The Town Crier

Ambrose Bierce

San Francisco News Letter/October 16, 1869

San Francisco News Letter

October 16, 1869

 It is usual to call a grossly sensual man a hog. It would be more correct to call a grossly sensual hog a man. The injustice we do our brother, the hog, is a family outrage. Cain macerated the head of his brother with a stick of stovewood; we excoriate the fraternal heart by calling names. We have so long applied the word hog to divers of our kind that it has become a term of derision, and the unoffending porker is ashamed of it. His contemptuous grunt deceives nobody; it is plain the disgrace rankles in his heart. It has been noticed by naturalists that within the last few years the hog has newspapers, and the consequent frequency with which the word hog is applied to their editors by one another, and by a thoughtless public. Porker can’t stand this sullying of his honored name. But the injustice has now gone so far that the only reparation must be sought in pushing it to such frightful lengths as to induce a reaction. The word hog must now be made so odious that it will no longer apply to our pachydermatous friend, and from sheer mercy he will be given a new one. In denouncing the firm of H. H. Bancroft & Co. as a gigantic and agglomerate hog we have this charitable object in view. Besides, the word hoggish, weak and inadequate as it is, is the only one in our elegant language capable of conveying even a faint idea of the grabbing propensities of that house, as set forth in a communication to the Board of Education in another column. The firm should be known as H. H. Bancroft & Hog. The Hog is School Director. All his operations in the Board are of the hog, hoggy. Mr. Bancroft is about to erect a new sty on Market street. He should be compelled to remove beyond Islais Creek. By the way, the little boys in Cincinnati may be seen any fine afternoon on parade, each mounted upon a large fat Bancroft. The Jews, however, will not touch him with a knife and fork. It is all a matter of taste—concerning which there is no disputing. We drop the subject.

An Indian Member of Congress, who has been “doing” California and its inhabitants incog., has finally incubated an opinion of us, and sent it forth to scratch for a living in the hearts of his countrymen. He says: “A Sunday in San Francisco will convince anyone that at least two-thirds of the population are composed of heathens and infidels.” Had he been detected collecting data for that opinion his Sunday in San Francisco would have convinced him of nothing so much as the peculiar hardness of California brick-bats. But does the Indian mind suppose that we came all the way to the Pacific to acquire faith and practice virtue? We could have done that sort of stupid business at home. It is hardly fair to expect piety of us when we are here on an entirely different “lay.” However, since our mines have begun to give out and we are deprived of the consolations of faro, we have begun to pucker our lips into a pious rotundity, and when we do emit a holy whoop it will be as loud, as long and as unctuous as that of our whey-faced brethren beyond the mountains. Whenever we do start in to sing psalms we’ll wake up the heavenly host. You bet!

Another answer to the hackneyed question, what will the railroad bring us? has been returned in the shape of two pianos. The startled imagination stands appalled at the threatening possibilities looming up behind this pioneer shipment. If pianos may be brought, why not accordions; and if accordions why not kettle-drums, screech-owls, laughing hyenas, poll parrots and tom-cats. Are we any longer secure from an invoice of Jews’-harps? Can we count on an immunity from bag-pipes? Have we good grounds for the hope that we shall much longer be spared an invasion of trombones? These be serious questions, friends, and a disregard of them may yet result in a vigilance committee, and a general destruction of railroad material. For unless we assert our rights while we can peaceably, we shall have to rise in our might and smash things before we have done with this matter. A lick in time will save nine pianos.

Mr. Knettle, deceased, became irritated last Monday evening, and fired three shots from a revolver into the head of his coy sweetheart, while she was making believe to run away from him. It has seldom been our lot—except in the cases of few isolated policemen—to record so perfectly satisfactory target practice. If that man had lived he would have made his mark as well as hit it. He tied by his own hand at the beginning of a brilliant career, and although we cannot hope to emulate his shooting, we may cherish the memory of his virtues just as if we could bring down our girl every time at ten paces.

Commodore Vanderbilt’s new wife is a Methodist. Neither Mr. Vanderbilt’s age has provoked our envy, nor his wealth moved our pity, as this touching misfortune excites our profound contempt. A man who has built steamboats and statues, who has run railroads, who is a good judge of horses, to be taken in at this ripe experience by a she-Methodist! We spew him out of our mouth, and strike his name from our visiting list. It is consoling to reflect that the designing hussy is in imminent danger of being left a rich widow. Thus are the wicked caught in their own toils.

The Canadians have been enjoying their annual Fenian panic. It usually takes place about this time of year, and at new moon. If our friends over the border are really desirous to get rid of this ever recurring fright [privately we think nothing would tempt them to relinquish it] let them destroy all the grog shops. No true Irishman would ever think of invading a country that offers no facilities for getting drunk. Let them also abolish their jails and penitentiaries. The Celtic movement has never extended to any country very long unfurnished with these appliances of civilization.

In a communication to the Supervisors, the superintendent of streets says it is his desire to save the city and county as much expense as possible. When he shall convince us that doctors desire an epidemic to pass us by on the other side, that lawyers would prefer we should dwell together as brethren, that black is not only white but also an intense yellowish purple, we shall be prepared to concede this novel position of a street superintendent. But then it will follow as a corollary that the moon is a painted grindstone, and philosophy must be reconstructed.

A poor little German got on board the steamer New World at Vallejo, and not having money to pay his passage was deprived of his coat by the clerk. The clerk committed a grave error; he should have taken the man’s socks. It is very unlikely that any use can be made of the coat, but socks will fit anybody. If the officers of this line design clothing themselves from impecunious passengers, they should at least exercise some judgment in the matter: and if the honest clerk hankers after fitting outer garments, let him despoil a man of his size.

Thomas Gray, who was recently discharged from the County Hospital, celebrated his convalescence by tugging stoutly at the queue of an unoffending Chinaman. We record with pleasure that he was soon after returned to his old quarters with his left cheek neatly bisected with a knife. Hauling Chinaman over the cobble-stones by the tail is an amusement reserved exclusively for the healthy Celt, and no invalid should think of indulging in it except by advice of a physician of competent jurisdiction.

A religious weekly contends that the desire to obtain eternal happiness is a praiseworthy and sufficient incentive to a life of piety. It says no one can love heaven without loving God. The Town Crier reasons from analogy, and asserts that this is a lie. He remembers that when he was a little boy he had a most intense hankering after his aunt’s preserve-jars, and didn’t waste an ounce of affection upon that estimable lady herself. A little reflection will overthrow all heretical dogmas in theology.

At the meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Monday evening, Mr. Nunan said that when Mr. Winkle, the member from the First, was in Paris recently, he was introduced to the Emperor, and hastened to assure him that he did not belong to the Ring. For the further delectation of the Imperial mind we will state that Mr. Nunan does not belong to the Ring. Nor Shrader, nor Cole, nor Cavallier, nor Stanyan, nor Harrold, nor Flaherty. They would scorn the idea.

President Grant has had another miraculous escape from death. Last Wednesday a train upon the New York Central ran down an embankment, killing the engineer, conductor, three passengers and a cow. At the moment of the accident the President was lighting a Havana in Philadelphia. Had he been on the train there is no knowing what might have occurred to that cigar. He has just been presented with a new house.

A city paper says that during the five years’ management of A. A. Cohen not an accident has occurred to any passenger on the Alameda Railroad through the neglect or carelessness of an employee. We cannot sufficiently admire the sagacity of Mr. Cohen in keeping his track and rolling stock in such condition that every accident is naturally referred thereto, and the blame taken from the shoulders of the employees.

The Times says evening schools “provide an opportunity for acquiring rudiments of education by those whose early disadvantages and present necessity for earning their daily bread prevent their attending day schools.” The editors and reporters of the Times will avail themselves of these opportunities so soon as the benefits of the system are extended to incurable muffs. So shall we.

There is a woman in Oakland who will not allow her husband to share the conjugal couch; but inasmuch as the female heart must have something around which to twine its tendrils in a cold night, she supplies the place of her exiled lord with a meat-axe. It is gratifying to learn that the husband has been put under five hundred dollars’ bond to keep the peace.

A well-known merchant of this city, quite aged and very wealthy, has just been presented by his children with a beautiful burial lot in Lone Mountain Cemetery. One cannot help admiring the exquisite taste displayed by the donors in the selection of this cheerful gift, even while we must lament the strange oversight that withheld a coffin and heavy tombstone.

Oakland is plunged into endless dissension as to what articles shall be put into the cornerstone of the State University. We suggest that along with the other things there be a chart of San Francisco and vicinity, with the position of Oakland conspicuously marked thereon. The coming antiquarian will be curious to know where it was situated.

The thoughts of a dying man are sometimes rendered less sad and regretful because his life is insured, and he feels that his wife and little ones will not be left altogether to the cold charities of the world.—Call. [Ah! God bless the benevolent Life Insurance Companies for soothing the dull cold ear of death by this pious deception.]

Bishop Coxe, of western New York, is said to have written a letter to the Pope.—Exchange. [Wonder what the Pope thinks of that. He might have known that Coxe would get after him. Coxe is a perfectly unscrupulous and desperate character, and would just as lief write to the Pope as eat a dinner. We side with Coxe.]

Complaint is made in Stockton that persons sent from this city to the Lunatic Asylum at that place are perfectly sane. This is untrue; it is only by contrast with the Stocktonians that they appear so. Relatively they may be as level headed as the Town Crier, while absolutely they are mad as a March Alta.

On last Wednesday there were but three vessels seized by the Custom House authorities for frauds upon the revenue. We record the fact as an evidence of our exceptional honesty. At any other port the same amount of smuggling would have resulted in the seizure of at least a dozen. We’re a law-abiding folk.

Messrs. Hutchinson, Kohl & Co. have been awarded the contract of carrying the mails between this city and Alaska. As Messrs. Hutchinson, Kohl & Co. own Alaska, we congratulate them upon having secured postal communication with their remote dependencies, at a considerable profit to themselves.

No thieves were to be found and the officers departed for their beats utterly demoralized.—Times. [This sentence reads more intelligibly and satisfactorily transposed thus: “The officers departed for their beats utterly demoralized and no thieves were to be found.”]

Ford, who was proprietor of the theater in which President Lincoln was killed, has leased another one, and it is hoped will gratify the public with another of his peculiar representations. He is said to be “laying” for another President.

A woman has been declared insane because she neglects her young child at night to get up and water the sidewalk. If the neglect of children is an evidence of insanity, what mother is safe? And if—but the subject is too painful to pursue.

The Parisians thought to erect a monument over the remains of poor Menken, and find they have got it above the wrong corpse. We advise them to let it stand; the mendacity of the epitaph is considerably mitigated by the mistake.

Utah wants to be admitted as a State. As there seems to be at present some difficulty in enforcing the laws there, we hope it may be admitted. This will bring it more immediately under the control of Congress.

At the last debate of the Oakland Society of Inquiry Mr. Curtis irreverently affirmed that God does not keep a clerk to assist him in his labors. If he did, Oakland would worry him to death with petitions for the place.

Next Tuesday evening Dr. Wozencraft will lecture before the Young Men’s Christian Association on “The United States in Prophesy.” A more pertinent theme would be “The United States in Bankruptcy.”

Billy Dwyer, a noted pugilist, has had his mouth blown away by a pistol shot. The occurrence is of some importance in a scientific sense; it teaches us the folly of setting a potato-trap to catch bullets.

The barkeepers of this city propose to organize a society for mutual protection. The first article of their constitution should require them to rigorously abstain from their own liquors.

The Call makes a mild row about a street-car conductor who carried a blind passenger a whole block too far. We do not see what difference it makes to a blind man where he gets out.

The Call complains of a nuisance recently opened on Commercial street between Montgomery and Kearny. We protest against one long established in the same locality.

The Grand Lodge of Illinois refuses to recognize colored Masons. These might be formed into an inferior order, called Free and Accepted Hod-Carriers.

The Alta has an article upon “The Main Object of Collegiate Institutions.” Their main object is to render Altas impossible.

A clergyman writes us that we are a child of the devil. We hope our brother will forgive us.

(Source: California State Library, microfilm collection)