LETTER FROM MARK TWAIN
His Ideas on Poetical Congressmen -- Hints for the Improvement of
The Scandal Against Judge Field.
Adventure with a Native of Kalamazoo -- A Michigander at a Reception.
The Capitol Police --
The Colorado Brothers --
Mark Twain's Description of the Fashions at Gen. Grant's Reception.
Special Correspondence of the Chicago Republican.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 31.
Congress is the most interesting body I have found yet. It does more crazy things, and does them with a graver earnestness, than any State Legislature that exists, perhaps. But I did hope it would not "drop into poetry;" I did hope it would continue its dullness to prose. But it was not to be. Hon. Mungen, of Ohio, has set a disastrous example. He has allowed the sentiment that is in him to settle, and I herewith offer you the sediment. It is all properly caked and versified. Let me give also the three or four lines which precede it in the National Intelligencer, (and which have rather shaken my respect for that staid old journal), that regularly comes out in the most sensational and aggressive manner, every morning, with news it ought to have printed the day before.
The Intelligencer remarks as follows:
[The following lines are from the pen of Hon. William Mungen, member of Congress from the Fifth District of Ohio, whose exquisite taste for poetry and art has not been blunted by his political duties:]
TO AN ABSENT ONE.
Time flies, and still its rapid wings
Strikes on my thoughts with constant blows,
Touches my heart's most secret springs,
And love's fond stream toward thee flows.
Flows like Niagara's rushing tide --
True as the needle to the pole;
Clear as the deep blue sea, and wide
As were the thoughts of Milton's soul.
Absence from thee, my own dear wife,
Makes me but know how good thou art;
Partner of sorrows, joys, and life --
Part of myself -- the purer part.
When shall that happy time arrive?
When shall those days most wished for come?
When side by side we'll love and live
To bless each other in our home.
Now, isn't that bosh ? Do you observe that happy Congressional grammatical inspiration whereby Time flies, and still its rapid wings strikes on this party's thoughts with constant blows, touches the said party's heart's most secret springs, and love's fond stream toward the other party flows? Isn't that criminal grammar? And don't you think that if you had a love's "fond stream" flowing out of you like Niagara's rushing tide that you would feel a little alarmed about it, and quit hatching poetry, and proceed to let a contract for a breakwater, or a coffer dam, or something of that sort? I think you would. I think you would feel some solicitude about a freshet like that. And further concerning the second stanza, Mungen has no business to come here and try to disseminate the imposture that the deep blue sea is clear, because people who know things and are consequently wise, know that the deep blue sea isn't any clearer than Mungenical poetry. That is putting it rather strong, possibly, but fraud must be frowned down, when it comes among us in the seductive garb of poetry, even though strong figures be required to do it. The needle isn't true to the pole, either. That is another attempted swindle on the public. Mariners are aware that the cases wherein the needle actually points to the pole are so rare as to be well worthy of remark. The width of Milton's thoughts has never been subjected to government survey, and officially established, and so that metaphor must not be imposed upon a confiding public. If the figure had been transposed, so as to make the "width" refer to the sea, and the clearness to Milton's thoughts, nobody could have objected. The copartnership notice in the third act is business -- let it pass -- I wish to speak only of the poetry. If it suits the Congressional mind to mingle poetry and business together, it is competent for the Congressional mind so to proceed. The solicitude as to "when that happy time shall arrive," might have been spared to the Congressional mind by reference to the records which determine when the Fortieth Congress shall cease from its labors -- say the 4th of March, 1869, Wherefore
Be it resolved, That all after the third stanza, common meter, be and the same is hereby stricken out, and these words inserted in lieu thereof, such substitute being considered to be in consonance and in keeping with the three preceding stanzas aforesaid, and as affording important information of which the excluded stanza is deficient:
"This is the house that Jack built,
Congress adjourns the fourth of March;
Then never more shall we parties part,
Pop goes the weasel."
This is not poetical, but it has at least the merit of being instructive.
The Congressional mind had better quit soaring into poetry and go to sailing into political economy, perhaps.
MR. JUSTICE FIELD
A resolution was passed in the House, several days ago, to appoint a Committee to investigate certain charges which had been preferred in a six line newspaper item, against one of the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States to the end that he might be impeached if such a course seemed justifiable. You will observe that the House not only so far forgot its dignity as to entertain that thing, coming in such unauthorized, anonymous, and altogether questionable shape, but discussed and acted upon it. Such conduct as this is ill advised, and is calculated to cheapen the respect due to this high tribunal. The impeachment of a Judge of the Supreme Court is a grave matter, and should have a more respectable foundation than town gossip. Hon. Stephen Field was the Judge referred to. It was stated in the newspaper item that he had said at a dinner where he was a guest, that the Reconstruction acts were unconstitutional, and that the Court would so decide them. Any man might have known that so absurd a charge as that, and one so out of all character, would prove utterly ground less, and such has been the result. If we had a party of chattering old maids on the bench, we might expect them to gad about their official business, but wise, dignified old men do not do such things. I have inquired about the matter, and find that the circumstances are not worth detailing. They are not particularly creditable to the gentleman from whom the newspaper man probably got his information, either.
I went to the Capitol, yesterday, to see if there was anything going on there of especial interest to the Northwest. Senators and all other sources of information seemed busy. I secured an Illinois Congressman at last, but he did not know anything of especial import, except that no move had yet been made this session, and doubtless none would be made at all during this Congress, in behalf of the ship canal which it is proposed shall one day give Chicago direct communication with Europe by way of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. That was sufficient on that subject, of course. Then I went to the chamber of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary (I will remark that I am not a clerk of any committee), because was told that Senator Trumbull would shortly be there.
I was standing, all by myself, in the Committee room, reading a vast law book, and wondering what it was about; and whether the plaintiff had done so and so, or whether it was the defendant; and which of them they found guilty; and how the mischief they ever knew he was guilty when the words were tangled up so; and noting, with gratification, the references to Perkins v. Bangs, Mo. Rep. iii, &c., whereby it was apparent that if one did not get mixed up enough in that book there were others that could finish him; and wondering also at the bewildering tautology of the said aforesaid book aforesaid, when a youth to fortune and to fame unknown, flourished in the most frisky way, and came to a halt before me. This young man had a moustache that dimmed the lightness of his countenance about as your breath dims the brightness of a razor; and he bored down into it with his fingers, and gave it a twist which was singularly gratifying to him, considering that no effect was produced upon the moustache by the operation. Then he tilted his little soup-dish to the port side of his head with his gloved hand, and said:
I said "Hello!"
He looked surprised. Then he said: "Do you belong here?"
I was just finishing a sentence about Perkins v. Bangs. I finished it and observed: "The weather is very fine."
He whisked nervously up and down the room a couple of turns, and then stopped before me and said: "Are you the clerk of the Judiciary Committee?"
I said, in the urbanest manner:
"In view of the circumstance that on so short an acquaintance you betray so much solicitude concerning my business, I will venture to inquire what you may happen to want with the clerk of the Judiciary Committee ?"
"That is not answering my question. Are you the clerk of the Judiciary Committee ?"
"In view of the circumstance that on so short an acquaintance you betray so much solicitude concerning my business, I will venture to inquire again what you may happen to want with the clerk of the Judiciary Committee?"
"That don't concern anybody but me. What I want to know is, are you, or are you not the clerk of the Judiciary Committee?"
"In view, as I said before, of the circumstance that on so short an acquaintance you betray so much solicitude concerning my business, I will venture to inquire once again, what you may happen to want with the clerk of the Judiciary Committee ?"
He scratched his head in apparent perplexity for a matter of five seconds, and then said with deliberation and impressive earnestness:
"Well, I'll be dammed."
"I presume so. I hope so. Still, being a stranger, you cannot expect me to take more than a passing interest in your future plans."
He looked puzzled, and a little chafed. He said: "Look here -- who are you?"
"In view of the circumstance --"
"Oh, curse the circumstance!"
He did not reply. He seemed worried and annoyed. Presently he started out, and said by George he would go after the Michigan Senators and inquire into this thing. I said they were esteemed acquaintances of mine, and asked him to say that I was well. But he refused to do this, notwithstanding all my politeness, and was profane again. I never saw such a fire brand as he was.
Now what can that young fellow mean by going around asking respectable people if they are clerks of Senate committees? If my feelings are to be outraged in this way, I cannot stay in Washington. I don't like to be called Hello by strangers with imaginary moustaches, either. This young party turned out to be an importation from Kalamazoo, and he wished to ship as a sub-clerk to the Judiciary Committee. He is a little fresh. It might have been better if he had stayed in the Kalamazoological Gardens until he got his growth, perhaps. Still, if his friends would like to have the opinion of a stranger concerning him, I think he will make a success here in one way or another. He has spirit and persistence. The only trouble is, that he has most too much hello about him. He was at Mr. Colfax's reception last night, and if anybody was serenely and entirely at home in that brilliant gathering, and equal in all respects to the occasion, it was Kalamazoo, I think. He shouldered his way through the throng to shake hands with me, and I knew by the cheery tone of his voice that he had forgotten his anger, and regarded me in the light of a cherished old acquaintance, when he said, "Hello, old Smarty! -- you here!" In about an hour and a half that fellow was acquainted with everybody in the house.
THE CAPITOL POLICE
The days of the picturesque, blue uniformed, brass-buttoned Capitol police are numbered. They have cost the Government $80,000 in the last year, and have not been worth the money. They "came like shadows" -- most of them -- but will not so depart. They have grown fat and comfortable, dozing in chairs and scratching their backs against marble pillars. They got good wages, and had two sumptuous uniforms allowed them every year. But retrenchment is the order of the day now, and the appropriation for all Capitol police expenses is to be cut down to $5,000. That will well nigh exterminate the force. They are good men, and many of them have won a right to Governmental consideration by the deeds they have done in the field, but the times are hard and they must yield their places. If we had a little European sagacity, we would detail soldiers of the regular army to take care of the Capitol buildings, and then we need not pay even that $5,000 I have spoken of.
COLORADO AT THE DOOR
Colorado is memorializing Congress for admission as a State. The memorial sets forth that all classes and parties in Colorado desire a State Government, including the negroes, who are satisfied that the Constitution of the proposed State guarantees to them all the rights and privileges to which they are en titled; it furthermore sets forth that the Territory's voting strength has augmented since the President ruled her out before by veto; also that she pays a large internal revenue; that her postal receipts are great and are steadily increasing; and finally, that her population is as numerous as those of the new States last admitted. It is possible that Colorado may get in this time.
In this connection, it is observable, that in making this request the people of Colorado show an approximation to perfect unanimity of sentiment which is surprising. A Chronicle editorial says:
"The people of Colorado seem now, for the first time, to be almost unanimous for admission. We learn that one man, who was a strong State man until defeated for United States Senator, and his brother, are now the only active opponents of the measure."
Only two men against it. Only two resolute men against 30,000. This is a unanimity that would dishearten any ordinary brace of men. But it is not so in this case. These brothers are not only determined but "active." The spectacle of these two active partisans capering about the volcanic hills in solitary sublimity, while the badgered 30,000 march timidly to the polls to vote, is one that has an air of novelty about it, to say the least. The Chronicle is friendly to the admission, but I am afraid that in so magnifying the agility of these two gymnastic chiefs, it may be unwittingly damaging Colorado's chances in this second effort. The President will hardly open the door to her until the "candidate for United States Senator and his brother" shall be persuaded to quit performing on the hilltops, and cease to bullyrag the unoffending 30,000 with their pitiless opposition.
The fashions displayed by the ladies at the receptions of the great dignitaries of the Government may be regarded as orthodox and reliable, of course. I do not enjoy receptions, and yet I go to them, and inflict all manner of crowding, suffocation, and general discomfort upon myself, solely in order that I may be able to post the lady readers of newspapers concerning what they ought to wear when they wish to be utterly and exhaustively fashionable. Not being perfect in the technicalities of millinery, this duty is always tedious, and very laborious and fatiguing. I mention these things, because I wish to be credited with at least the good will to do well, even though I may chance, through ignorance, to fail of success.
At Gen. Grant's reception, the other night, the most fashionably dressed lady was Mrs. G. C. She wore a pink satin dress, plain in front, but with a good deal of rake to it -- to the train, I mean; it was said to be two or three yards long. One could see it creeping along the floor some little time after the woman was gone. Mrs. C. wore also a white bodice, cut bias, with Pompadour sleeves, flounced with ruches; low neck, with the inside handkerchief not visible; white kid gloves. She had on a pearl necklace, which glinted lonely, high up in the midst of that barren waste of neck and shoulders. Her hair was grizzled into a tangled chapparal, forward of her ears; after it was drawn together, and compactly bound and plaited into a stump like a pony's tail, and furthermore was canted upward at a sharp angle, and ingeniously supported by a red velvet crupper, whose forward extremity was made fast with a half hitch around a hair pin on her poop-deck, which means, of course, the top of her head, if you do not understand fashion technicalities. Her whole top hamper was neat and becoming. She had a beautiful complexion when she first came, but it faded out by degrees in the most unaccountable way. However, it was not lost for good. I found the most of it on my shoulder afterwards. (I had been standing by the door when she had been squeezing in and out with the throng). There were other fashionably dressed ladies present, of course, but I only took notes of one, as a specimen. The subject is one of great interest to ladies, and I would gladly enlarge upon it if I were more competent to do it justice.
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