Author: Upton, George P. (George Putnam), 1834-1919
Chicago (Ill.) — Social life and customs — 19th century — Fiction
Letters of Peregrine Pickle
GEORGE P. UPTON.
“This, That and the Other.”
THE WESTERN NEWS COMPANY,
121 and 123 State Street.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869, by
THE WESTERN NEWS COMPANY,
In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States, for the
Northern District of Illinois.
Printed by J. Waddington,
121 Madison Street, Chicago, Ill.
To My Wife,
Sympathy and Encouragement
HAVE CONSTANTLY WELCOMED AND FOLLOWED
IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED.
THE contents of this book originally appeared in the columns of the Chicago Tribune, in the form of weekly letters, over the nom de plume of “Peregrine Pickle,” devoted to matters of gossip and interest in the world of amusement. Necessarily, much of this matter was of an ephemeral nature, which perished with publication. Many of these letters, also, were devoted to topics of a purely local and temporary character, which, at this present date, would possess no interest. I have, therefore, taken care to preserve only such parts of them as have a general bearing, and have arranged them under appropriate heads, with dates at the end of each, as a matter of convenience and reference.
These letters were commenced in the early part of the winter of 1866-’67, and have, therefore, reached the very respectable age of nearly three years. Like other children, they are old enough to go alone, and I therefore send them out into the world, richly endowed with my blessings, which is all I have to give them. Should they succeed in the world, I shall be profoundly astonished, as they were born amidst the press and hurry of other editorial duties, and they came into the world scarce half made up. Should they fail, I shall at least have the gratification of showing that Lytton Bulwer was in error in regard to the lexicon of youth.
The characters—Old Blobbs and Mrs. Blobbs, Aurelia, Celeste, Mignon, Blanche, Boosey, Fitz-Herbert, and the Maiden Aunt—whom the reader will find in these pages, may be real or not, as the reader fancies. None of them are willing, however, to have me divulge their real names, as that would destroy the little mystery which envelopes our breakfast gatherings, and would put us ill at ease when talking with the reader, as we hope to do for some time to come, through the columns of the Tribune. Meanwhile, if the reader knows any large-hearted, large-handed man, who speaks very plainly and hates shams, it is quite possible that man is Old Blobbs. Mrs. Blobbs is a very good woman when she is severely let alone, and her ideas of etiquette are not shocked. Aurelia is a plain, practical, well-educated woman, who shed all her nonsense when her first baby made her appearance. Celeste is a little flighty, and would be a Girl of the Period, if that did not involve vulgarity. Mignon is the pet of our set, keenly alive to whatever is beautiful, always lively and always graceful, and Blanche is her companion—a quiet and lovable girl. Boosey is a good-hearted, weak-kneed young fellow, quite harmless and very self-opinionated, while Fitz-Herbert is an incapable we cannot shake off. The Maiden Aunt is not with us now, having gone to a better world than this. Perhaps the reader knows all these people. They are not difficult to find.
These pages may prove to you, oh! reader, but a garden overrun with weeds. Should you, however, find only one simple little flower worth laying away as a souvenir, my purpose will have been answered.
G. P. U.
Chicago, September 20, 1869.
|Sleeping in Church||3|
|The Organ Grinder||5|
|Nothing and Babies||13|
|Before the Wedding||20|
|The Boston Girl||41|
|Behind the Scenes||57|
|A Christmas Carol||68|
|The New Year||74|
|Flat on the Back||85|
|Getting out of Bed||91|
|The Miracle of Creation||104|
|A Summer Reverie||116|
|The Germans and Music||119|
|The Old Story||126|
|Rip Van Winkle||141|
|An Autumn Reverie||149|
|The Best Woman in the World||151|
|The School House||153|
|A New Life||157|
|Old Blobbs—His Speech||160|
|Death of the Maiden Aunt||163|
|The New Year||167|
|A Woman not of the Period||185|
|A Trip to Heaven||187|
|Lent and Children||196|
|Tenors and Bassos||207|
|A Child’s Story—The Three Roses||213|
|Old Blobbs’ Opinions||232|
|Woman in Church||245|
|The Double Life||291|
|Love and the Blue Flower||298|
|Old Blobbs Redivivus||322|
|A Trip to Hell||329|
THE backbone of the winter is broken. The Carnival is about over. The lights are going out and the curtain is about to be rung down. The Spring will soon come slowly up this way, and then Lent. We shall take off our masques, be good children, and moralize on the routs, the follies and frivolities of December, January and February; and moralizing, we shall pronounce the winter the gayest, wildest, most dashing and smashing Chicago has ever known.
The winter has been one perpetual ball and party. Private amusement has usurped the place of public, and as a consequence, concerts and operas have suffered. The poor Philharmonic has withered like a leaf under this neglect, and Strakosch has lost money at a frightful rate. Soiree, ball and party have succeeded each other with wonderful rapidity, and the belles have been literally kept whirling until they are worn out and pine for the grateful Lent, when they can rest and get ready for the watering places.
The milliners, mantua-makers, dress-makers, hair-dressers, and others who make such exquisite fits and tremendous bills, have been in clover. The young ladies sometimes, after a season of only one night, come home so smashed that there is little left of their light fabrics and heavy waterfalls. Papa’s purse has bled freely, while mamma, who will wear a train and try to eclipse her daughter, gets trodden on and banged up and has to go into the toilet dry dock quite often for repairs. This is the reason why the milliner et al. high-priced individuals have been happy and old Blobbs has staid away from evening meetings and, growling at the fire-screen, made an Ursa Major of himself.
So we go. Young Boosey and Aurelia care little for the tariff, reconstruction, high church controversy, tax bills and legislative stealings. They are optimists. They want the best, and they want it now while the purse holds out. They have had a gay winter, will dawdle along through the spring and leave us just in time to escape the hot weather and the cholera, and we shall miss them as we miss the butterflies, and hail their return as they come back in the fall for another winter campaign. I do not know that they build many houses, endow many colleges, teach many Sunday school classes or consume much calico and cold water; but then the streets would be very monotonous, and the counter-jumpers would grow rusty and life would be tinted with ashes of roses without them.
February 16, 1867.
SLEEPING IN CHURCH.
I AM usually of a very philosophical temperament and preserve my equilibrium with a wonderful degree of success. I can resist even the blandishments of the tax-collector and never get up to boiling point, as it requires too much effort; but I have at last failed to retain my composure; and I have failed, because an unfortunate Irishman wandered into a church in Rhode Island and went to sleep and was sent to jail for ten days, not for going to church, but for going to sleep. He was not drunk. He did not even snore. He simply went to sleep like a good Christian. And this innovation upon the ancient rights of pew-holders, and especially of strangers, was endured by the parishioners without a murmur.
Now, if we are going to establish precedents about sleeping in church, wouldn’t it be well to reverse the order of things? For instance, send every minister to jail for ten days who cannot keep his hearers awake. Or, send every architect, who builds churches without means of ventilation, to jail for the same length of time. If I am to be deprived of my customary nap at the head of the family pew, why, then I must go where preachers are less somnolent or stay at home and take my nap, and thereby diminish the revenues of the church. And if all the heads which nod assent so vigorously to the preacher’s premises, are to be deprived of their siestas, what will become of the preachers? Does good old Deacon Jones, who always wakes up in time to pass the contribution box, intend to encourage this state of things? Does good sister Jones, who drowses just a trifle, notwithstanding her smelling-bottle, vote in favor of it?
I never heard of but one man before, who was punished for sleeping in church, and he was Eutychus, I believe, who was sitting in an open window, and falling into a deep sleep, had a worse fall than that, by falling out of the window. Now, Eutychus was a very foolish young man to go to sleep in an open window, and deserved his punishment for his stupidity, but there is little danger of any one suffering in that manner now-a-days, for an open window in a church is as rare as a church without a contribution box or a strawberry festival.
In another respect, this sleeping in church is a compliment to the minister. It indicates that his congregation are satisfied with the soundness of his doctrines and are willing to trust him alone. Suppose Brother Ryder should preach eternal damnation, or Brother Hatfield should announce universal salvation, or Brother Locke should advocate the elevation of the Host, would their parishioners do much sleeping?
I feel for that unfortunate Milesian. I feel that in his punishment, landmarks are swept away and that an old established usage, sanctified by the experience of immemorial ages, is overturned.
March 2, 1867.
THE ORGAN GRINDER.
HE is the child of sunny Italy, and it is to be regretted that he is not with his parents.
Likewise his monkey.
I was reminded this morning that Spring is slowly coming up this way, by meeting him and his organ and his red-blanketted monkey; and the air was full of the infernal jangle and din, ground out by that remorseless man; and as I passed along I reflected.
Does the Italian take naturally to the hand-organ? Is he born with the crank and the monkey in his mouth? What sin has he committed that he should be compelled to tramp, making day and night hideous? What becomes of him in winter? Where does he live? Does he go where the flies go? Is he preserved in amber from Autumn to Spring? You see him on one of the last days of Autumn. A biting wind the next day and the birds are gone. If you ask me what becomes of him, I will answer, I will tell you, when you tell me what becomes of all the hoop-skirts. Does the Organ-Grinder go to church? Does he pay taxes? Are there a Mrs. Organ-Grinder and little Organ-Grinders bringing up little monkeys to the business? Do they live in houses, or do they burrow in the ground? Where do they go when they die? In fact, do they ever die? Are they not like the wandering Jew, compelled to keep moving, grinding as they go?
These questions are worthy of consideration. There is only one thing certain about him. He is as resistless as fate. Give him a penny to go away and he will come the next day for a similar favor. Threaten to shoot him and he will laugh at you. Buttons and board-nails are just as current with him as pennies. Tell him your family are at the point of death, and he will grind out a soothing strain and come the next day with several more of his tribe to play a dirge at the funeral. I think I can eat a frugal meal with a Digger Indian; I am even prepared to recognize the greasy Esquimaux and horse-eating Gauls, but I cannot recognize a man and brother in the Organ-Grinder.
He is one of those mysterious dispensations like the cholera, rinderpest and trichiniasis which only future ages may appreciate. Undoubtedly he has his mission. Undoubtedly there are people who dote on the Organ-Grinder and the organ and the monkey and are soothed with the touching story of “Old Dog Tray.” Undoubtedly there was an old woman who kissed a cow; and there are people at the antipodes who eat mice and other small deer.
Such patience, determination, humility and industry, if applied to the Foreign Missions, would speedily clothe every Fiji sinner in a flannel jacket and his right mind. Were such attachments as exist between the Organ-Grinder and his monkey more common, we should rapidly approach the Millenium. Tramp on, then, O! Organ-Grinder! Tramp on, O! monkey! It is meet we should be taught patience.
April 13, 1867.
THE young ladies have commenced doing a very naughty thing, which is nothing more nor less than inserting a looking-glass on the inner side of the book of “Common Prayer.” It is so handy you know, when you are saying the responses, to pay your little devotions to the mirror, for how can one say the responses aright if her strings are fluttered or her chignon awry? And then you know you can get reflections from Celeste over in the next slip and examine her toilet and all the time be looking at your Prayer Book, like a good child. For combining the altar and the toilet, there is nothing like it. When the Rector intimates that Aurelia is a worm of the dust, she will look at her chignon and think of the gregarines. When he cautions her against pride, the sweet little Pharisee will glance at Celeste’s shadow and be thankful that she is not as proud as C. But when she lisps the confession to her looking-glass, will she discover that she has left undone the things she ought to have done, and be miserable all through the service? And when the Rector says: “Keep thy foot when thou goest into the house of God *** and offer not the sacrifice of fools,” will she see a fool in the looking-glass?
Which reminds me to say that I shall go to the Old Folks’ Concert on Monday night; and I shall revive the recollection of those days when Hepzibah, in a blue calico, sang treble and turned up her nose at Prudence, in bombazine, who sang second and