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

How to use this book

1840s: 184118421843184418451846184718481849

1850s: 1850185118521853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 1860186118621863186418651866186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

About the Merry Cousins

Appendix

Index & gloss

Sources

The Cousins’ Greatest Hits

Appendix: Some masterful puzzles

Unfortunately, time precludes transcribing all puzzles mentioned in the letters. However, three are so magnificent that I’ve included them here in chronological order, with answers in square brackets next to the clues.


[1846.1.59-60] “Abracadabra”: “Riddle,” from Harriet, Newport (1842.1.190):

Take a word that’s much used,—’t is a masculine name,

That backward or forward doth spell just the same; [ASA]

Then a verb used for dodging—a right it will claim

That backward or forward it spells just the same; [BOB]

The form of an adjective, none can exclaim

That backward or forward it spells not the same; [REFER]

Then a chief Turkish officer’s title or name,

That backward or forward is still just the same; [AGA]

The name of a liquor, its friends all will claim

That backward or forward is still just the same; [BUB]

Then a word used for jest, or doth triumph proclaim,

That backward or forward still spells just the same; [AHA]

Then a verb in the imperfect, which also doth claim

That backward or forward it spells just the same; [DID]

The name of a place which geographers fame,

That backward or forward doth still spell the same; [AVA]

Then a very queer word, ’t is a Spanish ship’s name,

That backward or forward doth spell just the same; [CARAC]

Then a verb that’s well known, I refer to the same,

That, backward or forward spelt, makes but one name; [REFER]

Then a name that is given to many a dame

That backward or forward still spells just the same. [ANNA]

A Set of initials the above will afford—

R-Ove through them in order, they form a droll word.

I L-eave you to solve it—’t will cure a disease;

De-Velop the riddle—’t will set you at ease.

D-Espair not, but hope; ’t is easily guessed:

L-Ike etching on copper in gay colors dressed,

E-Tch it down on your hearts, and there let it rest.

[The last seven lines hold both the answer—“abracadabra”—and a clue to how to get it: the first two letters of the lines spell “A RIDDLE SOLVE IT.” It is apparent that the clues somehow got out of order, for the result does not spell “abracadabra”; the lines about the Spanish ship and the liquor seem to have been switched.]


[1849.1.123-124] By E. of Roxbury, Massachusetts (1848.2.127):

I am made up of 21 letters.

My 9, 8, 13, 20, is one of the loveliest rivers in the world. [ARNO]

My 7, 8, 20, 10, 10, 17, is the pleasant retreat of mermaids, at sea—the pretty plaything of merry maidens on shore. [GROTTO]

My 4, 8, 6, 19, 10, 11, 20, 3, is often a vulgar thing—always a broken one. [FRACTION]

My 15, 2, 21, 5, is never more delightful than when in a broil. [FOWL]

My 8, 2, 18, 1, 12, 16, 16, 20, 13, is a bard of no mean repute. [ROSCOMMON]

My 4, 12, 8, 16, 2, 18, 9, is one of the farthest and fairiest islands of the sea. [FORMOSA]

My 17, 8, 11, 20, 13, has bands that cannot be loosed. [ORION]

My 15, 5, 9, 16, 11, 3, 7, 14, is a red-coated noisy fisherman, with a plate in his nostrils. [FLAMINGO]

My whole is one of the most brilliant events recorded on the historic page; the brightest exhibition of devoted self-sacrifice; the most shining illustration of patriotic disinterestedness; the most luminous lesson ever read to tyrannic ambition. [THE CONFLAGRATION OF MOSCOW]


[1857.1.158; 1857.1.190] The enigma

The enigma actually was designed to be impossible to solve. Ten years earlier, H. B. P. had been challenged to write such a puzzle; it originally appeared in Woodworth’s Youth’s Cabinet (February 1857; p. 66), but was reprinted in the Museum (1857.1.188) at the time that Edward Winslow Paige solved it; he earned a complete set of Woodworth’s Youth’s Cabinet. His answer (1857.1.189) included factual information about each term:

I am composed of 29 letters.

My 18, 14, 29, 3, 12, 21, 16, was a celebrated jurist and legal writer. [BRACTON]

My 8, 24, 4, 12, 26, 5, 9, is a musical instrument used both in ancient and modern times. [CROTALO]

The bee is said to sleep upon the fragrant blossoms of the 11, 28, 5, 2, 24, 19. [NITICA]

My 1, 9, 27, 15, 25, 20, may be either theoretical or practical, adequate or inadequate, distinct or confused, common or uncommon. [NOTION]

My 15, 5, 13, is a river in Europe. [ILZ]

The exquisite flowers and shells of my 22, 2, 21, 14, 28, were permitted to adorn the paintings of Domenichino and Dolci. [FIORI]

My 27, 4, 10, 17, 21, 10, is so fleet a racer, that he is hunted on horseback and taken with the lasso. [TOUYOU]

My 7, 6, 15, is of the order of Capuchins. [SAI]

My whole is the name of a hero. [NICHOLAS, COUNT ZRINY, BAN OF CROATIA]

a flourish
Introduction

How to use this book

1840s: 184118421843184418451846184718481849

1850s: 1850185118521853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 1860186118621863186418651866186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

About the Merry Cousins

Appendix

Index & gloss

Sources

The Cousins’ Greatest Hits

Copyright 2000-2016, Pat Pflieger


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