February 18th, 1867.
MY ANCIENT FRIENDS, THE POLICE
THE police of Broadway seem to have been selected with special reference to size. They are nearly all large, fine looking men, and their blue uniforms, well studded with brass buttons, their jack boots, and their batons worn like a dagger, give them an imposing military aspect. They are gentlemanly in appearance and conduct. These remarks will apply pretty well to the police force throughout the city. I hear them praised on every hand for their efficiency, integrity and watchful attention to business. It seems like an extravagant compliment to pay a policeman, don't it? I am charmed with the novelty of it.
One cannot walk a hundred yards in any part of the city, day or night, without stumbling upon one of these soldierly officials. In Broadway, especially down below the City Hall Park, where drays, carriages, carts and pedestrians keep the great thoroughfare in a constant state of crowding, struggling, chaotic confusion, the police are as thick as they are at headquarters in San Francisco at the changing of the evening watch. And how they work! - how they charge through the tangled vehicles, and order this one to go this way, another that way, and a third to stand still or back!. - how they wade through mud and slush, piloting women safely through the fearful jams. They are extremely useful - in fact, they present the anomaly of a police force that is an absolute necessity to the well-being of the city, and they earn every cent they get. From one end of town to the other they march to and fro across Broadway with women on their arms the whole day long. The women like it. I stood by for two hours and watched one of them cross seven or eight times on various pretences, and always on the same handsome policeman's arm.
You know they have got a new Excise law here, which closes up all places on Sunday where liquor is sold. You cannot get a taste of the villainous wines and liquors of New York on the Sabbath, for love or money. You cannot even keep them on private account, in your own house, if the police find it out.
And all possible places of amusement and public resort are closed up also. The town looks dead and deserted. I could not even find a bootblack yesterday, or a newsboy, or a place open where I could buy a newspaper. What was left for me to do? Simply to follow the fashionable mania, and go to church. You cannot imagine what an infatuation church-going has be come in New York. Youths and young misses, young gentlemen and ladies, the middle-aged and the old, all swarm to church, morning, noon and night every Sunday. If it rains, or snows, or turns biting cold, they stay away from the theatres, but an earthquake could not keep them from the churches. They brave miles of stormy weather to worship and sing praises at the altar, and criticise each other's costumes. Concerning the weather, a bad little boy once said it was too rainy to go to school, but just about rainy enough to go fishing. When that kind of weather prevails here, it is considered too rainy to go fishing, but just about rainy enough to go to church. In the theatres, a certain new-fangled "reserved" seat system has been reduced to a state of rascally perfection; and you can enter at ten o'clock, when the place seems crowded, and get one of the reserved seats in the front part of the parquette, or the second row of the dress circle, by paying a dollar and a half for it; and you can select and buy the seat from a peddler in the streets, or in Brooklyn or Albany, and find it all correct; buy it for any night you want it - a fort night ahead, if you want to; the theatre has been paid for it long ago by the peddler or the storekeeper who sells it. But they haven't any reserved system in the churches but the old regular one; and so, if you do not know an accommodating pew-owner, you have got to go before breakfast and sit in the gallery. Crowds cross the river on the coldest mornings to hear
HENRY WARD BEECHER
I have been in a pious frenzy myself for a while. I went over two weeks ago, (the thermometer was at 180 degrees below zero, I should judge, and I walked as stiff-legged as a Chinaman, because the nerves all through me were frozen as taut as fiddle strings. I had been promised a seat in the pew of a New York editor, who told me to come 'early.' I was at the church at ten o'clock Sunday morning. I thought that was early - and I knew precious well it was earlier than any Christian ought to be out of his bed on such a morning. The pavements were crowded with people trying to get in, and when I told the usher I was accredited to pew No. 46, he answered with an offended air:
"Forty-six! - pretty time of day to come for forty-six! - full an hour ago!"
I said, apologetically:
"I tried to get over day before yesterday, sir, but -"
[Scorning the sarcasm] - "Go up stairs, where the galleries are, and when they're done praying maybe you can get a chance."
I said, humbly: "But I don't want a chance to pray - I only -"
"Now, move on - don't stand there bothering me with your cussed foolishness - there's five hundred people behind you, waiting to get in, and you're blocking the way." [He did not say that, but he looked it, with two hundred horse-power.] So I went upstairs and crowded in and captured a little stool from an usher and jammed it into a vacancy among the multitude, about large enough to accommodate a spittoon, and had the satisfaction of knowing I was the last individual that got a seat in Mr. Beecher's Church that day. The church was large, and the wide gallery extended around three sides of it. Every pew above and below was filled with elegantly-dressed people, and the aisles and odd spaces in both places occupied with stools like mine.
Mr. Beecher's altar is an elevated, carpeted, unrailed platform - a sort of stage - with a little pedestal at its front edge for a pulpit. Mr. B. sat in a chair against the wall, his head and body inclining backward, with the comfortable air of a manager who has got a good house and expected it. The choir over his head sang charmingly, and then he got up and preached one of the liveliest and most sensible sermons I ever listened to. He has a rich, resonant voice, and a distinct enunciation, and makes himself heard all over the church without very apparent effort. His discourse sparkled with felicitous similes and metaphors (it is his strong suit to use the language of the worldly,) and might be called a striking mosaic work, wherein poetry, pathos, humor, satire and eloquent declamation were happily blended upon a ground work of earnest exposition of the great truths involved in his text.
Whenever he forsook his notes and went marching up and down his stage, sawing his arms in the air, hurling sarcasms this way and that, discharging rockets of poetry, and exploding mines of eloquence, halting now and then to stamp his foot three times in succession to emphasize a point, I could have started the audience with a single clap of the hands and brought down the house. I had a suffocating desire to do it.
To illustrate some point in his discourse, he spoke of how he had watched a wonderful loom in Lowell once - how, all alone, and with no apparent intelligence but its own to guide it, it went steadily on about its business, weaving all manner of beautiful and intricate figures, always preserving a faultless harmony in the designs, yet never hesitating a moment or making a mistake - and then pausing impressively a second or two, he said that reflecting upon the mental calibre of some of the people to whom the elective franchise is accorded in America, he had never been able to get rid of the notion that it was a sin and a shame that that machine wasn't allowed to vote! Then the congregation let go and laughed like all possessed.
Mr. Beecher is a remarkably handsome man when he is in the full tide of sermonizing, and his face is lit up with animation, but he is as homely as a singed cat when he isn't doing anything.
"BISHOP SOUTHGATE'S MATINEE"
I attended Bishop Southgate's matinee yesterday after noon, in pursuance of my desire to test all the amusements of the metropolis. The ungodly are not slow to get up nick-names for sacred things here. All the pretty girls, and also all the young men who dote on them, go to the Sunday afternoon services at Bishop Southgate's Church, in Thirty-eighth street, and they call it the Bishop's "matinee;" and there is Dr. Bellows' Church, in Fourth avenue, somewhere above Twentieth street - it is the wildest piece of architecture you ever saw - gridironed all over with alternate short bars of showy red and white, like a Confederate flag - so the ungodly call it the "Church of the Holy Zebra."
It was fearfully cold yesterday, but nevertheless the Bishop's matinee was a success. There were platoons of lovely girls there - and all arrayed in the charming new street costume, with its loosely hanging jacket, its short, narrow dress, terminating well up in long bugle-fringed points over a red under-dress - trimmed with bugles all over, I should rather say - bless me, when the girls filed up the aisles yesterday, rattling their fringes against the pews, you could shut your eyes and imagine you were out in a hail-storm. When I see a pretty girl in this charming costume, I want to fall down and worship her. And yet she is bound to look a good deal like a Chinawoman when her back is toward you. This costume will provoke many a smile in San Francisco, where the Chinawomen abound.
The Bishop's church is not large, but its fancy altar, its gas-lights, and its stained windows, brilliant with yellow saints and scarlet martyrs, make it very showy. All the side windows are for memorials. They are to be painted with "Sacred to the memory of" such and such parties as may die worthy of the honor. I told this to Brown, and he said: "If I had a grudge against one of them saints, and he was to die before I got even with him, I'd break his window the first thing."
At 3 o'clock the performance commenced. The organist played a schottische first and then changed to an exquisite waltz, that set the young people's feet itching and their heads to swaying to the undulating movement of the harmony. This soon changed to the loveliest air from "Trovatore," and "the full-toned choir awoke." It was beautiful music, and the voices seemed so rich and mellow to my uncultivated ears. The Bishop sat on one side of the chancel, facing the orchestra, and looked as if he were thinking: "Now you dare to make a false note, and I'll dock your wages for you!" I know that was what he was thinking, without being told it.
The choir chanted the Litany, and a young fellow read a chapter from the Bible, another man preached a very good sermon, and then the Bishop read some verses from the Sermon on the Mount, gave out a multitude of religious advertisements about forthcoming meetings, Society assemblages, etc., pronounced the Benediction and the organist fiddled the people out of the church to a tune that sounded like the Sailor's Hornpipe, with variations. All the time the portly, complacent Bishop was reading his handful of Scripture verses, the organ accompanied him with a mixture of funeral and fandango music, to suit the sense of the text. Perhaps I can aid you in conceiving of the effect:
BISHOP - "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit the earth."
ORGAN - "Maxwelton braes are bonny - (being suggestive of the property inherited by the defendant.)
BISHOP - "Blessed are the peacemakers, for - "
ORGAN - "Your little hands were never made to tear each other's eyes."
BISHOP - "Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after -"
ORGAN - "Give me three grains of corn, mother."
And so forth and so on.
I have used an extravagant simile, maybe, but it is not far out of the way. The truth was, the organ drowned the Bishop out, generally, so that you could not hear him at all. Brown said he had been ciphering on the matter, and he was satisfied the church could get along without the Bishop - that he didn't do anything to speak of except read advertisements for meetings, and so it would be economy to discharge him and set up a bulletin board. The man is not responsible for what he says. He does not know any better.
I liked the sermon. I thought some of the organ's flights of fancy were a little startling, considering the character of the place, but I shall not soon forget the beautiful music of the choir. The Bishop's matinee is well calculated to seduce the sinner into coming within the sound of the preached Gospel. There is Wisdom in the idea, no doubt.
I went to that church last night. Walked all the way from Sixteenth to Forty-seventh street in the bitter cold to do it. Behold what religious enthusiasm, just flavored with worldly curiosity, can do! Bishop Southgate's is "high church," but St. Alban's is higher. I should say that the latter was Roman Catholic in disguise. The altar is showy with bright colors and pictures, and tall wax lights towering up from seven-branched candle-sticks. It lacked a picture of the Virgin, though. Presently the organ began to murmur in soft, dreamy cadences, and a sound of distant singing floated up from below - it grew stronger and closer, and soon a dozen surpliced little boys, bearing a tall cross, and half a dozen surpliced clergymen, filed up from the basement, making all the building resound with music. They bowed as they passed the altar, and ranged themselves on opposite sides of the chancel. The boys chanted the litany, and there was something infinitely thrilling and inexpressive in the ringing bugle-tones of their young voices. It was worth a pilgrimage to hear. I must not speak further of the services - my Bishop's performances in the Sandwich Islands were as a mere side-show to a circus, in comparison.
THE VAGARIES OF AN INNOCENT
This simple comrade of mine keeps me in hot water all the time. He takes a fancy to every sort of foolishness. He wants to hire a mulatto and put him in livery, like the nabobs of the town. He had almost consummated his diabolism when I discovered his intent. I said:
"What is that fellow doing in the hall with that blacking box label on his hat and that fantastic costume on?"
"Him? Why, he's my footman - he's in livery."
"Well, you get him out of livery just as quick as you can - that's all."
Saturday, when I was talking with a young lady in Broadway, he touched me on the shoulder and said: "How's this?" He was dressed like a Tartar chief, and was shouldering a vast rat poison sign around.
I hunted everywhere for the fellow this morning, and found him at last in full police uniform, lugging young women across Broadway, at the junction of Vesey street. I was speechless, but he chirped out in his cheerful way:
"Oh, no; this ain't no good thing, I don't reckon!" and seized a young girl and charged through the confusion of vehicles with her, ordering the drivers to stand still, and thus checking the tide of three miles of commerce, and wasting hundreds of dollars' worth of mercantile time - for you know when one cart stops there, the endless procession must wait till it moves again. I have got to kill this fellow - I foresee that.
I have been examining a machine to-day, partly owned by a Californian, which will greatly simplify, cheapen and expedite stereotyping. With a single alphabet of type, arranged around a wheel, the most elaborate book may be impressed, letter after letter, in plaster plates, ready for the reception of the melted metal, and do it faster than a printer could compose the matter. It works with a treadle and a bank of keys, like a melodeon. It does away with cases of types, setting up and distributing, and all the endless paraphernalia of a printing office. The little machine could prepare Webster's Unabridged for the press in a space no larger than a common bath-room. By this invention, a man could set up, as a stereotyper, on a large scale, on a capital of $200. It will either print or stereotype music with the utmost accuracy. An elaborate "border" may be printed in three minutes, by repeated impressions of a single type. The funniest part of it is that the inventor does not know anything about the art of printing. But then he has invented all sorts of curious machines (among them a flying-ship,) without any mechanical education, and paints well in oils, and performs on the guitar and piano without having ever received musical instruction. The stereotyping machine has been patented in the United States, England and Prussia, and is to be exhibited at the Paris Exposition. The patent rights have been sold for fabulous sums. I send a rough specimen of the machine's work.
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