“Peter Parley,” by Donald G. Mitchell (from American Lands & Letters. NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1897. vol. 1; pp. 330-335)
It would be invidious to omit from these Collectanea of American Writers who were born toward the close of the last century that favorite story-teller for boys, who, in a cocked hat and coat with big lapels, and pockets stuffed with
[picture of S.G. Goodrich]
[p. 332 blank]
goodies, used to exploit himself upon the title pages of his little miniature quartos as Peter Parley.* What a rare old gentleman he was to be sure! And with what a grandfatherly, homely, fireside way, he told us youngsters—with pricked ears and most eager—about the Turks and the Greeks, and about London Bridge and the terrible Bastile! It was a great break-down of our young cherished image to learn in after-life that the cocked hat, and staff, and big pockets were only purest, untruthful fancies, and that this master of boy-literature was a dapper man with an active, nervous step, who held consular office and stamped passports for the “regulation” fees!
His real name was Goodrich, and he was a native of a pretty town in Western Connecticut—gravitating somehow, as he reached manhood, to that old literary centre of Hartford:—publishing books there and selling them; then voyaging to England and France—taking his quick Connecticut eyes with him, and seeing multitudes of things
* Samuel G. Goodrich, b. 1793; d. 1860. His books counted by the hundred. His Reminiscences a virtual autobiography, published in 2 vols. 12mo, 1856.
which sparkled up, afterward, at all sorts of angles, and odd groupings, in the flood of his abounding books. By that travel he ripened for a life in Boston, and was publisher there (writing between whiles)—specially of that old annual, called The Token, in which some of Hawthorne’s Twice-told Tales first saw the light; and where N.P. Willis flashed his maiden sword upon the hot-pressed pages of that glittering gift-book.
A serious word of commendation is to be said for that happy story-telling art of Peter Parley, which converted the stiff geographic text-books of Maltebrun and of Woodbridge into lively pictures of great countries, where people talked of battles, and builded—as they did at home; and where the rivers ran and sea sparkled and mountains brooded over valleys—as they did not do in bigger and more learned geographies. I think that the image of London Tower, which came to me first through the spectacles of Mr. Peter Parley (God bless him), did not wholly fade, when I tramped through the galleries and dungeons; and it abides with me still. His books lifted the old geography tasks into joys; all honor to him for this.
This Mr. Goodrich wrote poems too; upon these we cannot dwell; few people do; but we will take a gracious leave of him in a stanza of his own inditing—“Good-Night!”
“The sun has sunk behind the hills,
The shadows over the landscape creep;
A drowsy sound the woodland fills
And nature folds her arms to sleep;
“The bat may wheel on silent wing—
The fox his guilty vigils keep—
The boding owl his dirges sing,
But love and innocence will sleep;