The Town Crier

San Francisco News Letter/January 16, 1869

The “Black Cat,” which last week we left blinking placidly “on the beam between the buck-horns just above our cabin door,” has made a vicious spring from the position so hospitably accorded him, and has assailed our cheerful and benevolent countenance, tooth and nail. In other words, the unappreciated bard of St. Mark’s Place, whom we called from the night’s Plutonian shore into the dazzling light of News Letter immortality, has kindly written for us a slashing criticism. It is hardly adapted to our columns, for the reason that the shafts of his maiden satire have taken an unfortunate direction—are in fact directed slap against ourselves. And this, simply because we added a poetic curl of our own to the tail of his “Black Cat.” O but this is terrible! The concentrated sarcasm of classic St. Mark’s rolling its relentless torrent of mud, “boundless from the nightly shore,” over our intelligent head! As soon as we can lift our dripping locks above the unsavory surface we shall administer to the neglected bard some unasked—and therefore welcome—advice; as thus: Don’t make a donkey of yourself. Your Pegasus you have always with you, and he can easily be changed into the desired animal. You have but to “lend him your ears.” Seriously, “J.N.S.”, your letters, not being intended for publication, and too stupid for publication if they were, can only be regarded as personally offensive, and the News Letter has a way of dealing with insolent correspondents, which is at once novel and entertaining. By the way, where is No.113? It can’t be—no it can’t. But there are so many on that street.

At the annual renting of pews in Dr. Scudder’s church, some brought as high as five hundred dollars premium, while none of those in Dr. Stebbins’ church, which were disposed of upon the same day, brought over two hundred and fifty. We learn that Dr. Scudder has been crowing over Stebbins considerably in consequence. Now we will back Dr. Stebbins against Scudder, or any other man, best three in five, for any amount. We know him to be a better preacher, a more liberal man, a profounder theologian and altogether a more desirable person to have round. Furthermore we mean to make the News Letter his official organ, and put down all opposition to him, from whatever source it cometh. He is not pretty, but he has more hard sense than all the other parsons combined. Further, we contend that the fancy prices realized from Dr. Scudder’s pews were bogus, and were run up simply for show. You can’t play this little game undetected, my Rajah; we are not going to see our favorite parson thrown into the shade by any of your old East India dodges. O no! We’re not in condition to submit to it.

The last official act of Mr. Gathorne Hardy was to receive at the Home Office a deputation from the Church and State Defense Society. An address was presented to the right hon. gentleman, containing more than 350,000 signatures, with a request that he would lay it before Her Majesty. This, Mr. Hardy promised to do.—Court Journal. [Note by a future historian: In the latter part of the year 1868 it was common boast of the people then living, and especially of that race known as the Anglo-Saxon (this was anterior to the general fusion of races and nationalities) that theirs was an age of pre-eminent civilization and enlightenment. They kept repeating this over, parrot-like, after one another, until they finally came to believe it themselves. And yet the recent exhuming of certain ancient documents of the period puts it beyond the possibility of a doubt that there were at that time at least three hundred and fifty thousand persons in England alone who believed that a certain religion then existing should be supported by government. Truly these ancients needed light.]

The following cases came before the Commissioners of Lunacy: T. M—y. Recently from Australia, cause of his being here unknown. Correspondent of the Sacramento Union.—Imagines he has built up hundreds of houses for poor men in this city, and saved the people of the state a half-million of dollars yearly. Thinks he is a persecuted female, and a Christian martyr generally. Sent to Stockton; incurable. J. F. B—n.—Mechanic. Imagines himself an editor and claims to have revolutionized journalism. Thinks he is witty, and clings to the singular hallucination that his “Mustard Seeds” are equal in pungency to the Town Crier. Discharged; not dangerous and can support himself with the aid of a lamp-post. Dr. Sc—r. –Native of the East Indies; transplanted to this soil at too early an age, and is considerably withered in consequence. Has a trick of driving elephants tandem, to the Cliff House, and throws himself under every passing dray under the impression that it is the Car of Juggernaut. Barley water, and mild poultices.

The improved Order of Flat-heads held a grand meeting, pursuant to a call of the Healthy Ancient Mutton-head of the order, Adam Smith, Esq., to ascertain how the epidemic had affected them. J. A. Woodson, Immense Idiot of Records, called the meeting to order, and read a communication from the Grand Imbecile Chief, in which the Superior Maniacal Sachem stated that a formidable percentage of the Order had been visited by the scourge; no casualties had occurred; the Maniacal attributed this to the inability of the disease to find sufficient cerebral matter to fasten upon. One member had suffered from delirium, of the variety tremens, and the Sachem was of opinion that the order had better set about building a hospital. The inebriate establishment was limited, and its resources unequal to taking proper care of the brotherhood. A resolution was adopted to the effect that the Order would think about it.

At a new stand on Market Street is exhibited a picture that aptly illustrates the popular estimate of Grant. It is a large chromo-lithograph, wretchedly executed, and represents Grant at the taking of the city of Mexico. He was then, we believe, a lieutenant, and the artist shows him standing in the center of a casemate, waving his sword with one hand, to inspire the gunners, and with the other assisting a soldier to hoist up an additional cannon through a hatchway by means of a rope. The soldier has let go to get a better hold, and the future president stands in a tragic attitude looking toward the enemy, apparently unconscious that he is sustaining a weight of half a ton with one hand. Many are the encomiums passed upon this art gem by delighted multitudes of qualified voters passing that way.

Conservative Republicans complain that the new “carpet-bag” senators are not discreet in their utterances; one of them (who has resided in the South ten months), speaks of the “loyal men of the Southern states, being determined to uphold the governments there established, peaceably if they could, forcibly if they must.” The cool heads of the senate grow nervous when any of the recent importations get on their legs to speak, as the least mention of the South drives them into the broadest indiscretions of legislative counsel. They have revived the epithet “rebel” as applied to all Democrats, which had become obsolete in the Senate. Their latest exploit is the introduction of a bill to regulate the price of cotton! In the South.

The slave-trade is not quite dead yet. Our Australia advices have disclosed a system which is in limited application there, the difference between which and slavery is not very distinguishable. The Peruvian Coolie-trade is nothing but slavery—out and out. A word from England and the United States would stop it; but the unlucky “Chinese” is not quite dark colored enough to command sympathy. Now we learn via Honolulu that a regular system of slave piracy has been established in certain groups of Pacific Islands, the natives of which are stolen and sold both to the guano merchants and on the Peruvian main land. As these unfortunates are tolerably black, it is thought that their call may ultimately engage attention.

The Bulletin is of opinion that the twenty miles of rail track from San Jose to Vallejo’s mills will not be abandoned. O dear, no; it is now covered with a fine rank growth of native grass which will prevent the road bed from deteriorating, and it will merely be left there; that is all.

There is a gentleman connected with the Bulletin who lives down near the Potrero. In returning home he goes along Montgomery street, but neglects to turn at Market, and tries the patience of the dwellers on the south side of that thoroughfare by persistent endeavors to walk through their walls. He labors under the singular hallucination that the street is continuous in a straight line. In a short time the obstructions to his progress will be removed, and by tacking slightly to the left he can reach his destination by a short detour, and without being laughed at. We have arranged this matter for him—we and one Harpending.

The editorial notist of the Alta says that the editor of the Atlantic Monthly “actually wrote out to California to secure the services of at least one magazine writer in this State.” One cannot sufficiently admire the excessive modesty of Mr. Brooks, who wrote this statement and who is the magazine writer referred to, in so wording it that no one could by any possibility discover who was meant. He that tooteth not his own horn, the same shall not be tooted. The editor of the Atlantic Monthly has our consent to secure a monopoly of Mr. Brooks’ services.

While poor old Elder Knapp was in Santa Clara a while ago, one of the ewe lambs of the flock fell crazy. The old muff protested that she was possessed of the devil, and tried to exercise the fiend by laying on hands and praying unctuously. Satan was too many for the Elder, and the unfortunate girl was sent to Stockton; she has just been discharged cured. And yet that venerable booby came out here to teach us!

When Mr. Sumner was boring the Senate about the memory of the defunct, malignant Stevens of Pennsylvania, and proposing to decorate the legislative halls with monuments of him and Joshua R. Giddings, the other monomaniac, he could find no more felicitous description of the deceased than a singular apt quotation from Mr. Dickens: “Perhaps as remarkable a man, sir, as any in the country!” Delightful!

The attention of the local government was called to this fact some time ago in these columns, but it would seem that no shaft can penetrate its dull hide—no projected ray illuminate its timber head.—Alta. [It is doubtful if the shafts from the Alta’s quiver can penetrate anything, and as to a ray projected from its tallow dip—heaven help us! It wouldn’t gild the gloomy summit of a stale pudding.]

The Bulletin’s commercial man thinks that we shall this year get 5,000 tons of sugar from Peru. Not much! young gentleman. Your refiners have played the game of encouraging shipments of Peruvian sugars, and dropping the prices upon their arrival, once too often. It is possible for a man to be too sharp for his own good. The sugars your market wants next year, you can send out and buy.

We do not wish the Bulletin’s young man any harm, but we feel it a duty to remark that when one of them penned the following remark he was in a condition which it would be mockery to qualify as mere exhilaration: “There are many empty alcoves in the library of this institution which can well be spared, and I sent to this library they will be seen to be appreciated.”

There was a talented ghost in the south-east part of the city; a ghost with a penchant for rattling door-knobs, turning on the water and personating a white rat. He was employed upon several of the dailies, and was said to be trying to depreciate the value of property. We think not; the Times would not employ such ghost. It has had experience with such.

The barnacle kicks manfully against approaching dissolution. As the waters close relentlessly above the tip of its nose, it elevates its trumpet above the surface and sputters with collapsing lungs a mingled blast of noise and mud. Let it submit Christian-like to the decree of the powers above. “There is a Divinity that shapes our ends Rough.”—Shakespeare

A professional bruiser has set up his establishment in the building of the Young Men’s Christian Association and hung out his shingle therefrom. The Call would like to know what this means. It is all right; the Professor is a good professor, and has been engaged to teach these incipient parsons how to deliver “apostolic blows and knocks.”

The trouble between the educational giants, Cobb and Holt, seems to have broken out with increased violence. Even the lesser heroes are becoming restive. The Town Crier is preparing a can of oil to pour upon the troubled waters, something smooth—in the way of verse—may be looked for.

A religious weekly says: “The modern tendency toward skepticism is a fruitful source of more than one half the worst evils which afflict society.” The modern tendency toward pious blather is the fruitful source of more than one half the satire which afflicts the religious press.

The receipts from the Oakland Pound during the past month were one dollar and a half. This will replenish the city treasury and enable the municipal government to purchase a tin dinner-horn. The old one is sadly twisted from sounding the corporation praises.

A Gunn was last week discharged by a careless editor, and the recoil flattened out a proprietor. De young journalist should leave firearms to de sportsman. So says our colored porter, to whom we referred the matter.

A religious contemporary propounds the following conundrum: “What would Christianity be today were it not for these same despised parsons?” More in the heart and less on the tongue, probably. If not we give it up.

The Sacramento Union advocates a Pacific sub-marine telegraph to secure the Asiatic trade. It would doubtless be very gratifying to Sacramentans to have the entire trade of Asia pass through—clean through—their way station.

These are the votes of the African gemmen who have been pampered up bureaus, bayonets and so on for three years.—New York World. [A treatise up the bayonet considered as a pampering agent would be novel and interesting.]

The Sacramento Board of Trustees allowed a bill of eight dollars and twenty-eight cents of the Central Pacific Rail Road Company against the city, and the Union had to submit to the humiliation of recording the unpleasant fact.

A member of Congress has introduced a bill into that body acknowledge the independence of Cuba and favoring its annexation to the United States. This makes Cuba independent and annexes it to the United States.

The Argentine Republic offers a premium of eight thousand dollars to inventor of the best means of preserving meat for transportation. Soak it in carbolic acid, of course, stupid. Give us that money.

Horse fiends are growling against the velocipede. It won’t do. The Velocipede may possibly abolish the horse, but it is certain that the horse will never abolish the velocipede.
The Examiner delicately insinuates that Grant is a mushroom general. A healthy old mushroom indeed. The Examiner is itself a toad-stool.

The Sacramento Union has lost an editor; the mortuary record of that page chronicles one death from inanition. Obituary next week.

(Source: California State Library, Microfilm Collection)

The works of Ambrose Bierce and other major journalists are freely available from The Archive of American Journalism: