Dear Friend Robert Merry: Letters from nineteenth-century children

How to use this book

1840s: 184118421843184418451846184718481849

1850s: 1850185118521853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 186018611862186318641865 • 1866 • 186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

About the Merry Cousins


Index & gloss


The Cousins’ Greatest Hits


[The Merry Convention was described in the February issue, by In the Corner (1866.1.57-58): ]

The Cousins assembled quite early. It was really agreeable to see the many pleasant surprises, to shake by the hand those with whom one was acquainted but had never met, to see so many “strange familiar faces.”

One after another the Cousins came in, till there was, as one might say, a Merry crowd. At last, after we were all introduced, and had performed considerable music with the lower part of our faces, Uncle Merry, the Head Center, and Aunt Sue, the Heart Center, of the Museum Senate, with Uncle William, arrived on the scene. This was the signal for opening the ball. Jasper called the meeting to order, and Uncle Merry nominated Uncle William as chairman, who was unanimously elected. This gentleman appeared rather bashful, so a committee of six ladies was appointed, who escorted him to the chair. [ … ] [p. 58 ]

Aunt Sue was then elected chairwoman, to keep the chairman straight.

Jasper was elected secretary; and as this gentleman also seemed rather weak in the knees, a committee of eight ladies was appointed, who didn’t escort him.

The Secretary read letters of regret from Cousins W. A. R., Jolly Jingle, Nell of B., A. N., Pertine, Tommy, and Cousin Jennie, who were greatly pitied by those present on account of not being able to participate in the pleasures of the evening.

[ … ] Many other things were said and done, too numerous to mention—for particulars inquire of those who were there. [ … ]


Troy, Dec. 25, ’65. Time—Midnight.

Coz Jasper:

The fun is over, lights are shed—

I’d be in clover were I in bed,

But must stay up to wail.

Alas! that human expectations should be so frail, and that the good things of life should not be shared by all—I—even I—W. A. R.—chief among 20,000, and the one altogether lovely, can not come.

I think I see you now in your loveliness and comfort, shaking hands with all the boy Cousins and squeezing the hands of the damsels; it’s a good thing I’m not one of the committee of disarrangements, or the foregoing of such said squeezing, and gazing into the liquid depths of sunny eyes, would send me to bed instanter, there to forget my disappointments, by lying awake an hour or two.

But to speak soberly—which I can do sometimes—when I became a Merry Coz, at the suggestion of my late friend, H. A. Danker, I had no idea of the pleasure and wealth of friendship to be derived from it—it is one of those bright spots in my life that can never grow dim. Even as I love the scenes of my boyhood and the happy hours spent with those good old books, Parley’s Magazine and Merry’s Museum—so in my old age I love the Chat and my Merry Correspondence. True, there’s much in it which is light and airy—windy, I should say; for instance, see my confusions; but with some our cousinly acquaintance has ripened into friendship; think of this, all ye people! old and young, from all parts of our country, connected in the bonds of friendship, for only one [p. 59 ] dollar and a half per year, postage stamps extra.

It grieves me much at this time to be unable to meet you, as there will be some present for whom I’ve a more than cousinly regard, and from whom I’ve received many words; still, I’ve no doubt, they, like the grave-digger who said he’d bury his best friend for a dollar, would sell me at the first opportunity.

Also, this being the first gathering of the kind, it’s a glorious opportunity to render the Merry Association a settled, progressive institution by a complete organization, with the usual red-tape arrangements attendant to all great bodies. Above all, don’t let this be the last meeting of this kind, even should most of the Cousins follow my illustrious example and stay at home. There’s another day coming, and as I’ve no particular spite against the company, I’m insured in hoping my absence will not cause any of the fair Cousins to weep. I am yours for a Convention next year.

Your sleepy Coz,
W. A. R.


Brooklyn, O., Dec. 19, 1865.

Dear Uncles and Cousins:—How I would like to be with you at your Merry gathering next week! but we far-off Cousins must content ourselves with a report of your proceedings. What hearty hand-shaking, surprised glances, friendly chatting and smiling there will be among you! Pray do not forget those of us who are with you but in spirit. Let the names of those who have passed from our happy circle to their long home be tenderly spoken; and fail not to give all honor to those brave boys who are spared to return to their homes and enjoy once more the blessings of peace. I am sure that your meeting will be one of profit and enjoyment to all. I think that Tennesseean is slightly mistaken as to my being unwilling to “make friends” with him. That his present principles should be right and just is all that I ask. I am glad that he “has quit everything disloyal,” for that, and that only, would place him on my list of friends. Thanks to Sigma for his hearty greeting, and many good wishes for the happiness and prosperity of all.

Yours truly,
Cousin Jennie.


Dear Folks:—Pardon my audacity in coming again so soon, but the Chat has charms for me that I can not resist. [ … ]

Cousin Jennie, you deserve the ferule. For shame!

Snowbird sends all her love. Good-bye, folks.

Cousin May.


St. Clairsville, O., Dec. 18, 1865.

Dear Uncle Robert:—Many years ago, a little child, I used to look eagerly for the coming of the Museum. Older now, I believe I feel even more interest in it than ever, and I see a remembrancer of my own childish interest in its pages, in the eyes of my two little girls who now claim the Museum as theirs. I hope you may be allowed to interest them as long as you have me—twenty years.

It is a long while since I looked in at Chat time, and I feel almost a stranger. So many changes—some gone forever—many new faces.

Pertine, where are you? Please drop me a word of information. I will thank you much for it.




To all whom it may concern: Down with the manipulator!—the one “thorn in the flesh” in our Merry body politic! Let all who have suffered from its inflictions join me in a crusade against it! I had an oration duly prepared to deliver to the Convention, faithfully portraying its enormities, but was prevented from attending by various reasons, the principal one being the distance. Now in my few remarks to my belligerent little Cousin Jennie, I was, as I thought, excruciatingly meek; but the manipulator made me so very humble and contrite that I didn’t “know myself.” And this was not by alteration at all, but by omission, a clear case of “suppressio veri,” for which I am guiltless! I take the hint, however. I am not to “ ’spress my ’pinions” so publicly; I submit—I am resigned even to the castigations I have so unmercifully received (privately) for [p. 91 ] “desertion of my cause,” “treachery to my friends,” etc., etc. I should like to reason the matter with Cousin Jennie—will she write to me, or give her address that I may write to her?

Cupid, are you offended? If so, I will hang myself, for I would deserve it for making such a return for kindness.

I wish all a happy New Year, and hope all of us will grow wiser and better this year, except Aunt Sue, who became “best” long ago, and so can’t improve.


the manipulator: imaginary object which cut letters to the Merry Chat. Early in the Museum’s history, an imaginary hatchet shortened letters printed in the Chat; in 1862 the editors spoke of using the hatchet, some shears, and “a pruning-hook and a hydraulic press”, the latter producing synopses of letters, called “Extracted Essences.” In 1863, the “double-back-action-high-pressure-condensatory-manipulator” was introduced; it was quite noisy, going, “Kerr-clickety-crunch—kerr-clickety-crunch.” (1863.1.120).

thorn in the flesh: Bible, 1 Corinthians 12:7: “And lest I should be exalted above measure … there was given to me a thorn in the flesh … ”

suppressio veri: “the suppression of the truth,” a legal term


Ind. Orph. Inst., Feb. 19, 1866.

Dear Uncle Merry:—The Indian girls with me welcome the Museum. They were much interested in “Elva,” and it would have done you good to peep into their sitting-room and see them, sewing in hand, clustered around their teacher while she read it to them.

I very much enjoy your interesting “Chat,” and as you seem to have no one from among the Indians in your circle since Cousin Sallie’s death, if the manipulator and hatchet do not between them cut me to pieces, I shall hope for a snug little corner.

With much love to all the Cousins, and hoping that I may be admitted to their Merry circle, I remain,

Your Ingin Coz,

[Editor: ] You are right about the expression referred to, though no harm was intended.

Indian Orphan Institute: also, “the Orphan Indian Institute.” In 1846, a boarding school was opened at the Presbyterian mission for the Iowa, Sac, and Fox nations. By 1851, the school—near what is now Highland, Kansas, in the northeastern part of the state—had attracted students from several Native American nations. Several were orphans. When the Iowa and Sac were removed to a new reservation, the school became the Orphan Indian Institute, with about 40 students. It closed in 1867, after the U. S. government withdrew support. [Clifford Merrill Drury. Presbyterian Panorama. Philadelphia: Board of Christian Education, 1952; pp. 142-144.]

“Elva”: “Elva Seeking Her Fortune,” by “Sophie May” (Rebecca Clarke; Robert Merry’s Museum; 1865). Unhappy with her adoptive parents, Elva romanticizes her biological parents and runs away to Boston to find them. Instead, she is robbed and must work as a drudge before being rescued.

“Ingin coz”: a phrase which may have appeared in a letter accompanying the copies sent to the School; it did not appear in the Museum.

[In the May issue, John N. Stearns made an announcement (1866.1.125): ]

With this number of the Museum my connection as Publisher ceases, and it will hereafter be published by Eugene H. Fales, Esq.

For fifteen years I have been connected with it, and have had an intimate personal acquaintance with very many of the subscribers, and have felt acquainted with all, though I have never seen them. The connection has been a very pleasant one, and it is with much reluctance and pain that I now relinquish the business part of the Museum. It is not, however, like giving it into new hands. Mr. Fales became connected with the business part of the Museum in the year 1857, and has been with me ever since, with the exception of his services in the army. He knows the entire business of the Museum, and is acquainted with many of the Merry family who have had dealings with the office and the Sanctum.

The subscription list and back debts are now his property, and all business letters and remittances should be addressed to him.

My connection with the Museum, however, will not cease. It will be edited as before, with some additional new writers. Robert Merry will not desert his post, but will be happy to welcome all the Merry family around the table in the Monthly Chat and greet them in the Sanctum. [ … ]


Brooklyn, O., April 9, 1866.

Dear Merrys:—Please make room for me again in your happy circle, which has such an irresistible attraction for so many of us. Uncle Merry, we are very thankful that you are not going to leave the editorial chair—we should be lost without you there. Our friend Eugene may be assured that I extend to him a welcoming hand, and that he has my best wishes for his success. I do not forget that he has nobly defended our homes. [ … ]

But who is this Cousin May, that grandly informs me that I deserve the ferule. Ha! ha! it would be a joke to see my humble self getting feruled. Pray who is to administer the castigation?

Tennesseean [sic], I suppose this was suggested in your behalf, and perhaps the performance will devolve upon you. How do you like the idea of feruling a Yankee girl? Shall I hold out my hand? Mind you, only “make believe” strike, for if you don’t, your “little” Cousin will get belligerent sure enough, and never a word will she “reason the matter” with her Southern brother. But good-bye all, for I am sure the manipulator is coming.

Yours truly,
Cousin Jennie.


Little brother Fred is three years old; and although he thinks himself quite a man, he is extremely afraid of hoppy-toads, and all kinds of bugs and worms. He came running in from play the other day, in great alarm, with the exclamation that there was a “caterbug” on him.

The same little fellow amused us greatly one day last winter as he stood at the window watching the descent of the first snow of the season by repeating to himself, “Oh, the pretty white rain! oh, the pretty white rain!” It was one of those bright, original thoughts of childhood.

Cousins May and Delia, I had rather hear from you first.

Edith, thanks for the compliment, and come with me while I present you to Sans Souci, Violet Forest, and Kate M. The latter I know you would like, if she would but come often enough to let you see.

“Cis,” have you become an “ocean rover,” or grown weary of the gossip, that you are so long absent?

As ever,
Addie W.

Edith: “Addie W., I like your letters very much; please introduce me to some of the Cousins.” (1866.2.29)

a flourish

How to use this book

1840s: 184118421843184418451846184718481849

1850s: 1850185118521853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 186018611862186318641865 • 1866 • 186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

About the Merry Cousins


Index & gloss


The Cousins’ Greatest Hits

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