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

How to use this book

1840s: 184118421843184418451846184718481849

1850s: 1850185118521853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 1860 • 1861 • 18621863186418651866186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

About the Merry Cousins

Appendix

Index & gloss

Sources

The Cousins’ Greatest Hits

1861

[from “Aunt Sue’s Puzzle-Drawer” (1861.1.32): ]

Bess.—Is it true that you have “stolen” Stella L.’s “spirit, while she slept?” I am really afraid I shall be guilty of compounding a felony, if I don’t tell all I know!

Stella’s spirit: “Bess, I love you, although we have never met,” Stella Lightner wrote, describing dreams she had of Bess; “there must be some magnetic influence about you, for you have ‘stolen my spirit as I slept—for twice two nights—and mingled it with thine.’ ” (1860.2.184)


1861.1.56a

Boston, Christmas Day, 1860.

Dear Uncles and Cousins:—“A merry, merry Christmas to you all!” What fond, dear recollections to-day brings up! “Did you hang up your stocking?” asked a little one of me this morning. Of course I did. I was out rather late Christmas eve, and on returning home, I found all in darkness. Groping my way to the dining-room, I took off my boots, and hung up my stocking—on the gas pipe! Santa Claus might have been generous toward me, but, alas! in the morning I found the peculiarity of that stocking was, a hole at both ends!

Who has anything more to say about the bee, that “perfect-jointed, articulating, zoological animal?

Adrian, you’re a Bay State boy, are you not? When in Boston, call and see me. Uncle Merry will furnish you my address.

May many returning Christmas anniversaries find our Merry band gathered together in our Chat, not one old friend missing, and many new ones added.

Your nephew, truly,
Oliver Onley.


1861.1.56b

Memphis, Dec. 3, 1860.

Lola, please come forward, as Willie wishes to see you.

Pertine, I would like very much to make your acquaintance. Are you, indeed, a “Yankee girl?” I don’t know whether I am right or not, but it seems to me that “Yankee girls” would not send kisses unasked to young gentlemen.

But Uncle Hiram is coming, so good-bye.

Imogene Latham.


1861.1.56-57

Boston, Dec. 8, 1860.

Dear Aunt Sue:—C. M. Gibbs, Roland, F. A. James, and the other Southerners, shall you secede if your States do, and leave the Chat? Willie H. C., [p. 57 ] what do you say to Jeannie? Rosalie, are you the one talked of in the song? Snowflake, ain’t you ashamed of talking right out in meeting? Oliver, there is a chance for you. Better take her up at once. I think you have the best of it in regard to the bee question. But I will stop now for fear of being too long.

Charlie F. W.

song with Rosalie in it: “Rosalie,” Washington Allston (1850), a poem describing the “maiden reverie” of “gentle Rosalie,” listening to “that sad, unearthly strain” played by “him who stole/ In music to her soul.”

Snowflake: Snowflake’s only letter appeared in December 1860 (1860.2.156-157)

bee question: Aunt Sue unwittingly unwittingly sparked an argument by responding to an unpublished puzzle sent by J. H. D.: “You sent no answer with your enigma. We should scarcely call a ‘bee’ an animal.” (April 1860) Oliver Onley disagreed. When Cornelius Gibbs took up Aunt Sue’s defense (1860.2.127), Henry A. Danker responded with a reasoned argument that the bee is an insect, and that an insect is an animal (1860.2.158).


1861.1.57

Dec. 8, 1860.

Dear Museum:—Another year has almost gone, and old winter has shown his face to us once more. Even while I write I hear the merry shouts of dozens of boys, who make the sidewalk gay with their many-colored sleds, and the tinkling of the sleigh-bells on the street.

Dear uncles and cousins of our Merry band, in the short time that I have known you, I have come to love you all so dearly that I can’t let this new fallen snow bury me from the sight of all the dear ones who will throng into the Chat next year; so I send a little of that efficient root which will bring them before my eyes month by month.

Uncle Robert, is it sartain true that you and Uncle Hi are present in the body at 116 Nassau Street? I have been thinking of coming to see you, in case you can be seen.

Golden-Haired Effie, you are a darling. Though you live so far from me, I love you, and often I have read your letter over, and wished we could meet. Chère cousine, come and see me.

And you, too, dear Stella, I feel drawn toward. If you will send me your address, ma mignonnette, I shall love to come.

Daisy Wildwood.


[In the February, 1861, issue, Aunt Sue made a disclosure: ]

Girls! I have some important news to communicate. I hardly know whether to bespeak your indignation or compassion. We have had a “confidence man” among us—a swindler, a humbug!

Two or three months since, I—to use a classic expression—“smelt a mice!” I followed my knows (I didn’t know much, but I had a clew), and, with the aid of a counterfeit detector, I traced him home, caught him—have him—hold him!

The “him” is Bess! Now, what shall be his punishment? He has obtained goods under false pretenses. He professes repentance—says he “only did it for fun,” and promises to return all the kisses sent to him, provided the owner will apply for them in propria persona. So bring out the culprit! Now, girls—“attention, company!”—“present arms!”—“take aim!” Fire, Blunderbusses! (1861.1.59)


1861.1.88

Brooklyn, New Year’s Eve, 1860-61.

Dear Chatterboxes:—Dear Aunts and Uncles all, gather round me, for I have something particularly special to say. First, to those who have recently addressed me personally, and first among those to cousin Sybil Grey, who at last comes trooping back again from sunny Italy. Right glad am I, oh, mystic cousin, to greet you once more as one of us. * * * You need not have taken back that “cousinly kiss” for the reason assigned. I quite agree with your views on the subject of girls kissing each other; it always “riles” me when I witness the performance, it’s such a waste! I hope we shall always remain as good friends as we are now.

Thank you for the first; no, thank you for the second, Cornelius M. Gibbs. (Vide your January letter.) Do you ask why? Read on. Saucy Nell, much obliged; will keep it till called for. Carrie, from “Oaklands,” I would leave “hatching up” to the hatchet, if I were you. It makes me happy indeed, Stella, to hear that you love me. I am sure I love you. Rather an intoxicating mixture that of your spirits and mine; it must be better than champagne. * * *

Nellie S. Whiting, I think I know you and your sister Gertie, and your respected pa. I hope you find Providence a pleasant place to live in, though I don’t believe it can come up to Brooklyn. What think you?

May I make friends with you, Venerable San? Any relation to Uncle Sam? The names are not dissimilar. * * *

That reminds me!—W. H. C., when you get your bloodroot, just send me a little.

And now, cousins, the time has arrove. I can refrain myself no longer. Cause every girl to go out from me. Are they gone? Ain’t they listening at the key-hole? Now, look at me carefully; d’ye see? that’s a mask, this is false hair, this is cotton. This dress, you see, covers a coat; this circular expansive arrangement only impedes the free action of my nether limbs, encased in cassimere continuations. To sum up, I have been an imposter, a gay deceiver, a cheat, a great big “humbug,” as Aunt Sue will persist in calling me. I’ve confessed to her, and she has (thus far) let me off pretty easy; so don’t you be too hard on me. Come in, girls; I meant to have called you before. Don’t look so shy at me; I am Bess that was, and now am Will. Yes, yes! I expected all that. Merci, Mesdemoiselles! * * * Don’t look at me with ill-concealed contempt, kind cousins. Don’t curl the lip, don’t elevate the nose, don’t perk up the chin. You don’t look well that way, and besides, I only did it for fun, and haven’t we had some good fun, and shan’t we have yet? Did not the great Achilles, * * * did not Pelopidas? * * * I think they did. And if they did all this in earnest, why may not I do a little of it in fun?

* * * * * * *

With regard to all the “love and kisses,” and other like commodities which I may have come unfairly by, I could not, if I would, give back the first, “bein’ as it’s” intangible; but the second I shall keep on hand in bulk, and engage to deliver up when called for. None but original owners need apply.

And so I commit the matter to your keeping, hoping for a fair hearing, an impartial trial, a just verdict, a lenient sentence. The jury not to be packed (with crinoline).

And I am, with hope, with fear, confidently, yet with trepidation as to the result, with a calm assurance that I shall come out all right, nevertheless with confusion of face and a general conflict of feelings,

Your cousin,
Wilforley,
Late, and successor to, Bess.

Achilles: Greek hero of the Trojan War. His mother tried to prevent him from going to Troy by sending him in female dress to the court of Lycomedes. Here Odysseus tricked Achilles into revealing his gender by offering jewelry and weapons to the “ladies” of the court; Achilles chose the weapons. [J. Lempriere. Bibliotheca Classica, 7th American ed. New York: Collins & Hannay, 1832.]

Pelopidas: Theban general. After a Spartan oligarchy was established at Thebes, he disguised himself and 11 men, not as women, but as hunters, in order to get into the city and kill the tyrants. [J. Lempriere. Bibliotheca Classica, 7th American ed. New York: Collins & Hannay, 1832. • Charles Anton. A Classical Dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1856.]

“Nellie, what think you?”: What Nellie thought was that Wilforley was wrong: “Wilforley (as I suppose we must call you now), I think you must be mistaken about knowing me, for I have no sister Gertie, and reside many miles from Providence, in the pleasant village of Bloomfield, N. Y.” (1861.1.122)


1861.1.89-90

Vicksburg, Miss.

I am not a Yankee but a Mississippian, Uncles both, but I do ask “lots” of questions sometimes. Uncle M., I think Miss Lizzie G. writes her name Miss Lizzie G—n, of C—n, Miss.; and furthermore, did I not hear her sing and play at a concert, at the “afore-mentioned” town, “not a hundred years agone?” I think so.

On the part of my Mississippi cousins (if they won’t speak for themselves), I am extremely happy to greet John Quiz, Esq., and henceforth address him as “Cousin John,” as he is a Southernor and a Georgian. I went Mr. O. Onley’s ticket with a “vim,” Uncle Hi., [p. 90 ] and worked my hardest, giving you—one vote. I fancied that ticket sure. Uncle H., as you are surely the god of mysteries, I address you now. I am “exercised” about—Hawthorne, Esq. Do you know I don’t know what to think of him and that mistake he spoke of. Will he explain, or is that out of “his line of business?” I like Mr. C. M. Gibbs’ spirit. Five feet ten inches, and doesn’t think he’s too tall to attend school. Good for him. He’s “one of ’em,” he is; and if he continues of the same “notion,” the “Bobbin boy” can’t “bob” around around where he is some years to come. I haven’t said enough yet, Uncle M., but you see I don’t know what Uncle H. might “say.” Uncles both, “Smile of the Great Spirit” has smiled her “good-bye,” and in her place please receive

Ethel R.

Bobbin boy: Nathaniel Banks (1816-1894), member of Congress, governor of Massachusetts, and Union soldier. Because as a child he went to work in a cotton-mill instead of attending school, he was nicknamed the “Bobbin Boy of Massachusetts”; many admired him for becoming educated in spite of incredible odds. Banks entered Congress in 1853, and eventually was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. He was anti-slavery; his election as Speaker was seen as a major defeat for pro-slavery forces.

Union Ticket: in Mathews, a phrase used since 1813 to denote a political ticket including candidates of different political views [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951]; in 1860, a political ticket purporting to support the Union; in the Museum, a ticket suggesting the editors as president and vice-president.


1861.1.90

Marietta, Feb. 9, 1861.

My dear Uncle Merry:—Charlie F. W. wishes to know if we Southerners are going to secede from the Chat because our States have seceded from the Union. No, indeed! I for one will not, and I do not think my Southern cousin, C. M. G., will either. I have explored the labyrinth and arrived in safety at the center, but I have not time now to find answers to the other puzzles. But here comes Uncle Hiram, hatchet in hand, and I must stop. Inclosed please find my dollar for this year.

Your affectionate niece,
Louise E. Fletcher

labyrinth: appeared in February 1861.


1861.1.90-91

Grotto of Jason, Jan. 6, 1861.

Uncle Hiram:—Allow me to speak to the Merry cousins. O! O! O!! if you only had got a sight at Miss Anna D., daughter of Judge D., of Chicago. It would have made you jump out of your skin. No offense, I hope, cousin Anna. If so, please forgive. I have often watched her in silence. Cousin Anna, do you know Miss Starr? You see I know something of your history. Now please do not try to find me out; Miss Starr might know. I am acquainted with most of the gallant Zouaves. I have thoughts of joining them. I, of course, should go South—meet Hawthorne and— Oh! I know I was not going to say any good thing, that you should hit [p. 91 ] me for. Oh! Oho! you nearly exterminated me that time; but, for the second time in my letter, I ask forgiveness. Hawthorne, forgive me for what I would have said. I am afraid to go on, so I will stop. Adieu to all.

Son of the Eastern Star.

Zouaves: regiments--both North and South--whose elaborate uniforms and precise drills were modeled on those of the original Zouaves of the French colonial armies. [Mark M. Boatner The Civil War Dictionary, rev. ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1988.]

Hawthorne: He replied in the next issue: “Son of the Evening Star, do come South, and bring the Zouaves. I have seen them. They are a fine-looking body of men, but I can show you a finer, in our Crescent City Zouaves. I’ll forgive you, but will add, that should you come here, you may expect to get stuck—in the mud.” (1861.1.154)


1861.1.91a

Auburn, Kansas, Jan. 5, 1861.

Dear Aunt Sue:—Thinking that you might like to hear from some of your nieces, in this far-off land, I take the liberty to write you a letter. I have read the Museum for nearly two years, and like it very much.

We live in a beautiful prairie country, seventy miles from Leavenworth City; and about the same distance from Atchison. The people of Kansas have been very unfortunate. There was nothing raised here last summer, on account of the great drouth. There is an academy here, and I attend regularly. I am ten years old. You must come and see us when you have time.

Viola Drinkwater.


1861.1.91b

Vicksburg, Miss., Jan. 16, 1861.

Dear Uncle Merry:—Is there room enough for another cousin? If there is, I should like very much to be one of them. My brother has taken the Museum a long time. I take it now, and like it very much. Ever since I have taken it, I always wanted to write, but my courage failed when it came to that. I have written you a great many letters, but I was always too bashful to send them. I see it is no use, as I never expect to meet you, and I think there must be some that are like me in that respect. It is my delight to read some pretty book, or go to school; and if I can not do that, it makes me miserable. When I go to school a whole session, it seems to me but one month; and when vacation comes, it seems then like a number of years. When it is time to go to school again, it is a time of rejoicing. I enjoy that better than some little evening entertainment, though I like that very much. Are there any of the Merrys who feel that way? If there are, I want to sit by them.

Tell Aunt Sue that she and I ought to be great friends because we have the same name. You must excuse this letter, as it is the first of a bashful girl.

Yours truly,
Sue D. W.


1861.1.123

Zebraville, Ohio, Feb. 14, 1861.

Dear Uncle Merry:—Valentine’s day! I come too late to wish you all a happy New Year. Yes, slightly, but not too late, I trust, to congratulate Mr. Museum on reaching his twenty-first birthday without mishap. I was born in the same year Museum was. Now, girls, don’t think I am telling you my age. I am only talking with Museum. I have been acquainted with him many years, and hope we shall always remain, as we ever have been, friends; at least, for my part, I am sure we will. Is Bess executed yet? If not, I appeal to Uncles Hiram and Merry to grant the prisoner at least a reprieve, and try the case more fully. Bess evidently believes in the transmigration of “hims” to “hers,” and since that is a “lovelier” state of existence, if her theory proves true, it must bring about the happiest results. Not wrong, uncles, am I? I could “perorate” on the State of the Union, in the Chat, but the rules won’t admit. So, heartily, I bid you all adieu.

Hal.


1861.1.124

Longmeadow, March 9, 1861.

Dear Uncle Merry:—Kit and I are sitting here at the window, I watching the rain and listening to the wind, and Kit washing herself. Now Kit’s name is Gipsey, but I call her a variety of names. She loves me very much, I really believe; and sometimes when she has not seen me for a long time, kisses me on the tip of my nose—nowhere else. I asked her if she would like to send you a kiss; she stared into vacancy a moment, then continued washing herself.

I think Wilforley (late Bess) is a very wicked fellow, but he tells everything so openly, that we should all forgive him.

I think, though I have been to the Chat a number of times, that I am growing bashful; so give me a seat far away from all the “dignitaries,” and I will accept your kind invitation to “call again.” Well, Kit is settling herself to sleep, and as she will not send you a kiss, I will, and one to Aunt Sue, and to “Golden-Haired Effie,” for I like her.

Mr. Merry (oh! Uncle Merry, I mean), I am going to send you a “para;” will you accept it? It is worth about a mill. Papa brought it from Constantinople, with ever so many other coins. Whew! what a long letter! I guess I shall be “clipped” this time. So good-bye.

Your affectionate niece,
Jennie D.

weather: Jennie was not the only correspondent to discuss that day’s weather: Charley, in Providence, Rhode Island, “[b]eing a prisoner to the storm without, and having tested the good-nature of each of my sisters,” decided to write to the Museum. (1861.1.124)


1861.1.153-154

New York, April 9, 1861.

Merrys, I stood before a smoking heap of bricks and timber in Nassau Street, the other morning, and tried to realize that a part once formed the dear old sanctum, where for many years we have met together; but I could not feel that in that rubbish lay the desk, the armchair, the basket, and the hatchet—yet so it was. All, all, gone—turned to gas and dirty ashes! All, did I say? No, one thing survives. The hatchet (Mr. Merry tells me) “still lives.” I think we should not have mourned its loss. In truth, we loved not that instrument of torture. Yet it alone has escaped unharmed to scarify us as before, and I secretly fear that it is “one of the few, the immortal” things “that were not born to die.”

The exposure of Bess is doing good, for I have reason to believe that there are other “masked batteries” in the Chat who (to change the metaphor) are trembling in their shoes, lest sharp-eyed Aunt Sue should tear away their disguises. It is with the deepest reluctance that I bring forward a name so honored in the Museum as that of Sybil Grey, to sustain my charge, but her last letter too sadly proves its truth. Conscious of [p. 154 ] duplicity, she imputes the same sin to the writer, and then, in an unguarded moment, lets fall an expression which no cultivated and traveled young lady, in fact, no woman at all, would ever use, but one common in the mouths of boys and young men—“a gay old time.” This was the fatal step! The ingenuity displayed in escaping from a tight place, and turning the laugh upon me, is so truly feminine that I should have suspected nothing wrong had not that unlucky expression been uttered. Sybil Grey, settle this question at once, if you please. Refute the charge, if unjust, or “drop the disguise you have so long worn, and come out in your true colors!”

A word for myself. I wear no disguise. I sail under the flag run up at my christening, and while the old hulk swims, no other shall float at the mast-head. Neither do I yet rejoice in double-blessedness, and Sybil is mistaken in the age of the “little girl.”

W. H. Coleman.

Sybil/ “gay old time”: She had accused Willie Coleman of “coming out in his true colors” as a married man with a child, and spoke of have “such a gay old time on the N. R. Skating Park” in Albany, New York. (1861.1.125)

“drop the disguise”: The words Sybil used to refer to Willie Coleman. Pennsylvania Dick took Willie to task for his hint: “W. H. C., ain’t you ashamed of yourself? To suspect Sybil Grey of being a boy! It reminds me of the days of witchcraft, when the only way to escape being accused was to become an accuser.” (1861.1.183)


1861.1.155-156

Williamsburgh, March 30, 1861.

Messrs. Editors:—The pressure of business had delayed my reading of the morning papers. I had heard of no fire in Nassau Street, or elsewhere, but as I was passing through that street I found the carriage-way and sidewalks filled up with a great crowd, and a steam fire-engine playing on the decaying fire that had finished the destruction of No. 116, in which building the publishing-office of this magazine was located. I did not think that this fountain of knowledge to the young was lost in the ruins till the well-known publisher seized my hand, in the crowd, and directed my attention to the front wall and the ruins within, as all that is left of the famous No. 116.

The hopes of years seemed to have there perished. The old sanctum in which Robert Merry and Hiram Hatchet had written up their travels, and with whose quaint old walls were associated the memories of olden times, and on which were hung the curiosities gathered from many lands, are gone. But will no spirit come up from the ruins to consecrate the incidents of life to history, wrought up in the true vein of juvenile thought and feeling, and the beauties of nature, as they impressed our minds and hearts in our early years? I looked into the face of my distinguished friend, the publisher, who appeared as calm as a philosopher. He had lost some three thousand dollars by the fire; still there was energy, confidence, and [p. 156 ] prestige in his manner that could yet “call up spirits from the vasty deep,” who would answer to the call, and certify their fresh and invigorated sympathies with youthful ideas and youthful life.

Three thousand dollars is a great loss, thought I; but suppose three thousand persons had their names on the subscription books of this magazine who now owe a dollar each, if each of these persons should send that dollar at once, the publisher would scarcely know that he had lost anything by the fire! It would be more than money to him. It would be a fitting expression of gratitude and confidence by his patrons that the publisher must appreciate, and that must give him new energy and zeal in this enterprise.

J. M. S.

“call up spirits from the vasty deep”: William Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Pt. I (1596-1597), act 3, scene 1, ln 53: “I can call spirits from the vasty deep.”


1861.1.156

Sheramoore, Fla., March 11, 1861.

Dear Uncle Merry:—What a “thing of might,” and, withal, what a blessing, is the printing-press! For example: I, an uncouth and unworthy specimen of the genus homo (or, more appropriately, puer ), on the Gulf of Mexico, have—through the instrumentality of the Museum—made the acquaintance of a little flower ’way up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Well, Flora, here is my—paw, most willingly, and shall expect your hand in return, “for better or for worse.” Rather precipitate, I confess, but “marriage is but a lottery, at best,” you know, and it behooves one to “grab” with as much speed and dexterity as he can command, while he has an opportunity. If I don’t draw a “capital prize” this time, Flora, it shall be your fault.

Well, girls, what have you to say concerning that trick of Wilforley’s? Going to take back your kisses? Were I in his shoes I’d return others in their stead; yes, and with interest from date besides. Apropos to this, Uncle Merry, Imogen Latham (of Memphis) thinks that “Yankee girls would not send kisses, unasked, to young gentlemen.” Do Southern girls? If so, she has slighted me, and I shall expect one from her by the next Museum—oh, horrors! here comes Uncle Hatchet!

Good-night.
Roland.

[Editor: ] Pray, what do you mean, Roland, by “genus homo?” Is that the same as homogeneous? If so, then here’s my hand. We are still one people. May your shadow never be less, which, being interpreted, means, please don’t get any nearer to the equator.

“marriage is but a lottery, at best”: Sir John Vanbrugh, “The Provoked Wife” (1697) V, sc. iv, 66-69: “For though marriage be a lottery in which there are a wondrous many blanks, yet there is one inestimable lot in which the only heaven on earth is written.”

nearer the equator: By this time, of course, secession was a very real threat, though the Cousins joked about it: facetiously grousing about the pet-names she was called in the Chat, Southerner Busy Bee asked Uncle Hiram to look into the matter. “I feel that my grievances are very great,” she claimed, “and I shall most certainly ‘secede’ unless you give me proper ‘guarantees’ of better treatment in future.” (1861.1.156)


1861.1.184

Brooklyn, May 8, 1861.

Dear Chatterboxes:—Since I have been and gone and—with Aunt Sue’s assistance—confessed my missdoing, and “come out in my true colors,” I feel better. You are very forbearing in not having called me any worse names. “Masked battery,” by W. H. C., made me feel the worst, because it was the truest. I know not with what vials of wrath those burnt-up letters may have been brimming, but they are gone—clean “dried up.” Not that I mean to make light of that fire—however much light it may have made—it is really too serious a matter for jesting. “Three thousand dollars” at one fell swoop! Think of it, ye young A-merry-cans, who have been enjoying your five-dollars’-worth-for-a-dollar, year in and year out! Think of it, and “plank down” your dollar. * * * Let us all try to get a new subscriber or two—and the dollar with them. I have a piece of an idea which I hope to work up into two or three subscribers. Now then for a lift and a push all together.

Sybil—you ought to spell it Sibyl—Grey and W. H. C., “you both are right, and both are wrong”—S. G. in calling W. H. C. a “man of family,” etc., and W. H. C. in doubting the young-lady-hood of S. G. Sibyl, my dear, that “little girl” of W. H. C.’s is no doubt his “very particular (female) friend,” in other words, his “bright particular;” “only that, and nothing more.” W. H. C., there is no law against a gay young lady—such as S. G.—having a “gay old time,” if she chooses, or saying that she had, if she likes.

[ … ] Confederate cousins, Lily Parley, Sue Laigh, Roland, Hawthorne, and all, don’t forsake us utterly; keep coming, and bring all your friends with you, and we’ll take care of you.

Dear old Addelboat Elder—I mean Odelbet Addler—I give it up—what has so stirred up your belligerent qualities? * * * * Viola Drinkwater, what did you do for a drink in “the great drouth” in your unfortunate Kansas? Saucy Nell, how likest thou the picture? Twice as natural as life, isn’t it? Mary Maxwell, bring along your fun. * * * * Sybil Grey and Annie E. Drummond will be so kind as to send me—if it please their ladyships—their respective—and of course respected—photographs—English portraits. A modest request, I know, and modestly made. * * * * But—“carte de visite” style and reciprocity. * * * * And Old Hulk, as W. H. C. calls himself, may send me a “face smile” (counterfeit presentment) of his “little girl.” Will you, Willyum?

Dear Uncle Editor, would you care about anything in the story way for the pages of the Museum—just to a-muse-’em, you know? * * *

Ever yours,
Wilforley.

[Editor: ] Send ’em along. We had stores of stories consumed in that burning of three stories of stores, at 116 Nassau.


1861.1.185-186

South Portsmouth, R. I., April 10, 1861.

Very many thanks, dear Uncle Merry, for your promise to “hide the hatchet” when I appeared. To show my gratitude, I shall put what I have to say into the smallest possible compass. By the way, I hope none of the Chatterers will get wind of your promise, for if they do, I shall have them about me like a pack of hornets, and be forced to exclaim, as my brother did the other day, when he got into a scrape, “Sich a getting up stairs!” We visited Glasgow first, when in Scotland, and when on our way up the Clyde River, saw Dumbarton Castle, where is the sword of Sir William Wallace, and Dumbarton Hill, from which Thomas the Rhymer is said to have disappeared; also Newark Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots was at once time confined, and the place where Robert the Bruce died. While in Glasgow we visited the old cathedral, which is over seven hundred years old, and although somewhat defaced by the Reformers, is still a most magnificent building. At the Botanical Gardens we saw a lily called the Victoria Regia; it was as large as a cabbage, and the leaves so large as a center-table. Edinburgh next claimed our attention. At the Parliament House we saw some writing done by Sir Walter Scott; a Bible done by hand, and another Bible dating as far back as the 14th century. At the College Museum was a mummy in its coffin, over three thousand years old. At Holyrood Palace we saw Lord Darnley’s rooms, consisting of a bed-room, dressing-room, and reception-room; a private staircase led from his room to Queen Mary’s rooms. In her reception-room was a bed of state, belonging to Charles I., also a chair worked by her, and the first grate ever [p. 186 ] used in Scotland. In her bedroom was her bed, and a box, the top of which she worked when she was twelve years old. We also saw her supping-room, where Rizzio was killed, and some dark spots on the floor said to be his blood. At Edinburgh Castle we saw the room where James VI., son of Mary, was born, and the regalia of Scotland. The crown is of red velvet set with rubies, emeralds, pearls, and diamonds. My letter is already longer than I meant it to be, and I have not told you half I want to, so I must defer my visit to Stirling Castle and to Ayr, the birthplace of Burns, until another time. Until then, good-bye.

Very truly yours,
Jessie Linwood.

P. S.—Just hand that young Merry, who seems disposed to be roguish, over to me. I would like to see who would stand teasing the longest.

J. L.

[Editor: ] Young rogue, walk over to Jessie, she wants you. Whether she will “give you Jessie,” or not, can’t say.

“Sich a getting up stairs!”: “Sich a Gittin Up Stairs,” a “Jim Crow” quadrille by John H. Hewitt (Philadelphia & New York: John F. Nunns, 1837).

Robert Burns (1759-1796): Scottish poet. His poetry was full of rustic images and dialect, often beautiful and sometimes very funny. The Museum included two articles on him and reprinted “John Anderson, My John.”

Sir William Wallace (1272?-1305): patriot who led the uprising of the Scots against the English in the 1290s; he was captured and executed. Many legends concerning him have arisen.

Thomas the Rhymer: title character in “Thomas Rhymer,” a British ballad (Child #37). Meeting the queen of Elfland at the Eildon Tree, he kisses her and must serve her for seven years before returning to the world.

Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587): heir presumptive to the English throne.

Robert the Bruce (died 1329): descendant of kings who overthrew English rule to became king of Scotland.

Victoria Regia: a type of water lily originating in South America, famous for its huge leaves and large, fragrant flowers.

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832): Scottish writer. His extremely popular works included poetry and historical novels; the Waverly novels were especially popular. Late in life, Scott literally wrote his way out of debt. The Museum published several pieces on him, and one of his poems.

Lord Darnley: Henry Stewart, lord Darnley (1545-1567), husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, better known for his physical accomplishments than for his mental ones. Distrusting the Queen’s secretary, Darnley conspired to have him murdered and probably was killed by the other conspirators after betraying them.

Charles I (1600-1649): king of Great Britain and Ireland.

David Rizzio (1533?-1566): secretary to Mary, Queen of Scots. When he began to influence her in her drive to take control of her own political life, noblemen consipired to have him killed; he was stabbed 56 times.

James VI (1566-1625): king of Scotland; later, James I, king of England. He became king after his mother’s forced abdication.

“give you Jessie”: Mathews: also, “jesse” or “jessy”: “to scold, thrash, beat soundly;” the earliest use is dated 1840, with 1846 the earliest to use “Jessie.” Bartlett 1848: “To give him jessy, is to give him a flogging. A vulgarism of recent origin.” [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951. • John Russell Bartlett. Dictionary of Americanisms. New York: Bartlett and Welford, 1848.]


1861.2.23

May, 1861.

Dear Uncles, Aunts, etc.:—Been coming for some time, but have just got here, and am in a terrible hurry now.

“Hawthorne,” will you have to do without your Museum now? If so, I pity you sincerely.

How are you, Sue? Glad to get acquainted. Most too far off to make acquaintanceship pay, though. Seems to me the Chat is all done by the Southerners this month. Going on the principle of “working while they can,” I suppose.

Allow me to express my extreme sorrow at the destruction of the dear old sanctum; but let us work, cousins, and make Uncle look cheery in his new abode.

Black-Eyes.


1861.2.23-24

Sunny South, April, 1860. [sic]

Dear Museum:—Uncle Merry, Uncle Hiram; Aunt Sue, whoever is door-keeper here, open your doors and let me in! No! you needn’t try to look cross; in the first place, you can’t do it, and in the second, if you could, it would be of no use; I am determined to be let in, if I stand here till—till—well, till I am let in. You have given admission to many before me, and why should you refuse it me? Ah! there, I knew you would let me have my own way! I’ll kiss you for that.

Now, I don’t mean to say “I like the Museum very much.” Of course, if I didn’t like it, it would not be honored with this epistle of mine. Ahem! I shall not tell you my age, either. I am not a young lady yet. Mamma sighs, and says I never will be. But I don’t, by any means, consider myself a child, nor can I repress my indignation when any one treats me as such. I am a girl, [p. 24 ] Uncle, a happy, fun-loving girl, and I wish I could always be one. I hope I am not un-ladylike, but I dread the thought of becoming a “young lady.” Now, cousin mine, you know just what to expect in me.

I needn’t wait for introductions, need I, Uncle? They take so much time, and I can’t think them necessary among cousins. I should like to find out each one for myself. There are a great many whom I know at the first glance. Poor Willie H. C. is besieged by a regiment of fair cousins. That strategem of his, confessing to the little girl, only relieved him temporarily. I must pass on to another quarter. Oh! here’s a group of Chatters just to my liking. Loving Sybil Grey looking toward Willie, and talking of the vanity of men. Bright Fleta Forrester, with her lively sallies on various subjects. Sweet Annie Drummond and gallant Sir Oliver Onley appear to be making themselves mutually agreeable. You don’t know how glad I am to see you all; can’t one of you just stop and say how d’ye do, to me? But Wilforley—just now the observed of all observers—I can’t find him. I think he will find us gentle judges. The young gentlemen show more resentment (vide Venerable San). G.-H. Effie, you are one of my special favorites. Have your intentions, in regard to W. H. C., as expressed in the March Chat, undergone no change?

O. Onley, do you know I have seen you—you can’t guess where; and I think—

Now, isn’t it provoking we must cut short our messages to gratify Uncle H.’s fondness for short letters? Loving greetings to all my cousins. Aunt Sue, won’t you kiss me before I go? If I may come again, please let me know. For the present, a very affectionate farewell.

Nannie Nightingale.


1861.2.25

Memphis, April 17, 1861.

[ … ] I think we all should forgive “Wilforley,” and fine him one thing—a letter to the Chat every month. What say you, cousins?

I think Adelbert is a “leetle” too independent. As I don’t know much of Algebra, I can not solve any problems yet, and I dare say we might find something to do besides slaughtering each other, as they are now doing at Charleston. Uncle Hi, are you for union or disunion? though I s’pose you are for the latter, as hatchets seldom unite anything.

Sue D. W., I feel exactly like you in regard to school. So please sit by me and Dew-Drop, I would like so much to talk with you.

Sybil, are you not going to tell us something about the old world? please do.

Imogen Latham.

[Editor: ] Imogen, I imagine you don’t understand our hatchet. He never splits, but shortens, and when it sticks, it sticks. It goes entirely for the only true union—brevity and wit.

Charleston: The Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, April 12-14; there were no casualties.


1861.2.58a

June 19, 1861.

I have been so very busy during the last two months, my dear cousins, that I have not even had time to reply to W. H. C.’s last. To accuse me of masquerading in Wilforley’s style! to assert an account of one unfortunate expression, that I am sailing under false colors! But, Willy, I’ll forgive you, because you are right. “No traveled or untraveled young lady of refinement” should ever forget herself so far as to use what are commonly called slang expressions; therefore having been detected in the act, I will come humbly forward, and by way of apology tell you a little more of Sybil Grey than you have known heretofore. Know, then, that, from a little child, I have always had more to do with boys than girls; my brother was always my playmate, and I was accused of being a “tomboy,” when I was about ten years old, because I would skate on the lake with the “other boys,” which was then considered very shocking and improper. So much for fashion. And when I grew older, I never forgot that “a woman can keep her own secret better than another’s; a man can keep another’s better than his own,” and my confidential friends have never been young ladies. Having more than one young gentleman cousin, of whom I am very fond, and who like to tell me of some “gay old time” they have had, or of some “gay old girl” they know, can you wonder that notwithstanding my constant efforts to the contrary, I have for once forgotten myself so far as to use a slang expression? Will you now, cousins mine, accept my explanation, and promise never to think of me otherwise than as a “fillette,” eighteen, tall, slight, with dark hair, and (shall I confess it?) gray eyes! But one word more for you, Will, since you so long for another discovery. I will confess that once Sybil Grey was known in the “Chat” under another name, and that you then gave her your hand, as belonging to the brotherhood; but concluding that, after all, the girls have the best of it, she quietly dropped her disguise, and none of you ever knew that Sybil Grey was an old friend under her proper name. I am glad, Wilforley, that you have enlightened me as to W. H. C.’s little girl, and I am also grateful to you for taking my part in the assault of that young gentleman. (By the way, a very good idea that of “Jenny D.’s,” that he is no longer young.) Certainly you shall have my carte de visite. Just send your address, and inclose one of yourself, and then you will doubtless receive the portrait. * * *

And now, addio.

Sybil Grey.

“a woman can keep her own secret … ”: La Bruyère, Characters (1688-1699) III, “Of Women”, 58: “A man keeps another person’s secret better than his own; a woman, on the contrary, keeps her own secrets better than any other person’s.”


1861.2.58b

Woodbine Lodge, June.

Dear Uncle:—A stranger came to our place not long since, and while here showed us your magazine. We were so much pleased with it, that “we girls” induced father to take it for us. To-day sister Annie and I were sitting out under our “great elm,” with our heads together reading the back numbers which had just come, when Annie said, “Isn’t it funny, Wil, that your name happens to be just the same as that crazy-brained fellow’s who seems to be so important in the Chat?” Now, I hope Mr. Coleman will not be vexed because Annie designated him as “crazy-brained,” for (confidential) our family all call her “Crazy Coleman,” because she is such a “romp,” and always “in a scrape.” “Now, Wil,” urged Annie, “do write to the mag., and claim your name, and raise a breeze, and make that fellow mad, and—oh!”—she finished by clapping her hands, jumping up and down, and dragging me wildly into the house to write the letter. Well, now, to explain, my name is not “Will H. Coleman,” but “Wilhelmena Coleman.” But, “for short,” the school-girls and friends, generally, write my name “Wil H. C.” So that is why Annie thinks I ought to “claim my name.” Mr. Coleman shall have all the glory of it, nevertheless, if he will not object to my signing it once in a great while when I write to Uncle and the cousins 20,000, since I do not like the custom of an assumed name, and should not feel natural to write over any other than my favorite one of

Wil H. Coleman.

P. S.—Annie says I must give her love to the “great Will,” and “some day she is going to write him a letter.”

W. H. C.


1861.2.59

Gouverneur, June 3d, 1861.

Dear Old Friends:—Now I’m going to speak, and what’s more, I want to be heard. And first, here’s a little morphine for Uncle Hiram; it won’t hurt him; and now he’s out of the way, I will proceed without fear of molestation.

Seems to me the Chat is getting to be an advertising medium for partners. Shouldn’t wonder if it amounted to a regular warehouse, with a sign something like the following: “Husbands and wives furnished at the shortest notice. All warranted well tamed and docile.” Guess you could make a heap o’ money that way.

But hasn’t Sybil got Willie in a tight place? Three cheers for our side, Sybil; for though I am only looking toward my eleventh birthday, and expect to keep in short dresses for half a dozen years yet, I still feel a great interest in feminine disputes, and am always glad when “we” get the best of the argument.

There seems to be another Jeannie in the Chat, only she spells her name without the a, which is truly Scotch, though my good mother hails from Dutch-land. So don’t let us get mixed up, Jennie—it might make confusion.

G. Higbee, you and I are almost neighbors. Are you the boy that did “the spelling” in Ogdensburg the other day?

But I see Uncle Hiram is recovering from the effects of that morphine. Had a good nap, Uncle?

Yours, etc.,
Jeannie Parker.


1861.2.92

St. Andrew’s, Aug. 8, 1861.

“Forward to Richmond, by way of Bull’s Run!” General Coleman’s army will not retreat, though swept by forty masked batteries like that commanded by Sophie. But, I confess it, the fire has been terrible. The enemy is in possession of information which was supposed to be known only to the commanding officer, thereby placing his forces almost at the mercy of the foe. But nobly they have fought, nobly they shall fight, until they plant their colors behind the last intrenchment, or fall wrapped in its folds. Sophie, I deny the assertion in your second paragraph; I demand an explanation of the third. I know nothing of “other ways of deceiving,” of “other means of deluding.”

Daisy, my marrow-bones creak in acknowledgment of your sympathy and confidence in the midst of so much unjust suspicion and accusation. “How far your tiny candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” In striking contrast are the sentiments of Fleta Forrester in the letter immediately following. My saddened soul makes no reply.

Have I been wrong, Sybil Grey, in directing suspicion toward you? You confess to having “sailed under false colors” not long ago. But no matter; let us drop these mutual recriminations, and be friends. Will you? I need some faithful supporter. Scarce any one defends my character or believes me straightforward, yet I know not what I have said or done to cause this coldness.

There are so many italicized words in Stella Lightner’s letters, that I am at a loss to know which are the emphatic ones, italic or Roman. Stella, you are as bad as Mrs. Paradise Southworth.

My hand to you most heartily, Wil H. Coleman. Use the name freely, only leave me the lie, and send a photograph to prove identity. You know there is another claimant to the title in Texas.

That carte de visite question is becoming very prominent, and demands consideration. The good-looking folks, so far as I know them, seem delighted with the idea, and are ready to give and take. But there are some others who squirm. I do, for one. Never gave me “photo” to any one, even my “most intimate;” don’t like to have my phiz criticised any more than can be helped; think the original is enough of a cuss, without multiplying it; but I do want the cartes of some of my beloved cousins, and therefore, after much thought and consideration, I have concluded to exchange portraits with such of the Merries as desire it, on one condition only—that I receive their photographs first. Exchange to be made through Uncle Merry, I suppose. So Black-Eyes, Sybil Grey, Annie E. Drummond, Nip, Fleta Forrester, Stella Lightner, and the rest of you, make ready.

Willie H. Coleman.

“So shines a good deed … ”: William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (1596-1597) act V, scene 1, lines 90-91: “How far that little candle throws his beams!/ So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”

Sophie claimed acquaintance with Willie Coleman. Her letter’s second paragraph warns the female readers that his “ ‘little girl’ is not confined to a ‘nearer and dearer one,’ but he has many that would come under that title”; the third asks him, “Is there but one way of deceiving? Are there no other means of deluding the 20,000 than that adopted by Wilforley?” (1861.2.61).

Daisy defended him and offered her sympathy, counting herself “among the cousins who believe in your honesty” (1861.2.21-22).

Fleta ransacked the dictionary for harsh terms in which to phrase her argument that Willie was Wilforley in disguise, calling him “the pleonastic, periphastic correspondent” (1861.2.22-23).

Stella Lightner: Her style tended toward the flowery; realizing that her avowals of devotion to Bess amounted to a “declaration” once Bess was revealed to be male, she broke out in italics: “Why, I never did such a thing but once before in my life, and that was as this, unintentional.” (1860.2.21)

“Paradise Southworth”: E[mma] D[orothy] E[liza] N[evitte] Southworth (1818-1899), American author of over fifty novels. Lush with sentiment, incident, and exclamation points, the works sold millions of copies.

“send their photos first”: Daisy Wildwood, for one, thought little of this idea, calling Willie’s request “impudent” and questioning his gallantry. (1861.2.152)


1861.2.92-93

Baltimore, Aug. 6.

Dear Uncle Merry:—The August number of the “Chat” was so interesting, that I feel as if I must say a few words to you all.

Aunt Sue, suppose the prize trial should be a composition on Aunts, and we should take you for a text, I think H. A. D. and O. O. ought to follow the example of Barbara Blythe, and help others to the prize. (It wouldn’t do, Jim, because not one of you could send your love to me.—A. S.)

Now, Mr. Wilforley, I’ve guessed your puzzle, so hand over that picter; no tricks; it must be genuine—can’t trust you. [p. 93 ]

Uncle Merry has put me down “Jim of Baltimore,” and it seems to be the impression up North that all Baltimoreans are rebels, but that is not so, for the stars and stripes float from the top of our house, and I am as strong for the “Union” as O. O. himself. I see one of the cousins is no more (“N. O. Moore”). When did he or she depart this life?

Jim.

[Editor: ] Three Union cheers for Jim.

Barbara Blythe: title character in “Barbara Blythe”, by Sophie May (Robert Merry’s Museum; August 1861). Quick at learning, Barbara enjoys helping a disabled student with his studies, thus allowing him to win a school prize.

“prize trial”: puzzle announced by Aunt Sue in April 1860: “I propose … to offer a gold pen (to subscribers ) for the greatest number of words made out of any word of one syllable ….” (1860.1.126)


1861.2.93a

Cedar Point, Chase Co., Kansas.

Dear Uncles and Cousins:—I take the Museum, and of course am very fond of it. Living in the Far West, on the very border of civilization, I fancy that a little “chat” from here, describing the country and Western life, might prove interesting to you all, and particularly those of your number unacquainted with “wild Western scenes.”

We live near the western boundary of Chase County, by the beautiful river Cottonwood. The country is truly charming. Extending from the river from one to three miles, the “bottoms,” as they are called here, gently sloping toward the stream, covered with a luxuriant growth of wild grass and prairie flowers, seem to possess inexhaustible fertility, and forcibly suggest themselves to the industrious husbandman. Timber of oak, black walnut, hickory, coffee bean, and hackberry skirt the river banks. Almost inexhaustible quarries of stone of excellent quality for building purposes, and easily accessible, abound in the neighboring bluffs. These bluffs are quite rough and precipitate in many places. As you recede from the river the country grows less rugged, and only a mile or two back the rolling prairies is good farming land. From the more elevated of these bluffs—these romantic prairie hills—scenes of indescribable beauty and grandeur present themselves to the beholder. At your feet glides smoothly along, over a pebbly bottom, the clear, sparkling waters of the stream I have mentioned. It is enameled with stately trees and bushes, whose ample foliage kiss the passing waves. Beyond, stretching far away on the horizon, rise in promiscuous and fantastic forms, range after range of rolling prairie, most exquisite to the view.

The climate is salubrious, delightful. The bland southwest wind that generally prevails in summer, is cool and exhilarating. This Cottonwood Valley is as yet but sparsely settled. We are a good ways off (150 miles from Missouri River), but the country is hardly surpassed, nevertheless.

I might say more, but for fear of that direful hatchet.

Should any of the uncles or cousins come this way, I hope they will call and see us.

Yours,
Lawrence Drinkwater.


1861.2.93b

San Juan, Cal., May, 1861.

The Merry family, I believe, numbers some Californians, though I have seen but few names among their correspondents.

I have often hoped to see descriptions from some pleasant pen of our beautiful country, but whether the young cousins have not ventured to write, or their parents have not made the effort, I don’t know, but no such attempts at opening an acquaintance have been made.

So many vague, incorrect ideas prevail in the Atlantic States about their fair young sister of the Pacific, that I propose writing you an occasional letter with notes of matters and things which I think may interest you. And first, let me tell you there is a charm about life in California which it possesses in no other country—a nameless something which every one feels, but no one can explain. There is no home-sickness here. Although many are living in the country isolated from all friends save their own immediate family, yet (with the exception of an occasional grumbler who would hardly be contented were he to find himself in Paradise) you seldom hear one wishing to return. Many do go East for a visit, but generally long again for the land of their adoption, and yearn for our sunny skies and smiling landscape. “Once a Californian, always a Californian,” has been said most truly, and I think the sentiment will find an echo in the heart of many a one who would return here if he could. If any of my Merry cousins should be induced to come and see for themselves what there is so pleasant in California life, I shall be very happy to see them, and venture to predict, that, so far from being disappointed, they will exclaim, “The half has not been told me.”

Hesperia.


1861.2.119-120

Sept., 1861.

All hail! dear Museum—dearer than ever, now that other unions are shaken—dearer, because firmer, I hope. I love to see the proud old “stars and stripes” floating upon your pages, and I know that all our Merry circle will say amen to the prayer that that same old “star-spangled banner” may soon triumphantly float over every foot of soil in our once happy Union.

Why don’t I write longer letters, Willie? Now, dear, have you forgotten the rule, and that the hatchet’s motto is “enforcement of the laws.” Don’t believe you saw me at the State Fair. My name is not Fanny. When you supposed yourself to be looking upon my face, I was at home—an invalid. Are you disappointed?

Have we really lost Busy-Bee? Then let us down on everything that so unceremoniously and heartlessly robs us of our friends.

Probably, Sir W. H. C., others have the same reason as yourself for with-holding photographs. Then, too, what would Mr. B.-E. say if I should—oh! I gave those cheers for Jim, and added a “tiger.”

And now, cousins all, come over in this corner while I talk just a minute. Don’t let Uncle hear. You know we have had a goodly number of Southern cousins. Recent circumstances must have cut them adrift from the dear old Museum. Let us fill their places with new faces, faces that in time will grow as dear as theirs. Uncle can’t serve us every month with a stock of fun and information, and afford us abilities of meeting each other, for nothing. I know the times are hard—I’ve heard it often enough to know it, anyhow. But there are a great many who can spare one dollar and never miss it. A great many of us will spend more than that in nonsense, and when the holidays roll round we will spend ten times that much to gladden little cousins or friends whose [p. 120 ] eyes would brighten longer over the Museum than over the costliest toy we could give them; now, friends and cousins, let us determine and work, and swell Uncle Merry’s list for 1862 to more than its ante-rebellion size. Let us deny ourselves some useless purchase and send the book to a little friend. Let us talk to fathers and mothers, elder brothers and sisters, and get them to introduce a new era in their Christmas presents. Won’t you? Let us work now, and work until the week of the holidays, and then pour the fruits of our labors in upon Uncles Bob and Hi to an amazingly astonishing extent.

Black-Eyes.

“tiger”: Mathews: “A howl or yell concluding a round of cheering”; the earliest example is dated 1856. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the yell is “often the word ‘tiger.’ ” [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]


1861.2.120

Addison, July 7, 1861.

Dear Uncle:—Will you accept another niece? I have been standing at the door a long time, but I have not ventured to come in till now: it is a strange place; I never was in such a large room before. I must say, now that I am here, that the Museum is the best book I ever read. I must also tell you about my cat, Sam. He is a beautiful cat, and I like him much, but I do not like to have him catch the birds. Some little swallows have built their nests in our barn; they build there every year: it is very pleasant to get upon the haymow and watch the progress of the little creatures, and see them bring in the young ones’ food, and watch which one they give it to, and see them open their mouths and cry peep, peep, peep. But I am very much afraid Sam will catch them; he has come very near it two or three times. I suppose it is no more harm for him to catch birds than it is for us to catch fish. One day Sam brought out two little mice from under the shed; they were very small, and almost dead: my sister gave one of them a little meal and he began to revive; but the cat caught him again, and ate him up, and so he did the other one too. But I did not see that the hatchet was so near; I must be off, or it will be the death of me.

Down-East Girl.


1861.2.120-121

Batavia, Aug. 8, 1861.

My dear Uncle Merry:—Will you admit a wild, harum-scarum girl to your Monthly Chat? I am very much afraid you will say no, and if you do, you will not lose a valuable acquisition. My sister, Blue-Eyes, has often urged me to write, but I have never mustered courage till to-day, when the rain forbids either walking or riding—I concluded to write to you. Black-Eyes, I should like a seat by you; do you ever ride on horseback? I consider my morning ride, on my slick little “Rob Roy,” as important as my breakfast. I once tried to make the “staff of life,” and I forgot the yeast; the result may be imagined. Fleta, I like you—oh, so much! Come and see Blue-Eyes and me, and we three will have a grand time. Busy Bee, I should like to make your acquaintance; but it seems to me you must be older than ten. Here I, a great girl past sixteen, and standing five feet six inches in my slippers, can not write such fine long letters. Wil H. Coleman, I am well acquainted with [p. 121 ] you, but I won’t disclose myself to you till some future time. Annie E. Drummond, can I have the pleasure of your acquaintance? Ellian, I like you; should be happy to see you at Batavia. Wilforley, I am “acterly” afraid of you; don’t let him come near me, Auntie. Oliver Onley, if you want a kiss you may have it. And now I believe I must go, as Hiram is raising the hatchet. So, with love to all, I will sign myself

Your loving niece,
Brown-Eyes.


1861.2.154

Camp Graham, D. C., Oct. 17.

Dear Uncles:—Here I am, far away from home, serving under the “stars and stripes,” as a defender of our glorious Union. Permit me to chat with my old friends as usual. The Museum is more welcome than ever to me now; its arrival is a certain cure for the ennui of camp life, and I can say, with Hugo, that “I would rather read it than eat my supper at any time.” Perhaps, after a forced march of thirty miles or so, however, the supper would be preferable.

Uncle Robert, I was sorry not to have seen you, to bid you good-bye. I had a nice chat with Aunt Sue and Tommy.

Black-Eyes, here’s my hand—your sentiments are of the right kind. Amen to that prayer for our Union. Who knows but that I may meet with some of the seceding Merrys? I think we would cross swords, if that should happen. [ … ]

Clara, my respects. No fear of enlargement of my brain, as my skull is too thick for expansion. My anodyne is a violin, and an excellent quietus it is, too. Don’t cut me up, Uncle. I don’t write very often.

Yours truly,
Henry A. Danker.

[Editor: ] Cut you up, Danker? No, not a chip, not a shaving, not so much as a scratch. And wo be to the hatchet, the sword, the bayonet, the bowie-knife, or the bullet that even grazes your skin! Just give it out in proclamation, if you please, that, if any one harms you, there are 20,000 Merrys, every one of whom will become a Hatchet on the instant, to avenge you. Yet, no—Henry, we will do better. The Merrys will all remember you in their prayers, and God will keep you from harm. Rest assured of this, you shall be tenderly, affectionately cared for at all our household altars. [p. 155 ] And thousands of eyes will turn daily to our Reports from “Camp Graham,” to catch the first tidings of your movements. Do let us hear from you as often as possible. If it is only a word that you send, send that. God bless you.

All of Us.


1861.2.155-156

October, 1861.

Humph! I find myself unexpectedly held up to public notice this month. Ain’t a goddess endowed with infinite powers? Then, as soon as my powers are forthcoming, cousins, I’ll proclaim liberty throughout the Chat, and a very dull hatchet.

Here’s room, Miss Brown-Eyes. “Harum-scarum,” eh? If you sit by me, you must “keep within bounds,” and not shock my matronly dignity by any undue outbreaks. Your question made me laugh, by calling to mind the time I rode on horseback. I was on a visit in the country. My friends were very importunate that I should exercise on [p. 156 ] horseback. By dint of much coaxing, I promised. “Old Rocque” was saddled and brought to the door. I “sprang gracefully to the saddle.” Don’t ask my sensations when the “critter” started. I felt very high and very all-going-roundish. But I soon got used to it, and went along, I thought, admirably. I was thinking, I believe, of the beauty of the forest through which the road wound, when a strange sound caused me to turn suddenly, and there met my gaze a mischievous face, lighted by two laughing eyes. I looked at them soberly a moment, when a voice said, “Well done! how do you like it?” I wondered if they were making fun of me, when all doubt was dispelled by not merely a laugh, but a roar of laughter from my companion. I clutched a switch that I held in my hand tightly, determined, if ever I reached terra firma once more, that switch should dust one coat—and it did. Since then no persuasions could get me on a saddle. Why didn’t you send me a slice of that bread?

Good, Jessie. You deserve your name, which has been honored by being borne by that other Jessie down in Missouri. Don’t you think so? I wonder if we ain’t all for the Union. Let’s take the vote of the Chat.

There’s some one inquiring for C. M. Gibbs. Don’t send for him. Let him march on until he hits something, or something hits him.

Black-Eyes.

Jessie Fremont (1824-1902): American writer. Bright, lively Jessie was conversant in three languages and worked with her explorer husband, John, on reports that made him famous. Not averse to taking matters into her own hands, she resorted to subterfuge to ensure that Fremont set off on a planned expedition after he received a summons to Washington, DC. When John ran for president in 1856, her charm was exploited—the first time a woman was featured in a political campaign—and Jessie became as popular and well known as he. For the first time, women (who, of course, didn’t have the vote at the time) began to swell the crowds at political gatherings, and some worked actively for the Republican cause.

inquiring for C. M. Gibbs: In November 1861, Clara wrote, “What has become of C. M. Gibbs? Send a certain somebody for him; if she can’t go, she can take fife and drum, and call him, with other missing recruits, together.” Robert Merry’s comment was as blunt as Black-Eyes’: “C. M. G. left with all his effects last March, very suddenly. Several of his circle left with him. We presume they have been on the march ever since.” (1861.2.124)


1861.2.182

Brooklyn, Nov. 11, 1861.

Dear Uncles:—I’ve had an attack of the “Union fever,” and have just recovered in time to wish you and all the cousins a “Happy New Year;” my chat with the cousins will not be very long. Well, Blue-Eyes, your “kisses” are very numerous, but beware who you send them to—there may be some more Wilforleys among us. H. A. Danker, my best wishes for your success. Ha! ha! Adrian, so you are going to send your photograph to the “Rogues’ Gallery” (as you call it); my impression is, that your face will be the only one to be found there, if that is the name it is to go by. Black-Eyes, I agree with you in regard to C. M. Gibbs. “Ellian,” my photograph has been sent, and I hope ere this it has been received; do not fail (as soon as convenient) to send a certain person’s, as it is anxiously looked for. Charlie F. W., how about the B. P.? I thought we could retire off of the fortune we would realize, but I haven’t seen it. Oliver Only, how are the “whiskers” getting along? Are the hairs beyond counting? How is it that I have heard nothing from you since your departure from here; perhaps you have had an attack of the “war” fever; if so, let me hear from you when you recover. Mary of B—, you can obtain the required information concerning me by applying to “Aunt Sue.” Now for “our darling pet,” Busy Bee. Oh! what a shame you should be shut out from us so. We were in hopes that by this time the “war” would have been settled, and then you could have come back once more to us, and have a long chat. We are all waiting with open arms to clasp you once more, and escort you into our “Merry circle.” Now, Uncle Hi, don’t cut me up much, I don’t come very often. So good-bye all.

Tommy.

a flourish
Introduction

How to use this book

1840s: 184118421843184418451846184718481849

1850s: 1850185118521853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 1860 • 1861 • 18621863186418651866186718681869

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

Talk to me.