The Town Crier

Ambrose Bierce

San Francisco News Letter/June 12, 1869

“Hear the Crier!” “What the devil art thou!”

“One that will play the devil, sir, with you.”

Towne Cryer, Esq., has a weakness for flattering the ladies. His late experience in dining out with his female admirers has opened his eyes to one of their hitherto overlooked characteristics, and furnished his vocabulary of compliments with a new term of endearment, and he hastens to assure the dear creatures that they are a set of delightful Gluttons! He is aware that his dainty Chloe, his delicate Sophronia, and his abstemious Thisbe will be shocked (they are never offended at their devoted Towne Cryer) at what must seem to them an unwarranted rudeness. Not having access to their pantries, nor proof of their solitary indulgencies therein, how can he have discovered it? Thus ladies: In dining at your generous tables he observes that no matter how bountifully he may have partaken of any particular dish (and he admits that he is but too prone to indulge in his favorite dishes, and that all your dishes are his favorites), a refusal to continue partaking of it usually elicits from you a silent protest, and even, in some instances, a deprecatory intimation that he doesn’t like it. Now, this assumes, as a principle, that if one relish a certain dish one should never leave off eating it. To hold such view betrays the natural Glutton. Thus, ladies, does a seeming virtue become proof of your unworthiness. Towne Cryer once resolved to see to what length your peculiar persistence would go. Unfortunately, he selected the soup as the subject of his experiment. The result convinced him that there is at least one dish of which one may without offense decline to partake after repletion.

We notice that our old friend Dr. Quinlin in his lecture at Dashaway Hall last Sunday evening dealt the Drink Fiend some hearty thwacks over the sconce. The Doctor admits that King Alcohol is a hard nut to crack, and that even that powerful nut-cracker, the human stomach, has to give him up. In other words, alcohol will not digest. This discovery—and really we must consider it such—is vastly comforting to the sadly misunderstood class who have so long been stigmatized as “soakers.” Clearly, if alcohol cannot undergo chylifaction, the system cannot soak it up, and it passes off harmless. It is but justice to add however, that this is not the Doctor’s view, but our own. The Doctor knows more about this subject than we. Experientia docet—and the Doctor admits that he was once accustomed to dose it rather strongly. If we might be allowed to make a suggestion, it would be that in future, when the Doctor meditates a ramble on the dusty highway of Temperance, he should not invite his audience into the green fields by a captivating announcement. Aren’t you ashamed. Doctor, to advertise “The Human Heart; its Organism and Functions”—and then bore us with the old thing about rum, and all that.

We are a dirty people. Our distinguishing characteristic is personal uncleanliness. We verily believe that if some celestial naturalist should discover us, in giving our variety a name, he would be far more anxious to celebrate our dermal impurity, than for the doubtful honor of appending his own Latin genitive to the generic name of so disreputable a race. For, behold, we have no public baths. It is not certain that man is naturally an unclean animal; but it is certain that he will not expend any considerable portion of his income in daily ablutions. Of course we allude to the average man, who is at best a sorry beast. Public baths, after the manner of many European cities, are public blessings. A clean skin is more essential to public morality than even a pew at church, and we stoutly maintain that the scriptural (is it scriptural?) injunction, “Watch and pray,” is a typographical error, and was originally written, “Wash and pray;” and, furthermore, that these commands stand in the order of their importance. As before remarked, we are an excessively dirty people. With this trifling exception, we are godly.

It strikes us as a very singular circumstance, that whenever a politician is abused by a correspondent of a party paper of the other side, the communication invariably emanates from one of the same political faith as himself. The passion which all Democrats seem to have for writing in Republican papers, and vice versa, is something astonishing, and is only exceeded by their unconquerable desire to censure men of their own party. It is really wonderful how many “Radicals,” “Union Men,” and “Old Line Republicans” favor the Call and Herald with sharp arguments against Radicalism, and smart criticisms of Republican politicians. It is no less remarkable how generally Democrats dissent from the views of their party, how entirely dissatisfied they are with their own candidates, and what a consuming desire they have to show up the objects of their dislike in the Times, Bulletin and Alta. Will some editor better versed in the tricks of the trade than we explain this anomaly in political journalism?

As it seems to be fashionable just now to advertise one’s business by presenting samples of one’s handiwork to President Grant, we have concluded to prepare a model copy of the News Letter for that cultivated gentleman’s private delectation. Upon the first page will be the following motto: “I will make no removals from office, except for ascertained incompetency or dishonesty.” The remainder of the paper will be taken up with the names and dates of decapitation of sterling Republican officials, who have been branded as incompetent and dishonest. The sheet will necessarily be ten times the ordinary size. An edition of twenty thousand copies will be struck off to supply the wants of a portion of the President’s ardent Radical admirers. Sold by all newsdealers. Agents for California: Holland Smith, Charles N. Felton, John M. Eckfeldt, Charles L. Wiggin, A. J. Bryant, B.F. Martin and others.

After some passages of wit between Philosopher Pickett and Major Stratman, the meeting adjourned without accomplishing anything.—Call. [Quite likely, indeed. We should suppose that any merely human meeting would be thrown into a state of inefficiency by a passage of wit between these two worthies. We suggest that in future when anything of the kind is apprehended, each person attending the meeting supply himself with an emetic, which may be taken on the premises. This will enable the meeting to proceed, and a mild purgative may be afterward administered to clear the system of any impurities still remaining.]

At the last meeting of the Board of Supervisors, the question of the Second Street railroad being under consideration, Mr. Cole pleaded for a postponement upon the ground that he was not posted. We had thought that we had posted Mr. Cole sufficiently. We have posted him as Supervisor, as a member of the Board of Health, as a director of the Smallpox Hospital, as an Incapable. Must we now post him as an Ignoramus?

The Pioneer Society has been presented with a bottle of Sacramento muck, skimmed off when the crust of the bog was broken in that city at the “inauguration” of the Central Pacific road. The pollywogs were previously removed from this sacred soil, preserved in spirits and presented to the Academy of Sciences. We learn that relic-hunters are now busy bottling more of the same sort from the proposed site of the Branch Mint in that city.

Mr. Samuel Henry has taken the trouble to write to the Board of Education, denying that the Jews object to the recital of the Lord’s Prayer in the public schools. It is a matter of precious little importance how the Jews feel about it; we object, and that is enough. Will Mr. Samuel Henry kindly attend to his cheap business suits, and leave theological wrangling to abler minds?

The Barnacle is industriously smearing its bird-lime for Anna Dickinson. Be careful, dear Anna, or you will put your foot in it; and upon your departure from these Pacific shores, instead of having a shoe thrown after you for luck, you will be glad to throw your own number two’s for the sake of cleanliness.

The Emperor views the probable election of Rochefort as a personal and deadly insult.—Telegraph. [If we were elected, and the Emperor persisted in retaining that view of it, we fear the Corps Legislatif would for the present be deprived of the daily attendance of a profound statesman. We have the most delicate consideration for Louis Napoleon’s little personal prejudices.]

At a trial in the Police Court on Wednesday, a witness stated that, upon a certain occasion, he had disguised himself with a stove-pipe hat. At this the attorneys laughed, evidently thinking this a novel disguise, although they don’t seem to perceive anything ludicrous in their own way of masquerading of a Sunday—in a clean shirt and a necktie.

Fruit sharps are preparing with a will to take advantage of the trans-continental. Rail road Several boxes of cherries have already been successfully dispatched; have been safely made out, and signed without accident. The only traffic is the trifling inconvenience of wrapping each separate cherry paper.

The Times (-) the Irish Orangemen. They are something of an evil, neighbor, but, Lord bless you, they are not a circumstance to the orange women. The daily atrocities of the latter are a fruitful theme, and we hope to see the Times upset their apple carts. Let the first sonorous peel of the orange be the signal for the onslaught.

We noticed at the post office yesterday a very liberal supply of Sunday School tracts.—White Pine News. [You Pogonipers cannot expect to enjoy perfect immunity from the evils which afflict us lowlier mortals. We have reason to believe that the Young Men’s Christian Association has for some time had its evil eye upon you.]

A bar-keeper at Treasure City has no exhibition the veritable “last spike” of the trans-continental railway, and is happy. It may also be seen at six saloons in this city, two at San Jose, and one at Los Angeles. It is fearfully prevalent at Oakland, epidemic at Vallejo, and gently pervades all the up-country.

The first step in the much-needed political reform is to induce the people to interest themselves in politics. If that can be done, there will be no difficulty about the rest.—Times. [We beg pardon; there will still remain the difficulty of inducing politics to interest itself in the people.]

The Alta has found a man in this city “with correct habits, integrity, education, and an acceptable contributor to one of the leading magazines of the country, who is under the necessity of resorting to common labor to supply his needs.” Has Mr. Brooks [this is impersonal] been deposed?

I have heretofore been known as a Republican, but I think of joining the Democracy.—Jack Stratman. [Did you entertain this fell purpose anterior to your recent visit to the City of Magnificent Fizzles, or is it an afterthought. Either way, we condole with the Democracy.]

The Rev. G. E. Davis is building himself a house in South San Francisco.—Call [We cannot allow the Call to puff South San Francisco at the expense of Saucelito. The Rev.  G. E. Stiggins is building himself a house in the latter place. We shall cast our lot with Stiggins.]

Are the negroes this year to be allowed to make a part of the procession on the Fourth of July? We ask for information. We observe that the Eight-Hour men intend to turn out in force, and really something ought to be done to counteract their peculiar odor.

A man in Baltimore was recently declared insane, and sent to the Lunatic Asylum, because he went about the streets rolling up his eyes and ejaculating, “I am holier than thou!” Have the Baltimore commissioners of lunacy undertaken to suppress Christianity?

It is stated that a number of the Grammar Masters in our public schools have struck for better wages. We should think with so large a field of employment open to them as is furnished by the public schools and press, they could dictate their own terms.

At a meeting of the Society of California Pioneers, General Ord, who has just been elected a fossil of that Paleozoic order, promised to aid them by every means in his power. He evidently has a lively sense of the purpose of his election.

Wool is “up” in Washington, though things are looking pretty black there. The City Hall is to be adorned with African ebony. Washington ought to prosper now; its councils will be characterized by the strongest scents.

The Grass Valley Union says Republican candidates for office are getting thick thereabouts. They are getting decidedly thin in these parts; it takes a half-dozen of them to make a shadow.

Mr. Charles Whitman has been punished by the strong arm of the law for chasing his wife through the streets with a loaded revolver. And yet we boast that ours is a land of connubial liberty!

Ex-Secretary Seward is coming to San Francisco, and will visit Alaska. “We are so constituted as to take a singular pleasure in the contemplation of objects which excite, also, our deepest remorse.”

The Alta favors the resubjugation and annexation of Abyssinia by Great Britain. The good old woman is figuring to get hold of that country in liquidation of the Alabama claims. Thoughtful Alta!

There was an attempt made last Saturday evening to burn a house belonging to the Rev. Mr. Reasouer. The incendiary was, we have no doubt, the more logical reasoned of the two.

We hear a great deal about “daring safe-robberies.” Our dog Jack would like to know precisely what amount of daring is necessary to commit a perfectly safe robbery.

Mr. Meagher, of the Board of Education, says the High School for girls is not fit for a stable. In case of necessity, we suppose it could be easily made so by taking out the seats.

A somnambulist was arrested a few nights since and locked up. The Times, dear soul, comes out bravely in his defence. The Herald maintains a discreet silence.

On last Sunday the Rev. John Doughty preached from the text: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” You are, John: at least you were, in Suisun—bar-keeper, you know.

The Call, under the head of “Interior News,” informs us that a certain fish is a habitat of tropical latitudes. Clearly, this news is not from the interior of a dictionary.

The Rev. G. C. Ames will lecture at Mercantile Library Hall on the 17th inst. Upon “Wasted Power.” The lecture will be its own best illustration.

The Age of Revolutions.—Call. [How old are they, neighbor?]

(Source: California State Library, Microfilm Collection)

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