To think; to imagine; to believe; to conjecture; to conclude; to guess. Used in some parts of the United States, as guess is in the Northern.” [John Russell Bartlett. Dictionary of Americanisms. New York: Bartlett and Welford, 1848.]
“Laws of Judge Lynch”: more usually “Lynch law;” named for Captain William Lynch. Mathews: “The practice or custom by which persons are punished for real or alleged crimes without due process of law; the punishment so meted out.” [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]
“lie by”: nautical term for a ship coming almost to a standstill.
“mighty like”/”mighty tight place”: Bartlett 1848: “In a great degree; very; as, ‘mighty wise;’ ‘mighty thoughtful.’—Webster” [John Russell Bartlett. Dictionary of Americanisms. New York: Bartlett and Welford, 1848.]
“raft”: Bartlett 1848: “This term is … given to a large collection of timber and fallen trees, which, floating down the great rivers of the West, are arrested in their downward course by flats or shallow places. Here they accumulate, and sometimes block up the river for miles.” The earliest example listed by Mathews is dated 1772. [John Russell Bartlett. Dictionary of Americanisms. New York: Bartlett and Welford, 1848. • Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]
Bois d’Arc: 182-ton sidewheel steamer built in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1843. In 1844 she landed at Shreveport, Port Caddo, Natchitoches, and Alexandria; her master was J. Smoker. She was lost in 1847 [William M. Lytle, comp. Merchant Steam Vessels of the United States. Mystic, Connecticut: The Steamship Historical Society of America, 1952; p. 21. • Advertisements of Lower Mississippi River Steamboats, 1812-1920, comp. Leonard V. Huber. West Barrington, Rhode Island: The Steamship Historical Society of America, 1959; p. 11].
great raft: A massive collection of fallen trees accumulated on the Red River and was dismantled in the 1830s by Captain Henry Miller Shreve; “The great raft on Red river extended twenty miles,” Bartlett wrote in 1848, “and required an immense outlay of money to remove it.” [John Russell Bartlett. Dictionary of Americanisms. New York: Bartlett and Welford, 1848.]
Maid of Kentucky: 192-ton sidewheel steamboat built at Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1840. In 1844 she was advertised as a passenger steamer, the “regular Yazoo Packet” landing at Greenwood, Marion, Yazoo City, Satartia, and Vicksburg. She was abandoned or dismantled in 1847. [William M. Lytle, comp. Merchant Steam Vessels of the United States. Mystic, Connecticut: The Steamship Historical Society of America, 1952; p. 118. • Advertisements of Lower Mississippi River Steamboats, 1812-1920, comp. Leonard V. Huber. West Barrington, Rhode Island: The Steamship Historical Society of America, 1959; p. 45]
Captain Henry Miller Shreve (1785-1851): U. S. steamboat captain. Shreve traded on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers before being appointed superintendent of western river improvements (1827-1841); he designed the first steam snagboat, which pulled from the waters the sunken logs that menaced navigation. In the 1830s he dismantled the raft that had impeded navigation on the Red River; the camp he established during this operation grew into the town of Shreveport.
Smith’s large map: probably created by John Chapin Smith, of Sherman & Smith in New York. One printed in 1843 included Canada and much of Texas and measured 44 by 71 cm.; an updated version in 1845 measured 44 by 68 cm.
Captain Smoker: J. Smoker, master of the Bois d’Arc in 1844. [Advertisements of Lower Mississippi River Steamboats, 1812-1920, comp. Leonard V. Huber. West Barrington, Rhode Island: The Steamship Historical Society of America, 1959; p. 11]
South-Western: 202-ton sidewheel steamship built in New Albany, Indiana, in 1839. Until 1844, she regularly made trips from New Orleans to Natchitoches and Alexandria; she was abandoned or dismantled in 1852. [William M. Lytle, comp. Merchant Steam Vessels of the United States. Mystic, Connecticut: The Steamship Historical Society of America, 1952; p. 177. • Advertisements of Lower Mississippi River Steamboats, 1812-1920, comp. Leonard V. Huber. West Barrington, Rhode Island: The Steamship Historical Society of America, 1959; p. 62.]
General Jackson’s breastworks: Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) led the defeat of British forces at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. At New Orleans, Jackson ordered a series of breastworks be established; these were built of whatever solid objects were available: A. Lacarriere Latour records that, “The cheeks of the embrasures of our batteries were formed of bales of cotton, which the enemy’s balls struck and made fly in all directions ….” [A. Lacarriere Latour. Historical Memoir of the War in West Florida and Louisiana in 1814-15. Philadelphia: John Conrad & Co., 1816. (Repr. Floridiana Facsimile Reprint Series. Gainesville, Florida: University of Florida Press, 1964); p. 134.]
Petersham, May 26, 1845.
Mr. Merry: Seeing that you have many little correspondents, (some with black eyes, and some with blue,) I thought you would be kind enough to excuse me for writing a few lines, as I wish to thank my little cousin S. M. W—, from whom you published a letter in April, 1844, through your pages, for her kindness in sending me your most interesting Museum.
I have received three bound volumes, and the Numbers for last year and five for this. I would like very much to go to Georgia and thank my cousin for her thoughtfulness of me, and roam with her over the green pastures and meadows, and gather the sweet flowers, and by the little streams to watch the bright waters as they joyfully dance along their way towards the ocean. I would like also to see that curious rock she wrote about, and wanted you to visit, and write a story about. But it is far, far away, and I cannot go; so I will content myself to stay at home and read your interesting stories. Good-by, Mr. Merry.
Springfield, May, 1845.
Mr. Robert Merry: Dear Sir: I have read Merry’s Museum more than four years. I think every number [p. 223] grows more and more interesting. I should not like to part with it. I thought I would write, for the amusement of your little black-eyed and blue-eyed readers, about three little chickens. I will let one of the chickens tell the story.
“My first recollection, after I saw the light, was that my mother, with myself and two sisters, was wandering about in the farm-yard. Mother was scratching with all her might to get some food for her little family. By some circumstance which we were too young to understand, we were deprived of our mother. Then we went yeaping, yeaping around the farm-yard, until we found our way to our master’s door, when our master’s daughter, a fine young lady, had compassion upon us, took us and brooded and protected us a few days. Then she presented us to a young friend of hers, who was very much pleased with us. She was delighted to see us run about the yard, and come and feed out of her hand.
“One day our little mistress was absent. While we were playing by ourselves, a great cat pounced upon us, and caught one of my sisters, and ran away with her. We were exceedingly frightened; but at that moment our little mistress came, took us up, and shed many tears over us at the loss of one of her little pets. From that moment our little mistress never suffered us to be out of her sight. She would sit for hours and hold us in her lap, and read a little book. O, how much comfort we did take! While she was reading, and looking at the pretty pictures, we would turn up our little eyes, and peer in her face, and wonder what she was about. How peaceful and happy we were in those happy days! But we have got to be great chickens—I might almost say old hens—now, and we try to repay our little mistress by giving her as many eggs as we can!”
Such, Mr. Merry, is the story. You may print it if you please, but don’t tell any body, who wrote it.
Lowell, April, 1845.
My dear Mr. Merry: You cannot think how much pleasure my little sister and myself take in your little periodical. When we see the pink cover in our father’s hand, we exclaim in one voice, “I speak for Merry’s Museum!” I think that the cover for this year is as good as any you have ever had; but if the old man there is intended for you, the designer forgot that you had but one good leg. Excuse my criticism, Mr. Merry.
I liked the Old Man in the Corner’s productions very much; but I am afraid he will never appear again. Did he go away with old 1844? Or is his package empty? I should like to hear from your friend Bill Keeler. I hope he will come again to amuse the readers of Merry’s Museum with his laughable stories.
I thank you for one thing, Mr. Merry; you are more punctual than you used to be. Last year, if I went to visit my little friends, among other various questions, I was generally asked, “Has your Merry’s Museum come yet?” Then they would say, “I wish they would come sooner; I want to find how such a story ends.” But now they come at the beginning of the month. How many names you have! Robert Merry, Peter Parley, and did you not at one time call yourself “Robert Rambler”? I subscribe for your Parley’s Cabinet Library; it is a most useful, instructive, and entertaining work. You suggested once having a book entitled the “Puzzler puzzled.” I think it would be a good plan to have the three last pages of the Museum devoted to puzzles. I often see, in your magazines, puzzles sent by subscribers; and if you think the following worthy of a place in the Museum, by inserting it you would confer a great pleasure on
AN ACROSTICAL ENIGMA;
inscribed to Mr. Robert Merry.
I am a word of fifteen letters.
My 1, 8, 3, 2, was wanted by Oliver Twist.
My 2, 13, 2, 15, 5, is a mournful song. [p. 224]
My 3, 11, 10, is the name of a Mississippi branch.
My 4, 2, 14, 10, is found by the river’s side.
My 5, 2, 13, 13, is a savage cry.
My 6, 2, 3, 4, 11, 4, is a French word for squeeze.
My 7, 3, 2, 12, is a celebrated man, and bird.
My 8, 3, 10, 11, 4, is essential to all.
My 9, 5, 2, 6, is an introduction to a proclamation.
My 10, 2, 12, is the resort of wild animals.
My 11, 5, 2, is a remarkable part of man.
My 12, 11, 5, was a hero.
My 13, 2, 15, is part of my whole.
My 14, 12, 10, is the extremity of all.
My 15, 8, 10, 10, 11, 6, is a title of the River Ganges. [Transcriber’s note: Answered in 1845.2.285-286]
My whole is a devoted friend of the young, and something which he always carries about with him. Do you give it up?
“Old Man in the Corner”: collection of four pieces (1844). Purportedly left in Robert Merry’s office by an old man who looked like Peter Parley, the works range from a “scientific” discussion of melancholy to the reminiscences of a cotton rag, a story in which a boy learns not to be lazy, and a tale in which a philosopher’s daughter argues him into believing in God.
Bill Keeler: a storyteller whose humorous and moral tales are told in “Bill and the Boys” (Robert Merry’s Museum, 1844)
Parley’s Cabinet Library: a collection of books published from 1844 to 1845. The Library totalled 20 volumes, six each in the “Biographical Department” and the “Historical Department”; the other eight included works on geology, natural history, literature, and sociology. Each volume was sold in paper-covered parts meant to be bound together by the owner’s local printer or bookseller.
cover for 1845: depicted a balding man seated, talking with the three children around him. (See image at the top of this page.) Unlike Robert Merry, with his wooden leg, the man has two whole legs.
Robert Rambler: an alias with several possibilities: “Robert Ramble” was the pseudonym of John Frost (1800-1859), American educator and compiler; “Rambles of Richard Rover” appeared in Parley’s Magazine, founded by Samuel Goodrich, in 1836.
Cambridge, June 26, 1845.
Mr. Merry: Dear Sir: I received yesterday my Museum for July, which is a very good one. The article on “Fire” is very interesting. So are the “Misfortunes of a Yellow-Bird,” and the “Story of Three Chickens;” in short, every thing in the number is good. I like all such pieces as The “Adventures of a Snow-flake,” which, by the way, I think is very well written. I think that the adventures of a Pin might be made very interesting.
I have found out the answer to the acrostical enigma. “More” was what Oliver Twist wanted; an “elegy” is a mournful song; the “Red River” is a branch of the Mississippi; the “reed” is found by the river’s side; a “yell” is a savage cry; “serrer” is a French word for squeeze; “Wren” is a celebrated man and bird; “order” is essential to all; “Oyes” is an introduction to a proclamation; a “den” is the resort of wild animals; the “eye” is a remarkable part of a man; Marshal “Ney” was a hero; “leg” is a part of my whole; the “end” is the extremity of all; “Goddess” is a title of the River Ganges; “Merry’s wooden leg” is the whole, and a devoted friend of the young, and something which he always carries about with him. I have sent a story which you may insert if you please.
J. M. P.
BIOGRAPHY OF A PIN.
WRITTEN BY ITSELF.
Having, in my fortunate days, often seen your magazine, and remembering that your subscribers sometimes wrote letters to you, I thought that I (though not a subscriber) would write one, too, in which I would give a short history of my life and adventures. To begin, then: I first saw the light in a pin-manufactory at Worcester; and I perfectly remember the day I was placed, with a multitude of my companions, side by side, in a rose-colored paper.
There we stood, in glittering ranks, like a company of soldiers in new regimentals. We were then carefully folded and packed in boxes, with various other papers, and soon found ourselves nicely stowed away in a baggage-car, and on our route to Boston.
Having arrived safely in Boston, after passing through various hands, we were at last consigned to the custody of a shop-keeper in Washington Street. Here we dragged out a miserable existence for many weeks, shut out from air and light, and scarcely conscious of life. I longed to know something of the world, and to make myself useful to mankind, and I nearly leaped from my paper with joy when Mrs. S., a lady from Beacon Street, in purchasing pins, selected the paper which contained me. She placed us in the prettiest little bag in the world, and carried us home, where, having taken us from our rose-colored retreat, she placed us on a beautiful pin-cushion in front of her glass, leaving us to admire ourselves at pleasure.
I led a very gay and happy life in her service, sometimes reposing luxuriously upon my cushion, and sometimes accompanying her to her drawing-room, and to the balls and parties which she attended, where my head was in imminent danger of being turned. One day, as she was dressing for a water excursion, her maid took me up to pin Mrs. S.’s dress, but dropped me, and, not stopping to pick me up, took one of my companions to fill the place I so longed to occupy.
I was overwhelmed with dismay to find myself carelessly left upon the floor by the mistress I had so long served. Whilst I was deploring my cruel fate, the chambermaid, Mary, came in, broom in hand, to sweep the [p. 286] room; and seeing me, whilst engaged in her labors, she took me up, and stuck me in her gown, from which I was soon transferred to the trimmings of a smart straw bonnet which she had purchased that day. I was greatly depressed at the idea of the change of fortune and station which awaited me. From being the constant companion of Mrs. S. at her balls and parties, now my only amusement was to be derived from companionship with a servant. However, I soon found that I was mistaken; for my mistress was honest and kind-hearted, and I was very happy, till one day I was shut up in a bandbox, in a dark closet. Here I had ample time for reflection, for Mary was very busy.
Poor Mrs. S., on the water excursion I have mentioned, took a severe cold, and being of a sickly constitution, fell rapidly into a consumption, of which she soon died. Mary, who had been brought up by her, and had lived with her fifteen years, mourned her greatly. On the day of the funeral, in exchanging the gay ribbon on her bonnet for a black one, she accidentally dropped me into her mistress’s old work-box, and locked me safely in. There I remained unmolested for some weeks. At the end of that time, Mr. S.’s house was broken into by robbers, who, after purloining all the silver and plate they could find, seeing the box, which was so carefully locked, and thinking it might, perhaps, contain money, they seized it on their escape from the house. On breaking open the box, what was their disappointment, to find only pins, needles, and a lady’s working apparatus, of no use to themselves, and only an encumbrance in their flight!
They left us all on the steps of a house in a remote street, and the housemaid, in the morning, charitably took us in, and adopted us as her own. After seeing a few weeks’ hard service in her aprons and belts, I was glad when an accident, which I do not now recollect, transferred me to the possession of an old nurse. The next day she placed me in the frock of Miss Maria Q., a pretty little girl, who took me with her to school for a long time, where I might have learned to read and write. But in my adventures I had got a little crooked, and from that time I never did any thing that was very praiseworthy.
After a short time, I was transferred to the possession of the mistress of the house. I could have cried when I found Mrs. Q., one evening, taking me from my little mistress and putting me in her pin-cushion. Here I lived, about a year, a monotonous life enough, which I do not think I could have survived, if her children had not often left your magazine open on her table, the pictures of which amused my weary hours.
We come to the catastrophe of my story. After I had been about a year in Mrs. Q.’s family, the house took fire in the middle of the night. The inmates dressed themselves in haste, and Mrs. Q. sticking me carelessly into her clothes, I slipped out in her flight. I fell between the stones in a gutter, where I remain to this day. I am now a little more than eleven, having lived in this melancholy place eight years. Though all this time entirely inactive and useless, I have, as you may suppose, seen a great deal of the world from my retreat. There is no end to the shows and spectacles that daily pass before me, and from each I have endeavored to extract some lesson of contentment; but it grieves me to think that here I must lie till the end of time, and from this obscurity must still gaze at the passers by; for who will ever pick up a pin from a gutter? To-day, seeing a sheet of paper blow out of a window, I made ink of some mud, and wrote, as well as pin can write, this letter, which I shall intrust to the conveyance of the wind.
Your most obedient servant,
“Fire” (Dec 1845): an essay on fire, the molten center of the earth, and the care people should take with matches.
“Misfortunes of a Yellow-Bird”: reprinted from the Juvenile Miscellany (July 1845), the autobiography of a bird from its hatching through its being caught, caged, and thus reduced to “slavery” and to luring other birds into the same trap.
Norwalk, Ct., July, 1845.
Friend Merry: Dear Sir: I think I have read your Museum and your stories about long enough to be one of your numerous acquaintances, although I do not know your opinion upon the subject. However, I will venture to have a little intercourse with you, whatever may follow.
I regret to say that I have not taken your [p. 287] amusing magazine but one year, as you will see by the following statement. The latter part of the year previous, a gentleman came along here with a subscription paper, obtaining subscribers for the ensuing year, to any of several different magazines. I perused his specimens all over separately, and in the mean time “fixed my eye” upon one of them as the “very one” I wanted, and subscribed for it. Now, almost or quite all of your readers can tell which one it was. Robert Merry’s Museum, of course. Do you think I grudged the dollar I paid for it? No, indeed! Have I wished I had taken another in the place of it? No! But I have lamented that I did not get hold of this pleasant work before.
I have always been very much attached to enigmas, charades, rebuses, conundrums, &c.; and when I saw that the latter part of your Museum was devoted to such puzzles, the bell of joy rang in my ears, and I cannot refrain from sending you some of the above-named; and if you think them worthy of a place in your next number, please insert them. I also send you the answer to the puzzle in your July number.
Answer to the “Acrostical Enigma” in the July Number.
You “blue-eyed subscriber, E. O. K[.],”
Obscurely your puzzle seems to say,
That our friend “Merry’s wooden leg”
Cannot be found without a plague.
“Do you give it up?”
I suppose almost all of your “black eyes” and “blue eyes” can unravel the following
He that in music takes delight,
And he that sleeps secure by night,
And he who sails too near the land,
And he that’s caught by law’s strong hand;
He who his time in tavern spends,
And he that courts of law attends;
He that explains heraldic signs,
And he that works in silver mines—
Are all acquainted well with me:
What is my name? You can but see.
I send likewise this Conumdrum:—
“What is that which is always invisible, yet never out of sight?” [Transcriber’s note: answered in 1846.1.30-31.]
But, Mr. Merry, I must not continue my letter any further, because I am afraid you will think me an intruder, as you never heard from me before; but you will hear from me again ere long, with some interesting stories. I now close, by sending
My love to you,
And a friendly adieu!
From an affectionate subscriber,
E. R. P—r.
Mr. Merry: Would you please give these lines a place in the Museum, and oblige
M. D. T—T.
THE DEATH OF LITTLE WILLIAM *.
The little boy is gone;
His book and playthings left;
The clothes he used to wear
Are laid beside the rest.
He wants no more
Earth’s trifling things,
For Heaven brings
Her sweetest store.
The little boy is gone;
No more he’ll cheer the way
Of those he loved on earth;
How dismal seems the day!
He’ll cheer above
Th’ angelic song,
In praises long,
Of boundless love.
The little boy is gone;
His aptness, look, and smile,
The features of his face,
A heart that knew no guile,—
Although death comes,
These all survive,
And ever live
Beyond the tomb.
The little boy is gone;
The circle round do weep,
To think he’ll no more be seen,
Or hear that voice so sweet.
Dry, dry those tears,
Nor wish him home;
He’s only gone
From sin and fears!
The auburn lock he left
Is kept to look upon,
Along with smiles and tears,
Till time with us has flown.
So let our love
In future be,
To trust in thee,
Great God above.
The little boy is gone;
But where, O where? we say:
He’s gone to live on high,
In realms of endless day.
There rapturous strains
Wake every string,
While angels sing,
“The Lord doth reign.”
*Son of V. D. Ellsworth Esq. Fairfield, Ct. [footnote original]
V. D. Ellsworth: Verdine D. Ellsworth (b. c1794), of Fairfield, Connecticut. In 1850, Ellsworth and his 46-year-old wife, Jane, had 17-year-old Julia and 12-year-old Charles living at home. (M432. 1850 United States Census reel #38: 5)
Lewistown, Mifflin Co., Pa., July 11, 1845.
Mr. Robert Merry: I have consulted my father about taking your Museum another year, and he has kindly consented to furnish me with money for this purpose, as he thinks that it is a very instructive and amusing work.
I shall be very much pleased if you continue to put music in each number, for I am very partial to music.
I will now try and give you a short description of my place of residence. The town is beautifully situated in the forks of the Juniata River and Kiskacoquillas Creek. We are surrounded with forges, furnaces, and rolling mills, ours being the iron region. A number of persons talk of erecting a cotton-factory here; and I do assure you, Mr. Merry, that in a few years we may rival in business many larger towns. In fact, our creek commands water-power not surpassed in the east, and our location, on the canal and turnpike, affords an easy access to the great markets at all seasons of the year.
Many of my playmates are your subscribers, and are all equally delighted with your work. They are very impatient to see the August number. This being my first letter to you, please correct it before you insert it.
Your obliged friend,
aged 12 years.
[Editor: ] The following story has the appearance of romance, but we believe it to be a true history of what actually happened. [p. 376]
Randolph, October, 1845.
Mr. Merry: You will oblige a subscriber by inserting in your Museum
Of the history of this singular personage very little is known previous to the time of his arrival in Niagara. He was supposed to have been the son of a nobleman in England. He had received an excellent education, and possessed some talents; but, by some misfortune, he became deranged.
He came to Niagara in the summer of 1835, and, by his singular manners and appearance, attracted the attention of the strangers who visit the great Falls. He kept aloof from all company as much as possible, speaking to no one unless spoken to, and then giving short and evasive answers. Soon after his arrival, he commenced building himself a hut, on the south-western extremity of Goat Island. Here he lived for nearly two years in entire seclusion from the world, with no companions except a cat and dog, to whom he became very much attached, as they were faithful watchers of his humble home. His chief occupation was composing poetry. This he wrote in English, and then turned it into Latin; but he immediately destroyed it. He also wrote music, and played the violin and flute excellently. His chief delight was in viewing the cataract from different places. His favorite resort was near the spot where Prospect Tower now stands. Here he might be seen, at all seasons of the year, and at all times of the night, perched on the end of a huge timber which projected over the precipice, gazing with steadfast eye upon the falls, whilst ever and anon he cast his eye downward into the awful chasm which yawned beneath. No one knew his thoughts, or his motives for his conduct. We can only say that here he lived and here he died, his life a benefit to no one, and the genius and intellect which might have been an ornament to society, and a benefit to the world, passed away in obscurity and neglect.
Hermit of Niagara: Francis Abbot (1802?-1831), who actually lived at the Falls from 1829 to 1831; he settled in an old house on Iris Island, moving to Prospect Point when a family settled too close. In the evenings he read books in several languages or played music: “It was almost surprising to hear,” Lydia Sigourney asserted, “in such depth of solitude, the long-drawn, thrilling tones of the viol, or the softest melodies of the flute, gushing forth from that low-browed hut, or the guitar, breathing out so lightly, amid the rush and thunder of the never slumbering torrent.” Abbot was a tourist attraction in himself, fascinating visitors by sometimes dangling above the Falls from the end of a long plank, and with the fact that such a well-educated man would become a recluse and a “fervent worshipper” of the Falls, “at every hour of the day or night.” He drowned while swimming. In March 1864, Aunt Sue included a piece on Abbot in her column, “Aunt Sue’s Scrap Bag.” [Lydia Howard Sigourney. Scenes in My Native Land. Boston: James Munroe & Co., 1844; pp. 154-61. • Patrick V. McGreevey. Imagining Niagara. Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994]
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