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

How to use this book

1840s: 18411842184318441845184618471848 • 1849

1850s: 1850185118521853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 1860186118621863186418651866186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

About the Merry Cousins

Appendix

Index & gloss

Sources

The Cousins’ Greatest Hits

1849

1849.1.31-32

THE STORY OF A LOOKING-GLASS.

I hung for two years facing the wall of a large store, during which time a spider wove a curious web over my face; and I spent my time in reflection. One day I was suddenly removed from my situation, and, after passing through an alarming operation, I was placed in a frame handsomely carved.

I was then laid in a trunk, where I felt very flat, and sent to Boston. I here found that I was to decorate the parlor of a young couple who had not been long married. My master never failed to shave his beard before me, and my mistress to pin her scarf.

But in six years the furniture was sold at auction, and I was knocked down for half price, and sent to a bachelor’s hall. My new master, after examining me, carried me to the workman’s and I was refitted in a plain veneered frame. My master never failed to adjust his wig before me.

In five years my master died, and bequeathed his house to a gentleman and lady with three children, who soon occupied it. [p. 32 ] One day the youngest boy was swinging a piece of ivory in a string, and it slipped, and struck me in my cheek, and injured my appearance so that I was no longer considered an ornament, and removed to another room.

[J. C. F.]


1849.1.32

[Editor: ] The author of a pleasing story, in a former number, sends us a following:—

HOW PUDDING LANE OBTAINED ITS NAME.

There once resided, at the upper end of the town of Pebbleton, a woman, who, on account of the improper use she made of her tongue, was, by universal consent, called Mistress Screechowl. She rendered herself very troublesome to the neighbors by meddling with their affairs, and tattling from house to house, which practice involved her in many sad perplexities, and subjected her to numerous practical jokes.

One day, as she was lifting an enormous apple pudding from the scalding liquid, the cry of fire was heard in the street, followed by the rattling of the engine.

Mistress Screechowl could stand this no longer. Grasping the pudding in her ponderous fist, she flew to the front gate, crying out, at the top of her voice,—

“Where’s the fire? where’s the fire? O, where’s the fire?”

One of the fun-loving firemen, snatching from her the pudding, suspended it from the top of the engine, and went dashing through the town amidst the shouts of the people, leaving Mistress Screechowl to make the best of her puddingless dinner.

Having exhausted their fun, they hung the pudding upon the street lamp, crying, “Three cheers for Mistress Screechowl.” The boys, who are never backward on such occasions, waived their hats, and rent the air with—“Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!”

From that time the narrow street has been dignified by the name of Pudding Lane.

Almira.


1849.1.61-62

DESCRIPTION OF A BOARDING-SCHOOL.

Being at present at a boarding-school which I and every other scholar think a good one, I consider it my duty, as a subscriber to the Museum, to give you a short description of it; I say a short description, because to give a full one would take up more time than I have to spare.

It is situated fifteen miles from the city of [p. 62 ] New York, at an elevation of eight hundred feet above the level of the sea, and commands a very fine view of the city and bay of New York; and on a clear day we can see the packets for Liverpool, as they pass through the Narrows. One of the boys says that he distinguished one day a butcher’s cart going up Chatham Street, but, as the Irishman says, this is all “blarney.”

We are surrounded with woods on all sides except the front, and on this side we have an extensive view of more than fifteen miles. About half a mile from us there is a rock called Table Rock, from its flatness, which is nine hundred feet above the level of the sea, and from which we have a still more extensive view than that from the house.

There is also a cave about five miles from us, which has four rooms in it, though not very large ones. About two years ago, a small boy from Paterson, visited it for some purpose not known, but it is supposed from curiosity. He entered the large room with a candle, and found that there was an entrance to another room. The hole was just large enough to admit him. No one had ever entered it before to our knowledge, but curiosity led this boy on. He entered the hole and found there, in a dark corner, the skull of a human being, and close by it a musket, like those used in the revolution; they seemed to have lain there some years. From this we should conclude that some soldier or hunter had there breathed his last, without one human being by him to comfort him in his last agony.

Some distance this side of the cave, there is a rock which overlooks the Narrows. On this rock once stood General Washington, and watched the British fleet as they entered the Narrows. But they never made out to pass this mountain, and we hope they never will. In winter, the sliding down hill is not to be surpassed. We can start from the school-room door when the hill is smooth, and go as much as half a mile down the mountain, till we arrive at the old stone house, as we call it, where Washington once resided for a short time.

We have amusements of various kinds. We have a small gymnasium in which the boys exercise a good deal during their play hours, and are pretty active in their sports.

I will now tell you a little about the in-door regulations. The house is a large, four-story one, thirty feet wide and sixty-three feet deep, with rooms sufficient for forty boys or more if required. The boys dine with the principal and family, and are very much the same as members of the family. All intercourse of a familiar kind with the boys of the neighborhood is strictly prohibited.

We are taught the English and classical branches, the former by the principal, the latter by an assistant teacher. The house is one mile distant from the village, and we have every thing in such abundance on the Mountain, as we call it, that there is nothing to call us to the village. To sum up all, we are satisfied with the sport we have, and our parents are satisfied with our sport and improvement both.

Yours truly,
A Student.

boarding school: Bergen Columbia Academy, established in 1790 in Bergen, New Jersey. This school, in its two-story stone building, had two departments: one for classical education, the other for elementary. At least at the end of its existence, it was coeducational. [William H. Shaw, comp. History of Essex and Hudson Counties, New Jersey. Philadelphia: Everts & Peck, 1884; vol 2: 1123. • Daniel Van Winkle. Old Bergen. Jersey City, New Jersey: John W. Harrison, 1902; p. 212.]

“English and classical branches”: a wide-ranging curriculum traditional at academies. Generally, the “classical branch” included study of Latin and ancient texts, important for students planning to go on to college; the “English branch” included English grammar and composition, and such practical subjects as surveying and bookkeeping, for students not going on to college.


1849.1.62-63

Cave Spring, Georgia.

My dear Friend: I have long wished to become acquainted with you, and I have no other method of doing so than to write to you. My sister and myself take the Museum, and we are very much pleased with it. I read Billy Bump’s letters with a great deal of interest; and I hope you will continue to publish them. My father lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; but, in order to educate us, he has a summer cottage in this place, called Cave Spring. It is a pretty spot in the bosom of the mountains, with the most beautiful groves, and clearest water, in the world. It is called Cave Spring from there being a large cave, and a beautiful spring which issues from it. I have been in the cave, and the floors of it are covered with an ashy substance, filled with saltpetre, which, my father says, is the remains of animal matter. I wish you would visit the Cherokee region. It is a delightful country, and I am not surprised the Indians did not wish to leave it. [p. 63 ]

You will do me a great favor by publishing my letter in the Museum and Playmate. I am a little girl of ten years old, but I hope you do not think that I am too small to have a correspondence with my friends, Peter Parley and Robert Merry.

Your friend,
I. D. P.

Billy Bump’s letters: “Billy Bump in Boston” (1848-1849), “Billy Bump Off for California” (1849), and three “Letters from Billy Bump” (1850). In humorous letters between Billy and his mother at home in Sundown, country-bumpkin Billy describes his efforts to fit into the social and cultural life of his Boston relatives and to impress his cousin, Lucy. Billy’s adventures allow the author to comment on society and to teach the reader good manners and ethics. A raccoonskin cap given Billy by an old friend temporarily makes him an object of derision, but he gains the respect of his tormentors. He also gained the respect of his readers, who defended Billy’s blunders and his awkward attempts at poetry. When the family fortunes fail, Billy is off for the gold fields of California and for adventures that teach him and the readers the evils of greed and of immoral living.

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. Parley was “resurrected” in 1845, when Parley’s Magazine was absorbed by the Museum. He joined “Robert Merry” as a putative editor of the magazine.


1849.1.63

Stamford, Ct., Nov. 15, 1848.

Mr. Merry: Knowing that your subscribers often write to you, I hope you will allow me to do the same, and perhaps you will insert my letter in your Museum.

My brother and I have taken your Museum ever since it was first edited, and we indeed find it a museum of amusing and entertaining matter. I take a great pleasure in studying out your enigmas and riddles, but I think that you keep us waiting too long a time: the Museum does not come soon enough.

I live in Stamford; it is in Fairfield county, Connecticut. I think it is a very pretty little place, and so do most people who visit it. A great many strangers from New York and other places come up here to spend the summer in bathing, fishing, sailing, and picnicking, along its various beaches. If ever you come this way, I wish that you would come and see us. I am quite sure that you would think Stamford is a pretty place.

From a blue-eyed subscriber,
M. C. D.


1849.1.64

Cambridgeport, Nov. 17, 1848.

Mr. Merry: I am a constant reader of the Museum, and have been so for two or three years. Having seen letters in the Museum from little correspondents, I thought that, perhaps, you would not be offended if I should write one to you.

When the last number of the Museum came, I went to school, and thought that I would tell the scholars some stories from it; but I found that they all took it as well as myself. I wish that you would give us some stories like Inquisitive Jack, or some other long ones. I like the funny letters of Billy Bump. He seems a good sort of fellow, but a genuine greenhorn, about some things.

I am your friend,
A. E. M.

Inquisitive Jack, 16-part serial originally published as part of “Little Leaves for Little Readers” (1843 and 1844). Jack learns about the natural world by observing instead of asking questions; from the story the reader learns about insects, birds, and plants. In chapter 3 (May 1844), the hero studies and describes the instinctive behavior of birds, especially those in his own poultry yard. The story was reprinted as The Truth-finder; or, The Story of Inquisitive Jack (NY: n.p., 1845). In 1854 the first seven chapters were reprinted in the Museum at readers’ request.


1849.1.95

Quincy, Adams Co., Illinois, Jan. 6, 1849.

Mr. Merry: Among other stories in Merry’s Museum, in which I was very much interested, was the story of Billy Bump in Boston. It seems he was very ignorant of polite manners. Now, Mr. Merry, I don’t want you to think all Sucker boys are as ignorant of civilized life as Billy Bump was. I am proud to say, I am a Sucker boy, born in the Sucker state, on the bank of that father of waters, the noble Mississippi. I have picked corn and dug potatoes; yet, sir, I know enough not to spit on Brussels carpets or blow my nose with my fingers.

I tell you what, sir, some of you Yankees would open your eyes wider than you ever did before, if you should see some of our big prairies—so wide that you could not see the edge of them before you. You may print this short letter if you please; but if you don’t, I shall think you have good reason, and I shan’t make such a fuss about it as Miss Pitchfork did.

A Sucker Boy.

“Sucker boy”: Bartlett 1848: “Sucker. A nickname applied throughout the West to a native of Illinois.” The earliest example listed in Mathews is dated 1834.

Miss Pitchfork: “Diana Pitchfork,” from “Fidgety Vale,” complained that her 16-page letter wasn’t printed; Robert Merry explained that she had forgotten to pay postage, and that a letter “longer than the story of John Gilpin” must be “very good, indeed” to be printed. [Robert Merry’s Museum; 1848.2.31)


1849.1.123-124

Old Church, Hanover County, Vir., February 9, 1849.

My dear Mr. Merry: In your Museum for October, 1848, page 127, is a charade composed of twenty-one letters. As we have never seen the solution to it in any subsequent number, and moreover believe we have found it ourselves, we thought we would let you know it, as you seem to take a deep interest in all matters concerning young folks. We think that a peep into our family circle, on the evening in which we made so important a discovery, (as we think,) may afford you some pleasure.

Well, at the close of a winter’s day, when all things had passed off pleasantly in the school, and a long game of jumping the rope had made us willing to sit still when we could no longer remain out of doors, we took up a former number of the Museum, (for we love it so well, that we often read it more than once;) we fixed on the before-mentioned charade, and after thinking over it a long time, we applied to our minister (who was spending the night with us) for aid; but with all his zeal to help his young friends, and all his learning, both of which he possesses a large stock of, he could throw no light on the subject. Our teacher (dear, kind Miss M.) next came to our help; but, though she consumed so much time on us, that our usual nightly reading of Homer’s Iliad was omitted, (which is never done, but on great occasions,) all was of no avail. [p. 124 ]

Our mother laid down her knitting; and when we tell you that, you are to understand that all the cares and anxieties of the domestic economy were merged in the one great desire to find out the secret—for so constantly does our dear mother pursue that now neglected occupation, that, without it, “Richard is not himself.” Late in the evening, our brother, who is a physician, came to our rescue; but alas! he could only sympathize with the unfortunate, for notwithstanding all this array of forces, “the City of Umbrage” remained impregnable; and we retired from the conflict, baffled and dispirited, to the supper table. Finding our spirits somewhat revived after supper, those of us who posessed the most true courage, and devotion to Comus, determined to remain below stairs, and renew the assault, while the others ascended to the parlor, to solace themselves with such employments as each preferred.

What will not perseverance, and a determination to conquer, effect! Presently the “Conflagration of Moscow” burst on our astonished vision. With scarcely less sensation (though of a different character) than on its first explosion, we rushed up to the parlor with the flush of victory on our cheeks, and found that the news had preceded us, as if by magnetic despatch! As we opened the door, the minister laid down his book, the doctor his “Treatise on the Cholera,” and our father and oldest sister (who, by the way, profess to hold somewhat in contempt all efforts in the charade line, being not much gifted with that sort of discernment) looked up from their game of chess, and one united exclamation of “Have you got it?” burst from the circle. And sure enough, we had “got it.” We readily produced our proofs of victory; and by reference to our slate, on which we had it all written down, corresponding to the requirements of the charade, claimed and obtained the victor’s crown. It is true we had our self-complacency a little damped by papa’s saying, after he had had it all made out to him, “Why, any body could have found that out.” But as “nobody” had, we remembered Columbus and the egg, and were restored to our former satisfaction!

Now, dear Mr. Merry, we must conclude this our first letter to you, which we sincerely hope may not appear as long in print, as it does in writing, for certainly we ought to have asked your permission before we ventured to write to you at all, and then have trespassed as little as possible on your time, but we judged you by ourselves, and as we dearly love to read all you write, we thought you might like to receive a letter, now and then, from us. We wish you, in conclusion, a happy new year, and a large addition to your list of

Subscribers.

“Richard is not himself”: probably from Colley Cibber, Richard III (1700) act v, sc. 5, ln 85: “Conscience, avant; Richard’s himself again!”

Treatise on the Cholera: probably a generic title, though there was a translation of Ambroise Tardieu’s Treatise on Epidemic Cholera published in Boston in 1849.

Columbus and the egg: an anecdote supposed to exhibit the explorer’s clear thinking. Challenged to stand an egg on its end, Columbus did—by cracking the end of the egg. The Museum printed an illustration of the feat in the October 1855 issue.


1849.1.125

Patchogue, L. I., Feb. 12, 1849.

My dear Sir: I am a girl nearly eleven years old, unknown to you; but you appear to me (rendered so by the columns of the Museum, of which I have five volumes, bound, and soon shall have the sixth) like an old friend and acquaintance; and when I look upon its frontispiece, I half ejaculate, “My uncle Peter, with his stories, has come to pay me another visit.” I reside, as you may readily discover by the Indian name above, “on Long Island’s sea-girt shore;” and should your peregrinations extend this way, you must certainly call and see me, when I should be happy to feast you with some of our “Blue Point oysters,” which we have in profusion, and some of our various kinds of fish just taken from the water. But to my business.

I have been for a long time a patron and reader of your valuable Museum, and my brothers and myself have always taken great pleasure in examining its contents, as well as solving the charades and enigmas with which it abounds. I have not formerly deemed it proper to write to you, as I was under the impression that you must be greatly annoyed by receiving so many communications, which you cannot publish, thereby giving you unnecessary trouble; but I, for once, trespass upon your time, and probably your patience.

The enigma of your constant reader E., in the October number, 1848, has not, to my surprise, been answered in any of the subsequent numbers. I therefore take the liberty to forward you the solution of the same, which is the “Conflagration of Moscow.”

Very respectfully yours,
Sarah A. D.

[Editor: ] The writer of the above may rest assured that, if I ever come within hail of Patchogue, I shall find her out and accept her invitation. I remember that, when I was a boy, about five years old, I went to that same Patchogue, to see my grandfather and grandmother. I recollect a steep bank, and a river or creek, at the foot, with sloops and fishing smacks. I recollect, also, a large old house and some great willow trees, near by. No doubt things are greatly changed; but I shall still be glad to see the place once more, especially as I have now a friend there, who promises me “Blue Point oysters.”

“on Long Island’s sea-girt shore”: Henry John Sharpe, “Rockaway; or, On Old Long Island’s Sea-girt Shore” (Boston: Geo. P. Reed, 1840), music by Henry Russell:

“On old Long Island’s sea-girt shore,

Many an hour I’ve whil’d away,

In list’ning to the breakers roar

That wash the beach at Rockaway.”

Blue Point oysters: The small, tasty oysters from beds near Blue Point, Long Island, were very popular in the nineteenth century.


1849.1.125-126

Hingham, Feb. 25, 1849.

Mr. Merry: If you will give this little story a place in your valuable columns, one will be obliged to you who has taken many hours’ enjoyment in reading the Museum. [p. 126 ]

HISTORY OF A DROP OF WATER.

When first I awoke from my long sleep, I found myself in the ocean, dazzled by the sun’s rays; but my brothers and sisters soon began to play about, and I was forced to join them.

We remained till the flood, when we all rose up in a mighty body against the wickedness of man. We were among the first to bear up the ark; and after the flood, some of my comrades and myself were drawn up into the sky by the heat of the sun. We floated about for several days in the air; but at last we became heavy, and fell in rain. I happened to fall upon a rose bud; then a gentle breeze shook me off, and I fell upon an humble violet, that grew at the foot of the rose bush.

I wished to stay here very much indeed, but was not permitted to do so long, for the sun came out again, very warm, and I was drawn again into the air.

After a time, I fell into a large river. Here I remained a great while; at one time helping to float a ship, packet, or boat; at another, I was under a steamboat, and forced hither and thither by the terrible water wheels.

But the time was now come when I was to be frozen to death! In fact, I became part of a sheet of ice, and was skated upon by gentlemen and boys for a long time. At last, there was a warmer day, and the ice partly melted. Some of us drops were drawn up into the air, and for a last time. Those that were with me, together with myself, were frozen in the air, and we fell to the earth in snow. The boys played snowball with us, and we had a rough time of it.

At last, we were melted, and run into a well. We were soon taken and put into a boiler, and, when heated, we were used to wash clothes with. As soon as we were done with, we were thrown out of doors. Running along to get some kind of shelter, we soaked into the ground, where we remained a long time.

When spring came, the roots of different flowers found us out: a tulip took one, a violet another, a rose another, &c.: at last, a pink took me. I crept along the stem, and, after a time, I was spread out among the leaves of a beautiful flower. In this state, I attracted the regards of a beautiful young lady, and she plucked me, and I am hers.

A. O. B.


1849.1.127-128

[Editor: ] The following petition shall certainly receive attention in future numbers.

Mr. Merry:

I am very

Glad to write

On paper white,

To one like you,

So good and true—

So kind to all,

Both great and small.

Forgive, I pray,

What now I say;

I’m very young—

My little tongue

Can only spell

Small words, quite well.

And so, indeed,

I cannot read

The tales you tell—

They’re very well

For Jane and Ben,

For they are ten.

But I am six:

Now, can’t you fix,

Each month along,

Some tale or song, [p. 128 ]

With pleasant jokes

For little folks,

Like me, who spell

Small words quite well,

Yet cannot read

Big words, indeed?

Dear sir, if you

Will only do

This thing for me,

I’ll ever be,

With feelings true,

Your
Blackeyed Sue.


1849.1.152-153

Far West, March, 1849.

Dear Mr. Merry:

Your Museum I love so much,

I scarcely know what points to touch.

But, first, the pictures, scattered through,

Are so delightful to the view,

I look them o’er and o’er with care,

And call my little sister fair,

With rosy cheeks, and curly hair,

To come, and in my pleasure share.

Then I admire the pleasing tales

Of mountains high, and lowly vales—

Of men and things throughout the world—

Of some from lofty stations hurled—

Of poor, industrious, honest boys,

Who rise to unexpected joys—

And tales of old and modern date,

Which now I can’t enumerate.

The puzzles, too, I like to guess,

And scarce can say I love them less.

But best of all is Billy Bump,

The little, awkward Sundown gump,

Who makes such very queer mistakes,

That many a peal of laughter breaks

While reading his epistles o’er;

And when they’re done, I wish for more.

But, after all, Bill is not bad;

Just send a little Boston lad

Into the woods of Sundown wild—

Perchance we’d call him silly child;—

Let him with Billy tree a coon,

Or wield the axe by light of moon,

Or let him the opossum take,—

And would not he some blunders make?

Or let him try to yoke a steer,—

Would he not rather green appear?

I think we’d have as loud a shout

As when Bill’s coon-skin cap walked out.

And now I only have to say,

Where’er your Playmate finds its way,

’Tis hailed, by every girl and boy,

With real, honest, heartfelt joy.

Then let us have in every one,

Amongst the rest, a bit of fun;

For boys and girls all look for that

In Mr. Merry’s Monthly Chat.

C****.

SPRING.

Again the lovely spring is here,

And nature, all in bloom,

Bespeaks the morning of the year,

Just rising out of gloom.

The little lambs, in all their glee,

Are sporting on the plain;

While to the long deserted tree

The songster comes again.

How pleasant now to walk abroad

In meadows fresh and green,

And view the handiwork of God,

Through which Himself is seen.

Each rising blade, each opening flower,

Which charms our wandering eyes,

Proclaims a resurrection power,

By which the dead shall rise. [p. 153 ]

While Nature thus attunes her voice,

Her Maker’s praise to sing,

Will not our grateful hearts rejoice,

And nobler tribute bring?

For we can raise our thoughts above,

And our Creator know,

And sing a Savior’s dying love,

Whence all our blessings flow.

C****.

Delta, Eaton County, Michigan, March 20, 1849.

Mr. Merry: Dear Sir,—I have been among the happiest of boys the past year, while reading your Museum, and I have been very much afraid that you would refuse to send it to me, as I did not pay in advance. I have tried very hard to get the money to send you for vol. xvii. But we live in a new country, and father has so many ways to use all the money he can get, that I cannot have it yet. Mother has written a few lines in the form of poems: she thinks, if you knew how much I love to read your monthly tales, perhaps you would send me a few numbers for them; so I send them to you. If you think them worth any thing, you will continue to send me the Museum.

From your subscriber,
H. P. I.

[Editor: ] Certainly, we shall.

“gump”: “A foolish person; a dolt.—Webster. It is provincial in England, and may be found in most of the glossaries.” [John Russell Bartlett. Dictionary of Americanisms. New York: Bartlett and Welford, 1848.]


1849.1.153

[Editor: ] The following is from a very young friend:—

THE UNREPAIRED SHOE.

Little Ellen’s shoe had been ripped open at the side more than a week, when one day she came limping in from school.

“What is the matter?” asked her mother.

“O, dear!” cried Ellen, sobbing, “I’ve run a nail into my foot.”

The mother took off the shoe and examined the foot; but seeing nothing material had happened, she put it on again, saying, “It will be all well soon.”

“Let me take it to the cobbler’s, ma’am,” said the nurse.

“No matter now, Maggie; I’ve something for you to do.”

Two days after, nurse espied Ellen’s toes peeping through the side of the shoe, the rough gravel having worn a hole through the stocking; so she said, “I will go immediately and get the shoe repaired.”

The mother was going out to make calls, and wanted Maggie to take care of baby. “It will do when I return just as well.” So saying, the mother went out, and little Ellen’s shoe was thought no more of that day.

In the afternoon, there came up a drenching storm, the wind blew a tempest, and the rain poured in torrents. As soon as the hurricane was abated, the scholars were let loose from school, and little Ellen’s foot was benumbed with wet and cold, as she made the best of her way home.

That night Ellen was taken ill of the croup. The mother sent for the physician, and did all she could to save her little daughter’s life; but it was of no use. When the sun arose in the eastern sky, the angel came to convey the spirit of little Ellen to that land where wind and tempest are never known.

“All my sorrow comes from putting off to the future what ought to be attended to today,” sighed the mother, as she laid her loved one in the cold grave!

Almira.


1849.1.153-154

Melrose, April 9, 1849.

Mr. Robert Merry: Dear Sir,—I take your book, known as Merry’s Museum and Parley’s Playmate : it is a very good book, and we have a good time finding out your puzzles. I believe the answers to the puzzles in the April number, are “Starch,” and “Happiness.”

My brother seems pleased, as well as myself, with Billy Bump’s letters; that on p. 92 was very good, especially the poetry. I hope you will go on with his correspondence. In your last number, you tell a droll kind of fable about the rabbit and the tortoise. The rabbit was such a real brag about his long legs—and, then, in spite of them, he got beat. I [p. 154 ] should have thought he would have staid in his burrow for a month after.

And now, Mr. Merry, you must give us a call at our house, when you come this way.

I am yours truly,
Jane G. B.

I accept the invitation, Jane, with pleasure.

R. M.

puzzles: “happiness” (1849.1.125); “starch” (1849.1.127).

fable about the rabbit and tortoise: told to Billy Bump. His mother reminds him to keep working and studying by recasting Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare, in which the contestants meet in Dismal Swamp, in a race lasting three days; the rabbit boasts not only at the beginning, but all along the way; the boasting, in fact, helps make it lose.


1849.1.154-155

Monroe, Michigan, March 18, 1849.

Mr. Merry: Dear Sir,—If you think the following letter worth publishing in your Museum and Playmate, you will please some little folks, who will like to see something from a pen at home.

My little friends: I shall tell you of an expedition to California, which has busied many people in our little town for some time—several gentlemen wishing to see this famed country, which you all know lies on the Pacific Ocean west of us, and can be reached over land, as well as to go around Cape Horn. They had heard many stories of the gold found there, many stories of the delightful climate, many stories of the hunting grounds [p. 155 ] which they would pass over; so they determined to see it.

Ten of them began to get ready for the journey. They bought new, strong wagons, had them extra ironed, for the sand plains are so long, and the sand so hot, that the irons fall off from any common built wagon. They covered them with twilled cloth, which they painted, to keep out the rain. They took four French ponies for each team, with strong, new harnesses. They also took two extra ponies, so as to be supplied if either of the others should tire out, or become lame. They took saddles and bridles; two tents, which were made of white cloth, oiled; a fine chest of carpenters’ tools; a medicine chest, and a box of iron implements.

These supplies were necessary, for they will not return in two years. They were each armed with pistols, and each had a gun and abundance of ammunition, for they expect to find their own marketing after a few weeks’ travel. They provided thick, coarse clothes, enough for two years, and blankets for each man.

Do you not think they will have fine times? They put up a barrel of crackers, a barrel of permican, which is parched corn ground fine, with dried venison. A very small quantity of this will make a meal. They put up all sorts of tin cups and pans for cooking, and a small stove, which they will find useful in order to boil their kettles at night. They will go on to Fort Independence in Missouri; there they will find Kit Carson. Perhaps you have all heard of him. He will guide them, and the large band of emigrants who will accompany the expedition over the long way, safely to the land they so much want to see.

Every man who goes there to live has been promised six hundred and forty acres of land as his own, by the government, as an inducement for people to go and settle there.

When the company I have spoken of were all ready to start, the whole town was gathered together to see, and bid them good-by. Most were young, unmarried men; but some left little children at home; and it was hard enough for them to say good-by. They looked finely in their bright red flannel shirts, tarpaulin caps, and clean gray clothes. They went away with light hearts, and hope and ambition for the future. They are all first-rate young men. All wished them well, and hope they will prosper. Would you not like to hear some western stories of their adventures and those of others who have gone before them? They expect to have many agreeable adventures. It will be fine if the weather should always be pleasant—the season always bright—the buffaloes always plenty for marketing, and they never sick! We know that it cannot always be sunshine; but we will hope good things for them. If we live a few years, we shall probably be able to go over the same route on a railroad. Good night.

From your friend,
Sammy Sassafras.

“permican”: usually, “pemmican” or “pemican.” In Bartlett, 1848: “A far-famed provender of man, in the wilds of North America, formed by pounding the choice parts of the meat very small, dried over a slow fire or in the frost, and put into bags made of the skin of the slain animal, into which a portion of melted fat is then poured. … Fifty pounds of meat and forty pounds of grease make a bag of pemican. Sweet pemican is another kind, made chiefly of bones.—Dunn’s Oregon, p. 59.” [John Russell Bartlett. Dictionary of Americanisms. New York: Bartlett and Welford, 1848.]

Kit Carson: Christopher Carson (1809-1868), American guide. At age 15 he ran away from home to join an expedition to Santa Fe. An expedition that roamed the Southwest from 1829-1831 made him a trapper. After the death of his wife, Carson brought his daughter to Missouri to live with his family; here he met John Fremont, whom he guided on the expedition that made Fremont famous. Carson was active in California during the war between the U. S. and Mexico; afterward he ran a farm, dictated his memoirs, and was an Indian agent.


1849.1.156

[Editor: ] We insert the following, but are obliged to omit the enigma referred to.

Rome, Georgia, March 16, 1849.

Mr. Merry: Although I do not take your Museum, I intend doing so; and I send you the money, with an enigma, which, though not a very good one, may afford amusement to some little girl in trying to find it out. I am at a boarding-school in Rome, Georgia, and there is a friend of mine at the same school who takes your Museum, and lends it to me; and I like it very much. The city in which I am staying is a large one, considering the Indians have only left it for a few years. By the by, speaking of the Indians, I will tell you something about them. Although they have all left this part of the country, we often see their graves, and pick up their arrows; and even their bones and skulls are to be seen. There was a northern lady who married an Indian chief and came here; but she was very unhappy, because she was cut off from all society; but she was still more so when the tribes were ordered to emigrate to the west, and she three times tried to commit suicide, but she was detected each time. Her husband is now dead; but she is living in all the style of an Indian queen, her son being chief. Will you please to send me the books from the beginning of the year.

Yours affectionately,
Sarah J. H.


1849.1.157

[Editor: ] The writer of the following does not tell where the wonderful event happened which he relates. The country must have a good soil. Perhaps it was in Ireland, for they tell big stories there, if they do not raise great radishes.

Mr. Merry: My grandmother had a radish grow in her garden, last summer, three feet and one inch in length, and four inches and a half in circumference. It was very straight, without a knot in it, and fine flavored. It was laid upon a white china dish, and placed upon the supper-table. We were eight in number, and all of us had a piece of it. My uncle, from New York, said it was the best radish he ever tasted. I should have been happy to have given you a slice, Mr. Merry.

As you publish very curious things in your Museum, perhaps you will like to put this in, if you find a place for it. I read your Museum, and like it very well.

From your friend,
Marcellus.


1849.1.159

Connecticut, March, 27, 1849.

Mr. Merry: Dear Sir,—Although we have been subscribers for your very excellent magazine but a short time, we have been constant readers of it since its publication. Our father has been so kind as to purchase the volumes each succeeding year, as they were published.

We live a great many miles away from Boston, in rather a retired spot in the country, surrounded by rocks, mountains, streams, and green fields: still we are not without our sources of amusement, for we have many books, and among them, I assure you, our monthly visitor, Merry’s Museum, is not the least instructive and amusing. We are particularly interested in the enigmas, and take great pleasure in guessing them. We send you one. [puzzle enclosed ]

M. A. R. and M. H. R.


1849.1.160

Spring Hill, Marengo County, Ala., April, 5, 1849.

Dear Mr. Merry: I have seen a great many letters in the Museum from different places, but don’t recollect having seen any from Alabama. What is the cause? Do you have no correspondents here, or is it so far off that you don’t consider them worth noticing? I have concluded to try it for once, and see; and if you do refuse to notice my letter, unless for a better reason than I have named, why I will—no, I won’t discontinue the Museum for the first offence—that would be punishing myself more than it would you.

You cannot be under the impression that we don’t have enough here to interest your readers to hear about. It is true we don’t have the deep, white snows and piercing cold of your New England winters, but we have our fields whitened a good part of the year with cotton; and at this present season, our beautiful prairies are covered with pretty wild flowers and fine ripe strawberries. (I’d send you some if you could receive them by telegraph.) But I’ll not tell you all now, lest I should provoke you to neglect me for being too lengthy. If you think enough of my first effort to print it, perhaps you may hear from the “sunny south” again.

Your constant friend,
Sarah Jane T.

“sunny south”: “the southern states”; the earliest example in Mathews—spelled “sunny South”—is dated 1846. [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]


1849.2.29-30

Michigan, June 1, 1849.

Mr. Merry: As you were pleased to print the letter sent to you by Sammy Sassafras, I send you another, and shall tell you something about the emigrants to California.

They went on their way in fine spirits, encountering bad weather, rain, and quantities of Michigan mud, till they reached Peru, in Illinois. There, finding it best to save their own and the ponies’ strength, they shipped on board a steamboat for St. Louis. The river was very high, in many places being two or three miles wide, submerging fields and houses, and presenting to the eye new and peculiar scenery. They reached the busy city for which they embarked in safety, and so crowded was the levee—as the river bank is there called—that the boat had to shove for a place for her bows; and it was a day and a half before they could land, so many hurrying on, bustling and busy. From St. Louis to Independence it would take them nine days to travel by land, as the roads were very bad still; therefore eight of them again took passage up the river for that place, leaving the captain and purser to arrange for some further supplies.

They bought another wagon and two mules, and another span of horses, and furnished themselves with a large quantity of ropes, and more tools; pulleys and tackling; powder and shot; and 1000 lbs. of flour; and 1200 lbs. of bacon; and coffee and sugar; tea and chocolate; and rice; and a long list of articles for their comfort; some barrels of crackers and sea bread. Each man bought a buffalo robe for his bed, and then moved on up the river. They reached Independence landing in three days; found the company camped out, three miles from town. There they wait till the grass shall start up on the plains, that they may find pasturage for the horses and mules. They were glad to meet their comrades, for they now feel like a band of brothers interested in each other’s welfare. They keep guard all night, sleeping on the ground in the tents, and relieve the guard every two hours. It is very pleasant in the fine nights, but when it is raining coldly, and the wind blowing, they think of the comforts of home, and hope all is well with those they love there.

The town of Independence is built on a beautiful site; is of brick, and is a thriving frontier town; and all things necessary for an outfit can be purchased there, except wagons and harness. Mules are kept for sale. Here they found about three thousand people, out on the same cause. They grind their axes, repack their goods, oil their tents and wagon covers, and get quite ready, not forgetting to load one wagon with corn and oats, for the ponies and honest mules, for fear that the grass will be short for the first few days, as the season is very backward.

Here they were joined by Mr. S., who was taken sick with a disease just as they were ready to leave Monroe, and it proved to be that awful one—the small-pox! But he was well enough to meet them there, though changed so much that his companions hardly knew him. They remained until the 20th of April, when they set off for the plains, under the guidance of Colonel Russell, and were in the first train with forty wagons and one hundred men. They are at this time in the region of the Rocky Mountains; but we suppose that they will stop at the great Salt Lake, at the Mormon settlement, where they will see many strange and new things. The men had fine health, though unused to cook for themselves or to endure hardships. [p. 30 ] The ponies were strong and in good condition.

Many of your readers, Mr. Merry, have friends on the way to the gold region. All go hoping. May all be spared sickness, and trouble, and death in a strange land.

Sammy Sassafras.

“levee”: in Bartlett, 1848: “The lower part of Louisiana … is subject to be inundated by the Mississippi and its various branches, for a distance of more than 300 miles. In order to protect the rich lands on these rivers, mounds are thrown up, of clay, cypress logs, and green turf …. These, in the language of that part of the country, are called levees.” The earliest example in the DARE is dated 1766. [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951. • Dictionary of American Regional English, ed. Frederic G. Cassidy and Joan Houston Hall. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, Harvard University Press, 1985-2012.]

Colonel Russell: probably William Henry Russell (1802-1873). Having served in the Black Hawk War, he was appointed U. S. marshal of the District of Missouri (1841-1845). By this time he had acquired the courtesy title of “colonel.” In 1846 Russell joined a wagon train of emigrants to California and explored the Great Salt Desert, joining John Fremont in California. Russell did return to California in 1849; here he practiced law for a time.

Mormon settlement: Salt Lake City, Utah, was founded in 1847. It was on the main trail from Missouri to California.


1849.2.30-31

Fredericksburg, Virginia, May 22, 1849.

Dear Mr. Merry: Never having written to you before, by way of introduction I will merely state that I live in the dear, little, old-fashioned town of Fredericksburg; which, notwithstanding its being so old-fashioned, is the very place for the exercise of true Virginia hospitality.

My father has been taking the Museum for some years. I used to take delight in “The Leaves for little Readers;” but in the last year or two, my tastes have changed, and now I like your poetry, such as “Childhood’s Home,” and the piece “To my Sister;” although I have several little brothers, whose bright blue and black eyes grow brighter when they see the Museum, and who immediately begin to say, “Now, papa, mayn’t I read the Museum first. I want to read the Playmate.”

Now, Mr. Merry, I have a favor to ask. Won’t you insert a piece of poetry for me? My sister addressed it to me on my birthday, and I want to get a good copy of it. It has never been printed, and the copy I have is in a very dilapidated condition. It is rather long, but if you will waive that objection and insert it, you will oblige

Your black-eyed subscriber,
M. S. H.

TO MY SISTER ON HER BIRTHDAY.

What, sister dear, what shall I say

To thee, on this thy natal day?

Shall I wish thee joy, and lengthened days?

The music sweet of human praise?

Ask that the eye, which now is bright,

Shall ne’er be quenched, or lose its light?

Ask that the heart shall know no fear?

Nor cheek be sullied by a tear?

The form and features, now so fair,

Ne’er bear the marks of eating care?

Hope that through life each joy that’s sought

By thee, may be as quickly caught?

That flowers around thy path may fling

The sweetest odors of the spring?

That thou mayst never know decay,

But revel on through life’s sweet day;

Each shadow from thy spirit cast,

Each moment brighter than the last?

That life, with thee, may pass away

Unclouded as a summer’s day?

All this, and more, my sister dear,

I’d ask for thee, thy life to cheer.

I’d have thee lift thy thoughts above,

Where dwells alone a God of love.

To him devote your early youth,

In trusting words of holy truth.

O, sister dear, could I now tell

But half the thoughts that in me swell,

I’d ask of blessings such a dower

As he, and he alone, could shower—

A gentle spirit, meek and kind,

From all of passion’s dross refined;

A voice whose tone is ever mild,

A heart whose thoughts are undefiled;

Which will not turn a deafened ear

To sorrow’s plaint, but dry the tear,

Soothe and console the deep distress,

Joyful to have the power to bless.

The curls are fair that cluster now

In rich luxuriance o’er thy brow;

But I would have the soul within

A rarer loveliness to win.

I would before thine eyes unfold

The page whose wealth is yet untold.

I’d have thee of its riches seek

A store which thou through life shouldst keep

I’d have thee grasp the gem thou’lt find,

And quickly on thy forehead bind.

I’d have thy fairy form arrayed

In robes which ne’er on earth were made,

And round thy footsteps, which now cling

To earth, immortal flowers fling.

Such are the joys, my sister dear,

Which I would bring, thy life to cheer;

Joys which in age more freshly spring;

Joys which behind them leave no sting, [p. 31 ]

But on the path, which else were dark,

Cast their own bright and heavenly spark.

And though I would not have thee fling

Away the wealth that earth doth bring,

Though I would have thy mind a store

Of modern learning, ancient lore,

Yet thou shouldst think these graces fair

To heavenly light but handmaids are;

And learn that she whose heart was fraught

With love for thee, and early taught

Thy lips to pray, hath to thee given

The blessing richest this side heaven.

Then let us turn our thoughts to-day

To him who is the truth, the way;

Upwards, O, let them wing their flight,

Till they are lost in Heaven’s own light.

C. H.

“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”.

“Childhood’s Home”: poem by R. Morris (Robert Merry’s Museum; April 1849). A man remembers the place where he spent his childhood.

“To My Sister”: poem by Florence (Robert Merry’s Museum; May 1849). Though sometimes Florence’s angry words hurt her sister, “Passion’s words are faithless things,/ And Love disowns them ere they fall”; “[E]re the weapon reach thy heart,/ My own has felt the wound it gives!”


1849.2.31

Winton, May, 1849.

Mr. Merry: I have been very much amused with your Museum since I have been taking it. I borrowed it from one of my cousins, and I liked it so well that I determined to take it. I liked the last number of the Museum better than any other I have got. I have only taken it four months. I was very much disappointed, however, not to find the answers to the puzzles in the March number; so I went to work to find them out. I find the answer to the one with twenty-five letters to be “The Gold Region in California.” A lady told me that the one with five letters was “Brats.” That with twenty-one letters, I found out to be “William Ellery Channing.” But it is wrong somehow. Either the printer made a mistake, or the little girl wrote it wrong, for the letter No. 10 is left out. The puzzle composed of fourteen letters I think must be wrong too, for we cannot make any thing of it, though we certainly found some parts of it right.

The puzzle in the April number, of nine letters, is “Happiness;” that of six letters, “Starch.”

I live a good way off, on the eastern shore of Maryland, in Queen Anne’s county.

I do not live in a town, but on a farm, which is beautifully situated on the Chester River, which is remarkable for its clearness; and it has a very pebbly beach. There are a great many old Indian curiosities, which we get principally from immense shell banks; and I, with two other little children like myself, are making up a cabinet.

I have two cousins, who live up in the mountains, on the western shore, where they never saw a large river. They opened their eyes very wide when they saw the Patapsco, at Baltimore; but they would open them wider if they saw our river, which, though not equal to your Connecticut River, is three miles wide in front of our house.

My letter is no great thing, Mr. Merry; but I am a little boy, only nine years old. In another year, I hope to be able to write one better worth sending.

From your sincere admirer,
R. T. E.

“The Gold Region in California”: from C. Louisa, of Fitchburg (1849.1.95)

“Brats”: written by R. S. “to amuse some little people under my care” (1849.1.96)

“William Ellery Channing”: from Lavinia, of Brooklyn, NY (1849.1.96)

puzzle of fourteen letters: from R. M. M., of Jamaica Plain, NY (1849.1.95)


1849.2.31-32

Middleburg, May 24.

My dear Mr. Peter Parley: I think I must have felt something like the man who woke one morning and found himself famous, when I saw you had not only published my letter, but said, “Thank you, Fanny.”

Papa has just returned from attending the Medical Convention in Boston, and saw and heard a great deal to delight him with your city; but the most wonderful sight of all he did not see; and that was “Peter Parley.” If he had taken me with him, I should have hunted you out the first thing.

Your stories about birds, this month, are very interesting, and remind me to tell you of something that came under my own observation. We had a martin-box on top of our porch, and for many summers, the martins had built in it. But, six years ago, the cat one night got at the box, and killed all the young ones. Mamma was wakened by the distressed cries of the poor old birds, and got to the window just in time to see the cruel cat spring in, her face besmeared with blood. Next morning, the birds all left, and never returned. Every spring, a few would be seen examining the box; but none would settle. [p. 32 ] Last summer, we moved to another part of the town, and carried our box with us; and this spring, we have a fine colony of martins established in it. Now, Mr. Parley, how do you account for this? It would seem as if the birds had some means of handing down the bloody story from father to son; for if, as we first supposed, some marks of blood on the box, or other traces of the cat’s visit, had frightened them off, a mere change of position would not have remedied that. Please explain this, for we children think you know, like Solomon, every thing; from “the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop upon the wall.”

I hope you are not tired of this long letter. I wish you would come to Virginia this summer; but when you come to see me, it must be in “London county,” and not “London city,” or you will not find your little friend,

Fanny B. C.

“cedar of Lebanon … ”: paraphrase of Bible, 1 Kings 4:29, describing the extent of Solomon’s great wisdom: “And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall.”

stories about birds: “Anecdotes of Birds” (Robert Merry’s Museum; May 1849), an illustrated article describing the behavior of everything from sparrows to ostriches.


1849.2.61

[Editor: “We like to encourage improvement of every kind; our letter-writing friends will therefore recollect, that we never insert a letter that comes in bad handwriting; that has bad spelling; or that has bad grammar; or that is badly punctuated. Those who wish to appear in print will please remember all this.” (May, 1849: 160)]

Craterville, June —, 1849.

Mr. Merry: I am a blue-eyed, red-headed scriber to Merry’s Museum. I have rit you three lettors, and sent you seven puzzlers; some on ’em as long as my arm; and now you haint insarted none on em. This is tew bad! One of the puzalers I put together in a red-hot day, last week, and it makes my ginger rise, to think that you won’t print it. I paid postige ont besides; and that don’t help the matter. According to my way of thinking, to write letters, and pay the postige, and not see ’em in print, passes all pashunts. And what makes it wus, is, that you insart other people’s letters, and take no notice of mine. I’m for equil rites, Mr. Merry, and hate ojus distinkshuns and privelledges. I speak my mind, and mean no offens; and if you’ll insart this, I’ll forgive the past. Its the duty of all to be forgiven, and so I bid you good by.

This is from your friend and well-wisher,
J. R—d.


1849.2.62-63

East Cambridge, May 21, 1849.

Mr. Merry: Dear Sir, As I have taken the Museum for nearly a year, without writing to you, I thought I would introduce myself among your numerous correspondents. There are a good many of my school-mates in this place, that take the Museum; and as yet, I have never seen any letter dated from our village. I am very much pleased when the Museum comes, for it is my delight to read it. I hope that you will never get tired of writing stories for us, for I can assure you, I shall never get tired of reading them. I see, in the May number, that you have a letter from my native place—Rome, Georgia. Yes, I am a southern girl. My father sent me to the north, to get an education. I have been here two years the twentieth [p. 63 ] of this month. My father was born in a town at a distance of about forty miles from here. He, when quite young, went off, then expecting to return in about seven months; but has never returned yet, which will be thirty years pretty soon.

Now, Mr. Merry, if you should happen out this way, you will please to give us a call. If you think worthy, you may insert this; if you do not, you will not offend your friend,

Lizzie H—s.

[enigma enclosed ]


1849.2.63

Pasture Plantation, April 13, 1849.

Dear Mr. Merry: I like your Museum very much. I like the stories of Dick Boldhero, the adventures of Philip Brusque, and Jumping Rabbit’s story; and the Siberian Sable Hunter, I like better than all the stories I have ever seen. My brother, Minor, has just begun to learn to read; but he does not know how to write yet. I have another little brother, named Dannie, about five years old; and a little sister, named Maria, who is not yet a year old. If I ever have a pet, I shall name it Merry. I have found out three of your names, Parley, Merry, and Goodrich. I do not like puzzles much, and as I cannot sing, I do not like songs much; but I like adventures, and stories, and fables. I have a great many of your books, and hope you will not stop writing your Museum. I am one of your little subscribers, and have derived a great deal of instruction and amusement from your books. I forgot to say that I liked the story of Bill Keeler very much. I go to school, at home, with my little brother, and our teacher’s name is Mr. Babbit, and I learn spelling and reading, and study Parley’s Universal History, geography, grammar, and arithmetic; and you will know by this letter that I am learning to write. As I see that a good many of your little subscribers send you riddles, and puzzles, I will get my teacher to write one for you, and send it to you in this letter. I should be glad if you would let me know if any body finds out the answer to the enigma I send. If you have time, please answer my letter, as I am very anxious to have your handwriting. My little brother says I must thank you for the amusement he has had from hearing me read your books. I must stop now, as I have nothing more to say.

Your sincere friend,
Willie K—r.

[puzzle enclosed ]

Dick Boldhero (in Robert Merry’s Museum; 1844), protagonist in “Dick Boldhero,” a popular serial. 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).

Story of Philip Brusque (in Robert Merry’s Museum; 1841-1842): Poorly educated Philip doesn’t believe in government; but after a shipwreck he learns the value and weaknesses of several forms of government. The story was reprinted as A Home in the Sea; or, The Adventures of Philip Brusque (Philadelphia: Sorin & Ball, 1845).

Jumping Rabbit’s story: “Jumping Rabbit”, a six-part serial (in Robert Merry’s Museum; 1843). Taken by Kickapoo warriors, the narrator lives in their village for six years and runs away to save a white family—the one he was born to. Details of Kickapoo life alternate with scenes of high adventure. Reprinted in Faggots for the Fireside (NY: D. Appleton & Co., 1854)

The Siberian Sable-Hunter” (in Robert Merry’s Museum; 1841-1842), a 14-part series. The son and daughter of a Russian exiled to Siberia work hard and succeed because of their goodness and patience. The story includes education on matters geographical and moral, punctuated by hair-breadth escapes.

Bill Keeler: a storyteller whose humorous and moral tales are told in “Bill and the Boys” (Robert Merry’s Museum, 1844).

Danny, and Maria Minor: Minor (b. c1841), Daniel (b. c1844), and Maria (b. c1848) Kenner.

Parley’s Universal History: Peter Parley’s Universal History, on the basis of geography. (Boston: American Stationers’ Company, 1837); originally prepared for Samuel Goodrich by Elizabeth and Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was revised and reprinted until at least 1887.


1849.2.64

Saugatuck County, July 4, 1849.

Dear Mr. Merry: In the letters of Billy Bump there is a good deal of bad spelling; and Billy does some rather coarse and awkward things. Now I wish to ask why you print such things. Will you please answer this, and oblige

Yours,
Dorothy D—.

[Editor: ] We are very glad to answer the inquiry of friend Dorothy. We tell the story of Billy Bump partly to amuse our young readers; and we show his faults, his mistakes, and his failings, so that they may take note of them, and avoid them. We have, often, faults ourselves, which we do not notice, till we see the like in others; then we note them, and are very likely to correct them. I do not thus show off the errors of poor Billy Bump merely to make a laugh; but I wish, through his trials, to teach good and useful lessons to others. I wish to show, also, that a boy of few advantages may still, with a good disposition, rise to a respectable station in life.


1849.2.93

Boston, August 10.

Mr. Merry: I have taken your Museum for three months, and feel enough acquainted to write you a letter. Good advice is cheap: so I send you some. Don’t put in any more fairy tales. They are not true, and what is not true is false, and what is false is wicked, and what is wicked ought not to be set before children. I believe you mean well, Mr. Merry; and so I speak to you in the spirit of kindness. I hope to see you hereafter dealing only with truth. Truth is the only proper food for the youthful mind. Fiction is only calculated to lead the mind astray.

Pray, Mr. Merry, think of these things, and excuse the liberty I take.

I am yours, truly,
John Updown.


1849.2.94a

Somerset, Somerset Co., Pa., July 10, 1849.

Mr. Merry: Dear Sir,—An older and younger brother and myself have been taking your Museum since the year 1841. We take two copies, and get them from your agent at Harrisburg. We live in a part of Somerset county, Pa., called the “Glades,” lying between the main Alleghany and Laurel Hill. Our county is celebrated for the great quantity and good quality of the butter made in it, known as “Glades butter” in the east.

The last Fourth of July was celebrated here by two societies of young men,—the one called “Franklin Literary Society,” the other, “Democratic Literary Society.” The Declaration of Independence was read twice in English and once in German, and five of the members delivered very clever addresses. A division of the Sons of Temperance has lately been formed in this place; also, a division of the Cadets of Temperance. My eldest brother and I belong to the latter. I am a student at a small classical school, and am now reading Cæsar’s Commentaries.

In my leisure hours I read a great many books and papers, but prefer the Museum to all others. I take great delight in finding out the enigmas and puzzles, and hope you will always have a supply on hand.

Truly your young friend,
P. Q. A.

Cadets of Temperance: American temperance organization for children, originally founded in Pennsylvania in 1846; in 1847, the organization had 12,000 members in 22 states. [Ernest Hurst Cherrington, ed. Standard Encyclopedia of the Alcohol Problem. Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Publishing Co., 1924.]

Sons of Temperance: fraternal organization founded in New York City in 1842; it soon became an international organization. It inaugurated the Cadets of Temperance.

Caesar’s Commentaries: “Commentaries on the Gallic and Civil Wars,” a description of Julius Caesar’s war campaigns.


1849.2.94b

Memphis, Tenn., July 18, 1849.

Mr. Merry: I take the liberty of writing to you, though I have had your Museum but a short time. I have not seen any letters from Tennessee published in your Museum; so I thought I would write to you myself.

I live in Memphis, which is situated on the Mississippi River, the longest river in the world. I like to stand upon the high bluff, and look at the steamboats as they pass up and down the river. It is a beautiful sight on a summer’s evening, as the sun is going down.

I like your story of the Flying Horse very much, and the Caravan story is very interesting indeed.

We have had lots of plums and peaches, and if I could, I would send you some of them.

Your friend,
George P.

The Caravan: story (in Robert Merry’s Museum; July 1849). Opening as a treatise on caravans in the African desert, the piece becomes a romance in which a Persian youth battles bandits and rescues his beloved from slavery. It was reprinted as “The Pearl of the Palace” in in Parley’s Present for All Seasons (NY: Appleton & Co., 1854).

“The Flying Horse”: a story (in Robert Merry’s Museum; July 1849). A poor boy discontented with his life dreams that he is given all he wishes and realizes that he is unprepared for such good fortune. It was reprinted in Parley’s Present for All Seasons.


1849.2.94-95

Natchez, July 26, 1849.

Mr. Merry: I have been a reader of the Museum for many years, and should be glad to show my [p. 95 ] good will to its editor. I therefore send a description of the place where I live, which may perhaps serve as a contribution to the magazine. At all events, it gives me an apology for writing to Robert Merry. So here is my description.

Natchez takes its name from the Natchez tribe of Indians, who showed great taste by selecting such a situation. Its beauties would certainly attract the eye of the most casual observer.

The city proper stands on a high bluff above the turbid waters of the Mississippi. The bluff, to those approaching from the river, presents a picturesque and romantic view. There are three roads leading up the bluff, which are rather tedious to ascend; but when the height is attained, a sight meets the eye more than sufficient to pay for the trouble.

On the projecting brow of the hill are beautiful pleasure grounds, laid out with much taste, where the gay and fashionable meet to enjoy the cool shade. Here, every evening, are seen parties either walking for exercise after the fatigue of the day, or sitting upon seats placed there for the purpose. The city is beautifully laid out; the streets crossing each other at right angles, bordered on either side with the china-tree.

There are many fine buildings in the city, the largest of which is the Catholic cathedral, and which, by the way, is the largest edifice in the state. In the outskirts of the town are many fine residences and gardens.

There is not as much business done now as formerly; but more dwelling-houses are being built; and it will always be a desirable dwelling-place, on account of its healthful air and agreeable society.

I am yours truly,
D. W.

“apology”: according to the Oxford English Dictionary, used since 1588 to mean a justification of a course of action.


1849.2.95-96

Boston, May 29, 1848.

Mr. Merry: Will you please insert this little story in your Merry’s Museum, if it meets with your approbation and oblige

A Constant Reader.

THE LEGEND OF THE ECHO.

Far, far away, o’er hill and glen, there resided a little fairy, in a lovely spot, surrounded by the most beautiful flowers—the fragrant magnolia, the blushing rose, and the sweet forget-me-not. In the centre there fell, softly murmuring, a beautiful fountain, which, as it trickled away amidst the grass and flowers, whispered its tale of love to some of the sweetest flowers; and still the fickle fountain played on, and changed its love with every morn; and still the listening flowers believed, and bent their heads to hear and answer the deceitful story.

The little fairy had lived here many, many years; for fairies do not grow old like mortals, but are always young and lovely. Discontent or envy had never entered her bosom, and she thought she had forever driven love from her heart. Here, year after year, she wove wreathes of beautiful flowers, bathed in the fountain, decked her long tresses with brilliant gems, and talked to the mermaids which lived in the stream. She had never been from her sweet little home, excepting once a year, when all the subjects of the fairy queen met at the palace, to render homage to her; but the splendor which she saw there, only served to make her glad to get to her peaceful home once more. One day, as she was sporting about, playing with the flowers which surrounded her on every side, she perceived, at the foot of the glen, a handsome youth, dressed in a beautiful suit of green, trimmed with gold lace. He carried in his hand a greenwood bow, and at his back was placed a quiver of arrows.

The stranger advanced, and she retired, scarce knowing why she did so. “Beautiful being,” said the youth, “why do you fly from me? I will not harm thee; I love thee too well. O that thou wouldst love me.” “I know you not,” said the fairy, in a low, musical voice: “what is thy name?” “Julio,” replied he; “and thine, fairest of flowers.” “I’m not a flower, but you may call me Fleance,” answered the fairy, artlessly. “And [p. 96 ] will you love me?” “I do, Julio.” Julio pressed one long kiss on her fair white brow. Just then a bugle call was heard, and the name of Julio was sounded through the woods. “ ’Tis Rodolph. I must go now. Farewell, Fleance. I shall come soon again. Do not forget me, love.” “Forget thee?” “Nay, pardon me, dearest Fleance,” and pressing her to his heart, he left her. He came on the morrow, and again and again; but at last his visits grew less frequent, and then ceased altogether. But one day she heard his voice. For a moment she hesitated, then flew to the spot, and there beheld him; but—alas! poor Fleance—with his arm encircling another’s waist.

“My own dearest Emma,” said he to the fair, young creature, who reclined her head on his breast, “is not this a lovely spot? See yonder murmuring waterfall; just such a place as a naiad might choose to live in.” “It is, indeed, dear Julio, but with you even the desert would be a paradise,” said Emma; and she gazed fondly on Julio. Poor Fleance had heard enough; he was false; he loved another. Pressing her hand to her throbbing brow, she flew to the queen of the fairies, and begged her to take from her the gift of immortality. The queen in pity granted her request, and Fleance flew again to her peaceful glen.

Many years passed away. Fleance had faded to a shadow. At length, even that passed, and nought remained but her sweet, low, musical voice, which still repeats the last words which mortals say, as if in mockery,—and men call it Echo!

S. C.


1849.2.124-125

Mich. University, July 17, 1849.

Dear Friend Peter Parley: I suppose that you will allow one of your old patrons and subscribers to call you by this [p. 125 ] title. My brother, in the far west, is going to become a subscriber to your Museum; and as I suppose you sympathize with the pleasures of your readers, I write to tell you of mine. He has heard about your travels in France and other parts of Europe, and is very anxious to learn the particulars of your tour, which he thinks must be very interesting. He has read your very interesting accounts of the adventures of Dick Boldhero and Dirk Heldriver, in some of the old volumes of the Museum, and these have created a desire for more of the same kind.

Though I am now far away from home, among strangers, and seldom have an opportunity of seeing the Museum, yet as long as I live, I shall remember with pleasure and profit the long winter evenings which I have spent in perusing that best of periodicals; and my desire is, that it may be found in every family in our land. For how can vice and misery grow up with the rising generation when their mind is thus preoccupied with what is calculated to render them virtuous and useful members of society?

I remain, as ever, your faithful friend,
M. La Rue H—n.

Dirk Heldriver: title character in a story in the series “Bill and the Boys” (Robert Merry’s Museum; 1844). After am embezzler cheats his father out of the family fortune, Heldriver travels the world to exact revenge. It was reprinted in A Tale of the Revolution, and Other Sketches (NY: Sheldon & Co., 1845).


1849.2.126

Washington City, August 28, 1849.

Mr. Merry: I wrote a letter to you, some time ago; but as you had so many on hand, mine, along with many others, was not published. But I thought that I would try again, and see if I could meet with better luck this time. I have been a subscriber to your “Museum” for a long time, and have a complete set from the beginning, except the December number of 1848 and the February number of 1849. I like it very much, and consider its arrival as a great event of the month. It seems to me to be carried on even with more spirit than formerly. I like the July number mostly on account of the tale called the “Caravan,” for that was much longer than most of them. I like bold and adventurous tales, shipwrecks, tales of the East, Indian tales, and tales of the revolution, and others continued from number to number, with a good deal in each number.

I suppose that you have visited this city. It will be much improved when the Smithsonian Institute and Washington Monument are finished. They are putting two marble wings to the Patent Office, the front of which is made of free stone. They are clearing the canal now, which passes through this city. They first make two dams across the canal, and then pump the water out between them with a pump which works by steam, and then take the dirt out in carts and wheelbarrows. The Long Bridge, which is about a mile wide, crosses the river here. It is solid almost all the way across, and is causing the river to fill up. During the freshet, the water was three or four feet higher above the bridge than below it. If it would be agreeable to the other subscribers, and not inconvenient to you, I should like you to pay some attention to the hints about tales, in another part of this letter.

Here is a conundrum which you may insert if you think it worthy of a place in your Museum.

What man, in modern times, had the most grandchildren?

Ans. General Washington; because he was the father of his country.

Your subscriber and reader,
S. S. F.


1849.2.127

Pittsburg, September —, 1849.

Mr. Merry: We have had a great time here, in this Birmingham of America. The president of the United States has been at Pittsburg. Never did you see such a state of excitement. The military were out with their flags and their music; and all the people of the town, and many from the vicinity, were in the streets.

I was very near when the president passed, and I saw him smile, and heard him speak to the people. He looked very much like my uncle Sam Smith, who is a farmer up the Monongahela. Every body liked him; especially the boys. They called him Old Zack, and went close to him, and he spoke to them just as kind as if he was a common man. In the midst of the procession, a workman rushed up to the president, and offered him his hand. “There,” says the man, “I must have a shake of your fist. My hand is rather brown and hard; but it’s a true man’s, nevertheless.”

Well, now that was rather bold, wasn’t it? But General Taylor took it in good part, and said to the man, while he shook his hand, “It’s the brown, hard hands that make the earth blossom.” This pleased the people very much, and such a hurrah as rung in the air, you never heard before.

Perhaps the president will go to Boston; and if you are not too lame, with your wooden leg, you must go and see him. You will know him at once, for he looks like the portraits of him. When he was here, a farmer was introduced to him, and after looking at him, he said, “Well, Gineral, arter all, you are not so ugly as I thought you was by the picters of you. You’re quite a good looking man, though you don’t look a bit like a gineral.”

I suppose the president will know you, at first sight, by your wooden leg. I should like to be there, and see what you say to each other. I suppose you will ask him about the Mexicans and the battle of Buena Vista; and he no doubt will ask you about the Museum and Billy Bump. If he inquires any thing about the puzzle I sent you, don’t say who wrote it, for the world.

I have written a long letter, but I have only said half what I wish to. The rest I shall write another time.

I am your true friend,
Samuel S. Smith.

Zachary Taylor: soldier and 12th U. S. president. He became a national hero during the war between the U. S. and Mexico, especially after the battle of Buena Vista, and a movement began to elect him president. Taylor, however, disliked politicking and declared that he would become president only as a result of the will of the voters; on his election in 1848, the Museum reprinted a puzzle that announces “Taylor is our president” no matter how it is read. As president, Taylor worked for sectional peace.

Buena Vista: During the war between the U. S. and Mexico, on 23 February 1847 then General Zachary Taylor led a force of about 5000 Americans into battle against about 20,000 Mexican soldiers. After a day of what Taylor later described as “the severest contest which he had ever witnessed,” both armies held the same position they had that morning; that night, however, the Mexican army retreated. “Few victories … have been more remarkable,” Samuel Goodrich told young readers a year later, “ … what the Americans lacked in point of numbers they were determined to supply by superior skill and characteristic bravery.” [Samuel Griswold Goodrich. A Pictorial History of America. Hartford: House & Brown, 1848; pp. 793-4].


1849.2.127-128

Michigan, July 20, 1849.

Mr. Merry: Do you think your little readers will like to hear again something from the Californian emigrants? We last evening received a letter from one of them, and as it contained much that interested us, we send you a portion of it. On the 16th of May, just two months ago, that same band of adventurers, which I told you of, were camped twenty miles from the forks of the Platte River, four hundred [p. 128 ] miles west from Independence. They had met with no misfortune, but various reports had reached their friends, of sickness and distress, and horrid murders by the Indians, all which had caused many hearts to ache, and many tears to flow; but I am glad to tell you that the reports were not true.

They had no trouble nor sickness, but suffered some hardships, as you might suppose. They often met people returning to the states, so that they sent back letters by them. On the 11th of May, just before reaching the bluffs, or high banks of the Platte River, they met a war party of three hundred Sioux and Cheyenne Indians, on an expedition against the Pawnees. These bands of Indians are always at war. They live on the opposite sides of the river, and they fight on every opportunity; and when they overtake or meet with any whites, they attack them, if they dare.

Well, these Indians formed in a line across the road, and sent out some of their number to talk. This done, they all filed off, and allowed them to pass quietly. Seeing that the emigrants were well armed, strong and determined-looking men, they thought it best not to attack them. At night, they came to the camp, with moccasins and presents, looking about at the same time for a chance to do some mischief. The next day, they again appeared with several Pawnee scalps; having discovered and attacked a party of that tribe, soon after leaving the camp of the Americans.

They had taken a Pawnee boy prisoner, whom they intended to torture on their arrival home; but a detachment of dragoons from Fort Kearney, one mile distant, succeeded in rescuing the boy from them, and restoring him to his tribe. Much good is often done by the American officers and soldiers stationed in these far-off forts, in keeping peace and restoring harmony between different Indian tribes. The boy’s father, mother, and sister had been slain two days before by the fierce and angry Sioux. The party met many of the Mormons, who were returning to the states on business. Some of them had been to the mines, and were able to work but a part of the time, on account of sickness; but when they did work, they sometimes found one hundred dollars a day. But would that pay for sickness? I dare say all the boys and girls who read this, would feel that it would not pay them for their fathers’ pain. But sickness comes in all kinds of work, whether it be with the head or with the hands. The sight of the bright specimens of rough gold, encouraged, without doubt, those who had gone so far on their way in search of it.

It has given them new energy. They have seen no buffalo, as yet, and no game; and a few days ago, they dined, for the first time since they left Independence, on fresh beef; but they enjoy a fine climate and fine health, and have good spirits. They watch their ponies and horses pretty closely, or the treacherous Indians are sure to steal them. They contrive often to get up what is called a stampede among them. When the cattle are turned out for the night, they manage to lie down on the grass, and crawl about like animals from one fastening to another, till several are loosened; then they whoop till all are frightened, and run off.

Sammy Sassafras.

“stampede”: Bartlett, in 1848: “A general scamper of animals on the Western prairies, generally caused by a fright.” The earliest example listed in Mathews is dated 1844. [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.]

Fort Kearney: Established in 1848 on the south bank of the Platte River in what is now Nebraska, this fort was the point where several trails from the Missouri River came together and became an important landmark on the Oregon Trail. [Howard Robert Lamar. The New Encyclopedia of the American West. New York: Yale University Press, 1998.]


1849.2.158-160

Paris, Sept. 1, 1849.

My Dear Mr. Merry: My father, who wishes to have me learn to write good letters, which he says is a great accomplishment, sent for your Museum of this year, that I might see how many little girls and boys, set at ease by your kindness and encouragement, wrote to you without fear. I do not think that I should have dared to do so, before I had your pleasant little work; but now, Mr. Merry, it is you who must consent to bear the blame, for you yourself say that you are happy to receive neatly-written letters, with the postage paid.

I am only twelve years old, Mr. Merry; and having no brothers nor sisters, I am often left to myself for hours together, when my father has gone to his business. My mother died when I was only four years old; and I can only remember, that there was once another dear friend, whom I loved very much. You may therefore see, Mr. Merry, that I must have had recourse to books for amusement and occupation; and among the many in my possession are several of yours.

As you have visited Paris, you will know just where I live, when I tell you that our [p. 159 ] apartment is situated in a fine hotel on the Boulevard de la Madeleine. This hotel is called the Cité Vindé; that is, it is a city belonging to M. de Vindé. It is built round two courts, and we live in the second one. The front is very handsome, having a beautifully arched entrance, with a heavy gate of iron. There are balconies extending the whole length, with flowers, placed there by the occupants of the apartments to which the balconies belong. High up there are two statues, but of what I do not know; I should have to look through a spy glass, they are so high.

Every day I go out with my French governess, to walk or ride. My favorite walk is to the Gardens of the Tuileries, where I can read, or jump, hop, drive hoop, or run races. But I generally prefer sitting still and looking on, for I think such a big girl as I am should begin to behave like a lady—do not you, Mr. Merry? Now, do not laugh at me for this, I beg, for I am more laughed at now than I like by half. Father says I am almost as old fashioned as little Paul Dombey, in Mr. Dickens’s last book. I do not know what he means, but he says when I am fourteen, I may read the book, and find out for myself. So I will!

I went yesterday to a wood about two miles out of Paris, called the “Bois de Boulogne.” Here I got on to a cunning little donkey, who looked so gentle and kind that I would not take a whip, although the keeper told me I should be sorry if I did not. Well, off I went; and as long as my little steed could hear the crack of his master’s long whip, he went very well, much to my delight. We soon, however, got out of sight and hearing of every one, and in a little dark path my donkey stopped short; nor would he start again. I had never ridden before unless followed by a little ragged boy who made a noise to frighten the animal by rapidly shaking some stones in a basket. I thought the little fellow wanted to rest, and for a moment I humored him. “Now,” said I, chirruping to him, “let’s be off again.” But no; there he stood, and nothing I could do or say would make him stir. I now began to regret my having so obstinately refused to take a whip. I looked around me, but could see no one; neither was there a switch within my reach. What to do I did not know, and for a moment I felt almost like crying. But just as I was beginning to be so foolish, the thought came across me, as to whether tears running would make a donkey run. At this thought I laughed loud to myself, much to the astonishment of my stubborn friend, who started off in good earnest for his stand. We went on nicely until we got in sight of my governess and the donkey’s owner; and then, thinking that if there was any scolding to be got, I deserved the worst, he sent me, by a kicking out of his hind legs, directly over his head, lodging me at his master’s feet, upon the green grass, unhurt, but ashamed and more ready to shed tears, than to join the laugh at my expense. I think I learned a good lesson from this, Mr. Merry; and hereafter, the little animal may not expect me, as father says, to “spare the whip, and spoil the donkey.”

I have been here for nearly a year, Mr. Merry, and I sometimes wish myself back in my own city of New York. But I have no hopes of returning there for many years. Father brought me here that I might learn the French, German, and Italian languages, with the promise, that when I could read the two last with ease, I should visit the countries where they are spoken. He says that a language can never be learned, unless at head-quarters; that is, if you wish to speak it. Do you think so too, Mr. Merry? I told some one, the other day, that I had come here to finish my education; and father called out, “Then you must spend your life here, Lizzie, for a lady’s education never is finished!” O, I felt so ashamed, Mr. Merry, to be corrected before everybody; but it will keep me from forgetting what father said, and will do me good, I am sure. Do you mean to come to Paris again some time or other? You do not know what a great desire I have to see you. I have a picture of you in one of my books, in which you have a wooden leg, and are telling the boys around you not to tread [p. 160 ] on your gouty toe. But this does not please me. I do not believe that you have the gout, for father says that only old people have it; and some one told me, the other day, that you were not nearly so old as you made yourself to be in your pictures.

I wish my paper would last longer, Mr. Merry; for I have not said one half that I wished to, and here I am nearly at the bottom of the fourth page of my sheet. You will not think this too long—will you, sir? If you knew what pleasant hours I have spent in the anticipation, and the writing of it, you would not wonder that I plead for forgiveness if I have taxed your patience too much, and for the permission to write some time again. This, from your usual kindness to children, I feel sure you will grant.

On reading this letter to father, he says I have made him too much of an oracle, and that his modesty goes against my sending this letter. Whom have I to look up to but him? And is it not his own fault, Mr. Merry, if he will teach me himself, and not trust too much to my governess? Hoping, my dear sir, that you will agree with me in all I say, I sign myself your respectful and true blue-eyed friend.

Lizzy G—.

Cité Vindé hotel: Editor Samuel Goodrich and his family lived here when he was in France. [Emily Goodrich Smith. “ ‘Peter Parley’—As Known to His Daughter.” Connecticut Quarterly: pp. 304-315; 399-407.]

Tuileries: gardens laid out in 1665 near the Tuileries Palace. In 1851, the flower gardens, statues, fountains, and groves of elms, limes, and chestnut trees spread over 67 acres. It was a favorite place for Parisians, who gathered near a terrace where orange trees were set every year: “On Sunday afternoons, … the alley of orange trees frequently forms a compact mass, presenting every variety and colour of dress …. The garden … is also the favourite rendezvous of children … [who] come come there for exercise and air.… ” [Galignani’s New Paris Guide for 1851. Paris: A. & W. Galignani & Co., 1851; pp. 167-70.]

“spare the whip, and spoil the donkey”: parody of Samuel Butler, Hudibras, pt. II, canto 1, line 843: “ …spare the rod, and spoil the child.”

Paul Dombey: central character in Dombey and Son, by Charles Dickens; serialized from 1846 to 1848, the novel was published in book form in 1848. Paul’s pensiveness, called “old-fashioned”, presages his early death.

Bois de Boulogne: a “thick and beautiful” wood two miles from Paris in 1851. Though “long known as a place for duelling and suicides,” it also was a place “where the most splendid equipages and finest horses of the capital are displayed.” [Galignani’s New Paris Guide for 1851. Paris: A. & W. Galignani & Co., 1851; pp. 511-512.]

gouty toe: Actually, gouty Peter Parley, not peg-legged Robert Merry. The book is Peter Parley’s Method of Telling About Geography to Children, by Samuel Goodrich (Hartford: H. & F. J. Huntington, 1831), with a frontispiece of an alarmed Parley warning, “Take care there! take care boys! if you run against my toe, I’ll not tell you another story!”


1849.2.187a

La Grange, Aug. 27, 1849.

Mr. Merry: Dear Sir,—Hearing that you receive letters from little boys and girls, and as I am now taking your Museum, I take the liberty to write to you. I live in La Grange, a little village in Oldham county, Kentucky; and being much pleased with your Museum, I have concluded to take it. As I cannot read very well, I wish you would put in some simple stories for little readers.

When you visit Kentucky, I hope you will stop at our little village, for I would like very much to see you and hear some of your stories.

I go to school at the La Grange Female Seminary. The principals are Mr. and Mrs. Leigh. It is vacation now, but school will commence next week, and I am very glad, for I have become quite tired of vacation. Please, Mr. Merry, to send us the Museums as quick as possible, for I wish to see them very much.

Yours, respectfully,
Eliza J. T—.

Mr. and Mrs. Leigh: probably William Leigh (born c1790, Virginia), listed in the 1850 census as a teacher; with him lived Susan Leigh (born c1814, North Carolina). [M432. 1850 United States Census; reel #216, 163.]


1849.2.187b

Oswego, Sept. 16, 1849.

Dear Mr. Merry: As you have many subscribers, living in different parts of the Union, who may not have heard much concerning the Syracuse State Fair, which has recently taken place, a few words from an eye-witness might be agreeable to them.

The first thing to be noticed was the dense crowds. Such a mass of human beings never was collected together before, and I hope never will be again. In fact, it is said they averaged one hundred thousand persons. The hotels were jammed to such a degree, that, from daylight in the morning until after sunset, the waiters were busily engaged setting and clearing tables for the many thousands to receive their daily bread. Trains of over a dozen cars were constantly arriving and departing, crammed inside, outside, top, platform, and all, with men, women, and children. At the Fair ground, Floral Hall drew much the greatest crowd, on account of its being the depository of some of nature’s fairest gifts. The collection of cattle was very fine, and also the collection of mechanics’ instruments, as far as I could judge.

Among the numerous pens was one in which was a sheep, which was four years old, and had never been shorn. The wool stood out each side full a foot. All that would lead a person to imagine that the animal was really a sheep, was the sight of four legs sticking out from beneath the wool, and a nose that very much resembled that of a sheep. As for the tail, it was invisible, and had probably been cut off, or was concealed under the fleece.

The dust was so thick, both at the Fair ground and in the street, that after getting safely out of that one, I felt that if ever I was caught attending another State Fair, it would not be when I retained my senses. Although Syracuse is favored with more hotels, in proportion to her population, than most other places, yet they were insufficient to accommodate the swarms of people. Whole car loads left the city for Oswego, Auburn, and Utica, merely for the purpose of procuring a night’s lodging.

And now, Mr. Merry, as I have filled my sheet, I must bid you farewell.

E. T. F.


1849.2.188

Dear Mr. Merry: I like the Museum very well; but I am now learning algebra, mathematics, and Latin, and I should like to have you put some of these things in for my edification and amusement. If you would like it, I will send you a puzzle in Latin, to be answered in Greek; it might gratify the more juvenile portion of your readers. I think common puzzles are too easy. Are you not nearly through with Billy Bump? I think it would be much better to fill up the space with logic, conic sections, and numismatics.

Excuse the liberty I take, Mr. Merry: I doubt not you mean well; and, in fact, before I knew so much, I liked your Museum myself. But I am now thirteen years old, and it is time to put away childish things.

I am yours respectfully,
Nonpareil Smallcaps.

a flourish
Introduction

How to use this book

1840s: 18411842184318441845184618471848 • 1849

1850s: 1850185118521853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 1860186118621863186418651866186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

About the Merry Cousins

Appendix

Index & gloss

Sources

The Cousins’ Greatest Hits

Copyright 2000-2016, Pat Pflieger


To “Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read
Some of the children | Some of their books | Some of their magazines

To “Voices from 19th-Century America
Some works for adults, 1800-1872
To Titles at this site | Subjects at this site | Works by date | Map of the site

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