Universal Translator

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Cotton Style Show Luncheon, 1949

 “King Cotton-whose lint and seed in the Mississippi Delta alone this past season were valued at over $200,000,000-will receive royal tribute from at least four Delta counties planning extensive observances for National merchants throughout the 18 Delta and part-Delta counties also are expected to join in local promotion of cotton products, according Delta Council. Leflore, Coahoma, Bolivar and Sunflower are the counties planing detailed activities during Cotton Week.” ----The Delta Democrat-Times, May 6, 1953 

Cotton Style Show Luncheon

April 28, 1949

Clarksdale, Mississippi

(From the Souvenir Menu)
Planter’s Plantation Punch
Hors d’oeuvres

Spiced Coahoma Ham                    Breast of Turkey

Carrot Curls                    Pickle Sticks

Creole Casserole                    Asparagus Mousse

Hot Rolls
Cranberry Salad Supreme
Cotton Bale Ice Cream Mold          Cotton Blossom Cakes
Cotton Square Mints

(The recipes from Favorite Menus and Recipes by the Coahoma Woman’s Club, Coahoma, MS
N.B. Recipes are not changed, they are rewritten as they appear in original document.)

Planter’s Plantation Punch
1 can orange juice (46 ounce can)
1 can pineapple juice (46 oz.)
1 qt. ginger ale
1 qt. lemon sherbet
Cool punch bowl and cool juices.  Put sherbet into punch bowl.  Add juices with ginger ale last.

Asparagus Mousse
2 T. butter
4 egg yolks
juice of 1 lemon
1 can asparagus with liquid
1 pt. whipping cream
¼ lb. Almonds (about 1 tea cup)
2 T. flour
2 T. gelatin
1 T. onion juice
Season to taste with salt, pepper, and paprika
Melt butter I double boiler, stir in flour, mix thoroughly, add asparagus juice, stirring constantly ‘til thick.  Pour over eggs which have been beaten lightly, stirring all the time.  Put back into double boiler and cook ‘til eggs are done.  Add dissolved gelatin, seasoning, onion and lemon juices.  Cut up asparagus, and when cool fold in asparagus, nuts and whipped cream.  Have nuts cold.  Pour into mold.  Serve with mayonnaise.

Creole Casserole
1 can English peas, drained
1 cup grated Chedder cheese
½ cup buttered bread crumbs
1 recipe Creole Sauce*
2 cups white sauce
3 T. grated cheese
Season white sauce to taste with mustard, Durkee’s horseradish mayonnaise, salt and pepper.  Add one cup grated Chedder cheese.  Place bread crumbs in the bottom of casserole, then place alternate layers of peas, white sauce, Creole sauce, finishing off with sprinkled 3 T. grated cheese on top.  Brown in oven first before serving.

[* I have no idea of what Creole Sauce is. It might have been a local sauce in the late 1940s, of which everyone knew.  I found a recipe for a Creole Sauce in the Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cook Book and it appears at the end of this article -tfc]

Cranberry Salad Supreme
2 cups raw cranberries
2 ½ cup water
1 cup sugar
2 packages lemon jello
Juice of pineapple
1 can crushed pineapple
1 cup white grapes
1 cup nuts, chopped
Cook berries, sugar, and water until berries are soft.  Add lemon jello, pineapple juice and cool.  Add fruits and nuts.  Pour in large mold or individual molds.  This serves 14.

Additional Recipes

Creole Sauce Recipe a’la Fannie Farmer
Put in a saucepan: 2 Tb. chopped onion, 4 Tb. finely chopped green pepper, 2 Tb. butter.  Cook 5 minutes, then add: 2 tomatoes or ½ cup canned tomatoes, ¼ cup sliced mushrooms, 6 pitted or stuffed olives, cut into pieces.  Cook 2 minutes, then add 1 1/3 cups of Brown Sauce (below) or gravy or water with two bouillon cubes.  Bring to the boiling point.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and sherry.

Brown Sauce

Melt 2 Tb butter or bacon fat.  Add ½ slice onion (if desired).  Cook slowly until fat is well browned but not black.  Add 2 Tb flour or 2 tsp potato flour, ½ tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper, few grains sugar.  Add gradually 1 cup brown stock, consomme’, or water.  Bring to the boiling point.  Boil for 2 minutes.  Strain or remove the bit of onion.  Cook 15 minutes in double boiler or over very low heat.  Makes about one cup.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

"Hop-John Party for New Year's"

The following is taken directly from The Fast Gourmet Cookbook by Poppy Cannon, published in 1964 by Fleet Publishing Corporation.  I wanted to do an article on New Year’s Southern food tradition –but Ms. Cannon did it better than I could. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, Ms. Poppy Cannon:


“It is the day after Christmas and in your mind the thought keeps stirring that you ought in some way to pay off some of your holiday social debts.  So why not an old-fashioned Hop-John party on New Year’s?  For briefing on this interesting project, we sent an appeal to Eloise Barksdale, since Hop-John parties are a tradition in her hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas.
       Post haste came help.  Eloise went so far as to write us a poem.

             Hopping John in the Southern way
                should be eaten for Health
            On New Year’s Day
                The recipe handed down to me
            Says this fine dish
                Brings prosperity

            Boil a fresh hog jowl
                with some black-eyed peas
            Add rice and red pepper
                and it’s bound to please.

       For those of us who might not have immediate access to the jowl of a hog, nor time to soak and cook the black-eyed peas, we have evolved, with Eloise Barksdale’s assistance, a quick and tasty version using canned black-eyed peas and what she calls instant rice.  The menu is traditional and unalterable.  ‘Turnip greens and turnips too, cole slaw, corn bread, buttermilk and egg custard pie.’

Barksdale Hopping John
Turnip Greens
Diced White Turnips, Eloise
Cole Slaw
Arkansas Corn Bread
Egg Custard Pie

BARKSDALE HOPPING JOHN…dice ¼ pound salt pork and fry out nice and crisp.  Add 1 ½ cups packed pre-cooked rice, 1 large can of black-eyed peas with the liuid and 1 cup water or stock. (There should be about 2 cups of liquid all together.)  Bring to a boil uncovered. Season quite jauntily with red pepper or several drops of Tabasco sauce as well as freshly ground black pepper.  Add salt if it is needed.  Stir with a fork.  Cover and allow to stand in a warm place about ten minutes so that the rice will absorb all the rich flavors.  Four to 6 servings.

TURNIP GREENS…Prepare quick-frozen turnip greens according to directions and add to each package, 2 tablespoons finely-chopped onion which has been browned in a little pork or bacon fat.  For the true Southern taste there should be a sting of hot pepper.

DICED WHITE TURNIP, ELOISE…To serve 6, wash, peel and dice 2 pounds of white turnips.  (These are milder, cook faster than yellow.)  Cook tender (10 to 15 minutes) in salted, peppered, boiling water in a covered pan.  Drain.  Fold in ½ cup heavy cream which has been whipped and seasoned delicately with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or rum.

ARKANSAS CORN BREAD…Mix and sift together 1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt.  Add 1 cup milk or buttermilk, 2 eggs, well beaten, 2 tablespoons melted shortening (preferably bacon, ham or sausage drippings).  Bake in a shallow well-greased  (8 by 8-inch) pan in a hot oven (425 degrees)about 20 minutes and serve in squares.

EGG CUSTARD PIE…Follow your grandmother’s rule or buy it quick-frozen or from a bake shop.  Sprinkle with nutmeg and slivered almonds or coconut.”

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas Breakfast Menu, 1964

This Christmas breakfast menu appeared in 1964 in The Fast Gourmet Cook Book by Poppy Cannon.  Ms. Cannon was food editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal magazine, as well as Mademoiselle and House Beautiful.  Besides writing cookbooks, she also lectured and appeared on television.  The Fast Gourmet Cook Book is based on her column “The Fast Gourmet”, which appeared three times a week in 120 newspapers.

Christmas Breakfast Menu

Silver-spangled Grapefruit
Broiled Ham Slices
Baked Eggs in English Muffin Shells
More English Muffins, Plain-toasted and Buttered
Cinnamon Candy Jelly
Large Cups of Coffee or Tea

The Recipes

SILVER –SPANGLED GRAPEFRUIT…Cut grapefruits in halves.  Scoop out the fruit in sections.  Sweeten with a little honey and add, for each grapefruit, a tablespoon of sherry (optional).  Paint grapefruit rims with a little honey.  Place each half cut-side-down on a saucer covered with 1/3 cup granulated sugar made verdant with 3 drops green coloring.  Refill the shells adding orange or cubed apple sections if fruit looks skimpy.  Dot the green rim with silver candies and garnish with cranberries cut to look like flowers.

BAKED EGGS IN ENGLISH MUFFIN SHELLS…Tear English muffins in half with a fork.  Scoop out soft centers.  Drop an egg into each one.  Season with salt, pepper and a couple drops of Worchestershire.  Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) 6 to 8 minutes or until set.

YOUR OWN CINNAMON CANDY JELLY…In a large saucepan place a quart of sweet apple cider or apple juice.  Add 2 tablespoons red cinnamon candies and 1 box powdered fruit pectin.  Mix well.  Place over high heat, stir until mixture comes to a hard boil.  Then all at once, dump in 4 ½ cups sugar.  Bring to a full rolling boil.  Boil hard 1 minute stirring constantly.  Remove from heat, skim off foam, pour into 8 jelly glasses.  Cover with 1/8 inch melted paraffin.  For gifts, decorate paraffin with silver dagees and red cinnamon candies.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

In 1897, eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's now-defunct newspaper, The Sun, concerning Santa Claus' existence. In response, Francis Pharcellus Church published the editorial 'Is There a Santa Claus'.  The editorial became the most reprinted English-language editorial in history.


Virginia's great-grandson appeared with the letter on the Antiques Roadshow in 1997, where the letter was valued at $20,000 – $30,000. You can watch a clip in which the letter was valued here

Monday, 16 December 2013

Eight-year-old to President Kennedy: "Save Santa!"

Eight-year-old Michelle holding Kennedy's letter in 1961

In 1961, after hearing her parents discussing possible Soviet nuclear tests at the North Pole, 
8-year-old Michelle Rochon grabbed a pencil and wrote a letter to U.S. President John F. Kennedy, asking him to sop nuclear testing for one special reason. Her letter, and the reply she received from the President, can be read below.

Dear Mr. Kennedy,

Please stop the Russians from bombing the North Pole because they will kill Santa Claus. I am 8 years old. I am in the third grade at Holy Cross School.

Yours truly,

Michelle Rochon



October 28, 1961

Dear Michelle:

I was glad to get your letter about trying to stop the Russians from bombing the North Pole and risking the life of Santa Claus. 

I share your concern about the atmospheric testing of the Soviet Union, not only for the North Pole but for countries throughout the world; not only for Santa Claus but for people throughout the world. 

However, you must not worry about Santa Claus. I talked with him yesterday and he is fine. He will be making his rounds again this Christmas. 


(Signed, 'John Kennedy')

Miss Michelle Rochon
Marine City, Michigan

(Source: The Letters of John F. Kennedy, published by Bloomsbury Press on October 29, 2013, via www.lettersofnote.com )

"Letter from Santa Claus" by Mark Twain

On Christmas morning of 1875, three-year-old Susie Clemens found this letter from "Santa Claus".  I'm guessing that her father Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) might have played "Santa's helper" that day. 

Palace of St. Nicholas.
In the Moon.
Christmas Morning.

My dear Susie Clemens:

I have received and read all the letters which you and your little sister have written me by the hand of your mother and your nurses; I have also read those which you little people have written me with your own hands—for although you did not use any characters that are in grown peoples' alphabet, you used the characters that all children in all lands on earth and in the twinkling stars use; and as all my subjects in the moon are children and use no character but that, you will easily understand that I can read your and your baby sister's jagged and fantastic marks without any trouble at all. But I had trouble with those letters which you dictated through your mother and the nurses, for I am a foreigner and cannot read English writing well. You will find that I made no mistakes about the things which you and the baby ordered in your own letters—I went down your chimney at midnight when you were asleep and delivered them all myself—and kissed both of you, too, because you are good children, well trained, nice mannered, and about the most obedient little people I ever saw. But in the letter which you dictated there were some words which I could not make out for certain, and one or two small orders which I could not fill because we ran out of stock. Our last lot of kitchen furniture for dolls has just gone to a very poor little child in the North Star away up, in the cold country above the Big Dipper. Your mama can show you that star and you will say: "Little Snow Flake," (for that is the child's name) "I'm glad you got that furniture, for you need it more than I." That is, you must write that, with your own hand, and Snow Flake will write you an answer. If you only spoke it she wouldn't hear you. Make your letter light and thin, for the distance is great and the postage very heavy.

There was a word or two in your mama's letter which I couldn't be certain of. I took it to be "trunk full of doll's clothes." Is that it? I will call at your kitchen door about nine o'clock this morning to inquire. But I must not see anybody and I must not speak to anybody but you. When the kitchen doorbell rings, George must be blindfolded and sent to open the door. Then he must go back to the dining room or the china closet and take the cook with him. You must tell George he must walk on tiptoe and not speak—otherwise he will die someday. Then you must go up to the nursery and stand on a chair or the nurse's bed and put your ear to the speaking tube that leads down to the kitchen and when I whistle through it you must speak in the tube and say, "Welcome, Santa Claus!" Then I will ask whether it was a trunk you ordered or not. If you say it was, I shall ask you what color you want the trunk to be. Your mama will help you to name a nice color and then you must tell me every single thing in detail which you want the trunk to contain. Then when I say "Good bye and a merry Christmas to my little Susie Clemens," you must say "Good bye, good old Santa Claus, I thank you very much and please tell that little Snow Flake I will look at her star tonight and she must look down here—I will be right in the west bay window; and every fine night I will look at her star and say, 'I know somebody up there and like her, too.'" Then you must go down into the library and make George close all the doors that open into the main hall, and everybody must keep still for a little while. I will go to the moon and get those things and in a few minutes I will come down the chimney that belongs to the fireplace that is in the hall—if it is a trunk you want—because I couldn't get such a thing as a trunk down the nursery chimney, you know.

People may talk if they want, until they hear my footsteps in the hall. Then you tell them to keep quiet a little while till I go back up the chimney. Maybe you will not hear my footsteps at all—so you may go now and then and peep through the dining-room doors, and by and by you will see that thing which you want, right under the piano in the drawing room-for I shall put it there. If I should leave any snow in the hall, you must tell George to sweep it into the fireplace, for I haven't time to do such things. George must not use a broom, but a rag—else he will die someday. You must watch George and not let him run into danger. If my boot should leave a stain on the marble, George must not holystone it away. Leave it there always in memory of my visit; and whenever you look at it or show it to anybody you must let it remind you to be a good little girl. Whenever you are naughty and somebody points to that mark which your good old Santa Claus's boot made on the marble, what will you say, little sweetheart?

Goodbye for a few minutes, till I come down to the world and ring the kitchen door-bell.

Your loving 

Santa Claus

Whom people sometimes call "The Man in the Moon"

(Source: Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children via www.lettersofnote.com )

Friday, 29 November 2013

"Behind the Mounds: 'The Children of the Sun God' "

Moundville Archaeological Park is located in Moundville, Alabama. The Moundville archaeological site, occupied from around A.D. 1000 until A.D. 1450, was a large settlement of Mississippian culture on the Black Warrior River in west-central Alabama. The community took the form of a three hundred-acre village, containing twenty-six earthen mounds, built on a bluff overlooking the river.

The book Behind the Mounds by Lona Mae Wilson, published in 1963, tells the story of the Mounds as well as presenting other fascinating material about the them such as the poem below. 

 In April 1935, with the cooperation of the Hale County Schools, University of Alabama, and CCC Camp #444, the Hale County Historical Society presented on Mound B, the pageant, “Children of the Sun God”. (Below is the prologue to the pageant, which may be read in full in Behind the Mounds).

Moundville Archaeological Park, as seen from one of the largest mounds

 The Children of the Sun God
By Clara Powers and Sue Ellen Moore

  In the remote past so far distant
  That time itself seems without reckoning
  Great Hordes of people left their Northern
Asiatic shores
  To seek new homes across the strait
  We now call Bering.
  Their purpose must remain unknown:
  Possibly a warmer climate: perhaps more
fertile soil,
  Perchance to seek the “Fair God.”
  Sufficient it is for us
  That they came.

  Nor did the trek end on Alaskan
  Now, slow, aloof, remote
  The walls of the purple, blue
  Rockies darken their path.
  From afar the streams
  Flow south and east
  Making confluence with he great
Mississippi –
  “Father of waters” the Indians
  Have called him.
  The forest abode
  Rank beyond rank, unaltered, under
the sky.

  There was in this land no road,
  Nor path, nor trail
  Save where the bronzed moccasin
  Sought shelter frail.
  The forest kept
  Its secrets hidden behind a
rampart of dense trees
  Unhewn by axemen,
  Still in the rains of April, loud in
  The Autumn Breeze,
  By river, plain, or hill.
  Forth from that region they went
  To sun-set faced:
  They rode past marsh and plain
  Through forest of pine, somber
with rain;
  Through groves of oaks up-rooted
  By storms;
  Through swamp and over prairie,
  On and on.
  League after league, day upon
endless day
  Through more lofty mountains where
  The deer
  Browsed in the dreary dawn till
  The hills
Rolled off at last, --they saw
  An empty plain
  A pale, wild river snaking
  Over its heart
  Wide fields of burnt earth linking
  Sky to sky
  And here they rested by the Ohio.

  Year after year, the clouds sailed
  Up from the South
  To signal the winter’s going; through
  The blue skies
  The cardinal flitted northward year
  On year.
  Walking with thunder-shoes the
  Rains remote
  Came storming from the Gulf
  Athwart the trees.
  Under that various striving called life
  These people lived and moved
  And had their being—
  Birth, wooing, warring, death—
  All in their time.

  The rain across the corn! The
  Burial Mound
  Piled high; the joy, the grief,
  The hope, the fear!
  So it went, year on changeless
  Then suddenly as the winter
  Once more changed
  Its face, and over the somber maze
  Of branches,
  There drifted tender lace of greening
  A loud, clear call to journey
  Far to South
  Was felt by those stout hearts.
  Courage was theirs and undying faith
  That kindles other’s courage, makes
  It new.

  Out of the night they came
  Out of the North
  “Paddle to paddle spoke”
  Into the heart of the South
  Trailing the lilies past
  From the wild Ohioan lees
  To where magnolia swamps
  Lift to the balmy sky
  Their challiced buds of green.
  Here they paused
  On Warrior’s sunny shores
  To build these Mounds—
  Homes they were—and temples
  Their worship to fulfill.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

"Parents: Too Much Halloween Candy? Call On The Sugar Fairy"

Children receive a ton of candy at Halloween.  Natural, organic versions of candy would be better, but still a lot of sugar is a lot of sugar.  We all know that sugar is not healthy and can be addictive.  Many candy manufacturers use GMO-derived ingredients from GMO corn and soy, as well as artificial flavours and colours.  They also use a ton of un-natural chemicals - BOO!  But it’s hard to refuse children when their friends are having fun trick-or-treating.  Here’s a good way to keep your children from gorging themselves on a bag full of unhealthy, refined sugar, bad (and GMO-laced) candy.  Some parents already call upon a Sugar Sprite or Switch Witch at Halloween to exchange candy for toys, books, or movies, here’s my version:

Among all the supernatural beings of the North Pole, there exists a Sugar Fairy (or Sugar Plum Fairy, or Treats Fairy, or Candy Fairy).  It is the Sugar Fairy’s job to create the sweetest Christmas treats, the candy cane.  She also creates a lot of the other sweet treats of the holidays, such as Christmas cookies.  But she is mainly known for her power to transform, or ‘recycle’, sugar into anything a child wants. But how does she do this?

The Sugar Fairy decided that children get so much candy at Halloween and that having that much sugar was not good for them, even once a year.  So she decided that she could recycle all that candy into Christmas treats, like a candy cane or Christmas cookie, as well as magically into toys and other gifts.  She could also transform it into food and help for other children around the globe.

So the Sugar Fairy sends out a letter to all the parents of the world:  After Halloween is over, they should place any candy into a special bowl before they go to bed.  The next morning the Sugar Fairy will leave a note, money, gift card, etc in exchange for the candy that had been in the bowl. Sometimes the Sugar Fairy might leave "Goodie Points" to go toward a special item or trip. (A note would instruct the parent to purchase a specific toy, movie, or book; or indicate the number of "Goodie Points" earned) 

When Christmas comes, the Sugar Fairy will ride with Santa to distribute candy canes and other Christmas treats.  But sometimes, she is so thankful she will leave goodies and little gifts for days before Christmas. When Christmas arrives, an occasional organic candy cane or cookie might be okay.  Christmas cookies can be made with organic, unrefined ingredients.  They can also contain dried fruit and nuts.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

"Mark Twain Reviews Ambrose Bierce: 'The Laugh Is Too Expensive'"

Ambrose Bierce
Samuel Clemens

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) was asked in 1874 by his publisher 
to write a review of the book  Nuggets and Dust Panned Out in California by Dod Grille,  
written by Ambrose Bierce.   The publisher, Chatto & Windus
knew that Bierce and Clemens had known each other since the 1860s, and figured a quotable review by Clemens might boost lagging sales of the book.  They got a review, just not one they expected.  And, needless to say, Clemens and Bierce remained friends.

Farmington Avenue,



"Dod Grile" (Mr. Bierce) is a personal friend of mine, & I like him exceedingly — but he knows my opinion of the "Nuggets & Dust," & so I do not mind exposing it to you. It is the vilest book that exists in print — or very nearly so. If you keep a "reader," it is charity to believe he never really read that book, but framed his verdict upon hearsay.

Bierce has written some admirable things — fugitive pieces — but none of them are among the "Nuggets." There is humor in Dod Grile, but for every laugh that is in his book there are five blushes, ten shudders and a vomit. The laugh is too expensive.

Ys truly

Samuel L. Clemens

(Source: Boston Public Library, via Lettersofnote.com)

Monday, 7 October 2013

"The Mind...Can Never Again Be Washed Clean"

Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain
In 1905,  Brooklyn Public Library ordered that all copies of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn be banned from the children's department, due to their characters' "coarseness, deceitfulness and mischievous practices." Asa Don Dickinson, a librarian, wrote to Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain to inform him of the ban.  Mr Clemens responded with his signature wit.

The Letter:

Sheepshead Bay Branch
Brooklyn Public Library
1657 Shore Road
Brooklyn-New York,

Nov. 19th, '05

Dear Sir:

I happened to be present the other day at a meeting of the children's librarians of the Brooklyn Public Library. In the course of the meeting it was stated that copies of "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn" were to be found in some of the children's rooms of the system. The Sup't of the Children's Dep't—a conscientious and enthusiastic young woman—was greatly shocked to hear this, and at once ordered that they be transferred to the adults' department. Upon this I shamefacedly confessed to having read "Huckleberry Finn" aloud to my defenseless blind people, without regard to their age, colour, or previous condition of servitude. I also reminded them of Brander Matthews' opinion of the book, and stated the fact that I knew it almost at heart, having got more pleasure from it than from any book I have ever read, and reading is the greatest pleasure I have in life. My warm defense elicited some further discussion and criticism, from which I gathered that the prevailing opinion of Huck was that he was a deceitful boy who said "sweat" when he should have said "perspiration." The upshot of the matter was that there is to be further consideration of these books at a meeting early in January which I am especially invited to attend. Seeing you the other night at the performance of "Peter Pan" the thought came to me that you (who know Huck as well as I—you can't know him better or love him more—) might be willing to give me a word or two to say in witness of his good character though he "warn't no more quality than a mud cat."

I would ask as a favour that you regard this communication as confidential, whether you find time to reply to it or not; for I am loath for obvious reasons to bring the institution from which I draw my salary into ridicule, contempt or reproach.

Yours very respectfully,

Asa Don Dickinson.
(In charge Department for the Blind and Sheepshead Bay Branch, Brooklyn Public Library.)

His Reply:

21 Fifth Avenue,
November 21, 1905

Dear Sir:

I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn for adults exclusively, and it always distresses me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean; I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again this side of the grave. Ask that young lady—she will tell you so.

Most honestly do I wish I could say a softening word or two in defence of Huck's character, since you wish it, but really in my opinion it is no better than those of Solomon, David, Satan, and the rest of the sacred brotherhood.

If there is an unexpurgated Bible in the Children's Department, won't you please help that young woman remove Huck and Tom from that questionable companionship?

Sincerely yours,

S. L. Clemens

I shall not show your letter to anyone—it is safe with me.

 (Source: Mark Twain's Autobiography, Part 2)

Sunday, 15 September 2013

"Twenty Steps to Overcome 'Low-Spirits' "

 Essayist and clergyman Sydney Smith sent his good friend, Lady Georgiana Morpeth the following letter to help her overcome her depression:

Foston, Feb. 16th, 1820

Dear Lady Georgiana,

Nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have done—so I feel for you.

1st. Live as well as you dare.
2nd. Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75° or 80°.
3rd. Amusing books.
4th. Short views of human life—not further than dinner or tea.
5th. Be as busy as you can.
6th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you.
7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.
8th. Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely—they are always worse for dignified concealment.
9th. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.
10th. Compare your lot with that of other people.
11th. Don't expect too much from human life—a sorry business at the best.
12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy sentimental people, and every thing likely to excite feeling or emotion not ending in active benevolence.
13th. Do good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
14th. Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.
15th. Make the room where you commonly sit, gay and pleasant.
16th. Struggle by little and little against idleness.
17th. Don't be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.
18th. Keep good blazing fires.
19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.
20th. Believe me, dear Georgiana, your devoted servant, Sydney Smith

(Source, via lettersofnote.com: The Selected Writings of Sydney Smith; Image of Sydney Smith: Replica by Henry Perronet Briggs, oil on canvas, 1840 (1833) NPG 1475 © National Portrait Gallery, London.)

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Now for Something Completely Different: The Dam Blue Red Bull

 When I read it I imagined a Monty Python skit, but you can't really make this stuff up. 
 It's pretty much self-explanatory.  Just a slice of country life. 

Ajax by John Steuart Curry, 1937 at Smithsonian American Art Museum

To the Superintendent, Atlantic City Railroad, Sept. 1896

Dear sir,

On the 15th yore trane that was going to Atlanta ran over mi bull at 30 mile post.

He was in my Pastur
You orter see him

Yore ruddy trane took a peece of hyde outer his belly between his nable and his poker at least fute square and took his bag most off and he lost is seeds. I don’t believe hi is going to be any more use as a bull.

I wish you would tell the President he is ded, for he is as good as ded ever since he was hit by yore trane.

Yours respectfully

A.T. Harris

P.S.—Be sure and report him as ded as he has nothing left but his poker. He was a red bull but he stand around in these days looking dam blue.