Edgar Wilson Nye AKA Bill Nye.

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born with those in which other eminent philanthropists and high-priced
statesmen originated, I find that I have no reason to complain. Neither
of the Adamses were born in a larger house than I was, and for general
tone and eclat of front yard and cook-room on behind, I am led to
believe that I have the advantage.

John Adams was born before John Quincy Adams. A popular idea seems to
prevail in some sections of the Union that inasmuch as John Q. was bald
headed, he was the elder of the two; but I inquired about that while on
the ground where they were both born, and ascertained from people who
were familiar with the circumstances, that John was born first.

John Adams was the second president of the United States. He was a
lawyer by profession, but his attention was called to politics by the
passage of the stamp act in 1765. He was one of the delegates who
represented Massachusetts in the first Continental Congress, and about
that time he wrote a letter in which he said: "The die is now cast; I
have passed the rubicon. Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish
with my country is my unalterable determination." Some have expressed
the opinion that "the rubicon" alluded to by Mr. Adams in this letter
was a law which he had succeeded in getting passed; but this is not
true. The idea of passing the rubicon first originated with Julius
Cæsar, a foreigner of some note who flourished a good deal B. C.

In June, 1776, Mr. Adams seconded a resolution, moved by Richard Henry
Lee, that the United States "are, and of right ought to be, free and
independent." Whenever Mr. Adams could get a chance to whoop for liberty
now and forever, one and inseparable, he invariably did so.

In 1796, Mr. Adams ran for president. In the convention it was nip and
tuck between Thomas Jefferson and himself, but Jefferson was understood
to be a Universalist, or an Universalist, whichever would look the best
in print, and so he only got 68 votes out of a possible 139. In 1800,
however, Jefferson turned the tables on him, and Mr. Adams only received
65 to Jefferson's 73 votes.

Mr. Adams made a good president and earned his salary, though it wasn't
so much of a job as it is now. When there was no Indian war in those
days the president could put on an old blue flannel shirt and such other
clothes as he might feel disposed to adopt, and fish for bull-heads in
the Potomac till his nose peeled in the full glare of the fervid sun.

[Illustration: 0273]

Now it is far different. By the time we get through with a president
nowadays he isn't good for much. Mr. Hayes stood the fatigue of being
president better, perhaps, than any other man since the republic became
so large a machine. Mr. Hayes went home to Fremont with his mind just as
fresh and his brain as cool as when he pulled up his coat tails to sit
down in the presidential chair. The reason why Mr. Hayes saved his mind,
his brain and his salary, was plain enough when we stop to consider that
he did not use them much during his administration.

John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States and the
eldest son of John Adams. He was one of the most eloquent of orators,
and shines in history as one of the most polished of our eminent and
baldheaded Americans. When he began to speak, his round, smooth head, to
look down upon it from the gallery, resembled a nice new billiard ball,
but as he warmed up and became more thoroughly stirred, his intellectual
dome changed to a delicate pink. Then, when he rose to the full height
of his eloquent flight, and prepared to swoop down upon his adversaries
and carry them into camp, it is said that his smooth intellectual rink
was as red as the flush of rosy dawn on the 5th day of July.

He was educated both at home and abroad. That is the reason he was so
polished. After he got so that he could readily spell and pronounce the
most difficult words to be found in the large stores of Boston, he was
sent to Europe, where he acquired several foreign tongues, and got so
that he could converse with the people of Europe very fluently, if they
were familiar with English as she is spoke.

John Quincy Adams was chosen president by the House of Representatives,
there being no choice in the electoral contest, Adams receiving 84
votes, Andrew Jackson 99, William H. Crawford 41, and Henry Clay 37.
Clay stood in with Mr. Adams in the House of Representatives deal, it
was said, and was appointed secretary of state under Mr. Adams as a
result. This may not be true, but a party told me about it who got it
straight from Washington, and he also told me in confidence that he made
it a rule never to prevaricate.

Mr. Adams was opposed to American slavery, and on several occasions in
Congress alluded to his convictions.

He was in Congress seventeen years, and during that time he was
frequently on his feet attending to little matters in which he felt an
interest, and when he began to make allusions, and blush all over
the top of his head, and kick the desk, and throw ink-bottles at the
presiding officer, they say that John Q. made them pay attention. Seward
says, "with unwavering firmness, against a bitter and unscrupulous
opposition, exasperated to the highest pitch by his pertinacity - amidst
a perfect tempest of vituperation and abuse - he persevered in presenting
his anti-slavery petitions, one by one, to the amount sometimes of 200
in one day." As one of his eminent biographers has truly said: "John
Quincy Adams was indeed no slouch."


Ethel" has written a letter to me and asked for a printed reply.
Leaving off the opening sentences, which I would not care to have fall
into the hands of my wife, her note is about as follows:

" - - - - - - , Vt., Feb. 28, 1885.

"My Dear Sir,...................... [Tender part of letter omitted for
obvious reasons.] Would it be asking too much for me to request a brief
reply to one or two questions which many other married women as well as
myself would like to have answered?

I have been married now for five years. Today is the anniversary of
my marriage. When I was single I was a teacher and supported myself in
comfort. I had more pocket-money and dressed fully as well if not better
than I do now. Why should girls who are abundantly able to earn their
own livelihood struggle to become the slave of a husband and children,
and tie themselves to a man when they might be free and happy?

I think too much is said by the men in a light and flippant manner about
the anxiety of young ladies to secure a home and a husband, and still
they do deserve a part of it, as I feel that I do now for assuming a
great burden when I was comparatively independent and comfortable.

Now, will you suggest any advice that you think would benefit the yet
unmarried and selfsupporting girls who are liable to make the same
mistake that I did, and thus warn them in a manner that would be so much
more universal in its range, and reach so many more people than I
could if I should raise my voice? Do this and you will be gratefully
remembered by Ethel.

It would indeed be a tough, tough man who could ignore thy gentle
plea, Ethel; tougher far than the pale, intellectual hired man who now
addresses you in this private and underhanded manner, unknown to your
husband. Please destroy this letter, Ethel, as soon as you see it in
print, so that it will not fall into the hands of Mr. Ethel, for if it
should, I am gone. If your husband were to run across this letter in the
public press I could never look him in the eye again.

You say that you had more pocket-money before you were married than you
have since, Ethel, and you regret your rash step. I am sorry to hear it.
You also say that you wore better clothes when you were single than you
do now. You are also pained over that. It seems that marriage with you
has not paid any cash dividends. So that if you married Mr. Ethel as
a financial venture, it was a mistake. You do not state how it has
affected your husband. Perhaps he had more pocket-money and better
clothes before he married than he has since. Sometimes two people do
well in business by themselves, but when they go into partnership
they bust higher than a kite, if you will allow me the free, English
translation of a Roman expression which you might not fully understand
if I should give it to you in the original Roman.

Lots of self-supporting young ladies have married and had to go very
light on pin-money after that, and still they did not squeal, as you,
dear Ethel. They did not marry for revenue only. They married for
protection. (This is a little political bon mot which I thought of
myself. Some of my best jokes this spring are jokes that I thought of

No, Ethel, if you married expecting to be a dormant partner during the
day and then to go through Mr. Ethel's pantaloons pocket at night and
declare a dividend, of course life is full of bitter, bitter regret and

Perhaps it is also for Mr. Ethel. Anyhow, I can't help feeling a pang
of sympathy for him. You do not say that he is unkind or that he so far
forgets himself as to wake you up in the morning with a harsh tone
of voice and a yearling club. You do not say that he asks you for
pocket-money, or, if so, whether you give it to him or not.

[Illustration: 0280]

Of course I want to do what is right in the solemn warning business, so
I will give notice to all simple young women who are now selfsupporting
and happy, that there is no statute requiring them to assume the burdens
of wifehood and motherhood unless they prefer to do so. If they now have
abundance of pin-money and new clothes, they may remain single if they
wish without violating the laws of the land. This rule is also good when
applied to young and self-supporting young men who wear good clothes
and have funds in their pockets. No young man who is free, happy and
independent, need invest his money in a family or carry a colicky child
twenty-seven miles and two laps in one night unless he prefers it. But
those who go into it with the right spirit, Ethel, do not regret it.

I would just as soon tell you, Ethel, if you will promise that it shall
go no farther, that I do not wear as good clothes as I did before I was
married. I don't have to. My good clothes have accomplished what I got
them for. I played them for all they were worth, and since I got married
the idea of wearing clothes as a vocation has not occurred to me.

Please give my kind regards to Mr. Ethel, and tell him that although I
do not know him personally, I cannot help feeling sorry for him.

[Illustration: 0282]


Last week for the first time I visited the granite obelisk known all
over the civilized world as Bunker Hill monument. Sixty years ago, if my
memory serves me correctly, General La Fayette, since deceased, laid the
corner-stone, and Daniel Webster made a few desultory remarks which I
cannot now recall. Eighteen years later it was formally dedicated, and
Daniel spoke a good piece, composed mostly of things that he had thought
up himself. There has never been a feature of the early history
and unceasing struggle for American freedom which has so roused my
admiration as this custom, quite prevalent among congressmen in those
days, of writing their own speeches.

Many of Webster's most powerful speeches were written by himself or at
his suggestion. He was a plain, unassuming man, and did not feel
above writing his speeches. I have always had the greatest respect
and admiration for Mr. Webster as a citizen, as a scholar and as an
extemporaneous speaker, and had he not allowed his portrait to appear
last year in the Century, wearing an air of intense gloom and a plug hat
entirely out of style, my respect and admiration would have continued

Bunker Hill monument is a great success as a monument, and the view from
its summit is said to be well worth the price of admission. I did not
ascend the obelisk, because the inner staircase was closed to visitors
on the day of my visit and the lightning rod on the outside looked to me
as though it had been recently oiled.

On the following day, however, I engaged a man to ascend the monument
and tell me his sensations. He assured me that they were first-rate. At
the feet of the spectator Boston and its environments are spread out in
the glad sunshine. Every day Boston spreads out her environments just
that way.

Bunker Hill monument is 221 feet in height, and has been entirely paid
for. The spectator may look at the monument with perfect impunity,
without being solicited to buy some of its mortgage bonds. This adds
much to the genuine thrill of pleasure while gazing at it.

There is a Bunker Hill in Macoupin County, Illinois, also in Ingham
County, Michigan, and in Russell County, Kansas, but General Warren was
not killed at either of these points.

One hundred and ten years ago, on the 17th day of the present month, one
of America's most noted battles with the British was fought near where
Bunker Hill monument now stands. In that battle the British lost 1,050
in killed and wounded, while the American loss numbered but 450. While
the people of this country are showing such an interest in our war
history, I am surprised that something has not been said about Bunker
Hill. The Federal forces from Roxbury to Cambridge were under command
of General Arte-mus Ward, the great American humorist. When the American
humorist really puts on his war paint and sounds the tocsin, he can
organize a great deal of mourning.

General Ward was assisted by Putnam, Starke, Prescott, Gridley and
Pomeroy. Colonel William Prescott was sent over from Cambridge to
Charlestown for the purpose of fortifying Bunker Hill. At a council of
war it was decided to fortify Breeds Hill, not so high but nearer to
Boston than Bunker Hill. So a redoubt was thrown up during the night on
the ground where the monument now stands.

The British landed a large force under Generals Howe and Pigot, and at
2 p. m. the Americans were reinforced by Generals Warren and Pomeroy.
General Warren was of a literary turn of mind and during the battle took
his hat off and recited a little poem beginning:

"Stand, the ground's your own, my braves!

Will ye give it up to slaves?"

A man who could deliver an impromptu and extemporaneous address like
that in public, and while there was such a bitter feeling of hostility
on the part of the audience, must have been a good scholar. In our great
fratricidal strife twenty years ago, the inferiority of our generals in
this respect was painfully noticeable. We did not have a commander who
could address his troops in rhyme to save his neck. Several of them were
pretty good in blank verse, but it was so blank that it was not just the
thing to fork over to posterity and speak in school afterward.

Colonel Prescott's statue now stands where he is supposed to have stood
when he told his men to reserve their fire till they saw the whites
of the enemy's eyes. Those who have examined the cast-iron flint-lock
weapons used in those days will admit that this order was wise. Those
guns were injurious to health, of course, when used to excess, but not
necessarily or immediately fatal.

At the time of the third attack by the British, the Americans were out
of ammunition, but they met the enemy with clubbed muskets, and it was
found that one end of the rebel flintlock was about as fatal as the
other, if not more so.

Boston still meets the invader with its club. The mayor says to the
citizens of Boston: "Wait till you can see the whites of the visitor's
eyes, and then go for him with your clubs." Then the visitor surrenders.

I hope that many years may pass before it will again be necessary for us
to soak this fair land in British blood. The boundaries of our land are
now more extended, and so it would take more blood to soak it.

Boston has just reason to be proud of Bunker Hill, and it was certainly
a great stroke of enterprise to have the battle located there.

Bunker Hill is dear to every American heart, and there are none of us
who would not have cheerfully gone into the battle then if we had known
about it in time.


I have just returned from a little impromptu farewell tour in the
lumber camps toward Lake Superior. It was my idea to wade around in the
snow for a few weeks and swallow baked beans and ozone on the one-half
shell. The affair was a success. I put up at Bootjack camp on the raging
Willow River, where the gay-plumaged chipmunk and the spruce gum have
their home.

Winter in the pine woods is fraught with fun and frolic. It is more
fraught with fatigue than funds, however. This winter a man in the
Michigan and Wisconsin lumber camps could arise at 4:30 a. m., eat a
patent pail full of dried apples soaked with Young Hyson and sweetened
with Persian glucose, go out to the timber with a lantern, hew down the
giants of the forest, with the snow up to the pit of his stomach, till
the gray owl in the gathering gloom whooped and hooted in derision, and
all for $12 per month and stewed prunes.

I did not try to accumulate wealth while I was in camp. I just allowed
others to enter into the mad rush and wrench a fortune from the hand
of fate while I studied human nature and the cook. I had a good many
pleasant days there, too. I read such literary works as I could find
around the camp and smoked the royal Havana smoking tobacco of the
coo-kee. Those who have not lumbered much do not know much of true joy
and sylvan smoking tobacco.

They are not using a very good grade of the weed in the lumber regions
this winter. When I say lumber regions I do not refer entirely to the
circumstances of a weak back. (Monkey-wrench, oil can and screwdriver
sent with this joke; also rules for working it in all kinds of goods.)
The tobacco used by the pine choppers of the northern forest is called
the Scandihoovian.

I do not know why they call it that, unless it is because you can smoke
it in Wisconsin and smell it in Scandihoovia.

When night came w: would gather around the blazing fire and talk over
old times and smoke this tobacco. I smoked it till last week then I
bought a new mouth and resolved to lead a different life.

I shall never forget the evenings we spent together in that log shack
in the heart of the forest. They are graven on my memory where time's
effacing fingers can not monkey with them. We would most always
converse. The crew talked the Norwegian language and I am using the
English language mostly this winter. So each enjoyed himself in his own
quiet way. This seemed to throw the Norwegians a good deal together. It
also threw me a good deal together. The Scandinavians soon learn our
ways and our language, but prior to that they are quite clannish.

The cook, however, was an Ohio man. He spoke the Sandusky dialect with
rich, nut brown flavor that did me much good, so that after I talked
with the crew a few hours in English, and received their harsh, corduroy
replies in Norske, I gladly fled to the cook shanty. There I could
rapidly change to the smoothly flowing sentences peculiar to the Ohio
tongue, and while I ate the common twisted doughnut of commerce, we
would talk on and on of the pleasant days we had spent in our native
land. I don't know how many hours I have thus spent, bringing the glad
light into the eye of the cook as I spoke to him of Mrs. Hayes, an
estimable lady, partially married, and now living at Fremont, Ohio.

I talked to him of his old home till the tears would unbidden start, as
he rolled out the dough with a common Budweiser beer bottle, and poured
the scalding into the flour barrel. Tears are always unavailing, but
sometimes I think they are more so when they are shed into a barrel
of flour. He was an easy weeper. He would shed tears on the slightest
provocation, or anything else. Once I told him something so touchful
that his eyes were blinded with tears for the nonce. Then I took a pie,
and stole away so that he could be alone with his sorrow.

[Illustration: 0292]

He used to grind the coffee at 2 a. m. The coffee mill was nailed up
against a partition on the opposite side from my bed. That is one reason
I did not stay any longer at the camp. It takes about an hour to grind
coffee enough for thirty men, and as my ear was generally against the
pine boards when the cook began, it ruffled my slumbers and made me a
morose man.

We had three men at the camp who snored. If they had snored in my own
language I could have endured it, but it was entirely unintelligible
to me as it was. Still, it wasn't bad either. They snored on different
keys, and still there was harmony in it - a kind of chime of imported
snore as it were. I used to lie and listen to it for hours. Then the
cook would begin his coffee mill overture and I would arise.

When I got home I slept from Monday morning till Washington's Birthday
without food or water.


Having at last yielded to the entreaties of Great Britain, I have
decided to make a professional farewell tour of England with my new and
thrilling lecture, entitled "Jerked Across the Jordan, or the Sudden and
Deserved Elevation of an American Citizen."

I have, therefore, already written some of the cablegrams which will
be sent to the Associated Press, in order to open the campaign in good
shape in America on my return.

Though I have been supplicated for some time by the people of England to
come over there and thrill them with my eloquence, my thriller has been
out of order lately, so that I did not dare venture abroad.

This lecture treats incidentally of the ease with which an American
citizen may rise in the Territories, when he has a string tied around
his neck, with a few personal friends at the other end of the string. It
also treats of the various styles of oratory peculiar to America,
with specimens of American oratory that have been pressed and dried
especially for this lecture. It is a good lecture, and the few
straggling facts scattered along through it don't interfere with the
lecture itself in any way.

I shall appear in costume during the lecture.

At each lecture a different costume will be worn, and the costume worn
at the previous lecture will be promptly returned to the owner.

Persons attending the lecture need not be identified.

Polite American dude ushers will go through the audience to keep the
flies away from those who wish to sleep during the lecture.

Should the lecture be encored at its close, it will be repeated only
once. This encore business is being overdone lately, I think.

Following are some of the cablegrams I have already written. If any
one has any suggestions as to change, or other additional favorable
criticisms, they will be gratefully received; but I wish to reserve the
right, however, to do as I please about using them:

London, - - - , - - - . - Bill Nye opened his foreign lecture engagement
here last evening with a can-opener. It was found to be in good order.
As soon as the doors were opened there was a mad rush for seats, during
which three men were fatally injured. They insisted on remaining through
the lecture, however, and adding to its horrors. Before 8 o'clock 500
people had been turned away. Mr. Nye announced that he would deliver
a matinee this afternoon, but he has been petitioned by tradesmen to
refrain from doing so as it will paralyze the business interests of the
city to such a degree that they offer to "buy the house," and allow the
lecturer to cancel his engagement.

London, - - - , - - - . - The great lecturer and contortionist, Bill Nye,
last night closed his six weeks' engagement here with his famous lecture
on "The Rise and Fall of the American Horse Thief," with a grand benefit
and ovation. The elite of London was present, many of whom have attended
every evening for six weeks to hear this same lecture. Those who can
afford it will follow the lecturer back to America, in order to be where
they can hear this lecture almost constantly.

Mr. Nye, at the beginning of the season, offered a prize to anyone who
should neither be absent nor tardy through the entire six weeks.

After some hot discussion last evening, the prize was awarded to the
janitor of the hall.

[Associated Press Cablegram.]

London, - - - , - - - . - Bill Nye will sail for

America tomorrow in the steamship Senegambia. On his arrival in America
he will at once pay off the national debt and found a large asylum for
American dudes whose mothers are too old to take in washing and support
their sons in affluence.

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Online LibraryEdgar Wilson Nye AKA Bill NyeBill Nye's Red Book → online text (page 10 of 14)