Dear Friend Robert Merry: Letters from nineteenth-century children

How to use this book

1840s: 184118421843184418451846184718481849

1850s: 1850185118521853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 1860 • 186118621863186418651866186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

About the Merry Cousins


Index & gloss


The Cousins’ Greatest Hits



Mr. Hatchet:—“Blessed be the man who invented” holidays! Not for children only, but for the old folks too. We all need these heart-expanders, love-promoters, cherishers of all good feelings—holidays. And blessed be Christmas above the rest. Fourth of July is well, Thanksgiving is excellent, but best of all is dear old Christmas—true holiday of Christendom. Rich in memories of Bethlehem, the lowly manger, the watching shepherds, and the angel-throng; of old times in merry England, when the carols broke upon the still night air, when the mistletoe favored the wishes of young men and maidens, when the great wassail-bowl went round the joyous circle, and the boar’s head was brought in with stately ceremony. Rich, too, in memories of the Christmas-tree and its attendant Christ-child; and of the long stockings by the chimney, under the care of St. Nicholas, Santa-Claus, Kriss Kringle, or whatever his name may be. Dear old Christmas! What day is like unto thee?

I am not ashamed to confess my firm belief in the good Santa-Claus, for though I no longer hang my stocking in the chimney, I still place a chair at the bedside, for the gifts the good Saint may bring, which he has never failed to do. Nor am I unwilling to own that on waking early in the morning, I am as happy as a child, when I peep over the coverlet, or stretch out my hand toward the gifts, scarce visible in the faint light, and then shrink back, unwilling to break the charm by discovering what they are. Have not the Merrys had this feeling? And pray, Mr. Prim, what if I do, in the course of the day, perform divers strange capers and antics, more befitting a child? What are you and I, after all, but “children of a larger growth?” I pray you lay aside your dignity, and frolic with me on the floor a moment. I warrant you will be the better for it.

But really, I hope nobody thinks me an octogenarian by the way I speak. Though not a babe, I have not reached the “years of discretion”—if, indeed, I ever shall. But to whatever age I may attain, I trust I may never forget that I was once a boy; and therefore do I love this holiday, when once a year we can be young again.

It is too late to wish you a Merry Christmas, Uncle Hiram, but time enough to wish you and all the Merrys a Happy New Year, which I do with all my heart.

Willie H. Coleman.

“blessed be the man who invented”: Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, part 2, section 4, chapter 68: “God bless the man that invented sleep” in the translation by John Ormsby.


Dayton, Ohio, Dec. 28, 1859.

Dear Uncle Merry:—Whereas—

Vain was the man, and false as vain,

Who said, were he ordained to run

His long career of life again,

He would not take the Museum.”

And, whereas—

Breathes there a boy with soul so dead,

Who never to himself hath said,

I hope Bob Merry’s ’Mag.’ has come?

Whose heart has ne’er within him burned

As with delighted hands he turned

The pages of the ‘Museum.’ ”

Therefore resolved—That one dollar be inclosed to the publishers to pay for the Museum for 1860.

Sam’l Wilson, Jr.

[Editor: ] I must take leave to say, dear Sam, that as “Uncle Sam” is not behaving himself altogether well just now, it is a great satisfaction to have a young nephew Sam, who not only knows how to behave himself, but goes right away and does it.

“Breathes there a boy … ”: parody of Sir Walter Scott’s “Lay of the Last Minstrel” (1805) canto 6, stanza 1: “Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,/ Who never to himself hath said,/ This is my own, my native land!”

“Vain was the man and false as vain … ”: parody of Thomas Moore, “My Birth-Day” (1840-41) lines 11-14:

Vain was the man, and false as vain,

Who said,—‘were he ordain’d to run

‘His long career of life again,

‘He would do all that he had done.—”


Social Circle, Ga., 1859.

Dear Uncles:—Let me come in to welcome Nip, if you please, and give my best respects to all the Merry family. Uncle Hi, haven’t we got any cousins in the “Empire State of the South?” If so, why do they never write to the Chat? I don’t believe I ever saw a letter in the Chat from Georgia (except from me). Miss Nippinifidget, let’s hear all about “the wonders of the Old World.”

Au revoir,
Cornelius M. Gibbs.

[Editor: ] All Georgians are not as social as those of “Social Circle,” yet we occasionally hear from them. They are always welcome. The Museum and the Merry family are all true to the Union. None but sour, sorry growlers are on the other side.

H. H.


St. Clairsville, O., Dec. 1, 1859.

I find, dear Museum, if I have got to be an “old woman,” I can’t do without your visits. Your face has grown too familiar to be easily dispensed with, so come on for another year, and here is the wherewithal to pay your way. And if this don’t get to the publishers in time to bring me Uncle Frank’s picture, why, do you think it will make much difference? But I must answer some of the letters in the last one or two numbers, and leave you.

Why not say pen-lady-ship, Ella?

Just so, Adel. And Louis B. Moore has the impudence to say that my husband is a myth! A myth, indeed! Just call round, Sir Louis, and I’ll give you undeniable proof that he is not only a real flesh-and-blood human being, but a very exceedingly good-looking specimen of the genus homo.

That’s right, Hawthorne. Of course you were only ignorant. Stay north a little longer, and ten to one you’d be a volunteer John Brown rescuer, if, alas! it was not too late. There! if you think that “alas!” expressive as it was of real sorrow, might offend some chivalrous [p. 61 ] (?) Virginian, or other Southerner, just leave it out.

Fairy Jane, fie! How could a nephew, affectionate or otherwise, have a husband?

Uncle Hi! Uncle Hi! is it possible? Did you pass over the C. O. R. R.? Within five miles? Of course I heard the whistle. I’ll never ask you to come, again, and if you do I won’t own you. Just to think of it! And were you in Bellaire? “Just as like as not” I was there just at the same time. I have a brother living there, and was down in November. Well, well, I reckon it’s all right. But I won’t soon forget it.


Louis B. Moore and the myth: “Black-Eyes, forgive me, but I am strangely skeptical as to your right to the title of ‘Madame.’ I must confess to a belief that B— E—, Esq., is a myth, and exists only in your vivid, etc., etc., imagination.” (1859.2.157)

Ella: Ella S. Bierce: “[W]hen a lady writes, should it be called penmanship or penwomanship?” (1859.2.156)

John Brown (1800-1859): American abolitionist. In 1855, Brown followed his sons to Kansas, where abolitionist beliefs seized him completely. In October 1859, he put into operation plans to develop a free state for blacks, leading 21 men in a failed raid to seize weapons for his enterprise from the U. S. armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Brown was hung after a trial in which he impressed onlookers with his dignity. Subscriber Robert W. North was in the militia group that captured Brown and stood guard at his execution; subscriber P. A. P.’s father was present at the execution.

Fairy Jane: “Fairy Jane wishes to know if Black-Eyes is our ‘affectionate nephew, or niece.’ ” (1859.2.187)

the C. O. R. R.: probably tracks maintained by the Central Ohio Rail Road Company


E. W. Hill, Sept., 1859.

Dear Uncle Merry:—Who would have thought that my visit to your little sanctum would have made me so utterly forget my good manners as to neglect my Museum friends for so long. Yet you seem to have survived my absence remarkably, for which I am duly grateful.

I have been farming this last year, and that, you know, is a pretty busy occupation. Now, Uncle Hiram, when you come to see me, I’ll challenge you to a race in chopping wood, and we’ll see which will beat.

I have twice climbed Mount Monadnock, which is indeed a beautiful mountain.

Where are you all? Aunt Sue, Willie Coleman, Mrs. Black-Eyes, will you readmit me into the charmed and charming circle? I will only ask the farthest corner.

This is just the time when the trees are throwing on their most gorgeous mantles of crimson and gold, orange, brown, and scarlet, relieved here and there by the dark green of the evergreens. These are bright days, such as I always enjoy, and yet they herald the near approach of Nature’s death. I am reading Cicero on Old Age, which I like. But he has lost his old fire and fury, in which he denounced Catiline, and argued for his friends. And now, Uncle Hiram, I have had my “say,” and if you don’t put the whole of aforesaid “say” in the pages of the Museum, I will be contented if it meets with your private approval. And in conclusion I sign myself,

Ever your affectionate friend,
Blue-Eyed Minnie.

Cicero (106-43 BCE): Roman politician, orator, and intellectual. When he gained a consulship Catiline coveted, the latter plotted to kill him and the other senators and to destroy the city of Rome; Cicero confronted Catiline in the senate and saw to the executions of Catiline’s conspirators, a political blunder that led to his temporary exile. Cicero’s four orations on Catiline’s actions are eloquent with ire; “On Old Age” is a calm and well-reasoned exploration of the inherent dignity and pleasures of old age. The Museum published an article on Cicero in February 1847.

Catiline (c108-62 BCE): Roman noble who after losing a consulship conspired to plunder Rome’s treasury, murder its senators, and destroy the city. He was killed in a battle between his army and Roman troops.

[Editor (1860.1.90): ]

Many of our little friends have, no doubt, seen accounts in the newspapers of the great fire in Fulton Street, by which the entire building occupied by Wynkoop, Hallenbeck & Thomas, printers, was destroyed, on the 29th of January, unfortunately for us, burning up the entire plates from which they were printing the February number. Uncle Merry had gone home on Saturday night, having worked unusually hard in getting it ready to print; slept soundly, as he always does when he has been at work for the little folks, and enjoyed a pleasant Sunday in the Sabbath school—and Uncle Merry always goes to the Sunday school, old as he is—little thinking all the time he was there, that the plates, cuts, Chat, puzzles, and paper were all burning up, but so it was; and as he came over early on Monday morning to help to send the number to the little Chatters, nothing met his eye but one mass of black, smoking ruins. What was to be done? Not a moment to be lost, for it was already very late, and many a little one far away was wondering “why don’t the Museum come?” We went to work at once, had the articles set up anew, and the whole number recast and reprinted, so that in a few days it was all in the hands of the young Merrys, as bright and fresh as ever.


Boone Co., Mo., Jan. 26, 1860.

Dear Uncle Hiram:—I will now write you your long-promised letter, which I hoped to have written long ago. It has been in my heart to do it, and I have often thought and talked of you since I left home. I left delightful St. Louis soon after I saw you, and have been ever since on Grand Prairie. Among the most delightful recollections of my visit home was meeting with you. Now I do wish you knew the kind and noble friends with whom I am at present. The uncle with whom I am staying is a kind of Prairie prince. He can stand on his house top and look over his broad acres and almost say, “I am monarch of all I survey.” His house is the abode of hospitality, and is always full of friends, and right glad would we all be to welcome you here. If you like to hunt, you can find almost anything but buffaloes; [p. 93 ] we are not far enough west for that. Have you ever seen a real prairie fire? We have the most magnificent ones here; they extend so far around they look like a city on fire. In the spring and summer the grass looks like an ocean of green interspersed with golden islands. I send you a few lines of mine on a darling little baby cousin:

I have a little cousin,

And dear to me is he;

His eyes are blue as summer skies—

I love his face to see.

His head is clothed with soft brown curls,

His laugh is silvery,

His voice is like a bird’s sweet note,

He is full of mirth and glee.

Yours, lovingly,
Lily G. Parley.


Cheshire, Jan. 12, 1860.

Dear Uncle and Aunt:—I have been wanting to write you a little letter for a long time. I have not had courage enough until now. I have read the Cabinet every month ever since I was six years old. I am now eleven. I like the stories in it very much—they always interest me. I live on a farm on the bank of the beautiful Ohio River, one-half mile from the village of Cheshire. The next time you come West please come and see me. I can show you some nice things here as well as the other cousins.



Oakhill, Va., Jan. 4, 1860.

Dear Unc[l]e Hi:—I have taken the Museum for three years, but have not been admitted a member of the Chat. Can I be one now? I am considered very wild by mamma, because I go out in the fields and catch the horses, mount them without a saddle, and canter off. I have a blood horse which I ride; he is quite wild. I wish all a merry Christmas and happy New Year. What has become of Mattie Bell? Love to all.

Your loving niece,

[Editor: ] There you are, Mar, caught and counted in. You can be as wild as you please, here, and you will find scores of cousins who will take a fancy to you and your blood horse. Welcome.


Maclura, Tenn., Dec., 1859.

Dear Uncle Hiram:—May I come in and take a seat in the Chat? or if you haven’t a spare seat, mayn’t I stand up? I would like very much to enter your circle—kiss Aunt Sue and the Uncles, shake hands with the dear Merrys, and make myself at home generally. May I? Last year I took the Museum as a Christmas present for my little sister, and she sometimes says to me, “I had a great many nice Christmas presents last year, Sissie, but yours was the best of all.” I, too, enjoy reading it very much. Hawthorn, I am glad you like the Yankee girls; but now, honor bright, are they as good as the girls “Out West?” Just give me your candid opinion. I won’t tell anybody.

Sybil Grey, you’re a darling. If I didn’t know better, I should say you were a Southerner. I like Lizzie G., too, and Black-Eyes is a “rale genuwine article.” I am, moreover, a warm admirer of Mr. Oliver Onley (as I am a new-comer, I suppose I must be very deferential), and Mr. A. Older, and the great and renowned Mr.—I was going to say—W. H. C., but don’t think I will, as I don’t like to be exactly like everybody else.

Your loving niece,


February 11.

Dear Uncle Hiram:—I wish to know when you passed over the Central Ohio Railroad; for I have been over that route several times lately, and possibly I may have traveled many miles with you without knowing it.

Mrs. Eyes, you are wofully mistaken if the idea ever entered your head, that I would be likely to prove a follower of Brown’s. You doubt the bravery of the Southerners, then. Well, I’ll forgive you for your extreme ignorance, my Older cousin. I was truly grateful for the beheading Uncle Hiram gave me—why, I guess I would have had Fleta, B. E., and all the rest of the Northern cousins, down on me instanter. By-the-by, where is Fleta? I guess sh—oh, lor! there’s that hatchet!

In haste, your nephew,

your extreme ignorance: See 1860.1.186-187 for Hawthorn’s correction of this portion of the letter.


Dear Mr. Merry:—We were made both glad and sorry by your communication in the March No. of the Museum. We were sorry the fire had destroyed so much of your hard labor for our pleasure and profit; and glad to hear that, “old as he is,” he loves the Sabbath school. And here I should like to tell you a story of our old horse.

Old Jack (as we called him) was known throughout the village, for almost every little boy and girl had rode after him to visit grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. We are not going to tell you he was a noble-looking or handsome animal, for he was neither; but we thought he knew a great deal. We could tell of nice rides upon his back, and rides in the carriage, and how he could tell us he was thirsty, and the watering-trough empty, by going to the well where swung the “old oaken bucket,” and taking hold of the well-pole with his teeth. But this is not what we want to tell you. Although so faithful and kind, he had one bad habit: he loved, sometimes, to jump over the fences and go where he pleased, and for this reason he must wear what we call a poke. Once upon a time we had been on a journey to visit our grandparents, and mother being wearied somewhat with her journey, thought she would not go to church the following Sabbath. Then, said our father, “Old Jack must be tired, too. I’ll go on foot, and let him stay in the pasture.” But not so, thought old Jack. It seems he had been accustomed for years to go to meeting, and when he heard the bell ringing he managed to get out of the pasture, and, without stopping to take off his poke, he jogged off to church, and to the post where he was usually tied; and there he stood until the morning services were closed, and when those withdrew that did not wish to remain in Sabbath school, do you think he left with them? No, indeed. He had been in the habit of staying until after Sabbath school, and he kept his place. “But,” said one who sat near the window, and kept an eye on him during the whole time, “as soon as the scholars left the school, he turned toward home on a good trot;” and father, seeing him on his way home, led him away to the pasture, and came in and told us old Jack had been to meeting with his poke on, and stayed to Sabbath school.

[unsigned ]

[Editor: ] There, boys and girls, do you hear that? Well, what do you think of “old Jack?” Are you as faithful to your trust and duty as he was? Let the story of “Jack” stimulate us all to be as faithful as he tried to be to what he thought was right and duty.

“old oaken bucket”: Samuel Woodworth, “The Old Oaken Bucket”: “The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket,/ The moss-covered bucket, which hung in the well.” The Museum printed the poem in August 1843, praising it for its emphasis on home.

“poke”: in Mathews: “A device put on the necks of cattle, horses, etc., to keep them from breaking through or jumping over fences”; the earliest example is dated 1809. It resembled a yoke with a pole attached so as to drag in front of the animal. [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]



I flatter myself, dear cousins, that by this time you will not object to receiving a letter from your loving coz in this corner of the world. Can it be five months since I wrote you last? How time flies! You see by the date of my letter that I have left Paris, and am now in Florence. I can hardly believe it possible that the dream of my childhood is fulfilled, and that it is the soft Italian air which fans my cheek. From a child I had always a romantic love for Italy. Italian history was to me like a fairy tale, and the tears have stood in my eyes as I have read the sorrowful tale of Italy’s wrongs. But I trust this lovely land has brighter days yet in store for her. However, I must run away from the “Italian question,” if I wish to send any messages to my cousins, for I fear my epistle is rapidly verging toward the proscribed limits.


Many thanks, C. M. Gibbs, for your flattering predictions. But a voice from the “Sybil’s Cave” proclaims their fallacy.

Gazella: from my experience with Southern girls, I know you have paid me the highest compliment. Nothing could so have flattered my amour propre as to be considered worthy of being a “Southerner.” I am truly thankful, Annie Drummond, that I have such a strong supporter in the West. I also thought of “sour grapes;” but I remembered there was some such old proverb as “Risk nothing, gain nothing.” [ … ]

I must say a word to Only Oliver, and I’ve finished. Would you like to know who Aunt Sue is? Send me your address, then, and I’ll tell you. She lives in Brooklyn, and you shall know the rest when you write. Love to Uncle Hi. He is my favorite of the Merry Hydra.

Ever yours,
Sybil Grey.

“Italy’s wrongs”/ “Italian question”: Italy was at this time struggling to break free of Austria and other rulers of the Italian states, and achieve reunification.

amour propre: French: “self-love” or “vanity.”

predictions: Cornelius M. Gibbs: “ ‘Sybil Grey’—I predict that you will soon be the ‘bright particular star.’ ” (1860.1.126)

Annie Drummond wrote,“Three—three times three cheers for ‘Sybil Grey’ [ … ] for the excellent advice to our ‘cousins feminine,’ in regard to W. H. C., and the ‘species’ [ … ]. I wanted to give two or three such hints (?) dreadfully, but not being very well known in the Chat, I would have expected to hear the whispered words ‘sour grapes,’ etc.” (1860.1.59-60)

“Risk nothing, gain nothing”: usually “No risk, no gain,” used in the U. S. since the 1830s.

the Merry Hydra: The Lernaean Hydra had multiple heads; if one was cut off, two more grew in its place—an appropriate image to describe the editors of Merry’s Museum, it often seems that when one left, several more took over.


April, 1860.

Shade of mercury, how warm it is!! Thermometer at 90 degrees in the shade! But notwithstanding the heat, Uncle Hiram, I must take you to task for the way my letter was “used up” in the present number. What is the matter with your typos? It should be as follows: “You doubt the bravery of the Southerners, then. Well, I’ll forgive you for your extreme ignorance. My Older cousin, I was truly grateful,” etc.

Gazella, you’re a clever little “feller.” You want my “candid opinion,” do you? Well, here it is, confidentially. With all due deference and admiration for the Northern girls, I must say that I like the Southern girls the best. I’m a Tennessean, Gazella, as well as yourself. By-the-by, what has become of our other fellow-“Tennessean?” Has he departed for other climes, or has the terror (?) of the Southerners, Mrs. Eyes, stared him into oblivion? I’m away down South, in the land of the “cypress and myrtle,” listening to the songs of the birds, [p. 187 ] as they hail the arrival of spring, while you, uncle, are yet shivering from the departing breaths of winter. But you[r] good (old?) heart is as warm as our sunny skies, and doubtless your face is as good-humored as my imagination has portrayed it.

Your nephew,


Ontonagon, Lake Superior, Feb., 1860.

Dear Uncle Merry:—

I live on the shore

Of a beautiful lake,

Where the north winds blow,

And sad music make—

Where the coast is lined

With icebergs high,

And stretched in extent

To the deep-blue sky.

Here are masses of copper

Piled up on the dock,

Of many tons weight,

And solid as rock.

We are not as far north

As Kane went, I know

But far enough here

For plenty of snow.

The Indians come in here

With snow-shoes and packs,

And United States Mail

Lashed on to their backs.

There are great many things,

In this far-off clime,

That I’d like to tell

In prose or in rhyme;

And will, if the “Merrys”

Desire me to—

Pledging my honor

That all shall be true.

But I’m fond of reading,

And I’m fond of fun;

So I send you a dollar

For the Museum.

From your nine-year-old nephew,
Delor C. York.

Kane: Elisha Kane (1820-1857), American explorer of the Arctic. Overcoming a diseased heart, he became a doctor and enjoyed a series of adventures during the war between the U. S. and Mexico. In 1850, he joined an unsuccessful expedition to find British explorer John Franklin, who had disappeared in the Arctic in 1845. Kane led another expedition to find Franklin in 1853; the unsuccessful attempt unexpectedly lasted until summer 1855. During the adventure, Kane came into his own as a strong and intelligent leader; and he became a celebrity in the U. S. Deteriorating health led him to the warmth of Cuba, where he died; as Kane’s body traveled by ship to Philadelphia, thousands gathered at every port along the way to honor him. William Hoyt Coleman wrote for the Museum of meeting one of the dogs from Kane’s expedition and visiting Kane’s boat.


South Boston, 1860.

Dear Museum:—As it is about six months since I last wrote, I think it is time to “put in a word,” if for nothing else, to inform you I’m alive and kicking—foot-ball, or probably shall be, about Fast day. I’m decidedly in favor of physical culture, and carry it into practice by exercise in the gymnasia, boating, etc. By-the-way, C. F. W., call in at the Tremont Gymnasium, between 5 and 6 P. M., and you will probably find me there. Uncle Merry must have worked rather hard after the fire; for when I saw him some weeks after, he looked somewhat “worn out.” [ … ]

What a glorious renewal of the good old puzzling times we’re going to have! Sometimes we used to have as many as fifty puzzles in a single number! Think of that! Definitions forever, auntie. We know what can be done in that line, don’t we? But “I beg leave to disagree” with you in your reply to J. H. D. I should say decidedly, a bee was an animal. See “Worcester, Unabridged.” That command from Uncle Joe to “enumerate planets,” went a little too deep into astronomy for me. [ … ]


For President …. …. Robert Merry!

For Vice-President … Hiram Hatchet!!

For Commissioner of Patent (puzzles)s … … Aunt Sue!!

Yours in the bond of Union,
Oliver Onley.

[Editor: ] There’s a constitutional ticket for you! We will have a broad-axe for a platform, the Girls shall all vote, and, as we shall of course be elected, Oliver shall be secretary of state, Hawthorne our private secretary, Sybil minister to Italy, and Willie postmaster-general. Uncle Merry shall receive all his letters free, and we will have a sort of “Museum Homestead Bill” for all. We will also have the Pacific Railroad built through Oregon for the benefit of our friends there. [ … ]

foot-ball: In the 1860s the game was very much like soccer, though at Harvard it was played more like rugby. In the 1850s, the game often was part of freshman hazing at U. S. colleges. [David Levinson and Karen Christensen, ed. Encyclopedia of World Sport. Denver, Colorado: ABC-CLIO, 1996.]

Fast day: fourth Monday in April, observed in New England with prayers and fasting.

reply to J. H. D.: 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).

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


Strongville, March 10.

Dear Museum:—I have been a subscriber for some while, but have never written to the Museum. Dear cousins, I am a strong advocate of woman’s rights, that endless theme of praise, and I concur with Sybil Grey, that we are in danger of spoiling W. H. C. I never did take any part in the praises showered on him. Women are a great deal smarter than men, and girls a great deal smarter than boys. The lords of creation are getting so spoiled now-a-days, that they demand as a right what we bestow upon them as a favor. Now, I move we stop flattering their vanity by injudicious praise, and if they want anything to do, let them discuss the theme of woman’s rights. Willie, I do not mean to cast you utterly in the shade. But for fear you will get scared, I will stop.

Miss Ophelia Strong, of Strongville.

[Editor: ] You have made rather a strong case of it, “Miss Ophelia,” but Willie is able to answer for himself. We think it right that women should have their rights, but it is not right that they should have any rights which rightfully belong to the men.


Eolian Grove, April 9, 1860.

Knock! Knock! Here stands at the door of the Merry parlor a pale, shrinking, wee creature, asking for admission. Ever and anon comes to her eager and expectant ear the hum of a hundred voices—while

Like the gale that sighs along

Beds of Oriental flowers,”

sweep music’s witching strains, mingled with the

“Never weary beat of tiny little feet.”

List! there is a pause in the music—the last note is dying slowly away—now is the time to make my entrée. Heavens! what a glare from chandeliers; I am almost blinded. How strangely dissonant that rich peal of silvery laughter sounds to my ear! Mr. Hatchet, where are you? Yes! I see him now. I’ll approach him and, with my most graceful curtsy, make known my business.

“Good-evening! sir. Have you any objects to my becoming a member of the gay throng of cousins who monthly crowd your parlor?”

Remember, Uncle, the Scriptural injunction—“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares;” and I’m quite sure it would be verified in this instance.

I do believe he is muttering something about “behavior,” “usefulness,” “ingratitude,” etc. “Oh! sir, I will promise you to be on my best behavior; and when I am I’ll wager almost anything I’m unparalleled. And as to rendering myself useful generally, I can prepare an iced lemonade to suit your taste exactly, run for your meerschaum, and when you return home after the toils of the day, cross (?), dispirited, and wearied, I am mistress of a power which can exorcise those evil spirits, ‘dissolve care—sooth distraction and almost despair’—and that power is—Music.”

“Enough! you are, I believe, a right clever, useful little girl; so I’ll enter your name on my books, on six months’ probation. If you have not, at the expiration of that time, been—thunder and lightning! But—there’s a seat for you.”

Bravo! what a happy dénouement of this affair I have effected! A fine view I have of my fair and noble cousins! I’ll look around and see if I can recognize any.

What magnificent creature, I wonder, is that? “She is straight and slender as hazel twigs, and (I’m certain) sweeter than their kernels.” I am quite sure that must be Sybil Grey. And then that little fairy near, whose eyes are “deeply, darkly,” beautifully blue, with magnolia bloom, and wealth of sunny curls. Who can she be? Daisy Wildwood?

I guess I can steal a few furtive glances at the boys without Uncle Hi’s seeing me? My! I was not aware that he had so many “children of a larger growth[“] among his nephews. That young gentleman by the door has what I would call a striking face—gray eyes, large mouth, great breadth and airiness about the forehead. See! what earnestness and grace he displayed in flinging that “tumbledown lock” back—he’s a lawyer, take my word for it; aren’t you, Hawthorn? Beside him stands the “lion” of the evening, alias Mr. Willie H. Coleman. I’ll wait until after I have had an introduction. I wonder if he is a merchant; he appears as one.

But “I’ve stayed too long, forgive the crime,” Uncle Hi—and I had really forgotten my practicing. I will try and finish that air Anglais—“Home, sweet Home,” by Thalberg, before I return, so that I can play it for you. With kisses and love to you all, I’m off for “Eolian Grove” and the far, sunny South. While I send “back on the wings of the zephyrs” to

Each, to all, a fond good-night,

Pleasant dreams and slumbers light.

Variable-Eyed Josie.

“Like the gale that sighs along … “: Thomas Moore’s Irish Melodies, “On Music” (1807-1834) stanza 2, lines 9-12: “Like the gale, that sighs along/ Beds of oriental flowers,/ Is the grateful breath of song/ That once was heard in happier hours.” The Museum had reprinted this section as “What Fairylike Music” (Robert Merry’s Museum; September 1854).

“Be not forgetful … ”: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”: Bible, Hebrews 13:2.

“children of a larger growth”: John Dryden, All for Love (1678) act 4, scene 1: “Men are but children of a larger growth.”

“deeply, darkly”: George Gordon, Lord Byron, Don Juan (1818) canto 4, stanza 110, lines 1-2: “Oh! ‘darkly, deeply, beautifully blue,’/ As some one somewhere sings about the sky”; Byron is referring to “blue-stockings.”

“dissolve care … ”: John Armstrong, “The Art of Preserving Health” (1774) bk 4 lines 479-483:

There is a Charm, a Power, that sways the breast;

Bids every Passion revel or be still;

Inspires with Rage, or all your Cares dissolves;

Can sooth Distraction, and almost Despair.

That power is Music … ”

“Each, to all, a fond good-night”: Sir Walter Scott, “Marmion” (1808) canto 4, last lines: “To all, to each, a fair good night,/ And pleasing dreams, and slumbers light.”

“I’ve stayed too long … ”: William Robert Spencer, “To the Lady Anne Hamilton” (1835) lines 1-2: “Too late I staid, forgive the crime,/ Unheeded flew the hours.” 1860.2.26

“She is straight and slender … ”: William Shakespeare, “The Taming of the Shrew”, Act 2, scene 1, lines 247-249: “Kate like the hazel-twig/ Is straight and slender, and as brown in hue/ As hazel nuts and sweeter than the kernels.”

“Home, Sweet Home”: song with words by John Howard Payne and music by Henry Rowley Bishop (1822). The first line sums it up: “ ’Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,/ Be it ever so humble there’s no place like home!” The phrase “sweet, sweet home” appears in the chorus.

Sigismond Thalberg (1812-1872): pianist and composer who in 1856 toured the U. S. He composed many popular piano pieces, including variations on “Home, Sweet Home.”


Out West, Near the Place where the Sun Sets, May 8, 1860.

Dear Hawthorn:—I have often thought I would like to get acquainted and have a talk with you, but as our homes are widely separated, I had hitherto supposed the desire to be very unlikely to be gratified. But the thought just now popped into my head that perhaps it would reach you through the medium of the Chat. (That is not a forbidden word, is it, Master Willie?) The Yankee girls do not seem to be favorites with you; didn’t you have pickles for supper the day you penned that derogatory remark concerning them? But I am not a Yankee girl; they must fight their own battles. Candidly, now, if a glossy, ringletted, black-eyed maiden, or a golden-haired, blue-eyed darling stood before you, could you repeat that remark? But after all, Hawthorn dear (oh, what have I said!), would not a brown-haired Western girl, with a smiling look in her honest dark eyes, be your favorite? one who delights in riding, fishing, etc., but still is sufficiently civilized? I suppose I must not take up too much room, so I will sign myself your very good friend,


[from “A Time to Weep” (1860.2.20): ]

A year ago, the shadows of mourning fell deep and heavy on the hearts of the young, through all the borders of our land, when we announced the not unexpected death of Uncle Frank, so widely and warmly known and loved as the children’s friend. Another deep, dark shadow has fallen upon us. The sunshine of our opening summer is dimmed again. The season of reviving flowers and returning birds is overcast. There are tear-drops in the fresh-opened flowers, and a note of sorrow in the early bird-song, for the unexpected death of Peter Parley! Uncle Frank was so long and so hopelessly sick; he stood so long on the verge of the grave, looking down into the narrow home where we at last laid him, that, sad as was the duty, it was no surprise, when called to close the door upon him forever. But Peter Parley was still so seemingly hale and hearty, so fresh-looking and vigorous, though much older than Uncle Frank, that we were not prepared for the tidings of his death. It has come upon us suddenly and painfully. It touches not only the hearts of the now young, but of those who are young no longer, of those who, almost half a century ago, were the readers of Parley’s first story books, and the busy rummagers of Parley’s first magazines of juvenile literature. [ … ]


Brooklyn, Conn., June 5, 1860.

Well, Uncle. I have bid good-bye to New York and nastiness, municipal monkeries and metropolitan muddiness; and now luxuriate in the pure air, green fields, and fresh milk of this pleasant section of “goodlie Connecticut.” I wish you might look upon the noble avenue of ash and elm-trees, meeting my eyes at this moment, and stretching along the highway in all the pride of early summer. But pictures of country beauty would only excite longings that can not be gratified, in the minds of poor city folks, and I forbear.

Sad news came to us in May. Over the memory of beloved Peter Parley will be shed many and many a tear, not by children only, but by thousands standing in the prime of manhood and womanhood, who years ago passed unnumbered happy hours in reading the stories of the good old man. The Museum will ever hold in remembrance its founder and life-long friend. [ … ]

I feel honored, Sybil Grey, in that you have written my name under the skies of Italy. Though the owner may never breathe the balmy air of which you speak, he can feel that his name has floated upon its softness, and be content. It wouldn’t frighten me very much if you should take my hand “for better or worse.” Try it, and see.

I admire the “try-again” spirit of “Blue-Eyed Lora.” Seven times unsuccessful, yet persevering, to meet success on the eighth attempt. Uncle Hi, how could you “cut her out” so?

Hurrah for the “Union Ticket,” especially as I have a share of the spoils! If the Merrys don’t get their Museums promptly, after I enter upon the duties of my office, may I commit hari-kari!

Willie H. Coleman.

Blue-Eyed Lora: “I have essayed seven times to enter the Chat, but have not succeeded. That relentless ‘hatchet’ always descended upon my unfortunate productions and completely annihilated them.” (1860.1.188)


June 29, 1860.

Dear Uncles, Aunts, and Cousins:—It does seem some time since I spoke with you, but, Blue-Eyes, I have not been hidden in any place. I was just sitting still, listening to the rest. But you know they say a woman can’t be still very long, so I may be excused for breaking the silence. Don’t sharpen your hatchet, Uncle.

Am I a terror to Southerners, Hawthorne? I am sorry. I don’t see why I should be. I hoped some day to visit “the land of the ‘cypress and myrtle’ ” myself, but if I am a terror to the inhabitants, farewell to that hope.

Good, Oliver! You have done the Merry family an incalculable favor by giving them a ticket they can’t help voting. Among so many they might have felt bewildered, but you have set all right. [ … ]

Too bad? Of course it was, Daisy W. And I’ll not very soon forget it. Wouldn’t he feel bad if I’d pass him by some of these days? Or maybe he would commend me for it, calling it “returning good for evil.”

Aunt Sue, couldn’t you make one lot of puzzles, so easy we dull ones would stand some chance of winning your heart? Please. Don’t cut me off, Uncle, I’m done.

With much love to all,

“land of the ‘cypress and myrtle’ ”: George Gordon, Lord Byron, The Bride of Abydos (1813) canto 1, stanza 1, lines 1-4: “Know ye the land where the cypress and myrtle/ Are emblems of deeds that are done in their clime,/ Where the rage of the vulture—the love of the turtle—/ Now melt into sorrow—now madden to crime?”

Daisy W.: Commented on Black-Eyes’ disappointment that William Cutter had passed through Ohio without seeing her: “It was too bad, wasn’t it, Black-Eyes, for Uncle Hi to pass you by in that style?” (1860.1.123)

“returning good for evil”: Sir John Vanbrugh, “The Provoked Wife” (1697), act I, scene i, line 100: “Aye, but you know, we must return good for evil.”


Parensville, April 9.

Dear Uncle Merry:—I wrote to you a long time ago, and as I was not chopped in pieces, I venture again. I don’t know what has become of all the Merry family. Their letters are all dated a good while ago, and as I was afraid the Chat would flag, I thought I would come in to help enlighten the scene. I live in a kind of a country town, though by appearances it will not be so long, for they have torn down a good many stores and built new ones. They are now tearing down the old Franklin House, and it is expected that a splendid new hotel will be erected in its stead.

Your affectionate niece,
Ina Carey.


Pleasant Valley, June 20, 1860.

Dear Uncle Merry:—I take the liberty to call you Uncle, for I presume you are Uncle to all who take the Museum. I am six years old, and mamma said that if I would speak on the stage at our school exhibition, she would give me a gold dollar. I did speak, and here is the dollar, which I send you for the Museum this year; and mamma is going to give me one dollar more for not drinking tea or coffee this year, which I will send to you for the Museum next year.

Direct to your nephew,
Charlie Laird.

[Editor: ] What do you think of that boys?

You’d scarce expect one of his age

To speak in public on the stage,

Much less in speaking earn a dollar,

Though the example’s good for all to follow.

“You’d scarce expect … ”, David Everett, “Lines Spoken at a School Exhibition, By a Little Boy Seven Years Old”: “You’d scarce expect one of my age/ To speak in public on the stage.” The next lines beg indulgence for not being a Cicero or Demosthenes. The poem gained popularity after being published in Caleb Bingham’s Columbian Orator (Boston: Manning & Loring, 1797); it was one of the most popular pieces in American schools.


Brooklyn, State of Long Island, August 1st, 1860.

Hail! Uncle Hiram; hail! Aunt Sue, Uncle Joe, Aunt Kate, and the rest of the elders, if there are any more. Hail! all hail! ye Merry Chattering band, ye letter-writers, ye punsters, ye puzzle-makers and solvers, ye laughing crowd of jovial spirits, suffer me yet once again to claim my ancient place among you. Very well, I thank you; how are you all? Where have I been? At home, to be sure, and a few other places. I hope the world has wagged as well with you as it had with me during the more-than-a-year that I’ve been absent from the ranks. Do not treat me as a deserter; I have been with you in spirit if not by hand-of-write, and have faithfully “read, marked [if not learned], and inwardly digested” the monthly dish of Chat ever since my last assistance hereat. I suppose you have some right to know what I’ve been about all this time, so I’ll e’en inform you. Feeling rather hurt by Uncle H.’s frequent cuttings-up, I staid away from the table for a while, and in the mean time became involved in the management of a literary periodical, to which I had to devote what time and talents I possessed. Don’t be disturbed by this announcement, the periodical never appeared in print. (So you need not apply for back numbers.) Having staid away so long, I felt rather ashamed to come back, and had been mustering courage for a dash for months and months, until at last the August number came, and upon reading it the old-time feeling came over me so strongly that I could no longer refrain from inditing you an epistle forthwith. So much for explanation. There are not a few new cousins, I see, whose acquaintance I must straightway make. Sybil Grey, I can take no less than a cousinly kiss from you. Saucy Nell, ditto. Josie, variable as to the eyes, but very sharp too, ditto. Miss Ophelia, I’m a little afraid of you, but we’ll be good friends. Effie H., a kiss. Eva, likewise. A French one for you, Merrie Meg. Now, as to the gentlemen, I shall have to bow to them all at once, “promiscous.” Don’t feel neglected, new cousins, if having named some of you, I do not name all; the list would be too long. I herewith kiss you one and all, most affectionately—except the masculines—you will know me fast enough. I’ve been away so long, that everything and everybody seems “kind o’ mixed up.” Has Nip got back? Where’s Fleta? Off and got married, I dare say. Black and Blue Eyes, are you sisters-in law, or third cousins, or what? So Willie Coleman is nominated for President on the Old Gentleman’s ticket! Good; I hope I see him doing it! I nominate a Straight Merry-hatchet-ublican ticket, as follows:

For President, Aunt Sue.

For Vice-President, Uncle Hiram.

There’s a ticket that will sweep all before it. Yours renewedly, and for the straight ticket,



“City of Elms,” August, 1860.

Don’t imagine, dear Merries, because for so long you have heard nothing from your wild coz “ ’way down east” here, that she has voluntarily quit this sublunary sphere via the “jumping off place.” No, dear cousins, no! I have too much regard for your interests to leave you just yet. As Lucy justly remarks: “what could you all do without Fleta?” What, indeed! (Ahem!) To be sure, it is only occasionally that I am able, amid all the demands upon my time and attention, to bear down with a benign mss. upon the frightened worthies of the chair editorial, and trouble the still waters of the Chat; but

Who does the best his circumstance allows

Does well—acts nobly; angels could no more!”

Dear innocent Nellie Van, I see, kindly attributes my long silence to the devotion with which she supposes I have been applying myself to “household duties!” Pictured me, doubtless, with a handkerchief tied over my curls, and dress tucked up, scolding, dusting, sweeping, baking, sewing, etc., after the usual manner of a “fussy notable.” Ha, ha! that’s capital. I am afraid, Nellie, I did very little last winter towards making myself “useful as well as ornamental.” What with skating, sleighing, dancing, riding, driving, visiting, traveling, rusticating, etc., etc., ad infinitum, I have had little time and no opportunity to devote myself to these humble branches of education. But don’t be shocked, dear! I’m still in my “teens.” You’ll see how sober I’ll manage to be when I arrive at the dignity of “a score.” [ … ]

Bravo, Hawthorne! you have given your “candied opinion” like a true Southerner as you are. I like your honesty and plain-dealing; and in token of my amity and unqualified admiration, I hereby extend to you the digital extremity of my dexter arm and vow eternal peace. Shall we “make up” and “be friends,” coz? I anxiously await your reply. I wish Southerners in general (and a few in particular) had a little more of your common sense, Hawthorne; and would philosophically “forgive” our “extreme ignorance” and “stand on their dignity,” when the South or any of its peculiar institutions are assailed, instead of swelling up, putting on airs, and finally exploding, with a great deal of noise to very little effect. ’Pears to me your elbow might be used to very great advantage in your immediate vicinity, on the above subject.

Spare me, Lucy, I pray. I never could, would, or should shine bright enough to eclipse that scorching luminary, W. H. C. It is only when the latter is obscured that I tremblingly become visible,

As stars from absent suns have leave to shine,” etc.

Rival candidate!” “Poet Laureate!” Annette, how you astonish me! I write poetry, indeed! I never—wait, though—seems to me I do remember some few preposterous attempts in that line, long, long ago. One would think I had followed in the footsteps of Aunt Sue and perpetrated some monstrosity, like herpoem;” the following for instance:—

Upon the festal shore of a decrepid wood,

In dim and serfid thought a dactyl stood;

And near, with balmy mien, and lofty brow,

A serpent vowed a rash mercurial vow.

Awhile the dactyl sprang, invisible yet brave,

And tore the umbrageous crambo from his grave.

But up the azure meadow crept a strain;

And soon the fair Chuguilla poked her brain.

No zephyr politized the tuneful turf,

Nor crystal goblin sang the sumptuous surf—

But lone and grounded on an anxious zone

Zenita’s face with lustrous lucre shone.

“Think ye, nefandrous lovers, who complain,

A human javelin can not gnaw again!— [p. 90 ]

Think ye, ancestral top-knots, who declare

Ecstatic choirs symbolical of air!—

Think ye, tis so? Then, wanton ochre, die!”

The yclept spoke and raised his crest on high,

Spun thrice, and forth from wan hermetic bricks

A herring flew convulsed with gracious kicks,

And as he stumbled o’er the kneeling cane,

Sylvesta Gamma was herself again.

I hope no one is astonished—though I confess I am. I guess I’ll do after all—that is, if Aunt Sue can furnish me with another “aid to composition,” a hint or something to get me started again.

Yes, Uncle Hi, I see that hatchet—but take care how you use it. It’s a year and more since I last “spake,” and it’s uncertain how long it may be before I essay to do so again—therefore let me pass, and I will still remain your affectionate niece,

Fleta Forrester.

Lucy: Lucy, of Oregon: “How could we all do without Fleta? Indeed, even Bess, brilliant and spicy as she is, must yield the palm to her; and W. H. C., who has long occupied a high station in the Chat, is completely thrown into the shade.” (1860.1.188)

“Who does the best … ”: Edward Young, “Night Thoughts” (1742-1745) Night 2, line 90: “Thy purpose firm, is equal to the deed:/ Who does the best his circumstance allows,/ Does well, acts nobly; angels could no more.”

“As stars from absent suns … ”: Edward Young, “Night Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality: In Nine Nights” Night V (1743) lines 966-7: “Gold glitters most where Virtue shines no more,/ As stars from absent suns have leave to shine.”

“fussy notable”: “notable”, Oxford English Dictionary: “clever and industrious in household management and occupations”; thus used, the word was an adjective, as in “a notable woman.” Fleta’s use of the word as a noun seems to be unique; her phrase would probably mean “an industrious housekeeper extremely concerned with trifles.”

“Rival candidate!”: After another Cousin suggested that Samuel Wilson, jr, be “crowned poet laureate” for his poem (1860.1.124; for the poem, see 1860.1.60a), Annette nominated Fleta Forrester “as a rival candidate.” (1860.2.60)

“Sylvester Gamma is herself again”: parody of Colley Cibber, Richard III (1700) act v, sc. 5, line 85: “Conscience, avant; Richard’s himself again!”


Oh, yes! Mr. Museum and Cabinet man. Here is the dollar, sign this bill, and send it back in the next number.

My boy may think that he is most too large to read your little paper, but his father is not, and some of his sisters are not. You know that at a certain time of life when boys are a little more than boys, and scarcely yet men, they are curious beings. But let nobody be discouraged. Here is a “shallow place” in human life, over which nearly all need to pass, and then there is “tall water” for the rest of the journey. Oh, how many are wrecked in passing the shoal of “Teens!” Editors as well as others ought to obey the Scriptures. “Run and speak to that young man!

Glad to see that you have now and then an article adapted to the wants of such. * * *

Wishing you all the prosperity that you so justly deserve, and more than you probably receive, I am yours,

G. L. F.

“Run and speak to that young man”: Bible, Zechariah 2:4, one angel speaks to another: “And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man … ”


Oak Hill, 1860.

Dear Aunt Sue:—I have taken the Museum three years, and have not written to you once, but I hope you will excuse me, for I will try and atone for it now. I am so glad you are to have a puzzle-drawer all to yourself. In a little paper I saw the following riddle, and as two heads are better than one, perhaps the cousins may find the answer:

“A hero, undaunted, mighty, and bold,

Built him a city founded of old;

The people of which, strange to say,

Never lived in it for one single day,

But rather chose on the outside to dwell—

What city was it, I pray you tell?”

Mrs. Black-Eyes, please solve it. I think that “Dilemma,” in February, 1860, the funniest little story I ever read. Give my love to the lady cousins, and tell Fleta Forrester I long for a romp with her. Is she as wild as her name denotes? We have a little baby not two months old yet; it is a cunning little thing. The mountains are teeming with beautiful flowers and every variety of azalias. I wish you could see them. If you should come to Virginia, do not forget to pay a visit to your affectionate niece. Give my love to uncles Hi and Merry.


“Dilemma” (Robert Merry’s Museum; February 1860): Henry Usher not only learns what “dilemma” means, but dramatizes it in two examples.

[from “Aunt Sue’s Puzzle Drawer” (1860.2.96): ]

Bess.—Did you ever hear the story of the little girl who was christened “Moses?” Well, I can’t tell it here—but I do not miss-trust thee, Bess, else dost thou employ amanuenses?


Brooklyn, Conn., Sept. 6, 1860.

Dear Uncle:—Welcome to the old friends who dropped in last month. I hope we shall see a few more in October. I am right glad to know that “Sylvester Gamma is herself again,” and trust she’ll stay so.

Let us throw up our caps for the “milking machine”—we milkers. I milk, Uncle. Did you know it? Yes, sir, and I have been knocked over while doing it, more than once, and this very moment I bear on my dexter ankle the marks of a hoof which young “Whiteface,” in an agitated moment, placed thereon and kept there for the space of [p. 122 ] thirty seconds, less or more. I am interested in that machine. Is it true that somebody has improved on it by using the cow’s tail as a motive power, so that she can do her own milking; and likewise by means of a treadmill enabling her to churn her own butter? I hope so.

W. H. Coleman.

[Editor: ] Friend W. H. C., besides the above, gives a thrust at Aunt Sue, which we pass over to her, as we are afraid of the consequences, if the affair should be made public.

milking machine: L. O. Colvin patented an “improved” milking machine which “imitate[d] the natural action of the calf in a very perfect manner,” in May, 1860. [“Improved Cow-Milker.” Scientific American, 58 (2 July 1860): 4.]


Brooklyn, Sept. 4, ’60.

Dear Uncle Whoeveropensthis:—Your kind reception of your long errant niece was truly quite melting. To be met with such an affectionate welcome, with outstretched arms and “uplifted hand,” instead of the scolding which I half expected and perhaps deserved for keeping away so long—it went straight to my heart; as I said, it quite melted me. All my old love for my uncles and aunts and twenty thousand and odd cousins [p. 123 ] “came surging o’er me like a flood,” nor has the tide ebbed yet, nor shall it.

But what means Aunt Sue by her darkly miss-terious hints? No, Auntie, I haven’t heard that story; I wish you would tell it. Neither do I employ amanuenses; I do my own scribbling.

I do insist on my motion nominating A. S. for President, and, moreover, I think she would make a much better one than Mr. W. H. C.

Fleta, I’m delighted to see you; but what’s the matter? haven’t had brain-fever lately, have you?

Do, dear Uncle, persuade our Southern cousins to be a little less exclusive, can’t you?

Yours, for peace, concord, and amity, and the success of the “straight ticket.”



Dear Uncle Merry:—I am now sojourning at Rose Villa, being a relation of Lizzie’s. We are both lovers of the Museum, and we thought we could not employ ourselves better this warm summer evening than writing to Uncle Merry. I have been taking the Museum five or six years, and I like it better every month, for I think the cousins are more interested in the Chat than they formerly were. I had the pleasure of seeing Miss Ophelia Strong a few days since. She is not so great a stickler for “women’s rights” as she pretends to be.

Your niece,


Altior Place, Aug. 23, ’60.

Mr. Merry—Dear Sir: Have you room for an Emily in your Chat? [I]f you have, please accept my subscription fee, and send me your merry little Museum. I have an idea that I belong to the Merry family, being of rather a merry disposition, and I should like (an’ it please you) to have my claim acknowledged.

[By all means, Em. You are one of us.—H. H.]

I hail from the merry green woods and pine covered hills of Louisiana, about three hours’ ride in the cars from the Crescent City, from which place we removed about six months ago.

[I am well acquainted with Louisa Anna, having made her a visit some years ago. May I come again?—H. H.]

My home, though in the “piney woods,” is surrounded by oaks, hickories, dogwoods, and a variety of other trees, and along the banks of the adjacent river, Tangipaho, in all its pride and glory stands the regal magnolia, wrapt in its dark and shining shroud of living green, and from April to June covered with rich white flowers as large as your head, Mr. Merry.

Your merry niece,
Emily J. Hyer.

[from “Aunt Sue’s Puzzle Drawer”: ]

Bess.— ! - - —; - - - .? (— !)—,. .!! .. ?!!! 137.!!! (1860.2.128)


Gouverneur, September 12, 1860.

Dear Friends of the Chat:—I hope “there still is room,” as they say in an omnibus, so I introduce myself to the twenty thousand, and as this is my first letter, shall beg of the proprietor of that “awful hatchet”—spare! O! spare me once!

I have taken the Museum ever since I can remember; and as I am now but ten years old, you may guess how long that is. My father took it for his younger brothers and sisters; then he married, and went to house-keeping, but still took the Museum for mamma’s favorite cat—a wonderful specimen of the feline race—of which I shall some time tell you.

I have a brother younger, but larger than I, and a little two-year-old sister, of which we are very fond, although she smashes up our books and playthings without mercy, and then calls out—“Nennie took at tare.”

I enjoy the Chat very much, and send some answers to the puzzles.

Why are the cousins so jealous of Willie Coleman? I like him; and if he aint out of market when I get in, and “Sybil” don’t accept, he may entertain some hopes in this direction.

Help! there comes that instrument of destruction!

Yours with love and much haste,
Jeannie Parker.

brother: Cornelius Arther Parker (born 1851)

sister: Sara H. A. Parker (born 1858)


September 21, 1860.

Dear Sir:—Having been for a long time a silent admirer of the Chat, or its contributors, functionaries included, of course—I can’t resist the impulse to make myself, with your permission, one of the number. I think you may truly be said to have the largest correspondence in the land. Aren’t you very much attached to some of them? Please tell Annie Drummond that I gave all the back numbers of this year’s Museum a most careful scrutiny, in order to ascertain “Busy Bee’s” age, but without success. I was anxious to know if hers (Annie’s) exceeded mine. By the way, was “B. B.” nine?

I wish you could have the portraits of the principal Chatterers hung up in your sanctum; how I would hasten to go to see them. I have learned to love them all, as old acquaintances. I see that another star has been added to your number, lately; I refer to “V.-E. Josie.” Her letter was very entertaining; don’t you think so? Tell Hawthorne I am very sorry he dislikes Northern girls, I myself being one of that species. I am sure I like the South. I [p. 156 ] have relatives there, and would like to settle there myself, but I am sure I see no prospect of it, if they are all like “H.”

I think “Sybil Grey” ought to feel highly honored by the proposal made her, by our “bright particular star.” I would “try it, and see,” if I were she. I admire his style of popping the question.

While I am writing, my baby brother, of sixteen months, is sitting in the cradle, coaxing me to play with him. He is the sweetest, prettiest, cunningest little fellow in the world. Indeed, he is said to resemble me, and, of course, such lovable qualities would naturally be his. There! he has bumped his head, playing bo-peep with me. Won’t somebody send him a kiss?

Well, I hear you exclaim, that was a fortunate bump, and no mistake—it has freed me from such a customer; but I’ll forgive you. With love to Aunt Sue, and all the cousins, I remain, yours with respect,

Nell of B.

“bright particular star”: William Shakespeare, “All’s Well That Ends Well” (1602-1604) act 1, sc 1, lines 96-98: “ … ’Twere all one/ That I should love a bright particular star/ And think to wed it, he is so above me.”


Memphis, Tenn., Aug., 1860.

Dear Uncle Hiram:—Having read so much about you in the Museum, I feel a strong desire of becoming a little more acquainted with you, and through you, with the dear chatter-boxes who contribute so much to our entertainment.

I have been a reader of the Museum for several years, and have derived considerable pleasure I know, and some profit I hope, from its pages. When I read of the death of Uncle Frank, I thought how sad many a fireside would be rendered at its announcement, and how his cheerful presence would be missed, as the Museum made its accustomed appearance without him. And when, a short time after, we were called upon to mourn the departure from our midst of Peter Parley—Peter Parley!—whose name was synonymous with goodness and usefulness—I thought that his place would remain a blank forever. He had become endeared to me through so many of his works, that I felt as though I had lost a dear friend and a kind counselor. But though he is dead, he still liveth in his works, and can look down from above upon the good results of his labors below.

The Museum has undergone many changes since its birth, and the older it grows, the more instructive and entertaining it becomes. May its star never cease to twinkle in the literary skies!

Your hatchet, dear Uncle Hiram, reminds me somewhat of the guillotine; with this difference, that instead of depriving folks of their heads, it cuts short the labors of those ornamental top-knots; and having, as I must confess, a decided aversion to being operated upon by such sharp-cutting instruments, I think I had better cry whoa! and dismount from my epistolary steed—remaining as ever,

Yours and the Museum’s,


Fairwater, Oct. 10, 1860.

Dear Aunt Sue:—When we received the Museum for October, I felt as though I must write and beg your acceptance of my thanks and love in return for your kind remembrance of me. Strangers we are in one sense, but you greet us all so pleasantly through the columns of the Museum, and make the cousins feel so much at home, that we (I speak now for our family) already cherish the warmest feelings of affection and love for you, our dear Aunt Sue.

I have many cares, and time does not drag heavily with me, but flies swiftly on wings, and I must improve its precious [p. 183 ] moments, in commencing and finishing what my hands find to do. Perhaps you have already surmised that I am not one of the single cousins. To be frank with you, I am not, and I have gathered some little “olive branches” which I must trim and prune, as well as I have the gift for so doing. If I do not send the answers to puzzles every month, do not think that we are losing our interest in the Museum, for that could scarcely be possible.

I succeeded in solving many of the puzzles in the August and September numbers, and now in the October number I “reckon Aunt Sue to be smart,” and am sure we all “possess a name.” I can repeat, “Oh, death, the poor man’s dearest friend,” and know that “Carlow is a town,” and so forth. I have written this in haste, and intended to be brief, though perhaps I have now trespassed too much upon your time.

Your affectionate niece,
Bella B.

“your kind remembrance”: Aunt Sue sent her love to Bella, among others, at the end of her column. (1860.2.128)

“reckon Aunt Sue to be smart: puzzle by Lillie Harrison (1860.2.126)

“name”: by A. de L. (1860.2.126)

“Oh, death, the poor man’s dearest friend”: by Orange Street (1860.2.126)

“Carlow”: by Robert H. Loughridge (1860.2.126)

a flourish

How to use this book

1840s: 184118421843184418451846184718481849

1850s: 1850185118521853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 1860 • 186118621863186418651866186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

About the Merry Cousins


Index & gloss


The Cousins’ Greatest Hits

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