May 17th, 1867.
IT WAS just a lucky circumstance that I happened to be out late night before last, else I might never have been permitted to see the chief of the late Confederacy in life. I was standing in front of the New York Hotel at midnight, or thereabouts, talking with a clerk of the establishment, when the Davis party arrived, and I got a tolerably good look at the man who has been raising such a dust in this country for years. He is tall and spare - that was all I could make of him - and then he disappeared.
There was no crowd around, no torchlight processions, no music, no welcoming cannon - and better than all, no infuriated mob, thirsting for blood and vengeance. The man whose arrival in New York a year or two ago would have set the city wild with excitement from its centre to its circumference, had ceased to rank as a sensation, and went to his hotel as unheralded and unobserved as any country merchant from the far West. He was a fallen Chief, he was an extinguished sun - we all know that - and yet it seemed strange that even an unsuccessful man, with such a limitless celebrity, could drop in our midst in that way, and go out as meekly as a farthing candle.
Yesterday it was the same. There were no lion-hunters gaping around the hotel doors, inquiring in infamous grammar, "Which is him?" The autographers were not on hand. A few personal friends called on the ex-President. That was all. The news papers gave column after column of songs of praise to the old worn-out, played-out, ragged, and threadbare sensation of eight months ago - Ristori - the wretched foreign woman who has come over here and humbugged the people into the notion that because sweet music is sweet music still, whether one can under stand the words to it or not, a good story must be a good story also, even if the audience can't comprehend a word of it, and don't know what in the mischief the teller of it is driving at - the newspapers, I say, gave the usual acres of laudation to Ristori yesterday, and only a dozen meagre lines to Jefferson Davis, head, and heart, and soul of the mightiest rebellion of modern times - and with the fact patent that the one was an old sensation and the other a brand new one. Verily, some things are stranger than others, and man is but grass, and a very poor article of grass at that. I am glad I am not Jefferson Davis, and I could show him a hundred good reasons why he ought to be glad he ain't me.
Mr. Davis is going to Canada in a day or two.
Wm. C. Fall, well known in San Francisco, Marysville and Carson, and whom we all call "Billy" for short, got into a quarrel with Harry Newton, an old citizen of Esmeralda in the palmy days of that camp, in Broad street, day before yesterday, and they fired several pistol shots at each other, but without wounding anybody but a telegraph operator, who had nothing to do with the matter, and was both surprised and mortified when he received a bullet in his ribs.
Two eye-witnesses of the fracas told me that Fall and Newton met in a crowd, and commenced abusing each other, when Newton struck Fall with his fist, and immediately drew his pistol and fired. Fall followed suit, and they fired four or five shots between them in very quick succession, but damaged no body but the telegraph operator, as above mentioned. The crowd was very large - it always is in Broad street - but they took no interest in bombardments, and went away - and all went first, as near as they could come at it.
Newton made his escape, and Fall tried to, but failed. He hid in the fourth story of a neighboring building, but was ferreted out by the police, and imprisoned. All I can learn of the cause of the quarrel is that Fall wrote Newton a letter about a matter of business, and Newton returned no reply. his conduct exasperated Fall, and he sought the opportunity of expressing his opinion personally to Newton.
To fire pistols at people, or even to carry such furniture about the streets, is a grave offence in New York; and both these men are in a very unenviable situation at present.
A newspaper friend has been showing me some photographs, taken in Paris, of Alexandre Dumas, the novelist, and Adah Isaacs Menken, the poor woman who has got so much money, but not any clothes. In one of them Dumas is sitting down, with head thrown back, and great, gross face, rippled with smiles, and Adah is leaning on his shoulder, and just beaming on him like a moon - beaming on him with the expression of a moon that is no better than it ought to be. In another picture, the eminent mulatto is in his shirt-sleeves, and Adah has her head on his breast, and arms clasping his neck, and this time she is beaming up at him - beaming up at him in a way which is destructive of all moral principle. On the backs of these photographs is written, in French:
"To my dearest love,
And Menken's note accompanying the pictures betrays that she is extravagantly well pleased with the photographer for publishing and selling thousands and thousands of these pictures to the Parisian public. She knows the value of keeping herself before the world in new and startling situations.
Somehow I begin to regard Menken's conduct as questionable, occasionally. She has a passion for connecting herself with distinguished people, and then discarding them as soon as the world has grown reconciled to the novelty of it and stopped talking about it. Heenan suited her caprice well enough for a while, and then he had to vacate; the same was Orpheus C. Kerr's experience; and the same was the Davenport Brother's; and the same was the experience of some less notorious favorites of hers. And now comes the great Mulatto in the Iron Mask, and he is high chief for the present. But can he hold his position against all comers? Would he stand any chance against a real live gorilla from the wilds of Africa? I don't know. Menken is mighty shaky. Menken can't resist a splendid new astonisher. Menken is a good hearted, free-handed, charitable soul - a woman who does white deeds enough, kindly Christian deeds enough, every day of her life to blot out a swarming multitude of sins; but, Heaven help us, what desperate chances she takes on her reputation!
The latest news is that Dumas is prosecuting the photographer for publishing those pictures, but may be that is only a regular part of the sensation programme. These photographs are to be reproduced here.
A BIT OF HISTORY
I have attended social reunions of various kinds since I have been here, but one of the pleasantest was a club dinner with a party of Nantucket people. A good many good things were said during the evening, but the thing that struck me most was a bit of ancient Nantucket history dropped by one of the gentlemen.
He said that in our old wars with Great Britain, Nantucket was the object of a vast amount of solicitude on the part of both nations - more, in fact, than the importance of the place really justified. It contained a population made up pretty equally of English and Americans, and of course neither Government could gracefully desert its own children - and yet the place was so situated that it would have required all the ships of one navy to besiege it, and all of the other to defend it. That wouldn't pay, of course. And so the two countries wisely agreed to just leave Nantucket clear out of the quarrel, remove all implements of war from it, disarm its citizens, and consider the place neutral ground entirely. So the middle-aged waxed old and died - as neutrals; and the young grew up and flourished - as neutrals. All were imbued with the neutral spirit; all respected the ancient compacts and none desired to do anything to impair the time honored, hallowed good faith.
Years swept by, and Nantucket felt within herself one day a yearning to do as other communities did, and have a fine squad of militia to show off on great days. They raised one. They armed it and equipped it. But when they came to frame the by laws, the honest reverence for the spirit of neutrality, which had lived in their bosoms so long, cropped out in gravest phrase in their Military Constitution, thus:
"ARTICLE I. - This Company shall be called the Nantucket Guard.
"ARTICLE II. - It shall be kept at all times completely armed and equipped and ready for service in the field.
"ARTICLE III. - In case of war, it shall immediately disband !"
No member of the Nantucket Guard ever seemed to understand that those by-laws read wonderfully like a broad joke. They dropped that absurd third article, as a matter of course, and nothing more than an earnest of their fidelity to the ancient good faith of their fathers.
Another gentleman present said that Nantucket horses were celebrated for their general worthlessness, imbecility, and marvellous slowness. He said a citizen sold one to a cavalry officer during the war, and warranted him to be a good war-horse. The soldier came back afterwards in a towering passion and said he had been swindled.
"As how?" said the Nantucketer.
"Why there's not a bit of 'go' in him - and yet you war ranted him as a good war-horse."
"Yes, I did, and by George he is a good war-horse - he'd sooner die than run!"
Well, it is a marvel to me. It shows what determined newspapers and shrewd managers can do. Max Maretzek drew upon himself the hostility of several of the city newspapers, and among them that colossal power, the New York Herald. The consequence is, that those papers take a genuine pleasure in giving any manager a lift who is a rival of his. So Ristori, who had been a great light in Europe, but had long ago begun to burn dimly and had almost flickered out, latterly, is brought over here by Mr. Grau, and straightway the newspapers fall to work and set every man, woman and child in the country crazy about her jam her houses at three or four dollars a head with people who don't know any more about what she is raving about in her unearthly Italian than if she were talking Chinese - people who gape, and stare, and wish to Heaven they knew what she was up to, till an incomprehensible harangue winds up with a grand climax of sound and fury and foreign jabbering, and then the house comes down!
And so heralded, she goes abroad into the innocent interior - besieges Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburg, Rochester, St. Louis, Memphis - goes everywhere and charges just what she pleases, and deceives the people into the belief that they have been blessed with a bliss beyond all price in being permitted to listen for three hours to a frenzied clattering of words that carried no possible meaning under the sun to their dazed understandings.
And yet these same Americans flock to the Academy of Music here and show no appreciation of the able Japanese speeches of the manager of the wonderful jugglers. It is a shame. They understand that eloquent Jap just as much as they understood Ristori, and yet, if he were to play Queen Elizabeth, ten to one they would complain of his incomprehensible language, and even go so far as to say it was a radical defect.
It beats me, entirely. I believe the newspapers can do anything, now. Without them, Ristori would not have made her board in America; with them, she has made a fortune. She can command. She says no one who is not in full evening dress shall enter her sacred theatre to-night, and she will be obeyed. The place will be crowded, and not a soul, except it be some news paper man who knows his strength and scorns all laws of men's making, will dare to present himself there in any unholy costume.
It is curious. The newspapers could have set the city boiling and surging about Jeff. Davis, but they did not choose to do it, and so Jeff. Davis is powerless to make a stir on his own account - a thing he is very glad of, no doubt, for if any man longs for rest and quiet and oblivion, it is he, we can all believe.
REV. DR. CHAPIN
Now there is a preacher for you. There is a man who can just seize a congregation and hold on to it as many hours as he wants to. There is an invisible wire leading from every auditor's soul straight to a battery hidden away somewhere in that preacher's head, and down those wires travels in ceaseless flow the living spirit of words that might fall cold and empty and meaningless from other lips. I do not know that I ever looked upon faces so eager, so wrapt, so fascinated as those I see in Chapin's church.
I have wondered what it was that chained the congregation so, (because I couldn't believe that every Tom, Dick and Harry who came there had sense enough to appreciate his magnificent orations,) but at last I have concluded that it must be Mr. Chapin's strong, deep, unmistakable earnestness. There is nothing like that to convince people. Nobody can have confidence in cold, monotonous, inanimate utterances, though they were teeming with truth and wisdom. Manner is everything in these cases - matter is nothing. The most outrageous lies that can be invented will find believers if a man only tells them with all his might. Now there is Governor Nye however, I will not go into particulars.
Mr. Chapin is large, and rather stout; is about forty five, or thereabouts; is full of action and energy, and has a noble voice, and knows how to use it. His eloquence is genuine, free from show and unsubstantial flummery, meant for use, not ornament. I think one of his own illustrations of a point in his sermon last Sunday might not describe it ungracefully. He said:
A King and an Italian Knight were riding together upon a lonely road, in the old crusading days, and the King could not refrain from remarking upon the rusty, battered old sword the Knight wore, and calling attention to his own, which was brightly burnished and brilliant with precious stones. The Knight said quietly:
"Mine is the more beautiful, Sire."
The King smiled, and drew his splendid weapon, and flashed it in the sun. "Behold ! Sir Knight !"
"Behold! Sir King!" The Knight drew his, and in the self-same instant six hundred men-at-arms sprang from an am bush, and said: "Command us to the death, my lord!"
"I yield. Thy sword is more beautiful, Sir Knight!"
There is no fuss and nonsense about Chapin's eloquence. It is the true steel. It is a power, and he knows well how to wield it. He has a large and handsome church at the corner of Fifth avenue and Forty-fifth street, and a full congregation. He is a man of wide-spread and potent influence, and a recognized leader in all the progressive movements of the day. He never moves till his mind is made up for good and all, and then he moves like an avalanche.
SAN FRANCISCO SHOWMEN
Make your mark in New York, and you are a made man. With a New York endorsement you may travel the country over, like Ristori, without fear - but without it you are speculating upon a dangerous issue. Our old San Francisco Minstrels have made their mark here, most unquestionably. They located them selves boldly in Broadway, right opposite the Metropolitan Hotel, and their very first performance gave them a hold upon the popular favor which has never loosened its grip to this day. Every night of their lives they play to packed houses - every single seat full and dozens of people standing up. I have good reason to know, because I have been there pretty often, have always paid my way but once, and I had to buy a box the last time I went. They go straight ahead from month to month, like the "Black Crook, " and their receipts for the last twelve months, as furnished to the Revenue officers, were only a fraction under $110,000. What do you think of that? The firm remains the same - Birch, Backus, Wambold and Bernard. They have made an extraordinary success, and wisely they try to keep up with the spirit of the times and deserve a continuance of it.
Tom Maguire's Japanese Jugglers have taken New York by storm. They threw all the other popular sensations completely in the shade - shed a perfect gloom over them. It has to be a colossal sensation that is able to set every body talking in New York, but the Japs did it. And I got precious tired of it for the first few days. No matter where I went, they were the first subject mentioned; if I stopped a moment in a hotel, I heard people talking about them; if I lunched in a Dutch restaurant, there was one constantly recurring phrase which I understood, and only one, "das Japs;" in French restaurants, it was "les Japs;" in Irish restaurants, it was "thim Japs ;" after church the sermon was discussed five minutes, and then the Japs for half an hour. Maguire plays them in the great Academy of Music, and charges heavy prices; but the first night he turned hundreds away after finding accommodations for three thousand spectators. And the seventh day, at eight in the morning, I saw fifty people strung down the pavement, Post Office fashion, waiting to secure seats, each in his regular turn, when they knew the box-office would not open till nine o'clock. The Japs are a prodigious success.
The Worrell girls have come back and taken the New York Theatre, a sort of half-frog, half-tadpole affair, which used to be a church, and hasn't got entirely over looking like a church yet. I am told the girls have fine houses, are doing well, and are as popular as they were at the Broadway. At the Broadway - those were great days for them - they turned the heads of half the young men in the country - not in New York alone, but all around. Lovesick youths from far in the interior of Jersey, Connecticut, New York, and everywhere about, came in on the trains and basked in the beauty of their idols every night, and went sleepless to work next day, drivelled along through it, and fetched up in the Broadway again at night, as far gone as ever. There was even an institution called the "WORRELL BRIGADE - a great company of devoted youths and young men who wore a hand some badge, composed of red, white and blue enamel, upon which was wrought the cipher "W." in fancy work of some kind. They were faithful attendants of the theatre every night, were a regularly organized military sort of institution, with officers bearing such titles as Colonel, Captain, Lieutenant, etc., and were always suffering for a chance to destroy somebody by way of showing and proving their devotion. They were always on hand to assist the Worrells from their carriage before the evening's performance, and hand them back to it when the play was over. I have first rate authority for all this, otherwise I should be inclined to doubt it. The Worrels must have done well, because I know of a fabulous offer that was made them and they refused it. Also, that they had bought the dwelling 209 1/2 Ninth street - so one good authority said, and another good authority said they had only rented it - but in either case liberal money would have to be forthcoming, because I have been in the house often, last January, and know that to buy it or rent it either would break me easy enough.
I saw little Miss Lotta yesterday. She is stopping at the Metropolitan with her father and mother. Her voice is very husky and she says she cannot sing at all, hardly, but hopes to be able to appear shortly again. She has an engagement at one of the city theatres. Lotta looks as young as ever, and just as pretty.
I am talking pretty freely about our show-people, and pretty strongly, too, but I am telling only the truth. I so seldom speak of them at all, that I don't like to mince matters when I do speak of their first-rate successes.
I had a first-rate success myself at the Cooper Institute the other night, but I am not going to say much about that, because you can get it out of the newspapers. The Californians worked the thing up, and got about twenty-five hundred people into the house - which was well, because on my own merits I could not have accomplished it, perhaps. I lectured once in Brooklyn afterwards, and here again last night, and came out handsomely, notwithstanding I managed to get everything wrong end foremost and hopelessly tangled in the matter of announcing last night's performance. It will keep me jumping, now, to write up promised sketches and correspondence in time to sail on the 8th of June, and so I shall not lecture any more, except perhaps in one or two neighboring towns where engagements have already been made, and to which I can go and return to New York the same night.
But I do want to say one thing. Governor Nye promised to introduce me to my audience at Cooper Institute, and I published it; but he was not at his hotel when the carriage went for him, has not been seen since, and has never sent a word of explanation. However, it is a matter of no consequence. Introduced myself as well as he could have done it - that is, without straining himself.
Return to Alta index