Dear Friend Robert Merry: Letters from nineteenth-century children

How to use this book

1840s: 184118421843184418451846184718481849

1850s: 1850185118521853 • 1854 • 18551856185718581859

1860s: 1860186118621863186418651866186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

About the Merry Cousins


Index & gloss


The Cousins’ Greatest Hits



Cleveland, Dec. 12th, 1853.

Dear Mr. Merry:—Another year has rolled round, and I again send you my subscription for your excellent Museum for 1854. I like your Museum very much. I hope that Mr. Go-ahead will get home safe and well, after enduring so many hardships. The city of Cleveland is situated on Lake Erie, at the mouth of the Cayuhoga river. It is a very beautiful city, and fully merits the title of Forest City, which is bestowed upon it on account of the great number of forest-trees which line the streets. Six miles from the city there is a very pretty village, called Newburgh. It was formerly said of Cleveland, that it was a small village, six miles from Newburgh. But now Cleveland contains about 31,000 inhabitants, while Newburgh contains only about 2500. The location of the city is dry and healthy. In the centre of the town there are ten acres in the form of a public square. It is very beautifully laid out, and shaded with elm trees.

Your friend and subscriber,
Frank A. Spencer.

Gilbert Go-ahead, title character in “The Adventures of Gilbert Go-Ahead.” It was the Museum’s longest-running serial (1851-1855, 1856). The quintessential Connecticut Yankee, Gilbert relies on shrewdness, pragmatism, luck, and a large collection of aphorisms on his journey through Asia in search of trade. Adventures that include shipwreck, enslavement, escape (once, via hippopotamus), and philosophical arguments with those he meets teach Gilbert and the reader about the lands through which he travels, the value of education, and the evils of greed. Not every reader believed Gilbert’s adventures—especially the hippo ride—but the serial was the most popular in the magazine’s history.


Delphi, Ind., Dec. 2d, 1853.

Dear Mr. Merry:—I have been a reader of the Museum ever since I was able to read, and have been very much interested and instructed by it. I am now thirteen years old, but as I have two little brothers, and a little sister, I hope it will be a long time before your Museum stops its visits to our home. Delphi is a very pleasant village, of 1800 inhabitants, situated on the Wabash and Erie Canal, between the cities of Lafayette and Logansport; and the Wabash Valley railroad, from Lake Erie to St. Louis, is now being constructed through it. We have five churches, and are building a very large and handsome Union school-house, which will be an honor to the place. Mr. Merry, if you should ever come out this way, in your balloon travels, and should drop down to see us, I should be pleased to pilot you over some of our beautiful prairies, especially the Grand prairie, which extends west of the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains. It is only ten miles from us to its eastern border.

Your Hoosier friend,
Willie Wright.

“Balloon Travels” (in Robert Merry’s Museum ; 1851-1856): “Balloon Travels Around the World.” This series of imaginary balloon trips—Robert Merry felt too old for the real thing—took Merry and five representative readers around the world. At each point, Merry would tell the children about the region’s history and geography. He also found time to advise readers on morality, economics, and the glories of America.


Midway, Ky., 2d December, 1853.

Mr. Merry:—I would not write to you now, but I wish to send you a piece of poetry, which was composed on the death of my little brother, who died only two weeks ago. I loved my little brother, and feel comforted with the thought that he is now in heaven.

Besides sending you this poetry, I wish to thank you for the information I am gaining from your Museum. “Little Muck,” “Balloon Travels,” “Gilbert Go-ahead,” &c., are all good, very good.

Your friend,
Mary Alice Iles.

[Editor: ] Accompanying the above letter is a touching monody of a father on the death of a son. We have room but for one stanza: [p. 32 ]

“Tell me, ye sons of virtue, tell,

Will he with sainted spirits dwell

In regions light?

And sweetly raise his feeble voice,

And singing, evermore rejoice,

An angel bright?”

When those that we love die—and who has not lost a dear friend?—how soothing is the thought, if we can think of them as sainted spirits in heaven; and how thankful should we be for that blessed Gospel which reveals such a hope. Our little friend, Mary, and her dear parents, have our sympathy; we, too, know what it is to lose a friend.

“The History of Little Muck” (Robert Merry’s Museum ; 1853), four-part fairy tale. Little Muck, a dwarf, learns much about human perfidy when he seeks his fortune.

brother: In 1860, Mary had seven brothers: Samuel (born c1844), Simeon (born c1846), John (born c1848), Leonidas (born c1850), Malvern ( born c1852), Thomas (born c1854), and George (born c1856). [• M653. 1860 United States Census; reel #400: 846; reel #406: 494, 448-489.]

father: Thomas Jefferson Iles (born 17 Mar 1811, Boone co., Kentucky; died 27 Oct 1889, Davenport, Iowa) [M432. 1850 United States Census; reel #222: 447; reel #228: 657. • M653. 1860 United States Census; reel #400: 846; reel #406: 494, 448-489. • T625. 1920 United States Census; reel #598: ED148, sheet 5, ln 88. • William E. Railey. History of Woodford County. Frankfort, Kentucky: Roberts Printing Co., 1928. (Reprinted); p. 96. • Sue Iles. E-mail correspondence, 18 September 1999, 19 September 1999. • Sue Iles. Family history. • G. Barrett Rich. E-mail correspondence, 20 September 1999.]


Weybridge, Vermont, 1853.

Mr. Merry:—I have wanted to learn to write these three years, so that I could contribute a little to the Museum.

I live at “Monument Place,” so named because the admirers of Silas Wright have erected a large marble monument here to his memory. Our school-house is on the land where this great and good man learned his A, B, C.

When Silas was a little boy, like myself, he was one time punished at school; not for anything he had done, but rather than bring out and expose his friend and schoolmate, he preferred to receive the chastening-rod upon his own back. Silas was not a tell-tale. All the school-boys loved him dearly.

I send one dollar more for Merry’s Museum.

Charles Jewett.

Silas Wright (1795-1847): U. S. Congressman (1827-1828, 1834-44) and governor of New York (1844-1846). As a Congressman he was known for his integrity, his knowledge of the subjects of debate, and his cool reasoning ability.


Hopedale, Mass., Jan. 1st, 1854.

Mr. Merry—Dear Sir:—I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. You will find enclosed $1 for the Museum. It is the custom here to have a festival every Christmas; but this year, Christmas coming on Sunday, we had the festival on Saturday. The exercises commenced at half-past two o’clock, and opened with an original hymn. Then came recitations, interspersed with music. After that came the more substantial part of the entertainment—that is, supper. After supper came recitations and music again. Then the curtain was drawn aside, and the Christmas Tree came in sight. It was a good-sized hemlock tree, and was covered with presents. The floor, too, had its share of presents, the tree not being large enough to contain them all. The presents were then distributed. Every one in Hopedale got at least one, and some got a great many. At about nine o’clock we all returned home.

Yours truly,
W. F. Draper.

Hopedale: Christian commune formed in 1841 and led by the Reverend Adin Ballou. It emphasized temperance, non-violence, and equality of the races and the sexes; at first, women were paid for doing domestic work. Children played at scheduled times and worked for the commune after about age 12; after 1854, they attended the commune’s school. While individuals owned their houses and furniture, the whole commune owned farms and shops. However, W. F. Draper’s father owned the textile business that was an important economic asset. Financial reorganizations and economic problems altered the commune enough that members began to leave; Hopedale ceased to exist as a Christian commune in 1873. [William F. Draper. Recollections of a Varied Career. Boston: Little, Brown, & Co., 1908.]


Marksville, La., Dec. 10th, 1853.

Mr. Merry—I must now beg you to excuse me for not writing oftener. I have not the time, for I have to study. Now I know you will say that’s right, and so I do myself; but sometimes when I miss my lessons, I get almost discouraged; for I know I do study and try to keep from missing. I suppose I must persevere.

Oh! Mr. Merry, we are all anticipating so much pleasure at our school. We are to have a Christmas tree, and we are to speak a very interesting dialogue composed by our beloved teacher. She is a Northern lady, from Vermont. A Christmas tree! why the like was never heard of in our little Marksville before, and perhaps never would have been if she had not introduced it.

With many good wishes for you and your many friends, I am yours most truly,

Nelly S.


Memphis, Tenn., Jan. 20th, 1854.

My Dear Mr. Merry:—I am afraid that the long distance between New York and Memphis, and the tardiness of the mails may prevent my being the first in sending you the correct translation of your enigmatical song. Now I think it will be very hard on us far-off boys, who may be fully as smart as your city boys at guessing, (although not living so near Connecticut as they do,) if being so long a distance from you is to be so great a misfortune to us, as to preclude us from your prize. And if you so decide, after telling you that I made the translation within three hours after the number was received, I shall certainly expect you to aid us unfortunate Tennessee boys in getting up a petition to President Pierce to have our country moved nearer to yours, in order that we may have a fair chance and equal rights with your nearer subscribers; this, father says, is good, sound state rights doctrine.

Your friend and reader,
Pinckney Latham.

enigmatical song: A poem printed in January 1854 presented each word written backward.

Franklin Pierce (1804-1869): 14th president of the U. S. A lawyer, he was U. S. Representative from New Hampshire (1833-1837) and U. S. Senator (1837-1842). He was elected president in 1852. Pierce respected states’ rights and tried to ban sectionalism from his government, but his attempts to act on his policies failed, and many in the North felt he sympathized too much with the South.


Drakeville, Jan. 26th, 1854.

Dear Mr. Merry:—I have been a subscriber to the Museum since 1846, and have got all the back volumes except those of 1842 and 1843. I have tried to get you subscribers, but the people tell me that they have better ways to spend their money, or that they will see about it, and that is all they ever do. Instead of sending me a January number of Merry’s Museum, you sent me a copy of the Mother’s Magazine with the cover of the Museum on it. I thought the Museum had become very serious, but never mistrusted a mistake. My cousin also takes it, and last night he asked me if I had read the story of the Boy Bachelor. I told him I had not, and there was not much in my number but Scripture Portraits. I then borrowed his, and I have translated the song. I hope I shall win the prize.

Your friend,
Harriet Durham.

Mother’s Magazine: a periodical with a complex publication history (1833-?) which focused on child-rearing and Christianity. From 1851 to 1855 it was published by S. T. Allen & Co., which was how Harriet received it instead of the Museum.

Boy Bachelor: “Wolsey Bridge; or, The Boy Bachelor,” by Agnes Strickland (Robert Merry’s Museum ; 1854). Two incidents in the life of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey: the story emphasizes the benefits—and hazards—of perseverance in the face of impossible odds, as Wolsey earns a bachelor’s degree by age 14 and almost loses his life crossing a stream in flood.


Kalamazoo, Mich., Jan. 21st, 1854.

Mr. Merry:—As there is no school to-day, I thought I would write to you.

The town in which I live contains about 5,000 inhabitants. In the summer it is very pleasant, because there are so many oak trees; it is sometimes called the “Buroak city.” I go to school, where I study arithmetic, geography and drawing; besides, I take dancing lessons twice a week. Last summer, my father presented me a little French pony, and a side saddle. I have two little friends, who have ponies too, and we used to take long rides in the country. Once in a while our teacher would go with us. Most all of your readers have told you how much pleasure the Museum gives them; and all I can say is that we wait its coming with impatience, and when it does come, we read and reread with joy. Most every evening we bring the bound volumes in to the sitting-room, and read until it is time to retire to rest.

From your dark-eyed


Corpus Christi, Texas, Feb. 21st, 1854.

Dear Mr. Merry:—I am very much ashamed of myself for not having written to you during the last three years I have been in this State. I am very much obliged to you for having continued to send your interesting magazine to me without my having sent you my subscriptions in advance. I think it is the most interesting periodical I ever read. The articles on natural history are by far the most interesting subjects in your book, and I would be very much delighted if in all the numbers there was a long article on some animal. I have travelled over a considerable part of this State, and seen a great number of wild animals, amongst which are deer, wolves, turkeys, foxes, panthers, and the long-eared or mule-eared rabbit, which resembles the English hare very much, the racoon, opposum, civet cat, pole cat, and wild cat. The other day I saw a pecary, or Mexican hog, which in all accounts I have ever read of it, is stated to be confined exclusively to South America, but which is far from being a fact, for they are very numerous in the chaparall about Corpus Christi. I have seen deer in droves of four or five hundred at a time, and turkeys in great numbers. I think that if I could write with ease, I could write stories about my travels in Texas as wonderful as Gilbert Go-ahead’s, and all true. I will tell you now about my journey from Fort Mason to Corpus Christi. The first named place is situated on the Llanos, in the mountainous part of Texas, three hundred miles north of the latter, and is occupied by a [p. 127 ] company of dragoons. We left on the 20th of December, with an escort of seven soldiers, as a protection against the Indians, and to fix our camp, for we had to encamp fifteen days. I rode a Chickasaw pony, and it was the longest journey I ever performed on horse-back. The day after we left the Fort, we encamped at the foot of a beautiful hill, which, after supper, I ascended, and in my walk I found an old Indian arrow-head, cut out of white flint, it is wonderful to see with what accuracy they are cut. The next day we passed through Fredricksburg, which is a German settlement on the Perdenales, which empties into a branch of the Colorado. At the time we passed through, great preparations were being made to celebrate Christmas, which was near at hand. Here four of the escort left us. Three miles farther on, we passed Fort Martin Scott, and toward night we stopped at a very nice looking log-house. The inhabitants said we might stay there if we were willing to all sleep in the same room. The master was a German gentleman, by the name of Zinch, who had been formerly in the employment of King Otho, of Greece, as a topographical engineer. We travelled for two days more without any thing of importance occurring, except my father’s carriage broke down in crossing the mountains. We reached San Antonio on the fifth day, which was Christmas. This town is situated on a river of the same name, and is an old Mexican town which was founded, it is said, three centuries ago, and is renowned in the history of Texas for being the place where David Crockett, as well as other illustrious Texians were killed in defence of the Alamo. We remained here one week, when we left for Corpus Christi, with one company of sixty mounted riflemen. We had not proceeded more than eight miles, before we arrived at the ruins of an old Catholic church, supposed to have been built by the Spanish missionaries for the purpose of converting the Indians three or four hundred years ago. It is called Mission Conception. It is built of a very beautiful soft stone which is found here. In the front, the door is of solid three-inch oak boards, fastened together by means of large iron spikes, but it is very much decayed. On each side of the door is a pillar elaborately carved. On the right of the right hand pillar, is the image of the Virgin Mary, with the infant Jesus in her arms. On the same side is the basin that used to contain the holy water; on the left of the other pillar is the image of John the Baptist. Over the door was carved a wreath, inside of which was written, in Spanish, Mission Conception, over the wreath is carved a large cross; besides these carvings, all the front is beautifully ornamented with flowers and vines cut in the stone. On the roof of the church are growing great numbers of prickly pears. We travelled on for several days through a country nearly as wild as when it was first discovered by the white man, for after travelling twenty-five miles to the south of San Antonio, one does not meet with a house on all the road from that place to Fort Merrill, distance one hundred and twenty-five miles.

This country abounds in game; on the map it is marked “wild horses.” We saw great numbers of wild deer and antelope. Great numbers of wild horses roam here. After eight days’ travel, we arrived at Fort Merrill, where we remained one day to rest. This place is situated on the west bank of the Nueces river, and about sixty miles from Corpus Christi. The river is called Nueces, which is the Spanish for nuts, on account of the great numbers of pecan-nuts that grow on the upper part of it. The first day we left Fort Merrill, I saw two black wolves in the road. A few miles farther on we saw two Indians on the prairie to the left of the road, but as they ascended a little hill and saw us, they turned to the right to avoid us. The weather being intensely cold we did not pursue them. A little farther on we met a company of riflemen going from the Rio Grande to Fort Merrill. We encamped this night at a little muddy water pool two or three miles to the north of San Petretio. Next morning we started early, and arrived at Corpus Christi about three o’clock in the afternoon nearly frozen, without anything particular occurring, except that we saw a drove of mustangs, or wild horses, grazing in the valley of the Nueces.

From your friend,
Robert Stuart Turner.

long-eared or mule-eared rabbit: probably the black-tailed jack rabbit (Lepus californicus), also called the “jackass rabbit” (Mathews) and the only jack rabbit species found in Texas. [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]

Fort Martin Scott: established in 1846 and abandoned in 1853.

Zinch: perhaps Nicolaus Zink (born c1812, in Bavaria), a miller in Fredericksburg, Texas, in 1860, when he had real estate worth $1200. [M653. 1860 United States Census; reel #1295: 6]

Otho: Frederick Louis Otho (1815-1867), King of Greece (1833-1862). After the newly independent state of Greece established itself as a monarchy under a protectorate exercised by Bavaria, Otho, second son of King Ludwig of Bavaria, was chosen as king. He took absolute power in 1837; but in 1843 an uprising led to the establishment of a constitutional monarchy. In March 1845, the Museum included his portrait and an article about him, tactfully declining either to praise or to condemn him.

“Texians”: Texans. The earliest example in Mathews is dated 1835. [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]

David Crockett (1786-1836): hunter and U. S. Congressman from Tennessee. As a legislator, Crockett relied on his own brand of common-sense to make decisions and generally opposing President Andrew Jackson, which may have cost him re-election. Rejected by his constituents and attracted by the movement for Texas independence from Mexico, he left Tennessee for Texas. Crockett died in the bloody defence of the Alamo.

Mission Concepcion: Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepcion de Acuna, established in 1731 and famous for its frescoes.

[from the Chat, 1854.1.157-158: ]

[ … ] Peter Parley, you know, has been, for the last two or three years, in Paris [ … ]. He comes home once in a while to look after the Museum and see that all is right, for it is his pet child, and he would die of a broken heart if any thing evil should befall it.

This spring we are going to have a meeting in Paris, and Robert Merry has already engaged a passage in the new and beautiful ship “Sunny Side,” Captain Adams; and ere this number reaches you he will go to Paris, where Peter Parley is already expecting him. [p. 158 ]

[ … ] His old and well-tried associates will remain at their posts, wide awake to every duty, and in addition he has called in the assistance of his learned and witty friend Hiram Hatchet, Esq., of whom Peter Parley once said, “He’ll make the best editor of a youth’s paper of any man in the country.” We commend him to you and you to him, and we shall not be jealous if you get as cozy with him as you are with Robert Merry. He can take a joke and give one, so don’t be afraid to write to him, nothing will suit him better than to chat with you from morning till night. [ … ]


Marion, Ohio, March 21st, 1854.

Mr. Merry:—I like the Museum very much, especially Gilbert Go-ahead, the Monthly Chat, and the Balloon Travels. I would have sent my dollar before, but I have been trying to get some subscribers. I have got one, and I don’t believe in “giving up.” I shall expect to get some more. In our town we have a court-house, five churches, and an academy. My brother and I attend the second department. I have a brother away at a Quaker boarding-school, where I am going this summer. My father is a farmer, and keeps a great many sheep. I think I should like to be a farmer and live away out West.

From your young friend,
Charles Concklin.

academy: The Marion Academy—the first of its kind in Marion County—opened in 1841 by John J. Williams, with 35 pupils, in the Masonic Hall; a new building was finished in 1844. The Academy focused on fitting its students for college. After free schools opened in Marion, the academy declined; it closed in 1853. [The History of Marion County, Ohio. Chicago: Leggett, Conaway & Co., 1883; p. 535]


[Editor: ] We have two very interesting letters from Mary J. P., Fort Kent, Aroostook county, Me., a place which Jack Downing would call “below the eastward.” She has sent us pay for six new subscribers, and says she “shall try hard to get more.” She also says, “some parents think it money uselessly expended to buy books for children, but I don’t. Mother pays us two cents a basket to pick up chips, and I can soon get enough to pay for mine.”

Some of our southern readers may like to know more about this far away place, so we make another extract:—

“We live two hundred and fifty miles above Bangor. After the ‘Aroostook war,’ this place was occupied as a military post. At the time of the Mexican war the troops were called away, and their buildings are now occupied by citizens. We have had a great freshet here. The snow remained on the ground till May. On the third of May, father had his horses brought out of the wood, where he had been lumbering, and fifteen men shovelled snow ten miles, in order to get them along. It is now very warm, and the fields begin to be clothed in their summer attire.”

Jack Downing: putative author of The Life and Writings of Major Jack Downing, by Seba Smith (Boston: Lilly, Wait, Colman & Holden, 1833). Jack is a sharp-eyed, sharp-witted, sharp-dealing citizen of Maine whose letters comment satirically on politics, politicking, and state and federal government. Honest, plain-spoken Jack hails from Downingville, a “snug, tidy sort of village … jest about in the middle of down east.” [p. 2]

“below the eastward”: “Eastward” is listed in Mathews as “Maine, or New England,” first used in 1644. [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]

Aroostook War: Mathews: “A controversy (1836-39) which threatened war between the U. S. and Gt. Britain over the northeastern bounds of the U. S.” [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]

war with Mexico: 1846-1848; it resulted in the annexation of Texas by the U. S.


Hartford, July 15, 1854.

Mr. Hatchet—Dear Sir:—How have you existed in New York during the recent hot weather? Why, even up here in old Connecticut, I was all but melted. Wasn’t 4th of July a scorcher? I guess some folks thought so, as they trailed up and down the streets under a broiling sun to see the sights. By the way, we had quite a celebration here on the 4th. If you like, I will attempt to describe it. At sun-down Monday night, the proceedings commenced. Crackers and pistols were exploding in every direction, while in front of the State house a big bonfire of tar-barrels and other combustibles was burning very patriotically, lighting up the surrounding houses and casting a bright light upon the spectators standing round. The noise continued throughout the night till early morning, and when old Sol poked his hot nose above the horizon, he was saluted with a joyous peal from all the church-bells, which continued for an hour. Then there was a little quiet. People were either at breakfast, or preparing for the rest of the day, or resting from their night exertions. But it did not last long. Little by little the noise and bustle recommenced, the streets were alive with the honest country folks, who poured into the city in streams to see the sights; companies of firemen and the different societies were proceeding to the place of meeting at the State House; cavalry officers were gallopping up and down the street, on business concerning everything in general and nothing in particular, and everybody was very happy and very hot, and in most cases the possessor of a palm-leaf fan. Between ten and eleven o’clock the procession was formed, and marched through the principal streets, and then back to the State House, where the Declaration of Independence was read, addresses delivered, and the procession was then dismissed. Under the trees in the Square, a picturesque scene was presented. Men were stretched around on the grass, firing off crackers at their leisure, smoking cigars, and “taking it easy.” Soda-water was in great demand, ditto lemonade, ditto root, hop, spruce, and other beers, which popped and fizzed with great vigor all day. About three o’clock streams of carriages and people might have been seen pouring down to the south end of the town, for there was a grand balloon ascension to take place at four o’clock. This was to come off in the South Meadow, a beautiful piece of land about four times as large as the Park in New York. A large embankment, two or three times wider than a common room, being built to protect the Meadow against the Connecticut River floods, was covered with seats rising gradually from the ground. From this point a beautiful view of the scene was obtained. All over the wide-extended field were crowds of folks, moving this way and that, in order to get a better sight of the balloons (for there were two going up), which were swaying backwards and forwards as the wind moved them, while filling with gas. The sun poured down its hottest rays, but was met by innumerable umbrellas, which were in the hands of nearly every other person. A curious scene was presented on the reserved seats; hardly anything could be seen but continued rows of “umberills” rising above each other. Presently a shout was heard, and the first balloon shot rapidly up into the air. Down came the umbrellas, up jumped the spectators, the sun was forgotten, and every eye fixed on the ascending æronaut. Another hurrah, and the other balloon rose gracefully from the earth, and shot after her competitor. Higher and higher they rose, sometimes on a level, sometimes one was far above and the other below, and vice versa, till at last they dwindled away to mere specks in the clear sky. They afterwards descended to terra firma in safety. In the evening a grand display of fire-works took place on the same ground. Thus, Mr. Hatchet, you see we had a pretty good time on the “glorious Fourth.” Hoping that you had the same, I remain,

Yours truly,
Willie H. Coleman.


Ingleside, Aug.

My dear Mr. Hatchet:—We like your name very much. Although we are little girls, our favorite plaything (especially in the winter) is a hatchet. We love, in recess, to run out to the wood-pile, which is near our school-house, and cart a basket of chips to make up the fire, which we think always burns brighter and is more comfortable when made with the chips we cut with our own little hatchet.

We love Mr. Merry’s monthly chat dearly; but you have said so many funny things about your name, that we like your chat just as well as his.

We have not been learning to write very long, and as it is our vacation we do not much like to write in our copybooks; so mother said, if we tried to write a letter to you, we would be more interested in it, and take more pains with it.

This is the first letter we have ever written to a grown up person, except one to our dear teacher, who has gone home. We send you some riddles for your next Magazine. We did not make them ourselves, but mother says she hopes you won’t care for that, as somebody did.

Your little friends,
Lelia & Virginia.

[two riddles enclosed ]


Hopedale Hall.

Mr. Merry:—Although I suspect that your Museum [p. 348 ] is intended mostly for the entertainment of “little boys and girls,” I doubt not that wise old heads are sometimes sorely puzzled over your enigmas, anagrams, &c. I have seen bright smiles break like sunbeams over the dignified countenance of some grave specimen of sobriety, at the sharp sayings of your comical Mr. Hatchet, and believe that they enjoyed the fun of guessing your conundrums, as much as the gayest of us. Now, Mr. Merry, I wish to be a little confidential with you. During one of my rambles in the country this summer, I became acquainted with a very promising, intelligent boy “way back in the woods,” and his exemplary conduct while his father’s guest, induced me to take the Museum for him. You will please send all the back numbers of the present volume, directed to E. E. J. Enclosed is one dollar for the year.

Lillian Loyle.


Waterbury, Conn., Jan. 9th, 1854.

My dear Mr. Merry:—Papa, who for three years has taken your charming Museum for my little sister and me, told me to-night when he brought in a new number, for which I had asked him every day last week, that he guessed I must try and earn the next volume of it myself, by solving the puzzle. I am going to try, but I don’t believe you will want to give me a book, for I think it would be paying too much for the first literary production of so little a girl. I’m sure if I can’t get the Museum in any other way, after this year, I shall learn to write for it, and perhaps you will let me have it so. I am now only seven years old, and I shall want your Museum a good many years. I think as much of it as Papa does of his daily, and I hope you will keep it along a great while yet.

Your little friend,

“the puzzle”: for “the best and shortest English sentence, containing in it all the letters of the Alphabet, and also the nine parts of speech as enumerated in English Grammar, viz.: article, noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, adjective, preposition, conjunction, and interjection.” (February 1854) Six awards were announced, ranging from 10 bound volumes of the Museum to one. The winners were announced in Dec 1854.


Marblehead, 1854.

Dear Mr. Merry:—This is the first letter I have ever written to you. I live in Marblehead. I think it ought to be named Rockhead, for there is no marble here, though there are a great many rocks. There is an old fort that was used in the revolutionary war from which, in summer, you can see five lighthouses. I like your Museum very much, especially Gilbert Go-ahead’s stories and the Monthly Chat. Here is a piece of Latin poetry, which I found in an old periodical, edited at Harvard College many years ago. I found out how to read it myself, and thought some of your little friends might like to find it out too.

Mollis abuti,

Has an acuti.

No lasso finis,

Molli divinis.

O mi de armis tres,

I mi na dis tres.

Cantu disco ver

Meas alo ver?

I am a little girl in my twelfth year. I have shown this letter to mother, and she says I may send it to you. I have a little baby-sister three months old. She can laugh and coo, and I love her dearly.

Your blue-eyed friend,

“Mollis abuti … ”:

“Molly’s a beauty,

Has an acute eye.

No lass so fine is,

Molly divine is.

Oh, my dear mistress,

I’m in a distress.

Can’t you discover

Me as a lover?”


Brooklyn, Oct. 26th, 1854.

Dear Mr. Merry:—We have taken your Magazine two or three years, but I never tried to find out any of the puzzles until this evening. Mother said, “George, why don’t you find out some of these enigmas, instead of teasing the dog? Here is an easy one—get a slate and pencil.” I got my slate, and found it out all alone. I like the amusement very much. I am sure my mother will thank you for furnishing quiet employment to a boy eleven years of age, and Frank bow-wows his best thanks. Hoping I have not exceeded the bounds of your patience, I remain yours truly,

G. H. N.

a flourish

How to use this book

1840s: 184118421843184418451846184718481849

1850s: 1850185118521853 • 1854 • 18551856185718581859

1860s: 1860186118621863186418651866186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

About the Merry Cousins


Index & gloss


The Cousins’ Greatest Hits

Copyright 2000-2024, 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
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