Transcription by Donna Bluemink




. . . . . . Virginia,

Earth's only Paradise.



Published by Fielding Lucas, Jr.
J. Robinson, printer.



BEHOLD me here in this ancient capital of Virginia, seated at my ease in an upper chamber of the Raleigh, that is a tavern (of all things in the world) named after the great Sir Walter. There is a brazen bust of the Knight over the porch, with a fine forehead, and right reverend beard. Who first put it up I cannot tell; but certainly no one has fairer claims to the honour of a statue from the people of this state, than the man who first taught the people of Europe to fall in love with tobacco.

Williamsburg, you will remember, was formerly the seat of government for this state. It was first planned by Nicholson who was then Governor of the colony, in the reign of William III. after whom he named it. It is said also that, in a whimsical spirit of flattery, he laid out the town in the form of a W. Either however he made his letter very badly, or Time has taken the liberty to rub some part of it out; for its form cannot be very clearly traced at pre- [121] sent. The principal streets now run paralleled, and are crossed by smaller ones at right angles. The main street is about a mile long, terminated at one end by the old capitol, and at the other by the college. All the streets are very wide, and handsomely paved with grass; which, indeed, is more agreeable any where than in a street. The houses are mostly indifferent ones of wood, old, and shabby for the want of repairs and a little paint.

As to the public buildings, the palace, or residence of the royal governor, which formerly stood on a handsome green, or place, is burnt down; perhaps set on fire by some revolutionary patriot to spite King George. Those now standing are the Capitol, the College, and the Hospital for Lunatics, all poor specimens of taste. The Capitol, which the author of the Notes calls "a light and airy structure," and "the most pleasing piece of architecture we have," is nothing after all but a very common two story brick house, without any pretensions to elegance. Then for the College, and the Hospital, the same writer, with more than his usual accuracy, describes them as being "wide, misshapen piles which, but that they have roofs, would be taken for brick-kilns." The Church, Court-house, and Mar- [122] ket-place, are still more indifferent. Apparently there is no great passion for architecture in Virginia.

In short, this poor town has very little to recommend it to a stranger except the memory of its ancient importance, and this is but a sad sort of interest at best. There is neither business without doors, nor amusement within; but all is just as lifeless as the very Goddess of Dullness could wish.— Indeed, if it wasn't for the College, and the Court, and the Lunatics, I don't know what would become of it. As it is, it is but the shadow of itself, and even that seems passing away.

After all this, however, you mustn't suppose that there are not many polite and agreeable people in the place. I even think, if I may judge from my own experience, that the inhabitants, (at least several families of them,) have something peculiarly courteous and engaging in their manners. Perhaps, republicans as they are, they still retain the air of the old court, which they have derived from their ancestors, unconsciously, and almost in spite of themselves. Be this as it may, I can tell you in your ear, you would be certain to find here, (what indeed you are almost certain to find in every town [123] in the Old Dominion,) some of the most charming ladies in the world. Indeed they have more graces than I shall stop to describe, as I am rather in haste just now. When Emily sees this, beg her not to be alarmed for my fidelity; but say to her for me,

Fear not, my lovely Emily!
Their eyes of sapphire, cheeks of rose,
May fascinate Virginian beaux;
But cannot steal my heart from thee.

[124] XV. LETTER

PROFESSOR C___ , to whom I brought letters from Norfolk, called on me this morning, and proposed a walk to the College. You may be sure I readily accepted the invitation, and we set out together.

The collegial buildings, I find, are a large house appropriated to the students, with a handsome yard in front, on either side of which is another house, nearly as large, for the use of the professors.—None of these is worth the honour of a description. I was pleased, however, with the fine statue in the centre of the yard, which is a figure of Lord Bote-tourt, the penultimate Governor of this state under the old establishment. This was raised, I see from the inscription, by the General Assembly, as a public testimony of their respect for his merit and services, and this too after his famous Spartan speech, declaring them dissolved on account of their revolutionary symptoms, & circumstance which makes it doubly honourable to both parties. It seems, however, that neither taste nor gratitude [125] has been able to preserve the statue from mutilation by these republican students. I see they have even actually knocked off his Lordship's head, (in contempt of the sword by his side,) tho' to be sure they have put it on again after a fashion.

The Professor now led me thro' the different private rooms, which I found so dark and forbidding, that I didn't wonder the tenants were not at home. The public rooms are not much better. The Library contains about 3000 volumes tolerably well chosen; but is very deficient in modern authors. The works on Divinity are particularly numerous, and in good order, being very little soiled. I noticed with great pleasure a donation of many volumes, chiefly Natural History, presented by our unfortunate Louis XV. The Chapel is quite an ordinary room, none the better for the many strange hieroglyphics drawn upon the walls. It contains, among other things, a marble slab inscribed to the late President of the College, in long rambling prose, and in English too, which would have put put the famous Dr. Johnson in a literary fever, and perhaps made him insist that the whole faculty put together couldn't raise latin enough for an epitaph. There is a large botanical garden in [126] the rear of the buildings, apparently well stocked with cabbages, and other plants equally rare and curious, which the Professors no doubt find very useful upon occasion.

The first idea of this establishment, it seems, originated with a few respectable individuals in the then colony, about the year 1689, who, with the approbation of the Governor and Council, raised a general subscription for the purpose, amounting to about 2500 pounds. The subject was then moved to the General Assembly in 1691, who entered warmly into the design, and drew up a formal petition to the crown in its favor. It was accordingly founded in 1692, by their reigning majesties, King William and Queen Mary, who, besides gracing it with their names, gave it an endowment of about 2000 pounds, and 20,000 acres of land, together with a revenue of a penny per pound on tobacco exported to the plantations from Virginia and Maryland, also the place of Surveyor General then vacant, and the honour of sending a burgess to the Assembly. To this grant the colonial government added a duty on skins and furs exported, and afterwards a duty on certain liquors imported into the colony. Its income from all these sources has [127] been estimated, (tho' I suspect extravagantly,) at about 3000 pounds per annum, one year with another.

The direction of the institution, is vested by the charter in twenty Governors or Visitors, who are made a body corporate, with the right, of succession, and the power to appoint the President and six masters, with all other proper officers of the College, and to make statutes and ordinances for its government.

The branches of learning originally designed to be taught here, were Languages, Divinity, and Natural Philosophy. Accordingly, the professorships at first established, were of the Greek and Latin languages, of Mathematics, of Moral Philosophy, and two of Divinity. To these was afterwards added a sixth professorship, called the Brafferton, founded upon the donation of an estate in Yorkshire of that name, which the great Sir Robert Boyle had bequeathed to this College, for the advancement or propagation of the Christian religion among Infidels, that is the Indians. This estate, however, has since been taken from it by a decree of the Court of Chancery in England, and vested in trustees, at the head of whom is the Bishop of Lon - [128] don, to the use of a society for the conversion, and religious instruction and education of the Negro slaves in the British West India Islands. Since the revolution, the Visitors have changed the objects of the professorships, banishing the schools of Divinity, and of the Greek and Latin languages, and substituting others. At present, they are for Law and Police, Mathematics, Chemistry and Natural Philosophy, Moral Philosophy and the Law of Nations. I didn't venture to ask my companion if they had taken the advice of our friend Chastellux, and established a professorship of dancing among the rest. But certainly if that art has any thing of the virtue which the dancing master in Moliere ascribes to it, that of keeping men from taking fake steps in life, it must be very much wanting among the students.

Notwithstanding all however that has been done for this institution, it has never flourished to any extent. Before the revolution, it seems, the teaching of the languages filled the college with little boys, and of course deterred young gentlemen from coming to prosecute their higher studies. Since that event, the Legislature has done little or nothing to improve its interests, except indeed giving it a few [129] odd remnants of surveyors' fees, and such things hardly worth the trouble and disgrace of collection. Indeed it would appear that its funds must have declined very considerably under the patronage of the Republic, as they are now valued at only four or five thousand dollars per annum, which is much below the ancient estimate.

But in other respects too, this College at present seems to be nearly as low as it can well be to exist at all. Various causes have led to this state of things. In the first place, the salaries of the Professors are not sufficient to fill the chairs in a proper manner; for they are quite too small to attract men of science from a distance, and the Virginians don't often raise such articles among themselves. Of course the places, (with a few honourable exceptions,) have been bestowed upon gentlemen of moderate qualifications, who could give no importance to the establishment. But the principal cause of the decline of this seminary, has been the neglect of discipline over the students. This resulted perhaps partly from the timid policy of the professors, partly from the weakness of the laws; but above all, from the ungovernable habits of the students themselves. Virginian youths, indeed, are not [130] naturally overpatient of restraint, or submissive to authority, even of the most parental kind. But here the evil was aggravated by the rebellious principles of modern Liberty and Infidelity together, which had crept in like a pestilence among the collegiates. Godwin and Paine were now their favourite authors, and the sources from which they derived their notions of policy and religion. The usual consequences soon followed. Idleness, intemperance, profanity, and in short, dissipation of almost every kind and name, leading not unfrequently to duels of death, prevailed and triumphed, till the evil could neither be repressed nor endured. In this state of things, reflecting parents at last took the alarm, and silently withdrew their children from an institution where they could no longer trust them with safety to their morals, and hardly to their lives. Thus the College died gradually away, till now the pupils are almost as few as the professors!!

This state of nothingness however, I hope for the sake of Letters and the Commonwealth, will not long continue. Indeed the causes which produced it, (or some of them at least,) are already ceasing to operate. Licentious authors, it seems, [131] are no longer favourites among the students, who have opened their eyes at last to the folly and wickedness of their principles. As a proof of this, the Professor told me, with visible satisfaction, that at a late meeting of the Society which they have established among themselves, the profligate works of Paine were banished from their library by a formal resolution. Godwin, in the mean time, has sunk into silent contempt. All this looks well, and seems to justify the hope that this ancient seminary may yet rise up from its ashes, and prove a blessing to the state. One thing, at least, must now be evident to all who are intrusted with its welfare, (and the lesson is worth what it has cost,) that the prosperity of a College, as of every other institution of civil society, will rise and fall with its religion.


I SEE you open your eyes at the account I have given you of the low state of Polite Letters in Virginia, and I know you will call upon me to explain the causes which have produced it. 'Why,' you will say, 'the state has been settled upwards of two hundred years, and was first planted from one of the most learned and ingenious nations in Europe, always distinguished for the number and excellence of her authors. And yet these Virginians have so few to boast! Certainly the Abbe had some reason to suspect, that the climate of the new world was very bad for the intellect of its inhabitants.'— But to this conclusion, I tell you beforehand, you shall never bring me to consent. On the contrary, I must believe from my own eyes, that the seeds of genius have been scattered as liberally here, as any where in the world. Nature has done her part by the Virginians; but they are spoilt children, and neglect her favours. How then do I account for their literary backwardness? I will [133] endeavour to tell you in as few words as convenience and propriety will allow.

In the first place, then, you must please to observe, that the peculiar character of the first settlers was not likely to give a literary turn to their successors. They were indeed, mostly, mere adventurers, (such of them, I mean, as, came over of their own accord,) who only lighted here to make fortunes, and return. Of course, as money and not fame was their object, they chose to cultivate tobacco rather than belles-lettres. Captain Smith, indeed, seems to have been a man above the common strain of his companions, and to have had something of a passion for literary as well as military enterprise. He has written two books, his History of Virginia, which is highly praised for its correctness, and his Adventures, which you may read in the second volume of Churchill's Collections.—I am not well enough acquainted with old English to judge of his style. It appears to be strong and natural; but is certainly a little too harsh for my ear. However, Smith was one by himself, and couldn't impart his spirit to the rest.

But, besides the unfavourable character of the first settlers, they were for a long time few in [134] number, and had to maintain themselves at the sword's point against the savage natives. Even so late as 1671, (more than sixty years after the first settlement,) Sir William Berkeley, then governor, in answer to the questions propounded to him by the Lords Commissioners of Foreign Plantations, estimates the whole population of the state at no more than 40,000. But it is easy to see that a population thus slowly increasing, and always so entirely disproportioned to the extent of the country which they had to subdue and cultivate, could furnish no supernumeraries for the holiday pursuits of literature. And, indeed, poets and other bels esprits, however volatile in their own nature, could hardly be expected to try their wings in a country where all the inhabitants were occupied in their own pursuits, and too busy to admire their flights. Thus you see Cowley in the preface to his poems, dated in 1656, talking of his intention to renounce the Muses, assigns as his reason for this resolution, that he had determined to seclude himself from the world in one of the American plantations; "and I think," says he, "Dr. Donne's sun-dial in a grave, is not more useless and ridiculous, than poetry would be in that retirement"

[135] Then, again, you are to consider the situation of these few inhabitants, (such as they were,) scattered thinly here and there over a large territory. There was indeed, for a long time, no city of any size in the whole colony, to draw them together to refine their manners and improve their tastes.—But they all lived, each on his own plantation, something like the petty barons of old times, with a long retinue of blacks to adorn their semibarbarous courts. This at least is true of the rich and leading ones, from whom the rest would naturally take their tone. The great object of these was to be rich, and to live at their ease; for they had little or nothing to stimulate their ambition in those days. They gave themselves up therefore to the pleasures of indolence, such as they are, to eating, drinking, gaming, horse-racing, and the whole herd of vulgar passions.

Another cause, which must have operated against the growth of letters in this state, was the want of a proper establishment for the support of an enlightened clergy. The people were obliged to put up with such ministers as they could get from England, and there is too much reason to suspect that these were not always the best.But, besides this, [136] the precariousness of their livings would naturally make them devote all their spare time to their secular interests; for they had generally no inductions, and therefore no freehold, but held their places at the mercy of their vestries. How different this state of theirs from that of their brethren in France, England, and some other countries of Europe. There, we know that many ecclesiastics, (the dignitaries of the church at least,) are favoured with settled and permanent provision for their support, and so left at full liberty to employ their leisure in polite and amiable studies. Hence it is, we have seen, that the members of the regular clergy have always been the greatest friends and patrons of learning and letters in Europe. Indeed the very nature of their calling, and I hope I may add, in many instances at least, of their principles, must lead them to labour with united efforts in the great work of improving the intellect, and refining the taste of the people. They are, therefore, almost ex officio, the regular troops, the standing army of literature in modern times. And, by the by, it is perhaps to this cause—to their liberal spirit, and happy concert in bringing all their several contributions into a common stock, for the cause [137] of Christianity and mankind, that we are indebted for the decided triumph of modern over ancient learning. For the ancient philosophers wrote and spoke as mere individuals, without any idea of that intellectual partnership which the others have happily realized. They wrote too from the selfish principle of vanity, to display their own talents, and monopolize the admiration of their readers; while the clergy, it is to be hoped, more frequently write from the generous impulse of benevolence, to promote the welfare of mankind; or if other motives must be suspected, to shine in the new lustre reflected back upon themselves from the objects which they have irradiated with their light. Judge then how much the want of such a body must have injured the literary interests of this state.

But again, the colonists, (or rather the company in England, and the king, whose business and duty it was,) were shamefully backward in providing common schools, as well as higher seminaries, and other instruments of learning. Thus we find Sir William Berkeley, (in the paper before referred to,) exclaiming with a Goth-like triumph, "I thank God there are no free schools nor printing, and I hope we shall not have these hundred years; [138] for learning has brought disobedience, and heresies, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both!" This most unchristian prayer was partly realized. At least it appears that several years afterwards, in 1680, the only printer then in the state, for the offence of printing the laws without license, was called before the governor and council, and compelled to give bond with security not to print any thing thereafter till his majesty's, pleasure should be known—after which we hear no more of printing till 1733. It is true, indeed, that a few years subsequent to this attack upon the poor printer, their majesties William and Mary, were graciously pleased to establish the college which bears their name, and give it a pretty tolerable endowment. But this seminary, as I have already remarked, from some vice either in its constitution or in its management, has done but little for the cause of letters in this state.

But, besides all this, the Virginians were merely a colony, and felt that they were. Of course they were always ready to look up to their transatlantic fathers, with a sentiment of reverence which naturally predisposed them to overrate their talents, as [139] well as to undervalue their own. This feeling nipp'd at once the very bud of all ambition for literary fame. And, on the other hand too, the people of the old country were sufficiently willing to take the most ungracious advantage of this filial prejudice in their favour, to perpetuate the inferiority which it caused. Indeed it would seem that the British government itself took some pains to discountenance the literary efforts of its transplanted subjects, and this either from fear, (according to the hint of the loyal Berkeley,) from jealousy, or perhaps more probably from the mere influence of the commercial spirit which first founded the colony.—And, in fact, we find that the whole business of the plantation, as it was managed chiefly by merchants, was generally carried on in the true style of traffic. The company looked to their ledger of profit and loss, and as the article of polite letters could make no figure in that account, the item was passed over as nothing. You will see a curious instance of this spirit in the History of Virginia by Sir William Keith, (published, as he tells us in the dedication, "under the auspice" of the Prince of Wales's "name and protection,") when he says: "As to the college erected in Virginia, and other designs [140] of the like nature which have been proposed for the encouragement of learning, it is only to be observed in general, that altho' great advantages may accrue to the mother-state both from the labour and luxury of its plantations, yet they will probably be mistaken who imagine that the advancement of literature, and the improvement of arts and sciences in our American colonies, can ever be of any service to the British state." This from the pen of a Knight Baronet, and written so late as the year 1738, some time after the polite age of Queen Anne!!!

But you may say, perhaps, that the state is now free, and the effect ought to cease with its cause. Very true—but you must remember that the commonwealth is not yet forty years old, (hardly the full prime for a man,) and her nonage, or her infancy at least, was passed in wars and troubles, that have left their marks behind them. It is true the revolution gave a rousing shake to all the sleeping energies of the people, of which it is perfectly fair to look for the effects and the evidence in their intellectual exertions. And accordingly we find that since they have set up for themselves, they exhibit a degree of spirit and excellence in their favourite [141] pursuits, which leaves us no room to suspect their talents. Still it has happened, (perhaps unfortunately,) that their minds have been turned principally to politics and speculation, to the neglect of polite letters. The truth is, that power and wealthy furnish stronger temptations to ambition, than the sober and modest pleasures of literature. Hence it is, that while Virginia can show a long roll of her warriors and statesmen, she can give but a Flemish account of her poets and wits. Besides this, most of the causes which I have already assigned for her literary backwardness, still continue to operate. There are still no large cities, no learned clergy, no liberally-endowed colleges, no well-furnished libraries; tho' I see with pleasure some faint glimpses of improvement in all these particulars.

After all this, however, the cause which operates most injuriously against the progress of letters in Virginia, (and indeed throughout all the United States;) is the ready and redundant supply of books from Great Britain. The people of this country are heirs, who have come to a great estate of writers by birth-right, from the mere bounty of their ancestors, and have nothing to do but to enjoy the inheri- [142] tance. The consequence is that, feeling no strong motive to exert their own talents, they naturally fall into indolence, and insensibly waste away the noble patrimony of their fathers.

One great incitement to literary exertions is the want of intellectual food. When intelligent men begin to multiply in a country, a demand is excited for mental enjoyments, which naturally stimulates the industry of those who feel themselves qualified to furnish the materials of its gratification. But here the provisions and luxuries of foreign markets, are poured in with so much profusion, that the people have no occasion to trouble their own native fields for their supplies. Of course the whole country lies in a forest, of great natural fertility; but without cultivation.

And again, a great, perhaps the greatest motive to literary enterprise, is the hope of fame. But what hope can a native author entertain, when he finds all the readers pre-engaged by writers of greater name from a distance, perhaps fresh from the mint of London, who have not only the stamp of merit, but the charm of fashion upon them? The distance too from which these exotics come, ("major e longinquo reverentia,) and that habitual [143] veneration for the mother country which is still a prevalent sentiment among the people of this, create a natural predilection in their favor, which renders it impossible for native writers to enter into the competition upon any thing like equal terms.

It is very true this same evil has operated in some degree, at the beginning, to retard the progress of letters in almost every nation which has afterwards become famous for its proficiency even in spite of it. Thus, with the Romans, who borrowed all their literature from Greece, we find the first authors often quarrelling with their readers for the preference they were always sure to give to the writers of that nation. Thus too, our early French authors complain of our countrymen for their partiality to the Italians, while the English in their turn, seem to have been equally jealous of ours. Still I must think, that this evil of foreign competition never operated half so injuriously against the domestic authors of any of those nations, as it now operates against those of this state and country.—And this for a very plain reason. In all those cases, their foreign rivals wrote in a different language from themselves. Of course the latter might still hope to retain some readers who knew nothing but [144] their mother tongue; however compelled to part with those of the haut ton: so they wouldn't have to shut up shop at once for the pure want of customers; but might still supply the poor dealers, leaving the fashionable high-flyers to trade with more splendid merchants from abroad. But, Virginian and American authors unhappily write the same language with their foreign rivals: that is, they deal in the same articles, and address the same customers with men who have a greater name, and a better stand for business.

Besides this too, in the case of those nations, domestic writers, tho' certainly damp'd by this foreign competition, and perhaps discouraged from great literary enterprises by it, might yet do something in a small way, in the articles of translation and imitation. I needn't remind you how much of the early literature of all those countries is mere second-hand work of this kind. Thus the Roman writers borrowed from the Greeks, and freely enough in all conscience. Virgil himself, the Prince of them, set a bold example of imitation, and they were all ready enough to follow. Terence put on the mask of comedy, as if to hide his blushes of conscious plagiarism behind it. He was certainly [145] half Menander, (Cæsar you know calls him dimidiate Menander,) in a sense rather different from that which his encomiast intended. Horace, too, in one of his odes, (I think the last of the third book,) flatters himself with the hope of immortality merely for having been the first, as he says, to accommodate the Greek measures to the Roman lyre. He claims indeed for his countrymen the invention of satire, (tho' this is perhaps rather a mode of comedy than a distinct species of writing by itself,) but yields the palm of originality in every thing else. Pass on to modern nations. The Italians, to be sure, borrowed only from themselves, prompted by the discovery of their own forgotten authors, to emulate the spirit of their Roman ancestors, and thus contend with their own kindred for the laurel of intellect. But this honour is their's alone. Our countrymen, you find, borrowed largely from them, and from the Greeks and Romans into the bargain. And as to the English—look at Chaucer, their "morning-star," as they call him, and see how freely he steals from the Italian and Provencal bards, disguising the theft indeed by a thousand ingenious additions of his own, hiding the larceny of imitation under the splendid robe of his own invention, worth a thousand [146] times what it covers. And so far has this humour been carried among them, that even to this day their authors continue to pillage the literature of all nations, and deck themselves, without remorse or shame, in the spoils of the living and the dead. Hence, too, we hear them actually boasting as much of their translations, (particularly the Virgil of Dryden, and the Homer of Pope,) as of their most original works. At the same time, it is but a just tribute to their genius to confess, that they seldom borrow any thing from us or others, without increasing its value so much that they may almost claim it for their own. According to the old saying, they steal the invention of the ruffle, and improve it by the addition of a shirt. But to apply these remarks, this privilege of translation and imitation along with it, must be allowed to have been of great service to the exercise of domestic talents in other nations. Yet American authors are cut off from all hope of advantage from this source. The books imported from abroad are all in their own tongue, and therefore they cannot translate them at all, nor even imitate them without being caught in the fact, and exposed to the danger of odious comparisons. Here are no obscure corners of a foreign language, where [147] a writer might, hope to commit an act of petit larceny in the dark; but the common idiom is an open highway, and a robbery upon it would be detected and punished on the spot.

You will say, perhaps, that notwithstanding all this, a great deal might yet be done by native writers with the subjects of the history, manners, poetry, and other things of their own country, where they would run no risk of competition from abroad. This, I grant you, seems plausable enough. But unfortunately, there is another difficulty even here, and it is indeed sufficiently disgraceful to the people of this state and nation; that is, these domestic subjects are of very little interest to them. The cry is, 'give us something foreign, something English, something European.' Indeed, so far does this absurd passion prevail with the people, that they will often consent to take their impressions of their own country from the lying account of imported travellers, even with the evidence of its falsehood and malice before their eyes. After this, what can we expect but that native wits, who feel the pride and jealousy of intellect, should shut up their port-folios, or perhaps give their writings to [148] the fire, as the Sybil did her books, till their graceless countrymen shall learn to set a better value upon their merits


You may easily imagine, from your knowledge of my taste, that I was very impatient to visit the ruins of Jamestown. I am accordingly here, as soon as I could steal away from the hospitality of my friends in Williamsburgh, and now find myself most agreeably situated, for a few days at least, in the charming family of Mr. A___, who is a particular acquaintance of Manleys. I have but just left the social circle for the night, and sit down in my chamber to give you an account of my first visit to this place, with something of what I have seen and felt upon the occasion. Indeed my heart isn't yet settled down in its old place; but moves itself in my bosom as I write.

I left Williamsburg after dinner to-day, proceeding directly for Jamestown, which is only about eight miles distant, and soon found myself on the shore opposite to the old settlement. The village, or rather plantation, I found situate on an island [150] near the northern bank of James river. The land, it seems, was formerly a peninsula; but the water has washed away the narrow tongue that used to join it to the continent, and I was obliged to cross the stream in a boat; tho' you may still ford it at low tide. I shall leave you to imagine what I thought and felt when I first found myself on this memorable ground. Jamestown, you know, was the first settlement which the English made in Virginia, in the year 1667, upwards of two centuries ago, and as I always claim an interest in this state, I naturally look upon the scenes of its history with the eyes of a patriotic lover. A thousand ideas and emotions, too rapid to be remembered or described, rushed thro' my mind in an instant. I thought upon Smith, that gallant and romantic spirit, who deserves to be honoured as the founder of the state. I thought upon Pocahontas, that incomparable Indian, who is now perhaps its tutelary angel. I saw in fancy the little band of adventurers, the captain at their head, in the very act, of raising their rude huts, and throwing up those tough works to protect themselves against the natives. I saw their gallant chief animating them by his eloquent language, and more eloquent example, [151] to encounter all their dangers and hardships with a smile. On the opposite side, I discovered the Indians moving over the little isthmus, dressed off in their finest feathers, with Pocahontas before them, like another fabulous Ceres, bearing presents of corn and fruit to the poor perishing strangers.—They meet together—they embrace—they smoke the pipe of peace—they lead off the dance of simple innocence and joy. Who would not gaze forever on such a vision of delight?

Such was the dream in which I entered upon this once celebrated, but now deserted ground, to view the remains of the old settlement. I had been warned indeed, beforehand, not to anticipate too much, and, therefore was not disappointed to find but few traces of its ancient importance. Two or three old houses, the ruin of an old steeple, a church yard, and faint marks of rude fortifications, are now the only memorials of its former inhabitants, amply sufficient however to consecrate the scene, and endear it to fancy and the heart. It was, indeed, with a sort of religious awe, that I drew near to these venerable relicks of antiquity, now sinking into the dust. The old steeple, which stands facing the beautiful expanse of water to the [152] West, drew my eyes to it as by a charm. There it rises in the midst of sycamores and poplars, which have sprung up around it; covered on its north side, even to its summit, with a fanciful wild running vine of ivy and smilax. To finish the picture, and render its repose still more striking by contrast, numerous domestic pigeons are seen, either playfully hovering around the ruin, or silently building their nests in its mossy clefts.

But the sun was now gently stooping to the western horizon, and I hastened to read the tombstones by his setting rays. The church-yard was near at hand; the wall, partly broken down, almost lost in trees, among which I soon distinguished the poor weeping-willow, that seems, to love these shades of silence and death. A dim melancholy light stole in through the waving branches to reveal the inscriptions. Several of these were of very old date, and conceived in terms of pious simplicity that drew tears into my eyes. It was, indeed, a most affecting spectacle for my heart, to see the ancient settlers of this town, of all ranks and conditions in life, statesmen, warriors, wits, and beauties, all lying together on a level, and mingling their dust in one common mass. O! how frivolous are all the vain pursuits of [153] wealth, honour and pleasure, by which their lives were probably, tormented! And was it for this that they abandoned their homes and their kindred, to brave the dangers of the ocean, and dare the hardships of a new country, only to be buried beneath these willows! This epitaph is extravagant enough; but what a wretched compensation for the toils by which it was earned! Here, too, maybe the grave of a beauty—young, gay, fascinating, perhaps such as my own Emily is at this moment—her eyes may have given law to the colony. Alas! what remains of so many charms? A poor eulogium upon a tombstone, and even that suspected of flattery! But here in this neglected corner, is a grave without a stone, overgrown with weeds and briers, the resting place perhaps of some poor out-cast, who died, nobody knew when, over which his best friend was ashamed to weep in public; but came stealing thro' the shades of the night to moisten its turf with a clandestine tear; and yet, it may be worth in the esteem of Heaven, a whole graveyard of heroes, statesmen, and beauties into the bargain. O! what lessons of wisdom does such a scene as this present to mankind, if they would only open their hearts to the instruction!

[154] And is it possible, continued I, falling into a profound reverie as I gazed upon this field of graves, is it possible that any one who looks upon a place like this, can really believe, or feel the horrible wish to believe, that death is an eternal sleep? For myself, as strange as it may seem to an infidel, these memorials of death are the evidences of immortality, and the very fact that man is dead persuades me that he will never die. For indeed, what would such a creature be, if the grave were the end of his career? A lump of clay kneaded up with tears! An inexplicable riddle of contradictions—a hideous compound of inconsistencies—a libel on the creation of God! Yes! man, on such a supposition, would be a thousand times less reasonable and less happy than the very creatures whom he proudly aspires to govern, the object alike of pity and ridicule, rendered at once wretched and despicable by the very causes of his pre-eminence over them, his reason, his imagination, and his heart. The bird that is now singing before me upon yonder bough, enjoys his being with a finer relish, and thanks his Creator with a sweeter song. He is happy at least to the full extent of his nature. He has no memory but for love, and no foresight but for joy. All his [155] amusements and gratifications lie within his own view, and when he sees his little partner on her nest, and carols a livelier strain to console her in her cares, he hardly dreams of offering a reward to the inventor of a new pleasure. His life indeed is short, but he lives a thousand years in a moment, because he has no cares and anxieties to be subtracted from the sum of his enjoyments. He may die perhaps in a moment by the malice of the sportsman; but the pain of death is transient, his song is silent but for an instant, and his parting spirit delights to lose itself amid the sighs of flowers that droop in sympathy around him. But man, on the other hand, has a thousand passions which seem designed only to torment him, by their endless and unintelligible contradictions and contests. He regrets the past which cannot be recalled, and dreads the future which cannot be avoided. He fears dangers that do not exist, and hopes for pleasures that cannot be attained. Reason, of which he boasts so much, only serves to discover his wretchedness, and furnish him with fresh materials of sorrow, in repentance and self-reproach. Memory recalls a thousand scenes of distress over which he has already shed but too many tears; or perhaps, contriving [156] still more ingeniously for his torment, restores the image of delights which he has lost forever. Fear in the mean time, continually points him to new dangers that lie coiled up in futurity, collecting their venom to spring upon him as he passes; while Imagination incessantly busies herself in inventing new fiction, to terrify and torment him with perpetual novelties of woe—And after all this, to die—to lose not only his life, but his soul—to part forever, and to feel that he is parting forever from all that he loves upon earth—O! this is not death—it is perdition! Well, indeed, might we say, upon such a supposition, of all creatures upon the earth, we are the most miserable, if in this life only we have hope. But, when I raise my eyes from these graves to fix them on yonder skies, and recall those memorable words of the Apostle, For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him—it is then I feel my soul rising within me in the consciousness of her immortality, and bend my knee in grateful adoration to thank my God that he has made me a man. I know indeed, and I am admonished by my own heart, as well as by the sentence I have quoted, that this name which I now glory to bear is an awful [157] word, and a title to wretchedness or bliss without measure and without end. As man, I am born to a large inheritance of sin and sorrow, and sentenced to a double death, by a double title, my father's and my own. But I will not despair. I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he is able and willing to save all that come unto God by him. And tho' I feel that I have no strength of myself to go to him as I ought, I hear a voice that whispers in my breast, my grace is sufficient for thee. Away then my doubts and fears. I will trust in his mercy—I will walk in his commandments—I will live in his life, and abide in his love—and when my last hour shall come—tho' tears may flow, they shall not be bitter.—I will not sorrow for myself or others, as those who have no hope. I will not bid my friends an eternal adieu; but I will say to them as they stand weeping around me, for their consolation and my own— if we believe that Jesus died, and rose again, even so them also which sleep, in Jesus will God bring with him. With these words I will lay my head upon my pillow, and breathe out my soul into his bosom. The thought was delightful, melancholy but soothing to my spirit. I turned at last to look once more upon the scene before me. Not a leaf trembled. [158] Above, beneath, around, all was still and silent as the grave, and the stream that stole quietly along seemed but the mirror of my heart, reflecting the image of Heaven from its tranquil breast.

The sun had now sunk beneath the waves, and I hastened to the river side in front of the steeple. The James here expands itself into a pretty ample sheet, extending upwards for a reach of nearly twelve miles, resembling a large peaceful lake with high waving banks. I stood on the ruins of the old works to enjoy the scene. The evening star, just glimmered over the hills; and a soft blush of light from the horizon stole along the surface of the calm expanse, as it lay in sleeping beauty before me. Surely my emotions were not of this world. My spirit indeed seemed to be already disembodied, and soared away on wings of her own to hold communion with the great and good, patriots of all nations, and saints that never die.

But night was now closing fast upon me, when I awoke from my trance, and found it necessary to look for a place of rest. A friendly taper appeared thro' the trees, the star of benevolence, if not of love. It was the mansion of my kind host, and I reached it just in time to share in the elegant hospi- [159] tality of his evening board. But I am afraid I fatigue you with my descriptions. I have been betrayed into them by feelings too warm to be restrained, and too fine to be expressed.

Adieu, my dear Henry! I retire to my bed for the night, and when I lay my head upon my pillow, shall breathe a prayer that will be heard for all whom I love in this world. O! what is man without religion.


I EMPLOY some of my leisure moments, when I am not thinking of you, in turning over the leaves of books that treat of the country I am in. I was just now reading in Stith's History of this state, (quite an old book,) when I came across a passage giving an account of the first Origin of Wives in Virginia, which I think will amuse you a little, if my letter happens to find you in one of your merry moods.

The first settlers of the colony, it seems, were all males, mere adventurers who came over to make fortunes, and return: The Virginia Company in England, however, had larger views for a permanent settlement, and for posterity. It soon occurred to these grave and experienced men, that the only method of fixing the emigrants to the soil, would be to send over wives to them. Accordingly, so early as the year 1619, "in a great and general Quarter Court of the Company," Sir Edwin Sandys, (let all the Virginians bless his memory,) brought forward a string of propositions for the ad- [161] vancement of the colony: "And because he understood," I am quoting the Historian's own words, "that the people in Virginia, tho' seated there in their persons for some few years, yet were not settled in their minds, nor intended to make it their place of rest and continuance, but proposed after having got some wealth to return again to England, which tended to the utter overthrow and dissolution of the Plantation; he therefore advised," (please to observe his plan,) "that there should be sent over one hundred Maid's, young and uncorrupt, to make wives for the inhabitants; that wives, children, and families might render them less moveable, and fix and settle them, together with their posterity in that soil." The advice was quite reasonable, you see, "and in consequence of this proposition, ninety Maids were accordingly sent the following spring."

It seems by the Historian's account, that this novel exportation found a ready market, as might have been anticipated. The Maids young and uncorrupt that were sent out, soon met with husbands to their hearts content, and proceeded about their business of peopling his Majesty's Colony, with the most laudable dispatch. But, alas! many poor ba- [162] chelors were still left unprovided for, and they soon began to murmur, as indeed it was but natural they should. Accordingly, we find, that about two years after this first exportation, in 1621, the Company were graciously pleased to open a subscription roll for a second. This roll was headed, "For Sending an hundred more Maids to make Wives;" and immediately, says the old Historian, smacking his lips no doubt as he wrote it, "Sixty were accordingly sent, young, handsome, and well recommended to the Company for their virtuous education and demeanor. With them was sent over, the several recommendations and testimonials of their behaviour, that the purchasers might thence be enabled to judge how to chuse." The price of those wives, he goes on to tell us, "was stated at an hundred and twenty pounds of tobacco, and afterwards advanced to an hundred and fifty, and proportionately more if any of them should happen to die, so that the adventurers might be refunded their original charge."

The History, indeed, doesn't inform us exactly how these fair articles of merchandise were disposed of on their arrival at Jamestown, and I am sorry for it; for I am sure it must have been the most agreeable part of the story. The old man, [163] tells us however, that "Whatever was sent to Virginia upon these rolls, was there sold by the Cape-Merchant or some other factor, at such a moderate price as should indemnify the subscribers for their money advanced, and for all charges incident thereupon:" No doubt then, considering the rudeness of the age and country, this cargo of young maids was disposed of in the same unceremonious manner. And only think what a new and interesting spectacle it must have been for the emigrants, to see such a fine invoice of belles set up to sale in open market. I say in open market, for as there was sure to be no little contest among the buyers for a choice, (especially as the number of men greatly exceeded that of the maids,) it was probably necessary, and was certainly the fairest way, to set the girls up to the highest bidder. Indeed, I have the whole scene this moment before my eyes. There you see the maids all assembled on that green before the Governor's house, dressed out in their best aprons and tuckers, with their recommendations in their hands, all on tip-toe for husbands. Here you see the men walking round and round, examining these new commodities with a mercantile eye, now whispering among themselves, perhaps cheapening the ar- [164] ticles they intend to buy, in order to get a better bargain. On the other hand, the girls to be sure, look a little shocked in their delicacy by the rudeness of their purchasers; but are, no doubt, comforting themselves in their sleeves with the certainty of getting husbands at last. There is a pretty maid set up! The cryer calls her name—Miss Biddy Willing—reads her certificate, and invites a bid. 'Come, how much for her? Just a going.' She casts down her eye; but is soon ordered to raise up her head, and show her charms to the best advantage. What agitation must she feel at every bid, especially as I think she has happened to set her fancy upon that smart young fellow in the crowd. You see her slyly winking to him not to let that old bandy-legged booby get her at last, for the sake of a few pounds of tobacco. But there comes out Miss Sukey Sourgrapes, who seems a little ancient or so, and looks indeed as if she had been smelling bilge-water all the way over. By the by, I think she must have come over on her own account, (perhaps, hiding herself away in the steerage unknown to the captain,) for there is no bill of lading for her, and she certainly doesn't answer the description in the Historian's invoice already quoted—Yet, there she stands up as prim as you please, like a poor criminal in the young misses' play, repeating all the time,

Here I stand as stiff as a stake,
Some one buy me for pity's sake!

Old Crookshanks there may have her for me. And observe now too, what a contest among the men! How high the bids run for that cherry-lipped damsel! But, here again, I see yonder old miserly dog refuse a single chew of his kitsfoot for a pretty girl, while that lad of mettle and spirit bids his whole plantation os sweet-scented at once, and wouldn't take twice as much for his bargain. But now they are all disposed of one way or other, and you see the people walk away to their homes, two and two, as happy as love and matrimony can make them.

I see you smile, my sweet girl, at the oddness of the scene I have just set before you, and certainly I must confess it is rather a novel incident in history, at least in the annals of civilized nations. It is'nt indeed the first time that men have bought their wives; but then they have generally done it at private sale, never before at publick auction.

[166] But tell me now, my dear Emily, love and fancy apart, do you think these poor maids whose case we are smiling at, stood a worse chance for happiness, than those who are left to pick and choose for themselves? I declare, I am half inclined to think not. And, indeed, how many embarrassments and perplexities of choice would it deliver our fair damsels from, if their matrimonial connexions could thus be settled at once by a bona fide sale in market overt! As it is, our ladies are often as nice and fanciful in the choice of their husbands, as they are of their ribbons, and are indeed if any thing, rather more difficult to please in them. After all however, I know you will smile, and tell me with a certain air, that you will choose, and if you must be unhappy at all, will at least be so in your own way. But wouldn't this be even an aggravation of your disappointment? For myself, I confess I had rather suffer in any mode than by my own folly, for then I should be spared the pain of self-reproach. However, my dear Emily, if I cannot persuade you to give up the privilege of choosing for yourself, you may be sure I shall never quarrel with your choice while it is so judicious, or at least so flattering, as to prefer me before all the lovers in the world.

[167] But let us return to our history. You will ask me perhaps, what need there was for this importation of maids. Couldn't the first settlers find wives among the Indians, or do without any? As to the first question, you must know the English were so proud that they scorned to marry the natives, tho' the poor things were ready enough to take them for better and worse. They thought it quite beneath their Christian dignity forsooth, to mix their blood with that of those tawny coloured children of Nature, whom they looked upon with great contempt as Pagans, and quite inferior beings; just as if the Bible didn't tell us, that our Father in Heaven made us all of one pair, brothers and sisters, and equals. Perhaps, indeed, they havn't studied that book any more than some of their descendants at the present day. Besides, they wanted wives to scour dishes and darn stockings, (as well as for other household purposes;) and the poor Indian belles knew nothing of these sciences.

But, why didn't they do without any wives? Because, they couldn't if they chose, and didn't choose if they could. Indeed, I never know any nation of men, mad or silly enough to think that they could live tolerably, without women to help and comfort [168] them. You may triumph in this confession if you please, and tell me of the Amazons, to prove that we are not quite so indispensable to your happiness. But, with permission, the conduct ascribed to them, of shutting out all males from their society, is so different from any thing that I have seen in the ladies of our days, that I am satisfied it is all a fable.

At any rate, the fair damsels of Virginia show no disposition, that I can see, to declare themselves independent of the men. So far from it, I overhear frequent complaints of the scarcity of beaux and husbands. You must know that the embargo, and other restrictive measures of government, have fallen very heavily upon the ladies, by impoverishing their lovers at home, and cutting off supplies, from abroad. There are, of course, great murmurs among these fair malcontents, against the president and congress; for I believe they are nearly all federalists, that is, as the word imports, friends to union. And, indeed, I make no doubt they would take it very kindly, if the British government would do another act of generosity, only a little different from the former, and authorise an exportation of beaux, for the relief of the fair suf- [169] erers in this state. So, my dear girl, if you have any friend in parliament, do give him a hint to propose the thing; but, be sure and beg him to proceed as secretly and quietly as possible; for if the English ladies should once get wind of it, they might raise a riot to overset King George upon his throne.

Adieu! lovely Emily! Suffer my historical researches to amuse you, and believe me, that however I may jest at other times, I am always in earnest when I sign myself, &c.


After folding up my letter last evening, and writing your sweet name upon it, I retired to rest, in that delightful agitation of spirits which I always feel when I have been thinking of you. It was, indeed, some time before I could compose myself to sleep; but at last Love yielded to Nature, and I fell into a soft and quiet slumber. On a sudden, I found myself transported, I knew not how, by some invisible charm, to a high and romantic hill, surrounded with trees of every variety of beauty.—Here I stood, lost in the enchantment of novelty and delight, looking around me with incredulous admiration, when a fair young damsel, seeing my embarrassment, came up to my relief. You mustn't ask me to describe this damsel to you, still less to tell you who she was, for both are above my power. I can only say, that my heart beat with a sort of instinctive pleasure at her approach. Indeed, she looked like the being of another world, while a certain air of divinity melted my soul within me, [171] and I felt myself sinking into the earth with the consciousness of my mortality before her. And yet, I knew not how, there was an expression of human kindness in her eye, especially when she smiled, that restored me to myself, and made me feel quite at home in her company. I even conceited that I had seen her somewhere or other before, and puzzled myself in vain to recollect the time and place of our meeting. One thing, however, I observed with pleasure, that she had a rosebud at her bosom, exactly like the one you wore in the shrubbery that evening when we parted. Indeed, right or wrong, I was upon the point of calling her by your name, when she drew near, and took me by the hand with the most graceful and charming familiarity. My dear friend,' said she, 'I have been waiting for you a long time, at least it seems so to me. But you are come at last, and we have not a moment to lose. Look up to the top of the hill and see.' I looked up at once, and beheld a most transporting scene. I now saw, for the first time, that the summit of the lull was crowned with the most magnificent temple, I suppose, that was ever built, even in a dream. You know, however, that I have but a small talent for description, [172] and will therefore spare me the pain of showing it, by a fruitless effort to paint the structure. I will only say, that the whole was exactly to my taste, and I am sure I couldn't have made it better if I had been broad awake. I was, besides, particularly pleased with the various emblematical pieces of painting and sculpture, such as garlands, torches, cooing doves, bleeding hearts bound round with blue ribbon, and other fanciful devices, of the like nature, which adorned the outside, as if to invite all the world to come and enter in. It was no wonder I saw a great number of men, of all ages and sizes, thronging together about the door, which was closed, and pressing with great impatience for admittance. It was, indeed, a scene of delightful confusion. All was life and spirits. Odours came wafted on the breeze, songs melted in the air—but you can fancy all these things a thousand times better than I can describe them. 'There,' said my companion, 'is the Temple of Hymen! It is St. Valentine's day, and there is to be a great Fair of Wives immediately. You mustn't be shocked when I tell you that they are all to be sold, according to the fashion of this country, for ready money. You see how the men are gathering around. If you have any fancy [173] to buy, come along with me at once. The hill, indeed, is sometimes hard to climb; but give me your hand, and I will help you up a little.' I gave her my hand, and we easily ascended the hill together. The door was now opened, at last, and we entered in with the throng. Here, I confess, the elegance of the scene was rather lessened, by some of those wild and strange images which are apt to cross our fancies when we are asleep. The inside of the temple, indeed, didn't seem to correspond exactly with the outside; but resembled a great store—more elegant, to be sure, than any I ever saw in my waking moments, but still, hardly fine enough for a dream, when ornaments cost us nothing.—Thus, there was a sort of counter, running round the room, to keep off the customers, only covered with myrtle instead of green baize, and behind it, in the place of common shelves, were a number of beautiful alcoves, whose columns were hung with wreaths of jessamine and eglantine, waving along them in fanciful festoons. In these recesses, a great variety of ladies, of different ages and looks, were disposed with charming taste and judgment. The principal merchant himself, (to whom, it seems, these fair articles were only sent on commission,) [174] appeared to be a plain; good-looking man, perhaps a little turned of forty. The cast of his countenance was good-natured and familiar, and he accosted his customers with a fascinating smile, that made it almost impossible to leave the store without buying. For his dress, he wore a plain snuff-coloured coat, with a white waistcoat, and, about his neck, instead of a common cravat, a piece of fine cambrick, something like a parson's band. My guide whispered to me, 'his name is Hymen: isn't he a charming man? All the ladies are in love with him.' But my attention was now called to his clerks, who were there to assist him in the business. I observed, particularly, a little lad who appeared to be quite blind; but yet contrived to make himself very busy on the occasion, and told the customers a thousand pretty tales to persuade them to buy. The name of the youngster was Love. I never saw a little fellow with a better knack at cheating and deceiving people. I actually saw him make a young man believe, that an old maid, with a wrinkled face and a squint eye, was a perfect angel, and set him to write sonnets to her beauty, There was a girl, too, that appeared to be a cousin of his by her looks, very busy in recommending [175] the articles. I heard the customers call her Miss Fancy. She was of a very merry cast of face, and had an arch expression of pleasantry in her eye, that made you smile, almost whether you would or no. She appeared, indeed, to have a natural turn for raillery and sport, and seemed to divert herself, very much, with making odd and whimsical bargains. So she generally made out to dazzle the purchasers with beautiful but fading colours, and contrived to set off the ladies with all her artifices of dress, such as lace, trinkets, and other trifles of that sort, of great show and little worth, besides a plentiful stock of airs and graces of her own invention.

You needn't ask me, my dear Emily, if I was entertained at all this. Indeed, as I was in no great hurry to buy myself, (for a reason which you can easily guess,) I amused myself, for some time, with merely looking on, and was, really, very much diverted with the several strange scenes that were exhibited before me. Here, in one corner, I caught an old fellow, limping on crutches, and shaking with the palsy, in the very act of purchasing a little girl, with a turned-up nose, that, I am quite sure, must have run him crazy in less than twenty-four hours afterwards. There, again, I saw a graceless [176] young fellow buy an elderly widow for a mere trifle. She was, to be sure, wonderfully bedizened with watches, rings, and other old-fashioned trinkets; and, I confess, I couldn't help suspecting that they were the greatest inducements to the purchase. But, I was particularly diverted with the behaviour of a poor old curmudgeon, who came in to buy among the rest. I think I shall never forget his wise looks upon the occasion. He had rummaged over the whole stock of widows and maids, and, at last, at the instigation of Fancy, set his eye upon a young girl, apparently, just from a boarding school. It seemed as if nothing would satisfy him but he must have her. So he drew out a long bag of money, and began counting down the pieces very deliberately, one after the other, looking first at the girl, then at the money, till I began to think he would never be able to decide between them. At last, however, when I thought the bargain was fairly made, he quietly put up the money again, drew the string, shook his head very significantly, and walked away. I saw him afterwards buy a grave old methodist lady, an excellent nurse, for half the price, tho' I really believe she was worth two of the other—at least for him.

[177] On another part of the scene, I beheld several poor old-bachelors, with, their heads freshly powdered, stealing along the counter, and casting most wishful eyes at the lovely damsels behind it; but still afraid, or, perhaps, unable to buy. Here, too, I was very much taken with the strange figure of a man, dressed up in the Turkish style, who, they told me, was no less a personage than the Tripolitan ambassador, brought over to this country by commodore Decatur. He came up to Hymen, licking his lips thro' two odoriferous mustaches, and very modestly requested to be furnished with a dozen wives at once for his money. Hymen, as you may suppose, appeared quite thunderstruck at the proposal. However, he put him off with his usual good humour, and only said: 'I see, sir, you are a stranger among us, and don't know our customs yet. It isn't the fashion of this country to sell wives by the gross; and, indeed,' added he with a smile, 'I believe very few are willing to buy the article by the quantity, as one is, generally, quite as much as a man can cleverly manage.' The poor ambassador didn't seem to be quite satisfied with this refusal; but went away saying something which I couldn't understand.

[178] And here, in the midst of all my amusement, I couldn't help observing with some pain, that the purchasers didn't always appear to be perfectly satisfied with their bargains. Indeed, you must know, the store was a little darkened, according to the modern fashion, so that the customers couldn't see how to choose wisely, even with all their eyes about them; and, besides this, the storekeepers, as I said before, used so many artifices to get off their goods, that it was really no easy thing to keep from being taken in by them. But the moment the poor souls got out to the light with their purchases, they discovered their mistake; and it was, to be sure, both sad and ludicrous, to see their conduct on the occasion. All, of course, laid the blame of their misfortunes upon the principal merchant; for, tho' they had nothing to say against him directly, they all agreed it was his fault, to keep such cheating clerks. One poor fellow, in particular, I shall never forget, who had left the room a few moments before with a very handsome young lady, singing all the way he went, now came back pulling her along with him, in a 'great rage. 'Here she is! Mr. Hymen,' cried he: 'She is not what I took her for, or rather something more. I bought her for [179] a beauty, and I find she is a termagant. I wanted her just to look at; but she is not satisfied to be seen without being heard, and to some tune too. So just take her back again if you please.' 'Not so fast, if you please,' said Hymen, rather sternly—'You know I always sell my goods for better and worse. I can't help your repentance.' At this the man lost all patience, and threatened to publish him for a knave. 'O! as to that,' said Hymen very coolly, 'every body knows what I am already, and I am not afraid I can ever want for customers while I have such articles to sell. So take my advice, and make the best of a bad bargain. Here the husband turned round to me: 'Sir,' said he, 'you may have her at half price, indeed, I don't know but I will give you something to take her off my hands. Perhaps you know how to cure womens' tongues—I don't. 'Excuse me, sir,' said I, in great haste, 'I am not at all scientific that way. Besides,' added I, wishing to soften my refusal a little, 'I confess I don't feel myself quite prepared to take a wife at a moment's warning.' Tho' the truth is, I didn't like the pattern.

This conversation at last drew the eyes of Hymen towards me, who, finding himself a little more at [180] leisure, as the crowd were now beginning to retire, came round near where I was standing. 'My dear sir,' said he, 'I ask a thousand pardons for not attending to you before. You seem to be at a loss; can't I help you to any thing? I assure you, I never had a better assortment in my life: for what with the embargo, and non-intercourse, I haven't quite so many customers as formerly, and new goods are coming out every day. Come, sir, let us try. I am sure I can please you.' Here, I own, his manner was so charming, that I couldn't help pretending, at least, to consent, (something like the ladies in their morning visits to the stores,) tho' I had no serious thoughts of buying. 'There now, sir,' said he, pointing to a prim-looking lady not far off—'there is one of the best pieces of goods in my store. She is, indeed, like a fine old lutestring, good stuff, tho' a little out of fashion. I warrant her an excellent housewife. She can comb childrens' hair to a nicety, make tarts to perfection, and, in short, manage your whole house completely—and yourself into the bargain, if you choose to let her. Come, sir, what say you, you shall have her cheap.' I must here confess, to be honest, I felt my vanity a little mortified, to think, (tho' I [181] know it is a common trick with storekeepers,) that he should wish to put me off with one of his most unsaleable articles. 'No no, I thank you,' said I, rather sharply, 'none of these odd remnants for me. I am for something new and fashionable.'—Here, I believe, I put my hands a-kimbo, with a superlative air; tho,' in spite of my vanity, I couldn't help feeling hurt to see the disconsolate looks which, the poor girl put on as I turned my back upon her. 'Well then, sir,' said he, 'I think I can suit you now. Here is a gay, dashing widow;' (she instantly jumped out a step or two, to meet me half way,) 'what say you to her? You see she is a fine piece of warm stuff, altho' it has been a little worn. A nice article I assure you, especially for the winter. Come, she is exactly what you want.' 'Not exactly,' said I; 'I can't think of buying any thing second hand.' 'And why not?' replied he, 'you see it is none the worse for wear.' 'That may be,' answered I, but''—'But,' said he, 'I am afraid you are more nice than wise. However, please to walk around to the other side, and let us see what we can find there. Now, sir, here is a belle! a belle whose fame has rung thro' Virginia. I know at least twenty, who would give all they are worth,[182] and more too, to get her. But I have refused them all. The truth is, I don't generally sell a lady against her own consent, and this one has been a little troublesome to me with her caprices. However, as you are a stranger, and a handsome, genteel young fellow, perhaps she may have no objection to go to you. If so, you may have her for a plum; and she is well worth it of any man's money.' I gazed at her, (forgive me for it, my dear Emily,) with wonder and delight. She was sitting in a retired alcove overshadowed with flowers, where she looked, like Milton's Eve, already in her "nuptial bower." Her fair arm rested on the harp which stood beside her, while her countenance, beaming with sensibility, was raised gently upwards, as if she would follow the sounds which had just vanished from the strings. The moment they saw me fix my eyes upon her, Love and Fancy flew round to the recess where she was seated, as if to secure the triumph of her charms. Love began to play with the cross on her breast, while Fancy pointed significantly to the ring upon her finger.—I felt—but I cannot tell you how I felt 'Surely,' cried I, in a sudden sally of forgetfulness and enthusiasm, 'I will give all I am worth for her.' I [183] put my hand into my pocket. But confusion! I hadn't a farthing. No kind fairy came to replenish my purse, and there I stood, one of the most melancholy objects in the world—a lover without money. 'Alas!' said I, with a sigh, 'she is not for me!' but immediately recollecting myself and you, I added with a smile, 'and I am not for her.' Well, well,' said Hymen, 'as you please. I am not anxious to sell her just now, as I can dispose of her at any time. Besides, to tell you the truth, I don't think she would suit you entirely. She is, indeed, a little too expensive in her habits, and a little too airy in her notions, for a man of your sobriety. In short, she is a wife for holidays; but you know there are six working days in the week. So let us pass on to some others, for I can't give you over yet.' I shall not detain you to relate all the trials he now made at me, and how I contrived to stand them all. I will just mention by the way, that, among other proposals, he offered me a whole invoice of fashionable coquettes for a song; and I was once almost tempted to speculate upon them, but I declined at last, being apprehensive I might find no one to take them off my hands, as they are perish- [184] able articles, and the market is very dull at present.

At last, said Hymen, seeming to lose all patience, 'you certainly have the most delicate, or, at least, the most difficult taste I ever found in man. But I am vexed now, and am determined to please you, if it is only out of spite. What say you now,' said he, with an arch smile that seemed to probe my heart, 'what say you to this pretty maid in the corner? Hey? Will she suit you do you think?' I turned around, and who in the world should it be but my charming guide herself, who had got into one of the alcoves immediately after our coming in, tho' I hadn't missed her before, and had kept her eye upon me all the time. I flew towards her in an instant, when she cast down her eyes with a modesty that only inflamed my love. 'But come,' said Hymen, with a playful smile, 'not quite so fast if you please. You forget to pay me the money first.' 'Alas!' said I, ' if she is to be bought, I cannot buy. I have only the hope of getting my claim when the lawyers will let me. What do you value her at?' 'Why,' said he, 'a better judge than I am has said her price is far above rubies.' 'I believe it,' said I; 'but alas!—pity my love and my [185] despair!—and when I win my suit'—'Well well,' said he, interrupting me, 'you lovers are always full of hopes. But I cannot be cruel to you. I suppose I must promise to keep her for you till you can get the money.' 'Upon your honour,' said I: 'Upon my honour,' said he; 'for indeed I think she has taken a fancy to you for something on other, and will consent to wait. And more,' said he, 'to show my regard for you, I permit you to take one kiss from her lips by way of earnest to the bargain.' I jumped over the counter in an instant— caught her in my arms—O! my dear Emily!—But I awoke. What wouldn't I give to realize my dream?

[186] LETTER XX.

I have just had the good fortune to light upon a morsal of Virginian poetry, which I send you according to promise. The author is a young gentleman, by the name of Lively, who came to visit us last evening with a party of ladies from Williamsburg. We had all been out to take a walk over the ruins of the old town, and of course had some chat about Smith and the Belle Sauvage, who, by the by, are almost the only poetical characters in the history of the state. Upon our return to the house, we missed our young friend who it seems had been kept behind by a fit of rhyming that came suddenly upon him, according to the nature of the disease. However, it didn't prove mortal in this case, and he was well enough to join our party again at tea. Here, after that delicate libation to the Graces was over, he begged permission to read us a little ballad which he said he had written off-hand for our amusement. This leave of course was easily granted, (for Love and Beauty are always [187] friends to the Muses,) and he read it out to us with a charming tone and manner, that made it pass off quite agreeably, in spite of all its defects. Indeed, you may suppose I find it rather pleasing than otherwise, by my taking the trouble to transcribe it for your eye. But, before you read this bagatelle, you should be informed that it is founded on an incident in the life of Smith, which is thus related by himself. "Powhatan and his naked devils were making ready to surprize the house, and Captain Smith at supper. They desired to have his head, for if they could but kill him, they thought all was theirs. Notwithstanding the eternal all-seeing God did prevent it, and by strange means. For Pocahontas, his dearest jewel and daughter, in that dark night came through the irksome woods, and told the captain great cheer would be sent him by and by; but Powhatan and all the power he could make, would after come and kill us all, if they that brought it couldn't kill us with our own weapons when we were at supper. Therefore, if we would live, she wished us presently to be gone. Such things as she delighted in, he would have given her; but with the tears running down her cheeks, she said, she durst not be seen to have any: for if Powhatan should [188] know it, she were but dead, and so she ran away by herself as she came." This is the simple outline of the story; but the minstrel has endeavoured to fill it up with some additions of his own, taken from historical hints. The masquerade dance in particular, (tho', indeed, this is rather an anachronism, if I must tell upon him,) is proud by a quotation from Smith's History itself, which I give you merely to shew you the state of that art in which the fair Terpsichore so much delighted, as practised among the simple natives of this country, no doubt very much to their own satisfaction. The dance in question, it seems, was made for the particular entertainment (tho' not at the particular desire) of the Captain, by Pocahontas herself, when he had paid a visit to her father, and found the old gentleman from home. His account of it is as follows: "In a fair plain they made a fire before which he," (the said captain,) "sat down upon a mat, when suddenly amongst the woods was heard such a hideous noise and shrieking, that the English betook themselves to their arms, and seized on two or three old men by them, supposing Powhatan with all his power, was coming to surprize them. But presently Pocahontas came, willing him to kill her, if [189] any hurt were intended; and the beholders, which were men, women, and children, satisfied the Captain that there was no such matter. Then presently they were presented with this antick: thirty young women came naked out of the woods, only covered behind and before with a few green leaves, their bodies all painted, some of one colour, some of another, but all differing; their leader" (our charming heroine herself) "had a fair pair of buck's horns on her head, and an otter's skin at her girdle, and another at her arm, a quiver of arrows at her back, a bow and arrows in her hand. The next had in her hand a sword, another a club, another a potstick; all of 'em being horned alike. The rest were all set out with their several devices. These friends, with most hellish shouts and cries, rushing from amongst the trees, cast themselves in a ring about the fire, singing and dancing with most excellent ill variety, oft falling into their infernal passions, and then solemnly betaking themselves again to sing and dance. Having spent near an hour in this mascarado, as they entered in like manner they departed"—leaving the captain and his company quite petrified with their entertainment. But, besides his allusion to this dance, the young poet, you will find, has [190] used the license of his trade to add some little circumstances of his own invention, to cover the nakedness of the fact. I began to reproach him with this; but he stopped me short, maintaining stoutly that he had a perfect right to take these liberties, and even greater if he had chosen, and what was worse still, that we were all bound in honour and conscience to love and praise him the more for his freedom. So you see these rhyming gentry are the same sort of beings all the world over. But, to the ballad at last—for, indeed, I begin to be afraid you will not think it quite worthy of the very learned preface I have made for it, according to the true modern style.


COME all ye gay ladies draw near,
While I sing you a ballad of love;
'Twas writ for a delicate ear,
With the quill of Simplicity's dove.

Brave Smith is quite merry to night,
His comrades and he drinking wine;
The hearts in their bosoms are light,
And their songs are as charming as mine.

[191] A treaty that day he had made
With the grim monarch, old Powhatan,
When his daughter, a fanciful jade,
Fell in love with the charming white man.

She sung and she danc'd, in her way,
With merry and innocent art,
And many a trick did she play,
To cheat, the white-man of his heart.

The treaty is made, and the dance is broke up,
The Indians and English retire;
The Indians to council, the English to sup,
All gay round the bright sparkling fire.

The council is held in the depth of the wood,
Tho' dismal and dark is the night:
'These strangers must die—it is good—
'Ere the Sun rises up with his light.

Their speeches are fine, it is true,
'But they covet our lands and our wives:
'Let us rush on the insolent crew,
'With tomahawks, war-clubs, and knives.'

Pocahontas unnotic'd was there,
All pensive and silent she stood;
She heard the decree with a tear,
And stole from the desolate wood.

[192] Alas! the gay Captain of War,
'That met me to-day on the green!
'Must he die then? And what is it for?
'Didn't he call me his dear little Queen?

'How sweet were the words that he spoke!
'How bright was the glance of his eye!
' He smil'd when I play'd with his cloak—
'Must he die then, alas! must he die?

'No! never if I can prevent:
'I fly like an arrow to save'—
Away like an arrow she went,
Twang'd off from the bow of the brave.

The Whip-poor-will shrieks in the breeze,
The grove shakes with murmuring sound;
Not a firefly gleams thro' the trees,
All darkness and horror around!

But away and away still she goes,
For love in her bosom is warm,
To save the brave Smith from his foes,
And smiles at the threats of the storm.

Now Smith is quite gay, as I said,
His comrades as merry as he;
How finely the table it spread!
And the wine is quite rosy you see.

[193] Come here's to the sweet Indian lass,
'That to-day all her graces display'd;
'What gallant will not fill his glass,
'To the name of that innocent maid?

'Did you mark in that masquerade dance,
'How neatly she manag'd her part?
'And say, did you see the sly glance
'She threw from her eye at my heart?'—

Just then a loud knock at the door!
'Tis she! the sweet girl in her charms!
All breathless she sinks on the floor,
Overcome with fatigue and alarms.

' O! fly! fly away for your lives!
'Nor stay to encounter them here:
'The Indians are whetting their knives,
'And hark ! even now they are near!

'My father may hate me indeed,
'Nor save me again from the blow;
'But ere the brave stranger shall bleed,
' The blood of his daughter shall flow.'

O! sweetest of damsels and best!
'What thanks do we owe to your love!
'Let me fold thee thus close to my breast,
' And Heav'n reward thee above.

[194] 'Now take these gay beads—you must take—
' See how blue!—they are all I can give—
'Yes! wear them for memory's sake,
'And love us as long as you live.'

'No take back those trinkets so gay,
' Too fine for an Indian to wear;
'My father would see them one day,
'And the necklace might cost me too dear.'

So away like the wild-dove she flew,
All alone by herself as she came;
And Love to her memory true,
Records the fair deed of her fame.

And now I have sung you my song,
In playful and innocent strains;
Each maid in this elegant throng,
Shall give me a kiss for my pains.


I AM at last safe in Richmond—the fountain head, of law, wealth, and fashion for Virginia. What is still better than all this to me, it is the end of my journey; at least for some time. I suppose, indeed, I shall be kept here rather longer than I may find agreeable, dancing attendance upon judges and lawyers. I hope, however, to indemnify myself a little for all my sacrifices, by the new opportunities I shall have to pursue my observations upon the good people of this state, and perhaps to laugh a little at their expense. So you may lay your account to hear from me even oftener than ever.—For the present, I must let you off with a short sketch of the town, by way of map, that you may have the scene of my letters before your eyes.

Richmond is situated on the north bank of James river, about a hundred and twenty miles from its, mouth, at the Falls, or head of tide water. It is built chiefly upon two lofty hills, the northern of [196] which is called Shockoe, (some Indian name I suppose,) and the southern Richmond. The former of these furnishes a fine extensive plain on its summit, and is the principal seat for dwelling houses, the capital, and other public buildings in the city. The two hills are separated by a large valley, which again is divided by a little stream that runs murmuring thro' it till it falls into the river at the foot of them; and, parallel to the stream is a long street, perhaps more than a mile in length, chiefly built up with brick houses, for stores and other purposes, hence called the brick row. In a line with this, and still nearer to the river, are smaller streets of less importance, principally occupied by warehouses; and at the end of it, lies the port for vessels at the head of navigation, which they call Rocketts.

The situation of the place is picturesque and beautiful beyond my expectation, even after all that I had heard of it. The river before the town is here about half a mile wide, and is obstructed, not only by the rocks which constitute the Falls, but by several wild and fanciful islands, among which it flows with a loud and agreeable murmur, very audible in the stillness of the night. Before [197] you, on the opposite site, lies the neat little village of Manchester, with its fine green fields and meadows, skirted with groves of woods, and rising hills, that seem to undulate in the western horizon. Below, the stream having disengaged itself from the rocks, steals silently away from your eye, hiding itself among the trees, and appearing again at a little distance, shining in the sun, and reflecting the white sails of coming; and departing vessels on its silver bosom. Besides all this, the neighbourhood abounds with the finest walks, prospects, groves, and, in short, every convenience for sighing, that the lover or the poet could desire. Indeed when I look around me, I am not at all surprised that the first settlers should have called it Nonsuch; tho' I suppose its present inhabitants are better satisfied with its modern name, as they seem to be more vain of its wealth than of its beauty. In fact, it has now become a place of very considerable commercial importance, and that almost in spite of Nature, who seems to have designed it for

"A happy rural seat of various view."

But difficulties vanish before the genius and industry of man. The obstructions in the river above [198] have been remedied, if not removed, by the canal about six miles in length which runs along its margin, and ends at the city in a large reservoir called the Basin. From this a communication has lately been opened, by the means of several locks, into the stream beneath it. The navigation from the sea, to be sure, is embarrassed by the length and winding nature of the river, but particularly by its shallowness, which forbids vessels of burden from coming higher up than City Point, about twenty miles below. Still the place possesses great and commanding advantages for trade, being at the head of tide water, and, of course, the principal market for the produce of the back country. And besides this favour of Nature, that of Fortune, which has made it the seat of government, of all the public offices, of the mother banks, and of the superior courts, gives it a decided weight in the scale against all other towns in the state. Indeed from these circumstances, joined with the spirit and enterprise of its inhabitants, it certainly bids fair to be a great and splendid city in time.

At present however, I must confess, it isn't entirely to my fancy in several respects. Thus the private houses are generally without taste. They [199] are indeed, for the most part, built of course bricks, blackened by being burnt with coal, which gives rather a sombre air to the town, in spite of all the glitter of wealth and fashion in the streets. There are several however lately erected which are in a better style, and may perhaps excite a taste for further improvement in the elegant art of architecture.

With the public buildings too, where more might be expected, the case is not a great deal better. The governor's house is but an ordinary affair at best. The capitol indeed, (tho' it will not bear a critical eye,) standing on the brow of Shockoe hill, and overlooking the surrounding city and country, presents a fine bold object in the picture from almost every direction. Its interior is divided into various apartments for the public offices, courts, and the two houses of the General Assembly.—These are spacious and convenient enough; but without any peculiar elegance. In the antichamber, or passage, is a fine marble statue of Washington, executed by our countryman Houdon, in his best style. Opposite to it, in a niche in the wall, stands a bust of the marquis La Fayette, probably by the same artist. It is perhaps a strong proof [200] of the veneration in which the originals are held, that the sculptures are not mutilated, altho' they are works of taste. The Monumental Church, (as it is called from its being built on the site of the old theatre destroyed by fire, as a kind of mausoleum for the unhappy victims who perished on that occasion,) is rather a singular building; but not inelegant, except that the materials are too coarse. Its situation indeed, on the fall of a hill, is a little awkward; but that may be pardoned for the piety of the design which led to its selection. The interior is a handsome octagon. Its exterior cannot be described without more words than it is worth while to use. It is, indeed, not finished at present, as it wants the steeple, which would seem indispensable to its beauty. Besides these, there are the armory, and the penitentiary, which are spacious buildings well adapted to their objects; but without any striking excellence to merit a particular description.

With regard now to the inhabitants, (always the best or worst part of a city,) I am sorry to say they are not exactly to my taste, that is not all of them. Perhaps, indeed, I am hardly well enough acquainted to form a correct judgment at present; but I must confess they do not strike me very [201] agreeably at first sight. At least the higher classes, (as they doubtless consider themselves, in spite of their republican government,) appear to have put on a set of manners by which they probably design to please themselves, for they surely can't intend to please any body else. These generally live in a style of ambitious rivalship with one another, each endeavouring to surpass his neighbour in fashion and folly, a very unprofitable contest at best. After these gentry, however, (who indeed are chiefly of foreign extraction I believe,) you may meet with many of the true old Virginia breed, frank, generous, and hospitable, whom it is a real pleasure to shake by the hand. For the ladies, they are generally like the rest of their fair countrywomen whom I have seen, and certainly exhibit a great deal, if not "all that the eye looks for, and the heart desires in woman." The young ones indeed are often sufficiently charming. There is one of them in particular, "the cynosure of neighb'ring eyes," who would have embellished the court of our gallant Henry himself. It is said, to be sure, that she makes it a point of conscience to fascinate, like another Circe, all the strangers who happen to be cast upon the coast. Indeed I have already seen [202] several of these poor wights, whom she has transformed into something less than men by the magic of her charms. For my own part, my dear Hal, if I have been able to refuse the cup from her hand, it is not because I can plume myself upon being a second Ulysses; but simply because I had already quenched my thirst at a certain pure fountain of alabaster.

Fountain of Innocence and Love,
Dear to the Muses and to me;
Nourish'd by dews from Heav'n above,
On Salisbury's peaceful plain it flows,
Fring'd with the myrtle and the rose,
And Shepherd's call it Emily.


You say you are quite impatient to know my opinion of Virginian Eloquence, and I must try to relieve you as soon as possible. The people of this state indeed, insist upon it that they have the patent right for making speeches And, really, to do them justice, (notwithstanding their vanity,) they do seem to have a wonderful gift of Nature for the business. You would be quite surprised, I am sure, to hear with what ready fluency all ranks and classes, (not merely the ladies who are pretty much the same in this respect all over the world,) express themselves upon all manner of subjects, and that whether they know any thing about them or not. Eloquence indeed, (of some sort or other,) is almost the only road to fame and influence in the state.—Every youth of course who has been led to believe that he has any talents at all, immediately turns his whole attention to the science of spouting. The consequence is, that the land is literally overrun with orators of all sorts and sizes, almost as numer- [204] ous and noisy as the frogs in the plague of Egypt. But, I suppose, you would wish me to give you a more particular account of some of the leading classes of them at least, and I must endeavour to do it; tho' I confess before hand, I feel myself incompetent to do justice to their merits. To do that indeed, would require eloquence like their own.

In the first place then, we have the Political Spouters, who are found in every hole and corner of the favoured land; but particularly the courtyard and tavern. The tavern especially seems to be a very favourite haunt for these young orators, whether it is that the long porch invites them by certain classical associations, from its resemblance to the schools of some among the ancient rhetoricians; or rather, as others suppose, that the barroom contains some secret stimulants of eloquence more sovereign than all the precepts of Quintilian. It is indeed, very amusing to hear one of these talking jacks, (as you may call them,) when it has been properly screwed up, seated by the fire, and unwinding itself in long discourses upon liberty, the rights of man, the freedom of the seas, general suffrage, or something of that sort. Its whole conversation is one incessant harangue. Indeed, to [204] speak strictly, it never converses at all; but declaims upon you, without any reasonable allowance for the delicacy of your ears. And yet, really, when it cocks its feet up against the mantle-piece, its favourite oratorical attitude, and lets out as they call it, you can form no idea how eloquent it is.

Next after this class, comes the innumerable host of County Court Lawyers, who are certainly very great speakers in their way. Indeed, they seem to follow rules of eloquence entirely of their own invention, at least I do not remember to have seen them in any treatise ancient or modern. Perhaps, however, they all try to follow the advice of a certain old lawyer, who after making a pretty round sum by his profession, gave his green bag to his son, with a short lesson upon this point. 'My son,' said he, 'I have read a great many books of rhetoric in my youth; but experience knows more than all put together. Don't believe what they teach; but mind what I say. When you rise at the bar, only remember to speak as fast as possible, to shew your fluency. No matter about the choice of words, (tho' to be sure, the longer and rounder the better,) but take the first that come to hand, and be careful you don't stop. Nothing is so disgraceful as to be in [206] want of words when they are so plenty. But above all things, be sure and speak long enough. You have been upon the race-field when they ran the heats, and you have seen the purse carried off by the nag of greatest bottom. Remember the lesson. Your audience may not be well qualified to judge how well you speak; but they can easily tell how much. So you must accommodate yourself to their taste, and what your speeches may happen to want in quality, see and make up in quantity: only give good measure and all will go off well enough. If you see, (what is likely enough to happen,) the jury falling asleep, the magistrates yawning, and the spectators shuffling; set it down that your speech has produced some effect. But, more especially, if you find that your auditors, except those who are compelled by law to stay and hear you, are all moving off one after another; you may certainly conclude that you are a very moving orator at least; and what more could you wish?' Thus, far the old man; and his counsel appears to be followed by numbers with great success. Part of his advice indeed, would seem to be borrowed from Cicero, who lays great stress, you know, upon the copia verborum, (plenty of words,)—tho' I am not quite sure that they take [207] it exactly as he intended. However, they all follow the letter closely enough in all conscience. I have myself often been a little amused, and a good deal fatigued, with a couple of these pertinacious disputants who are famous for wasting whole days, and part of nights too, in idle and frivolous discussions, contending zealously for the last word, something like the "dancing pair" in Goldsmith,

The dancing pair that simply sought renown,
By holding out to tire each other down.

Surely, the judges of these courts are much to be pitied, as they can neither keep awake with pleasure, nor sleep in quiet for the tongues of the lawyers.

Next in order to these come the Fourth of July Orators, or as they would doubtless prefer to be styled, the Orators of the Human Race. These are men who set up once a year, (generally in very hot weather,) to proclaim their independence with a loud voice, and abuse the British con amore. In fact, they sometimes carry their malice so far, as to vent their spite upon the very language they speak in, its unoffending parts of speech, and innocent rules of syntax, only because they are English I presume. [208] The speeches indeed, which they deliver on these occasions, are very strange things; and I freely confess, that I don't know exactly what to make of them. They generally seem to pursue one strain, and are as much alike as if they were all made on the same last. Thus, they are sure to abound in strange and obscure words, and figures of speech for which no names have been thought of as yet, at least none that I have heard. Indeed, nothing seems to be requisite for the perfection of these things, but a plenty of hard names, abuse against tyranny and oppression, a panegyrick upon liberty, and five or six apostrophes to the dead heroes of the revolution; the whole accompanied with an entire new set of mouths and faces made on purpose for the occasion. Add to this, the words selected for this service, must all be as long as possible, sesguipedalia verba, or trisyllables at least, and none under that size should be received, any more than a man under six feet could have been admitted into the King of Prussia's tall regiment. I remember a young gentleman some time ago, who being called upon to prepare for one of these occasions, immediately shut himself up with a great Johnson's Dictionary, and proceeded very deliberately to pick out all the long- [209] tailed vermicular words he could find, which he most judiciously disposed, at nearly equal distances, over six sheets of letter paper, resolving to fill up the intervals, at his leisure, with any thing that came to hand: as a lapidary sets his sparkling stones in some metal of inferior value, perhaps brass or lead; or as a confectioner sticks little pieces of citron here and there in the paste of her cake. Indeed, these provident writers generally prepare their words first, and then look out for something like ideas to fit them; just as prudent wives prepare clothes sometime beforehand for the little strangers they expect to come to town. I send you half a dozen of these orations as a sample of the whole; but remember you mustn't call upon me to explain them. I candidly confess, I do not understand the language well enough for that I can only say of them, as poor Desdemona said of the mad speeches of her jealous husband,

I understand a fury in the words;
But not the words.

Yet you would be surprised to see how much these sort of discourses are in repute here. So much so indeed, that the Governor of Massachusetts not [210] long ago, hearing of the rage for them in this quarter I suppose, seriously took pains to send one of them, thro' his secretary, to the Governor of this commonwealth. This to be sure was sending coals to Newcastle, as the English say. Yet the Governor, instead of paying his correspondent in kind, as he might easily have done, was so avaricious of these treasures, that he caused it to be solemnly lodged in the archives of the state, there to remain as he said for the benefit of all posterity, and only returned a formal letter of thanks for the present.

But besides these engaging speakers, we have still another class of orators here, who are commonly called Slangwhangers, a word which I find absolutely untranslateable; but which has certainly great force of meaning in the English. Perhaps you may find it explained in ___'s dictionary, where people should look for all words that they can't find any where else. These speakers are also sometimes known by the name of Stump-Orators, from their generally choosing to deliver their harangues from the stump of a tree, or a horse-block, or some other appropriate place of that sort. For you must know, these are the men who undertake to regulate elections, and to change the voters in [211] the court-yard before the opening of the poll. I have myself had the good fortune to hear several of these addresses, and have certainly been highly entertained; tho', to say that I am much the wiser for them, I really cannot do it with a safe conscience. This, however, is probably owing to my ignorance of the language, for surely the speakers seem to think that they know every thing, and they ought to be the best judges. One thing I have observed, that they are all passionately fond of the word Republican. I have heard one of them myself, repeat it at least twenty times in as many minutes, and always with the greatest effect. The word indeed, seems to comprise all the excellencies of oratory in itself, and is generally looked upon, I believe, as a very good substitute for reason and common sense both. At least I have known several orations succeed with the public, entirely from the judicious introduction of this charming word uttered from time to time with becoming emphasis. In truth, I am led to suspect, after the wonderful effects I have seen produced by it, that there must be some secret virtue in it, more than meets the ear. At all events, whenever I set up for an orator, I am determined to follow the fa- [212] shion—use it plentifully, and let every other part of my speech take care of itself.

But, enough of this subject for the present. This is my treatise De Claris Oratoribus, after the manner of Tully: some other time perhaps, I may give you another De causis corruptæ Eloquentiæ, after the manner of Tacitus.


THIS country is certainly the great limbo of variety for all the world. It is here, and not in the moon as Ariosto tells us, that all things which are lost and out of credit on earth are safely deposited. Here you may see novels that had dropped dead-born from the press revived by the smiles of the ladies, and fairly besprinkled again with their tears. Here you meet bankrupts from Bedford row riding in curricles, candlesnufffers from Drury strutting
about as Hamlets and Othellos, and rogues from the Old Bailey transformed into congressmen and colonels. These metamorphoses, indeed, are often quite as fantastical and diverting as any that are described in Ovid. Quacks, pretenders, and impostors of every name and degree, are found swarming in every city, town, village and hamlet thro' the continent. Certainly there must be a great mass of credulity for them all to live upon. But so it is. Apparently the people of this new world are not yet up to the tricks of the old.

[214] I don't know how it happens, but a considerable number of these impostors appear to be Frenchmen. Is it, do you think, that they find the sympathy of the people more ready to favour their deceptions; or shall we rather insist upon it, that they have naturally a better talent for comedy than others? To play characters indeed, La Fontaine says, is properly the French disease; tho' I think he might rather have called it the malady of human nature. However it may be, I must confess I have met with more great men of our nation since my landing in this country, than I ever expected to see in the whole course of my life. In truth I must confess, that with all my republican partialities, I feel quite ashamed of the little figure I cut among all these great men about me, and am seriously mortified to think that I have nothing that savours of chivalry, not even an inch of blue ribbon, or the tip end of a pink garter, to give myself a few airs upon.

In the mean time, this superabundance of our dignitaries has not escaped the quick eye of Manley, who generally contrives to have a laugh at every thing. 'Mon ami,' said he to me the other day with a very grave face, 'I think upon the [215] whole you were quite right to leave your country; for I am sure there can't be any nobility, or even gentility, left in it by this time.' ' How so,' said I, a little surprised by the suddenness of the attack, 'How so?' ' 'Why,' said he, 'so many of your old and new gentry have done us the honour to come over to this country, that it is impossible any of the race can be left behind. Indeed I verily believe we have already more of them among us, than ought, by good right, to have flourished in your monarchy from Charlemagne down. And then, too, in what menial employments are they often engaged! I have actually had my hair combed by a marquis, my linen washed by a princess of the blood royal, and my boots cleaned by the first cousin of a duke. Alas! for the uncertainty of human affairs! I am particularly surprised to find how many relations the present French generals appear to have in America. Those great men must certainly be very unnatural, to let so many of their kin pursue such vile occupations abroad.—Perhaps, however, they were really too numerous to be provded for at home. At any rate it is a happy circumstance in the case, that your countrymen are always full of resources in distress. It is in- [216] deed truly surprising, as well as edifying, to see with what facility these decayed noblemen take their new trades; just as naturally, for all the world, as if they had really been brought up to them from the beginning. Not long ago I engaged one of them to give me a few lessons on the small sword, to open my chest. For you must know he had positively assured me that he was a nephew of Moreau, and had been forced to leave France because he was suspected by Bonaparte. Upon the credit of this tale, I readily agreed to push quarte and tierce with him, out of charity to his distresses. Some days after, walking in a bye lane, who should I see but my new master mounted upon a shopboard, and singing away like a red bird, with his goose hissing beside him. The moment he caught my eye, ' ah! sir,' cried he, 'you see what misfortune has brought me to! Better do this than worse.' And yet he handled his shears and needle with as much dexterity as if he had actually served a regular apprenticeship to the trade, and lived upon cabbage all his life.

'Well, well,' said I at last, interrupting him a little, 'you have laughed enough at our expense for this time. But tell me then, is ours the only [217] nation in the world that furnishes you with these great characters?' 'By no means,' said he, 'you mustn't think to claim that honour. On the contrary, all the nations of Europe are very generous to us in this way, and we have no right to complain of any of them for not furnishing its full quota. Indeed they all seem to pity our poor republicanism, and very cheerfully club their mites to give us a decent stock of their cast-off gentry, to keep up our credit in the world. Our old friend Great Britain, in particular, is very good to us indeed.—Perhaps she thinks it but right to make us some amends for the shabby population she gave us to begin with at the first settlement of our state, and wants to spare us a little better blood from her own veins. However this may be, she is certainly most bountiful in her supplies of great men; tho' to be sure, unlike your country, she doesn't send her grand dignitaries themselves, but only their cousins and acquaintances, good enough for our market.—Thus we can show you men who have corrected the speeches of Pitt at his own request, rattled a box with Charles, or even bet against the Prince of Wales at Newmarket, and the like of that. 'But after all,' said he, tapping me on the shoulder with a most provoking air, 'these are but little [218] fellows by the side of your marquises, and marshals of the empire.'

Thus far my merry friend. I must observe, however, my dear Henry, (tho' he would hardly acknowledge it,) that these little fellows seem to find no difficulty in passing themselves off for great ones among the credulous natives. And this is the more surprising too, as they are certainly very indifferent actors at best. Indeed, it is almost incredible how successful they are in duping this most enlightened people in the world; (for so the Americans modestly call themselves.) It was not long since, that an Irish footman passed himself off for a beau from West End, and paraded the streets in a most dazzling dress, drawing as many eyes upon him as if he had been a Bull tricked off with ribbons. Nay, worse still, a saucy baggage lately set up for a rich Heiress, and had fairly stolen away with a dozen hearts, before she was discovered to be nothing but a pert milliner's girl from Cheapside. These are samples of these impostors, who deceive, perhaps, principally from motives of vanity, for the pure honour of playing fine parts. There are others of them however, who are a little more interested in their views. Some at least can draw bills of exchange upon bankers without funds, and others can [219] pass notes for value received, which are worth nothing. Indeed, I believe they all contrive to turn the credulity of the poor natives to some account.

You will ask me perhaps, how it happens that the good people are so easily deceived by these pretenders. You know the foolish propensity of men to admire every thing that comes from a distance? The citizens of the new world have it in perfection. And, besides, with all their self-conceit, (which is really quite respectable in point of degree,) they can't get over the habit of looking up to Europe for models in every thing. The state of society and manners at home, is too simple and familiar to gratify their innate passion for the marvellous, and so they naturally depend upon us to furnish them with wonders of all kinds, with a good disposition to take almost any thing we please to give 'em. Above all, republicans as they are, they have a human hankering after our lords and gentry, and as beggars must never be choosers, it is but right for 'em to put up with such as they can get.

But jesting apart, I confess I am not always sorry when I see the dupes punished a little for their simple credulity, for in general it is certainly Vanity that leads them into the snares of Cunning. I am really grieved however, when I see this misfortune [220] befalling my fair friends the ladies, who are but too often deceived by these fortune-hunters from abroad. Credulity is the amiable fault of their nature, and it is an easy and cruel villainy to betray them. Besides, as it sometimes happens, they have their heads so filled with fashionable novels from England and France, that they are but too much predisposed to welcome these modern Knighterrants, who unlike those of the profession in former times, go hunting about for the damsel instead of the dragon.

Time, however, will probably cure this evil fast enough. The people are already enjoying frequent opportunities of comparing themselves with Europeans of real rank and fashion, and will soon discover that they have nothing supernatural to boast. In this manner, the good citizens will become disenchanted from their extravagant prepossessions in favor of foreigners, and learn to estimate them soberly according to their proper merit. In this manner too, they will learn at last to distinguish between gentlemen and professors of gentility. The daws will then be stripped of their borrowed feathers, and sent back with hisses to their own company.


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