Literary Life Of ThingumBob, ESQ.
Edgar Allan Poe
I AM now growing in years, and- since I understand that
Shakespeare and Mr. Emmons are deceased- it is not impossible that I
may even die. It has occurred to me, therefore, that I may as well
retire from the field of Letters and repose upon my laurels. But I
am ambitious of signalizing my abdication of the literary sceptre by
some important bequest to posterity; and, perhaps, I cannot do a
better thing than just pen for it an account of my earlier career.
My name, indeed, has been so long and so constantly before the
public eye, that I am not only willing to admit the naturalness of the
interest which it has everywhere excited, but ready to satisfy the
extreme curiosity which it has inspired. In fact, it is no more than
the duty of him who achieves greatness to leave behind him, in his
ascent, such landmarks as may guide others to be great. I propose,
therefore, in the present paper (which I had some idea of calling
"Memoranda to Serve for the Literary History of America") to give a
detail of those important, yet feeble and tottering, first steps, by
which, at length, I attained the high road to the pinnacle of human
Of one's very remote ancestors it is superfluous to say much. My
father, Thomas Bob, Esq., stood for many years at the summit of his
profession, which was that of a merchant-barber, in the city of
Smug. His warehouse was the resort of all the principal people of
the place, and especially of the editorial corps- a body which
inspires all about it with profound veneration and awe. For my own
part, I regarded them as gods, and drank in with avidity the rich
wit and wisdom which continuously flowed from their august mouths
during the process of what is styled "lather." My first moment of
positive inspiration must be dated from that ever-memorable epoch,
when the brilliant conductor of the "Gad-Fly," in the intervals of the
important process just mentioned, recited aloud, before a conclave
of our apprentices, an inimitable poem in honor of the "Only Genuine
Oil-of-Bob" (so called from its talented inventor, my father), and for
which effusion the editor of the "Fly" was remunerated with a regal
liberality by the firm of Thomas Bob & Company, merchant-barbers.
The genius of the stanzas to the "Oil-of-Bob" first breathed into
me, I say, the divine afflatus. I resolved at once to become a great
man, and to commence by becoming a great poet. That very evening I
fell upon my knees at the feet of my father.
"Father," I said, "pardon me!- but I have a soul above lather. It is
my firm intention to cut the shop. I would be an editor- I would be
a poet- I would pen stanzas to the 'Oil-of-Bob.' Pardon me and aid
me to be great!"
"My dear Thingum," replied father, (I had been christened Thingum
after a wealthy relative so surnamed,) "My dear Thingum," he said,
raising me from my knees by the ears- "Thingum, my boy, you're a
trump, and take after your father in having a soul. You have an
immense head, too, and it must hold a great many brains. This I have
long seen, and therefore had thoughts of making you a lawyer. The
business, however, has grown ungenteel and that of a politician
don't pay. Upon the whole you judge wisely;- the trade of editor is
best:- and if you can be a poet at the same time,- as most of the
editors are, by the by, why, you will kill two birds with the one
stone. To encourage you in the beginning of things, I will allow you a
garret, pen, ink, and paper, a rhyming dictionary; and a copy of the
'Gad-Fly.' I suppose you would scarcely demand any more."
"I would be an ungrateful villain if I did" I replied with
enthusiasm. "Your generosity is boundless. I will repay it by making
you the father of a genius."
Thus ended my conference with the best of men, and immediately
upon its termination, I betook myself with zeal to my poetical labors;
as upon these, chiefly, I founded my hopes of ultimate elevation to
the editorial chair.
In my first attempts at composition I found the stanzas to "The
Oil-of-Bob" rather a drawback than otherwise. Their splendor more
dazzled than enlightened me. The contemplation of their excellence
tended, naturally, to discourage me by comparison with my own
abortions; so that for a long time I labored in vain. At length
there came into my head one of those exquisitely original ideas
which now and then will permeate the brain of a man of genius. It
was this:- or, rather, thus was it carried into execution. From the
rubbish of an old book-stall, in a very remote corner of the town, I
got together several antique and altogether unknown or forgotten
volumes. The bookseller sold them to me for a song. From one of these,
which purported to be a translation of one Dantes "Inferno," I
copied with remarkable neatness a long passage about a man named
Ugolino, who had a parcel of brats. From another, which contained a
good many old plays by some person whose name I forget, I enacted in
the same manner, and with the same care, a great number of lines about
"angels" and "ministers saying grace," and "goblins damned," and
more besides of that sort. From a third, which was the composition
of some blind man or other, either a Greek or a Choctaw- I cannot be
at the pains of remembering every trifle exactly,- I took about
fifty verses beginning with "Achilles' wrath," and "grease," and
something else. From a fourth, which I recollect was also the work
of a blind man, I selected a page or two all about "hail" and "holy
light"; and, although a blind man has no business to write about
light, still the verses were sufficiently good in their way.
Having made fair copies of these poems, I signed every one of them
"Oppodeldoc" (a fine sonorous name), and, doing each up nicely in a
separate envelope, I dispatched one to each of the four principal
Magazines, with a request for speedy insertion and prompt pay. The
result of this well-conceived plan, however, (the success of which
would have saved me much trouble in after-life,) served to convince me
that some editors are not to be bamboozled, and gave the coup-de-grace
(as they say in France) to my nascent hopes (as they say in the city
of the transcendentals).
The fact is, that each and every one of the Magazines in question
gave Mr. "Oppodeldoc" a complete using-up, in the "Monthly Notices
to Correspondents." The "Hum-Drum" gave him a dressing after this
"'Oppodeldoc' (whoever he is) has sent us a long tirade concerning a
bedlamite whom he styles 'Ugolino,' had a great many children that
should have been all whipped and sent to bed without their suppers.
The whole affair is exceedingly tame- not to say flat. 'Oppodeldoc'
(whoever he is) is entirely devoid of imagination- and imagination, in
our humble opinion, is not only the soul of Poesy, but also its very
heart. 'Oppodeldoc' (whoever he is) has the audacity to demand of
us, for his twattle, a 'speedy insertion and prompt pay.' We neither
insert nor purchase any stuff of the sort. There can be no doubt,
however, that he would meet with a ready sale for all the balderdash
he can scribble, at the office of either the 'Rowdy-Dow,' the
'Lollipop,' or the 'Goosetherumfoodle.'
All this, it must be acknowledged, was very severe upon
"Oppodeldoc,"- but the unkindest cut was putting the word Poesy in
small caps. In those five pre-eminent letters what a world of
bitterness is there not involved!
But "Oppodeldoc" was punished with equal severity in the "Rowdy
Dow," which spoke thus:
"We have received a most singular and insolent communication from
a person (whoever he is) signing himself 'Oppodeldoc,'- thus
desecrating the greatness of the illustrious Roman emperor so named.
Accompanying the letter of 'Oppodeldoc' (whoever he is) we find sundry
lines of most disgusting and unmeaning rant about 'angels and
ministers of grace,'- rant such as no madman short of a Nat Lee, or an
'Oppodeldoc,' could possibly perpetrate. And for this trash of
trash, we are modestly requested to 'pay promptly.' No, sir- no! We
pay for nothing of that sort. Apply to the 'Hum-Drum,' the 'Lollipop,'
or the 'Goosetherumfoodle.' These periodicals will undoubtedly
accept any literary offal you may send them- and as undoubtedly
promise to pay for it."
This was bitter indeed upon poor "Oppodeldoc"; but, in this
instance, the weight of the satire falls upon the "Hum-Drum," the
"Lollipop," and the "Goosetherumfoodle," who are pungently styled
"periodicals"- in Italics, too- a thing that must have cut them to the
Scarcely less savage was the "Lollipop," which thus discoursed:
"Some individual, who rejoices in the appellation 'Oppodeldoc,'
(to what low uses are the names of the illustrious dead too often
applied!) has enclosed us some fifty or sixty verses commencing
after this fashion:
'Achilles' wrath, to Greece the direful spring
Of woes unnumbered, &c., &c., &c, &c.'
"'Oppodeldoc?' (whoever he is) is respectfully informed that there
is not a printer's devil in our office who is not in the daily habit
of composing better lines. Those of 'Oppodeldoc' will not scan.
'Oppodeldoc' should learn to count. But why he should have conceived
the idea that we (of all others, we!) would disgrace our pages with
his ineffable nonsense is utterly beyond comprehension. Why, the
absurd twattle is scarcely good enough for the 'Hum-Drum,' the
'Rowdy-Dow,' the 'Goosetherumfoodle,'- things that are in the practice
of publishing 'Mother Gooses Melodies' as original lyrics. And
'Oppodeldoc' (whoever he is) has even the assurance to demand pay
for this drivel. Does 'Oppodeldoc' (whoever he is) know- is he aware
that we could not be paid to insert it?"
As I perused this I felt myself growing gradually smaller and
smaller, and when I came to the point at which the editor sneered at
the poem as "verses," there was little more than an ounce of me
left. As for "Oppodeldoc," I began to experience compassion for the
poor fellow. But the "Goosetherumfoodle" showed, if possible, less
mercy than the "Lollipop." It was the "Goosetherumfoodle" that said-
"A wretched poetaster, who signs himself 'Oppodeldoc,' is silly
enough to fancy that we will print and pay for a medley of
incoherent and ungrammatical bombast which he has transmitted to us,
and which commences with the following most intelligible line:-
'Hail Holy Light! Offspring of Heaven, first born.'
"We say, 'most intelligible.' 'Oppodeldoc' (whoever he is) will be
kind enough to tell us, perhaps, how 'hail' can be 'holy light.' We
always regarded it as frozen rain. Will he inform us, also, how frozen
rain can be, at one and the same time, both 'holy light' (whatever
that is) and an 'off-spring'?- which latter term (if we understand
anything about English) is only employed, with propriety, in reference
to small babies of about six weeks old. But it is preposterous to
descant upon such absurdity- although 'Oppodeldoc' (whoever he is) has
the unparalled effrontery to suppose that we will not only 'insert'
his ignorant ravings, but (absolutely) pay for them?
"Now this is fine- it is rich!- and we have half a mind to punish
this young scribbler for his egotism by really publishing his effusion
verbatim et literatim, as he has written it. We could inflict no
punishment so severe, and we would inflict it, but for the boredom
which we should cause our readers in so doing.
"Let 'Oppodeldoc' (whoever he is) send any future composition of
like character to the 'Hum-Drum,' the 'Lollipop,' or the 'Rowdy-Dow:
They will 'insert' it. They 'insert' every month just such stuff. Send
it to them. WE are not to be insulted with impunity."
This made an end of me, and as for the "Hum-Drum," the
"Rowdy-Dow," and the "Lollipop," I never could comprehend how they
survived it. The putting them in the smallest possible minion (that
was the rub- thereby insinuating their lowness- their baseness,) while
WE stood looking upon them in gigantic capitals!- oh it was too
bitter!- it was wormwood- it was gall. Had I been either of these
periodicals I would have spared no pains to have the
"Goosetherumfoodle" prosecuted. It might have been done under the
Act for the "Prevention of Cruelty to Animals." for Oppodeldoc
(whoever he was), I had by this time lost all patience with the
fellow, and sympathized with him no longer. He was a fool, beyond
doubt, (whoever he was,) and got not a kick more than he deserved.
The result of my experiment with the old books convinced me, in
the first place, that "honesty is the best policy," and, in the
second, that if I could not write better than Mr. Dante, and the two
blind men, and the rest of the old set, it would, at least, be a
difficult matter to write worse. I took heart, therefore, and
determined to prosecute the "entirely original" (as they say on the
covers of the magazines), at whatever cost of study and pains. I again
placed before my eyes, as a model, the brilliant stanzas on "The
Oil-of-Bob" by the editor of the "Gad-Fly" and resolved to construct
an ode on the same sublime theme, in rivalry of what had already
With my first line I had no material difficulty. It ran thus:
"To pen an Ode upon the 'Oil-of-Bob.'"
Having carefully looked out, however, all the legitimate rhymes to
"Bob," I found it impossible to proceed. In this dilemma I had
recourse to paternal aid; and, after some hours of mature thought,
my father and myself thus constructed the poem:
"To pen an Ode upon the 'Oil-of-Bob'
Is all sorts of a job.
To be sure, this composition was of no very great length,- but I
"have yet to learn," as they say in the "Edinburgh Review," that the
mere extent of a literary work has anything to do with its merit. As
for the Quarterly cant about "sustained effort," it is impossible to
see the sense of it. Upon the whole, therefore, I was satisfied with
the success of my maiden attempt, and now the only question regarded
the disposal I should make of it. My father suggested that I should
send it to the "Gad-Fly,"- but there were two reasons which operated
to prevent me from so doing. I dreaded the jealousy of the editor- and
I had ascertained that he did not pay for original contributions. I
therefore, after due deliberation, consigned the article to the more
dignified pages of the "Lollipop" and awaited the event in anxiety,
but with resignation.
In the very next published number I had the proud satisfaction of
seeing my poem printed at length, as the leading article, with the
following significant words, prefixed in italics and between brackets:
[We call the attention of our readers to the subjoined admirable
on "The Oil-of-Bob." We need say nothing of their sublimity, or of
their pathos.- it is impossible to peruse them without tears. Those
who have been nauseated with a sad dose on the same august topic
from the goose-quill of the editor of the "Gad-Fly," will do well to
compare the two compositions.
P. S.- We are consumed with anxiety to probe the mystery which
envelops the evident pseudonym "Snob" May we hope for a personal
All this was scarcely more than justice, but it was, I confess,
rather more than I had expected:- I acknowledge this, be it
observed, to the everlasting disgrace of my country and of mankind.
I lost no time, however, in calling upon the editor of the
"Lollipop" and had the good fortune to find this gentleman at home. He
saluted me with an air of profound respect, slightly blended with a
fatherly and patronizing admiration, wrought in him, no doubt, by my
appearance of extreme youth and inexperience. Begging me to be seated,
he entered at once upon the subject of my poem;- but modesty will ever
forbid me to repeat the thousand compliments which he lavished upon
me. The eulogies of Mr. Crab (such was the editor's name) were,
however, by no means fulsomely indiscriminate. He analyzed my
composition with much freedom and great ability- not hesitating to
point out a few trivial defects- a circumstance which elevated him
highly in my esteem. The "Gad-Fly" was, of course, brought upon the
tapis, and I hope never to be subjected to a criticism so searching,
or to rebukes so withering, as were bestowed by Mr. Crab upon that
unhappy effusion. I had been accustomed to regard the editor of the
"Gad-Fly" as something superhuman; but Mr. Crab soon disabused me of
that idea. He set the literary as well as the personal character of
the Fly (so Mr. C. satirically designated the rival editor), in its
true light. He, the Fly, was very little better than he should be.
He had written infamous things. He was a penny-a-liner, and a buffoon.
He was a villain. He had composed a tragedy which set the whole
country in a guffaw, and a farce which deluged the universe in
tears. Besides all this, he had the impudence to pen what he meant for
a lampoon upon himself (Mr. Crab), and the temerity to style him "an
ass." Should I at any time wish to express my opinion of Mr. Fly,
the pages of the "Lollipop," Mr. Crab assured me, were at my unlimited
disposal. In the meantime, as it was very certain that I would be
attacked in the "Fly" for my attempt at composing a rival poem on
the "Oil-of-Bob," he (Mr. Crab) would take it upon himself to
attend, pointedly, to my private and personal interests. If I were not
made a man of at once, it should not be the fault of himself (Mr.
Mr. Crab having now paused in his discourse (the latter portion of
which I found it impossible to comprehend), I ventured to suggest
something about the remuneration which I had been taught to expect for
my poem, by an announcement on the cover of the "Lollipop,"
declaring that it (the "Lollipop") "insisted upon being permitted to
pay exorbitant prices for all accepted contributions,- frequently
expending more money for a single brief poem than the whole annual
cost of the 'Hum-Drum,' the 'Rowdy-Dow,' and the 'Goosetherumfoodle'
As I mentioned the word "remuneration," Mr. Crab first opened his
eyes, and then his mouth, to quite a remarkable extent, causing his
personal appearance to resemble that of a highly agitated elderly duck
in the act of quacking; and in this condition he remained (ever and
anon pressing his hinds tightly to his forehead, as if in a state of
desperate bewilderment) until I had nearly made an end of what I had
Upon my conclusion, he sank back into his seat, as if much overcome,
letting his arms fall lifelessly by his side, but keeping his mouth
still rigorously open, after the fashion of the duck. While I remained
in speechless astonishment at behavior so alarming he suddenly
leaped to his feet and made a rush at the bell-rope; but just as he
reached this, he appeared to have altered his intention, whatever it
was, for he dived under a table and immediately re-appeared with a
cudgel. This he was in the act of uplifting (for what purpose I am
at a loss to imagine), when all at once, there came a benign smile
over his features, and he sank placidly back in his chair.
"Mr. Bob," he said, (for I had sent up my card before ascending
myself,) "Mr. Bob, you are a young man, I presume- very?"
I assented; adding that I had not yet concluded my third lustrum.
"Ah!" he replied, "very good! I see how it is- say no more! Touching
this matter of compensation, what you observe is very just,- in fact
it is excessively so. But ah- ah- the first contribution- the first, I
say- it is never the Magazine custom to pay for,- you comprehend,
eh? The truth is, we are usually the recipients in such case." [Mr.
Crab smiled blandly as he emphasized the word "recipients."] "for
the most part, we are paid for the insertion of a maiden attempt-
especially in verse. In the second place, Mr. Bob, the Magazine rule
is never to disburse what we term in France the argent comptant:- I
have no doubt you understand. In a quarter or two after publication of
the article- or in a year or two- we make no objection to giving our
note at nine months; provided, always, that we can so arrange our
affairs as to be quite certain of a 'burst up' in six. I really do
hope, Mr. Bob, that you will look upon this explanation as
satisfactory." Here Mr. Crab concluded, and the tears stood in his
Grieved to the soul at having been, however innocently, the cause of
pain to so eminent and so sensitive a man, I hastened to apologize,
and to reassure him, by expressing my perfect coincidence with his
views, as well as my entire appreciation of the delicacy of his
position. Having done all this in a neat speech, I took leave.
One fine morning, very shortly afterwards, "I awoke and found myself
famous." The extent of my renown will be best estimated by reference
to the editorial opinions of the day. These opinions, it will be seen,
were embodied in critical notices of the number of the "Lollipop"
containing my poem, and are perfectly satisfactory, conclusive, and
clear with the exception, perhaps, of the hieroglyphical marks,
"Sep. 15- 1 t," appended to each of the critiques.
The "Owl" a journal of profound sagacity, and well known for the
deliberate gravity of its literary decisions- the "Owl," I say,
spoke as follows:
"The LOLLIPOP! The October number of this delicious Magazine
surpasses its predecessors, and sets competition at defiance. In the
beauty of its typography and paper- in the number and excellence of
its steel plates- as well as in the literary merit of its
contributions- the 'Lollipop' compares with its slow-paced rivals as
Hyperion with Satyr. The 'Hum-Drum,' the 'Rowdy-Dow,' and the
'Goosetherumfoodle,' excel, it is true, in braggadocio, but in all
other points, give us the 'Lollipop'! How this celebrated journal
can sustain its evidently tremendous expenses, is more than we can
understand. To be sure, it has a circulation of 100,000 and its
subscription list has increased one fourth during the last month; but,
on the other hand, the sums it disburses constantly for
contributions are inconceivable. It is reported that Mr. Slyass
received no less than thirty-seven and a half cents for his inimitable
paper on 'Pigs.' With Mr. Crab, as editor, and with such names upon
the list of contributors as SNOB and Slyass, there can be no such word
as 'fail' for the 'Lollipop.' Go and subscribe. Sep. 15- 1 t."
I must say that I was gratified with this high-toned notice from a
paper so respectable as the "Owl." The placing my name- that is to
say, my nom de guerre- in priority of station to that of the great
Slyass, was a compliment as happy as I felt it to be deserved.
My attention was next arrested by these paragraphs in the "Toad"-
print highly distinguished for its uprightness and independence- for
its entire freedom from sycophancy and subservience to the givers of
"The 'Lollipop' for October is out in advance of all its
contemporaries, and infinitely surpasses them, of course, in the
splendor of its embellishments, as well as in the richness of its
contents. The 'Hum-Drum,' the 'Rowdy-Dow,' and the 'Goosetherumfoodle'
excel, we admit, in braggadocio, but, in all other points, give us the
'Lollipop.' How this celebrated Magazine can sustain its evidently
tremendous expenses is more than we can understand. To be sure, it has
a circulation of 200,000 and its subscription list has increased one
third during the last fortnight, but, on the other hand, the sums it
disburses, monthly, for contributions, are fearfully great. We learn
that Mr. Mumblethumb received no less than fifty cents for his late
'Monody in a Mud-Puddle.'
"Among the original contributors to the present number we notice
(besides the eminent editor, Mr. Crab), such men as SNOB, Slyass,
and Mumblethumb. Apart from the editorial matter, the most valuable
paper, nevertheless, is, we think, a poetical gem by Snob, on the
'Oil-of-Bob.'-but our readers must not suppose, from the title of this
incomparable bijou, that it bears any similitude to some balderdash on
the same subject by a certain contemptible individual whose name is
unmentionable to ears polite. The present poem 'On the Oil-of-Bob,'
has excited universal anxiety and curiosity in respect to the owner of
the evident pseudonym, 'Snob,'- a curiosity which, happily, we have it
in our power to satisfy. 'Snob' is the nom de plume of Mr. Thingum
Bob, of this city, a relative of the great Mr. Thingum, (after whom he
is named), and otherwise connected with the most illustrious
families of the State. His father, Thomas Bob, Esq., is an opulent
merchant in Smug. Sep. 15- 1 t."
This generous approbation touched me to the heart- the more
especially as it emanated from a source so avowedly- so proverbially
pure as the "Toad." The word "balderdash," as applied to the
"Oil-of-Bob" of the Fly, I considered singularly pungent and
appropriate. The words "gem" and "bijou," however, used in reference
to my composition, struck me as being, in some degree, feeble. They
seemed to me to be deficient in force. They were not sufficiently
prononces (as we have it in France).
I had hardly finished reading the "Toad," when a friend placed in my
hands a copy of the "Mole," a daily, enjoying high reputation for
the keenness of its perception about matters in general, and for the
open, honest, above-ground style of its editorials. The "Mole" spoke
of the "Lollypop" as follows:
"We have just received the 'Lollipop' for October, and must say that
never before have we perused any single number of any periodical which
afforded us a felicity so supreme. We speak advisedly. The 'Hum-Drum.'
the 'Rowdy-Dow,' and the 'Goosetherumfoodle' must look well to their
laurels. These prints, no doubt, surpass everything in loudness of
pretension, but, in all other points, give us the 'Lollipop'! How this
celebrated Magazine can sustain its evidently tremendous expenses,
is more than we can comprehend. To be sure, it has a circulation of
300,000; and its subscription list has increased one half within the
last week, but then the sum it disburses, monthly, for
contributions, is astoundingly enormous. We have it upon good
authority that Mr. Fatquack received no less than sixty-two cents
and a half for his late Domestic Nouvellette, the 'Dish-Clout.'
"The contributors to the number before us are Mr. CRAB (the
eminent editor), SNOB, Mumblethumb, Fatquack, and others; but, after
the inimitable compositions of the editor himself, we prefer a
diamond- like effusion from the pen of a rising poet who writes over
the signature 'Snob'- a nom de guerre which we predict will one day
extinguish the radiance of 'BOZ.' 'SNOB,' we learn, is a Mr. THINGUM
BOB, Esq., sole heir of a wealthy merchant of this city, Thomas Bob,
Esq., and a near relative of the distinguished Mr. Thingum. The
title of Mr. B.'s admirable poem is the 'Oil-of-Bob'- a somewhat
unfortunate name, by-the-bye, as some contemptible vagabond
connected with the penny press has already disgusted the town with a
great deal of drivel upon the same topic. There will be no danger,
however, of confounding the compositions. Sep. 15- 1 t.
The generous approbation of so clear-sighted a journal as the "Mole"
penetrated my soul with delight. The only objection which occurred
to me was, that the terms "contemptible vagabond" might have been
better written "odious and contemptible wretch, villain, and
vagabond." This would have sounded more graceful, I think.
"Diamond-like," also, was scarcely, it will be admitted, of sufficient
intensity to express what the "Mole" evidently thought of the
brilliancy of the "Oil-of-Bob."
On the same afternoon in which I saw these notices in the "Owl," the
"Toad" and the "Mole," I happened to meet with a copy of the
"Daddy-Long-Legs," a periodical proverbial for the extreme extent of
its understanding. And it was the "Daddy-Long-Legs" which spoke thus:
"The 'Lollipop'! This gorgeous Magazine is already before the public
for October. The question of pre-eminence is forever put to rest,
and hereafter it will be preposterous in the 'Hum-Drum,' the
'Rowdy-Dow,' or the 'Goosetherumfoodle' to make any further
spasmodic attempts at competition. These journals may excel the
'Lollipop' in outcry, but, in all other points, give us the
'Lollipop'! How this celebrated Magazine can sustain its evidently
tremendous expenses, is past comprehension. To be sure it has a
circulation of precisely half a million, and its subscription list has
increased seventy-five per cent. within the last couple of days, but
then the sums it disburses, monthly, for contributions, are scarcely
credible; we are cognizant of the fact, that Mademoiselle
Cribalittle received no less than eighty-seven cents and a half for
her late valuable Revolutionary Tale, entitled 'The York-Town
Katy-Did, and the Bunker-Hill Katy-Didn't.'
"The most able papers in the present number are, of course, those
furnished by the editor (the eminent Mr. CRAB), but there are numerous
magnificent contributions from such names as SNOB, Mademoiselle
Cribalittle, Slyass, Mrs. Fibalittle, Mumblethumb, Mrs.
Squibalittle, and last, though not least, Fatquack. The world may well
be challenged to produce so rich a galaxy of genius.
"The poem over the signature, "SNOB" is, we find, attracting
universal commendation, and, we are constrained to say, deserves, if
possible, even more applause than it has received. The 'Oil-of-Bob' is
the title of this masterpiece of eloquence and art. One or two of
our readers may have a very faint, although sufficiently disgusting
recollection of a poem (?) similarly entitled, the perpetration of a
miserable penny-a-liner, mendicant, and cut-throat, connected in the
capacity of scullion, we believe, with one of the indecent prints
about the purlieus of the city, we beg them, for God's sake, not to
confound the compositions. The author of the 'Oil-of-Bob' is, we hear,
Thingum Bob, Esq, a gentleman of high genius, and a scholar. 'Snob' is
merely a nom de guerre. Sep. 15- 1 t."
I could scarcely restrain my indignation while I perused the
concluding portions of this diatribe. It was clear to me that the
yea-nay manner- not to say the gentleness,- the positive
forbearance- with which the "Daddy-Long-Legs" spoke of that pig, the
editor of the "Gad-Fly,"- it was evident to me, I say, that this
gentleness of speech could proceed from nothing else than a partiality
for the "Fly"- whom it was clearly the intention of the
"Daddy-Long-Legs" to elevate into reputation at my expense. Any one,
indeed, might perceive, with half an eye, that, had the real design of
the "Daddy" been what it wished to appear, it (the "Daddy") might have
expressed itself in terms more direct, more pungent, and altogether
more to the purpose. The words "penny-a-liner," "mendicant,"
"scullion," and "cut-throat," were epithets so intentionally
inexpressive and equivocal, as to be worse than nothing when applied
to the author of the very worst stanzas ever penned by one of the
human race. We all know what is meant by "damning with faint
praise," and, on the other hand, who could fail seeing through the
covert purpose of the "Daddy,"- that of glorifying with feeble abuse?
What the "Daddy" chose to say to the "Fly," however, was no business
of mine. What it said of myself was. After the noble manner in which
the "Owl," the "Toad," the "Mole," had expressed themselves in respect
to my ability, it was rather too much to be coolly spoken of by a
thing like the "Daddy-Long-Legs," as merely "a gentleman of high
genius and scholar." Gentleman indeed! I made up my mind at once
either to get written apology from the "Daddy-Long-Legs," or to call
Full of this purpose, I looked about me to find a friend whom I
could entrust with a message to his "Daddy"ship, and as the editor
of the "Lollipop" had given me marked tokens of regard, I at length
concluded to seek assistance upon the present occasion.
I have never yet been able to account, in a manner satisfactory to
my own understanding, for the very peculiar countenance and demeanor
with which Mr. Crab listened to me, as I unfolded to him my design. He
again went through the scene of the bell-rope and cudgel, and did
not omit the duck. At one period I thought he really intended to
quack. His fit, nevertheless, finally subsided as before, and he began
to act and speak in a rational way. He declined bearing the cartel,
however, and in fact, dissuaded me from sending it at all; but was
candid enough to admit that the "Daddy-Long-Legs" had been
disgracefully in the wrong- more especially in what related to the
epithets "gentleman and scholar."
Toward the end of this interview with Mr. Crab, who really
appeared to take a paternal interest in my welfare, he suggested to me
that I might turn an honest penny, and at the same time, advance my
reputation, by occasionally playing Thomas Hawk for the "Lollypop."
I begged Mr. Crab to inform me who was Mr. Thomas Hawk, and how it
was expected that I should play him.
Here Mr. Crab again "made great eyes" (as we say in Germany), but at
length, recovering himself from a profound attack of astonishment,
he assured me that he employed the words "Thomas Hawk" to avoid the
colloquialism, Tommy, which was low- but that the true idea was
Tommy Hawk- or tomahawk- and that by "playing tomahawk" he referred to
scalping, brow-beating, and otherwise using- up the herd of poor-devil
I assured my patron that, if this was all, I was perfectly
resigned to the task of playing Thomas Hawk. Hereupon Mr. Crab desired
me to use up the editor of the "Gad-Fly" forthwith, in the fiercest
style within the scope of my ability, and as a specimen of my
powers. This I did, upon the spot, in a review of the original
"Oil-of-Bob," occupying thirty-six pages of the "Lollipop." I found
playing Thomas Hawk, indeed, a far less onerous occupation than
poetizing; for I went upon system altogether, and thus it was easy
to do the thing thoroughly well. My practice was this. I bought
auction copies (cheap) of "Lord Brougham's speeches," "Cobbett's
Complete Works," the "New Slang-Syllabus," the "Whole Art of
Snubbing," "Prentice's Billingsgate" (folio edition), and "Lewis G.
Clarke on Tongue." These works I cut up thoroughly with a
curry-comb, and then, throwing the shreds into a sieve, sifted out
carefully all that might be thought decent (a mere trifle);
reserving the hard phrases, which I threw into a large tin
pepper-castor with longitudinal holes, so that an entire sentence
could get through without material injury. The mixture was then
ready for use. When called upon to play Thomas Hawk, I anointed a
sheet of foolscap with the white of a gander's egg; then, shredding
the thing to be reviewed as I had previously shredded the books-
only with more care, so as to get every word separate- I threw the
latter shreds in with the former, screwed on the lid of the castor,
gave it a shake, and so dusted out the mixture upon the egged
foolscap; where it stuck. The effect was beautiful to behold. It was
captivating. Indeed, the reviews I brought to pass by this simple
expedient have never been approached, and were the wonder of the
world. At first, through bashfulness- the result of inexperience- I
was a little put out by a certain inconsistency- a certain air of
the bizarre (as we say in France), worn by the composition as a whole.
All the phrases did not fit (as we say in the Anglo-Saxon). Many
were quite awry. Some, even, were upside-down; and there were none
of them which were not in some measure, injured in regard to effect,
by this latter species of accident, when it occurred- with the
exception of Mr. Lewis Clarkes paragraphs, which were so vigorous
and altogether stout, that they seemed not particularly disconcerted
by any extreme of position, but looked equally happy and satisfactory,
whether on their heads, or on their heels.
What became of the editor of the "Gad-Fly" after the publication
of my criticism on his "Oil-of-Bob," it is somewhat difficult to
determine. The most reasonable conclusion is, that he wept himself
to death. At all events he disappeared instantaneously from the face
of the earth, and no man has seen even the ghost of him since.
This matter having been properly accomplished, and the Furies
appeased, I grew at once into high favor with Mr. Crab. He took me
into his confidence, gave me a permanent situation as Thomas Hawk of
the "Lollipop," and, as for the present, he could afford me no salary,
allowed me to profit, at discretion, by his advice.
"My dear Thingum," said he to me one day after dinner, "I respect
your abilities and love you as a son. You shall be my heir. When I die
I will bequeath you the "Lollipop." In the meantime I will make a
man of you- I will- provided always that you follow my counsel. The
first thing to do is to get rid of the old bore."
"Boar?" said I inquiringly- "pig, eh?- aper? (as we say in Latin)-
"Your father," said he.
"Precisely," I replied- "pig."
"You have your fortune to make, Thingum," resumed Mr. Crab, "and
that governor of yours is a millstone about your neck. We must cut him
at once." [Here I took out my knife.] "We must cut him," continued Mr.
Crab, "decidedly and forever. He won't do- he won't. Upon second
thoughts, you had better kick him, or cane him, or something of that
"What do you say," I suggested modestly, "to my kicking him in the
first instance, caning him afterward, and winding up by tweaking his
Mr. Crab looked at me musingly for some moments, and then answered:
"I think, Mr. Bob, that what you propose would answer sufficiently
well- indeed remarkably well- that is to say, as far as it went- but
barbers are exceedingly hard to cut, and I think, upon the whole,
that, having performed upon Thomas Bob the operations you suggest,
it would be advisable to blacken, with your fists, both his eyes, very
carefully and thoroughly, to prevent his ever seeing you again in
fashionable promenades. After doing this, I really do not perceive
that you can do any more. However- it might be just as well to roll
him once or twice in the gutter, and then put him in charge of the
police. Any time the next morning you can call at the watch-house
and swear an assault."
I was much affected by the kindness of feeling toward me personally,
which was evinced in this excellent advice of Mr. Crab, and I did
not fail to profit by it forthwith. The result was, that I got rid
of the old bore, and began to feel a little independent and
gentleman-like. The want of money, however, was, for a few weeks, a
source of some discomfort; but at length, by carefully putting to
use my two eyes, and observing how matters went just in front of my
nose, I perceived how the thing was to be brought about. I say
"thing"- be it observed- for they tell me in the Latin for it is
rem. By the way, talking of Latin, can any one tell me the meaning
of quocunque- or what is the meaning of modo?
My plan was exceedingly simple. I bought, for a song, a sixteenth of
the "Snapping-Turtle":- that was all. The thing was done, and I put
money in my purse. There were some trivial arrangements afterward,
to be sure, but these formed no portion of the plan. They were a
consequence- a result. For example, I bought pen, ink, and paper,
and put them into furious activity. Having thus completed a Magazine
article, I gave it, for appellation, "Fol Lol, by the Author of 'THE
OIL-OF-BOB,'" and enveloped it to the "Goosetherumfoodle." That
journal, however, having pronounced it "twattle" in the "Monthly
Notices to Correspondents," I reheaded the paper
"Hey-Diddle-Diddle," by Thigum BOB, Esq., Author of the Ode on 'The
Oil-of-Bob,' and Editor of the 'Snapping Turtle.'" With this
amendment, I re-enclosed it to the "Goosetherumfoodle," and, while I
awaited a reply, published daily, in the "Turtle," six columns of what
may be termed philosophical and analytical investigation of the
literary merits of the "Goosetherumfoodle," as well as of the personal
character of the editor of the "Goosetherumfoodle." At the end of a
week the "Goosetherumfoodle," discovered that it had, by some odd
mistake, "confounded a stupid article, headed 'Hey-Diddle-Diddle,' and
composed by some unknown ignoramus, with a gem of resplendent lustre
similarly entitled, the work of Thingum Bob, Esq, the celebrated
author of 'The Oil-of-Bob.'" The "Goosetherumfoodle" deeply "regretted
this very natural accident," and promised, moreover, an insertion of
the genuine "Hey-Diddle-Diddle" in the very next number of the
The fact is, I thought- I really thought- I thought at the time- I
thought then- and have no reason for thinking otherwise now- that
the "Goosetherumfoodle" did make a mistake. With the best intentions
in the world, I never knew any thing that made as many singular
mistakes as the "Goosetherumfoodle." From that day I took a liking
to the "Goosetherumfoodle" and the result was I soon saw into the very
depths of its literary merits, and did not fail to expatiate upon
them, in the "Turtle," whenever a fitting opportunity occurred. And it
is to be regarded as a very peculiar coincidence- as one of those
positively remarkable coincidences which set a man to serious
thinking- that just such a total revolution of opinion- just such
entire bouleversement (as we say in French)- just such thorough
topsiturviness (if I may be permitted to employ a rather forcible term
of the Choctaws), as happened, pro and con, between myself on the
one part, and the "Goosetherumfoodle" on the other, did actually again
happen, in a brief period afterwards, and with precisely similar
circumstances, in the case of myself and the "Rowdy-Dow," and in the
case of myself and the "Hum-Drum."
Thus it was that, by a master-stroke of genius, I at length
consummated my triumphs by "putting money in my purse," and thus may
be said really and fairly to have commenced that brilliant and
eventful career which rendered me illustrious, and which now enables
me to say with Chateaubriand: "I have made history"- J'ai fait
I have indeed "made history." From the bright epoch which I now
record, my actions- my works- are the property of mankind. They are
familiar to the world. It is, then, needless for me to detail how,
soaring rapidly, I fell heir to the "Lollipop"- how I merged this
journal in the "Hum-Drum"- how again I made purchase of the
"Rowdy-Dow," thus combining the three periodicals- how lastly, I
effected a bargain for the sole remaining rival, and united all the
literature of the country in one magnificent Magazine known everywhere
Rowdy-Dow, Lollipop, Hum-Drum,
Yes, I have made history. My fame is universal. It extends to the
uttermost ends of the earth. You cannot take up a common newspaper
in which you shall not see some allusion to the immortal Thigum Bob.
It is Mr. Thingum Bob said so, and Mr. Thingum Bob wrote this, and Mr.
Thingum Bob did that. But I am meek and expire with an humble heart.
After all, what is it?- this indescribable something which men will
persist in terming "genius"? I agree with Buffon- with Hogarth- it
is but diligence after all.
Look at me!- how I labored- how I toiled- how I wrote! Ye Gods,
did I not write? I knew not the word "ease." By day I adhered to my
desk, and at night, a pale student, I consumed the midnight oil. You
should have seen me- you should. I leaned to the right. I leaned to
the left. I sat forward. I sat backward. I sat tete baissee (as they
have it in the Kickapoo), bowing my head close to the alabaster
page. And, through all, I- wrote. Through joy and through sorrow,
I-wrote. Through hunger and through thirst, I-wrote. Through good
report and through ill report- I wrote. Through sunshine and through
moonshine, I-wrote. What I wrote it is unnecessary to say. The style!-
that was the thing. I caught it from Fatquack- whizz!- fizz!- and I am
giving you a specimen of it now.
CommentsPost a Comment
17 Jul, 2014 01:51 AM
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