Dear Friend Robert Merry: Letters from nineteenth-century children
Introduction

How to use this book

1840s: 18411842184318441845 • 1846 • 184718481849

1850s: 1850185118521853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 1860186118621863186418651866186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

About the Merry Cousins

Appendix

Index & gloss

Sources

The Cousins’ Greatest Hits

1846

1846.1.29-30

[Riceboro’], Geo., 1845.

My dear Mr. Merry: I have been waiting until the Post-Office Bill went into effect, to send you a letter. Father commenced taking your Museum for us last January; and, as we did not enjoy the benefit of all the numbers which you had written before, he bought them bound in eight volumes. We find them very interesting and improving, as well as amusing.

I hope that you intend to continue the Museum, for if you discontinue it we shall regret it very much. I saw in your Museum that several boys had sent you conundrums, and I here take the liberty of sending you one with which I have amused myself. It is of my own composing, and if you think proper, you will much oblige me by giving it a place in your next number. I live where the orange, fig, lemon, pomegranate, peach, pear, plum, [p. 30] apple, and grape, flourish. We have also a great many watermelons and muskmelons; and cotton, rice, pease, corn, and potatoes, are raised with us. If you would like it, Mr. Merry, I will give you a description of cotton in my next letter. Here, in winter, there is no snow, and our rivers are not frozen over, as at the north; but the winters are mild and pleasant. In summer it is very hot, but our heat is tempered by the sea breezes.

I will now give you my conundrum, which is as follows:—

CONUNDRUM.

My 7, 9, and 2, is a town in Hindostan.

My 9, 2, 8, 3, is a species of grain.

My 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, is what we often need.

My 1, 5, 8, is dangerous, if not properly used.

My 6, 5, 7, 4, 8, is a time for rest.

My 7, 5, 6, is a machine used for various purposes.

My 4, 5, 6, is a measure formerly used.

My 3, 5, 6, 7, 5, 6, 7, is a great accomplishment.

My 3, 5, 6, is what we are all liable to.

My 8, 5, 6, is a valuable metal.

My 3, 2, 1, is a carpenter’s tool.

And my whole is a distinguished man. [Transcriber’s note: Answered in 1847.2.124-125]

I almost forgot to tell you that most of our play-time is occupied in reading your Museum, and we often read it aloud to mother, while she sits and sews. I also send you an enigma, which was written to amuse us a few nights since.

My dear Mr. Merry, I must now bid you good-by, for the present. Prosperity, long life, and happiness, is the wish of your young friend,

Carolus.

Riceboro’: Originally, the dateline read “Augusta”; Carolus corrected it in his next letter.

Post-Office Bill: A statute titled “An act to reduce the rates of postage,” dated 3 March 1845 in part reduced postage to five cents for a single letter sent under 300 miles and to 10 cents for a letter sent over 300 miles. [The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845, ed. Richard Peters. Boston: Charles C. Little & James Brown, 1846; vol 5: 732-739]

eight volumes: Robert Merry’s Museum was made up of two volumes per year; therefore, the years 1841, 1842, 1843, and 1844 consisted of eight volumes.


1846.1.30-31

Lowell, Sept. 1845.

Mr. Robert Merry: Honored and Respected Sir: Merry’s Museum for September has been received, and greeted, as usual, with joyfulness by me, an interested subscriber. The few last pages are, to me, the most interesting; and should others think so, I shall endeavor to add one letter to your score.

Each number of your periodical is more interesting than the last. Your fable of “The Butterfly and the Frost” was quite good. The inexorable Jack is now commencing his annual tour; but so long as we have warm fires and comfortable homes, he may come on—we will defy him. He will soon commence his admirable landscape-painting upon our windows, and we children shall muffle up in our warm hoods and cloaks, to keep him at a respectable distance; but woe unto you!—ye who have neglected to put a necessary stitch in your clothing, for Jack will creep, unwelcome and unbidden, through the smallest aperture, to pinch your form severely, with ungloved hands.

I have unravelled one puzzle, the conundrum by E. R. P., to whom this answer is inscribed:— [p. 31]

The letter I doth tell the tale;

It always is in sight;

In visible its form is seen:—

Have I not guessed it right?

My little sister sends you the following conundrum. Spell tobacco with three letters. I rather think you will be obliged to “give it up.”—The following original enigma, by myself, with this letter, if worthy of your notice, I would be much gratified to see occupying the humblest corner in your Museum.

ENIGMA.

By the coach’s wheels I ride:

In the city I reside.

Rolling oft in vapory form,

I am silenced by the storm.

O’er the world I am the same;

Can’t you guess my simple name? [Transcriber’s note: Answered in 1846.1.160]

Mr. Merry, allow me to inform you of a mistake which was made in my last letter: instead of signing my name E. O. R., as it should be it was printed E. O. K. But now, good-by.

Your blue-eyed subscriber,
E. O. R.

“Butterfly and the Frost”: “Peter Parley’s Story of the Butterfly and the Frost” (Sept 1845). In this retelling of Aesop’s fable of the grasshopper and the ant, a butterfly who preens before a hard-working ant dies after the first frost. The ant declaims on this fall of “mirth and pride”—and eats the butterfly.

Jack: Jack Frost

“give it up”: “giving up”, the earliest example to mean “to leave off trying” in the OED is dated 1611.

conundrum: The answer is “cud.”


1846.1.59-60

Maine, Dec. 9, 1845.

Would Mr. Merry like a new correspondent? Perhaps he has already so many that he cannot find room for me, which might be as well, for, should this meet a favorable reception, perhaps I might trouble him again. Your correspondents reside in all parts of the United States but Texas and Oregon. I don’t think your pleasant little magazine has crossed the Rocky Mountains, though it may have reached them. Your correspondents at the south and west scarcely tell us what kind of a country theirs is; and I have looked in vain for a description of the red men. It may be that they do not know much of them, for I had almost forgotten the removal of a large number to a more distant region. I pity them; many obliged, in old age, to leave the hunting-grounds of their youth, to which their hearts are no less bound because we call [p. 60] them savage. Will not some of my fellow-readers of the Museum contribute a description of these sons of the forest, as they have seen them in New York, in Michigan, in Delaware, Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, Maine, and Canada? I have myself often seen them; but it needs a daguerreotype to present their dirty, swarthy skins, their soiled finery, their black eyes, beautiful hands, and small feet. I have not space to tell of silver breastplate and tarnished crucifix, worn on the breast, bare as a Roman’s. There is no romance round them here, but dear to me are their history and their memory.

I have been a constant reader of your magazine ever since its commencement. It often comes to help cheer our pleasant evenings; and, among all our amusing and instructive books, the Museum is the most anxiously sought out by those who claim ownership. In summer, sunny skies and out-door frolics circumscribe its influence; but, in colder weather, we love to read its amusing tales and funny anecdotes, while the fire is beaming upon the hearth, and we all surround the brightly-lighted centre-table. We have together chanted the chorus of Dr. Darwin’s cat, Snow, and wondered what kind of a cat-ty strophe pussy returned. My sister says she proved herself a blue cat, if her answer was in Miss Seward’s style. I have sympathized with your correspondents, particularly “Laura,” and often imagined myself one of them, till, thinking “the pleasure must be great to see one’s self in print,” I have set about manufacturing an epistle, as a Christmas gift, for my good friend, Mr. Merry, wishing him all sorts of health, happiness, and prosperity. The riddle sent lang syne, by “Harriet, of Newport,” weighs heavy on my mind. That Abracadabra was the answer, I soon ascertained; and also that some of the different parts were Asa, Bob, Refer, Ava, Aga, Did, Anna; but the “Spanish ship’s name” has baffled me, though I have thought more about it than you would suppose. What the appellation of that beverage is which commences with C, and “backward or forward spells just the same,” I have not been able to discover, either.

Might I presume to ask a favor? I would suggest that pleasant, familiar letters, descriptive of winter scenes and fireside enjoyments, and written in a lively style, to the readers of the Museum, would have a charm for some, at least, of them. Do not you know, Mr. Merry, among all your acquaintance, any who would contribute such a letter once a month?

Mr. Merry’s constant friend,
Louisa.

Dr. Darwin’s cat: “Letter from Dr. Darwin’s Cat to Miss Seward’s Cat, Written by Dr. Darwin”: a “love letter” from one cat to the other appearing in the December 1845 Museum. Miss Seward is referred to as one whose fingers “hold the pen of science”—hence the characterization of her as “blue”; it includes the humorous love song Louisa and her family chanted, in which Snow pleads for the regard of Miss Pussy, who has ignored his serenades.

“blue cat”: probably an extremely studious cat. Lighter lists such use of “blue” as an adjective in 1851, though in 1842 it was a noun used at Dartmouth as a synonym for a strict and straightlaced student. [J. E. Lighter, ed. Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang. New York: Random House, 1994-.]

“pleasure must be great … print”: George Noel Gordon, Lord Byron, “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers” (1809) line 51: “ ’Tis pleasant, sure, to see one’s name in print;/ A book’s a book, although there’s nothing in ’t.”

“abracadabra”: The puzzle was published in 1842; it’s included in the Appendix.


1846.1.60-61

Belvidere, N. J., Nov. 8, 1845.

Dear Mr. Merry: We have taken your Museum for the last year, and found it a very useful and profitable magazine. Therefore I have concluded that, as long as your Museum continues as instructive and amusing as it now is, and as long as I can afford to subscribe for it, I will take it; for I think it is one of the best and cheapest published in the United States.

As I have never seen any thing in your Museum that enlivened its pages relating to the delightful Valley of Wyoming, I here wish to inform your little “black-eyed and blue-eyed readers” what a beautiful vale it is; for I am sure it will be interesting to those who have never visited it. Though I was there but a short time, I saw a great deal which was “beyond comparing.” It is situated on the west side of the “still gliding” Susquehanna, and extends sixteen miles down the river, where it escapes through a rocky gorge, and pursues its way to the Atlantic. Its surface is level, and its soil is exceedingly fertile, not inferior to any tract of land in the commonwealth.

Here are the beautiful scenes for the poet’s pen and the painter’s pencil; yet the poet may describe it in the beautiful language of a poet; the painter may paint it with his bright colors; but, unless they see the original, they are left in darkness. I have read descriptions and viewed paintings of numerous places, yet I have not seen pictured so lovely a spot as Wyoming. It is a beautiful vale: there is none within the range of my acquaintance that presents such beautiful scenery,—none which I more admire. Here the mind may wander with the eye, and never weary in tracing the varied scenery that presents itself.

I suppose most of your little friends have [p. 61] heard of the Wyoming massacre, which occurred the 3d of July, 1778—one of the most heart-rending records in the annals of the revolutionary war. In that dreadful affair, about three hundred settlers were killed or taken prisoners, from the greater part of whom no intelligence was ever obtained. The Europeans, with the Indians, in an unexpected hour, converted this earthly paradise into a frightful waste, and

—“the aged and the young

Were dashed upon the gory rock of woe.”

Campbell describes it in the following beautiful language:—

“Delightful Wyoming! beneath thy skies

The happy shepherd swains had nought to do

But feed their flocks in green declivities,

Or skim, perchance, thy lake with light canoe,

From morn till evening’s sweeter pastime grew—

With timbrel, when, beneath the forests brown,

Thy lovely maidens would the dance renew,

And aye those sunny mountains half way down

Would echo flageolet from some romantic town.”

On the high banks of the Susquehanna, beyond the reach of the spring floods, bones are to be found without number. A number of skeletons are occasionally found where a single cellar is dug, generally in a sitting position, with their faces towards the setting sun. Pestles, arrow-heads, and hoes of stone, are found in abundance; some flint axes, and burned vessels of clay, are also found.

I am informed by Mr. L— that two skeletons were found a few years since, in stone coffins, side by side. The top stone was slightly removed by a man who was ploughing in the field. These bones were very large. The coffins were formed by four long stone slabs, with two smaller ones at the ends. The bones lay at full length within the coffin. About forty beads, of a white color, were at the neck. A stone jug, with half a pint of clear, transparent oil, arrow-heads, and stone hatchets, and other small matters, were likewise found. The other stone box was similarly formed. The skeleton was much less in size. It is supposed by many they held husband and wife, and that these were persons of a high rank. But why they were buried so differently from the thousands turning to dust around them cannot be accounted for.

Near the river, “on Susquehanna’s side,” stands the monument which marks the place of the dreadful massacre. “It is an humble column, too humble for the space it occupies, and the deeds its silently commemorates.” While I was viewing it, I took the following inscription from a marble slab which is placed in the north side of the monument:—

“Near this spot was fought,
on the afternoon of the third of July, 1778,
the Battle of Wyoming:
in which a small band of patriotic Americans,
chiefly the undisciplined, the youthful, and the aged,
spared by inefficiency from the distant banks of the republic,
led by Col. Zebulon Butler and Col. Nathan Denison,
with a courage that deserved success,
fearlessly met and bravely fought
a combined British, Tory, and Indian force, of thrice
their number.
Numerical superiority alone gave success to the invader;
and wide-spread havoc, desolation, and ruin
marked his savage and bloody footsteps through the valley.
This Monument,
commemorative of these events,
and in memory of the actors in them,
has been erected
over the bones of the slain
by their descendants, and others who greatly appreciated
the services and sacrifices of their patriot ancestors.”

On every side is a marble slab, containing the names of the surviving and slain field-officers, captains, lieutenants, ensigns, and privates. It is built of dark stone, sixty-five feet high, and twenty-four feet square at the foundation, with walls about three feet thick at the base.

The view of the mountains from the valley is beautiful. The Bald Mountain, which lies about eight miles in a north-easterly direction from the valley, presents a grand view to the spectator. Yet the wildness of the mountain scenery does not compare with the fertile land of the Valley of Wyoming.

Yours respectfully,
N. H. W.

The first part of this letter appears to owe rather much to S. A. Mount’s description in “From the Portfolio of an Artist,” published in 1841 in the Southern Literary Messenger; two quotes—“ ‘still gliding’ Susquehanna” and the stanza from “Gertrude of Wyoming”—are exactly as Mount transcribed them.

Valley of Wyoming: in what is now north-eastern Pennsylvania.

Wyoming Massacre: Only about 300 Continental soldiers were in the Valley to defend colonists when Tories and their Native American allies attacked in 1778; but the soldiers went on the offensive in a skirmish in which over 200 died. Many women and children died in the subsequent looting or in trying to escape. In one incident, an infuriated Catharine Montour—one of the Native American leaders—killed 16 captives by placing their heads against a boulder and crushing them with a tomahawk. A granite monument raised over the grave of those slain in battle was finished in the 1830s.

Thomas Campbell (1774-1844): English poet who wrote “Gertrude of Wyoming” (1809), a long poem about the Massacre which details the childhood and tragic death of its title character in a landscape more Arcadian than Pennsylvanian. “Delightful Wyoming!”: Part I, stanza 2.


1846.1.63

[Editor: ] The following letter comes to us in blue ink, and is very neatly written. We did not know that we had such a boy among our ten-year-olds; but, if so, we should be glad to see him. Perhaps he meant to say that he is one of our blue-eyed readers, and not one of our blue-eyed boys. Here is his epistle.

Leominster, Dec. 20, 1845.

Mr. Merry: I see that many children are writing to you, and, as I am one of your blue-eyed boys of ten years old, I thought I would send you a letter. I like your Museum very much; but, as I see Parley’s name on the title, I wish to ask whether he writes any thing for it. Father says that Peter Parley and Robert Merry are all one; but, if so, ’tis a greater puzzle than the Siamese twins. However, I don’t think they are the same, for old Parley wrote in a simpler and easier way that you do. There are some big words in your magazine, which it takes me as long to spell out as it does to climb over a stone fence. However, I like you pretty well, and intend to come and see you soon.

Yours truly,
Thomas L—e

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.

Siamese twins: Chang and Eng (1811-1874), born joined at the chest by a piece of cartilage. Taken in 1829 to the U. S. from what was then called “Siam,” the young men were such a sensation that they earned enough exhibiting themselves to retire to a plantation in North Carolina, where they married sisters and fathered 21 children between them. Afterward, “Siamese twins” became the common term for conjoined twins.


1846.1.160

Newburyport, Mass., Jan. 14, 1846.

My Dear Mr. Merry: I subscribed for your Museum last year; and I like it so well that I have subscribed for it this year. I shall have them bound, for they will make quite a handsome volume. I hope that you will insert my letter in the next Museum, as I should like to see it. I liked your description of the needle manufactories very much, for it was quite amusing and instructive. I fancy your puzzles very much; but, as for the enigmas, I do not like them so well. My Wednesdays and Saturdays are taken up reading your book. We have fine sleighing here, and I should like to have a ride some day this winter. I hope the Museum will be continued many years, as no doubt many of your subscribers do. I send you the following

CHARADE.

My first is a prop.

My second is a prop.

My whole is a prop.

Now, who can guess it? I guess the answer to E. O. R.’s enigma to be dust.

Now, Mr. Merry, good-by.

From your blue-eyed subscriber,
W. L. W.

needle manufactories: “Romance of Manufactures” (January 1846), a piece extolling the fascinating aspects of factories, including a painstakingly detailed description of needle-making reprinted from the London Penny Magazine.

charade: The answer is “footstool.”


1846.1.189-190

Norwalk, Feb. 18, 1846.

Dear Friend Mr. Merry: Winter furnishes leisure time for scribbling, and the cheap postage fills your letter-box with it. Ink-makers are heels over head in business; the geese hardly have time to furnish themselves with full-grown wings before they are robbed of them to scribble with; and the paper-mills are rumbling almost night and day, to supply the wants that are daily increasing. But they will have mercy on the geese, and accordingly keep other factories busy to supply steel pens for the scribblers.

Now, Mr. Merry, do you know that you cause a good share of this business to flourish so, by your juvenile familiarity? And they may “thank their stars” that there is such a person; for if you should happen to be unable to continue your invaluable Museum, by some sudden occurrence, how astonishing quick would the people hired in pen, ink, and paper factories be “out of business,” and one half of the establishments freeze up! Those hard puzzles would stay at home; and what could we have for amusement at a winter’s fireside? Nothing equal to the Museum! But if I allow such meditations to take possession of me, my pen will drop from my hand, unwilling to write such sorrowful thoughts. Therefore, agreeably to promise, I will proceed at once to give you the description of

A CURIOUS INSTRUMENT.

I am very small, but nearly round;

In my frame I am always found.

If danger’s near, however slight,

My curtain screens me from its sight;

Yet, after all my delicacy,

I’m darted into immensity.

If minds of others guilty are,

I oft can find the secret there;

If one my owner doth possess,

I can as well his secret guess.

My language, Merry says, is one

That is misunderstood by none.

I’m ornamented with varied hues,

A fringed curtain, which much I use;

And if it closed I ne’er should keep,

Ne’er would my owner sink to sleep;

But if always closed, all clearly see

In obscurity we both should be.

Excuse me, Mr. Merry, if I say I dream of you; but it is really so, occasionally. In one of my dreams, I was playing with some other playmates, and you was sitting under a shady pine, admiring us, when, all at once, you commenced humming—I can hardly say singing—the following beautiful lines:—

Up in the morning as soon as the lark,

Late in the evening when falleth the dark;

Far in the moreland, or under the tree,

Come the sweet voices of children to me.

I am an old man—my hair is gray;

But I sit in the sunshine to watch you at play,

And a kindlier current doth run through the vein,

And I bless you, bright creatures! again and again.

I rejoice in your sports, in the warm summer weather,

With hand locked in hand, when you’re striving together;

But I see what you see not—the sorrow and strife

Of the years that will come in the contest of life.

For I am an old man, and age looketh on

To the time that will be, from the time that is gone;

But you, blessed creatures! you think not of sorrow;

Your joy is to-day, and you have no to-morrow.

Ay, sport ye, and wrestle—be glad as the sun,

And lie down to rest when your pastime is done;

For your dreams are of sunshine, of blossoms, and dew, [p. 190]

And the God of the blessed doth watch over you.

And the angels of heaven are missioned to keep

Unbroken the calm of your sealéd sleep;

And an old man’s blessing doth in you swell

The whole day long; and so fare ye well.

We listened to you with untiring interest through this poetic sketch, but our astonishment was so aroused by your sudden disappearance, that I awoke, and found all but a dream. Now, was this not curious? But I am afraid, Mr. Merry, that you are getting weary; so I will seal my letter, direct it, and give it to the postmaster, with the five-cent postage, after affixing my signature as

Your true friend,
Fanny E. P.

“thank their stars”: more commonly, “thank their lucky stars.”

puzzle: The answer is “eye.”


1846.1.190a

Springfield, April 18, 1846.

Dear Mr. Merry: I like your Museum very much, and hope you will publish this letter. I live in Springfield, and think it is the prettiest place in Massachusetts. I went to Boston a year ago, and wished to go and see you; for I thought you would be disappointed if any of your subscribers went there without visiting you. But I only staid two days.

If you ever go through Springfield, won’t you come to our house, and tell me a great many of your pleasant stories?

My mother told me I might write this letter when I was nine years old. To-day is my birthday, and I was in such a hurry that I began it before breakfast. A schoolmate of mine is writing to you, and is going to send a puzzle. I wish I could make one; but mother says that when I am as old as he, I can make one too.

Good-by, Mr. Merry.
A. P. M.


1846.1.190b

Brooklyn, March 1, 1846.

Mr. Robert Merry: Dear Sir: My sister takes your Magazine, and I am very much pleased with your “Little Leaves for Little Readers,” and I wish you would put more in your Magazine. I was just seven years old the 24th of February. I have a brother and sister who do not know how to read, but they like to look at the pictures. My little sister was one year old the same day that I was seven. You will see by the date of this letter that I am a Brooklynite. My brother is three years old. I go to school, to Miss Phelps. I study geography, arithmetic, and spelling. My big sister is nine years old. I hope you will excuse my bad writing, because I have just begun to learn.

Mary.

“Little Leaves for Little Readers” (in Robert Merry’s Museum): a special section for young readers (1843). Requested by subscribers new to reading, the heavily-illustrated pages featured brief stories, poems, and informative articles, as well as chapters of “Inquisitive Jack.”


1846.1.190-192

Mr. Editor: Permit me to ask of you the insertion, in your highly esteemed periodical, of the following tribute of affection, prompted by the removal, to the spiritual world, of a beautiful and promising girl of eleven years of age. The writer had known her from her infancy, and was a daily attendant at her bedside in her last painful illness; and the incidents, to which such beautiful allusion is made, are not the product of imagination, but real and true. She was a subscriber to the “Museum,” and it is hoped the perusal of these lines by your youthful readers may have an abiding influence upon their hearts.

Bangor, March 30, 1846.W.

A fair young being passed before my view,

A tender, guileless child—one of those few

Whom Heaven doth lend to us for a brief space,

That we may mark the meek and winning grace

Of a pure spirit, shedding forth a ray

Of man’s sweet nature, ere he went astray.

For a brief space, the vestment that she bore

Too frail a fabric proved for this bleak life:

The soul shone brighter through the garb it wore, [p. 191]

But with earth’s chills she could not bide the strife;

And while life’s trembling harp was all unstrung,

In plaintive murmurs to its chords she sung.

“Alas, alas! dear mother, ’tis in vain,

The glorious sun shines all in vain, for me;

I ne’er shall bask in its soft light again;

Its joyful beams no more on earth shall see.

The gladdening spring-time, with its breathing bowers,

No more these weary, aching eyes shall bless;

O, not for me will come its birds and flowers;

My feet no more its verdant turf may press.

Its gentle breeze no more will fan my brow,

Nor rouse these drooping spirits with its breath,

My life is waning fast—I feel it now;

This feebled pulse must soon be stilled in death.

“Draw near and kiss me, father, mother dear,

And say, but once again, you love me still;

Sweet would it be, could I but linger here,

Your cares to soothe, your hearts with joy to fill.

O, deem not that I do not love you yet;

It is that this poor frame doth suffer so;

Then think not I your patient care forget,

But, kindest, dearest parents, let me go.

“ ’Tis God that calls me from your arms away;

A Father’s love in all his acts I view,

And in my griefs his promise is my stay;

His hand afflicts, but he supports me, too.

Fear not for me—each pain I leave below,

When I shall soar where God and angels dwell;

E’en now I hear soft murmuring waters flow,

And beckoning spirits their sweet anthems swell.

“Who called my name? I fain would know that tone;

So like my mother’s, in its accents mild,

It kindles in my mind loved visions gone,

When she was wont to name her wandering child.

“I’m weary now—sing me some soft, low song;

It lulls my senses to a dreamy sleep,

And gathers up a shining spirit throng,

That round my bed their angel vigils keep[.]

Father in heaven, thy name most hallowed be,

Thy will be done on earth as ‘tis in heaven;

Keep me from sin; my soul would crave of thee,

As I forgive, so may I be forgiven.”

And thus she murmured on, amid the moans,

Of pain and suffering, in sad sweet tones,

Touching each heart with her bland tenderness,

And, childlike, winning with a fond caress,—

The “golden bowl” of life at length is crushed,

The music of its “silver lute” is hushed.

Joy, joy to thee, young saint! thy goal is won,

Thy haven gained, and thy brief wanderings done.

Thy gentle soul small need had to be shriven;

No erring deeds were thine to be forgiven;

Thy spirit shrunk not from its Maker’s face;

No earthly blemish marred its spotless vase;

Thy guardian angel, sheltering thee each day,

Fanned with his wing the serpent’s breath away.

And thou art mourned among that youthful throng

Of loving hearts, where erst, with book or song,

Thy footsteps strayed—amid the sprightly play,

Or, pleased and earnest, seeking “wisdom’s way.”

And they who loved thine opening thoughts to guide,

Long will they miss thine image from their side.

——

A vacant seat in her deserted home

Waits for the form that never more may come, [p. 192]

With buoyant step, and smile, and accents bland,

To bless, with her sweet looks, that stricken band.

Her bounding hoop hangs silent on the wall;

Her books and toys, embroidered fragments, all,

Are cast aside; for she hath joys more fair

In that bright realm where God’s own mansions are!


1846.2.31

Rose Glen, Jan. 26, 1846.

Dear Father Merry: Your interesting Museum was a New Year’s gift; and I am pleased to find you devote a few pages in each number to “Correspondence.” I should like to enrol my name among your contributors. Carolus has informed us what productions flourish at the south, and I should like to describe a cold winter in New England, and the way the hardy farmer boys spend their time among the granite hills.

We are taught early habits of industry, and when our fathers and brothers are employed in ploughing and planting, hoeing and mowing, and reaping and harvesting, we assist them all we are able, and make ourselves useful in many ways; but when the busy seasons are past, we welcome with pleasure the approach of winter.

Winter is the time for leisure. He gives us a long holiday for fun and frolic, study and improvement. Every town is provided with schools, where arithmetic is taught, and we can learn to read and write our language, study the structure of the human body, the history of our country, the geography of the earth, and the natural sciences. It is pleasant to meet our comrades every morning in the school-room, attend to the same lessons and receive the same instruction. It awakens a spirit of ambition, and makes us emulous to learn. At recess we are very merry and active, and have some fine games at snow-ball. Saturday afternoon is allowed us for amusement, and sometimes a few of us club together and go a-fishing. We carry bait, hooks and lines, and an axe to cut holes through the ice; and if the fish bite well, we bring home some nice trout or pike for our Sunday breakfast, and are proud enough of our success. Bright moonlight evenings, we have some jovial skating frolics, and often lose the centre of gravity or come in collision with each other, and catch a solid bump; but we hop up again, rub the injured part, and treat the matter as lightly as possible.

I might say a great deal about coasting, and sleighing, and skating, and thanksgiving; but I must now draw this long letter to a close, wishing you the generous patronage of a grateful community.

Affectionately yours,
A. N. I.


1846.2.123-124

Wyoming Post-Office, Wyoming Valley, 1846.

Dear Sir: We subscribed for your Museum, and we prize it very much.

We thought that you wrote all the letters yourself, and only pretended that they came from somebody else, until we read the letter from Wyoming. Then we knew you did not write that letter. Wyoming Valley is not on the “west side of the Susquehanna River” only, but on both sides of it. Have you ever seen a longish kind of a dish, irregularly broken, and mended through the middle, [p. 124] with the small piece wanting at each end of the dish? That is nearly a fac-simile of this lovely valley.

The mountains are all around us, yet mostly so gentle in ascent, that they are cultivated up to the top. The river comes in and goes out of the valley, through the mountains, having very high and almost perpendicular cliffs at the ingress and egress. The valley is on either side of the river. The large Indian bones were found in the lower end of the valley. There was a miniature painting of a female found in one of the graves, but so defaced that we could not tell whose it was. Probably it was given to the Indians by the British queen, to encourage them to kill and scalp the women and children in America. Put a few fried eggs into your mended dish, and let them represent the hills and dales of this ever-varying landscape, and you will have a fair plan of it. But you must come and eat eggs in it, if you wish to know all about it. We would be so glad to see you! We send you a thing for young folks to find out. It is one word. Out of the letters in it may be made a great many words, and some sentences that we think are curious and funny. We send you enough for any one to find out who is good at spelling.

A man can scare a ram. Men can race a mare. Armies, in arms, came near, in rain, in cars. Are mice nice in rice ice creams? Is sir in a name? Mine is, as I remain,

Sam Acres Maine.

P. S. Father says that “Washington” has ten letters, and that of course that is not the answer to a name that has only nine. Is it?

Washington: The answer to Carolus’s puzzle, which implies that the answer has nine letters, because no tenth letter is listed in the clues.


1846.2.124-125

Clarenceville, Canada East, July 25, 1846.

Dear Mr. Merry: Will you permit two little twin boys, only nine years old, who are the constant readers of your beautiful Museum, to write to so great a man as we think you must be, who give so much pleasure, every month, to so many children through the whole country?

We live several hundred miles north of your great city, in the British province called Canada, which we suppose many of your young readers think is almost out of the world; but you may tell them that the same sun, and moon, and stars, shine here as in the United States,—the same beautiful blue sky is arched over our heads, and the same beautiful stories and pictures amuse and instruct us.

We suppose all your young friends know that there are a great many French people in Canada, and think that all English children living here must learn to speak that language.

As your July number of the Museum contains a request for a translation of two little ditties, which have been sung so much to us in our nursery that we shall never forget them, we will venture to put them down here, even though the translations should not be very elegant—

Little Bo Peep

Has lost his sheep,

And knows not where to find them;

O, leave them alone;

They will all come home,

And each have his tail behind him

Girls and boys, come out alway;

The moon is brilliant as the day;

Come with shout and joyous call,

Come with a good will, or come not at all.

We should like very much to be acquainted with your young correspondent Carolus, from Augusta; and as we have seen no answer to his conundrum on the name of the national hero, in January last, we offer him our acquaintance in the following rather awkward solution:— [p. 125]

Goa’s a town in Hindostan:

Oats are a useful kind of grain;

Washing’s what young boys often need;

And wit is dangerous indeed;

Night is ordained for man to rest;

Gin snares a drinkard—or a—beast;

Hin was in ancient time a measure;

And vocal music is a treasure;

The monster of the soul is sin;

The saw’s a rough but useful tool;

And Washington was not a fool.

Although you should not think this letter worth being noticed in your Museum, yet we hope you will include us in the number of your very dear friends.

Heber & Hobart T.

translation: The two nursery rhymes were presented in French in July 1846.


1846.2.125-126

Franklin, St. Mary’s Parish, Attakapas Co., La., April, 1846.

Mr. Robert Merry: Dear Sir: Did you ever hear any thing of the land of Attakapas? If you did, we think you never told your little readers about it; and no doubt you are waiting for those of them who live here to inform the others.

We see in your Museum for each of the last two years, a letter from the boot-shaped state, both dated in this sunny month of April,—with us a bright and flowery time. But one of them came from the instep, and the other from the leg, of the boot; and now we think it is high time you should hear from the heel. From all that our young friends in the north may have learned in their geographies concerning this country, they may think it to be a vast, unbroken swamp, fit only for the abode of alligators, water-snakes, and all sorts of ugly vermin and hobgoblins. If so, they will thank us for correcting these notions.

True, we could show them a few alligators along our bayous; but we could also show them many prettier things.

Attakapas—pronounced At-tak-a-paw, and vulgarly Tuk-a-paw—is the name of a section of country, here called a county, comprising four parishes in the southern and western portion of the state, through which parishes the bayous or rivers Teche (Taish) and Vermilion find their way to the Gulf of Mexico. It is the name of an Indian tribe, who used once to roam, in the pride of their independence, over these fair regions. Now, only here and there a lonely remnant of their race is to be seen among us.

Their wigwams have long since given place to the dwellings of the pale-face and of the darker skin, and their hunting-grounds to rich fields of cane, corn, and cotton. Indeed, we think this a charming country; and we must think that if you, Mr. Merry, had known how attractive it is, and how many young friends you have here, you could not have passed through the sugar state, as we learn that you have lately done, without being led to pay us a visit.

Doubtless you were delighted with the Mississippi coast. You would have been no less so with the Bayou Teche and its vicinity. You would have seen more of the varied and simple grandeur of nature, combined with the improvements of art. Instead of ploughing a mighty torrent which flowed above the level of the adjacent lands, apparently threatening to overleap its embankments, and carry your steamer careering across some man’s plantation, you would glide along the bosom [p. 126] of a placid stream,—a fine natural ship canal,—winding gently between its own proper banks, which slope gradually back to an elevation from 10 to 20 feet above its waters, and spread into level plains crowned luxuriantly—sometimes on both sides—with fields waving with the golden cane, but generally on one by the heavy forest growth, clothed in its green foliage and gray drapery of moss. Bordering the bayou, you would see numerous gardens and grassy plats, well set with ornamental, fruit and shade trees, among which are the peach, plum, orange, and fig,—the now blooming china, catalpa, and magnolia, and the majestic live oak, widely branching in its evergreen over the waters that float the steamer.

Back towards the Vermilion, and on farther west, stretch extensive prairies, dotted here and there with “islands” of woodland, and clumps of trees, with the fields and houses of the settlers, and swarming with herds of numberless beeves. But we must stop, ere we have well begun to tell you about all the beauties of our matchless Attakapas. We only wish to give you a few hints sufficient to awaken your curiosity, and induce you to call on us, if ever again you come so near as New Orleans, believing that then you would agree with us in pronouncing this region—to say the least—one of the gardens of the world. Our little village, with its shell walks and many beautiful trees, may lack the uniform neatness of buildings in your New England towns; but still we think it very pleasant as it is. It is the seat of justice for the parish of St. Mary, which, last year, produced more than 20,000 hogsheads of sugar,—and more than any other parish in the state. It is a port of entry on the right bank of the Teche, and is visited annually by a number of vessels from the Atlantic cities. We have a flourishing school, called the “Franklin Institute,” with male and female departments; and we are preparing for a jolly celebration of the approaching 1st of May. If it comes off cleverly, we may tell you about it in future.

During the past year or two, many of us have formed with you, through the “Museum,” a very agreeable acquaintance, which we hope to cherish and increase. One or two, at least, of your readers in this parish, had the pleasure of greeting you in the city recently. They will not soon forget you; and we should not be surprised,—though you might,—should you find some day in Boston a more positive and tangible proof than mere words, that you have friends and admirers in this vicinity. Whether the intimation given you in that “sweet” letter from Baton Rouge, in 1844, was ever carried into effect, we know not; but from your silence since, we suppose it was not. We have never seen the letter describing the process of raising and manufacturing sugar; but we hope to furnish you one in a few months, and that some of our parents will permit us to accompany it with a specimen. Pardon us for the length of this epistle, and we will hasten to subscribe,—in behalf of many of your readers whose native tongue is the French, as well as of ourselves,—

Most truly yours,
Pour tous les Attakapas.

P. S.—The above has been read before the scholars in the “Franklin Institute,” and approved and adopted by them.

Truly yours,
A. P.

“Franklin Institute,” St. Mary’s Parish: the largest of over a dozen schools in mid-nineteenth-century St. Mary’s Parish; it offered courses in everything from ancient and modern history, evolution, chemistry, and astronomy, to French needlework, painting, and piano. [Bernard Broussard. A History of St. Mary Parish. Np: np, 1977; p. 25]

a flourish
Introduction

How to use this book

1840s: 18411842184318441845 • 1846 • 184718481849

1850s: 1850185118521853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 1860186118621863186418651866186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

About the Merry Cousins

Appendix

Index & gloss

Sources

The Cousins’ Greatest Hits

Copyright 2000-2016, Pat Pflieger


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