Philander Doesticks.

Doesticks: What He Says



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Nothing

In a literary point of view this book claims nothing:

This is the manufacturer's assertion.

In a literary point of view this book amounts to nothing.

This will be the reader's conclusion.

And if any skeptical person insists upon investigating the matter for himself, he will eventually be compelled to acknowledge the verity of this remark; and will, at the same time, bear a strong testimony to the sagacity of the publisher, who has put his trust in nothing —for he will have bought the book.

This work simply professes to be sketches of various persons, places, and events – some of which have been published, and some hav'n't; some are bad, and some are worse; but all have a claim to originality in treatment, although the same things may have been better said by better people.

Some of these bubbles have been, for some time, floating on the sea of literature – the lightest froth of the restless wave; still there are many of them which have never met the public eye, and which are here, for the first time, set afloat.

And for their publication the writer makes no apology. Accident has brought these "airy nothings" into notice; and although many of the thoughts are not novel in themselves, but are merely whimsically put, and not a few of the whims are borrowed unhesitatingly from others, they are dressed up in a lingual garb so quaint, eccentric, fantastic, or extravagant, that each lender would be sadly puzzled to know his own.

It is undoubtedly this trick of phrase, this affectation of a new-found style, which has caused their widespread newspaper notoriety. And in the hope that people will buy the book before the trick is stale, and not suspect the secret of the joke until they read it on this page, the writer has authorized the collection of these roving unsubstantial ink-brats into their present shelter, and now presents the whole uncouth family for inspection, trusting that the experiment will "put money in the purse," not only of himself, but of his sanguine publisher.

This book, like Hodge's razors, was "made to sell;" and if the sometime good-natured world will pay the price, and have its huge grim smile over these unlicked fancies – although in a political, moral, or utilitarian sense it will have gained nothing – it will, in a literal if not literary view, lose nothing.

But if it is in a surly mood, and chooses to look with dignified contempt upon this avowed and candid literary humbug, some one will be disappointed to think he has miscalculated the fickle taste of the aforesaid world and some one will be out of pocket by its sulky humor; but of these persons, their whereabouts, their circumstances, or their names, the world can say nothing; because it will know nothing; no, nothing.

Q. K. PHILANDER DOESTICKS, P.B.

New York, June, 1855.

I
How Doesticks came to think of it

It is not pretended that this volume is a work of inspiration, or that any portion of it has been revealed by accommodating "Spirits" through the "Medium" of those crack-brained masculine women, or addle-headed feminine men who profess to act as go-betweens from Earth to the Spirit World.

No part of it has been "rapped" out by uneasy tables, or thumped out by dancing chairs; Doctor Franklin didn't dictate it; Lord Byron didn't write it; Napoleon wasn't consulted about it; Cardinal Richelieu didn't have a finger in it; George the Third hadn't anything to do with it; Shakspeare didn't suggest anything in it; and Benedict Arnold didn't know anything about it.

That these worthies might have afforded much valuable information, offered many important improvements, and enriched the book with a host of wise opinions, had some sapient "Medium" asked their assistance, is unquestionable.

But as neither Andrew Jackson Davis, or any other spiritual call boy was at the elbow of the writer to summon these desirable but defunct individuals, they were probably left to pursue, in unmolested peace, their favorite and dignified occupations of "tipping" tables, knocking on partitions, drumming on floors, frightening old women and little girls into hysterics, and upsetting the propriety of whole parlors full of furniture, whole closets full of glass-ware, and whole cup-boards full of pots, pans and other kitchen gear. For in such intellectual and elevated employments are great men's ghosts engaged, when they pass into a more refined state of existence, if we may credit the assertions of the self-styled "Spiritualists."

But, unassisted, and alone, I, the writer, have undertaken this mighty work, instigated only by the Spirits hereinafter referred to, and by the representations of my publisher.

Although at present neither celebrated nor notorious, I have a presentiment that I am speedily about to become one or the other. Through an accidental rip in the curtain of futurity, I have caught a glimpse of the Goddess of Fame. I have heard her sing out from her rather elevated position for me to come up and take a "hasty plate" of glory; and I have not the heart to refuse the request of such a good-looking female, preferred in such elegant language. I am going to shin up the slippery rope leading to her aerial temple (for accurate dimensions and appearance, see engraving in the old Elementary Spelling Book), for the purpose of taking a hand in the game of literary renown, trusting that Nature has given me trumps enough to make the "game," and that Fortune will deal me all "the honors."

For weeks I have been haunted perpetually by a voice – not a "still, small voice" – but a large voice, a considerable voice; a voice vociferous, unctuous, and ever-present, and withal insinuating, and not wholly distasteful. It has been constant in my ear, suggesting pleasing hopes and fanciful desires; and though its notes were often varied, yet ever was the theme the same; and the constant burden of that ceaseless song was, "Write a book! write a book!"

And in dreams, too, visions of good-looking ladies with wings, came into my 7?9 chamber, and whispered in my ear, and they too said, "Write a book! write a book!" – and one I thought, with versi-colored plumage, with her finger on her lip, quoted the perpetually murdered Shakspeare prophetically, and, no doubt, with an eye to the success of the volume aforesaid, and said, suiting with a fairy-like gesture the action to the word, "I could a tale unfold." And plucking a snowy quill, she gave it to me, murmuring, as did all the rest, "Write a book! write a book!"

Awoke – put on my pantaloons and boots, and in my shirt sleeves sat down to cogitate. Result is, that I shall use the lengthy quill – I shall accept the pressing invitation of the Goddess of Fame; and in order most effectually to dis-tinguish or ex-tinguish myself, hereby with malice aforethought, and the penalty of a failure before my eyes, I sit down to write a book.

But my physician informs me that I have got the "cacoethes scribendi," which he says is as bad as the small-pox, toothache, and yellow fever. The disease, he says, must have its course – it may end in a malignant biography – result in an infectious broadsword and blunderbuss, yellow covered novel, or degenerate into a weak form of pseudo-sentimental verse writing, in which latter case, on the appearance of the first symptom he intends to order me a literary tombstone.

Having fully determined upon making this literary effort, it became necessary to make up my mind as to what should be the contents of the work. A mental cogitation ensued. Philander was puzzled to know what Doesticks was going to write about – Philander asked Doesticks – whereupon Doesticks, in order to satisfy Philander, replied as follows, upon hearing which reply Philander was content.

II
Doesticks satisfies Philander

What it will be all about, time alone will show, for although I have done a little of almost everything, it has in most instances been so little, that a premeditated autobiography would probably lack incident, and be deficient in interest. I have not as yet invented humbugs enough to earn a Prince-ly title, and not having made a fortune by ingenious trickery, metallic impudence and barefaced deception, cannot edify the "darling public," by telling how the thing is done.

Never having made fierce love to a lady against her will, followed her from place to place in the small-beer spirit of presumptuous puppyism, been outwitted by her at last, and left to cool my amorous passion in a prison, the story of my courtship and its consequence, would not prove attractive.

As I have ever been on good terms with my family, I feel no desire, under the guise of a fictitious narrative, to call any members of it miserly and mean, purse-proud and haughty, or to say that others are conceited, vain, selfish, silly, foppish, or weak-brained.

Novel writing is out of the question. I have tried that, but met with serious difficulties. I couldn't keep my hero of the same nation – in the first chapter I made him a Spaniard; two pages afterward he was an English nobleman; in the fourth chapter an Oriental juggler, balancing a bamboo ladder on his nose, and making a fig-tree grow out of the calf of his leg – and so on, successively, an Italian image-seller, a Dutch burgomaster, a South American Indian, and a Mississippi steamboat pilot.

I had as much difficulty in permanently locating the country of my fictitious favorite, as the Know-Nothing party of New York in the late election had, in determining the nativity of their candidate for Governor, whose chances of election were fair while he was thought to be an American, but who was finally defeated on the ground that he was a Hindoo, and owned stock in the car of Juggernaut. Poetry has been overdone; the gentle art has culminated in a recent "Spasmodic Tragedy," and in the sublime, whose matchless lays have won for him undying fame, and the admiration of several; and who so outruns competition that there is nothing left to be done in that direction.

In the play-writing vein, I have also failed; not from any lack of merit in my drama, as the manager solemnly assured me, but because he had not the menagerie requisite to its proper representation. Improving upon the hint offered by the managers of the "Thespian Wigwam," who have added an elephant and a circus company to their company of "gifted artists," I had introduced into my play a rhinoceros, a lioness, two hyenas, a team of "two-forty" reindeers, a couple of ostriches, and a muley-cow, – and even then there was but a slight obstacle – the manager might have procured the animals, but he was afraid the cow would quarrel with the rhinoceros, and so disturb the harmony of his establishment.

But this book, Philander, it will be impossible to class as strictly either classic, scientific, historical, humorous, or descriptive. Fantastic and extravagant it will be in many things; but we will do our best to make it agreeable to the palate of the public. I promise everything, like all book-makers, and I shall afterwards perform what is convenient, following the same reliable precedent.

My book shall be full of love and poetry to suit the "fast" young ladies, and shall be written in easy words of two syllables to meet the necessities of the "fast" young men.

I shall praise, flatter, and commend everybody and everything, that everyone may receive his meed of approbation; and I shall also censure, find fault, and criticise in an equally universal manner, that no one may escape his proper castigation.

I shall set forth a great multitude of fancies, theories, and hypotheses, that those who are fond of innovation may not lack gratification; and I shall immediately proceed to controvert and deny them all, that the conservative portion of community be not offended.

I shall cry down education and instruction, for there are those who consider all teaching an evil; and on the other hand, I shall advocate learning and science, for there is a very respectable minority which insist that the people may advantageously be taught something more.

I shall not stand up for love and charity, for it might induce people to love the wrong persons, and to give their pennies to imposters; and yet I shall not eulogize avarice and hate, for there are a few who think benevolence and kindness preferable even to these.

I shall not throw my influence in the scale of Protestantism lest the Catholics should take offence, nor yet shall strive to build up Catholicism, lest thereby the dislike of the Orthodoxy be incurred. Nor shall I show myself a partisan of religion of any kind, for the Atheist says it is all a farce. Neither shall I endeavor to inculcate principles of infidelity, for there is still an occasional prejudice in favor of Christianity.

It will be "a work which no gentleman's library should be without." It is considered necessary to the safety of the Union, that its democratic principles be thoroughly disseminated, and it is indispensable to the stability of the English throne that its monarchical doctrines be thoroughly comprehended. Every man, woman, child, canal driver, billiard marker, faro dealer, and member of Congress will be provided with a copy, thereby preserving the Union, destroying our liberties, and keeping unsullied the honor and dignity of "our flag."

I hope the public will be as well satisfied by this eloquent speech as Philander was, that this book is one of immense utility, and will consequently peruse the same with a huge degree of gratification.

III
Niagara

I was never given to accepting the decisions of others as gospel in any cases where it was possible for me to manufacture a home-made opinion of my own; and I did not greatly wonder at myself when I discovered that my emotions, when I first beheld that great aqueous brag of universal Yankeedom, Niagara, were not of the stereotyped and generally-considered-to-be-necessary – sort. The letter which follows, and which is all the reminiscence of my visit extant, was published soon after, and extensively copied, and was, in fact, the first article which bore the name of Doesticks.

IV
Doesticks on a Bender

i have been to Niagara – you know Niagara Falls – big rocks, water, foam, Table Rock, Indian curiosities, squaws, moccasins, stuffed snakes, rapids, wolves, Clifton House, suspension bridge, place where the water runs swift, the ladies faint, scream, and get the paint washed off their faces; where the aristocratic Indian ladies sit on the dirt and make little bags; where all the inhabitants swindle strangers; where the cars go in a hurry, the waiters are impudent, and all the small boys swear.

When I came in sight of the suspension bridge, I was vividly impressed with the idea that it was "some" bridge; in fact, a considerable curiosity, and a "considerable" bridge. Took a glass of beer and walked up to the Falls; another glass of beer and walked under the Falls; wanted another glass of beer, but couldn't get it; walked away from the Falls, wet through, mad, triumphant, victorious; humbug! humbug! Sir, all humbug! except the dampness of everything, which is a moist certainty, and the cupidity of everybody, which is a diabolical fact, and the Indians and niggers everywhere, which is a satanic truth.

Another glass of beer – 'twas forthcoming – immediately – also another, all of which I drank. I then proceeded to drink a glass of beer; went over to the States, where I procured a glass of beer – went up-stairs, for which I paid a sixpence; over to Goat Island, for which I disbursed twenty-five cents; hired a guide, to whom I paid half a dollar – sneezed four times, at nine cents a sneeze – went up on the tower for a quarter of a dollar, and looked at the Falls – didn't feel sublime any; tried to, but couldn't; took some beer, and tried again, but failed – drank a glass of beer and began to feel better – thought the waters were sent for and were on a journey to the – ; thought the place below was one sea of beer – was going to jump down and get some; guide held me; sent him over to the hotel to get a glass of beer, while I tried to write some poetry – result as follows:

Oh Thou (spray in one eye) awful, (small lobster in one shoe,) sublime (both feet wet) master-piece of (what a lie) the Almighty! terrible and majestic art thou in thy tremendous might – awful (orful) to behold, (cramp in my right shoulder,) gigantic, huge and nice! Oh, thou that tumblest down and riseth up again in misty majesty to heaven – thou glorious parent of a thousand rainbows – what a huge, grand, awful, terrible, tremendous, infinite, old swindling humbug you are; what are you doing there, you rapids, you – you know you've tumbled over there, and can't get up again to save your puny existence; you make a great fuss, don't you?

Man came back with the beer, drank it to the last drop, and wished there had been a gallon more – walked out on a rock to the edge of the fall, woman on the shore very much frightened – I told her not to get excited if I fell over, as I would step right up again – it would not be much of a fall anyhow – got a glass of beer of a man, another of a woman, and another of two small boys with a pail – fifteen minutes elapsed, when I purchased some more of an Indian woman, and imbibed it through a straw; it wasn't good – had to get a glass of beer to take the taste out of my mouth; legs began to tangle up, effects of the spray in my eyes, got hungry and wanted something to eat – went into an eating-house, called for a plate of beans, when the plate brought the waiter in his hand. I took it, hung up my beef and beans on a nail, eat my hat, paid the dollar a nigger, and sided out on the step-walk, bought a boy of a glass of dog with a small beer and a neck on his tail, with a collar with a spot on the end – felt funny, sick – got some soda-water in a tin-cup, drank the cup and placed the soda on the counter, and paid for the money full of pocket – very bad headache; rubbed it against the lamp-post and then stumped along; station-house came along and said if I did not go straight he'd take me to the watchman – tried to oblige the station-house, very civil station-house, very – met a baby with an Irish woman and a wheelbarrow in it; couldn't get out of the way; she wouldn't walk on the sidewalk, but insisted on going on both sides of the street at once; tried to walk between her; consequence collision, awful, knocked out the wheelbarrow's nose, broke the Irish woman all to pieces, baby loose, court-house handy, took me to the constable, jury sat on me, and the jail said the magistrate must take me to the constable; objected; the dungeon put me into the darkest constable in the city; got out, and here I am, prepared to stick to my original opinion.

Niagara, non est excelsus (ego fui) humbug est! indignus admirationi!

V
Seeking a Fortune – Rail Road Felicities

Young men in the west, when they get too lazy to plough, drive oxen, and dig potatoes, invariably either go to studying Law, Physic, or Divinity, or emigrate to New York to make their fortunes. Hence the inundation of two-and-sixpenny pettifoggers, the abundant crop of innocent-looking juvenile M.D.'s, and the army of weak-eyed preachers, whose original simplicity is too deeply rooted to be ever overgrown by the cares of after life. The portion of our country known as "the West" sends forth every year scores of these misguided innocents, who, had they stayed at home, might have grown up into tolerable farmers, or even been cultivated into respectable mechanics, but who, being once thrown into the whirl of city life, degenerate into puny clerks with not half salary enough to pay for their patent-leather boots.

It is a curious fact that two-thirds of the young men from the country, their first year in the metropolis, do not receive as a remuneration for their valuable services a sum sufficient to keep them in theatre tickets.

If a committee of their employers should be detailed to investigate the hidden pecuniary fountain whence these young men obtain the funds many of them lavish so freely, the said committee would be considerably astonished to find out how much more champagne and oysters the N. Y. merchants pay for than the most knowing of them are aware of; and their wives would be astounded to learn how many bracelets and diamond pins had been presented to ladies of the theatre and ballet, and bought with their husbands' money. And many a country mother would mourn to hear that her darling had, in the first six months of his city life, learned to practise more vices than she had ever heard of, and among his other attainments, had acquired the elegant city accomplishment of spending his employer's money as freely as if it was his own.

And in due course of time the writer of this paragraph, wearied of the eternal sameness of a country village, the same unvarying prospect of ox-teams, hay-scales, errant swine, and wandering disconsolate cows, took the roving fever and resolved to visit Gotham, looking for a cure.

Packed up my traps in a red box, kissed all my friends who had clean faces, and bade a long farewell to the aspiring village (which had long since assumed the name of city, but had never grown large enough to fit the appellation, and for this reason always reminded me of a boy with his father's boots on,) where I had vegetated for several years; took a last look at its town-pump, its grocery, and its court-house square without any fence round it; feasted my eyes for the last time upon the dusty charms of the seminary girls who are perpetually going to the story-and-a-half post-office for letters which never come; rode to the railroad for the last time in the four-wheeled smoke-house, which, from early youth, had been impressed upon my ignorant simplicity as an omnibus; and taking my seat in the cars, left without many tears the town where I had treasured up such stores of classic knowledge under the consistent inattention of teachers who had been paid to neglect my education.



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