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June 17, 1865

Answers to Correspondents

MORAL STATISTICIAN. - I don't want any of your statistics. I took your whole batch and lit my pipe with it. I hate your kind of people. You are always ciphering out how much a man's health is injured, and how much his intellect is impaired, and how many pitiful dollars and cents he wastes in the course of ninety-two years' indulgence in the fatal practice of smoking; and in the equally fatal practice of drinking coffee; and in playing billiards occasionally; and in taking a glass of wine at dinner, etc., etc., etc. And you are always figuring out how many women have been burned to death because of the dangerous fashion of wearing expansive hoops, etc., etc., etc. You never see but one side of the question. You are blind to the fact that most old men in America smoke and drink coffee, although, according to your theory, they ought to have died young; and that hearty old Englishmen drink wine and survive it, and portly old Dutchmen both drink and smoke freely, and yet grow older and fatter all the time. And you never try to find out how much solid comfort, relaxation and enjoyment a man derives from smoking in the course of a lifetime, (and which is worth ten times the money he would save by letting it alone,) nor the appalling aggregate of happiness lost in a lifetime by your kind of people from not smoking. Of course you can save money by denying yourself all these little vicious enjoyments for fifty years, but then what can you do with it? -what use can you put it to? Money can't save your infinitesimal soul; all the use that money can be put to is to purchase comfort and enjoyment in this life -therefore, as you are an enemy to comfort and enjoyment, where is the use in accumulating cash? It won't do for you to say that you can use it to better purpose in furnishing a good table, and in charities, and in supporting tract societies, because you know yourself that you people who have no petty vices are never known to give away a cent, and that you stint yourselves so in the matter of food that you are always feeble and hungry. And you never dare to laugh in the daytime for fear some poor wretch, seeing you in a good humor, will try to borrow a dollar of you; and in church you are always down on your knees when the contribution box comes around; and you always pay your debts in greenbacks, and never give the revenue officers a true statement of your income. Now you know all these things yourself, don't you? Very well, then, what is the use of your stringing out your miserable lives to a lean and withered old age? What is the use of your saving money that is so utterly worthless to you? In a word, why don't you go off somewhere and die, and not be always trying to seduce people into becoming as "ornery" and unloveable as you are yourselves, by your ceaseless and villainous "moral statistics?" Now I don't approve of dissipation, and I don't indulge in it, either, but I haven't a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty vices whatever, and so I don't want to hear from you any more. I think you are the very same man who read me a long lecture, last week, about the degrading vice of smoking cigars, and then came back, in my absence, with your vile, reprehensible fire-proof gloves on, and carried off my beautiful parlor stove.

SIMON WHEELER, Sonora. - The following simple and touching remarks and accompanying poem have just come to hand from the rich gold-mining region of Sonora:

To Mr. Mark Twain: The within parson, which I have sot to poettry under the name and style of "He Done His Level Best," was one among the whitest men I ever see, and it ain't every man that knowed him that can find it in his heart to say he's glad the pore cuss is busted and gone home to the States. He was here in an early day, and he was the handyest man about takin holt of anything that come along you most ever see, I judge; he was a cheerful, stirrin cretur, always doin something, and no man can say he ever see him do anything by halvers. Preachin was his nateral gait, but he wam't a man to lay back and twidle his thums because there didn't happen to be nothing doin in his own espeshial line - no sir, he was a man who would meander forth and stir up something for hisself. His last acts was to go his pile on "kings - and, " (calklatin to fill, but which he didn't fill,) when there was a "flush" out agin him, and naterally, you see, he went under. And so, he was cleaned out, as you may say, and he struck the home-trail, cheerful but flat broke. I knowed this talonted man in Arkansaw, and if you would print this humbly tribute to his gorgis abillities, you would greatly obleege his onhappy friend.
SONORA, Southern Mines, June, 1865.


Was he a mining on the flat -
He done it with a zest;
Was he a leading of the choir -
He done his level best.

If he'd a reglar task to do,
He never took no rest;
Or if twas off-and-on - the same -
He done his level best.

If he was preachin on his beat,
He'd tramp from east to west,
And north to south - in cold and heat
He done his level best.

He'd yank a sinner outen (Hades*)
And land him with the blest -
Then snatch a prayer 'n waltz in again,
And do his level best.

He'd cuss and sing and howl and pray,
And dance and drink and jest,
And lie and steal - all one to him -
He done his level best.

Whate'er this man was sot to do,
He done it with a zest:
No matter what his contract was,

*You observe that I have taken the liberty to alter a word for you, Simon - to tone you down a little, as it were. Your language was unnecessarily powerful. M. T

Verily, this man was gifted with "gorgis abillities," and it is a happiness to me to embalm the memory of their lustre in these columns. If it were not that the poet crop is unusually large and rank in California this year, I would encourage you to continue writing, Simon - but as it is, perhaps it might be too risky in you to enter against so much opposition.

INQUIRER wishes to know which is the best brand of smoking tobacco and how it is manufactured. The most popular - mind I do not feel at liberty to give an opinion as to the best, and so I simply say the most popular - smoking tobacco is the miraculous conglomerate they call "Killickinick." It is composed of equal parts of tobacco stems, chopped straw, "old soldiers," fine shavings, oak leaves, dog-fennel, corn-shucks, sun-flower petals, outside leaves of the cabbage plant, and any refuse of any description whatever that costs nothing and will burn. After the ingredients are thoroughly mixed together, they are run through a chopping-machine. The mass is then sprinkled with fragrant Scotch snuff, packed into various seductive shapes, labelled "Genuine Killickinick, from the old original manufactory at Richmond," and sold to consumers at a dollar a pound. The choicest brands contain a double portion of "old soldiers," and sell at a dollar and a half. "Genuine Turkish" tobacco contains a treble quantity of old soldiers, and is worth two or three dollars, according to the amount of service the said "old soldiers" have previously seen. N. B. This article is preferred by the Sultan of Turkey; his picture and autograph are on the label. Take a handful of "Killickinick," crush it as fine as you can, and examine it closely, and you will find that you can make as good an analysis of it as I have done; you must not expect to discover any particles of genuine tobacco by this rough method, however - to do that, it will be necessary to take your specimen to the mint and subject it to a fire-assay. A good article of cheap tobacco is now made of chopped pine-straw and Spanish moss; it contains one "old soldier" to the ton, and is called "Fine Old German Tobacco."

ANNA MARIA says as follows: "We have got such a nice literary society, O! you can't think! It is made up of members of our church, and we meet and read poetry and sketches and essays, and such things - mostly original - in fact, we have got talent enough among ourselves, without having to borrow reading matter from books and newspapers. We met a few evenings since at a dwelling on Howard, between Seventh and Eighth, and ever so many things were read. It was a little dull, though, until a young gentleman, (who is a member of our church, and oh, so gifted!) unrolled a bundle of manuscript and read such a funny thing about "Love's Bakery," where they prepare young people for matrimony, and about a young man who was engaged to be married, and who had the small-pox, and the erysipelas, and lost one eye and got both legs broken, and one arm, and got the other arm pulled out by a carding-machine, and finally got so damaged that there was scarcely anything of him left for the young lady to marry. You ought to have been there to hear how well he read it, and how they all laughed. We went right to work and nominated him for the Presidency of the Society, and he only lost it by two votes."

Yes, dear, I remember that "such a funny thing" which he read - I wrote it myself, for THE CALIFORNIAN, last October. But as he read it well, I forgive him - I can't bear to hear a good thing read badly. You had better keep an eye on that gifted young man, though, or he will be treating you to Washington's Farewell Address in manuscript the first thing you know - and if that should pass unchallenged, nothing in the world could save him from the Presidency.

I once read the following paragraph in a newspaper:

"Powerful Metaphor. - A Western editor, speaking of a quill-driving cotemporary, says 'his intellect is so dense that it would take the auger of common sense longer to bore into it than it would to bore through Mont Blanc with a boiled carrot!' "

I have found that man. And I have found him - not in Stockton - not in Congress - not even in the Board of Education - but in the editorial sanctum of the Gold Hill News. Hear him:

"BYRON BUSTED. - The most fearful exhibition of literary ignorance - to say nothing of literary judgment - that we have had occasion to notice in many a year, is presented by the San Francisco CALIFORNIAN, a professedly literary journal. It is among the 'Answers to Correspondents.' Lord Byron's magnificent and universally admired verses on the Destruction of Sennacherib, are sent from Dutch Flat to the CAIIFORNIAN, and are there not recognized, but denounced as a 'lot of doggerel.' Ye Gods! Perhaps the editor will try to get out of his 'fix' by saying it was all in fun - that it is a Dutch Nix joke! Read the comments:

" 'MELTON MOWBRAY, Dutch Flat. - This correspondent sends us 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 should 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.' "

Come, now, friend, about what style of joke would suit your capacity? - because we are anxious to come within the comprehension of all. Try a good old one; for instance: "Jones meets Smith; says Smith, 'I'm glad it's raining, Jones, because it'll start everything out of the ground.' 'Oh, Lord, I hope not,' says Jones, 'because then it would start my first wife out!' " How's that? Does that "bore through?"

Since writing the above, I perceive that the Flag has fallen into the wake of the News, and got sold by the same rather glaring burlesque that disposed of its illustrious predecessor at such an exceedingly cheap rate.

LITERARY CONNOISSEUR asks "Who is the author of these fine lines?

'Let dogs delight to bark and bite,
For God hath made them so!"'

Here is a man gone into ecstasies of admiration over a nursery rhyme! Truly, the wonders of this new position of mine do never cease. The longer I hold it the more I am astonished, and every new applicant for information, who comes to me, leaves me more helplessly stunned than the one who went before him. No, I don't know who wrote those "fine lines," but I expect old Wat's-'is-name, who wrote old Watt's hymns, is the heavy gun you are after. However, it may be a bad guess, and if you find it isn't him, why then lay it on Tupper. That is my usual method. It is awkward to betray ignorance. Therefore, when I come across anything in the poetry line, which is particularly mild and aggravating, I always consider it pretty safe to lay it on Tupper. The policy is subject to accidents, of course, but then it works pretty well, and I hit oftener than I miss. A "connoisseur" should never be in doubt about anything. It is ruinous. I will give you a few hints. Attribute all the royal blank verse, with a martial ring to it, to Shakspeare; all the grand ponderous ditto, with a solemn lustre as of holiness about it, to Milton; all the ardent love poetry, tricked out in affluent imagery, to Byron; all the scouring, dashing, descriptive warrior rhymes to Scott; all the sleepy, tiresome, rural stuff, to Thomson and his eternal Seasons; all the genial, warm-hearted jolly Scotch poetry, to Burns; all the tender, broken-hearted song-verses to Moore; all the broken-English poetry to Chaucer or Spenser - whichever occurs to you first; all the heroic poetry, about the impossible deeds done before Troy, to Homer; all the nauseating rebellion mush-and-milk about young fellows who have come home to die - just before the battle, mother - to George F. Root and kindred spirits; all the poetry that everybody admires and appreciates, but nobody ever reads or quotes from, to Dryden, Cowper and Shelley; all the grave-yard poetry to Elegy Gray or Wolfe, indiscriminately; all the poetry that you can't understand, to Emerson; all the harmless old platitudes, delivered with a stately and oppressive pretense of originality, to Tupper, and all the "Anonymous" poetry to yourself. Bear these rules in mind, and you will pass muster as a connoisseur; as long as you can talk glibly about the "styles" of authors, you will get as much credit as if you were really acquainted with their works. Throw out a mangled French phrase occasionally, and you will pass for an accomplished man, and a Latin phrase dropped now and then will gain you the reputation of being a learned one. Many a distinguished "connoisseur" in belles lettres and classic erudition travels on the same capital I have advanced you in this rather lengthy paragraph. Make a note of that "Anonymous" suggestion - never let a false modesty deter you from "cabbaging" anything you find drifting about without an owner. I shall publish a volume of poems, shortly, over my signature, which became the "children of my fancy" in this unique way.

ETIQUETTICUS, Monitor Silver Mines. - "If a lady and gentleman are riding on a mountain trail, should the lady precede the gentleman, or the gentleman precede the lady?" It is not a matter of politeness at all - it is a matter of the heaviest mule. The heavy mule should keep the lower side, so as to brace himself and stop the light one should he lose his footing. But to my notion you are worrying yourself a good deal more than necessary about etiquette, up there in the snow belt. You had better be skirmishing for bunch-grass to feed your mule on, now that the snowy season is nearly ready to set in.

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