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THE

REPUBLIC OF LETTERS.

DYSPEPSY.*

“O cookery! cookery! That kills more than weapons, guns, wars, or poisons, and would destroy all, but that physic helps to make away some."

Anthony Brewer.

Ye who flatter yourselves that indolence and luxury are compatible with the enjoyment of vigour of health, and hilarity of spirits, that the acquisition of the means of happiness, is to be happy, and that the habitual pampering of the senses, is not for ever paid for by the depression of the immortal soul, listen to my story, and be wise.

I am the son of a reputable gentleman, who made a good figure in the Revolutionary War, and possessed a competent estate in one of the adjacent counties. His name will be found in the old Committees of Safety. He ranked as a Colonel, in the Continental Army, and acted as a Deputy Commissary General, in the year 1779. In this latter situation he committed the most enormous follies; for finding the good people, his neighbours, would not exchange their goods for money that was good for nothing, they were wiser than the present race notwithstanding the march of mind, he pledged his own responsibility for the supplies, without which the army at Peeks Kill would have suffered greatly. He was warmly thanked in letters from distinguished persons in the old congress, for people are apt to be grateful in time of danger; but when, at the conclusion of the struggle, he presented his accounts, the danger being over, the accounting officers refused to allow a credit for the debts he had incurred on his own responsibility. My father returned home a ruined, and broken hearted man. His old neigh

* From an American work, entitled “Tales of a Good Woman. By a Doubtful Gentleman.' New York, 1829. 1 vol.

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bours pitied him, but they could not lose their money. They justly considered, that charity begins at home, and that there was no moral principle, obliging them to starve themselves and their children for the sake of other people. I do not blame them. They divided my father's property between them, and finding there was nothing left, they forgave him the rest of his debts. The contractors and commissaries of the day, with great appearance of reason, called him a fool, for ruining himself in a station where every other man managed to grow rich. The old farmers, his neighbours, some of whom are still alive, have often told me that he deserved well of his country; but his name has been smothered under the load of great, good, and patriotic people, that have since sprung up in these times that try men's soles.

My father might have petitioned congress, and died, like poor Amy Dardin and her horse, before the members had finished making their speeches. But he was a cold, proud man, who often went without his dues, because he would not ask for them. He accordingly sat down with his little family around him, steeped in poverty; consoled himself with reading books, and studying the stars, and waited in gloomy inactivity for the time, when a great pocket book full of continental money, and a few thousand dollars in continental certificates, should become worth something. The continental money, as every body knows, never recovered itself; the certificates were afterwards funded at their full value. But previous to this, my father had, under the strong pressure of necessity, sold them for almost nothing, to a worthy friend of his, who afterwards turned out one of the most eloquent advocates of the Funding System. Heavens! how he did talk of the sufferings and privations of the patriots of the Revolution! he certainly owed them a good turn, for he got enough by them to build a palace, and purchase half the Genesee country.

At the period of our ruin, I was about ten years old, I think, and, until that time, I had been brought up as the children of wealthy country gentlemen generally are. I had some of the feelings and a portion of the manners of a gentleman's son, which I hope I still retain, although, to say the truth, the latter part of my education was deplorable enough. My father, from the period in which he felt himself dishonoured by the rejection of his accounts, retired within himself, and seemed benumbed in heart and spirits. He passed his whole time in reading the few books that he could come at; and his temper became imperturbable, except at such times as he was disturbed, and forced to remove from his seat. He would then exhibit symptoms of internal discomposure, make for the nearest chair, set himself down and resume his studies. Half

the time he would have forgot his dinner, had my mother not waked him from his reverie. To be sure, our dinner was hardly worth eating; but to the best of my recollection, I never enjoyed a better appetite, or had so little of the Dyspepsy. We were often on the very verge of want, and had it not been for the exertions of my excellent mother, who, thank God, is still living, and at least ten years younger than I am-aided by the good offices of a sister, well married in the city, we had sometimes actually wanted the necessaries of life. It was not then so much the fashion for genteel people to go begging. But it is astonishing what the presiding genius of a sensible, prudent, industrious mother, can do ; what miracles indeed she can achieve, in keeping herself, her husband, and her children, decent, at least. My mother did all this, and more; she sent me to school ; and it is not the least of my sources of honest pride, that my education, such as it was, cost the public nothing. Women, notwithstanding what cynics may say, are born for something better than wasting time, and spending money : and I hereby apprise the reader, that if ever I am guilty of a sarcasm against woman, it is only when I am labouring under the horrors of Dyspepsy.

Till the age of sixteen, I never saw the city; to me it was the region of distant wonders, ineffable splendours, wise men, and beautiful women. I reverenced a New-Yorker, as I now do a person who has been to Paris or Rome; and I shall never forget my extreme admiration of a fine lady, the daughter of a little tailor, who lived near us. She was an apprentice to a milliner, and came up during the prevalence of the Yellow Fever, with three bandboxes, and a pocket-handkerchief full of finery. The world of romance; the region of airy nothings; of creatures that come and go at will, before the youthful fancy, was now just opening before me in long perspective. I was without employment, for if my mother had a weakness, it was one which I verily believe belongs even to the female angels. She could not forget old times, nor bear the idea that her only son should learn a trade, or slave in any useful occupation.

Deprived thus of the resourses of active employment, I spent my time either in reading, or roaming at random and unpurposed, through the beautiful romantic scenes which surrounded our poor, yet pleasant abode. My mind was a complete contrast to my body -the latter was indolence itself; the former a perfect erratic vagrant. I was eternally thinking, and doing nothing. The least spark awakened in my mind visions of the future-for that was all to me and lighted my path through long perspectives of shadowy happiness. Sometimes I was a soldier, winning my way to the

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highest heaven of military glory-sometimes a poet, the admiration of the fair; and sometimes I possessed what then seemed to me, the sure means of perfect happiness ten thousand a year. For days, and weeks, and months, and years, I hardly spoke an unnecessary word-I lived in a world of my own, and millions of thoughts, wishes, fears, and hopes; millions of impulses and impressions arose in my mind, and died away, without ever receiving a being through the medium of my tongue, or my pen.

The first born of the passions is love; and love is of earlier, as well as more vigorous growth, in solitude. I was always in love with some one; for love was indispensable to my visionary exist

It ended however, as it began, in abstract dreams, and amatory reveries. It is now my pride, to know that no woman was ever yet the wiser for my preference. My affection never manifested itself in any other way, than by increasing shyness. I never voluntarily came near a young woman at any time; but when I was in love, I always ran away. I would as soon have met a spirit, as the object of my affections. I was moreover much given to jealousy, and pique; always persuading myself against truth and reason, that the love of which I was myself so conscious, must of necessity be understood by her, from whom I was at such pains to keep it a secret. The history of my amours, with imaginary mistresses, and mistresses that never imagined my love, is curious; I may one day give it to the world. But my present object is different. I will therefore only say, that I grew up to the age of seventeen or eighteen, a sheer, abstract man—a being of thought, rather than action; a dweller in a world of my own curious and ridiculous composition ; living neither in the past nor the present, but in the vast space before me. My companions were shadows of my own creation; my enjoyments were the production of these shadows. Yet, for all this, I became neither mad, nor an idiot. I seemed as if I was all this time preparing myself for realities; and that my sojournings in the world of fancy, imperceptibly initiated me into the material world. I cannot otherwise account for my early success in life, nor the miracle of escaping its shoals and quicksands.

At the age of seventeen or eighteen, I forgot which, I was sent for by an uncle who had married my mother's sister and who was a merchant of some note. At one step, I passed from the ideal to the material world. There is but one greater step, and that is from the material world to the world of spirits. My uncle was an honest, liberal, cross, gouty old Irish gentleman, with plenty of relations in Ireland he would not acknowledge, though they proved that they sprung from the same tree. He was an inordinate tory; a

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member of the Belvidere Club, and a mighty fish-eater at Becky's. When I first went to live with him, he was getting rather old and infirm. His hair was as white as snow; his face as rosy as the sun in a mist; his body robust to all appearance, and had it not been for his “ damned legs ” as he was pleased to say, he would have been as good a man as he was twenty years ago. There is certainly a great change in the world, within the last half century. People lived at least as well as they do now, and only got the gout—now they get Dyspepsy. Can any learned physician tell me the reason of this emigration of the old enemy, from the great toe to the stomach ?

The old gentleman had a heart big enough to hold all the world, except the French, the Democrats, and the multiplicity of cousins, and second cousins, who claimed kindred there, and had not their claims allowed. He had in truth a most intolerable contempt for poor relations. I believe he would have served his wife's family the same way, but the truth is, my aunt was—but it is a great secret-she could make him do just as she pleased, for she was the best-natured creature in the world, and none but a brute can, resist a kind-hearted woman. Being a relation, I was treated with a seat at the dinner-table. The old gentleman was reckoned one of the best livers in town, and here it was, I believe, that I laid the corner stone of my miseries. At home, there had been no temptation to gluttony_here there was a sad succession of allurements, such as human nature seldom can resist, even when experience has demonstrated their ill consequences, and Death sits shaking his dart over every successive delicacy.

People talk of the mischiefs of drinking; invent remedies and preventives, and institute societies, as if eating was not ten times more pernicious. There are a hundred die of eating to one that dies of drinking. But gluttony is the vice of gentlemen, and gentlemanly vices require neither remedies, preventives, nor societies. It is not necessary to my purpose that I should make a book out of my apprenticeship, as Goethe has; nor am I writing the history of my uncle, else I might tell some fine stories of his life, actions, and end. His latter years were spent as usual, in paying the penalty of former indulgences, and a complication of disorders carried him off in a green old age. In three months from the time of his death, half the county of Kilkenny claimed kindred with him. There were so many different claimants, that nobody but the lawyers could settle the matter. After three or four years, a decision was finally had in favour of a young man, who on taking possession, had the mortification to discover that nothing was left. The law had become my uncle's heir. It is an excellent thing to have plenty of laws

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