Here to return to
XI PEEPS INTO THE POST BAG
TWO POUNDS FOR CARRYING ONE LETTER — WHY PEGGY SHIPPER SIGHED — HOW PETER MUHLENBERG PLAYED PRODIGAL — THE CLEVER LADIES OF PHILADELPHIA — A DUN FOR A DEER — PROVING A FISH STORY — CONGRESS A “MOST RESPECTABLE BODY” — WHY FRANKLIN WAS SARCASTIC
IN these days of efficient mail service and cheap postage it is difficult to realize that these blessings are comparatively modern. The early residents of Philadelphia were forced to be content with infrequent, uncertain, expensive transportation of letters. It is matter of remark, then, that they made such good use of their limited opportunities. They paid gladly the cost of sending a message to England or to other colonies. Of course the writing of a letter was far more of a ceremony than it is to-day. Frequently the spare time of days was given to the composition of one letter, and usually the recipient had something worthy of examination.
As late as 1755 the rate for a letter to England was, for a single sheet, one shilling; for two sheets, two shillings; for three sheets, three shillings, and for an ounce, four shillings. In addition local postage had to be paid to the port city. Mails were sent once each month.
A hint of the great expense of the local transport of letters for even a comparatively short distance is afforded by a message sent by Thomas James to James Steele, from Philadelphia, in November, 1735. He asked for seven pounds for “my Trouble of coming up from the Capes”; then he added, “and for my Going down to New Castle I am sure is not worth less than three Pounds.” This opinion as to the proper charge he based on the fact that he “had from a Certain Mercht in this town Seven Pounds for Coming up from the Capes with only a Bare Packet of letters — and from Geo. Claypoole Five Pounds for Carrying one Single letter down to ye Capes.”
In spite of the plea for the ten pounds, but seven pounds were paid for the service. Perhaps this was because funds were scarce in the pockets of the man for whom the service in question was rendered.
Financial stringency was a common complaint among the settlers on the Delaware. Even the leader of the community, William Penn himself, was compelled more than once to postpone the payment of just debts. A letter written by him in August, 1683, was occasioned by a difficulty of this sort. This letter, as it has come down to us, is addressed simply; “Kind ffriend.”
“I was not willing to lett the Bearer Wm Lloyd goe without a Letter directed to my Friend West for though I am a Man of Noe Cerimony, I vallue my Self a little upon sence and Gratitude. I had a very Civill Letter from ye which Adds to my Obligations, but having to doe wth a man neither Cruell nor Indigent, I hope he will trust tell I am able to pay; and to doe this Noe Occation shall Slipp me and Indeed I had not bin soe Long Silent, If my own Expectations of Seeing York had not by your Governts delay bin frustrated Pray lett me have ye Continuance of thy friendship, & give me Reason to believe in by favouring my Commissioners wth ye Mawhawks and Simicar Indians about some backe Lands on ye Susquehannash River there may be many yt better tell there tayle, but None more Sincerely & affectionately esteems ye yr thy Verry True Friend
The next plunge into the Colonial post-bag brings to light a letter written in 1742 to a junior member of the Penn family connection, “Master Freame,” who was a grandson of William Penn. Richard Hockley was the writer, and he clothed some good wholesome advice with a good deal of humility:
“I hope you will bear with me if I take it upon me to give you a little advice in the best manner I am capable, & that is as you are at ye same school wth your Cozen Jackey Penn & will I hope have the same Education you will on your part endeavour to live in Strict Unity & Friendship wth him & desire a Spirit of Emulation may arise in your Breast to equal him in all his study’s & Exercises. I have a very good regard to you Both as decendants of a Worthy Honourable Family to whom I am under the greatest Obligations & hope you will Both Endeavour to imitate their Worthy Examples, but you must claim a greater Share of my Affections as I have pass’d away a many pleasing Hours in your Innocent Company; & I cant bear to think that you Shou’d be Eclipsed in any one Virtue or Qualification that becomes a Gentleman & a Descendant of the Family to which you belong.”
One of the Philadelphia homes to which descendants of the “Worthy Honourable Family” delighted to go was Stenton, where James Logan welcomed all comers, whether rich or poor, high or low, civilized or savage.
In the home were his two grown daughters, Hannah and Sarah. The lover of Hannah and a friend of Sarah was John Smith, who evidently was appreciative of everything his friends did for him. In 1747 he wrote to Sarah to thank her for a kindness she had done him. We are not told what that kindness was, but there are so many glimpses of the writer’s nature in his letter that it is worth while to read what he wrote:
“My Dear Friend
“I am not very well to-day otherwise should have waited upon thee, which I hope will apologize for my writing. I have lately heard of an Instance of thy Friendship for me, which hath made a very deep Impression on my mind. The kind and good natured manner with which thou was pleased to speak of me to an Antient Friend of ours in the Country [her father], as it was at a time when such a Character did me the most Service that it ever could, So it gives me an opportunity to know that true friendship may subsist without much outward show of it, and will manifest itself ready & willing to do service, when Occasion offers, Even when there is no probability of its coming to the Knowledge of the person so obliged. I thought I had my friends at Stenton, but cannot find that any ever gave such Testimonies of their Regard, as the Instance I am now speaking of. I wish I may have it in my power to shew thee by Actions as well as words, how much I esteem myself in thy debt.
“I am dear Sally Thy Loving & obliged Friend.”
By no means all the letters the postman carried were of the stately nature affected by John Smith. Some of them were full of the gossip of the town. In fact, invaluable aid is given to those who study the everyday life of the people in Colonial days by many letters like that sent in 1748 by John Ross to Dr. Cadwalader Evans. The bits of news he wrote would have satisfied anyone who was hungering for a word as to how old neighbors were getting along. After mentioning the fact that one common acquaintance was to be married to “the young widow that lived at Harriet Clay,” and that “Old Doctor Kearsley is to be married this week to Mrs. Bland Mrs. Usher’s niece that lives near the Burying ground,” he went on to say:
“Doctor Bond is gone to spend the winter at Barbadoes in a low state of health; it is thought he will continue there if the climate agrees with him — Last week Judah Foulke had a son born — no small joy — About 20 of us baptized it last Monday at John Biddle’s in hot arrack punch — and his name is called Cadwalader — John Smith has passed our meeting with Miss Hannah Logan — I would give you more, now my hand is in, if I could recollect . . .”
Nowadays the complaint is made that a man cannot read any real news in a letter. Evidently the race has deteriorated in this respect since the days of John Ross. At any rate he makes a better success as a disseminator of gossip than Peggy Shippen Arnold who wrote, just after the British evacuated Philadelphia:
“Joesy must have looked perfectly cha’ming in the Character of Father. I wish he’d pay us a Vis as I make no doubt he’s much improv’d by being so long in Maryland. Mr White tells me his present flame is a Miss Peggy Spear of Baltimore you may remember her she lived at Mrs. Smith’s a pretty little girl enough. What think you of the Weather, wont it be a bar to our hopes? I much fear it will Hi Ho I cant hlp sighing when I think of it. Oh! the Ball, not a lady there the Committee of real Whigs met in the afternoon & frightened the Beaux so much that they went around to all the ladies that meant to go to desire they’d stay at home, tho’ it seems the Committee had no thoughts of molesting being all of their own Kidney. I’m delighted that it came to nothing as they had the impudence to laugh at US.”
Not all the writers of the old-time letters were lighthearted. There were times when the carefully written message was put together by one whose heart was breaking. The story of one such heartbreak began with a letter written by Dr. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg to his friend the court chaplain Ziegenhagen in London. To him he said:
“Your Reverence will kindly permit me to make a humble inquiry and request of you. My oldest son, Peter, is entering his sixteenth year. I have had him taught to read and write German and English, and, after the necessary instruction, he had been confirmed in our Evangelical Church; morever, since I have been in Philadelphia, I have sent him to the Academy to learn the rudimenta linguae latinae. But now I write in great anxiety on account of the corruption among the impudent and emancipated youth of this city, and I am not able to provide for his welfare any longer. It would be a great scandal and offense in my position, and to ;the ruin of his own soul, if he should fall into wild ways. Is there not an opportunity . . for him to learn surgery, or even an honest trade? Or will the blessed Institution in Glaucha by the power of God, reach so far as to provide for him? Next spring I shall have a good opportunity to send him hence to London.”
So to London Peter was sent in 1763, and with him were the two brothers nearest to him in age, Friedrich and Heinrich. Peter soon after entered the preparatory school of the University of Halle. Here all went well for a time, but about a year later a tutor reproved him in a way that the high-spirited Peter thought was insulting. So the boy boxed the tutor’s ears. Fearing the inevitable punishment he fled and enlisted in a passing regiment.
When the news of the disaster came to Philadelphia, the tortured father wrote a pitiful letter to G. A. Franke at Halle:
“. . . I see . . . with sorrow that my eldest boy has allowed himself to be overcome by the world, the flesh, and the devil, and gone headlong to destruction, and that the youngest son is not far behind. . . . It mortifies and bows me to the ground with shame to find that your Reverence and other children of God have been caused so much care, anxiety, and vexation by the sending abroad of my perverse offspring, all of which I am in no condition to make amends for . Lest the cause of God should suffer harm or injury through me and mine, I am obliged to sever my connection with the church, and to leave it, after God, to be cared for in the future by those revered ones in authority . . . and betake myself to a place where I can bring up my children rightly, and devote the rest of my strength to the most abandoned of mankind.
“. . . According to the English law, the parents have this advantage, that a son cannot engage in anything before his majority without his father’s consent. If, before this time, a boy enlists or contracts marriage without his father’s consent, such action is void, and the father can either put him in the House of Correction, or sell him until his Majority. . . .If my boy had played me this trick here, I would have sold him as a servant until his majority.”
A friend of the Muhlenberg family, a British Colonel, discovered Peter in a garrison in Hanover. After securing his release, he sent him to America, where he arrived in 1766. It is recorded that, in spite of his harsh letter, Dr. Muhlenberg received the prodigal with open arms. Peter thereupon asked to go into the army, but he was persuaded instead to receive training at home for the Church. So careful and wise was his father’s training that the son was ready for ordination in 1768.
In 1772 Dr. Muhlenberg had further evidence of the wisdom of his course in devoting himself so assiduously to the welfare of his sons, for on February 23 of that year he was able to write:
“My son Friedrich, a stricter Lutheran than Peter, lets me have a distant hope, that if God, in His great mercy and grace, preserves him, strengthens him by His spirit, and promotes his growth, he may become in the future a fellow worker in the Philadelphia Church. He has by nature an honest heart, some experience of God’s grace, a tolerably clear head, a sound stomach and moderate bodily organs. He can endure hardship and is more accustomed to the American climate than a born European; he has a fine, clear, penetrating voice for Zion, and family connections by means of which he can by Divine grace be settled. He has already made one or two trials in his poor little congregations, which pleased me well, and has been over hasty once or twice, with good intentions, however, and I willingly overlooked it and endeavoured to show him the right way, for young soldiers sometimes want to discharge their guns before they are loaded, from a courageous anxiety to kill the enemy before they can hit him.”
William Penn would have been delighted with these letters of a father eager for his children’s welfare, for the great founder was himself a loving father, as specimens of his letters to his children show. One of his fatherly letters was written to
“My dear Springet
“Be good, learn to fear god, avoide evil, love thy books, be Kind to thy Brother & Sister & god will bless thee & I will exceedingly love thee. farewell Dear Child. My love to all ye Famely & to Friends. Thy Dear Father.”
Again he wrote to his daughter:
“I dearly love ye, & would have thee sober, learn thy book & love thy Brothers. I will Send thee a pretty Book to learn in. ye Lord bless thee & make a good woman of thee. fare well.
“Thy Dear Father.”
A third letter in the series:
“I love thee much, therefore be Sober & quiet, and learn his book, I will send him one. so ye lord bless ye. Amen.
“Thy Dr. Far:”
One hundred years later there lived in Philadelphia a father who knew how to win the confidence of his daughter. This man was General “Mad Anthony” Wayne. In 1786 he wrote to his daughter Margarita a letter that must have brought great joy to her loyal heart:
“Pardon me my dear Girl for so long a Silence Occasioned by a variety of disagreeable circumstances all of which I supported with steady fortitude — except the death of my long tried nearest & dearest friend & Neighbour Major General Greene.
“. . . Pray write without reserve make me your friend & confident & be assured that nothing in the power of a fond Parent will be wanting to constitute the true happiness of a Daughter who I am confident will prove herself worthy of it.
“ Believe me my Dear Girl yours most sincerely
And the father in his turn had the joy of receiving from his daughter a warm and tender letter:
“My Dear and Honoured Papa
“I thank my Dear Papa for the good advice he gives me in every letter respecting my conduct in this life; I shall in every respect behave myself in such a manner as to gain the good opinion of all my friends and acquaintances; and hope at a later day to resign myself without fear. I hope my Dear Papa will not be displeas’d with me in being so long absent from Mrs. Kearney’s. It was with friends advice. You write me Papa to speak my sentiments therefore shall informe you that every persone thinks Mrs. K board is very expensive, and I thought I wou’d have Papa’s opinion it is a Guinea a week.
“. . . I have seen my Brother, he is very hearty & comes on fast in his learning he is at present studying Greek. I think your letter Papa will encourage him to learn, as he often wish’d he cou’d receive a letter from you.
“Before a conclusion I must once again show Papa how greatly I am in gratitude & in duty bound to thank him for his kind protection and how void of understanding shou’d I be if I was not to follow his advice and example and try to make myself worthy of his paternal Friendship . . . It makes me look back with sorrow, when I think what a great loss a Father is, for example Aunt Sally’s family what a loss as these poor orphans met with, to loose a Father just when they had come to know the good of one. Papa we Can’t prize health too much, it is a very valuable Blessing, & I hope you have a reasonable share of it . .
“With every mark of respect I am my dear Papa’s Dutiful & affectionate Daughter.”
It is fitting that these letters exchanged between father and daughter should be followed by a message sent in 1813 by General Andrew Porter of Harrisburg to his son James, who was attending school in Philadelphia:
“ . . Let your purchases of books be of those of the law, and your studies confined to that profession, until your acquirements become conspicuous. Your services will then be sought after, and your talents appreciated If you pay attention to various things and your pursuits are diversified, you will never rise to the head of your profession, and to be a pettifogger would be more disgraceful than to be a poor day laborer. You have talents and acquirements that promise fair to raise you to eminence, and no doubt will, if you confine them to the profession of the Law. A good character, amiable disposition, and superior acquirements, with your talents, will no doubt raise you to the height of your ambition. .
“I am now grown old. A very few years more, and the anxiety and advice of your father will cease forever. Be not too credulous, and trust not the plausable profession of men too far, lest you purchase experience too dearly. Think for yourself and mark out your line of conduct with wisdom and prudence.”
The fortunate son of such a father profited by the advice so earnestly given, for he lived to become one of the state’s ablest lawyers. He was later a member of President Tyler’s cabinet, where, it was said, Webster alone was superior to him.
Wisdom of a different sort is to be seen in another family letter, that sent in 1781 by Miss Rebecca Franks to her sister Abigail, Mrs. Andrew Hamilton. At the time of writing she was in Flatbush, Long Island, from where she made frequent visits to New York. She was a loyal Philadelphian, however, and New York’s charm could not wean her from her love for the city on the Delaware. She said:
“. . . I will do our ladies, that is Philadelphians, the justice to say they have more cleverness in the turn of an eye than the N. Y. girls have in their whole composition. With what ease, have I seen a Chew, a Penn, Oswald, Allen and a thousand others, entertain a large circle of both sexes, and the conversation without the aid of cards not flag or seem the least bit strain’d or stupid, Here, or more properly speaking in N. Y. you enter the room with a formal set curtsey and after the how do’s, ‘tis a fine, or a bad day, and those trifling nothings are finished all’s a dead calm till the cards are introduced, when you see pleasure dancing in the eyes of all the matrons and they seem to gain new life. The misses, if they have a favourite swain, frequently decline playing for the pleasure of making love — for to all appearances ‘tis the ladies and not the gentlemen that show a preference nowadays. ‘Tis here, I fancy, always leap year. For my part that am used to quite another mode of behaviour, I cannot help shewing my surprise, perhaps they call it ignorance, when I see a lady single out her pet to lean almost in his arms at an Assembly or play-house, (which have too often seen both in married and in single), and to hear a lady confess a partiality for a man who perhaps she has not seen three times . . .
. . . I shall send a pattern of the newest bonnet, there is no crown, but guaze raised on wire, and quite pinched to a sugar loaf at top, — the lighter the trimming the more fashionable . . .”
Probably the sprightly Miss Franks had commissions to execute for her Philadelphia friends. It would be difficult to find a post-bag that does not contain requests to buy something or a message from one who has tried more or less conscientiously to satisfy the friend who has made the request.
Away back in 1702, Robert Carter, of Philadelphia, sent to Jonathan Dickinson a letter of the latter sort:
“I received thine wherein thee requested to buy a Deer of me by Tom pryor and he not having oppertunity to send desired me to convey it to Robert Barber, I considering it might be hazardous of the loss of him in a straing place am willing to acquaint thee that it will be best to convey it at once to Towne or into the vessel, as to the price if through divine providence thou arrive at thy desiered port thou mayest make me some small returne according to thy pleasure, so with dear love to thee & thy wife
“I am thy very Loveing Friend.”
To the same Jonathan Dickinson Rachel Preston, sent from Philadelphia, in 1707, a supply of goods of which she wrote:
“Sum accident haping which brought pattrick back after he left this plaace with Intentions to proced his viage which has given me an oppertunity to put on borde a small box derected to be left with your brother Gomersell wherein is four botells of Syrup of Cloves three of Rose watter three Rose Cakes two dear skins which I got thomais griffith to chuse as ye best to be had in ye town. . . . I . . . am not out of hopes of having a litell more to send with ye huney as soon as any new comes in, which with Indeared love conclude this . . shall subscribe your affectional friend tho much disordered at present.”
From Burlington, New Jersey, in 1781, John Cox had a delicate mission to perform, in a letter to Hannah Pemberton of Philadelphia. He began, very diplomatically, as far as possible from the main purpose of the letter:
“It was a fortunate Circumstance that thy sweet little form was not deposited in our Sleigh, for we never reach’d the habitation of Fidelia till Nine O’clock, very cold & wet. I have not time now to expatiate on the manifold wretchedness of our calamitous situation in crossing Ankokas Creek, and other et ceteras, that shall be the subject of a future letter. In this, I take the liberty of tresspasing on thy time to request on behalf of a lady — a genteel Stranger in this Town — that thee will be good enough to speak for a pair of the very best and most fashionable Stays, and get them finish’d as soon as may be. I have been often press’d to take this Commission, and as often evaded it, lest , should not execute it to satisfaction — but she insists on my taking it under my Care, & I promised to write to some lady of my acquaintance in the City, on the subject. I should have made some enquiry when in Town, but it escaped my Memory. If thee can recollect the size of Kitty Lawrence, it will be a guide to thee in the form &c. perhaps thy own size will be as good a model.” . . .
It was a different sort of commission that Richard Peters sent to Jonathan Jones from Belmont in 1814, but it was in its way quite as delicate; only a brave man will attempt to get the truth of a fish story. Yet such a request the genial judge made:
“At our last meeting you were so good as to promise you would see Mr. Hayes & procure his Account of the Shad caught in Schuylkill after having been marked in a preceding Season. The fact is singular —, & I had it well ascertained to me, that similar Facts had before happened. I wish to be fortified in my Communication of it to the Philadelphia Society, by Testimony so reputable as that of Mr. Hayes, who perhaps is reluctant at writing; tho’ I only want a plain narrative. I must beg of you to take an early opportunity of calling on him and in a letter communicate to me the Facts. I think 35 were marked & 25 caught — so I understood him to say.
“Relate all circumstances — how marked — where and at what time caught.
“Mr. Hughes was to inform me about the 3 Bushels of Chimney Swallows, which were smothered . . at a Mr. J. William’s near the Gulph. Can you get the Facts on the Subject? But one at a time you will think enough.”
For many years there were more important things than fish stories to investigate or commissions to fill at the city markets. During the generation from 1755 to the close of the Revolution the subject of letters was apt to be the troubled state of the times. Thus Sally Armitt wrote in 1755 to Susanna Wright, pleading with her to seek safety by coming from the country to the hospitable Armitt home in Philadelphia:
“It is impossible to express the uneasiness that I am under on the account of your Family, I wish you would come to town, as it must be more dangerous on the river, dear Susy we have Several Spare rooms which you shall be very welcome to and we shall take it as a favour. I know thee would not chuse to be in a Family were thee could not make free, dear Susy, the shall be as if at home in our House, but if you chuse not to be with Your Friends, and would take a house, we have a great deal of new furniture that was made before my daddy dye’d, which you shall be exceeding welcome to while you are in town.”
In 1766 Lambert Cadwalader of Philadelphia, wrote to George Morgan, of Pittsburgh, a brief message that showed the intensity of feeling in the colony because of the opposition of the mother country:
“I have now the pleasure of communicating to you the joyful news of the repeal of the Stamp Act, news that almost calls back youth to the aged, gives health and vigour to the sick and infirm . . . America is again free! God bless her; long may she remain so.”
In 1774 there came out of Philadelphia the tidings, written by William Redwood to William Ellery, that freedom seemed nearer than ever:
. . . I have had an opportunity of hearing the sentiments of all the Gentlemen Delegates from the Several Provinces now in the city, Respecting the unhappy Differences between G. Britain and the Colonies, and they appear to be firm in the Cause of Liberty, they are all very free and conversable as the Congress will be held in Carpenter’s Hall which is directly opposite my House, I shall have an opportunity of hearing from time to time how they go on, I apprehend they will be the Most Respectable Body that ever met together in North America.”
The day came when the Revolutionary army was in camp. Then Edward Tilghman, Jr., sent to Benjamin Chew a requisition for some of the things he needed for his health and the better service of his country:
“Some time ago I wrote for severall Things — The Hunting Shirt I do not now want — would write for all the other Things . . . A Horse I must have . . . My Leather Breeches must be washed and sent . . . & with them my Boot-Buckles . . . a buff Waistcoat with a narrow Lace & a Scrub Coat to ride in rain with, Two 30 Dollar Bills in a Letter well secured. My Cutteau and Belt. The Waist Coat should have the lace taken off I think and cut so as to make a bell regimental Waist coat & Lace sold for Epilets . . . I have six shirts, two more would not be amiss & Handkfs 2 pr Stockings fit for Boots . . .”
In an old chest, bought at auction in Philadelphia a few years ago, the purchaser discovered under a false bottom two commissions to officers who served in the Revolution as well as half a dozen letters from one of these officers, Captain William Steel, to his wife in Lancaster. One of these letters, dated in Philadelphia, July 30, 1776, was addressed to “My Dear and Loving Companion,” The message she read was as follows:
“I wrote to you the other day But it rejoices me to have this opportunity to write to you this evening tide or the morning tide we set sail for Trenton and from that to Amboy at headquarters the people are flocking in here like bees . My dear wife rejoice that you have your dear father and mother to live with there is many men here left their Wives in a poor situation and must go on there is no help for them Dear wife I thought you would not miss any good opportunity to write to an absent friend to let me know how you and my little son is in particular and all the rest of the family . . . I would not forget you so soon, but I ascribe it to your grief yt you aint in a capacity to write or else you would not have neglected me My dear let the fear of God be always before your eyes, pray to him for supporting grace and his kind protection over you that both may enjoy peace and tranquility until I see you both . . . this from your loving husband.”
A final dip into the post-bag brings to light two letters which are in great contrast. One of them was written by Benjamin Franklin, though one would not readily ascribe it to him if it did not carry his name. It was written in the third person to an artist who had grievously disappointed the philosopher:
“Dr. Franklin presents his Compliments to Mr. Meyer, and prays him not to detain any longer the Picture from which he was to make a Miniature, but return it by the Bearer. Hopes Mr. Meyer will not think him impatient, as he has waited full Five Years, and seen many of his Acquaintance, tho’ applying later, served before him. Wishes Mr. Meyer not to give himself the trouble of making any more Apologies, or to feel the least Pain on Act. of his disappointing Dr. Franklin, who assures him, he never was disappointed by him but once, not having for several Years past since he has known the Character of his Veracity, had the smallest dependence upon it.”
Charles Norris was the writer of the final letter. His heart must have been very light. Evidently the winter of 1753 had been mild, for he wrote on February 15, and spring must then have been well on the way.
At least the letter was so full of spring that there was little room for anything else. The letter, which was sent to James Wright, began:
“My Good ffriend “It gave me pleasure to hear you got home well, and as thee mentions the Weathr I shall observe, Froggs and Flys the Land possess, To moderate the Colds Excess, By croaking throats and Humming Wing, Gladly to welcome the approaching Spring, When these their Watry Council hold, and These Salute with bussings Bold, we may conclude the winter’s past, and Geneal Spring approaches fast — which brings to mind the Gardiner’s Care, To plant and Soe all things rare, and first we think of Colliflowers tast, To Soe its Seed with utmost hast, for fear the Season sh’d relaps and we not regale our Watry Chaps, with Its delicious tast & food, wch sure wo’d put in Dudgeon mood, Then how shall I the sequell tell, when those Possest with seed, won’t sell. However to be a little more serious Debby bids me tell thee that she’s in hopes to prevale on Dubree to spare a little & this was a good Day to have sent a Messenger, wod not have postponed it till another . . .
“Please To Tender my Grateful Acceptances of the Muffatees to my kind friend Sukey Taylor, & tell her were I a young Fellow, from whose Mouth or Pen such return wod be suitable & apropo, wod say, was the Weathr as Cold as Green Lands Air, Its utmost Rigour I wod not fear, but Proud to Breathe the Frigid Land, while arm’d wth Shield from thy fair hand, I’d think the Region not too Cool, but warm my heart by Buffalo’s wool. But in more moderate Terms may, And perhaps with greater Sincerity, acquaint her wth my obligations for her warm preset Truly Debby tells me she intends to Borrow them on Extraordinary Occasions, to Draw over her Gloves, and wth a Muff to Defend her arms from any Cold our Clymat has in petto.”
Surely Charles Norris could give pointers to the writers of weird lines that modern versifiers have the temerity to call poetry. At any rate it is easy to gather his meaning, and that is something that cannot be done with the average writer of what one critic has called the Charlie Chaplin school of poetry.