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BILL NYE'S RED BOOK ***




Produced by David Widger from page images generously
provided by the Internet Archive








BILL NYE'S RED BOOK

By Edgar Wilson Nye

Illustrated by J. H. Smith

Thompson & Thomas Chicago

1891

[Illustration: 0008]

[Illustration: 0009]

[Illustration: 0017]


This is the fourth book that I have published in response to the
clamorous appeals of the public. I had long hoped to publish a larger,
better, and if possible a redder book than the first; one that would
contain my better thoughts; thoughts that I had thought when I was
feeling well; thoughts that I had omitted when my thinker was rearing
up on its hind feet, if I may be allowed that term; thoughts that sprang
forth with a wild whoop and demanded recognition. This book is the
result of that hope and that wish. It is may greatest and best book.

Bill Nye.


This book is not designed specially for any one class of people. It
is for all. It is a universal repository of thought. Some of my best
thoughts are contained in this book. Whenever I would think a thought
that I thought had better remain unthought, I would omit it from this
book. For that reason the book is not so large as I had intended. When a
man coldly and dispassionately goes at it to eradicate from his work
all that may not come up to his standard of merit, he can make a large
volume shrink till it is no thicker than the bank book of an outspoken
clergyman.

This is the fourth book that I have published in response to the
clamorous appeals of the public. Whenever the public got to clamoring
too loudly for a new book from me and it got so noisy that I could not
ignore it any more, I would issue another volume. The first was a red
book, succeeded by a dark blue volume, after which I published a green
book, all of which were kindly received by the American people, and,
under the present yielding system of international copyright, greedily
snapped up by some of the tottering dynasties.

But I had long hoped to publish a larger, better and, if possible, a
redder book than the first; one that would contain my better thoughts,
thoughts that I had thought when I was feeling well; thoughts that I had
emitted while my thinker was rearing up on its hind feet, if I may be
allowed that term; thoughts that sprang forth with a wild whoop and
demanded recognition.

This book is the result of that hope and that wish. It is my greatest
and best book. It is the one that will live for weeks after other books
have passed away. Even to those who cannot read, it will come like a
benison when there is no benison in the house. To the ignorant, the
pictures will be pleasing. The wise will revel in its wisdom, and the
housekeeper will find that with it she may easily emphasize a statement
or kill a cockroach.

The range of subjects treated in this book is wonderful, even to me! It
is a library of universal knowledge, and the facts contained in it are
different from any other facts now in use. I have carefully guarded,
all the way through, against using hackneyed and moth-eaten facts. As
a result, I am able to come before the people with a set of new and
attractive statements, so fresh and so crisp that an unkind word would
wither them in a moment.

I believe there is nothing more to add, except that I most heartily
endorse the book. It has been carefully read over by the proof-reader
and myself, so we do not ask the public to do anything that we were not
willing to do ourselves.

_BILL NYE_




BILL NYE'S RED BOOK




MY SCHOOL DAYS.

Looking over my own school days, there are so many things that I would
rather not tell, that it will take very little time and space for me
to use in telling what I am willing that the carping public should know
about my early history.

I began my educational career in a log school house. Finding that other
great men had done that way, I began early to look around me for a log
school house where I could begin in a small way to soak my system full
of hard words and information.

For a time I learned very rapidly. Learning came to me with very little
effort at first. I would read my lesson over once or twice and then take
my place in the class. It never bothered me to recite my lesson and so
I stood at the head of the class. I could stick my big toe through a
knot-hole in the floor and work out the most difficult problem. This
became at last a habit with me. With my knot-hole I was safe, without it
I would hesitate.

A large red-headed boy, with feet like a summer squash and eyes like
those of a dead codfish, was my rival. He soon discovered that I was
very dependent on that knot-hole, and so one night he stole into the
school house and plugged up the knot-hole, so that I could not work my
toe into it and thus refresh my memory.

Then the large red-headed boy, who had not formed the knot-hole habit,
went to the head of the class and remained there.

After I grew larger, my parents sent me to a military school. That is
where I got the fine military learning and stately carriage that I still
wear.

My room was on the second floor, and it was very difficult for me to
leave it at night, because the turnkey locked us up at 9 o'clock every
evening. Still, I used to get out once in awhile and wander around in
the starlight. I do not know yet why I did it, but I presume it was
a kind of somnambulism. I would go to bed thinking so intently of my
lessons that I would get up and wander away, sometimes for miles, in the
solemn night.

One night I awoke and found myself in a watermelon patch. I was never so
ashamed in my life. It is a very serious thing to be awakened so rudely
out of a sound sleep, by a bull dog, to find yourself in the watermelon
vineyard of a man with whom you are not acquainted. I was not on terms
of social intimacy with this man or his dog. They did not belong to our
set. We had never been thrown together before.

After that I was called the great somnambulist and men who had
watermelon conservatories shunned me. But it cured me of my
somnambulism. I have never tried to somnambule any more since that time.

There are other little incidents of my school days that come trooping
up in my memory at this moment, but they were not startling in their
nature. Mine is but the history of one who struggled on year after year,
trying to do better, but most always failing to connect. The boys
of Boston would do well to study carefully my record and then - do
differently.




RECOLLECTIONS OF NOAH WEBSTER.


Mr. Webster, no doubt, had the best command of language of any American
author prior to our day. Those who have read his ponderous but rather
disconnected romance known as "Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, or How
One Word Led on to Another," will agree with me that he was smart. Noah
never lacked for a word by which to express himself. He was a brainy man
and a good speller.

It would ill become me at this late day to criticise Mr. Webster's
great work - a work that is now in almost every library, schoolroom and
counting house in the land. It is a great book. I do believe that had
Mr. Webster lived he would have been equally fair in his criticism of my
books.

I hate to compare my own works with those of Mr. Webster, because it
may seem egotistical in me to point out the good points in my literary
labors; but I have often heard it said, and so do not state it solely
upon my own responsibility, that Mr. Webster's book does not retain the
interest of the reader all the way through.

He has tried to introduce too many characters, and so we cannot follow
them all the way through. It is a good book to pick up and while away an
idle hour with, perhaps, but no one would cling to it at night till the
fire went out, chained to the thrilling plot and the glowing career of
its hero.

Therein consists the great difference between Mr. Webster and myself.
A friend of mine at Sing Sing once wrote me that from the moment he got
hold of my book, he never left his room till he finished it. He seemed
chained to the spot, he said, and if you can't believe a convict, who is
entirely out of politics, who in the name of George Washington can you
believe?

Mr. Webster was most assuredly a brilliant writer, and I have discovered
in his later editions 118,000 words, no two of which are alike. This
shows great fluency and versatility, it is true, but we need something
else. The reader waits in vain to be thrilled by the author's wonderful
word painting. There is not a thrill in the whole tome. I had heard
so much of Mr. Webster that when I read his book I confess I was
disappointed. It is cold, methodical and dispassionate in the extreme.

As I said, however, it is a good book to pick up for the purpose of
whiling away an idle moment, and no one should start out on a long
journey without Mr. Webster's tale in his pocket. It has broken the
monotony of many a tedious trip for me.

Mr. Webster's "Speller" was a work of less pretentions, perhaps, and yet
it had an immense sale. Eight years ago this book had reached a sale of
40,000,000, and yet it had the same grave defect. It was disconnected,
cold, prosy and dull. I read it for years, and at last became a close
student of Mr. Webster's style, yet I never found but one thing in this
book, for which there seems to have been such a perfect stampede, that
was even ordinarily interesting, and that was a little gem. It was
so thrilling in its details, and so diametrically different from Mr.
Webster's style, that I have often wondered who he got to write it for
him. It related to the discovery of a boy by an elderly gentleman, in
the crotch of an ancestral apple tree, and the feeling of bitterness
and animosity that sprung up at the time between the boy and the elderly
gentleman.

Though I have been a close student of Mr. Webster for years, I am free
to say, and I do not wish to do an injustice to a great man in doing
so, that his ideas of literature and my own are entirely dissimilar.
Possibly his book has had a little larger sale than mine, but that makes
no difference. When I write a book it must engage the interest of the
reader, and show some plot to it. It must not be jerky in its style and
scattering in its statements.

I know it is a great temptation to write a book that will sell, but we
should have a higher object than that.

I do not wish to do an injustice to a man who has done so much for the
world, and one who could spell the longest word without hesitation, but
I speak of these things just as I would expect people to criticise my
work. If we aspire to monkey with the literati of our day we must expect
to be criticised. That's the way I look at it.

P. S. - I might also state that Noah Webster was a member of the
Legislature of Massachusetts at one time, and though I ought not to
throw it up to him at this date, I think it is nothing more than right
that the public should know the truth.





TO HER MAJESTY.


To Queen Victoria, Regina Dei Gracia and acting mother-in-law on the
side:

Dear Madame. - Your most gracious majesty will no doubt be surprised to
hear from me after my long silence. One reason that I have not written
for some time is that I had hoped to see you ere this, and not because
I had grown cold. I desire to congratulate you at this time upon
your great success as a mother-in-law, and your very exemplary career
socially. As a queen you have given universal satisfaction, and your
family have married well.

But I desired more especially to write you in relation to another
matter. We are struggling here in America to establish an authors'
international copyright arrangement, whereby the authors of all
civilized nations may be protected in their rights to the profits of
their literary labor, and the movement so far has met with generous
encouragement. As an author we desire your aid and endorsement. Could
you assist us? We are giving this season a series of authors' readings
in New York to aid in prosecuting the work, and we would like to know
whether we could not depend upon you to take a part in these readings,
rendering selections from your late work.

I assure your most gracious majesty that you would meet some of our best
literary people while here, and no pains would be spared to make your
visit a pleasant one, aside from the reading itself. We would advertise
your appearance extensively and get out a first-class audience on the
occasion of your debut here.

[Illustration: 0029]

An effort would be made to provide passes for yourself, and reduced
rates, I think, could be secured for yourself and suite at the hotels.
Of course you could do as you thought best about bringing suite,
however. Some of us travel with our suites and some do not. I generally
leave my suite at home, myself.

You would not need to make any special changes as to costume for the
occasion. We try to make it informal, so far as possible, and though
some of us wear full dress we do not make that obligatory on those
who take a part in the exercises. If you decide to wear your every-day
reigning clothes it will not excite comment on the part of our literati.
We do not judge an author or authoress by his or her clothes.

You will readily see that this will afford you an opportunity to appear
before some of the best people of New York, and at the same time you
will aid in a deserving enterprise.

It will also promote the sale of your book.

Perhaps you have all the royalty you want aside from what you may
receive from the sale of your works, but every author feels a pardonable
pride in getting his books into every household.

I would assure your most gracious majesty that your reception here as
an authoress will in no way suffer because you are an unnaturalized
foreigner. Any alien who feels a fraternal interest in the international
advancement of thought and the universal encouragement of the good, the
true and the beautiful in literature, will be welcome on these shores.

This is a broad land, and we aim to be a broad and cosmopolitan people.
Literature and free, willing genius are not hemmed in by State or
national lines. They sprout up and blossom under tropical skies no less
than beneath the frigid aurora borealis of the frozen North. We hail
true merit just as heartily and uproariously on a throne as we would
anywhere else. In fact, it is more deserving, if possible, for one who
has never tried it little knows how difficult it is to sit on a hard
throne all day and write well. We are to recognize struggling genius
wherever it may crop out. It is no small matter for an almost unknown
monarch to reign all day and then write an article for the press or a
chapter for a serial story, only, perhaps, to have it returned by the
publishers. All these things are drawbacks to a literary life, that we
here in America know little of.

[Illustration: 0031]

I hope your most gracious majesty will decide to come, and that you will
pardon this long letter. It will do you good to get out this way for
a few weeks, and I earnestly hope that you will decide to lock up the
house and come prepared to make quite a visit. We have some real good
authors here now in America, and we are not ashamed to show them to any
one. They are not only smart, but they are well behaved and know how to
appear in company. We generally read selections from our own works, and
can have a brass band to play between the selections, if thought best.
For myself, I prefer to have a full brass band accompany me while I
read. The audience also approves of this plan.

[Illustration: 0034]

We have been having some very hot weather here for the past week, but
it is now cooler. Farmers are getting in their crops in good shape, but
wheat is still low in price, and cranberries are souring on the vines.
All of our canned red raspberries worked last week, and we had to can
them over again. Mr. Riel, who went into the rebellion business in
Canada last winter, will be hanged in September if it don't rain. It
will be his first appearance on the gallows, and quite a number of our
leading American criminals are going over to see his debut.

Hoping to hear from you by return mail or prepaid cablegram, I beg leave
to remain your most gracious and indulgent majesty's humble and obedient
servant.

_Bill Nye._




HABITS OF A LITERARY MAN.


The editor of an Eastern health magazine, having asked for information
relative to the habits, hours of work, and style and frequency of feed
adopted by literary men, and several parties having responded who were
no more essentially saturated with literature than I am, I now take my
pen in hand to reveal the true inwardness of my literary life, so that
boys, who may yearn to follow in my footsteps and wear a laurel wreath
the year round in place of a hat, may know what the personal habits of a
literary party are.

I rise from bed the first thing in the morning, leaving my couch not
because I am dissatisfied with it, but because I cannot carry it with me
during the day.

I then seat myself on the edge of the bed and devote a few moments to
thought. Literary men who have never set aside a few moments on rising
for thought will do well to try it.

I then insert myself into a pair of middle-aged pantaloons. It is
needless to say that girls who may have a literary tendency will find
little to interest them here.

Other clothing is added to the above from time to time. I then bathe
myself. Still this is not absolutely essential to a literary life.
Others who do not do so have been equally successful.

Some literary people bathe before dressing.

I then go down stairs and out to the barn, where I feed the horse. Some
literary men feel above taking care of a horse, because there is really
nothing in common between the care of a horse and literature, but
simplicity is my watchword. T. Jefferson would have to rise early in the
day to eclipse me in simplicity. I wish I had as many dollars as I have
got simplicity.

I then go in to breakfast. This meal consists almost wholly of food. I
am passionately fond of food, and I may truly say, with my hand on
my heart, that I owe much of my great success in life to this inward
craving, this constant yearning for something better.

During this meal I frequently converse with my family. I do not feel
above my family; at least, if I do, I try to conceal it as much as
possible. Buckwheat pancakes in a heated state, with maple syrup on the
upper side, are extremely conducive to literature. Nothing jerks the
mental faculties around with greater rapidity than buckwheat pancakes.

After breakfast the time is put in to good advantage looking forward
to the time when dinner will be ready. From 8 to 10 A. M., however,
I frequently retire to my private library hot-bed in the hay mow, and
write 1,200 words in my forthcoming book, the price of which will be
$2.50 in cloth and $4 with Russia back.

I then play Copenhagen with some little girls 21 years of age, who live
near by, and of whom I am passionately fond.

After that I dig some worms, with a view to angling. I then angle. After
this I return home, waiting until dusk, however, as I do not like to
attract attention. Nothing is more distasteful to a truly good man of
wonderful literary acquirements, and yet with singular modesty, than the
coarse and rude scrutiny of the vulgar herd.

In winter I do not angle. I read the "Pirate Prince" or the
"Missourian's Mash," or some other work, not so much for the plot as the
style, that I may get my mind into correct channels of thought. I then
play "old sledge" in a rambling sort of manner. I sometimes spend an
evening at home, in order to excite remark and draw attention to my
wonderful eccentricity.

I do not use alcohol in any form, if I know it, though sometimes I am
basely deceived by those who know of my peculiar prejudice, and who do
it, too, because they enjoy watching my odd and amusing antics at the
time.

Alcohol should be avoided entirely by literary workers, especially young
women. There can be no more pitiable sight to the tender hearted than a
young woman of marked ability writing an obituary poem while under the
influence of liquor.

I knew a young man who was a good writer. His penmanship was very good,
indeed. He once wrote an article for the press while under the influence
of liquor. He sent it to the editor, who returned it at once with a cold
and cruel letter, every line of which was a stab. The letter came at a
time when he was full of remorse.

He tossed up a cent to see whether he should blow out his brains or go
into the ready-made clothing business. The coin decided that he should
die by his own hand, but his head ached so that he didn't feel like
shooting into it. So he went into the ready-made clothing business, and
now he pays taxes on $75,000, so he is probably worth $150,000. This, of
course, salves over his wounded heart, but he often says to me that he
might have been in the literary business to-day if he had let liquor
alone.




A FATHER'S LETTER.

My dear Son. - Your letter of last week reached us yesterday, and I
enclose $13, which is all I have by me at the present time. I may sell
the other shote next week and make up the balance of what you wanted.
I will probably have to wear the old buffalo overcoat to meetings
again this winter, but that don't matter so long as you are getting an
education.

I hope you will get your education as cheap as you can, for it cramps
your mother and me like Sam Hill to put up the money. Mind you, I don't
complain. I knew education come high, but I didn't know the clothes cost
so like sixty.

I want you to be so that you can go anywhere and spell the hardest word.
I want you to be able to go among the Romans or the Medes and Persians
and talk to any of them in their own native tongue.

I never had any advantages when I was a boy, but your mother and I
decided that we would sock you full of knowledge, if your liver held
out, regardless of expense. We calculate to do it, only we want you to
go as slow on swallow-tail coats as possible till we can sell our hay.

[Illustration: 0042]

Now, regarding that boat-paddling suit, and that baseball suit, and that
bathing suit, and that roller-rinktum suit, and that lawn-tennis suit,
mind, I don't care about the expense, because you say a young man can't
really educate himself thoroughly without them, but I wish you'd send
home what you get through with this fall and I'll wear them through the
winter under my other clothes. We have a good deal severer winters here
than we used to, or else I'm failing in bodily health. Last winter I
tried to go through without underclothes, the way I did when I was a
boy, but a Manitoba wave came down our way and picked me out of a crowd
with its eyes shet.

In your last letter you alluded to getting injured in a little "hazing
scuffle with a pelican from the rural districts." I don't want any harm
to come to you, my son, but if I went from the rural districts, and
another young gosling from the rural districts undertook to haze me, I
would meet him when the sun goes down, and I would swat him across the
back of the neck with a fence board, and then I would meander across the
pit of his stomach and put a blue forget-me-not under his eye.

Your father ain't much on Grecian mythology and how to get the square
root of a barrel of pork, but he wouldn't allow any educational
institutions to haze him with impunity. Perhaps you remember once when
you tried to haze your father a little, just to kill time, and how long
it took you to recover. Anybody that goes at it right can have a good
deal of fun with your father, but those who have sought to monkey with
him, just to break up the monotony of life, have most always succeeded
in finding what they sought.

I ain't much of a pensman, so you will have to excuse this letter. We
are all quite well, except old Fan, who has a galded shoulder, and hope
this will find you enjoying the same great blessing.

_Your Father._




ARCHIMEDES.

Archimedes, whose given name has been accidentally torn off and
swallowed up in oblivion, was born in Syracuse, 2,171 years ago last
spring. He was a philosopher and mathematical expert. During his life
he was never successfully stumped in figures. It ill befits me now,
standing by his new-made grave, to say aught of him that is not of
praise. We can only mourn his untimely death, and wonder which of our
little band of great men will be the next to go.

Archimedes was the first to originate and use the word "Eureka." It has
been successfully used very much lately, and as a result we have the


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