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The Century, Volume 11 online

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Doesn't happen to honor my list ! "
"'Spose not;" was the answer — "no reason it should.

For ye see I jine lots with Bill Prim-
He's a reg'lar subscriber and pays ye in wood,

And I bony your paper o' him I "

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Poe*i "Raven."


A correspondent gives the following carious
theory of the composition of this much discussed
poem. There have been numerous conjectures in
regard to what a theatrical manager might call the
"property" of this poem, and it is time that the
questions asked concerning it should be answered.

What were the many " quaint and curious " vol-
umes ? What was the last name of the lost Lenore ?
Was the shutter iron or wood ? Was the lamp one
of sperm, kerosene, or gas, and, where did it hang ?
These are but a few of. the multitude of questions
which have been asked by the inquiring minds of
the present day.

Be it known, therefore, that the hero of the poem
was a hotel derk, whose duty it was to remain in the
office during the weary hours of night and receive
such guests as might offer themselves. The pro-
prietor himself was in the habit of occupying the
office during the day, and had had it fitted up elabo-
rately; thus, the ''sad uncertain rustling of each
purple curtain," which filled the hero with ''fimtastic
terrors never felt before," is fully accounted for.

He had been enamored of a young lady who had
been staying at the hotel for a short time during the
season, but had taken her departure several weeks
before the date of the poem. His knowledge of the
fiur one was extremely limited; merely including
the two leading facts, that her name was Lenore
and that she lived in Aden, — ^which, by the way, is
incorrectly spelled in the poem, — ^Aden being, accord-
ing to the best geographical authorities, situated in
the southern part of Arabia.

The arrivals had been so numerous since her
coming that he had been unable to look up her
name in the register ; but, on this eventfid evening,
no late visitors had troubled him, and, turning the
pages of that book containing " many a quaint and
curious" signature, he search-
ed for that of the lost Lenore.

While engaged in this
firuitless undertaking, — fruit-
less, alas! for her father in
his haste had only signed,
•* C. Ferguson and Daughter,"
—he heard a tapping at the
door. Now this at a hotel
is an unusual method of ap-
plying for entrance, and the
thought that it must be a spirit
came forcibly to his mind.
Spirits have never been known
to ring the door-bell. They
always rap. Thinking that
Lenore must have come from
a better land to converse with
him, he hesitated a moment,
remembering that he had
never been introduced.

It was December, and the embers were painting
S^osts upon the floor. He had been wishing fi)r
the morning, for the hotel register afibrded but poor

amusement, and his heart did not cease to sorrow,
for the " rare and radiant maiden " was nameless
there on account of her father's thoughtlessness,
and it was likely evermore to be so, for residents of
so distant a place as Aden would probably never
visit America again.

However, he remembered, that if a guest com-
plained of having been left shivering outside the
door for a good half hour the proprietor might not
consider his suffering because of the lost one to be a
sufficient excuse for his negligence ; so, apologizing
for his delay, he throws open the door to find dark-
ness there and nothing more.

After turning with burning heart into the room
he hears a similar tapping at the window, and upon
raising it and throwing the iron shutter — the win-
dow opened toward the rear and was much exposed
to burglarious attempts, as the safe was standing
hard by — without die least obeisance, a raven
stepped in and perched u|x>n the bust of Pallas over
the door.

The extreme accuracy of the poet at this point is
marvelous. Hotel-keepers are noted for their efforts
to buy cheaply. This one, when searcliing for deco-
rations to beautify his house withal, had made some
great bargains.

A young sculptor in town having found that the
citizens did not appreciate wisdom, and that, conse-
quently, the bust of Pallas was dead stock, sold it
for an absurdly moderate price, and it was placed
over the entrance door.

We might continue to throw light upon the many
other obscure portions of the poem, but fear that we
may weary the reader. It is but proper, however,
that the final sentence, which occupies the whole of
the last verse, should be explained.

It is well known to those of observing habits that
hoteb ordinarily have a fim-Ug^t over the main
entrance, and a lamp suspended above and in fix>nt
of the same. The raven, sitting upon the sculptured

■;W'^*'^f^.^.}:Cx^:i^ ^


bust, was in a strai^t line between the lamp outside
and the floor inside, which, in the course of nature,
received the shadow of the raven, which presented a

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striking contrast to the dear light afforded by the
artificial luminary above and beyond. This contrast
was greatly increased by the absence of Hght inside
the room; for, fearing lest his employer should
enter the office and see the gas burning brightly
while he was musing, perhaps with former experi-
ences fresh in his memory, the thoughtful clerk
turned down the light, and thus contributed greatly
to the effect of the poem.

It is strange that this easy and complete exposition
has not occurred to the eminent critics who have
discussed the poem. Arthur Jacobus.

*'A Reflection.

When Eve upon the first of men
The apple pressed with specious cant,

Oh, what a thousand pities then
That Adam was not adamant ! "

auty to Siztom.

[To a young lady who complained that the niina, antSquilit
etc, didn't look old enough.]

My Dbak Girl:

You complain, as I'm crediblY told.

That anti^tiity's rehcs are fiufing from view.
That with vinoo aesthetic you've sought fior tne old,

And in all of your roammgs have found but the new.

'Tis the magic of girlhood and youth at its prime
To cast metr own slamour on all that they meet;

And the mokfiest landmarks of classical time
Bfii^len up and look young at the sound of your feet.

AlasI for dioae ruins which feel, when you've pasaed.

That the g^ow of their Spring-time
^d the bri^ happty gleam wBch yc
Only deepens tnar longing, and

our glances have <
IS their pain I

Don't be hard on the ruins I Don't munnur too loud I
Lest the mossy oM relic you've sought fax and wide

Should chance, m the drift of Society's crowd.
To bend at your footstool, or sit by your side !


« Will you lea4 in prayer?'' said the
minister to good Deacon Colman at a con-
ference meeting. *' Better ask some other
brother,** said the honest old man — ^*^ I don't
feel very spry to night ! "

A simple looking country lad, y comprised
such men as Marinus Willett, Isaac Sears,
Alexander McDougal, William Wiley, Ger-
shom Mott, John Lamb, and Edward Laight,


— patriots whose ardor was invincible. Their
usual place of meeting was at the house of
Abraham Montagne, in Broadway, near
Murray street, which, in 1775, was occupied
as a tavern by Samuel Fraunces. The day
before the Stamp Act was to go into effect,
October 31st, 1765, the "Gazette, or Weekly
Post Boy," which was then the organ of the
Liberty Party, appeared in mourning with
the following prologue at its head :

A Funeral Lamentation on the

Death of Liberty,

Who Finally Expires on this

3i8t of October in the Year ol our Lord MDCCLXV,

And of our Slavery.


The same evening there was a general
meeting of citizens at the King's Arms, when
measures were taken to compel the Govern-
ment officers who had charge of the stamps
to resign their office. This, however, was
not sufficient to appease popular indigna-
tion. Major James, Commandant at Fort
George, had boasted that he would cram the
stamps down the rebel throats. The stamps
were in possession of Acting-Governor Col-
den at the Government House in the fort,
the guns of the fort were loaded with grape
and turned up Broadway ; yet a maddened
throng paraded the streets, tore down the
wooden fence that inclosed the Bowling
Green, and made a bonfire of this material.

on which they placed the Governor's costly
coach. Meanwhile, they dared the soldiery
to fire upon them, and finally ended the
night's work by despoiling Major James's
elegant residence, Ranelagh, situated out of
town, in the vicinity of Worth street and West
Broadway. Thereupon the stamps were
delivered to the Mayor and Common Coun-
cil, who wisely put them out of sight, and
peace was restored.

In February, 1766, the Stamp Act was
repealed. On the following 4th of June,
the King's birthday, the people celebrated
the event with high carnival on the Com-
mons. An ox was roasted whole. Twenty-
five barrels of strong beer and a hogshead
of rum contributed to the feast, and a liberty
pole was erected, with the inscription, " To
His Most Gracious Majesty George III.,
Mr. Pitt, and Liberty." The mass of the
people for a time became intensely loyal.
Petitions of citizens were addressed to the
Colonial Assembly, requesting the erection
of a statue to Pitt, and that body not only
complied, but voted also an equestrian statue
to the King, to be set up in the Bowling
Green. Of the latter, only the stone pedes-
tal remains, having recently been rescued
from its ignominious service, for the greater
part of a century, as a door-step. The statue
of Pitt was of marble, and represented the
great commoner as clad in a Roman toga,
having in the right hand a scroll partly
opened, on which was inscribed, " Articuli
Magna Charta Libertatum," and extending
the left hand in an oratorical gestiu^. In
revenge for the destruction of the King's
statue, some British officers during the war
knocked off the head and arms of the Pitt
statue, and it passed fi-om one hand to
another, until it found a fit resting-place in
the rooms of the New York Historical
Society. The statue originally stood at the
corner of Wall and William streets.

The Stamp Act troubles bred bad blood
between the soldiers and the colonists. On
the King's birthday, in 1767, the citizens ran
up the colonial flag to the top of the Liberty
Pole on the Common, and a cannon at its
foot answered derisively the salute at Fort
George. Finally, the soldiers determined
on the destruction of the pole, which had
become the rallying point of the patriots.
Twice the pole was cut down by the British
troops, and twice restored. Finally, on the
night of January 16, 1770, a party of the
Sixteenth Regiment cut down the pole for
the third time, hewed it into pieces and
piled the fragments in fi-ont of Montague's,

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where the Liberty Boys held their meetings.
This insult brought on the " battle of Golden
Hill," as it was termed in colonial days.
The locality was at the intersection of John
and Pearl streets. There a party of soldiers
drew their swords, and, with the cry, " Where
are your Sons of Liberty now ? " fell upon a
crowd of citizens, cutting and slashing about
them with great violence, and wounding six
or seven persons. The citizens were un-
armed, and their only crime was a pethion
to the Mayor to repress the insolence of the
British troops. This contest took place two
months before the massacre in King's street,
Boston, and five years prior to the battle of

not be permitted to land his cargo, he at once
set sail again for England. Another skipper
fared worse. A merchant vessel, under com-
mand of Captain Chambers, arrived in April,
1774, bringing eighteen boxes of tea hidden
in her cargo. The Liberty Boys boarded the
ship in open day, dragged out the chests, emp-
tied them into the harbor, and bade the Cap-
tain recross the Adantic without delay. He
was wise enough to obey peaceably. When
he set sail, the cannon pealed a triumph, and
the flag on the rebuilt Liberty Pole waved a
farewell amid the cheers of the colonists.

On Sunday morning, April 23d, 1775, ^
messenger rode in hot haste down the Bow-


Lexington. It may be, therefore, that New
York is entided to claim that the blood of
her citizens was the first that was shed in the
cause of fireedom.

New York had her revolutionary tea-party
as well as Boston. When the news of Lord
North's Tea Act reached the city, in No-
vember, 1773, the popular excitement be-
came intense. The " Nancy" was the first
tea ship to arrive. By advice of the pilot,
Captain Lockyier left his vessel at Sandy
Hook, and came up to the city and held a
conference with the Committee of Corre-
spondence. Becoming satisfied that he would

ery Lane, and through the fields, summoning
the citizens to the Liberty Pole by a startling
blast of his trumpet. There he astoimded
them by announcing that the batde of Lex-
ington had been fought, and the British
troops had been driven into Boston. The
news was sufficient to fill the hearts of the
Sons of Liberty. Led by Isaac Sears, — who
was then known as " Kmg" Sears, and who
subsequently died in poverty in a foreign
land, — ^they rushed to the arsenal at the cor-
ner of Wall and Broad streets, forced the
doors and captured six hundred muskets,
with a considerable supply of cartridges.

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The Custom House and general stores were
also seized. The Eighteenth Regiment of
Foot (Royal Irish) prudently kept within
their barracks. A day or two afterward, a
public meeting of citizens formally placed
the government of the city in the hands of
a committee of one hundred.

Immediately after these events, orders
came for the Eighteenth Regiment to em-
bark for Boston. Marinus Willett was at the
tavern of Francis Drake on Water street,
near Beekman, when he heard that the sol-
diers were on their way to the boats. Send-
ing messages to his nearest comrades, he
started in pursuit and overtook the regi-
ment at Broad and Beaver streets. Finding
that they had a quantity of extra arms, in
wagons, with them, he boldly seized the
foremost horse by the bridle and checked
the convoy. He was speedily joined by
John Morin Scott and a score of other
determined men. David Mathews, the act-
ing Mayor, who was a violent Tory, remon-
strated with the patriots, but in vain. Wil-
lett spoke a few stirring words to the crowd,
who thereupon seized the carts and escorted
them in triumph up Broadway to the ball-
alley of Abraham Van Wyck in John street.
Tradition adds that several soldiers of the
Royal Irish regiment seized this opportunity
to desert Certain it is that the arms after-
ward did good service in the first regiment
raised by the State of New York.

The battle of Bunker Hill found the Pro-
vincial Congress engaged in raising four
regiments of soldiers, while General Wooster,
with a brigade of Connecticut troops, was
encamped at Yorkville. At this time Gen-
eral Washington was on his way to Bos-

king's COLLEGE.

ton to take command of the Continental
army. He was accompanied by Generals
Lee and Schuyler, and by the Philadelphia
Light Horse. At four o'clock in the after-
noon, Washington landed " at Colonel Lis-

penard's seat, about a mile fi*om New York
city," as we are informed by Rivington's
" Royal Gazetteer." The locality was near
the foot of Murray street, on the North
River. Here the new Commander-in-Chief
was received by nine companies of militia
and a great concourse of the "principal
inhabitants." Washington tarried only for
a brief conference with the military leaders,
and then at once sped on his way to Boston.
His visit was marked, however, by a curious
coincidence. On the evening of the same
day the ship "Juliana" landed in the bay,
bringing Governor Tryon as a passenger
fi-om London. This was just the juxtapo-
sition of affairs which all parties had been
fearing. However, the Tory merchants and
officials, who seem also, according to the
" Gazeteer," to have made up " an immense
number of the principal people," kept the
celebrations apart, and at night escorted the
royal Governor with martial music, torches,
and huzzas to " the house of the Hon. Hugh
Wilson, Esquire," a member of the Council.
Tryon seems to have possessed in an emi-
nent degree the discretion which at times is
preferable to valor. He attended to his
official work quietly and did not interfere
even when, on the following fourth of July,
the Military Club entertained Generals
Schuyler, Wooster, and Montgomery, at the
house of Mr. Samuel Fraunces " in the fields."
These gentlemen were engaged in putting
the local recruits and city miUtia in fighting
trim. They even went so far as to have
Wooster's brigade reviewed by Schuyler and
Montgomery on the Commons. The royal
Governor was content to be openly acknowl-
edged as the lawful executive. In private,
however, the patriots made it so
uncomfortable for him that he
was glad to flee in the early

Stirring events were soon to
follow. On the night of the 23d
of August a party of soldiers and
citizens, under the command of
Lamb and Sears, seized the
Grand Battery and the Fort, in
which twenty-two iron eighteen-
pounders and several smaller
cannon were mounted. Among
the party was Alexander Ham-
ilton, then a student of King's
College. A barge sent fi-om the British
man-of-war "Asia " to watch the movement
was fired upon, and the vessel answered
by a broadside. An eighteen-pound ball
was shot into the house of Samuel Fraunces,

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at the comer of the Exchange, and another
into an adjacent house. This firing caused
a general alarm, and many women and
children were hurriedly sent out of the city
for safety. The patriots stood firm imder
the cannonade, and removed every gun.

• The house then occupied by Samuel
Fraimcesfor his down-town tavern was better
known in that day as the De Lancey man-
sion. It was built by Stephen De Lancey
in 1724, dtuing the governorship of William
Btunet, son of the famous bishop of that
name, and stood at the comer of Broad
street and that part of Pearl which was
then called Dock street. Its situation was
admirable, as it was near the Govemment
House, and Front and South streets did not
exist at that time. Forty years afterward it
was discovered to be too far down town,
and Oliver De Lancey sold it to Samuel
Fraunces, the Delmonico of his day, who
was made steward of Washington's house-
hold when the first President resided in
New York. Fraimces, who fix)m the swarthi-
ness of his complexion was generally spoken
of as " Black Sam," had a genius for cook-
ery, and was a connoisseiu- in wines. Accord-
ingly, after leasing the house for a while,
he opened it as a tavern in 177 1. The
spacious mansion was admirably adapted
for purposes of entertainment, and soon

' became a center of resort Here the
^* Social Club" met every Saturday night
and praised their host's Madeira. There
were many loyalists in this organization,
but John Jay, Gouvemeur Morris, Morgan
Lewis, Livingston, Verplanck, and other
patriots, were also members. From this
source, perhaps, Fraunces imbibed his cham-
pionship of colonial independence. When
the Revolution broke out he became an
ardent patriot, and when the "Asia" dis-
charged her broadside at the city, his house
was made the target, because it was sup-
posed to be the gathering place of the rebels.
When the British entered the city on the
15th of September, 1776, Fraunces fled with
General Putnam and his troops, and his
house was occupied by British officers. He
did not venture to return until November
25th, 1783. After the British troops had
marched sullenly to their boats, and the
Americans occupied Fort George, Washing-
ton took up his headquarters at Fraunces's
Tavern. Here it was that the Commander-
in-Chief bade farewell to his officers on the
4th of December following. The old house
is still standing, but it has been gutted once
or twice by fire, and changed very much in '

rebuilding. As erected by Stephen De
Lancey, the front on Broad street had three
floors and an attic, and the Dock street
fix)nt had an additional floor with a hip roof.
The ancient building has changed and its
glory has departed, but it has survived more
than a century and a half of existence, to
challenge the homage of those who love to
dwell on the memories of old New York.

A daughter of "Black Sam," Phoebe
Fraunces, was Washington's housekeeper
when he had his headquarters in New
York in the spring of 1776, and was the
means of defeating a conspiracy against his
life. Govemor Tryon, Mayor Mathews,
and other Tories, had laid a plot to seize the
city and hold it for the British. One part
of the plan was the poisoning of the Ameri-
can commander. Its immediate agent was
to be Thomas Hickey, a deserter from the
British army, who had become a member
of Washington's body guard, and had made
himself a general favorite at headquarters.
Fortimately the would-be conspirator fell
desperately in love with Phoebe Fraunces,
and made her his confidant. She revealed
the plot to her father, and at an opportune
moment the dhumement came. Hickey
was arrested and tried by court-martial.
He confessed his crime and revealed the
details of the plot. A few da)rs afterward
he was hanged at the intersection of Grand
and Christie streets, in the presence of
twenty thousand spectators.

Fort George, from which the patriot
forces remov^ the guns under the cannon-
ade of the "Asia," was the pride of the city
in its eariy days. As originally constmcted,
it was bounded by the present State, Bridge,
and Whitehall streets, and feced the Bowling
Green. It changed names often and sud-
denly. Christened Fort Amsterdam by the
peaceful Dutch, it became Fort James at
the first occupation of the island by the
British. When the Dutch re-occupied the
city they gave their old stronghold the
name of Fort Wilhelm Hendrick, in honor
of the Prince of Orange. Afterward Eng-
lish govemors gave it successively the names
of Fort James, Fort William, and Fort Wil-
liam Henry. Finally the name Fort George
was fixed upon, and that title it continued
to bear until it was finally evacuated by the
British. It had four points, or bastions, and
could mount sixty guns, though Washington
found but six cannon there when he first
occupied the city. Within the walls were
the Govemor's house and a chapel.

By the time the Revolution was ended

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Fort George had become thoroughly hate-
ftil to the people, because of its associations
with British tyranny. They had grown
nred of seeing the royal flag floating


from the flag-staflj and petitioned the city
authorities to level the fort to the ground.
Accordingly, in 1788, the Mayor, Aldermen,
and Commonalty decreed its demolition.
On the line of its northern front, facing the
Bowling Green, they proceeded to erect an
imposing edifice, intended as die oflficial
residence of the President of tfie United
States. The national capital was transferred
to the District of Columbia before it was
completed, and the new building was occu-
pied by the Governor of the State. When
Albany was finally fixed upon as the State
capital, it was made the Custom House for a
while, but in 181 c it was taken down and a
row of brick buildings took its place. With
this last change, even the traditions of the
old fortress that so long had witnessed the
varying fortunes of the city, seem to have
faded away.

When Alexander Hamilton led fifteen of
his fellow-students against the Grand Bat-
tery (a fortification connected with Fort
George, though very much smaller) on the
August night m which they drew the fire of
the English fleet, he virtually disbanded
King's College. This venerable institution
had been founded by royal charter in 1754.
Its first students gathered in the vestry of
Trinity Church, under the presidency of

the Reverend Dr. Samuel Johnson. Tbcy
were eight in number, and all of them rose
to positions of importance. Among the
eight were Samuel Provoost, afterward Prot-
estant Episcopal Bishop of Nev
York, Isaac Ogden, Pierre Vai^
Cortlandt, su^quendy Lieu-
tenant-Governor, and Samud
Veiplanck. Trinity Chuxdi
gave the college a considerable

Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 53 of 163)