[K1] “The Spermaceti Papers,” The Citizen Soldier, May 31, 1843

T h e   S p e r m a c e t i   P a p e r s .



“You see, my young friend, said the Doctor, these penny-a-line editors, these ginger-pop poets, and root-beer rhymsters—what are they? the priests that minister at the shrine of Minerva?  No—they are but the l—e crawling around the head of the goddess, the bugs that soil her vestments, the vermin that defile her person.”—(Conversations with Dr. C.)

It was unfortunate—but they would call him Spermaceti Sam.  He was a clever fellow—but he was so very fat.  A talented fellow—but he had an awful extent of lower jaw.  An entertaining fellow—but still, they would call him, Spermaceti Sam.

I’m fond of pictures.  Sam was a picture: a figure somewhat voluptuous in outline, projecting like a globe in the regions of the paunch; broad shoulders, and full chest.  Spermaceti Sam rambled the streets with the easy gait of an elephant, and the action of an ostrich.

His face was like a beacon—full, florid and crimson; with an undecided nose, slightly turning upward; small, rolling, blue eyes; low forehead, topped by masses of golden hair; and a lower jaw that made an impression on your mind never to be forgotten.  You looked upon that jaw and realized the meaning of the word startling.  It seemed like an infinity of jaw, an illimitable extent of crimson-hued blubber.  That was why they called him Spermaceti Sam.  To the eye of the fanciful, he seemed like a vision of train oil, or a dream of tallow.

And Sam was literary.  Sam was critical.  Sam had been poetical;—he had been a statesman in his time.  Sam had also been martial.

But, Sam turned literary at last, and went out “West.”  He took up his quarters at “Cairo,” the grand city, navigable by boats, at the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi.  Sam beheld a great field for literary enterprize.  He would publish a paper—a literary paper.  Something to astonish the raftmen, and set Mississippi in a blaze.  The Rocky Mountains were to be astonished, and the Atlantic surprised!

And as for the title of his paper?  What should it be?  Two papers were already in the full tide of successful experiment at “Cairo.”  The “Salt River,” which was a euphonious contraction of Salt River Journals, and the “Saturday Stick,” which, you must know, was “Saturday stick-in-the-mud” cut short.  Spermaceti Sam bought out these papers.

Mr. P. Sun, or Professor P. Sun, edited the Stick, and S. Acre, Esq., controlled the Salt River.  Spermaceti Sam had an idea.  He would buy out both these papers.  He would combine them in one.

Next week, the boatmen of “Cairo” were astonished by the announcement.  “The Salt River Saturday Stick and Universal Lamp-Post,”—a new weekly, scientific, religious and literary paper, published by Sam’l Spermaceti, Esq., under the editorial control of Professor P. Sun.  N.B.—S. Acre, Esq., will get out the news, attend to the mails, and do the business of the firm.

So Sam was in the full tide of successful experiment.  He came out with a stiff team.  We make an extract from his ‘leader’ of the first paper.  Sam had an ingenious idea.  He cooked up a ‘mess of pottage’ which he called, “Weekly Gossip.”  Here’s a specimen:

“Well, the world’s as usual.  How are ye reader.  We like you, reader.  News from China is discouraging.  The British have made a demonstration in that quarter.  They expect to come to T shortly.  Bulwer is said to be engaged on a new novel.  In our opinion, Bulwer is a very creditable writer.  We like you reader—we do.  Subscribe to our paper.  Look at the first page—what a mass of reading for six cents!  A capital story from the Lady’s Globe of Fashion—‘The June Bug,’ a poem, from the same popular periodical, by P. Sun, Esq.  ‘So, So,’—a clever Yankee story, by H. Shewstring Shell’d, Esq.  ‘Born to Love Pigs and Chickens,’ by N. P. Willis, Esq.  ‘Letter from under a Sty,’ by ditto.  ‘The Poodle Dog,’ by that interesting Poet of Nature, A. B. Sweet, Esq.  Now, reader, there’s attraction for you.  Say we can’t come it.  In our next, we intend to commence an Original American Novel, entitled ‘Lundy’s Lane,’ in which General Scott will form a conspicuous character.  This novel is by the author of ‘The Crooked Stick,’ ‘Bruizing in the Last War,’ ‘Sheets from a Lawyer’s Bag,’ ’Autumn Pollywogues’ and ’Pluck,’ a tale.  Now, then, reader—and all for six cents!  Six red cents!

“P.S.—We stop the press to inform the readers that an interesting and popular series of Lectures, by Dr. Dionysius Lopside, A.L.L.A.S.S.E., on the theory of “Divorce,” now being delivered at the Floating Theatre of Cairo, will be faithfully reported for our paper.”

Such was the spirited leader of the first number of the “Salt River Saturday Stick and Universal Lamp-Post.”

In another article, we may glance at some further passages in the life of Spermaceti Sam, combined with reminiscences of P. Sun and S. Acre, Eqrs.

NOTE.— The above sketch reached our hands through the Despatch Post.  The real name of the author, his object, or the real names of the characters to whom he seems to have reference, are alike matters of mystery and supposition.  We publish the above as a spirited essay—nothing more.