[K7] “The Spermaceti Papers,” The Citizen Soldier, July 26, 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.)


"Curse him, I say!"

He was in a great passion, was the Grey.  He walked up and down the room, he flung his arms from side to side; his face was flushed, his voice was deep toned and Boothian.  Never had the Grey Ham been so puckered in his temper.

"Curse him, I say!"

"The curse of a blotted proof fall on his head!" echoes Peter Sun.

"The curse of office-hunting be upon him!" shouted Spermaceti Sam, clenching his fist, and growing very red in the face.

"Anathema maranatha!" struck in the deep toned voice of Rumpus Grizzle, the 'reverend clergy.'

"Och, mother o' Moses! Its in a fine humor ye are, gentleman!  The Kilkenny cats was a mere circumstance to ye!  'Curse him, curse him,' 'Anethema maranatha'—that's the way ye've been goin' on for an hour by the clock!  In the divil's name who is it ye're cursin' be the foot —I axe yer Riverence's pardon for the bit of an oath."

"Curse him! Hasn't he written against my Babe?" said the Grey Ham suddenly turning round.

"Hasn't he maligned the Spermaceti?" quoth Sam.

"Abused the Bombazine?" cries Peter.

"Blasphemed the clergy?" shrieks Rumpus.

"Faix I'm up to my eyes in a fog.  Ram me up to the ears in a stove pipe, if I know the taste of this ruction.  Who is it yer a cussin?"

"I curse this penny-a-liner of the Rival Establishment here in Cairo.  He has abused me, he has said hard things of my little Peter, he has caricatured my Rumpus, he has melted my Spermaceti Sam; even my Blow Nakre hasn't been safe.  Curse him!"

"Oh, d—n him by all means, certainly.—Divil a bate do I care about him"—exclaimed Mr. Phelix Phelligrim—"How has he abused you my dear Misther Grey?  Did he say a word against your character?"


"Did he say ye was'nt honest, virtuous, pious?"


"Did he charge ye with robbing a church?"


"Did he charge ye with stealin' pennies off a dead nigger's eyes?"


"What's the fraction, then?  Enlighten me the least bit."

"He said I had been poor once!" said the Grey Ham, in that low tone of unutterable horror, characteristic of a desperate and suicidal turn of mind.  "He said that I, the Grey Ham had been poor once.  That I had served in the ——— daily newspaper for five dollars a week.  That I had been—poor!  Good God—what a disgrace!"

"Och—the divil!"

"Yes," cried Spermaceti Sam, "he said we was'nt geniuses—he says we was'nt all fired big fellers for trowsers.  He said we wrote our own puffs—told lies about our circulation of 100,000 subscribers.  He said"—Sam's cheeks glowed like a red hot Dutch oven—"he said we was—humbugs!"

"Och!  Whalaloo!  Ochone!"

“Now Mr. Phillegrim, I ask you, isn’t it a shame, a burning shame!  Here am I, the Grey Ham.  I do everything to secure the patronage of the public.  Do they want to be gulled?  Who greases a humbug and makes it so smooth and slickery as I do?  Do they want anything fanciful?  Who can concoct a better business fiction than me, or my Tail?  My Rumpus, my little Peter, my Spermaceti, and my Blow?”

“In the best o’ English, Misther Grey Ham, ye can do this lying part a little the natest of any thing this side of the wather.”

“And then with regard to the Contributors to my Babe—”

“Yer Babe!  Och, Whalaloo!—What’s that?”

“A familiar name for my magazine published away out here at Cairo.  With regard to my contributors—‘Pay the rich, insult the poor’ is my motto; it’s a safe one.  There’s Ex-Secretary Paulding, there’s Hoffman, there’s Herbert, there’s Fay—I pay ’em all.  There’s some dozens of poor devils whom I treat with proper scorn—the poor devils!”

“The saints preserve me—here’s the August number of your Babe.  All rich authors—gilded geniuses, seven of the Riverend Clergy—Grizzle noble, ‘Bethune the Beautiful’—etcetera.  Yet here’s one poor author—I’ll be split if there isn’t!  Edgar A. Poe—isn’t he one o’ th’ poor devils?”

“Aye, aye, but my dear Mr. Phillegrim, this same Edgar A. Poe is—is—rather a bitter fellow, and has a way of his own of using up all humbugs.  He carries a Tomahawk—does Poe.  A very bad Tomahawk, a very nasty Tomahawk.  Poe is poor—but we have to get him to write for the Babe.”

“It isn’t meself as is much of a judge of caracter, but it seems to me, ye fear the man?  By the big, bull-frog of Athlone!  ye’ve a wholesome fear of this same poor author—Misther Poe?”

“He doesn’t think I’m a great man,” quoth Rumpus.

“I suspect he thinks I steal the gems of my stories,” cries little Peter.

“I did hear it stated,” observed Spermaceti Sam, “that he said my cheeks gave him the idea of a perambulating beefsteak, going about in search of a spit!”

“But I’ll fix him”—said the Grey—“I’ll get my picture engraved for the next number of the Babe.  I will.  I say, Phillegrim, can you sketch?”

“Faix can I—like a ganius.”

“Here, Phillegrim, take my picture.  Observe the position—it’s grand, ain’t it?  My left hand on my hip—my right extended a la Washington.  A placid smile on my face, Phillegrim—make my forehead something like Henry Clay’s.  Attitude easy, graceful, elegant.  Let there be a large magazine building in the distance, with girls’ heads popped out of the seventh and eighth story windows to see the parade.  You can’t paint Peter Sun in his sanctum, can ye?  In the same posture too?  No?  Now I think of it, I’ll have my forehead like Daniel Webster—I want a wild Aaron Burr eye.  There—a few more touches, Phelix—you’ll make it just right.  Ha—ha—the puppy, to say that I had been poor once!