Imágenes de páginas

ambassadors, and with which I hoped to be admitted to the centre of Almack's, if not to the very freedom of the city itself. It was ad. dressed to a man of law – one of the world, and acquainted with its forms - a man of wealth, and who knew how to keep it. By 'particular request,' I joined a friend to meet him at his own house, the following evening, where, thought I, we shall be sure to see something of the domestic manners' of the Cincinnatians. We had scarcely been seated at his fire-side, and exchanged a word or two with his lady, when the barrister remarked that he had an express invitation for us to attend an evening party at one of the most fashionable drawing-rooms in the city. How could we refuse? It was at Mad. B 's. The rooms were crowded. There was music and dancing as we entered, and 'all went merry as a marriage bell.' We were treated with all the kindness due to strangers so honorably introduced, and with marked hospitality; but where was the barris. ter, our friend ? He had disappeared, sans ceremonie ; and though I remained a sojourner in the city many days, ill of a tertian, I never knew what became of him; and to this day have never had an opportunity to discharge an obligation which rests upon my heart of hearts for his civility, nor thanked him for his condescension and his kindness.

The next evening - for, as a professional man, I have learned to time my visits according to the necessitiy of the case — I called and presented myself to the Magnus Apollo of the literary world of Cincinnati. I was introduced to his short acquaintance by a letter from his friend and class-mate,' who was himself an emigrant, and who now reposes in the valley of the shadow of death, on the banks of the Missouri. He was sitting at a centre-table, overshadowed with reviews, magazines, and pamphlets, seemingly arranging the last number for the press, surrounded by his wife and very interesting family. His young and lovely daughter was there, with her scarlet robe and pink slippers, redolent of all those charms and virtues which Mad. Trollope has lavished upon her, in her ‘Domestic Manners of the Americans ;' and in one corner of the room sat the veritable old Trollope herself - rough-cast and misshapen — of coarse and vulgar expression, and a head, viewed phrenologically, of the very lowest order. She was a frequent intruder here, and gleaned many of her opinions upon literature and religion, if not of 'domestic manners,' from one who had been ten years a sojourner in the valley of the Mississippi. A second visit to this excellent reverend gentleman, gained me the promise of letters to the 'low countrie',' which, as in duty bound, I politely declined; and soon set forward with the liveliest anticipations of what my horoscope would reveal to me in a second visit to the sunny south:

That region where the sun 's so bright

The air so mild, the wine so light.' But here let me remark, that the people of Cincinnati are not wanting in hospitality : by no means; and whatever Mad. Trollope – good easy soul — may have thought of their expressive silence,' in regard to her own person, she should have cordially forgiven them, in consideration of the overpowering civilities not long

before extended to one whose name as well as her own now smells of the blood of an Englishman. It seems that a gentleman of color, of more than ordinary shrewdness and attraction, had strayed away from his lawful owner in Louisiana, and gone to sport awhile his feather in the virgin city of the west. He had adorned his curly pate with a wig and a prodigious pair of whiskers, and embellished bis sooty person with a flaming sword, uniform, and epaulettes, and announced himself as the son or nephew of Major General Ross, of Bladensburg memory. No sooner was it whispered abroad that a distinguished military gentleman had entered the city, than every thing was set in motion to render his stay agreeable, and make time dance away with down upon its feet. He was a perfect Marlboro' with the gentlemen, and with the ladies, he was for all the world like love among the roses. Their fluttering little hearts could find no rest, while a simper or a smile was seen to play around the 'ebony and topaz' lips of the gallant captain.

Alas! what was love made for,

If 'l is not the same,
Through joy and through sorrow,

Through torment and shame?'" He now enjoyed the freedom of the city, and entered, unquestioned and most welcome, the theatre and assemblies; and not a route, nor dinner party, nor a musical soirée, nor a conversazione, could be had, unless darkened by the presence of this stick of ebony. He was now the reigning toast of all parties,' and hand and glove with those who granted him the freedom of their boxes at the the. atre, where he nightly added perfume to the violet, and at times was so entranced by the spirit of his dream,' as seemingly to 'die of a rose in aromatic pain. But can the Ethiopian change his skin ? We believe not. And so it turned out; for one evening the soidisant captain, having forgotten his engagement at a fashionable sup. per party, which had been expressly made, and was in waiting, for his excellency, the gentlemen — perhaps some of the ladies – became rather uneasy, if not alarmed, for his safety, and a servant was despatched to learn the cause of his cruel absence. He returned quite breathless, but with the laughing devil in his eye, and made known to his mistress and the company that · Massa Captain Ross' was engaged at a scrub-ball, given in honor of .de fair sec,' who were about to emigrate to the borders of Canada. What immediate effect this message had upon the party, and especially the ladies, I could never learn ; though it is said there is not one of them, to this day, who hears the name of Captain Ross repeated, whose heart is not moved as by the sound of a trumpet.

Cincinnati abounds in churches. There are more, I think, than are needed, and many more, I dare say, than are useful. Many of them are built up by means of schisms and dissensions, and instead of contributing the greatest possible happiness to the greatest number, they reverse the maxim, and contribute the greatest possible misery to the greatest number. The dullest sermon upon the dullest subject I think I ever heard, was from one of their pulpits. The church music is execrable, and the lovers of harmony, it was said, could only have their ears regaled with the concord of sweet sounds, by going into a little chapel where one of the faculty of medicine dispenses the gospel to a handful of hearers who call themselves Swedenborgians. A beautiful Unitarian church recently erected, is an ornament to the city. The Rev. Mr. — , from Boston, made the society a visit a while since, and his pulpit oratory was much admired. The ladies, dear creatures, were enraptured with him ; and I was told by a sweet little fairy, that they actually halted at a confectioner's on their way from church, and called for ice-creams ! • Good,' said I : Je noterai cela, Madame, dans mon livre.'

I cannot say much for the literature of Cincinnati, though there are persons there who are themselves literary, and who would have us believe it to be the Athens of the West. There are several good book-stores and reading-rooms, an Athenæum, a Franklin Institute, etc. But these latter, I could see, were not well patronized nor attended. The magazines and reviews lie covered with dust upon the tables, and were seldom disturbed. There is a circulating library attached to the Athenæum, containing a few historical works, and a score or two of novels. At the Franklin Institute, I heard a young man, who was self-taught, and who was ambitious of being thought both literary and scientific, lecture upon painting and sculpture. His remarks upon the former were drawn chiefly from the life and writings of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and the latter from Winckleman. He was an adept in music, too, and it was said played sweetly upon the guitar.

There is a medical college here, which has been a fruitful source of evil, as well as of good, to the city. It has struggled through several long and bitter wars — medica bella and many grievous dissensions and angry jealousies have threatened its very foundation. For several years, more legalized quackery issued from its walls than any other medical institution probably in the United States. It has recently undergone another and another reform, and promises, under a new direction, to be more serviceable to the public; though it may still be regarded as le forge des docteurs, as Professor Configliachi would say, which annually sends forth many a tyro, who had better be tilling the soil of the west, than in constant apprehension of breaking the sixth commandment.

The freedom of elections here, as in all new towns and communi. ties, where the population is so restless and fluctuating, is a source of great and increasing evil, not easy to be corrected. It will eventually, I fear, destroy our free institutions, and sap the very foundations of that glorious liberty which we have so long and prëeminently enjoyed. •Corruption wins not more than honesty,' said Woolsey, though now-a-days the reverse of the maxim seems to be politically true. We take an example from this city, the truth of which was guaranteed to us by one of her own citizens, and which may serve both to point a moral and adorn a tale.'

It seems that a scheming, cunning fellow, from the back woods, who had been bred a lawyer, or rather half-bred and which brings to mind the old saw, that half a loaf is better than no bread-emi. grated to this city with the determination of improving his condition, and if possible, to gain a post of honor in the political world. He could not have come to a better market. To find an opportunity to win upon the favor of all and sundry of the republican citizens, he condescended to begin his career as a hawker of gingerbread, etc. He 'toted' a wheel-barrow with cake and ale, and other fine edibles, throughout the city, until he gained the acquaintance of, and became familiar with, every man and beast that could give him a vote. By chance, he passed the mayor's office, or some other court of justice, at the moment that a fellow citizen had been arraigned for petty larceny, or some such offence, and who needed counsel to rescue him from his ‘durance vile.' He proffered his services, and they were accepted - the 'rectus in curia' to the contrary notwithstanding. The plea was successful, and the prisoner discharged, amid the deafening shouts of the multitude, who had assembled to hear the gin. gerbread-pedlar advocate the claims of the prisoner, and prove the strength of the maxim, that it is better for ninety-and-nine guilty persons to escape punishment, than for one innocent man to suffer. From this moment, he considered his fortune as made, and the vote of the city as his own. He forth with offered himself as a candidate for the first office in the gift of the people, viz: that of state representative ; and strange to say, though true, he distanced his opponent, who was a military gentleman, of high standing, and who had long before gained bright laurels in fighting the battles of his country. The sovereign people' will no doubt advance the political interests of the gingerbread-merchant, who may yet prove a formidable rival to Jack Downing, and live to be hailed as the greatest and best in the federal city. What reflections might we make here !— but we forbear; for it is painful,' as Somerville has feelingly remarked, 'to reflect on the degeneracy of modern times — on the unnatural excitement of low ambition, which instigates every beggar to tread on the heels of every gentleman, and every gentleman pant to be a king,'

There is a good theatre in the city, which, in the winter season, is often well and fully attended. There are regular public assemblies and cotilion-parties, also, to which strangers are admitted, and which are indeed very agreeable. We attended one of the most brilliant and fashionable for the season, held on Washington's birth-night, at the Bazaar, a famous building erected at the expense and ruin of Madame Trollope, who was never more shocked in her life, she says, than when she saw the fair 'wall flowers' attached to the ceiling, * putting their sweet-meats and creams in their laps,' and thus, independent of the gentlemen, enjoying their sweet, but sad and sulky repast. I confess it seemed to me a little outré, but then it is ‘emi. nently characteristic of the country,' as she says, and what could we do? Quadrilles and cotilions were the order of the night, and we spent most of it in gazing at the fairy forms and smiling faces which surrounded us, and which, as Yorick would say, made the very locks shake upon our shoulders. “Pray who is that Hebe-like lady,' said I to my friend, that forms the centre of attraction, round which are revolving many lesser stars, in that lively cotilion ? She is beautiful : and he that feels himself weak, should pray to Heaven to guard him from such eyes as those.'

‘Oh!' said he, with a deep and expressive sigh, she is the daughter

of Mrs. H> , who lives in Broadway, and who keeps the most fashionable boarding-house in the city.'

And who is this approaching us, that 'walks in beauty like the queen of cloudless climes and starry skies ? She too is lovely.'

'Yes,' said he, laying his hand upon his heart, she is a Miss Twhose mother also keeps a boarding-house, and she is one of the belles of the city.'

Again I turned, and beheld a sylph-like form mingling in the dance, in which she sported lighter than a zephyr, and was about bartering my heart away through the medium of my friend, when I saw the blood mantle his cheek.

• Stay,' said he, she is the daughter of a respectable, nay, fashion. able lady, who lives in Broadway, and whose house is the most re. cherché for private boarders in the west.' • Well ? said I.

Nay, be done,' exclaimed he; let us away.' *Oh!' said I, .once more : here - here is Miss G- , and Miss S '

Oh! they are both, they are all living in the same style,' replied he; and so saying, he dropped my arm, and sought refreshment in the ante-room.

I turned and addressed myself to the veriest coquette in the city; flirted with, and flattered her, until I felt my heart beat, and hers evidently began to flutter. When I left her, she gave me a sweet smile — such a smile! - oh, I shall never forget it, though it was the smile of one whom I had never seen before, and probably shall never meet again.

In the suburbs of the city, there is an Indian mound, which we visited. It was erected, heaven knows when, or for what purpose. Could it be a retreat from the rising waters? There are hills, half a mile distant, that overlook the moon, and which could not be inun. dated, except by a second deluge. Could it serve as a burial-place for the tribes who erected it? There is not a single shadow of the remains of any human being, or any appearance that could indicate its ever having been intended as a Golgotha, or place of sculls. We walked over it. The wild beasts of the forest had trodden there before us. We entered it, and traversed its long-drawn aisles and fretted vaults, till we almost needed the thread of Ariadne to bring us out. We paused and meditated, as others no doubt had done before us, and felt as if there might be something more there than was dreamed of in our philosophy. What a scene for an antiquary! I was about pencilling in my note-book the thoughts and impressions produced by it, when the appearance of the guide led me to inquire how long he thought these hollow avenues had existed, and what tribe of Indians could have fashioned them. “Oh,' said he, with great nonchalance, ‘not long I reckon, I cut 'em myself.' 'Shade of Phidias !' I exclaimed, and hastened homeward, muttering 'curses not loud but deep,' against this shadow of mortality, who could find it in his heart to cheat me of such delightful illusions.

I had now seen all the lions of Cincinnati ; had laughed at its theatre, slept in its churches, smelt of Dorfuel's 'hell,' and gazed at the Picture-Gallery; had visited its Athenæum and Franklin Insti

« AnteriorContinuar »