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June 10, 1865

Answers to Correspondents

AMATEUR SERENADER. - Yes, I will give you some advice, and do it with a good deal of pleasure. I live in a neighborhood which is well stocked with young ladies, and consequently I am excruciatingly sensitive upon the subject of serenading. Sometimes I suffer. In the first place, always tune your instruments before you get within three hundred yards of your destination - this will enable you to take your adored unawares, and create a pleasant surprise by launching out at once upon your music; it astonishes the dogs and cats out of their presence of mind, too, so that if you hurry you can get through before they have a chance to recover and interrupt you; besides, there is nothing captivating in the sounds produced in tuning a lot of melancholy guitars and fiddles, and neither does a group of able-bodied, sentimental young men so engaged look at all dignified. Secondly, clear your throats and do' all the coughing you have got to do before you arrive at the seat of war-I have known a young lady to be ruthlessly startled out of her slumbers by such a sudden and direful blowing of noses and "h'm-h'm-ing" and coughing, that she imagined the house was beleaguered by victims of consumption from the neighboring hospital; do you suppose the music was able to make her happy after that? Thirdly, don't stand right under the porch and howl, but get out in the middle of the street, or better still, on the other side of it - distance lends enchantment to the sound; if you have previously transmitted a hint to the lady that she is going to be serenaded, she will understand who the music is for; besides, if you occupy a neutral position in the middle of the street, may be all the neighbors round will take stock in your serenade and invite you in to take wine with them. Fourthly, don't sing a whole opera through - enough of a thing's enough. Fifthly, don't sing "Lilly Dale" - the profound satisfaction that most of us derive from the reflection that the girl treated of in that song is dead, is constantly marred by the resurrection of the lugubrious ditty itself by your kind of people. Sixthly, don't let your screaming tenor soar an octave above all the balance of the chorus, and remain there setting everybody's teeth on edge for four blocks around; and, above all, don't let him sing a solo; probably there is nothing in the world so suggestive of serene contentment and perfect bliss as the spectacle of a calf chewing a dish-rag, but the nearest approach to it is your reedy tenor, standing apart, in sickly attitude, with head thrown back and eyes uplifted to the moon, piping his distressing solo: now do not pass lightly over this matter, friend, but ponder it with that seriousness which its importance entitles it to. Seventhly, after you have run all the chickens and dogs and cats in the vicinity distracted, and roused them into a frenzy of crowing, and cackling, and yowling, and caterwauling, put up your dreadful instruments and go home. Eighthly, as soon as you start, gag your tenor - otherwise he will be letting off a screech every now and then to let the people know he is around; your amateur tenor singer is notoriously the most self-conceited of all God's creatures. Tenthly, don't go serenading at all - it is a wicked, unhappy and seditious practice, and a calamity to all souls that are weary and desire to slumber and be at rest. Eleventhly and lastly, the father of the young lady in the next block says that if you come prowling around his neighborhood again with your infamous scraping and tooting and yelling, he will sally forth and deliver you into the hands of the police. As far as I am concerned myself, I would like to have you come, and come often, but as long as the old man is so prejudiced, perhaps you had better serenade mostly in Oakland, or San Jose, or around there somewhere.

ST. CLAIR HIGGINS, Los Angeles. - "My life is a failure; I have adored, wildly, madly, and she whom I love has turned coldly from me and shed her affections upon another; what would you advise me to do?" You should shed your affections on another, also - or on several, if there are enough to go round. Also, do everything you can to make your former flame unhappy. There is an absurd idea disseminated in novels, that the happier a girl is with another man, the happier it makes the old lover she has blighted. Don't you allow yourself to believe any such nonsense as that. The more cause that girl finds to regret that she did not marry you, the more comfortable you will feel over it. It isn't poetical, but it is mighty sound doctrine.

ARITHMETICUS, Virginia, Nevada. - "If it would take a cannon-ball 3 1/3 seconds to travel four miles, and 3 3/8 seconds to travel the next four, and 3 5/8 seconds to travel the next four, and if its rate of progress continued to diminish in the same ratio, how long would it take it to go fifteen hundred millions of miles?" I don't know.

AMBITIOUS LEARNER, Oakland. - Yes, you are right - America was not discovered by Alexander Selkirk.

JULIA MARIA. - Fashions? It is out of my line, Maria. How am I to know anything about such mysteries - I that languish alone? Sometimes I am startled into a passing interest in such things, but not often. Now, a few nights ago, I was reading the Dramatic Chronicle at the opera, between the acts - reading a poem in it, and reading it after my usual style of ciphering out the merits of poetry, which is to read a line or two near the top, a verse near the bottom and then strike an average, (even professional critics do that) - when - well, it had a curious effect, read as I happened to read it:

" 'What shall I wear?' asked Addie St. Clair,
As she stood by her mirror so young and fair" -

and then I skipped a line or so, while I returned the bow of a strange young lady, who, I observed too late, had intended that courtesy for a ruffian behind me, instead of for myself, and read:

"The modiste replied, 'It were wicked to hide
Such peerless perfection that should be your pride' " -

and then I skipped to the climax, to get my average, and read -

" 'My beautiful bride!' a low voice replied,
As handsome Will Vernon appeared at her side,
'If you wish from all others my heart to beguile,
Wear a smile to-night, darling - your own sunny smile.' "

Now there's an airy costume for you! a "sunny smile!" There's a costume, which, for simplicity and picturesqueness, grand-discounts a Georgia major's uniform, which is a shirt-collar and a pair of spurs. But when I came to read the remainder of the poem, it appeared that my new Lady Godiva had other clothes beside her sunny smile, and so - it is not necessary to pursue a subject further which no longer possesses any startling interest. Ask me no questions about fashions, Julia, but use your individual judgment in the matter - "wear your own sunny smile," and such millinery traps and trimmings as may be handy and will be likely to set it off to best advantage.

NOM DE PLUME. - Behold! the Frenchman cometh again, as follows:

"Your courteous attention to my last enquiry induces this acknowledgment of your kindness. I availed myself of your suggestions and made the enquiry of the gentleman, and he told me very frankly that it was - none of my business. So you see we do sometimes have to apply to your correspondence column for correct information, after all. I read in the papers a few days since some remarks upon the grammatical construction of the sentences - 'Sic semper traditoris' and 'Sic semper traditoribus,' and I procured a Latin grammar in order to satisfy myself as to the genative, dative and ablative cases of traitors - and while wending my weary way homewards at a late hour of the night, thinking over the matter, and not knowing what moment some cut-throat would knock me over, and, as he escaped, flourishing my watch and portmonaie, exclaim, 'Sic semper tyranis,' I stumbled over an individual lying on the sidewalk, with a postage stamp pasted on his hat in lieu of a car ticket, and evidently in the objective case to the phrase 'how come you so?' As I felt in his pockets to see if his friends had taken care of his money, lest he might be robbed, he exclaimed, tragically, 'Si(hic) semper tarantula-juice!' Not finding the phrase in my grammar, which I examined at once, I thought of your advice and asked him what he meant, said he 'I mean jis what I say, and I intend to sti-hic to it.' He was quarter-less, Twain; when I sounded him he hadn't a cent, although he smelled strong of a 5-scent shop."

MELTON MOWBRAY, Dutch Flat. - This correspondent sends a lot of doggerel, and says it has been regarded as very good in Dutch Flat. I give a specimen verse:

"The Assyrian came down, like a wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of his spears shone like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee."

There, that will do. That may be very good Dutch Flat poetry, but it won't do in the metropolis. It is too smooth and blubbery; it reads like buttermilk gurgling from a jug. What the people ought to have, is something spirited - something like "Johnny comes marching home." However, keep on practicing, and you may succeed yet. There is genius in you, but too much blubber.

LAURA MATILDA. - No, Mr. Dan Setchell has never been in the House of Correction. That is to say he never went there by compulsion; he remembers going there once to visit a very dear friend - one of his boyhood's friends - but the visit was merely temporary, and he only staid five or six weeks.

PROFESSIONAL BEGGAR. - No, you are not obliged to take greenbacks at par.


NOTE. - Several letters, chiefly from young ladies and young bachelors, remain over, to be answered next week, want of space precluding the possibility of attending to them at present. I always had an idea that most of the letters written to editors were written by the editors themselves. But I find, now, that I was mistaken.

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