Dear Friend Robert Merry: Letters from nineteenth-century children

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1840s: 184118421843184418451846184718481849

1850s: 1850 • 185118521853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 1860186118621863186418651866186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

About the Merry Cousins


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The Cousins’ Greatest Hits



Connecticut Literary Institute, Oct. 16.

Dear Mr. Merry: I have addressed you once before, dating from the town of Bristol. I am now a student in the Connecticut Literary Institute, treading up the ladder of learning, and I have already been many a round through the pages of your excellent Museum. And now, although I am away from home, I have it monthly, for my parents send it to me. I was much surprised and disappointed when I heard the September number had not come, for I had expected a rich treat in perusing its contents. I have not found time to guess the enigmas in the October number, for we students have enough to do in studying our lessons. I liked the story of the Fairy Mignonne, and hoped it would be continued for a long time. I really hope Billy Bump is not lost.

The articles entitled “Wonderful Trees” are very interesting, as well as instructive; and I should like your magazine quite as well were it full of such pieces: but some like stories, and others riddles, so that you have to put in a little of every thing, to suit all tastes. I hope Sammy Sassafras will continue his letters, for they are very interesting. By the way, about thirty adventurers for California, went from Bristol, and the last we heard from them was, that they were half starved.

When I began, I intended to give you a description of this institution, but my thoughts were all about you; but now I will begin. It is composed of two brick buildings,—one for ladies, and the other for gentlemen: the rooms are about fifteen feet square, where the students study and sleep. The first tier of the gentlemen’s department is divided into three rooms, for philosophical apparatus, recitation, and study; those under fifteen study in the chapel. In the other department, on the first tier, we eat our meals; and the second is devoted to recitation, drawing, and music rooms, and a large parlor for visitors. The third and fourth are divided into rooms for study. The bell will soon ring for prayers, and so I must close my epistle.

From your friend and subscriber,
Charles E. M—.

Billy and Lucy Bump (in Robert Merry’s Museum ; 1848-1850): characters in “Billy Bump in Boston” (1848-1849), “Billy Bump Off for California” (1849), and three “Letters from Billy Bump” (1850). In humorous letters between Billy and his mother at home in Sundown, country-bumpkin Billy describes his efforts to fit into the social and cultural life of his Boston relatives and to impress his cousin, Lucy. Billy’s adventures allow the author to comment on society and to teach the reader good manners and ethics. A raccoonskin cap given Billy by an old friend temporarily makes him an object of derision, but he gains the respect of his tormentors. He also gained the respect of his readers, who defended Billy’s blunders and his awkward attempts at poetry. When the family fortunes fail, Billy is off for the gold fields of California and for adventures that teach him and the readers the evils of greed and of immoral living.

Wonderful Trees: 10-part series of illustrated articles (in Robert Merry’s Museum ; 1849-1850). Each article combines physical description with a discussion of the plant’s use by humans. Included were the baobab, willow, orange, maple, juniper, almug, plane, rubber, and cypress trees, as well as the aloe plant.

Fairy Mignonne: character in “The Fairy Mignonne,” a three-part fairy tale (in Robert Merry’s Museum ; 1849) in which good-hearted Mignonne helps a poor young man win the hand of the woman he loves.


Mr. Merry: Pray excuse me for asking you a question. Is the story of Billy Bump a true story, or a fancy story? I have had a dispute with James Simpson about it; and I have bet with him my spelling-book, against his grammar, that it is a real, genuine history. Now, will you say who has won? and oblige

Yours, respectfully,
John Spicer.

[Editor: ] We do not encourage betting: it is a low, vulgar practice, and we shall give no countenance to it by answering the above question.


Dear Robert Merry: I am a very little girl, and I cannot read or write. This is written for me by my sister Delia. I hear all the children talking about Robert Merry. Now, pray, come and see me some day, and I will show you my doll, and my little cooking-stove, and my blue glass beads, and all my things. I’ve got some new red slippers, and I guess mamma will give you a nice piece of pumpkin pie when you come.

Good by.
Jane A—.


Winton, Nov. 4.

Mr. Merry: I have had a great deal of pleasure in reading your Museum, but have been disappointed in not finding any puzzles in the last number. I send you a conundrum which was written for me by a friend, which I suppose your subscribers will not find very difficult to solve.

My first, is a word which we commonly use

When we taste what we like; or commend

A pithy expression: nor would we refuse,

To prefix it, before the word friend.

My second, to be, is the ardent desire

Of all who this world highly prize;

Altho’, my young friends, I trust you’ll aspire

To what is more worthy your sighs.

My whole is a name which o’er all girls and boys

A magical power must wield,

As leading them on to taste of the joys

Cull’d from wisdom and virtue’s fair field.

When I was at Baltimore last, I went to see an exhibition of canary birds which I thought very curious.

There were one hundred of them, and they cut a great many funny capers, but I thought they acted the death of Marshal Ney better than any thing else. They were dressed in marshals’ uniform, with military caps and cloaks, and mounted on toy-horses. The little bird which acted Napoleon, was the most inquisitive little bird you ever saw, and kept turning his head about as if giving orders, while the others sat as if listening most attentively to them. A very small cannon was brought out, and a little post set up with a stick balanced on it, just above the touch-hole of the cannon. One end of this stick was set on fire, and a little bird representing the gunner, upon receiving the order jumped upon the stick, which caused it to fall on the touch-hole, and made the cannon go off with a loud report, while Marshal Ney fell as if killed. Two of them stood on a pistol while it was shot off and never moved. They suffered themselves to be put in little coffins, with lighted torches around them, and did not stir until the flames came very near them. They did a great many other things of which I have not time to tell you.

That little girl’s letter from Paris was very interesting, and I should like her to write again. She must have felt rather flat when the donkey threw her over his head. If I had been in her place I should have been very much frightened.

We hope you will not stop with Billy Bump, for we want very much to see how he got on at the gold-diggings.

I am the same little boy, Mr. Merry, who wrote to you last May telling you that I was then only nine years old. I shall be ten on Christmas-day. I always look forward to that day with a great deal of pleasure.

I should like very much if you ever come to Baltimore, to have you visit Centreville on the eastern shore of Maryland, which was the former residence of Mr. R—n, now a pastor in Boston, who says he is acquainted with you. If you should come there, we should certainly invite you to Winton, where you would meet with a most cordial reception.

Your friend and admirer,
R. T. E.

conundrum: The answer is “Goodrich.”

Marshal Ney (1760-1815): French officer famous for bravery and military skill. Sent with his army to stop Napoleon in 1815, Ney instead joined him; he was condemned to death and shot.


Memphis, Dec. 10, 1849.

Mr. Merry: Dear Sir—My brother Thomas has been a subscriber to your Museum for several years past, and I have been an occasional reader of it myself. Last night he left home by stage for Jackson, Tenn., to commence his studies in the West Tennessee College, located in that town, and he has left all the back numbers to me, and I have taken his place in father’s store. I now feel able to set up for myself a little, and I want to become a subscriber to your Museum, so will you direct me one every month next year. Direct it to R.A. P—r, jr, Memphis, Tennessee. [p. 64 ]

This is a wintry night: it is snowing very fast out doors, and the snow is already two inches deep, but I am sitting by a cheerful coal fire. Father is lying down with his gown and slippers on, and mother is lying upon the couch, reading the December number of the Museum, and has just commanded us little ones to be silent, while she reads Billy Bump’s letter from California.

This, Mr. Merry, is a very interesting letter, and I was sorry when it ended. After mother had concluded the letter, my brother G., who had been an attentive listener, asked her whether the mule upon which the Spaniard rode was drowned or not? Mother was unable to say; the letter stated that he was “carried down stream by the current.”

I am astonished at the presumption and pertness of “Nonpareil Small Caps;” he says he is thirteen years old, and can see nothing instructive in Billy Bump’s letters. He says they are too childish for him. Really, Mr. Merry, I should have thought from his vanity and presumption, that instead of thirteen years, he was at least thirty years of age. I am thirteen years old myself, and think that I am as smart as most boys are of my age, and I find a great many interesting and instructive things in Billy’s letters and those of his mother. I should think that Billy was, by several years, older than “Small Caps.”

It is getting late, and I must draw my letter to a close, so I must stop. Good bye.

Your friend,
R. A. P., Jr.

[Editor: ] We have to say, in respect to the mule, spoken of in the preceding letter, that we have no information upon the subject, beyond what is said by Master William Bump in his account of the melancholy disaster. We are left to inference alone; it looks very much as if the poor brute was drowned and ate up by the alligators; but, inasmuch as mules are pretty knowing fellows, may be he got ashore. If I get any account of him, my friend R. A. P., jr., shall hear of it.

Thomas: Thomas Parker (born c1832, Tennessee).

West Tennessee College: college reorganized in 1843-1844, from the Southwestern Baptist University (itself originating from the Madison Male Academy). The College was known for the high quality of the work done there. [Emma Inman Williams. Historic Madison, 3rd ed. Np: np, 1986 ; p. 278]


Tuscarora, Lee Co., Iowa, Dec. 19, 1849.

Dear Mr. Merry: I wrote a letter to you some time ago, but as you had so many on hand, mine, with many others, was not published. But I thought I would try again, and see what success I shall have this time. We like the Museum very much indeed.

The stories of Master Billy Bump are very interesting. I think he underwent a great many trials and troubles in his journey to California. Please continue his letters. We live in the middle of a large prairie, with not much advantages of learning. We are small in stature, but large in feeling, perhaps for the want of news and knowledge. Good bye.

From your blue-eyed friends and subscribers,
Mary L. B.
William H. B.
John C. B.


Zebulon, Georgia, Jan. 6, 1850.

Dear Mr. Merry: I have seen so many letters from your little black and blue-eyed correspondents, that I long to become one of them; and when we saw the proposal to send an engraving of Mr. Goodrich to those that paid in January, I asked mamma for the money, and she said, “Write a pretty letter, and you may have it.” We always pay punctually, but the inducement makes us brisker this time. We have been taking your nice little work for six years, and welcome every number with more delight. I have three brothers, and four little sisters; and if you could see our joy when papa makes his appearance with the Museum, you would say that it was indeed appreciated.

I live in a retired little village in middle Georgia, with a court-house, two churches (but no steeples and bells), two academies, several stores and shops, and about 25 dwelling houses; but, alas! we are off the railroad, and our place does not increase—but there are many thriving towns springing up around us, and I hope some day to live in one of them. Our state is rapidly advancing. We have many improvements in art progressing, and besides we have a pleasant climate, fine water, delightful fruit and vegetables, and best of all, good health. We also have large corn, cotton, and wheat fields, and almost every thing to make us happy and comfortable. Now, Mr. Merry, don’t you think we ought to be very good for all these things? I had almost forgotten to tell you of some of our natural curiosities. We have a stone mountain, at which fairs are held every year, that visitors say surpasses Niagara falls in sublimity; we have also several falls, which are magnificent. If you will pay us a visit, I think you will pronounce our State as ranking number one—and if you come near me, I will be sure to go and see you.

Why do I see so few letters to you from the sunny south? Do our little boys and girls love you less than they do at the north? You say you are the same as Peter Parley, and I know your books have found their way among us, and I think it is only necessary to read them to love the author[.] Now, Mr. Merry, have you favorites? and won’t you accept letters from a distance, as you will those near home? or are they not well written and spelt? or do they not patronize your work here as they do north? or what is the matter?

Well, Mr. Merry, I do like you, and if you will notice this long letter, I will write again. You must know I am only nine years old, and mamma says she thinks it is as well as could be expected from a little girl of my age. Pray send the portrait, so that I may know you when I see you.

Your little friend,
Louisa J. N.

engraving of Samuel Goodrich: A steel engraving of Samuel Goodrich was sent to subscribers who paid in advance for 1850; engravings of later editors were used as premiums as well.

Peter Parley: the extremely-popular character created by Samuel Goodrich; beginning in 1827, Peter Parley directly addressed young readers in books calculated to educate them about the world and its inhabitants. Children reacted immediately, loving the old man with the gouty foot so much that unscrupulous publishers appropriated Parley for their own works. Frustrated by the flood of counterfeit Parleys, Goodrich actually “killed off” his creation in Peter Parley’s Farewell, a study of metaphysics published in 1840, and announced his death in the Museum in 1841—to the surprise of several readers. Parley was “resurrected” in 1845, when Parley’s Magazine was absorbed by the Museum. He joined “Robert Merry” as a putative editor of the magazine.

Parley’s Magazine: periodical (16 March 1833-1844), founded by Samuel Goodrich. A precursor to the Museum , Parley’s emphasized non-fiction, poetry, and moral fiction; articles covered geography, biology, astronomy, manufacturing, anthropology, and biography. Though the magazine ceased publication in 1844, its merger with the Museum was not officially announced until August 1845.


Rome, N. Y., Jan. 17, 1850.

Mr. Merry: Dear Sir—I take the liberty of writing to you the first time I ever wrote a letter in my life. I spoke at school last week, “You’d scarce expect [p. 128 ] one of my age,” &c.; and now pa says I may write you a letter, and punctuate it myself, so you must forgive mistakes. I think a great deal of little “Billy Bump,” and others of your little letter writers, and only wish I could write as well.

I have dreamed about you a number of times, and last night again. You appeared tall, and a little round-shouldered—hair combed straight back over your head, a little gray, and very long. I thought you came along near where I was, with little Billy Bump by your side, and I reached out my hand to shake hands, and you laughed, and winked at Billy Bump, and said you would shake hands with me “over the left.” I felt so bad that I awoke, and behold, it was a dream! I told father my dream this morning, and he said that probably the reason that you would not shake hands was, that I owed you for the Museum for the last year or two, which may be the case, as we have only paid the agent that solicited the first year’s subscription. I am willing to pay, only let the publishers send the bill, and the picture must come, of course.

I do not know any thing to write that is new. We have an excellent school here, a fine building, fine teachers, and a fine village. Here fought the brave Willett and Gansevoort, here stood old Fort Stanwix, and here is modern Rome.

I like the Museum very much, and the more pictures you put in with your stories, the better I like it; and I always like the answer of a conundrum in the next number, for I do not like to play yankee and guess for more than a month at a time.

I shall not be offended if you do not publish this, but shall do by you as you did by me in the dream, if you do not.

Your friend,
W. A. C.

“You’d scarce expect”: David Everett, “Lines Spoken at a School Exhibition, By a Little Boy Seven Years Old”: “You’d scarce expect one of my age/ To speak in public on the stage.” The next lines beg indulgence for not being a Cicero or Demosthenes. The poem gained popularity after being published in Caleb Bingham’s Columbian Orator (Boston: Manning & Loring, 1797); it was one of the most popular pieces in American schools.

“over the left”: Brewer: “In early Victorian time a way of expressing disbelief, incredulity, or a negative.” The example cited is from Pickwick Papers (1836-1837): “Each gentleman pointed with his right thumb over his left shoulder.” [Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, rev. ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1963.]

Peter Gansevoort (1749-1812): soldier. In spring, 1777, he was appointed commander of Fort Schuyler (Fort Stanwix), at what is now Rome, New York. Here he and his men successfully withstood a siege by a vastly superior British force. The men improvised a flag from white ammunition shirts, a blue cloak taken from the British, and bits and pieces of red fabric, raising the “stars and stripes” in battle for the first time.

school: probably the Rome Free Academy, incorporated in 1848. In this two-story brick building were a laboratory, a lecture room, and separate study rooms for girls and boys; the school had male, female, and primary departments. In 1850 the Liberty Street School was built. [Henry J. Cookinham. History of Oneida County, New York. Chicago: S. J. Publishing Co., 1912; vol 1: 371-372]

Marinus Willett (1740-1830): soldier. One of the Sons of Liberty, he took part in several operations against the British before serving in a New York regiment. In 1777 Willett was second in command under Peter Gansevoort at Fort Schuyler (Fort Stanwix).


Paris, March 14th, 1850.

Encouraged by your kindness in permitting my first attempt at writing to you to be published in your Museum, my dear Mr. Merry, I venture to trespass upon your time once more. I certainly never expected to see myself in print, so early in [p. 158 ] life, and great was my excitement when I saw my letter published in a real book! Oh, if I feel so excited, what must those feel who are able to write stories for you; who can have the pleasure of seeing their productions in every number! Why, I really think I should have to manufacture some paper or goose-feather wings, so great would be my desire to fly—even now I have a strong inclination to mount upwards; and when I went out the day after I received the November number, I carried an additional supply of ballast, such as a larger hoop and jump-rope, and my cherished letter to re-read to myself. I soon, however, gave the hoop and skipping-rope to Madame Lectrice, (my governess,) and seated myself beneath a tall elm-tree, and learned my epistle by heart.

When I had been there a short time, some of my little French friends came running up to me, to beg me to join them in playing school. I felt as if I had fallen from the clouds, and I imagine I must have looked rather wild, for my gay companions burst out laughing at me. When they first spoke to me, I was busy, in imagination, with printers and publishers, who were contending for the honor of bringing out my “last work,” in twelve volumes! The perils of authorship rose before me, and with one breath I blew down all my unstable castles in the air, and was a little girl again, much to the satisfaction of my governess, and my friends, who I really believe began to think me crazy; but I showed my Merry’s Museum, and my letter in it, and instantly, my dear friend, you were threatened by a tremendous inroad of romances, tales and letters from black-eyed Annette, Marie, Blanche, and I do not know how many others. They, however, as I thought, forgot it in half an hour, and I felt much relieved. My relief was not, however, of long duration; for the next day, they all came armed with formidable pieces of paper, each of which made me shiver as if I had the ague. What will you think of me, Mr. Merry? I have not the courage to refuse my dearest friend, Annette, and so I have translated a little story of her composition, and send it to you. The faults are all mine, and so if any one is to suffer, let it be me. Throw my letter into the fire, (even if it be post-paid), but for my sake, and for the sake of the reputation I have among my little French companions here, of being intimate with you, pray publish the story. Father says, “A fellow-feeling makes us kind,” and that you will not refuse the request of an authoress. Is he quizzing me, Mr. Merry? The story is below; and after subscribing myself your penitent young friend, I give place to Annette.

Lizzie G—.


Julie’s white, curly, mischievous dog—Fidèle by name—had just left his bath, nicely washed and combed—his silver bells tied round his neck with pink ribbons, when he heard a great noise in the court. Out he went, barking as loud as he could, no doubt thinking that there was another revolution.

When he arrived in the yard, he saw a sight that made him excessively angry. A large cat, with a most formidable tail, was standing, looking daggers at an old hen, who was keeping her brood of chickens behind her, and ready to fly at Miss Grimalkin, if she again attempted to seize one of them.

Now, Fidèle had a particular affection for the old Biddy, and without stopping to think that Puss was twice as large as he was, he sprang at her tail, and bit it with all his force. With a terrific meaw, the cat brought her sharp claw up to Fidèle’s face, tearing, in the descent, his chain of silver bells from his neck, and mounted with them into a large tree. This was unbearable; and hen and dog both set up a great cackling and barking, which soon drew the gardener to the spot. For a minute, he stood and laughed to see the old hen, swelled to twice her ordinary size, so that one could almost count her feathers, and Fidèle, with a bleeding face, and enraged expression, grinning revenge at Puss, who stood on a high branch, with “bells on her toes,” looking as if she began to be afraid of the allied forces. With a broom, however, the gardener drove Puss from the tree, and she started off on a run, leaving the bells behind her, with Fidèle after her. His legs were so short, and he was so excited and hot, that he did not much mind where he went; and when his flying foe sprang into a tree, at the side of a pond, he sprang into the water and disappeared from view. When he rose, there was the cat, laughing at him so hard, that she was obliged to hold on to the tree with her claws to keep from falling. Enraged, dirty and draggled, he scrambled out, and made for the house. Just then he heard his mistress calling him, and running [p. 159 ] round the corner to meet her, she caught him in her arms. She had come to seek him to show him to some company who had just arrived. She was dressed in a pretty white dress, and expected to find Fidèle arrayed in the same manner; but now she was nearly as dirty as he was, and the tears began to roll slowly down her cheeks. The dog seeing this, put his face to hers and soothingly patted her cheek with his paw, leaving a long line of dirty water on her face. She could bear this no more, and running into the house, dashed Fidèle into a big bathing-tub, and there left him to soak and meditate, while she changed her soiled dress.

When she came back, he looked as subdued as possible; and it was not until he found himself upon the hearth-rug, with his bells upon his neck, and his curly hair rendered white again by a thorough scrubbing, that he dared look his now laughing mistress in the face, or gambol for the benefit of the company.


“fellow-feeling makes us kind”: David Garrick, “Prologue On Quitting the Stage” (1776): “A fellow-feeling makes one wond’rous kind.”


Detroit, March 12th, 1850.

Dear Mr. Merry: I have taken the Museum for three years, and like it very much, for it has given me amusement many a time. The parts I like best are history, biography, travels and fun. I was very much amused at “Billy Bump’s” adventures, and I wish you would write more of the same kind. I am one of your black-eyed friends, but have been an invalid for a year, which confines me to the house most of the time. I am a student of French, Latin, and the English branches, and as I have time enough, I have written several stories, which I intend to send to you, if you want me to. As I have not seen in any of the numbers of the Museum an account of Detroit, I may as well give a short one. This city contains about twenty thousand inhabitants, and is situated on a beautiful river of the same name, which separates it from Canada, and connects Lake Erie with Lake St. Clair. The city has a large commerce with Buffalo, Chicago, and the towns on the upper and western lakes. It has a direct communication with nearly all parts of Michigan, by the central railroad which runs through the centre of the State, from Detroit to New Buffalo. We have an elegant line of steamers which are rivalled only by those on the Hudson river. There is a fort nearly erected on the lower part of the river, which would be a pretty sure defence for the city, if attacked. This is the best description I can give you of Detroit, and I hope it will do. I now must close. I send my love to you, and to old Peter Parley, and I hope you won’t forget


P. S.—You will do me a great favor if you will publish this letter, as it will be my first appearance in print.

T. D. W.

fort: Fort Wayne was authorized by Congress in 1841 and finished in 1851. A square fortress with a moat, it was built on a bluff overlooking the river.


Middleburgh, Loudon Co., Virginia.

Mr. Parley: I cannot feel that it would be quite proper in me, to address you any longer as “my dear,” since the reception of your likeness has discovered the imposition practised upon the whole tribe of black and blue eyed correspondents. You have come to us every month, in the form and aspect of a venerable old man, requiring the support of his cane, surrounded by a troop of children, talking of old age and rheumatism, with an occasional hint that “your qualities surpass your charms;” and when by such false pretences, you have enticed us into an affectionate correspondence, you spring a mine upon us, and come forth such a good-looking, smart, middle-aged gentleman, that we blush to think how familiar we have been. Not that I like you the less, Mr. Parley, for not being old and ugly; but as I am eleven years old, you know it would not seem right to be so unreserved with you, hereafter. However, I send you a conundrum which I found in an old manuscript the other day; and as I always pay my postage, I hope you will publish it.

Your friend,
Fanny B. C.


One fourth of Colossus, or half of a cold;

With a virgin recluse, of a sanctified mould;

Add to these a most empty, and noisy machine,

And a thing without meaning, you’ll find they will mean.

[Editor: ] What a real quiz that Fanny B. C. must be!

“your qualities surpass your charms”: the “meaning” of the mignonette, in several American works devoted to the language of flowers, from the 1830s through the end of the century. [Judith Walsh. “The Language of Flowers in Nineteenth-Century American Painting.” The Magazine Antiques, 156 (October 1999): 518-531; p. 529.]

conundrum: The answer is “conundrum.”


Rhinebeck, April 8th, 1850.

To the Editor of Merry’s Museum: The following is a most true account written by a lad, now one of your subscribers; and as Howe’s cave has some celebrity, I have thought the communication might be interesting to your readers. Should you conclude to publish it, it is, of course, subject to any corrections you may choose to make.

Yours respectfully,
C. E. S.


In the month of August 1849, I was on a visit to the small but pleasant village of S********. It being our summer vacation, there was nothing to disturb our minds or weary our brains, except the arrangements that pertained to the next day’s pleasure trip. We had agreed to visit a huge cavern in the neighborhood, called Howe’s cave. This cave was discovered by accident a few years since by the person from whom it takes its name.

The way in which it happened was this. The discoverer was one day sitting on the ground near his house, amusing himself with his violin. While thus sitting, his attention was directed to a small hole in the ground, from which cool air seemed to come. His curiosity being excited by this circumstance, he took a spade and commenced digging around it; and after digging some time, he found to his delight that there seemed to be a large pit underneath. He pursued his explorations slowly and cautiously at first, from fear of deep holes and unhealthy air, but advanced further and further, until now the cave has been penetrated to the distance of about six miles.

The afternoon selected for our excursion was as fair and pleasant as could be wished, with the exception of rather a warm atmosphere. Everything being ready, we started; and after a ride of about an hour we arrived at the public house near the cave, where we found a large company of young ladies and gentlemen who had come for the same purpose. Having obtained old clothes and other articles necessary, we entered the cave. The guide gave us each a torch, and he carried an air-tight box with tinder and other combustibles inside, that he might strike a light if by any accident the torches should be extinguished.

The entrance of this cave, which a few years ago was only a small hole, just large enough for a man to crawl through, has been cut away and extended so that a carriage can pass in. The [p. 189 ] first thing we noticed was the great change of atmosphere. Having proceeded a small distance, we turned to the right and ascended a natural stairway. Looking around, we beheld two large rooms, one leading into the other. These were beautifully decorated with stalactites hanging down from the ceiling like icicles, and glittering in the light of the torches.

While going along, we were struck with the diversities of the path, sometimes treading along a low, narrow passage, hardly large enough to pass through by stooping; then opening into a spacious room with a ceiling forty feet high; now climbing up rocks, now descending into deep caverns. While proceeding in this manner, the guide told us to stop and listen. We listened and heard a noise like the roaring of a cataract in the distance. As we went on, it became louder and louder; but what is very curious, the cataract has never been discovered, although it has often been searched for.

After a while we came to a beautiful lake. This lake is almost four hundred feet long, and from five to forty feet deep, but not very wide. A boat was moored to the shore, in which half of our company took passage, it not being large enough to accommodate all. As we were sailing over the lake, we noticed hanging over our heads ornaments more beautiful than any we had yet seen. On the opposite shore the guide showed us a very large stalagmite, said to be the largest one known, and computed to weigh twenty tons. Among other curiosities, he pointed out to us the piano, which when struck, sends forth a sound resembling the music of that instrument. As one half of our party were still waiting on the other side, I returned with the boat and remained.

As I stood alone upon the bank, the scene before me was truly beautiful. The boat gliding over the lake, receding further and further, and the torches throwing their light over the water, the first party on the other side singing, and their music echoing through the cave, added greatly to the grandeur of the scene. We soon set out on our return, and on arriving at the mouth of the cave, it was just dark.

E. C. S.


Cape Lookout, April 5th.

I declare, Mr. Merry, I never felt more like scolding in all my life. My last letter is not in the Museum, and no notice is taken of it in any way whatever. I have not the satisfaction of knowing whether you ever even received it. Generally, when you have not room to print all the letters you get, you at least acknowledge the reception of them by saying, “we have also favors from A, B, C, or X, Y, Z;” but there is no favor acknowledged from me. What does it mean, Mr. Merry?

Now I can scold famously, and I have got up quite a credit for it among my school-fellows. I don’t know whether you or any who may read this, will consider it a desirable reputation or not, but you, Mr. Merry, are doing your best to encourage me in it, by giving me an opportunity. But I’ll tell you what I’ll do. If you’ll publish this letter, I will not give a blow or speak a scolding word for a week. What an inducement for one like you, so desirous of inculcating good principles in children! Perhaps you don’t approve of the system of bribing; but suppose you can’t gain your end in any other way, won’t you make the best of a bad job?

Now let me lay the case plainly before you, and you will feel with me that I have been injured. I chose a sheet of gilt-edged paper, with a beautiful rose in the corner, borrowed grandpa’s gold pen, and seated myself at mother’s writing-desk. I told you where I lived, and what I did, and who I was; and thinking that this would have at least the merit of being something new to you, I folded my letter, directed it and sent it—and—and—and—O! I see my fault. Pardon, Mr. Merry, you are the one to scold. I forgot the postage!



St. Louis, April 30th, 1850.

Mr. Merry:—I accompanied my mother last summer on a visit to my little brother at the Canandaigua Academy, N. Y., and spent several days most delightfully in the family of M. W., Esq., who is the head of the Institution. On bidding good-bye, Mr. W. promised to send me your Museum, which I have regularly received and read with the deepest interest.

Accompanying the number of the current month, was an engraved likeness of the editor, which my father tells me is very good. I am delighted to gaze at this representation of Peter Parley; and would, if I could do so, most warmly clasp his hand, and thank him for the great pleasure his many stories have imparted to me—especially the “Snow Storm,” which so forcibly teaches obedience to parental wishes. I did not recollect that his name was Goodrich, and am glad to have it impressed on my memory by means of so nice a picture. I wish I could see one, with whom I have often held such pleasant intercourse in my youthful studies. I shall in a few days leave St. Louis for Canandaigua, N. Y., where I expect to spend some years at the Seminary in charge of Mr. and Mrs. T.— and I desire that my copy of the Museum be sent to me at that place.

I always look most anxiously for its arrival, and enjoy its contents more than words can express. How many thanks are due to you by the little girls of the whole country, for such an enterprise for their amusement and instruction! I must bid you good-bye.

Yours truly,
Rachel E. W—.

“The Snow Storm”: story (in Robert Merry’s Museum ; January 1850). Heedless of her father’s warnings about sudden snowstorms, Cornelia goes nutting with her friends. When snow begins to fall and her friends disagree about the path home, she stubbornly strikes out by herself and almost dies in the storm.

Canandaigua Academy: academy founded in 1791. The building itself was begun in 1796 and was rebuilt in 1836. In 1850 the Academy had twenty-two male students ranging in age from 12 to 18. [George S. Conover, ed. History of Ontario County, New York. Syracuse, New York: D. Mason & Co., 1893; vol 1: 225. • Charles F. Milliken. A History of Ontario County, New York, and Its People. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1911; vol 1: 282. • The Academian, March 1916; pp. 13, 15. • M432. 1850 United States Census; reel #571: 160]

seminary: the Ontario Female Seminary, founded in 1825. In 1848 Edward G. Tyler and his wife took charge, enlarging the 2-story brick building in 1852 to accomodate 80 boarding students, over 12 teachers, and a large day school. In 1850 it had about 60 students ranging in age from 13 to 20. The school closed in 1875. [M432. 1850 United States Census; reel #571: 183. • George S. Conover, ed. History of Ontario County, New York. Syracuse, New York: D. Mason & Co., 1893; vol 1: 228. • Charles F. Milliken. A History of Ontario County, New York, and Its People. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1911; vol 1: 283.]

Mr. and Mrs. T.: Edward G. (born c1817) and Mary C. Tyler, American educators. Parents of Maria L. The Tylers moved from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in July 1848 to run the Ontario Female Seminary; Edward may have owned it, as in 1850 he is listed as owning real estate worth $13,000. Tyler remained connected with the Academy until 1867. [M432. 1850 United States Census; reel #571: 183. • George S. Conover, ed. History of Ontario County, New York. Syracuse, New York: D. Mason & Co., 1893; vol 1: 228. • Charles F. Milliken. A History of Ontario County, New York, and Its People. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1911; vol 1: 283.]

M. W.: Marcius Willson (1813-1905), American educator and writer. Husband of Frances A; in 1850 father of Caroline A., Pierpont, Frances E., and Robert. A former student of the Canandaigua Academy, Marcius was its principal (1849-1853); he wrote several histories and readers to be used in schools. [M432. 1850 United States Census; reel #571: 160. • The Academian, March 1916; p. 15. • George S. Conover, ed. History of Ontario County, New York. Syracuse, New York: D. Mason & Co., 1893; vol 1: 225. • Charles F. Milliken. A History of Ontario County, New York, and Its People. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1911; vol 1: 282.]


Vernon, Ct., May 9th, 1850.

Mr. Merry:—I got the Museum for May last Saturday, and with it came the portrait that there has been so much talk about lately. I think that you are a pretty good-looking sort of a man. But after all the portrait don’t look a bit as I thought it would. I expected to see an old man with a broad-brimmed hat, old-fashioned breeches, &c., like the pictures of you that I have seen in some of your books. You don’t look as though you had the rheumatism a great deal; probably you have grinned till you have got over it.

In the Museum I found an Arkansas knot from your correspondent, Wm. Y. C. Thinks I to myself this will be a hard one, but I went to work at it, and in about five minutes I got it untied.

The answer to the enigma of eleven letters is William Bump. I have been much pleased with the story of Thorwald, the Norwegian Rover, and I hope it is not half finished.

But, Mr. Merry, I guess I have written enough for this time, and if you will please to insert this with the following enigma (especially as I have written two letters before and haven’t seen anything of either of them), you will oblige your

Friend and subscriber,
Wm. P—l.


I am composed of 31 letters.

My 1, 8, 29, 20, 22, is a division of time.

My 14, 16, 17, is an animal.

My 7, 16, 20, 14, 11, is a useful article.

My 24, 22, 16, 30, is a fish.

My 14, 8, 16, 12, is used for fuel.

My 25, 12, 5, is an insect.

My 18, 23, 9, 17, 2, 4, is a cold season.

My 3, 13, 28, is a kind of grain.

My 10, 8, 9, is a weight.

My 12, 16, 10, 27, 9, is a foreign language.

My 6, 21, 19, 26, 10, is a garment.

My whole is to me the most interesting part of the Museum.

Thorwald, the Norwegian Rover: eleven-part serial (in Robert Merry’s Museum ; 1850). Set during the 800s, the story follows young Thorwald as he searches for his father, first in Iceland, then in North America. His adventures allow the author to not only teach geography, but to comment satirically on human nature, European social customs, and the miseries of alcoholic intemperance.

“Arkansas knot”: from William Y. C., of Beechland, Union Co., Arkansas (1850.1.159-160)

“the enigma of eleven letters”: from Alice W., of Athens (1850.1.160)

enigma: The answer is “Merrys Monthly Chat with His Friends.”


Elmira, May 20th, 1850.

My Dear Mr. Merry: What could I do without you? All the papers and magazines my father takes, I think are far inferior to your Museum.

I will tell you what I do after I have read it through myself. I get some poor children around me, and read it to them. I heard one of them say that his uncle, who is in California, has seen Billy Bump—but I can hardly believe it. Do you think it is true? How I should like to see poor Billy.

I am not like some little boys and girls who are always finding fault that you don’t put in such and such tales, but I think that you know best what to insert, and so I read cheerfully whatever you put in.

Peter T. Scribble-sheet.


New York, May 20th, 1850.

Dear Sir: I’ve a request to make of you, Mr. Merry, which is very interesting to me. So I take my pen to tell you about it. You may think me very bold, but never asking, you know, is never receiving. Besides, you seem to be kind and good-natured, and will probably not be angry, even if you do not comply with my wishes. Should you be angry, indeed, and threaten to point your pen at me, I can get behind the bushes, and escape without much damage.

Well, as I was saying, I have a request to make of you, Mr. Merry, which is very interesting to me, and perhaps to some other readers of your Museum. I say perhaps, because, as there are many boys of many minds, and many girls of many kinds, they may have different tastes from mine, you know. I think one of your stories is entitled, “Don’t be too Positive,” and so you see I practise what you preach.

But I must come to the business of this letter, which is to make a request of you, Mr. Merry. This talking, and talking, and beating the bush, and never catching the bird, is very tedious, and therefore, I like to see people come to the point at once. When I was a little boy, I teased my Uncle Seth for a story. So he began—

“Once upon a time, there was a man with two dogs. Now one was a big dog, and the other was a little dog. Be particular to remember what I tell you; one of these dogs was a large dog, and the other was a small dog. Now the small dog, you will observe, was the little dog, and the large dog was the big dog.

“Well, as I was saying, once upon a time, there was a man who had two dogs. Now, be careful to remember what I tell you, Bob—one of these dogs was a large dog, and the other”—

How much longer Uncle Seth would have gone on with his big dog, and his little dog, I can’t say, for he was a great quiz; but I saw the joke, and feeling deeply offended, I walked off, and didn’t speak to Uncle Seth again for two days. He finally gave me four-pence, and we made up. I could tell you ever so many anecdotes about Uncle Seth, but since his two dog story, I have disliked talking, and talking, and talking, without ever coming to the point. A word and a blow is my maxim, and so I proceed to state my request.

Not that I would be blunt, or rude, or anything of that sort, Mr. Merry, for the world. It always seemed to me bad manners, for the pig to put his fore-feet into Mrs. John Pippin’s milk pan, and begin to drink, saying, “I have invited myself to supper, ma’am!” Everything, no doubt, should have a suitable and proper introduction, and having made this introduction, I proceed to business.

Now, Mr. Merry—you will doubtless remember—and who among your readers does not remember—that once upon a time you began to write the life and adventures of Tom Titmouse—and you went on and on, and told of everything else, and left this story untold, at last. What I request is that you will finish it!

Bob Short.

“Don’t Be Too Positive”: the fifth of “Peter Parley’s New Stories” (September 1842) The story encourages readers not to speak positively when they may be mistaken.

Tom Titmouse: inspiration for “Thomas Titmouse” (Robert Merry’s Museum ; September 1849), a humorous piece that begins as a chatty treatise on a titmouse, and winds through anecdotes of the narrator’s old friends, nostalgia about old times, and a bit of poetry about childhood before not reaching a destination. A sequel is promised, but not delivered. Reprinted in Faggots for the Fireside (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1854)


Oswego, May 29th, 1850.

Well, well, Mr. Merry, a pretty fix I am in; I had written a letter all ready to send you, containing the answers to the puzzles in the May number, when lo and behold, in danced a June Museum, containing the answers to those very puzzles, and I have been obliged to write my letter all over again, (no little trouble, I assure you;) but mother said I might just as well work out the answers to these last puzzles; so here they are; the first is “Conundrum,” the second, the letter “A,” and I think “Timepiece” will answer for the third, but I am not quite sure—am I right?

My younger sister takes the Museum, and I take much pleasure in reading it. We should like it better if it came every week, instead of every month. You have so many pleasant stories, I hardly know which I like the best. Please continue “Thorwald, the Norwegian Rover,” in which I am very much interested.

Have you ever seen the beautiful city of Oswego? If not, perhaps you would like a short description of it. Still I should much refer to have you come and make us a visit. Oswego is situated on Lake Ontario, at the mouth of the Oswego river. This river divides the city into East and West Oswego. On each side of the river the land is ascending, giving a delightful view of both lake and river. Our harbor is large, and said to be one of the best on the lake. The Oswego river is quite a large stream, and on both sides of it there are plenty of flour mills. Do you know there is more flour made here every year than at any other place in the United States?

There are two bridges across the river, one is free, and at the other toll is demanded. A railroad connects this city and Syracuse, and we have plank roads running in almost every direction. There are eight churches, besides four denominations that use buildings erected for other purposes. Our population is fourteen thousand. We have a fort situated on a commanding spot, which is occupied by officers and soldiers.

You seem to be very much favored with black-eyed correspondents. Are you partial to black eyes? Mine are very blue, but sister’s are black enough to suit you.

Oh, I had nearly forgotten to tell you that I once saw Peter Parley in Buffalo, and it is all a hoax about his being so very old and lame. I am only ten years old, and this was but a few years ago.

Your young friend,
Mary B. G.

plank roads: Mathews: “A road made of planks placed transversely on longitudinal supporting timbers”; the earliest example is dated 1848. [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]

“A” and “Timepiece”: by E. B. H. (1850.1.190)


Mr. Parley:—“The Cat and the Kittens” in your last No. puts me in mind of the history of our old puss, no insignificant member of our domestic establishment. She was an expert thief in her kittenhood, and would hook every eatable thing she could lay her paw on, even the newly hatched chickens; but was so handsome and playful that we pardoned all her offences. She was brought up with another kitten of the same age. The other was less active and interesting, but more honest and exemplary. She would not partake, but appeared to regard rebukingly the stolen articles. When the boys were dressing their small fishes obtained from the brooks with much labor and pains, the roguish kitten would, as often as she could, stealthily seize one, and run away with it in spite of all attempts at a rescue, while the other would sit by looking very wishfully upon so great a luxury (for cats are fond of fresh fish), and appearing to be thankful for the heads and fins which were thrown out to her. We gave the mischievous kitten to a neighbor, and in due time each had a family. A tom-cat killed the thievish one’s kittens; she then came to our house, and watching for an opportunity when the other cat would be absent from her little ones, stole two and carried them home to her own bereaved nest. As if aware of her bad reputation with us, she never came again into our house for four years. This spring there was an exchange of families in the house where she resided: her old associate was dead: we were destitute of a cat, and she seemed inclined to return to us. We did not discourage her, and she continued her advances, slyly at first, but more and more familiarly, till now she is perfectly at home here. Age seems to have sobered, and reclaimed her from her evil ways. She retains much of her early beauty and sprightliness—is a first-rate mouser—and here ends my account of her life. If it is of sufficient interest for a place in the Museum, let your readers have it.

A Subscriber.

“The Cat and the Kittens”: illustrated piece on the value of cats (June 1850).


Danvers, June 24th, 1850.

Dear Mr. Merry: I suppose you have a great many letters, and will hardly thank me, for writing one to you, but I must tell you, that I like the Museum very much. I like it because it has such good stories. Billy Bump is a favorite with me; I am quite anxious about him, and hope he will be good, get rich, and then come home to his father and mother; and when he comes, Mr. Merry, I mean to go to Sundown to see him. Can you tell me how far Sundown is from Boston?

But you do not like long letters: so, Mr. Merry, I will only trouble you to say, that I want your ‘portrait’ to put up in the parlor, by the side of father and mother, and then when I go in to look at them, I shall see you, and think of Billy, and Thorwald, and Mignonne, and many others you have told us about. Mother says she will pay for the Museum now, that you may send it.

Your friend,


Fincastle, July 16th, 1850.

Mr. Merry: Dear Sir—I am now twelve years old, and have been taking your Museum for the last four years, and have read a great many letters to you from your subscribers, but have never read one to you from this place.

I now send you one hoping that you will appreciate the friendship of your little Virginia subscriber. I love to read your monthly chat, and essays, and I derive much information about a great many things. Your description of some of the northern towns and institutions, and the manners and customs of the people, have been very interesting and improving to me. I live here in the valley of Virginia, where I have never seen a railroad or packet-boat, much less a steam-boat, or ship, or large city; still, you must not think that I live out of the world. We have our towns, and churches, and schools; and then we have our green meadows, and corn fields, and flocks of cattle, and wild deer, and fresh water fish, and choice fruits of almost every variety as well as you have in the north; we have our blue mountains with good roads across them, and mineral springs that are visited in this hot weather by people from all parts of America.

Why don’t you, Mr. Merry, come and see our mountains, and our watering-places? I should like to see you at our house. I know that I should be very attentive to you, and give you a great many good things, and ask you a great many questions; and I know that my father would be delighted with you.

Should I have the good fortune to see this my first letter to you in print, then I will write to you again, and give you some more information about the valley of Virginia and our people, and I will also send you an enigma.

From your true friend,

[Editor: ] We shall be glad to hear from Isabella again.


Decatur, Georgia, Aug. 9, 1850.

Dear Mr. Merry: I have sent your picture to the cabinet maker’s to be framed, to show you when you pass this way. I hope you will live to publish the Museum for twenty years to come, and then, I do not think you will look older than you are made to look on the cover of the Museum. Indeed, I think the picture which you sent, represents you as about 47 or 48 years of age. You will find our house on the west side of the Court House square, almost hidden from view by locust trees. There is also in the yard a Pride of China, or, as we call it, China tree, just my age—eleven years old. My father set it out in 1839, when but a few inches high. It now bears berries in abundance, and in the winter time robins and blue jays come to eat them. The bloom of the China tree is much like that of the lilac in appearance and in fragrance. The berries are larger than cranberries. In the spring, the mocking bird perches on our trees, singing in imitation of almost every bird. A blue jay made her nest and hatched young ones on a tree in the yard. When they were trying to learn to fly, they would fall to the ground: if we went to pick them up, the old bird would fly at us and try to peck us. Then we have an insect of the locust kind, which I have never seen, though I have often heard it: we call them Katydid, I suppose from the sentence it seems to utter. But what did Katy do? One sings out, Katy did; another, on another tree, reiterates, Katy did. Sometimes one may be heard to assert that Katy didn’t! Just put your hand on the tree, and Katy has not one word to say till you are gone. As you know almost everything, please tell us what Katy did do. I wonder what little Anne at your elbow would say about my wanting this letter published.

Your little friend,
Sarah M. W.


I confess I am not quite prepared to say positively what Katy did actually do. But I will make a supposition. So far as I know the habits of the insect creation, they do their duty—that is to say, they act as their Creator intended them to do. Boys and girls sometimes tell fibs, pout, disobey their parents, &c. These things are wrong; but I never knew a Katydid, or any kind of cricket or grasshopper, to do anything of this sort. Therefore, I say these creatures do their duty, so far as I know. Now, it is one of the objects, in the creation of insects, as well as of birds, that they should enliven the landscape with songs. Our little friend, the green-mantled grasshopper, Katy, says she did it. She did it last night—and night before. She did it in Georgia, so that S. M. W. heard it; and she did it at Jamaica Plain, so that Robert Merry heard it. She did it all [p. 128 ] over the country, so that the boys and girls heard it; and a great deal of pleasure they had in listening to the little chatterer. So much for the Katy-dids. As to the Katy-didn’ts—we may imagine them to be a set of funny fellows, trying to vary the evening serenade by what the musicians call discord, thereby giving effect to the general harmony. If this explanation is not satisfactory, I hope S. M. W. will say so.

Pride of China or China tree: according to Mathews, also called the “pride of India, the China tree” (Melia azedarach ), the chinaberry or bead tree. This deciduous tree, native to Asia, also grows in the tropics and the subtropics. [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]

Anne: one of the imaginary subscribers who often advised the equally imaginary Robert Merry in the late 1840s and early 1850s.


Milwaukee, Sept. 10, 1850.

Mr. Merry: I see that Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale, is turning all the heads of the people in the city of New York. I have no doubt that she is very wonderful and very interesting. I hope she will not fail to come to our great north-western metropolis, where we shall give her a most thrilling reception. I send you a song which she is at liberty to sing, and I do not ask Mr. Barnum to pay me the 200 dollar prize for it. It is all of my own composition, except the first line, which an intimate friend fixed for me.

I am yours respectfully,


Father of nations! on my bended knee,

My grateful thanks I humbly pay to thee,

That, though a stranger from my friends I roam,

Yet here I find a welcome and a home.

Blest shore of liberty! birth-land of peace!

My voice shall praise thee till her pow’rs shall cease.

The bird of Sweden tries her feeble song,

Beneath the Eagle’s wide and fostering wing;

She trembles not, for to the brave belong

The love and kindness that from valor spring.

Blest shore, &c.

Borne on the billows of the Atlantic tide,

By that great namesake of the wondrous deep,*

I gladly hail’d the emblem of your pride,

Whose stars and stripes I saw around me sweep.

Blest shore, &c.

My own dear flag, the wanderer’s eye to bless,

Waved o’er my head to speak of home’s sweet ties;

Believe me, friends, I do not love it less,

That twined with yours I see it here arise.

Blest shore, &c.

Far o’er the eastern wave it floats at home,

In that dear land that Jenny loves the best;

It comes to greet me here, where now I roam

To see the far-famed country of the “West.”**

Blest shore, &c.

Next to the proud Gustavus’ honor’d name,

Enshrined in my fond heart another lies;

’Tis Washington the Great, whose glorious fame

With Sweden’s Hero emulates the skies!

Blest shore of liberty! birth-land of peace!

My voice shall praise thee till her pow’rs shall cease.

Jenny Lind (1820-1887): the “Swedish Nightingale” who mesmerized America in the 1850s. Hearing of Lind’s popularity in Europe—though not hearing her sing—P. T. Barnum choreographed a concert tour in America that resulted in a Lind-mania that began before Lind set foot in the country. In Aug 1850, in the New York Daily Tribune, Barnum offered a prize of $100—later raised to $200—for a piece of poetry to be set to music and sung by Lind. It was won by Bayard Taylor for a poem on very much the same theme as Infanta’s.

P[hineas] T[aylor] Barnum (1810-1891): great American showman. In 1842, he opened the American Museum in New York, New York. Barnum was a natural showman, masterfully promoting Jenny Lind—a woman he’d never heard sing—and keeping an elephant at his house in Connecticut, to pull a plow whenever a train passed on the nearby railway. In 1871, Barnum opened a circus that became world famous.

Gustavus: either Gustavus Vasa (1496?-1560), Swedish king and founder of modern Sweden who led a revolt against the Danes; or Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1633), Swedish king and military genius who made Sweden a major power and instituted reforms.


Castile, Aug. 6, 1850.

Mr. Merry: I am a little boy of nine years, and have never learned to write, but Mother says she will write what I dictate.

I sent you one dollar by my uncle, in the summer, when he went to New York to buy goods. It was for Merry’s Museum, and I received the first number in June.

I must now tell you how I got my dollar. In the autumn, I pick up all the chestnuts that fall from the trees on my father’s farm, and sell them, reserving a few for the family. Mother says if I were to eat them all, I should be very sick, but if I sell a part and send the money to you for the Museum, I shall receive something every month in the year that will be worth more than chestnuts. Please send the back numbers from January to June, and then my year will be out in December. Good-bye.

Your true friend,
Bushel of Nuts.


Wetumpka, Ala., Sept. 16, 1850.

Mr. Robert Merry: Dear Sir—I have been amusing myself, during my school vacation, by occasionally reading some interesting tales in the bound volumes of your Museum. Father says if I will write you a letter, he will give me a dollar, which will pay for one year’s subscription. I see some of your subscribers write you, and knowing how improving letter-writing is to little boys, I think I can earn the dollar by writing letters; at least my father says he will take his pay in letters. You may send me your magazine, and will receive in this letter a one dollar bill on the bank of Georgia. We do not have much bank paper in Alabama, except that which comes from other states; this is good money here, will buy powder and shot, fishhooks, and anything I want to buy. I expect it will answer your purposes equally as well.

Your new subscriber,
Henry R. S.


East Cambridge, Sept. 14, 1850.

Mr. Merry: Dear Sir—I have now taken your Museum two years, and have begun another year. I find that it is just as interesting now (if not more so) as it was a year ago, when I took the liberty, as now, to write you a letter. Forgive me, sir, but when I read the letters of those both younger and older than myself, I feel as if I might dare intrude once more, before I leave the north for the “sunny south.” When I addressed you before, I had been here only two years, but it is now three years and nearly a half. My father is now at Boston; he has come on to take me home to see my mother and brothers. I have never been home-sick a day since I came here; but now father has come, it seems as if I could not wait two weeks, when, if nothing happens, I shall start for home. Mr. Merry, may I be so bold as to ask you if, when I arrive at home, I may write to you and give you a little information about our place and its inhabitants. I like, very much, the story of “Thorwald, the Norwegian Rover;” I hope it will be continued for some time. Mr. Merry, if you should ever happen as far south as Rome, I hope you will call and see us. I am not sure that you would fare as well as you would at Boston, but we would do the best we could for you. We should feel highly gratified. This is no vain flattery, but the plain, simple truth.

Yours, with great respect,
Lizzie H.

[Editor: ] We accept the invitation with pleasure. But there is one difficulty in our way. We don’t know the name of our kind and hospitable little friend! She has given us only its initial letter. Just imagine Robert Merry wandering about the large town of Rome, inquiring of everybody, “Sir, will you be kind enough to tell me where Lizzie H. lives?” Or, “Madame, is there such a person as Lizzie H. in this neighborhood?” Why, there may be 20 Lizzie H.s in Rome—all very amiable young ladies indeed. There may be Lizzie Hunt, Lizzie Harris, Lizzie Hart, Lizzie Hawes, and we [p. 188] don’t know how many besides. When we get a clearer inkling of Lizzie’s whole name, why, perhaps we’ll come to Rome.


Chester, Warren Co., N. Y., Sept. 26, 1850.

Mr. Merry: Dear Sir—I am a little girl and have not learned to write, but I want to send you a letter. Papa says that if I will tell him just what to say, it will be the same. I want to tell you what a funny trick the Museum played me last April. I looked for it as usual the first of the month, but it did not come; but I kept hoping the next mail would bring it. But when the middle of the month had passed, and my Museum had not come, I felt so bad I could hardly keep from crying; for I thought it was lost, or that some little boy or girl had taken it out to get the portrait you had promised those that paid in advance—but Papa said that could not be.

At last it came, and where do you think it had been? Why, instead of coming to Pottersville, N. York, it went to Pottersville, N. Jersey; but it did not find any little Kate there, to take it out, and so was glad to come into the “Backwoods,” where it belonged, and right glad was I to see it.

How do you punish the Museum when it plays truant?

I do not see how I can do without it, if I feel so bad to have it miss a week or two.

I have taken it two years, and Papa says I may take it as long as I please, which will be always.

In your last No. was an enigma, which I told Mamma I thought was Marie Antoinette, for I had been reading about her, and felt very bad to think she was beheaded. Mamma thinks I am right.

I should think everybody would take the Museum.

Yours, truly,
Kate B.

“backwoods”: Bartlett in 1848: “The partially cleared forest region on the western frontier of the United States, called also the back settlements. This part of the country is regarded as the back part or rear of Anglo-American civilization, which fronts on the Atlantic.” The earliest use in Mathews is dated 1709. [John Russell Bartlett. Dictionary of Americanisms. New York: Bartlett and Welford, 1848. • Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]

“taken it out”: perhaps, “taken it out of the post office.”

enigma: by W. A. D. (1850.2.96)


Frankfort, Ky., Sept. 11.

My Dear Mr. Merry: I have taken your magazine for the last nine years, and in all that time I have not written you a letter excepting to send you my subscription money. I live in a place whose name, no doubt, conveys to the ideas of many of your readers, a place made up of cane-brakes and woods. Kentucky, however, is not so uncivilized as some of the New England chaps may suppose. Frankfort is a business-like and thriving town, and though it cannot boast many very fine buildings, still, it has some very handsome ones, such as the State-house, &c. But the greatest attraction that Frankfort possesses, is the monument erected to the Kentucky soldiers who have fallen fighting for their country; it is sixty-two feet high, and is composed of the finest Italian marble. I never was in Boston, though I have been very near it. I hope to go there some day, when I will call on you, if you are to be found.

Your friend and Subscriber,
J. Y. B.

monument: The monument, in Frankfort Cemetery, was dedicated in 1850. Atop the marble shaft is a marble statue of Victory with four eagles at her feet.

a flourish

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1840s: 184118421843184418451846184718481849

1850s: 1850 • 185118521853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 1860186118621863186418651866186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

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