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REPUBLIC OF LETTERS.
"O cookery! cookery! That kills more than weapons, guns, wars, or poisons, and would destroy all, but that physic helps to make away some."
Ye who flatter yourselves that indolence and luxury are compatible with the enjoyment of vigour of health, and hilarity of spirits, that the acquisition of the means of happiness, is to be happy, and that the habitual pampering of the senses, is not for ever paid for by the depression of the immortal soul, listen to my story, and be wise.
I am the son of a reputable gentleman, who made a good figure in the Revolutionary War, and possessed a competent estate in one of the adjacent counties. His name will be found in the old Committees of Safety. He ranked as a Colonel, in the Continental Army, and acted as a Deputy Commissary General, in the year 1779. In this latter situation he committed the most enormous follies; for finding the good people, his neighbours, would not exchange their goods for money that was good for nothing, they were wiser than the present race notwithstanding the march of mind, he pledged his own responsibility for the supplies, without which the army at Peeks Kill would have suffered greatly. He was warmly thanked in letters from distinguished persons in the old congress, for people are apt to be grateful in time of danger; but when, at the conclusion of the struggle, he presented his accounts, the danger being over, the accounting officers refused to allow a credit for the debts he had incurred on his own responsibility. My father returned home a ruined, and broken hearted man. His old neigh-
* From an American work, entitled 'Tales of a Good Woman. By ,-. Douhtful Gentleman.' Ke-v-Yor"t, '829. 1 "oli'
boars pitied him, but they could not lose their money. They justly considered, that charity begins at home, and that there was no moral principle, obliging them to starve themselves and their children for the sake of other people. I do not blame them. They divided my father's property between them, and finding there was nothing left, they forgave him the rest of his debts. The contractors and commissaries of the day, with great appearance of reason, called him a fool, for ruining himself in a station where every other man managed to grow rich. The old farmers, his neighbours, some of whom are still alive, have often told me that he deserved well of his country; but his name has been smothered under the load of great, good, and patriotic people, that have since sprung up in these times that try men's soles.
My father might have petitioned congress, and died, like poor Amy Dardin and her horse, before the members had finished making their speeches. But he was a cold, proud man, who often went without his dues, because he would not ask for them. He accordingly sat down with his little family around him, steeped in poverty; consoled himself with reading books, and studying the stars, and waited in gloomy inactivity for the time, when a great pocket book full of continental money, and a few thousand dollars in continental certificates, should become worth something. The continental money, as every body knows, never recovered itself; the certificates were afterwards funded at their full value. But previous to this, my father had, under the strong pressure of necessity, sold them for almost nothing, to a worthy friend of his, who afterwards turned out one of the most eloquent advocates of the Funding System. Heavens! how he did talk of the sufferings and privations of the patriots of the Revolution! he certainly owed them a good turn, for he got enough by them to build a palace, and purchase half the Genesee country.
At the period of our ruin, 1 was about ten years old, I think, and, until that time, I had been brought up as the children of wealthy country gentlemen generally are. I had some of the feelings and a portion of the manners of a gentleman's son, which I hope I still retain, although, to say the truth, the latter part of my education was deplorable enough. My father, from the period in which he felt himself dishonoured by the rejection of his accounts, retired within himself, and seemed benumbed in heart and spirits. He passed his whole time in reading the few books that he could come at; and his temper became imperturbable, except at such times as he was disturbed, and forced to remove from his seat. He would then exhibit symptoms of internal discomposure, make for the nearest chair, set himself down and resume his studies. Half the time he would have forgot his dinner, had my mother not waked him from his reverie. To be sure, our dinner was hardly worth eating; but to the best of my recollection, I never enjoyed a better appetite, or had so little of the Dyspepsy. We were often on the very verge of want, and had it not been for the exertions of my excellent mother, who, thank God, is still living, and at least ten years younger than I am—aided by the good offices of a sister, well married in the city, we had sometimes actually wanted the necessaries of life. It was not then so much the fashion for genteel people to go begging. But it is astonishing what the presiding genius of a sensible, prudent, industrious mother, can do; what miracles indeed she can achieve, in keeping herself, her husband, and her children, decent, at least. My mother did all this, and more; she sent me to school; and it is not the least of my sources of honest pride, that my education, such as it was, cost the public nothing. Women, notwithstanding what cynics may say, are born for something better than wasting time, and spending money: and I hereby apprise the reader, that if ever I am guilty of a sarcasm against woman, it is only when I am labouring under the horrors of Dyspepsy.
Till the age of sixteen, 1 never saw the city; to me it was the region of distant wonders, ineffable splendours, wise men, and beautiful women. I reverenced a New-Yorker, as I now do a person who has been to Paris or Rome; and I shall never forget my extreme admiration of a fine lady, the daughter of a little tailor, who lived near us. She was an apprentice to a milliner, and came up during the prevalence of the Yellow Fever, with three bandboxes, and a pocket-handkerchief full of finery. The world of romance; the region of airy nothings; of creatures that come and go at will, before the youthful fancy, was now just opening before me in long perspective. I was without employment, for if my mother had a weakness, it was one which I verily believe belongs even to the female angels. She could not forget old times, nor bear the idea that her only son should learn a trade, or slave in any useful occupation.
Deprived thus of the resourses of active employment, I spent my time either in reading, or roaming at random and unpurposed, through the beautiful romantic scenes which surrounded our poor, yet pleasant abode. My mind was a complete contrast to my body —the latter was indolence itself; the former a perfect erratic vagrant . I was eternally thinking, and doing nothing. The least spark awakened in my mind visions of the future—for that was all to me—and lighted my path through long perspectives of shadowy happiness. Sometimes I was a soldier, winning my way to the