George Horatio Derby.

Phnixiana; or, Sketches and burlesques online

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Old Byles gave a groan, and lifted his right leg. An-
other turn ; another groan, and up went the leg again.
" What do you raise your leg for ? " asked the doc-
tor. '' I can't help it," said the patient. " Well,"
rejoined Tushmaker, '' that tooth is bound to come
now." He turned the lever clear round, with a sud-

"What do you kaise your leg for."



den jerk, and snaj^ped old Byles's head clean and
clear from his shoulders, leaving a space of four
inches between the severed parts ! They had a post-
mortem examination — the roots of the tooth were
found extending down the right side, through the
right leg, and turning up in two prongs under the
sole of the right foot ! " l^o wonder," said Tush-
maker, '' he raised his right leg." The jury thought
so, too, but they found the roots much decayed, and
five surgeons swearing that mortification would have
ensued in a few months, Tushmaker was cleared on
a verdict of " justifiable homicide." He was a lit-
tle shy of that instrument for some time afterward ;
but one day an old lady, feeble and flaccid, came in
to have a tooth drawn, and thinking it would come
out very easy, Tushmaker concluded, just by way of
variety, to try the machine. He did so, and at the
first turn drew the old lady's skeleton completely
and entirely from her body, leaving her a mass
of quivering jelly in her chair! Tushmaker took
her home in a pillow-case. She lived seven years
after that, and they called her the '' India-Kubber
Woman." She had suffered terribly with the rheu-
matism, but after this occurrence never had a pain
in her bones. The dentist kept them in a glass case.
After this, the machine was sold to the contractor
of the Boston Custom-House, and it was found that


a child of three years of age could, by a single turn
of the screw, raise a stone weighing twenty-three tons.
Smaller ones were made, on the same principle, and
sold to the keepers of hotels and restaurants. They
were used for boning turkeys. There is no moral to
this story whatever, and it is possible that tliB cir-
cumstances may have become slightly exaggerated.
Of course, there can be no doubt of the truth of the
main incidents.

The following maritime anecdote was related to
me by a small man in a pea-jacket and sou'wester
hat, who had salt standing in crusts all over his face.
When I asked him if it were true, he replied, " The
jib-sheet's a rope, and the helm's a tiller." I guess
it's all right.

Many years ago, on a stormy and inclement even-
ing, '' in the bleak December," old Miss Tarbox, ac-
companied by her niece, Mary Ann Stackpole, sailed
from Holmes's Hole to Cotuit, in the topsail schooner
Two Susans, Captain Blackler. '^ The rains de-
scended, and the floods came, and the winds blew
and beat upon " that schooner, and great was the
tossing and pitching thereof ; while Captain Blackler
and his hardy crew ^' kept her to it," and old Miss
Tarbox and her niece rolled about in their uncom-
fortable bunks, wishing themselves back in Holmes's
Hole, or any other hole, on the dry land. The shouts


of Captain Blackler, as he trod the deck, conveying
orders for " tacking ship/' were distinctly andible
to the afflicted females below ; and ^' Oh ! " groaned
old Miss Tarbox, during a tranquil interval of her
internal economy, as for the fifteenth time the
schooner '' went in stays," " what a drefful time them
pore creeturs of sailors is a having on't. Just listen
to Jim Blackler, Mary Ann, and hear how he is or-
dering about that pore fellow. Hardy Lee. I've
heerd that creetur hollered for twenty times this
blessed night, if I have oust." ^' Yes," replied the
wretched Mary Ann, as she gave a fearful retch to
starboard, ^' but he ain't no worse off than poor
Taupsle Hall — he seems to ketch it as bad as Hardy."
^^ I wonder who they be," mused old Miss Tarbox ;
^^ I knowed a Miss Hall, that lived at Seekonk Pint
oncet — mebbe it's her son." A tremendous sea taking
the Two Susans on her quarter at this instant, put
a stop to the old lady's cogitations ; but they had an
awful night of it — and still above the roaring of the
wind, the whistling and clashing of the shrouds, the
dash of the sea, and the tramp of the sailors, was
heard the voice of stout Captain Blackler as he
shouted, ^^ Stations ! Hard a lee ! To|/sle haul ! Let
go and haul," — and the Two Susans went about.
And, as old Miss Tarbox remarked years afterward,
when she and Mary Ann had discovered their mistake


and laughed thereat, " Anybody that's never been to
sea won't see no pint to this story."

Circumstances over which I have no control will
soon call me to a residence in Washington Territory,
a beautiful and fertile field of usefulness, named
for the "' Father of his Country," who, I am led to
understand, was " first in peace, first in war, and
first in the hearts of his countrymen." As the Ken-
tuckian remarked, ^' I may be heered on again, but

I stand about as much chance as a bar going to

the infernal regions (not to put too fine a point on
it) without any claws." Before I go, however, I
will endeavor to give you a little history of the rise,
progress, and decline of ^^ My San Diego Laivsuit,^^
which I think you and your readers will find curious
if not amusing. Adieu.




San Francisco, Oct. 10, 1860.
To Professor John Phcenix, Esq., San Diego Observatory.

Dear Sir : — Perceiving by perusal of your interesting
article on Astronomy, that you have an organ which it is
presumed you would like to dispose of, I am instructed by

the vestry of the meeting-house on Street, to enter into

a negotiation with you for its purchase. Please state by
return of mail, whether or no the organ is for sale; if so,
the price, and if it is in good repair, and plays serious

Very truly yours,

A. Sleek Stiggins,
Ruling Elder and Agent for the sale of Stiggins's Elder Blow Tea.

Professor Phcenix has the honor to acknowledge
the receipt of Mr. Stiggins's polite communication,
and regrets to inform him that the organ alluded to
has been disposed of to a member of the Turn-verein
Association. Owing to some " fatuity or crooJced-
ness of mind " on the part of the manufacturer, the
organ never could be made to play but one tune,
" The Low Backed Car," which Professor Phoenix
considers a most sad and plaintive melody, calcu-
lated to fill the mind with serious and melancholy
20 289


emotions. Professor P. takes occasion to inform Mr.
S. that he has a bass trombone in his possession,
which, with a double convex lens fitted in the mouth-
piece, he has used in his observations on the stars.
This instrument will be for sale at the conclusion of
this course of lectures, and if adapted to Mr. Stig-
gins's purpose, is very much at his service.

Lectures ois^ Astronomy — Part II



This planet may be easily recognized by its
bright, ruddy appearance, and its steady light. It
resembles in size and color the stars Arcturus, in
Bootes, and Antares, in Scorpio; but, as it is not,
like them, continually winking, we may consider it,
in some respects, a body of superior gravity. Our
readers will be pleased to learn that Mars is an oblate
spheroid, with a diameter of 4,222 miles. It is seven
times smaller than the Earth; its day is forty-four
minutes longer than ours, and its year is equal to
twenty-two and a half of our months. It receives
from the sun only one-half as much light and heat
as the Earth, and has no moon; which, in some re-
spects, may be considered a blessing, as the poets of
Mars can not be eternally writing sonnets on that sub-
ject. Mars takes its name from the God of War,
who was considered the patron of soldiers, usually


termed sons of Mars, though it was well remarked
bj some philosopher that they are generally sons of
pa's also. Macaulay, however, in his severe review
of Hanson's Life of the Rev. Eleazer Williams, re-
marks, with great originality, that '^ It is a wise child
that knows its own father."

Mars is also the tutelary divinity of Filibusters,
and we are informed by several of the late troops of
the late President William Walker that this planet
was of great use in guiding that potentate during
his late nocturnal rambles through the late Repub-
lic of Sonora. The ruddy appearance of Mars is not
attributed to his former bad habits, but to the great
height of his atmosphere, which must be very favor-
able to the aeronauts of that region, where, doubtless,
ballooning is the principal method of locomotion.
Upon the whole. Mars is but a cold and ill-condi-
tioned planet, and if, as some persons believe, the
souls of deceased soldiers are sent thither, there can
be little inducement to die in service, unless, indeed,
larger supplies of commissary whisky and tobacco
are to be found there than the present telescopic ob-
servations would lead us to believe.


This magnificent planet is the largest body, ex-
cepting the Sun, in the Solar System. " It may be



readily distinguished from the fixed stars by its pe-
culiar splendor and magnitude, appearing to the un-
clothed eye almost as resplendent as Venus, although
it is more than seven times her distance from the
Sun." Its day is but nine hours, fifty-five minutes
and fifty seconds; but it has rather a lengthy year,
equivalent to nearly twelve years of our time. It is
about thirteen hundred times larger than the Earth.



In consequence of the rapid movement of Jupiter
upon his axis, his form is that of an oblate spheroid.


very considerably flattened at its poles, and the im-
mense centrifugal force resulting from this move-
ment (26,554 miles per hour), would, undoubtedly,
have long since caused him to fly asunder were it not
for a wise provision of I^ature, which has caused enor-
mous belts or hoops to encircle his entire surface.

These hoops, usually termed belts, are plainly
visible through the telescope. They are eight in num-
ber, and are supposed to be made of gutta-percha,
with an outer edge of ^o. 1 boiler iron. Owing to
the great distance of Jupiter from the Sun, he re-
ceives but one twenty-seventh part of the light and
heat that we do from that body. To preserve the
great balance of IsTature, it is therefore probable that
the whales of Jupiter are twenty-seven times larger
than ours, and that twenty-seven times as much cord-
wood is cut on that planet as on the Earth.

The axis of Jupiter is perpendicular to the plane
of its orbit ; hence its climate has no variation of sea-
sons in the same latitude. It has four moons, three
of which may be readily discerned with an ordinary
spy-glass. By observation on the eclipses of these
satellites, the velocity of light has been measured,
and we find that light is precisely eight minutes and
thirteen seconds in coming to us from the Sun. Ac-
cording to the poet, " the light of other days '' has
a considerably slow motion. Jupiter, in the Heathen


Mythologyj was the King of the Gods. As there can
be no doubt that, with the progress of time, advance-
ment in liberal ideas, and a knowledge of the im-
mortal principles of democracy has obtained among
these divinities, it is probable that he has long since
been deposed, and his kingdom converted into a re-
public, over whose destinies, according to the well-
known principles of availability, some one-eyed
Cyclops, unknown to fame, has probably been elected
to preside. His representative will, however, always
remain King of the Planets while such things as
kings exist; after which he will become their undis-
puted president. Jupiter is the patron of Monarchs,
Presidents, and Senators. It is doubtful, however,
whether he pays much attention to State Senators, or
even continues his patronage to him of the Congres-
sional body who fails to be reelected, although bent on
being notorious he may continue to vociferate that he
^^ knows a hawk from a hand-saw,'' and was " not
educated at West Pint/"


Whoever, during the present year, has had his
attention attracted by that beautiful group, the
Pleiades, or Seven Stars, may have noticed near
them, in the constellation Taurus, a star apparently
of the first magnitude, shining with a peculiarly


white light, and beaming down with a gentle, steady
radiance upon the Earth. This is the beautiful
planet Saturn, which, moving slowly at the rate of
two minutes daily among the stars, may be readily
traced from one constellation to another. Saturn is
nearly nine hundred millions of miles from the Sun.
His volume is eleven hundred times that of the
Earth; and while his year is equivalent to twenty-
nine and a half of ours, his day is shorter by more
than one-half. Keceiving but one-nineteenth part of
the light from the Sun that we do, it follows that the
inhabitants of Saturn are not equally enlightened
with us; and supposing them to be physically con-
stituted as we are, stoves and cooking-ranges un-
doubtedly go off at a ready sale and pretty high figure
among them. Saturn differs from all the other plan-
ets, in being surrounded by three rings, consecutive
to each other, which shine by reflection from the Sun,
with superior brilliancy to the planet itself. It is
also attended by eight satellites. Many theories have
been started to account for the rings of Saturn, but
none of them is satisfactory. Our own opinion is
that this planet was originally diversified, like the
Earth, with continents of land and vast oceans of
water. By the rapid motion of the planet upon its
axis, the oceans were collected near the equatorial
regions, whence, by the immense centrifugal force,


they were subsequently thrown clear from the sur-
face, and remained revolving about the denser body,
at that distance where the centrifugal force and the
attraction of gravitation from the other planets were
in equilibrio.

The ships floating on the surface of the waters at
the time of this great convulsion, of course, went with
them, and it is a most painful reflection to the hu-
mane mind that their crews have undoubtedly long
since perished, after maintaining for a while their
miserably isolated existence on a precarious supply
of fish.

It is a curious and interesting fact, much dwelt
on in popular treatises on Astronomy, that were a
cannon-ball fired from the Earth to Saturn it would
be one hundred and eighty years in getting there.
The only useful deduction that we are able to make
from this fact, however, is, that the inhabitants of
Saturn, if warned of their danger by the sight of the
flash or the sound of the explosion, would have ample
opportunity in the course of one hundred and eighty
years to dodge the shot !

Saturn was the father of all the Heathen Divin-
ities, and, we regret to say, was a most disreputable
character. It will hardly be credited that he had a
revolting habit of devouring his children shortly
after their birth, and it was only by a pious deception


of his wife, who furnished him with dogs, sheep, buf-
falo, and the like, on these occasions, with assurances
that they were his oifspring, that Jupiter and his
brothers were preserved from their impending fate.
A person of such a disposition could never be tol-
erated in a civilized community, and there is little
doubt that if Saturn were a resident of the Earth at
the present time, and should persist in his unpleasant
practises, he would speedily be arrested and held to
bail in a large amount.


We know little of this planet, except that, with
its six moons, it was discovered by Dr. Herschel, a
native of the island of England (situated on the
northwest coast of Europe), in 1781. It was named
by him the " Georgium Sidus,'' as a tribute of re-
spect to a miserable, blind, old lunatic, who at that
time happened to be king of the Island. Overlook-
ing the sycophancy of the man, in their admiration
for the services of the Astronomer, his philosophical
contemporaries renamed the planet Herschel, by
which title it is still known. An attempt made by
the courtiers of the English king to call it Uranus
(a Latin expression, meaning " You reign over us "),
happily failed to succeed. Herschel is supposed to
be about eighty times larger than the Earth, and to


have a period of revolution of about eighty-four
years, but its diurnal motion has not yet been dis-


Was discovered by a French gentleman, named
Le Verrier, in 1846. It is supposed to be about forty
thousand miles in diameter, and to have a period of
one hundred and sixty-four years. But of this
planet, and another still more remote from the Sun,
lately discovered (to which the literati and savants
of Europe propose to give the name of Squihoh, a
Hebrew word, signifying, " There you go, ivith your
eye out^^), we know little from actual observation.
That they exist there can be no doubt, and it is pos-
sible, to use the expressive language of a modern
philosopher, " There are a few more of the same sort
left " beyond them.

E'eptune is the God of the Sea, an unpleasant
element, full of disagreeable fish, horrible sea-lions,
and equivocal serpents, the reflection on which, or
some other reasons, generally makes everyone sick
who ventures upon it. He married a Miss Amphi-
trite, who, unlike sailors' wives in general, usually
accompanies her husband on all his voyages. !N"ep-
tune is the tutelar deity of seamen, who generally
allude to him as " Davy Jones," and speak of the


ocean as his '^ locker " (a locker indeed, in which un-
told thousands of their worn-out bones are bleaching),
and on crossing the Equinoctial line it was formerly
the custom among them to perform certain rites in
his honor, which pagan ceremonial has gradually
passed out of date.


These are ten small planets, revolving about the
Sun in different orbits, situated between those of
Mars and Jupiter. They can seldom be seen with-
out a powerful telescope; and are of no great im-
portance when you see them. Our friend. Dr.
Olbers, who paid much attention to these little bodies,
is of the opinion that they are fragments of a large
celestial sphere which formerly revolved between
Mars and Jupiter, and which, by some mighty inter-
nal convulsion, burst into pieces. With this opinion
we coincide. What caused the explosion, how many
lives were lost, and whether blame could be attached
to anyone on account of it, are circumstances that we
shall probably remain in as profound ignorance of as
the unfortunate inhabitants of the planet found them-
selves after the occurrence. What purpose the Aster-
oids now serve in the great economy of the Universe
it is impossible to ascertain ; it may be that they are
reserved as receptacles for the departed souls of


ruined merchants and broken brokers. As the Span-
iard profoundly remarks, '' Quien 8ahe?^'


For convenience of description, Astronomers
have divided the entire surface of the Heavens into
numerous small tracts, called constellations, to which
have been given names resulting from some real or
fancied resemblance in the arrangement of the stars
composing them to the objects indicated. This re-
semblance is seldom very striking, but nomenclature
is arbitrary, and it is perhaps quite as well to call
a collection of stars that don't look at all like a scor-
pion " The Scorpion " as to name an insignificant
village, w^ith two or three hundred inhabitants, a
tavern, no church, and twenty-seven grog-shops Rome
or Carthage. We once knew a couple of honest peo-
ple who named their eldest child (a singularly pug-
nosed little girl) Madot^tna, Madonna Smith — and
that infant grew up and did well, and was lately mar-
ried to a highly respectable young butcher.

A zone 16° in breadth, extending quite around
the Heavens, 8° on each side of the Ecliptic, is called

This zone is divided into twelve equal parts or
constellations, which are sometimes called the Signs




of the Zodiac. The following are the names of these
constellations^ in their regular order, and the num-
ber of visible stars contained in each :


1 . Aries The

3. Taurus TJie

3. Gemini The

4. Cancer The

5. Leo TJie

6. Virgo The

7. Libra TJie

8. Scorpio The

9. Sagittarius TJie

10. Capricornus TJie

11. Aquarius TJie

12. Pisces TJie

Hydraulic Ram 66

Irish Bull 1^1

Siamese Twins 85

Soft Shelled Crab ... . 83

Dandy Lion 95

Virago 110

Hay Scales 51

N. Y. Herald 44

Sparrow 69

BisJiop 51

Decanter 108

Sardines 73

To discover the position of these several constel-
lations, it is merely necessary to have a starting point.
On looking at the Heavens during the month of


April, and considering the stars therein intently, the
observer will at length find six bright stars arranged
exactly in the form of a sickle. A very bright star
is at the extremity of the handle. This is the star
Eegulus in the constellation Leo. Then some 30°
farther to the east he will observe a very brilliant
star, with no visible stars near it. This is Spica in
the Virgin.

Still farther east rises Libra, distinguished by
two rather bright stars forming a parallelogram,
with two rather dim ones, followed by Scorpio, whose
stars resemble in their arrangement a kite w4th a
tail to it, and in which a brilliant red star, named
Antares, forms the center. Then Sagittarius and
Capricornus separately span 30° ; when rises Aqua-
rius, in which the most careless observer will no-
tice four stars, forming very plainly the letter Y.
Pisces, a loose, straggling succession of stars, in-
tervenes between this sign and that of Aries, which
may be distinguished by two bright stars, about 4°
apart, the brightest to the N^. E. of the other. Tau-
rus can not be mistaken — it contains two remarkable
clusters, the Pleiades and the Hyades, the latter
forming a well-marked letter V, with the bright red
star Aldebaran at the upper left-hand corner. Gem-
ini contains two remarkably bright stars. Castor
and Pollux; — the former much the most brilliant


and the more northerly of the pair; they are but 5°
apart. Then follows 30° including Cancer, which
contains no remarkably brilliant stars, and we return
to our starting point. In the month of September,
we would select as a starting point the star Antares,
giving us the position of the Scorpion. Antares is of
a remarkably red appearance, situated between, and
equi-distant from, two other less brilliant stars with
which it forms a curved line, which, extended by
other stars, curve around at its extremity like the
tail of a flying kite, or, if you please, like the tail of
a scorpion.

The fixed stars are classed according to their
magnitude, first, second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. ;
the stars of the fifth magnitude being the smallest
that can be seen by the unassisted eye. It is by no
means our intention, in this course of lectures, to
convey a complete and thorough knowledge of Ura-
nography (we assure you, madam, that this word is
in the Dictionary) ; however great our ability or in-
clination, the limits prescribed us will not permit
of it ; we shall^ therefore, confine ourselves to a brief
description of the principal constellations, trusting
that the interest awakened in the minds of our nu-
merous readers on the subject by our remarks may
lead them to make it a study hereafter. For this
purpose we w^ould recommend as a suitable prepara-


tion a light course of reading, such, for instance, as
Church's Deferential and Integral Calculus, to be
followed by Bartlett's Optics and Gummer's Ele-
ments of Astronomy. After this, by close and unre-
mitting study of La Place, and other eminent writers,
for twenty or thirty years, the reader, if of good
natural ability, may acquire a superficial knowledge
of the science.

" The Great Bear '' (which is spelled B-e-a-r
and has no reference whatever to Powers's Greek
Slave) is one of the most remarkable constellations
in the Heavens. We can not imagine why it received
its name, unless, indeed, because it has not the slight-
est resemblance to a great Bear or any other animal.
It may be distinguished by means of a cluster of

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Online LibraryGeorge Horatio DerbyPhnixiana; or, Sketches and burlesques → online text (page 13 of 15)