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June 24, 1865

Answers to Correspondents

TRUE SON OF THE UNION. - Very well, I will publish the following extract from one of the dailies, since you seem to consider it necessary to your happiness, and since your trembling soul has found in it evidence of lukewarm loyalty on the part of the Collector - but candidly, now, don't you think you are in rather small business? I do, anyhow, though I do not wish to flatter you:

SAN FRANCISCO, June 17, 1865.

Messrs. Editors: Why is it that on this day, the greatest of all in the annals of the rights of man - viz: the Glorious Anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill - our Great Ensign of Freedom does not appear on the Custom House? Perhaps our worthy Collector is so busy Senator-making that it might have escaped his notice. You will be pleased to assign an excuse for the above official delinquency, and oblige

Why was that published? I think it was simply to gratify a taste for literary pursuits which has suddenly broken out in the system of the artisan from New England; or perhaps he has an idea, somehow or other, in a general way, that it would be a showing of neat and yet not gaudy international politeness for Collectors of ports to hoist their flags in commemoration of British victories, (for the physical triumph was theirs, although we claim all the moral effect of a victory;) or perhaps it struck him that "this day, the greatest of all in the annals of the rights of man," (whatever that may mean, for it is a little too deep for me,) was a fine, high-sounding expression, and yearned to get it off in print; or perhaps it occurred to him that "the Glorious Anniversary," and "our Great Ensign of Freedom," being new and startling figures of speech, would probably create something of a sensation if properly marshalled under the leadership of stunning capitals, and so he couldn't resist the temptation to trot them out in grand dress parade before the reading public; or perhaps, finally, he really did think the Collector's atrocious conduct partook of the character of a devilish "official delinquency," and imperatively called for explanation or "excuse." And still, after all this elaborate analysis, I am considerably "mixed" as to the actual motive for publishing that thing.

But observe how quibbling and fault-finding breed in a land of newspapers. Yesterday I had the good fortune to intercept the following bitter communication on its way to the office of a cotemporary, and I am happy in being able to afford to the readers of THE CALIFORNIAN the first perusal of it:

Editors of the Flaming Loyalist: What does it mean? The extraordinary conduct of Mr. John Doe, one of the highest Government officials among us, upon the anniversary of the battle of Bunker Hill - that day so inexpressibly dear to every loyal American heart because our patriot forefathers got worsted upon that occasion - is matter of grave suspicion. It was observed (by those who have closely watched Mr. Doe's actions ever since he has been in office, and who have thought his professions of loyalty lacked the genuine ring,) that this man, who has uniformly got drunk, heretofore, upon all the nation's great historical days, remained thoroughly sober upon the hallowed 17th of June. Is not this significant? Was this the pardonable forgetfulness of a loyal officer, or rather, was it not the deliberate act of a malignant and a traitorous heart? You will be pleased to assign an excuse for the above official delinquency, and oblige

Now isn't that enough to disgust any man with being an officeholder? Here is a drudging public servant who has always served his masters patiently and faithfully, and although there was nothing in his instructions requiring him to get drunk on national holidays, yet with an unselfishness, and an enlarged public spirit, and a gushing patriotism that did him infinite credit, he did always get as drunk as a loon on these occasions - ay, and even upon any occasion of minor importance when an humble effort on his part could shed additional lustre upon his country's greatness, never did he hesitate a moment to go and fill himself full of gin. Now observe how his splendid services have been appreciated - behold how quickly the remembrance of them hath passed away - mark how the tried servant has been rewarded. This grateful officer - this pure patriot - has been known to get drunk five hundred times in a year for the honor and glory of his country and his country's flag, and no man cried "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" - yet the very first time he ventures to remain sober on a battle anniversary (exhausted by the wear and tear of previous efforts, no doubt,) this spying "Agriculturist," who has deserted his onion-patch to perch himself upon the National Watch-Tower at the risk of breaking his meddlesome neck, discovers the damning fact that he is firm on his legs, and sings out: "He don't keep up his lick! - he's DISLOYAL!"

Oh, stuff! a public officer has a hard enough time of it, at best, without being constantly hauled over the coals for inconsequential and insignificant trifles. If you must find fault, go and ferret out something worth while to find fault with - if John Doe or the Collector neglect the actual business they are required by the Government to transact, impeach them. But pray allow them a little poetical license in the choice of occasions for getting drunk and hoisting the National flag. If the oriental artisan and the sentinel agriculturalist held the offices of these men, would they ever attend to anything else but the flag-flying and gin-soaking outward forms of patriotism and official industry?

SOCRATES MURPHY. - You speak of having given offense to a gentleman at the Opera by unconsciously humming an air which the tenor was singing at the time. Now, part of that is a deliberate falsehood. You were not doing it "unconsciously;" no man does such a mean vulgar, egotistical thing as that unconsciously. You were doing it to "show off;" you wanted the people around you to know you had been to operas before, and to think you were not such an ignorant, self-conceited, supercilious ass as you looked; I can tell you Arizona opera-sharps, any time; you prowl around beer-cellars and listen to some howling-dervish of a Dutchman exterminating an Italian air, and then you come into the Academy and prop yourself up against the wall with the stuffy aspect and the imbecile leer of a clothing-store dummy, and go to droning along about half an octave below the tenor, and disgusting everybody in your neighborhood with your beery strains. [N. B. If this rough-shod eloquence of mine touches you on a raw spot occasionally, recollect that I am talking for your good, Murphy, and that I am simplifying my language so as to bring it clearly within the margin of your comprehension; it might be gratifying to you to be addressed as if you were an Oxford graduate, but then you wouldn't understand it, you know.] You have got another abominable habit, my sage-brush amateur. When one of those Italian footmen in British uniform comes in and sings "O tol de rol! - O, Signo-o-o-ra! - loango - congo -Venezue-e-e-la! whack fol de rol! " (which means "Oh, noble madame, here's one of them dukes from the palace, out here, come to borrow a dollar and a half,") you always stand with expanded eyes and mouth, and one pile-driver uplifted, and your ample hands held apart in front of your face, like a couple of canvas-covered hams, and when he gets almost through, how you do uncork your pent-up enthusiasm and applaud with hoof and palm! You have it pretty much to yourself, and then you look sheepish when you find everybody staring at you. But how very idiotic you do look when something really fine is sung-you generally keep quiet, then. Never mind, though, Murphy, entire audiences do things at the Opera that they have no business to do; for instance, they never let one of those thousand-dollar singers finish - they always break in with their ill-timed applause just as he or she, as the case may be, is preparing to throw all his or her concentrated sweetness into the final strain, and so all that sweetness is lost. Write me again, Murphy - I shall always be happy to hear from you.

ARITHMETICUS, Virginia, Nevada. - "I am an enthusiastic student of mathematics, and it is so vexatious to me to find my progress constantly impeded by these mysterious arithmetical technicalities. Now do tell me what the difference is between Geometry and Conchology?"

Here you come again, with your diabolical arithmetical conundrums, when I am suffering death with a cold in the head. If you could have seen the expression of ineffable scorn that darkened my countenance a moment ago and was instantly split from the centre in every direction like a fractured looking-glass by my last sneeze, you never would have written that disgraceful question. Conchology is a science which has nothing to do with mathematics; it relates only to shells. At the same time, however, a man who opens oysters for a hotel, or shells a fortified town, or sucks eggs, is not, strictly speaking, a conchologist -a fine stroke of sarcasm, that, but it will be lost on such an intellectual clam as you. Now compare conchology and geometry together, and you will see what the difference is, and your question will be answered. But don't torture me with any more of your ghastly arithmetical horrors (for I do detest figures anyhow,) until you know I am rid of my cold. I feel the bitterest animosity toward you at this moment - bothering me in this way, when I can do nothing but sneeze and quote poetry and snort pocket-handkerchiefs to atoms. If I had you in range of my nose, now, I would blow your brains out.

YOUNG MOTHER. - And so you think a baby is a thing of beauty and a joy forever? Well, the idea is pleasing, but not original - every cow thinks the same of its own calf. Perhaps the cow may not think it so elegantly, but still she thinks it, nevertheless. I honor the cow for it. We all honor this touching maternal instinct wherever we find it, be it in the home of luxury or in the humble cow-shed. But really, madam, when I come to examine the matter in all its bearings, I find that the correctness of your assertion does not manifest itself in all cases. A sore-faced baby with a neglected nose cannot be conscientiously regarded as a thing of beauty, and inasmuch as babyhood spans but three short years, no baby is competent to be a joy "forever." it pains me thus to demolish two-thirds of your pretty sentiment in a single sentence, but the position I hold in this chair requires that I shall not permit you to deceive and mislead the public with your plausible figures of speech. I know a female baby aged eighteen months, in this city, which cannot hold out as a "joy" twenty-four hours on a stretch, let alone "forever." And it possesses some of the most remarkable eccentricities of character and appetite that have ever fallen under my notice. I will set down here a statement of this infant's operations, (conceived, planned and carried out by itself, and without suggestion or assistance from its mother or any one else,) during a single day - and what I shall say can be substantiated by the sworn testimony of witnesses. It commenced by eating one dozen large blue-mass pills, box and all; then it fell down a flight of stairs, and arose with a bruised and purple knot on its forehead, after which it proceeded in quest of further refreshment and amusement. It found a glass trinket ornamented with brass-work - mashed up and ate the glass, and then swallowed the brass. Then it drank about twenty or thirty drops of laudanum, and more than a dozen table-spoonsful of strong spirits of camphor. The reason why it took no more laudanum was, because there was no more to take. After this it lay down on its back, and shoved five or six inches of a silver-headed whalebone cane down its throat; got it fast there, and it was all its mother could do to pull the cane out again, without pulling out some of the child with it. Then, being hungry for glass again, it broke up several wine glasses, and fell to eating and swallowing the fragments, not minding a cut or two. Then it ate a quantity of butter, pepper, salt and California matches, actually taking a spoonful of butter, a spoonful of salt, a spoonful of pepper, and three or four lucifer matches, at each mouthful. (I will remark here that this thing of beauty likes painted German lucifers, and eats all she can get of them; but she infinitely prefers California matches - which I regard as a compliment to our home manufactures of more than ordinary value, coming, as it does, from one who is too young to flatter.) Then she washed her head with soap and water, and afterwards ate what soap was left, and drank as much of the suds as she had room for, after which she sallied forth and took the cow familiarly by the tail, and got kicked heels over head. At odd times during the day, when this joy forever happened to have nothing particular on hand, she put in the time by climbing up on places and falling down off them, uniformly damaging herself in the operation. As young as she is, she speaks many words tolerably distinctly, and being plain-spoken in other respects, blunt and to the point, she opens conversation with all strangers, male or female, with the same formula - "How do, Jim?" Not being familiar with the ways of children, it is possible that I have been magnifying into matter of surprise things which may not strike any one who is familiar with infancy as being at all astonishing. However, I cannot believe that such is the case, and so I repeat that my report of this baby's performances is strictly true - and if any one doubts it, I can produce the child. I will further engage that she shall devour anything that is given her, (reserving to myself only the right to exclude anvils,) and fall down from any place to which she may be elevated, (merely stipulating that her preference for alighting on her head shall be respected, and, therefore, that the elevation chosen shall be high enough to enable her to accomplish this to her satisfaction.) But I find I have wandered from my subject-so, without further argument, I will reiterate my conviction that not all babies are things of beauty and joys forever.

BLUE-STOCKING, San Francisco. - Do I think the writer in the Golden Era quoted Burns correctly when he attributed this language to him?

"O, wad the power the gift tae gie us."

No, I don't. I think the proper reading is-

"O, wad some power the giftie gie us."

But how do you know it is Burns? Why don't you wait till you hear from the Gold Hill News? Why do you want to rush in ahead of the splendid intellect that discovered as by inspiration that the "Destruction of the Sennacherib" was not written in Dutch Flat?

AGNES ST. CLAIR SMITH. - This correspondent writes as follows: "I suppose you have seen the large oil painting (entitled 'St. Patrick preaching at Tara, A. D. 432,') by J. Harrington, of San Francisco, in the window of the picture store adjoining the Eureka Theatre, on Montgomery street. What do you think of it?"

Yes, I have seen it. I think it is a petrified nightmare. I have not time to elaborate my opinion.


The fate of Mark Twain's exquisite bit of humor, in which he treats Byron's "Sennacherib" as a communication from a Dutch Flat poet, will teach a lesson to our wits. The next time that Mark gets off a good thing in the same fine vein, he will probably append "a key" to the joke. - Dramatic Chronicle.

Ah! but you forget the Gold Hill News and the Flag. Would they understand the "key" do you think?

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