[K8] “The Spermaceti Papers,” The Citizen Soldier, Aug. 9, 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.)


“Be the beauty of my mither’s son, it was grand altogether!  The Duke o’ Wellington’s triumphal enthree into London, was nothing to it—John Tyler’s progress wasn’t half a dozen of it!  Whulaloo! it was a pageant—the Grey Ham’s trip to Saratoga!  “May its memory last a thousand years,” as the Sultan illegantly remarks in the Arabian Nights, on the occasion o’ smellin’ a little bye’s breath scinted with onions and garlic.  ’Twas a grand affair!”

“So you say, Phillegrim—You were along, were you?  Tell us all about it!”

“Well you say, in the first place, the Grey Ham determines to take a trip to Saratoga, and nothing ’ud satisfy him but he must take along with him the whole Spermacetay Club, Spermaceti Sam, Rumpus Grizzel, Peter Sun, Master o’ th’ Bombazine School o’ litherature.  He dresses ’em all up, fixes ’em bewtifull, and they starts for Saratoga.

“Well I fust fell in with the party going up New York Bay; for tho’ I’d started in the same boat I had’nt seen ’em afore.  I fell in with ’em, I did.  They were all standin’ on the bow of the boat, looking towards New York.  Rumpus Grizzel looked very solemn—Peter Sun very much like a bottle o’ ginger pop—he seemed so ready to go off.  As for Spermaceti Sam he stood silent and alone, leanin’ his head against the railin’, and a-sweatin’ like blazes.  The Grey Ham was likewise alone.  He was very pale,—whitewash was nothin’ to him.

“Gentlemen”—see the Grey Ham, a-turnin’ round—“Yonder are the shores o’ New York.  Gentlemen, I hope the people will not make me—a poor, humble, fellow citizen—the subject of any grand display.  I’m not used to it.”

“Verily the shores are black with people,” cried Rev. Rumpus Grizzle—“Lo!  The Gothamites have crowded to welcome us!”

“This is fame!” echoed Peter Sun, snuffing the breeze like a young colt.

“This is fame!” murmured Spermaceti Sam, wiping the perspiration off his cheeks.  “This is fame, no doubt it is.  It may be fame, but its d—d hot.”

Well, what does the Grey Ham do, but as the boat nears the wharf—black as ink with people—what does he do, but jumps up, and seizes the flag-staff and sits astride o’ the railin’ in a way that was pertiklerly perwokin’.

“Gentlemen,” sez he, “gather round me.  The vast myriad yonder are goin’ to hurrah.  Come to my side, Rumpus—here Peter—here Spermaceti Sam—show ’em your face.  You’re my beacon.  Now then—”

“Where is the Blow Nakre?” cried Peter Sun.

“Down in the cabin writin’ Temperance statistics, and a-takin’ of a temperance cocktail,” responded Spermaceti Sam, “and so is our Bob.—But he’s a drinkin’ of a cocktail without the temperance to it.  Bob does them things sometimes.”

“Well, we was now coming near and nearer to the wharf, and the people seemed to grow thicker and thicker.  An onion garden, with a family of ingens in a stalk, was nothin’ to ’em in the way o’ thickness.  No it wasn’t.

“Gentlemen, this is a great duty for us all,” said the Grey Ham, in a low, solemn tone o’ voice.  Yonder you see the triumph of literature.  Yon solemn crowds have assembled to celebrate my triumph—they have.  I did mean to travel incognito—God knows I did.  But the people have found me— found us out.  We must submit to be famous.”

“It is the will of God,” said the Preacher Grizzle, with startling solemnity.

“Now I know,” cried Peter Sun, “what it is to have my heart throb with the generous impulses of a gratified ambition—D—m that orange peel!”

“It may be gratified ambition,” quo’ Spermaceti, “but I’d rather take it in the cool.  Couldn’t they put me in a refrigerator?”

“I’ll address the people!” cried the Grey Ham, holding on the the flag-staff.  “People of New York—This is an occasion—(how the d—d boat lurches!)—unaccustomed as I am to public—public—(how that rotten egg smells!)—speaking—People of New—speaking—“

“Wait a moment, Grey,” cried Peter Sun, “see—a spokesman advances from the crowd—he raises his hand—he speaks—”

“My feelings, people of New York,” began the Grey Ham, “My feelings—wont allow—I say people of New York—my feelings wont—“

“Damn your feelings!” cried the man on the wharf—“Now jist be quick, will ye, and tell me what we want to know.  Is he on board?

“Yes—he is here himself!” cried Peter Sun.

“Hurrah, Hurrah!” cried several voices, We’ve caught him!”

“Caught who?” cried the Grey Ham, as the boat touched the wharf—“Caught who?”

“Why d—m it, don’t come that game over us,” cried the spokesman, jumpin’ a board.  “Now tell me, mister, you sir there hangin’ on to the flag-staff—Isn’t your name Alphonse Smith, and aren’t you the Philadelphia Pickpocket?”