Harper's new monthly magazine. Nov 1860. Volume 21, Issue 126, pp. 745-764
Summer in New England, Third Paper, by D. H. Strother:
A SUMMER IN NEW ENGLAND.
ILLUSTRATED BY PORTE CRAYON.
It is an Ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three:
“By thy long gray heard and glittering eye
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me ?”
* * * * * *
He holds him with his skinny hand: —
“There was a ship,” quoth he.
On entering the harbor of Nantucket one is impressed on every hand by the signs of decadence. A few battered and dismantled hulks of whale ships sleep alongside the lethargic old wharves; quiet, listless seeming people saunter about with an aimless air very uncommon in New England; grass grown streets and dingy warehouses all combine to complete the picture of departed glory.—No, not of departed glory: I mean, simply, “of decadent commercial prosperity;” for the fame of Nantucket is historic, and the glory of having given birth to the boldest and most enterprising mariners that ever furrowed the seas is hers, imperishable and forever.
Of all the attributes of man that which should always command our most unreserved regard is simple manhood; and I must confess that, when I entered the precincts of this island-city, I experienced very much the same sort of feeling as when for the first time I passed the gates of Imperial Rome. Here, I thought, are the familiar haunts of men who have hunted over the aqueous globe and despoiled the deep of its living wealth, who have striven face to face with mighty leviathans and driven them from sea to sea, and from pole to pole, smiting and destroying, enriching commerce, illuminating the darkness of the world. Before Nantucket we had pine knots and tallow; since Nantucket we have camphene and kerosene: representatives of lusty barbarism and an overstrained and diseased civilization. For the golden age of reason, the true and healthful light of convenience and common sense, commend me to the days of the great Physeter macrocephalus.
A rapid sail over salt-water, if it does not prove an emetic, is a famous stomachic tonic; and so we made no unreasonable delay sentimentalizing over the homes of the Vikings, but made our way to the Ocean House, where we dined and reposed. Later in the afternoon we went a strolling at our leisure to see whatever was to be seen. The town of Nantucket contains near seven thousand inhabitants, and in its general features resembles New Bedford, being at the same time smaller, older, more quiet, and less wealthy. Of her ancient mariners, indeed, we saw few; but their wives and children seemed numerous enough. One can not but remark the great preponderance of women and children in the visible population of the place; and this circumstance gives to the streets and thoroughfares in the interior of the town a more cheerful and home-like air. Inquiring for the cause of this disparity in the sexes, your response is found in the old song of The Sea:
" The sea has one and all,
Fathers, brothers, sons, and lovers."
In addition, a few years since, the California fever swept the island with a virulence more fatal than war and pestilence combined. It is estimated that Nantucket lost some six or eight hundred men by that epidemic. At night there was music in the Public Place, and observing the crowd collected to hear it, I judged that at least four-fifths were women. As the morning after our arrival was delightfully fair and fresh, we, by the advice of an acquaintance at the hotel, determined to drive over to Siasconsett, the Newport of the Nantuckoise. Our buggy appeared like all the other craft we saw, a little the worse for time and use; but by the judicious adaptation of some straps, buckles, and a silk handkerchief, we managed to make her sea-worthy—sand-worthy I should have said, for having cleared the town we found our road a plain track of loose sand, through an open country, scantily clothed with grass, weeds, and low shrubs, and totally destitute both of trees and inclosures. Some browsing cattle, sheep, and horses—to say nothing of sand-flies—gave life to this dreary landscape; and several lonely and poor-looking farm-houses in the distance showed that agriculture was not altogether ignored.
A drive of eight miles brought us to Siasconsett, situated on the southeast part of the island. The old town, which resembles a group of hen-houses, about fifty in number and compactly built, occupies a level grass-plot, immediately on the brink of a sand cliff facing the open ocean. Formerly the cod fishery was actively prosecuted here; but of late years the trade has dwindled into insignificance, and consequently the place retains but a very small permanent population. In recompense, it has become a favorite summer resort for the town folks and strangers who visit the country. For the accommodation of these seekers of health and relaxation a new suburb has arisen which totally eclipses the fishing hamlet in size and appearance. There are a number of pretty private cottages and a neat hotel, none of which, however, were occupied at the time of our visit.
As we saw no one of whom to inquire concerning the premises, we drove on slowly until the road seemed to run out; and we turned into a narrow grass-covered way, which, like the streets of Genoa, seemed to have been laid off without any reference to horses and carriages. Dick remarked that we would get tangled up among these blasted turkey-houses, and would not be able to get out without driving over some of them. I persevered, notwithstanding, until we were presently brought up against the village pump. Our shouts opened the door of a tenement near at hand, from whence an old cripple issued, and, shuffling toward us with great eagerness, offered to take our horse. We yielded the reins readily, and inquired if there was a house of entertainment in the place.
“Certainly,” said he; “jist you go in there (indicating the low door from which he had sallied), and Mistress Cary will entertain you as nice as need be.”
We entered and found ourselves in a cuddy, measuring about eight by ten, which, in addition to its capacity as public reception room of the hotel, seemed to serve also as a general storehouse of groceries, provisions, and fancy goods of varied character. By a cursory glance I was enabled to inventory a portion of the contents, as follows: Dried codfish, bottled beer, sugar-candy, fishing lines and books, eggs, whisky, ginger-cakes, opodeldoc, pork, cigars, cheese, Radway’s Ready Relief, tobacco, ship biscuit, Pain Killer, jack-knives, lucifer-matches, and jewelry.
The prospect was not so bad. The house was well provisioned at least; as tidy as could be expected under the circumstances; and, besides, the most delicate olfactories could not have detected the slightest smell of any kind, except dried codfish: but if folks are squeamish on this or other subjects, they had better stay at home, and be content to do their traveling through Harper’s Magazine. As no one appeared to receive us, Dick thumped upon the glass case that contained the fancy goods, jewelry, and ginger-cakes, and forthwith from a side door entered a little old woman with a mothery vinegar aspect, who saluted us sharply with,
“Well, what have ye got to sell ?“
“Nothing at all,” replied Dick, depositing upon a chair the knapsack which contained our baggage.
“Then,” quoth she, “take your traps and tramp.”
“Madam,” said I, with mildness, yet assuming some dignity of manner, “we are strangers who have come a-pleasuring to this famous place, and have been informed that you could entertain us for the day, perhaps.”
“Oh, that’s it, is it? That’s quite another thing. Set down, Sirs, and rest yourselves, and we’ll see what we can do for you”
The old woman looked mollified; but to remove the disadvantageous impression that we were pedestrians, I continued,
“Our horse and carriage, Madam, has been attended to by your husband.”
“My husband !“ exclaimed Mother Cary. “My husband ?“
“Madam, I allude to the lame gentleman who took our horse and promised to have him fed.”
Our hostess stood for a moment speechless, as if undecided whether she should put me to death à la basilisk, or annihilate me with a package of codfish which lay near at hand. At length she shrieked out, like an angered sea-gull,
“My husband, did you say? gentleman, did you call him ?—that creature that I hired from the alms-house to attend to people’s horses! I guess your eyesight is not very good, Sir, or you must be strangers in this country. I am Mistress Elizabeth Cary, at your service. My husband! faugh! I thank God I’m not that low yet!”
And in high disdain she flounced out of the room.
“Cousin Bob,” said Dick, in a cautious whisper, “I think it quite lucky for the poor old hostler that he is only her hireling.”
“True, Dick. Old, a cripple, and a pauper— yet he is not her husband. God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.”
Presently Mother Cary re-entered, clothed in calm dignity and severe politeness, with the addition of a high white turban and a glistering black silk gown.
We bowed until our heads nearly touched the floor. “Madam,” I said, “excuse the absurd and awkward mistake I made just now.”
“It’s of no consequence,” she answered, with the slightest trace of acrimony. “I mistook you for a couple of gimcrack peddlers; but it seems neither of us was very sharp-sighted. I hope we’ll get better acquainted. What’s your orders ?
“Having ascertained that we could procure a fishing-boat, the hostler was sent to call the boatman, and we proceeded to order liberally; bottles of porter, ship biscuit, cheese, boiled eggs, and divers articles of fishing tackle, until our bill amounted to a round sum. The clink of the solid coin upon the counter effectually smoothed the wrinkles from the amiable mother’s countenance, and just then the boatman entered, accompanied by an assistant.
Bluefishing was to be the sport, and the big boat was to be launched. Where every body is willing, arrangements are soon made. Our boatman's name was Coffin too, and to sail in company with one of the Coffins of Nantucket is something for a landsman; consequently drinks were proposed. In a twinkling Madam produced a bottle of her best whisky—I don’t drink whisky myself, but shammed for politeness’ sake; but Dick, who scorns all humbug in such matters, pronounced the liquor good, ordered a repetition, and pressed a glass on our worthy hostess.
By this time she had become radiant.
“I like to deal with liberal-minded, polite gentlemen,” quoth she.
“Then,” said Dick, “your visitors during the summer are not always, of that stamp ?“
“I guess not,” she replied, with a scornful toss. “Why, there are people that come here who would spend the day skinning a clam rather than pay five cents for a good dinner.”
“It’s abominable that people should be so stingy,” cried Dick, slapping the old woman on the back.
She returned the salute with a confidential poke in the ribs. “To be sure, young man, they’re your half-cut people—trash; but for a gentleman, I can tell one as far as I can see him.”
Dick helped Mother Cary a second time.
“Young man,” quoth she, “I don’t know where you came from nor who you are, but it’s plain to see you’ve been bred a gentleman.”
“Come,” said I, “the bluefish are waiting for us; let’s be off.” And so we started for the beach.
“I wish ye good sport, gentlemen,” screeched Mother Cary. “Your horse shall be well attended to, and any thing I have in the house is at your service."
With the assistance of half a dozen fishermen the sail-boat was launched, and we started on our cruise. Unfortunately for our anticipated sport, the breeze failed us entirely. To remedy this we tried the oars; but so stout a craft, with but two oarsmen, made so little progress that we were obliged to abandon the hope of trailing, and forced to adopt another mode of fishing practiced here. This is done by throwing the leaded hook to as great a distance as possible, and then drawing it home with sufficient rapidity to keep the bait afloat. A skillful hand will throw out two hundred feet of line, by whirling the lead rapidly round the fore finger and letting go at the proper time; and in drawing it home will lay his line in a clean coil, ready to repeat the throw the instant that he boats his fish or draws his hook from the water. A green hand plumps his lead alternately into the deck and among the rigging, hooks his finger or his breeches, and tangles his line into the most extraordinary loops and knots that can be imagined. In all these performances Dick and myself had some experience. In addition, we caught nothing, and without the excitement of taking the fish the process soon became intolerably fatiguing. So after rowing and floating about for an hour or more without any success we anchored, and knocking the necks off the porter bottles, solaced ourselves with Mother Cary’s provisions. While the lunch was in progress the fisherman’s son pointed out a group of black points dimpling the surface of the water about a hundred feet from us. “There,” said he, “goes a shoal of bluefish!” Down went the cheese and beer, and out went the lines. Throwing the lead beyond the shoal, we drew it rapidly through, and each hook was followed by half a dozen or more ravenous fish, snapping, darting, and leaping up to the gunwale of the boat. A noble pair were hooked on our first cast, and presently fresh shoals appeared to the right and left of us, driving by with the tide. Many thousands must have passed us in the course of the next hour, sometimes showing their fins at distances beyond our reach, sometimes passing directly under the boat. The sight of our game aroused the sporting fervor to the highest degree, and for an hour we whirled our leads so industriously and effectively that the bottom of our boat was all a-flutter with the spoils.
With the turn of the tide the fish disappeared, and, satisfied with our success, we rowed back to the Siasconsett landing. When we got ashore we straightway repaired, with our ship’s company, to the hospitable store-room of Mother Cary, where drinks again went round and all fatigues were for the time forgotten.
“Mr. Coffin,” inquired Dick, “you have storms on this coast sometimes, don’t you ?“
The sailor gave a solemn wink at the venerable mother, whose back was turned at the time, and replied in a manner savoring of reverential facetiousness:
“We have, Sir, some devilish hard blows; dangerous for them as happen to be outside of the breakers; hut once get inside and it’s smoother sailing.”
“This whisky,” observed the hostess, “is none of your common stuff. I’ve got mean whisky for sich as it suits; but this I keep for them that know what’s what. Shall I open another bottle, Sirs ?“
“Certainly, Madam, another bottle. Friends, here’s good sport and a full season for Siasconsett; pour out for yourselves.”
“Mister,” whispered Coffin, “I guess you’re all safe inside the breakers.”
The lame hostler now brought out the buggy, and taking leave of this queer, quizzical, humorsome, jolly little place, we drove hack to the city of Nantucket.
“How do you like Siasconsett?” asked our acquaintance.
“We had a pleasant day,” I answered; “hut I should like to see it during the full season.”
“It would be worth your while,” said he; “they have lively times then, and I can tell you some good stories.”
"Then tell us one, by all means.
At all places where men and women congregate for social pleasure and recreation, no pie can be opened that Love don’t stick his finger in, and Siasconsett, like all summer retreats, great and small, has its spice of gossip and romance.
Something less than a thousand years ago— said our narrator—Miss Mehetabel Fizgig was the beauty and belle of our island. I won’t waste time in attempting to describe her loveliness; but just let every man fancy the sort of girl he would wish his sweet-heart to be, and then I’ll wager she would have surpassed them all. Nor were her good looks her only recommendation. She was considered uncommonly clever with her books, and no girl of her age was comparable to her in handiness with her needle and smartness in housekeeping. After going over this catalogue of her perfections, it may seem superfluous to add that Hetty was an heiress. Being a married man, I never took the trouble to remember how many houses, shares in whale-ships, and certificates of bank stock her father had left her, but have heard it said frequently that “it was enough to give a clever and industrious young man a very good start in the world.”
Although Nantucket is not overrun with young men of any kind, Hetty’s charms were not suffered to go a-begging; and before she was eighteen she had had offers that most girls would have jumped at; but she seemed to have no mind for any of them. Not that she was by any means indifferent to admiration and attention. On the contrary, she exhibited a fondness for such worldly vanities that set numerous old-fashioned, plaited bonnets and divers unguarded tongues to wagging at her. In fact, she treated her admirers with as much tact and as little remorse as her ancestors had shown to the poor whales; giving a puffing swain the coup de grace, and laughing at his death-flurry; or when the game became troublesome, cutting the line, and sending the animal plunging away into unknown and unheard-of seas, where four years of salt junk and bilge water generally cured his wounds effectually.
From such doings as these it came to he currently reported and believed that the little beauty had no heart; and this serious defect set all the old ladies who had marriageable daughters very much against her; and all the old maids who hadn’t given up yet agreed that her behavior was any thing but prudent. Now it was somewhat singular that one very significant fact had thus far escaped the observation of our heroine’s female acquaintance, which was, that for two years or more Hetty had been receiving letters from remote parts of the globe, and oftentimes so moulded and faded that she could scarcely decipher them; and that said letters, although by no means cased in filigree and perfumed envelopes, were oftentimes honored with a welcome the very thought of which would have made a crack harpooner miss his throw.
Yet true it was, that, besides the lady herself, no one in all Nantucket knew of these things, except an old jolly wag of a sea captain, with one leg spliced with whalebone; and what this old joker knew of the subject we can not explain at this time, because it would spoil the dramatic surprise we have in store for those who have not yet guessed that our heroine’s true lover would turn up presently.
Well, sure enough, one day the good ship Three Brothers came into port, returning from a long and successful cruise; and among her crew was a stout, ruddy, tight-built young sailor, who, on landing, steered directly for the widow Fizgig’s cottage, and entering unannounced, surprised Hetty into a scene before some of the neighbors. In an hour after it was known all over town that Hetty’s beau had come in earnest. In two hours after it was known when they were to be married, who the bridemaids were to be, and how the bride was to be dressed.
Here the story should have ended. I wish it had. But there were certain old ones who shook their heads at all this news. Abijah Bowline needn’t be too sure of his fish until he had it moored alongside. Hadn’t she fooled young Folger and Mayhew in the same way? And how did she treat Tommy Coffin, the promising grand nephew of the famous Long Tom Coffin that was lost on the Ariel, as Mr. Fenimore Cooper tells us? Bless the old folks! they know too much by half; so our story must go on.
The season at Siasconsett was in full blast; all the wealthy residents and idle sojourners of the city were there; and there were reported to be at least half a dozen strangers from Boston and elsewhere at the hotel. Although the sea view and sea air had no especial attraction for the newly arrived sailor, yet a feeling of vanity, pardonable enough under the circumstances, engendered a wish to show off his prize before the gay and elegant society there assembled. So he hired a buggy wagon and drove his sweet-heart over, taking a kiss or two by the way, and setting her down, very properly, at the cottage of her aunt, who was keeping house over there.
Young man, if you have a sweet-heart and are well with her, never let her go to a watering-place, especially if she is pretty. I have not time to give reasons at present, but if ever you should find yourself in the supposed circumstances you’ll probably remember this caveat.
Now there was at Siasconsett at this time a proper, tall, and handsome young fellow who sported a superb black mustache and whiskers, and who dressed in the highest style of lace cravat, gold chain, and brocade vest that a very liberal public opinion could tolerate. Dr. Flugens, besides these merely personal advantages, was an affluent conversationalist, and had the enviable art of impressing those who listened to him with an amazing idea of his travels, accomplishments, knowledge of society, and general importance in the world. The Doctor was a professor in one department of the noble art of surgery, and in fact, on his arrival at the Ocean House in this city, he stuck up his card:
OFFERS HIS PROFESSIONAL SERVICES.
Finding that all the fun was going on at Siasconsett, he withdrew this tender of service, and appeared on the new theatre as a gentleman of elegant leisure traveling for health and diversion. In this capacity he took famously with the ladies, and soon became the standard beau of the society. It is true that an over-nice observer might have remarked some discrepancies between his manners and pretensions. At table he was an unreserved eructator, and picked his teeth with his penknife between courses, which seemed a little odd in one accustomed to the best society in Boston, and, when “het up” in conversation, he “wanted to know,” and “admired to see,” and alluded to “Bosting” and the “White Mountings” with a twang that did not do much credit to Harvard University, where he was educated. But it is only our great watering-places that folks visit for the purpose of criticising each other’s manners and pretensions. To Siasconsett folks go for enjoyment, and they find it, without bothering themselves about each other’s little peculiarities.
But to make a long story short, our Professor met Miss Hetty Fizgig in the dance, sought an introduction, and from that moment a flirtation commenced which progressed so rapidly that, in twenty-four hours from date, poor Abijah was gasping and staring like a fish thrown high and dry upon the sandy beach, and felt for all the world like a certain mariner who went to sleep with his vessel riding at anchor in a cozy harbor and woke up next morning to find himself blown out of sight of land.
The public was presently divided into two parties on the subject. Some favored the Doctor’s pretensions, while those who sided with the young sailor thought he had been shamefully treated. Uncle Billy Bowline—the old Captain with a whalebone leg—so swelled with indignation that he looked like a fresh-caught sculpin, at what he considered an insult put upon himself first, and his nephew in the second place.
“Hadn’t the little baggage often kissed him for bringing her letters from Bijah, and thanked him so sweetly for keeping her secret, and rejoiced with him at the prospect of his nephew’s return, and promised him that she would be true as the needle? etc. Ay, ay, so it is: the needle gets bewitched sometimes, and when you see a craft with more sail than ballast there’s no counting on her in any kind of a blow. But, Abijah, my boy,” continued the Captain, in answer to some desperate suggestions of his nephew, “don’t harpoon him just yet, for the sake of conveniency. The sarpent would be worth nothing at the Tryworks, and it might bring you trouble. Moreover, if you was to perforate him, how would that mend matters in regard to her? It’s the gal that has done you the foul turn, not that blower. So if you’ll mind me, boy, you’ll act the man, cut her adrift, and say no more about it.”
Abijah Bowline promised he would follow his uncle’s counsel, and part of the promise he fulfilled. He acted the man, and held his peace —the more easily, perhaps, because he therein exhibited the native characteristics of his race. But when he came to fulfill the order to cut adrift, he found the wide difference between a simple manilla line and the web of tough and tender heart-strings in which he was entangled. On the other side, Hetty tossed, flirted, and enjoyed her triumph to her silly little heart’s content. She walked on the beach at low tide, went fishing, drove to Sancoty Head to see the fine view, danced, and sat on the cottage porch with the Doctor, where they talked about Boston and New York, Nahant and Newport, until she felt quite bewildered in her mind, and wondered how it was possible that she had been content to pass her life thus far, cut off from the splendors and delights of the great world; or that she should have so lately purposed to fix her destiny beyond the pale of repentance on this secluded little sand bank, Nantucket.
Then Aunt Noddy highly approved of Hetty’s conquest. “To marry a sailor,” quoth she, “is to pass one’s life in drudgery and hopeless widowhood. Ah me!” she sighed, “for the best half of my life I haven’t been able to tell whether I was a married woman or a widow. But patience, we must all submit; yet wouldn’t it be mighty pleasant to have Hetty settled in Boston, where a body might pay her a visit between times? Then he, such an agreeable sort of person, a great professor in the colleges—a—a—chiro— Bless the mighty word—I can’t exactly call it—but I’ll be bound it means something great!”
So things went on, until one evening the teacher of the Grammar School came over from town and stepped in at the cottage to pay his respects. The young lady was walking out as usual; but Aunt Noddy was especially glad to see him, and intimated that she had some particular confidential inquiries to make.
Mehetabel, my niece, you know, has got a sweet-heart.
“Yes,” replied the teacher, “I know, young Bowline.”
“Not him, by any means,” said Mrs. Noddy, a little confused. “The gentleman she’s got now is a Professor in the colleges, and a mighty learned scholar like yourself. A Doctor they call him, and a something which I don’t understand, and which I can’t find in the dictionary. Here’s a card he dropped one night when he pulled out his gold watch to see what time it was.”
The master took the card and read “CHIROPODIST,” and then burst into a long and loud fit of laughter. Mrs. Noddy knitted her brows and scanned his face with a look of dumb but searching inquiry.
“Chiropodist, madam, means a professional manipulator of corns and bunions—a corn-doctor, in plain English.”
Mrs. Noddy’s countenance at this information looked as if her gaiter-boots might have contained all the corns, bunions, and hang nails that have tormented humanity since the invention of shoe leather.
That evening the wind freshened, and it was thought too damp for the young folks to sit on the porch as usual. Hetty retired early for some reason, and the Doctor also retired to the hotel, troubled with a sense of benumbing chillness which he could not quite explain, and which numerous glasses of brandy failed to overcome. He asked to see his bill; but that was the clerk’s business, not ours.
That night the rest of the villagers was broken by the howlings of the most terrific storm that ever burst upon that stormy coast. The lightning blazed, the thunder roared, the rain poured in torrents, and the very earth trembled with the shock of the surf as it burst upon the beach.
Soon after daylight a little knot of men was gathered on the sand cliff; whose excited movements and vehement gestures showed that something of uncommon interest and importance was on hand, and it presently became noised abroad that a vessel had struck upon the shoals and was going to pieces. In a short time all the population of the place, residents and sojourners, men, women, and children, were gathered upon the shore, where, regardless of wind and weather, they strained their eyes in the direction of the perishing vessel with that eager and absorbing interest which such a scene is always sure to awaken in the breasts of a people whose lives and fortunes are continually exposed to similar dangers.
Chief among the breathless and excited spectators stood Uncle Billy Bowline, balancing himself upon his sound leg, viewing with his glass alternately the wrecked schooner, and what had now become an object of still greater interest, the boat with five men which had put out from Siasconsett to their relief.
“Stand back !“ cried the one-legged Captain, fiercely; “let go my arm: she’ll go to pieces before the boat reaches her. It was a desperate venture, a sinful temptation of Providence. I told him so. Let go my arm, I say !
“ It was a young girl’s hand that plucked the old sailor’s jacket sleeve, and a girl’s voice, tremulous and husky with emotion, that whispered,
“Tell me, is it Abijah Bowline that’s gone in the boat ?“
The Captain looked down. “Woman,” said he, in a harsh and bitter tone, “go home; what business have you here in the rain ?“ and immediately he hobbled away to another place, and again pointed his glass seaward.
Hetty cast a despairing look around, when an old woman, with a basket of refreshments on her arm, having overheard the inquiry, approached and hissed into her ear,
“Who but Abijah Bowline would fling away his life on sich a fool’s errand? And the lives of the four men he shamed and bullied into going with him, Studley, and the Coffins, and Pollard, they’ll leave widows and orphans behind; but for him—a desperate man—it’s no great matter.”
A skipper, wrapped in a pea-jacket, said: “They’re brave lads anyhow, and it was nobly done; but I fear it’s of no use: I pity ‘em.”
“Would ye like a drop of whisky, Sir, this wet morning?”
“Thank ye, mother, I don’t care if I do.”
Hetty stood the while unnoticed and alone. Her silken hair hung wet and matted about her face and neck. Her handsome features white and clammy like a fair chisled statue, all but the convulsive, heaving breast, and the restless eye wandered eagerly and anxiously over the raging expanse of ocean. There and then she stood until it was all over.
As the old skipper had said, the vessel went to pieces before the boat reached her, and her crew, ten in number, clinging to a floating portion of the wreck, were picked up by young Bowline’s boat. Thus laden, it was doubtful whether she could land in the surf. They made the dash, and, as was feared, the boat swamped; but both the crew and passengers were hardy and practiced watermen, and a hundred hands stood by with boat-hooks, oars, and lines to help the failing. All were saved; and with the rejoicings there were shouts and oaths, thanksgivings and tears.
In the long procession that marched up the bank and along the street of Siasconsett the leading man was Abijah Bowline. Hatless and shoeless, his woolen shirt and sailor pants drenched and dripping with brine, he looked like a handsome merman just landed. His right arm was supported by proud old Uncle William, who marched with all the state and dignity his whalebone leg permitted. The hero’s left arm was clasped tightly by the white hands and burning cheek of that marble statuette we left standing on the shore a short time since. His gait was unsteady, his face had a listless and half-bewildered expression, and from a cut on the side of his head a slender stream of blood trickled down mingled with the salt-water. When the boat.turned over in the surf he had got a heavy blow which cut and stunned him considerably; but that to a strong man was no great matter. Uncle Bowline cast occasional grievous looks at the girl but said nothing, and once or twice Abijah noticed her and made a motion as if to shake her off; but the grasp upon his arm was like the grasp of one overwhelmed and perishing in the deep waters, and the generous sailor had not the heart to loosen it. These three said never a word as they walked along, while behind the crowd was loud and clamorous in their joy.
At length they reached the gate of Aunt Noddy’s cottage, which was open, and beside it stood the old lady with a smiling face.
“You’ll come in with us, won’t you, my brave boy? I’ve a warm coat and a cup of hot coffee for ye; and Hetty and I will make you all comfortable in a jiffy.”
In his indignant astonishment Uncle Bowline let go his nephew’s hand; and as we have seen a tall man of war with flaccid sails and drooping pennants yield to the guidance of a diminutive steam-tug whose chimney-stack scarcely reached to her bulwarks, so did our stout sailor heel and veer from his course through the gate, around the grass-plots, between the rose-bushes, and, finally, disappear within the cottage.
“Captain Bowline,” said the dame, “will you walk in and take breakfast with us ?“ “Madam, I’ll see ye d—d first,” replied the Captain, as he limped hastily away toward his own quarters.
“And so would I,” exclaimed Dick Dashaway, “if any girl had treated me in that way!”
“Young man,” said our narrator, “every body knows precisely what he would do beforehand, but he very rarely does it. As for Captain Bowline, he reconsidered that last observation of his and formally withdrew it, supplying its place with cogitations somewhat in this vein: ‘The needle is our main dependence after all. Sometimes she varies a point or two. Do we cuss her? No! we take observations, and calculate. I’ve been told that in thunder-storms, at times and places, she gets clean reversed. I never see it, but I’ve seen things quite as singular. Shall we throw her overboard then? No! we let her right herself, and travel on. I don’t see that a man can do any better with his present lights.’”
As our programme allowed us another day at Nantucket, we had choice of a cruise on the on the Sound for scup fishing, or a bird-egging frolic to Muskegeet. This Muskegeet is a small sandy island lying to the westward, uninhabited, and a favorite resort for sea-fowl during their egging season. The people of the neighboring coasts frequently visit it, and make a frolic of gathering the spoils. But as our information in regard to the means of getting there was somewhat obscure, and, for my part, influenced by conscientious scruples on the subject of robbing birds’ nests, we concluded in favor of the scup fishing.
In pursuance of this determination we called Watson Burgess, our ex-whaleman and present owner of a first-class fishing-boat called the Naiad Queen. We are continually checked and disappointed at finding the choicest virtues and capabilities of our race bestowed in mean and unworthy cases; but occasionally Nature treats us to a combination, as it were, to show us what she can do. Painter or poet who would look upon the perfect model of a Nantucket whaleman, I commend you to Watson Burgess.
“Our boat was cheered,
The harbor cleared,”
and away we dashed before a spanking breeze, the white caps leaping half-mast high and drenching us with showers of spray. At the helm sat our stalwart mariner, trimming his lively and graceful craft to the breeze with a quiet fatherly pride lighting his face, as one might imagine an Arab chieftain affectionately smoothing the mane and patting the shoulders of his favorite mare, while they scoured the sand waves of the desert. Well, our Captain had a right to be proud of his equipage, for from keel to pennant he had built her with his own hands, and her crew was his own son.
Arrived at the fishing-ground, we cast anchor and spent two hours or more in pulling out scuppaug. This is a species of perch, plump and white, weighing from one to three pounds, and when first taken from the water it is extremely beautiful, its scales glittering with iridescent hues like a fretwork of silver and diamonds. As the sport was not particularly exciting, and our anchorage very rough, we returned to port, and landed with true sharkish appetites and bodies thoroughly wet and salted.
These healthful inconveniences being remedied in due time, I spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening in looking over Obed Macy’s History of Nantucket, from which I extract some interesting information concerning its first settlement, trade, manners, and customs.
The island was discovered by Gosnold during his voyage of exploration in 1602. It is situated about thirty miles south of the main land of Massachusetts, is fourteen miles long from east to west, and has an average breadth of three and a half miles from north to south, and contains about thirty thousand acres of land. Tradition says that it was formerly wooded, and that the soil was moderately fertile. At present it seems but a demi-lune of sand, only kept from blowing away by a scanty growth of grass and shrubs. The first white man settled on its shores in 1659. One Thomas Macy, a worthy citizen of the colony, having offended against the laws then in force, by giving shelter to four Quakers during a storm, sought refuge among the savages of this island. As the savages were not sufficiently enlightened to abhor his crime, the dispenser of unlawful hospitality was kindly received and permitted to live in peace. At that time the island contained about fifteen hundred inhabitants, and was divided, after the manner of civilized countries, into two antagonistic and discordant sections, the east and west. The cause of the quarrel is supposed to have been because the island divided conveniently in that way. If the territory had stretched toward the other points of the compass, it can not be doubted that there would have been a northern and southern party. In time more white people began to come in, the aboriginal disputes were settled by a royal marriage between the east and the west, and every thing went on with Christian love and harmony until (as usual) the Indians disappeared. The last of the race died in 1822. So adroitly were the natives supplanted and devoured, that the historian felicitates himself upon the fact that, in their whole intercourse, the white man never drew a sword nor violated a Christian law.
The first whaling expedition undertaken by the settlers is thus described:
“A whale of the kind called a scragg came into the harbor and continued there three days. This excited the curiosity of the people, and led them to devise measures to prevent his return out of the harbor. They accordingly invented, and caused to be wrought for them, a harpoon with which they attacked and killed the whale. This first success encouraged them to undertake whaling as a permanent business—whales being at that time numerous in the vicinity of their shores. In furtherance of their design they made a contract with James Lopar to settle on the island and engage in the business. The agreement was as follows, copied verbatim from the original record:
“‘5th 4th mo. 1672 James Lopar doth Ingage to carry on a design of Whale Citching on the Island of Nantucket, that is the said James, Ingage to be a third in all respeckes, and som of the town Ingage also to carrey on the other two-thirds with him in like manner, the Town doth also consent that first one company shal begin and afterward the rest of the freeholders or any of them, have liberty to set up another company Provided that they make a tender to those freeholders that have no share in the first company and if any refuse, the Rest may go on themselves and the Town do also Ingage that no other company shal be allowed hereafter, Also whoever Kil any whale of the Company or Companys aforesaid they ar to pay to the town for every such whale five shillings. And for the Incorragement of the said James Lopar the Town doth grant him Ten Acres of Land in som convenant place, that he may chuse in (Wood Land exceped) and also Liberty for the Commonge of thre Cows and twenty sheep and one horse with necessary wood and water for his use on Conditions that he follow the Trade of Whaleing on the Island two years in all the season therof beginning the first of March next insuing. Also is to build upon his land, and when he leaves inhabiting upon the Island then he is first to ofer his laud to the town at a Valluable price, and if the town do not buy it— then he may Sel it to whome he please—the commonage is granted only for the time he stays here.’”
In addition, they sent a man to Cape Cod to learn something more of whale-fishing and the art of trying out the oil from a people who had already made great proficiency therein. Thus the business went on increasing from year to year until it became the principal occupation of the islanders. The Indians, whom neither force nor persuasion could ever bring to follow the ordinary pursuits of civilized men, readily joined in this congenial business, cheerfully taking any place that was assigned them, and by their activity and skill rendering invaluable service to their employers.
In these days the fishing was carried on by boats from the shore, the oil boiled out and fitted for market in Tryworks on land, and the species captured the Greenland or Right whale. The first spermaceti whale known to the inhabitants was washed ashore, dead, on the southwest part of the island. The same historian we have quoted gives the following naive account of its division:
“There were so many claimants to the prize that it was difficult to determine to whom it should belong. The natives claimed the whale because they found it; the whites, to whom the natives made known their discovery, claimed it by a right comprehended, as they affirmed, in the purchase of the island by the original patent. An officer of the crown made his claim, and pretended to seize the fish in the name of his Majesty, as being property without any particular owner. After considerable discussion between the contending parties, it was finally settled that the white inhabitants who first found the whale should share .the prize equally among themselves. The teeth, which were considered very valuable, had been extracted by a white man and an Indian before any others had knowledge of the whale. All difficulty being now settled, a company was formed who commenced cutting the whale in pieces convenient for transportation to their Tryworks.”
“Lo, the poor Indian! whose untutored mind”
was not yet sufficiently elevated by education to discern upon what principles of equity the difficulty was settled, doubtless, however, acquiesced in the decision, wondering and admiring at the advantages of such a civilization, especially exhibited in questions concerning the rights of property. They went to work, of course, as they were ordered, to assist in saving the valuable carcass. ‘Yet one may easily imagine how Prince Kadooda, Nickanoose, Kuttashamaquat, and other wiseacres among them, looked first into each other’s blank faces, and then at the whale, muttering in the best English they could command, “Injin find ‘em fust — tell white man— white man never say whale to Injin no time. Say, Go to work, lazy cuss—help save ‘um oil. Ha! ha! Masaquat, pass that bottle, ugh! Praise the Lord!”
Furthermore, although it is not related in the history, I’ll warrant that the lively native who got a share of the teeth was eventually prosecuted before a squire, and whipped for stealing.
About the year 1712 one Christopher Hussey was blown out to sea by a northerly gale, and falling in with a school of spermaceti whales, killed one and brought it home. This event gave new life to the business. With such rich prizes in view, the fishermen became more adventurous, and small vessels of thirty tons were fitted out for a six weeks’ cruise, returning to port whenever they had killed a whale, delivering the blubber, and immediately putting out to sea again.
Thus did this brave and hardy people progress from year to year, increasing in wealth and enterprise until their ships had explored all known and unknown seas, and their fame was established in every land. Statesmen lauded their success, and foreign Governments, covetous of their skill, sought to win their friendship. Yet the tide of their prosperity had by no means been uninterrupted. During the French war of 1755, the Revolutionary struggle, and the war of 1812, they had their seasons of mourning and tribulation. From wealth and plenty they were reduced to the brink of starvation. Trade annihilated, their ports closed, their vessels captured, and many strong men that went out full of life and hope returned no more.
Such was the condition of Nantucket, especially during the two wars we have waged with the greatest maritime power in the world. Nevertheless, these dreary seasons past, like a vigorous and hardy plant, she sprung again with renewed life and power. It was near the south shore of the island that the fight took place between the American privateer Neufchatel and the boats of the British frigate Endymion. The privateer schooner, with a prize ship from Jamaica richly freighted, was at anchor near the shore, while wide in the offing appeared a vessel supposed to be a British man-of-war. Seeing a number of boats leaving the ship and heading toward him, the Captain of the privateer cleared his ship for action, and prepared to give them a proper reception.
It was not until nine o’clock in the evening that the five barges got up to the Neufchatel. They were permitted to approach within musket-shot, when the action commenced with such terrible effect on the part of the American that in thirty-five minutes the attacking flotilla was nearly annihilated. Of the five barges and one hundred and forty-six men that composed the expedition, only two barges and sixteen men escaped. The privateer lost but five men. Says the worthy Obed Macy: “The action took place within five miles of the town; and while the work of death was going on, the reports of the cannon and muskets were distinctly heard by the inhabitants. Such a scene, almost under the eye of a large community, one of whose distinguishing and, we think, noblest traits is a strong aversion to war, could not fail to bring a solemn gloom over their minds.”
“A solemn gloom,” did you say, my venerable friend? Can the “Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ?“ Can a straitbreasted coat smother out the fire of the human heart, or a vain theory of right or wrong stifle the glorious joy of a victory? Think you that a people whose wealth had perished; whose husbands, sons, and brothers had mouldered in loathsome prisons; who had been robbed, starved, and humiliated, could look on with indifference when the pride of the strong was humbled and the bow of the mighty broken? Go to, old friend! There is not a heart in Nantucket which has not thrilled with the story of that gallant and terrible combat.
The palmy days of Nantucket, judging from statistics, began about 1820, after the place had recovered from the effects of the war, and continued until 1835 or thereabout; since when, owing to the successful rivalry of New Bedford and other places on the main land, and, more than all probably, to the general declension of the whaling business, her prosperity has been on the wane.
To give activity to the unemployed labor and capital of the town, a number of public-spirited citizens have formed a company for the manufacture of boots and shoes. The ancient mariners shake their heads, and thoughtful citizens doubt of its success. The hand which has wielded the harpoon and steering oar will hardly condescend to the pegging awl, and the lass that has loved a sailor won’t be bound to bind shoes. I was myself invited to look at the establishment, but declined. I am pleased sometimes to take the poetic view of life, and did not wish to see Samson in the tread-mill.
Consciousness of power and familiarity with great deeds tend marvelously to simplify a man’s speech and chasten his manner. In social life, on shore, your true whalemen is courteous, good-humored, manly, quiet, and unaffected, not easily distinguished in dress, manner, or conversation from any other citizen of his condition. Mark that fellow with the rolling gait, swaggering speech larded with sea phrases, the flash sailor costume, tipped with a huge brass anchor breastpin. That fellow, perhaps, has served on the raging canal as mule-driver, or as cabin-boy on a ferry-boat, has caught eels and cat-fish from the wharf with a hand line; but order him to mount the main truck in a gale, or put a harpoon in his hand and send him against an enraged sperm whale—you will then learn the true value of all those airs and frippery.
Would you hear the ring of true mettle? Read the following characteristic autobiographies from Macy’s history:
CAPTAIN BENJAMIN WORTH’S LIFE AND ADVENTURES.
“I began to follow the sea in 1783, being then fifteen years of age, and continued until 1824. During this period of forty-one years I was shipmaster twenty-nine years. From the time when I commenced going to sea until I quitted the business, I was at home only seven years. At the rate of four miles an hour while at sea, I have sailed more than 1,191,000 miles. I have visited more than forty islands in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, some of them many times, and traversed the west coasts of North and South America from Baldivia, lat. 40° S. to 59° N. on the northwest coast, and up Christian Sound to Lymn Canal. I have assisted in obtaining 20,000 barrels of oil. During the last war I was taken by the English in the ship George, and lost all I had on board. While I commanded a vessel not one of my crew was killed, or even had a limb broken by a whale, nor have any died of the scurvy.”
CAPTAIN GEORGE W. GARDNER’S LIFE.
"I began to follow the sea at thirteen years of age, and continued in that service thirty-seven years. I was a shipmaster twenty-one years. I performed three voyages to the coast of Brazil, twelve to the Pacific Ocean, three to Europe, and three to the West Indies. During thirty-seven years I was at home but four years and eight months. There were 23,000 barrels of oil obtained by vessels which I sailed in. During my following the sea, from the best estimate I can make, I have traveled more than 1,000,000 miles. I was taken by the English in the late war, and lost all the property I had with me.”
What years of stirring adventure are condensed in these terse paragraphs! What concentrated and suggestive sentences, each of which would furnish a writer like Alexandre Dumas with material for three volumes octavo. But time presses—wherefore I can not tell. I commenced this journey with no other limit to my free-will than my own phantasy; yet, driven by an irresistible and mysterious impulse, I find myself continually hastening.Though this island were more delightsome than the realm of Calypso, old Mentor points to the boat, and says it is high time we were steering toward the main land. Who ever traveled that did not presently perceive this old bore at his elbow? “Ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt.” Yet the idea is a terrible one. Are we then all wandering Jews by nature? Pilgrim of life, passing through the dark valley of the shadow of death, you can not hasten your steps, nor yet may you turn aside to rest your weary feet in the pleasant land of Beulah. From the cradle to the grave the eternal cry is—Onward! It was raining next day when we took passage on the steamer Island Home for Hyannis on the Barnstable coast. The water was rough, and the passage of the Sound might have passed with a lubber for a sea voyage. On the forward deck some waggish fellows were tormenting a raw youth by passing jokes upon his birth-place. “On Cape Cod,”said one, “greens are so scarce that if a man finds three mullein stalks and a huckleberry bush growing near together, he incloses it for a grove, and warns the neighbors not to trespass.” Said another: “They sweeten their tea with molasses over there. So once, when they got a new preacher, he was asked home to tea with old Mother Stebbins. The old soul was saving enough when she sweetened other people’s tea; but when it came to the preacher’s cup, she kept on pouring in.As he didn’t admire to have his tea oversweet, he got nervous, thanked her over and over again, and at last begged her to leave off sweetening. The old lady rolled up her eyes in a loving, sanctimonious way. ‘Ah, Sir,’ said she, ‘if it was all molasses it wouldn’t be too good for you.’”
The youngster seemed to be wanting in the gift of free speech, and slow at repartee; and, in attempting to reply, he stammered and got red in the face; so I volunteered to help him out.
“A sandy soil,” said I, “if not good for raising great cabbage-heads, produces the best quality of men. An Admiral of the Blue of the Royal Navy was asked by George IV. who was the bravest man he ever saw. He replied, ‘A Cape Cod trader whom I met at Port Mahon, the commander of a thirty-ton schooner. He assisted in two duels between American midshipmen, thrashed five English sailors on the quay for calling his flag a gridiron, took in cargo, and set sail, all between sunrise and sunset.’"
We landed at Hyannis, and, on taking our seats in the cars for Boston, my companion and myself commenced a retrospect of our adventures for the past month. Dick seemed to have entirely forgotten his misadventure in love, and to have so far gratified his maritime yearnings that he no longer alluded to his intention of shippingbefore the mast; indeed, he seemed rather to hail with pleasure the anticipated change from salt-water to city life. Among other things, he expressed his surprise that, although we had been in New England more than a month, we had seen no Yankees yet. I had myself begun to doubt whether the stage Yankee of the Sam Slick school might not be altogether a myth, or a gross exaggeration of dramatic and artistic humorists; for up to this point our travels had made us acquainted with a people totally different in appearance, manners, and character from what we had expected. Yet the islanders and sea-faring population, with whom we had chiefly associated, and who had impressed us so agreeably, are a people “sui generis” amphibia—in many traits, physical and moral, very nearly resembling the English, yet with more vivacity and intelligence than the Englishman, and generally with better manners; and, for the rest, exhibiting greater breadth, both of body and soul, than we had hoped to find in these latitudes.
But it seemed, as our train hurried on toward Boston, partially changing its living freight at every station, that the type of man began to change; and we could recognize among the physiognomies around us characteristic marks of that great whittling, guessing, speculating, moralizing race whose destiny is—still a matter of guess-work.
This dapper gentleman, with a smirk on his face, which he thinks is a smile, a shining, high crowned hat, and a silk umbrella, I should take to be the president of some railroad or manufacturing company, a prince of button-makers, or principal stock-owner in a wooden bucket-mill.
That quiet, inscrutable little man, who reads the newspaper, we I would guess might be a village lawyer, with a legal mind, which, if united with a thoroughly legal morality, might entitle him to a seat in the State Legislature.
This prim, tallow-faced individual, with a white cravat and puckered mouth, is unmistakable—the traveling agent of some great moral reform, or humanitarian society, whose plans, if universally adopted, promise incalculable benefits to the human race. The specialty of this person may be, perhaps, the propagation of vegetarian principles among the Esquimaux, or a grand union movement for the abolition of polygamy among the Turks, and the enforcement of monogamy among the Roman clergy. The celebrated Cardinal de Retz advises us “so to lay our plans that even their failure may be productive of some benefit to us;” and our great reformer does not usually forget so to make his arrangements that, if the original object of the society should fail, he will make his living out of it, at least.
These chaps immediately in front of us seem cast in a harder mould. The eye of the elder has a metallic glitter, as if it had frequently been whetted against the edge of an axe, and the firm, resolute lip, as of a man accustomed to strive with mighty pine—trees. From Maine, I’ll warrant you— high up on the Kennebec or Penobscot.
But we are near enough to overhear something of their conversation.
“Peleg has quit business, you tell me ?“ inquires No. 1.
“Yas—yas. He quit airly last fall, I guess, and took himself off to the Mountings.”
“What is he thought to be a-doing of?”
“Wa’al, he’s got an idee, and he’s a-workin’ at that.”
This information appeared satisfactory, and the subject was dropped; but Peleg’s idee may possibly be heard of again at the next World’s Fair, held at San Francisco or Pekin.
By dinner-time we were in Boston, and roomed at the Parker House, in School Street; and without pretending to dogmatize upon a mere matter of taste, we would only suggest that we never saw a finer hotel. Finding a hack at the door, we prevailed upon the driver to forego his literary labors for a short time, and show us ‘round.
About the water all our large Atlantic towns are alike, and Boston is no exception to the rule; but the interior of the old town has something decidedly characteristic in its appearance. What could be more conceited and pragmatical than that State House dome, rising like the phrenological bump of self-esteem inordinately developed? What more crooked, devious, incomprehensible, mystical, narrow, and absurd than her labyrinthian streets? What more liberal and enlightened than her noble Common? What more expressive of educated refinement and domestic elegance than her beautiful suburban towns and villages?
After the blaze, bustle, and hurry of New York, Boston appears provincial, quiet, and slow. Yet, on the other hand, the absence of tawdry and misplaced finery from the streets— the prompt, systematic, and effective manner of transacting business—with the best-bred and best-fed dray-horses in America—give her an air of solidity and gentility more characteristic of an English town. Boston likes to be thought English, and affects to be a little more so than she is in fact.
That apparent equality of conditions which we remarked in New Haven, and many other smaller New England towns, entirely disappears in Boston. Here haughty and exclusive wealth may be contrasted with the “want” that “cometh like an armed man.” He that is meagre with starvation, and he that is heavy with surfeiting, pass on the streets, mutually envying or pitying each other, as the case may be. Here we may see poverty meanly jealous of the rich man’s state, and splendid ennui that covets, but dare not enjoy, the jolly insouciance of the poor.
Here the Italian organ-grinder shares public favor with his more ambitious compatriot, the Italian Opera. And this reminds me that, after we had dined and coffeed, a friend called and offered us tickets to the Opera. The Opera-house was well enough, and the audience most decidedly English in manners and appearance. The entertainment was Lucrezia Borgia—the most exquisite of Donizetti’s compositions; and the piece (as well as the Borgia’s guests) was most inhumanly murdered. Supposing that the audience was not stolidly indifferent on the subject of bad music, they behaved with praiseworthy forbearance during the performance. A female personating Gennaro sung Il Segreto tolerably well, I believe; for the piece was not followed, but interrupted, by thunders of applause —always in the wrong place. The song was encored, and its repetition greeted by an enthusiasm that bordered on extravagance.
“Your formal and frigid Bostonians seem to be thoroughly warmed. Il Segreto must be immensely popular here,” I remarked to my friend.
“The singer,” he replied, “is a Boston lady.”
But in truth I was in no condition to appreciate the Opera this evening, and may have shown a disposition to be hypercritical. I have understood that the atmosphere of Boston engenders hypercriticism in all matters pertaining to literature and the fine arts; but I was affected by another cause. The shifting of the scene from Nantucket to the Italian Opera was too sudden and striking not to excite reflection and suggest comparison. The twittering and squeaking of fiddles, and grunting of bassoons, fell strangely on ears so lately filled with the solemn roar of ocean. The clap-trap and tinsel of the stage stood, as it were, face to face with the Quaker simplicity and stern reality of life on the Islands; the affected strut and bombastic periods of the players with, the undramatic manners and hard, terse speech of the whalemen. From the true grandeur of nature one can not descend thus suddenly to unskillful mimicry.
After all (and in spite of Shakspeare), the English are not a theatrical people. Music and the drama have always existed with them as unacclimated exotics. More sweepingly may the same observation be applied to their descendants in the New World; for here we not only import the raw material for the stage but the consumers. Among a people whose days are passed in ceaseless activity—whose common experiences continually surpass the ordinary limits of credulity—whose lives of wild vicissitude and adventure eclipse all dramatized fiction—it may be doubted whether a taste for these scenic entertainments will ever obtain a strong foothold. But should the drama ever prosper here, it is essential that its inspiration shall be drawn from American scenes — that the chords shall be wakened by the touch of native minstrels. For the present I have my doubts whether the majority of our Opera-goers (barring full dress and bouquets) would not sincerely prefer Yankee Doodle at the Circus.
But we are in Boston, and must remember the advice of Pliny:
“C’est a Athénes quo vous allez, respectez les dieux.”
Summer in New England, by D. H. Strother: pp. 745-764
Harper's new monthly magazine. / Volume 21, Issue 126, Nov 1860
Cornell Univ. Making of America
Strother published five pieces in Harper's 1860 Summer in New England series.