Mellonta Tauta by Edgar Allan Poe


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1850
MELLONTA TAUTA
by Edgar Allan Poe

TO THE EDITORS OF THE LADY’S BOOK:
I have the honor of sending you, for your magazine, an article which
I hope you will be able to comprehend rather more distinctly than I do
myself. It is a translation, by my friend, Martin Van Buren Mavis,
(sometimes called the “Toughkeepsie Seer”) of an odd-looking MS. which
I found, about a year ago, tightly corked up in a jug floating in
the Mare Tenebrarum- a sea well described by the Nubian geographer,
but seldom visited now-a-days, except for the transcendentalists and
divers for crotchets.

Truly yours,
EDGAR A. POE
ON BOARD BALLOON “SKYLARK”

April, 1, 2848

NOW, my dear friend- now, for your sins, you are to suffer the
infliction of a long gossiping letter. I tell you distinctly that I am
going to punish you for all your impertinences by being as tedious, as
discursive, as incoherent and as unsatisfactory as possible.
Besides, here I am, cooped up in a dirty balloon, with some one or two
hundred of the canaille, all bound on a pleasure excursion, (what a
funny idea some people have of pleasure!) and I have no prospect of
touching terra firma for a month at least. Nobody to talk to.
Nothing to do. When one has nothing to do, then is the time to
correspond with ones friends. You perceive, then, why it is that I
write you this letter- it is on account of my ennui and your sins.
Get ready your spectacles and make up your mind to be annoyed. I
mean to write at you every day during this odious voyage.
Heigho! when will any Invention visit the human pericranium? Are
we forever to be doomed to the thousand inconveniences of the balloon?
Will nobody contrive a more expeditious mode of progress? The jog-trot
movement, to my thinking, is little less than positive torture. Upon
my word we have not made more than a hundred miles the hour since
leaving home! The very birds beat us- at least some of them. I
assure you that I do not exaggerate at all. Our motion, no doubt,
seems slower than it actually is- this on account of our having no
objects about us by which to estimate our velocity, and on account
of our going with the wind. To be sure, whenever we meet a balloon
we have a chance of perceiving our rate, and then, I admit, things
do not appear so very bad. Accustomed as I am to this mode of
travelling, I cannot get over a kind of giddiness whenever a balloon
passes us in a current directly overhead. It always seems to me like
an immense bird of prey about to pounce upon us and carry us off in
its claws. One went over us this morning about sunrise, and so
nearly overhead that its drag-rope actually brushed the network
suspending our car, and caused us very serious apprehension. Our
captain said that if the material of the bag had been the trumpery
varnished “silk” of five hundred or a thousand years ago, we should
inevitably have been damaged. This silk, as he explained it to me, was
a fabric composed of the entrails of a species of earth-worm. The worm
was carefully fed on mulberries- kind of fruit resembling a
water-melon- and, when sufficiently fat, was crushed in a mill. The
paste thus arising was called papyrus in its primary state, and went
through a variety of processes until it finally became “silk.”
Singular to relate, it was once much admired as an article of female
dress! Balloons were also very generally constructed from it. A better
kind of material, it appears, was subsequently found in the down
surrounding the seed-vessels of a plant vulgarly called euphorbium,
and at that time botanically termed milk-weed. This latter kind of
silk was designated as silk-buckingham, on account of its superior
durability, and was usually prepared for use by being varnished with a
solution of gum caoutchouc- a substance which in some respects must
have resembled the gutta percha now in common use. This caoutchouc was
occasionally called Indian rubber or rubber of twist, and was no doubt
one of the numerous fungi. Never tell me again that I am not at
heart an antiquarian.
Talking of drag-ropes- our own, it seems, has this moment knocked
a man overboard from one of the small magnetic propellers that swarm
in ocean below us- a boat of about six thousand tons, and, from all
accounts, shamefully crowded. These diminutive barques should be
prohibited from carrying more than a definite number of passengers.
The man, of course, was not permitted to get on board again, and was
soon out of sight, he and his life-preserver. I rejoice, my dear
friend, that we live in an age so enlightened that no such a thing
as an individual is supposed to exist. It is the mass for which the
true Humanity cares. By-the-by, talking of Humanity, do you know
that our immortal Wiggins is not so original in his views of the
Social Condition and so forth, as his contemporaries are inclined to
suppose? Pundit assures me that the same ideas were put nearly in
the same way, about a thousand years ago, by an Irish philosopher
called Furrier, on account of his keeping a retail shop for cat
peltries and other furs. Pundit knows, you know; there can be no
mistake about it. How very wonderfully do we see verified every day,
the profound observation of the Hindoo Aries Tottle (as quoted by
Pundit)- “Thus must we say that, not once or twice, or a few times,
but with almost infinite repetitions, the same opinions come round
in a circle among men.”
April 2.- Spoke to-day the magnetic cutter in charge of the middle
section of floating telegraph wires. I learn that when this species of
telegraph was first put into operation by Horse, it was considered
quite impossible to convey the wires over sea, but now we are at a
loss to comprehend where the difficulty lay! So wags the world.
Tempora mutantur- excuse me for quoting the Etruscan. What would we do
without the Atalantic telegraph? (Pundit says Atlantic was the ancient
adjective.) We lay to a few minutes to ask the cutter some
questions, and learned, among other glorious news, that civil war is
raging in Africa, while the plague is doing its good work
beautifully both in Yurope and Ayesher. Is it not truly remarkable
that, before the magnificent light shed upon philosophy by Humanity,
the world was accustomed to regard War and Pestilence as calamities?
Do you know that prayers were actually offered up in the ancient
temples to the end that these evils (!) might not be visited upon
mankind? Is it not really difficult to comprehend upon what
principle of interest our forefathers acted? Were they so blind as not
to perceive that the destruction of a myriad of individuals is only so
much positive advantage to the mass!
April 3.- It is really a very fine amusement to ascend the
rope-ladder leading to the summit of the balloon-bag, and thence
survey the surrounding world. From the car below you know the prospect
is not so comprehensive- you can see little vertically. But seated
here (where I write this) in the luxuriously-cushioned open piazza
of the summit, one can see everything that is going on in all
directions. Just now there is quite a crowd of balloons in sight,
and they present a very animated appearance, while the air is resonant
with the hum of so many millions of human voices. I have heard it
asserted that when Yellow or (Pundit will have it) Violet, who is
supposed to have been the first aeronaut, maintained the
practicability of traversing the atmosphere in all directions, by
merely ascending or descending until a favorable current was attained,
he was scarcely hearkened to at all by his contemporaries, who
looked upon him as merely an ingenious sort of madman, because the
philosophers (?) of the day declared the thing impossible. Really
now it does seem to me quite unaccountable how any thing so
obviously feasible could have escaped the sagacity of the ancient
savans. But in all ages the great obstacles to advancement in Art have
been opposed by the so-called men of science. To be sure, our men of
science are not quite so bigoted as those of old:- oh, I have
something so queer to tell you on this topic. Do you know that it is
not more than a thousand years ago since the metaphysicians
consented to relieve the people of the singular fancy that there
existed but two possible roads for the attainment of Truth! Believe it
if you can! It appears that long, long ago, in the night of Time,
there lived a Turkish philosopher (or Hindoo possibly) called Aries
Tottle. This person introduced, or at all events propagated what was
termed the deductive or a priori mode of investigation. He started
with what he maintained to be axioms or “self-evident truths,” and
thence proceeded “logically” to results. His greatest disciples were
one Neuclid, and one Cant. Well, Aries Tottle flourished supreme until
advent of one Hog, surnamed the “Ettrick Shepherd,” who preached an
entirely different system, which he called the a posteriori or
inductive. His plan referred altogether to Sensation. He proceeded
by observing, analyzing, and classifying facts-instantiae naturae,
as they were affectedly called- into general laws. Aries Tottle’s
mode, in a word, was based on noumena; Hog’s on phenomena. Well, so
great was the admiration excited by this latter system that, at its
first introduction, Aries Tottle fell into disrepute; but finally he
recovered ground and was permitted to divide the realm of Truth with
his more modern rival. The savans now maintained the Aristotelian
and Baconian roads were the sole possible avenues to knowledge.
“Baconian,” you must know, was an adjective invented as equivalent
to Hog-ian and more euphonious and dignified.
Now, my dear friend, I do assure you, most positively, that I
represent this matter fairly, on the soundest authority and you can
easily understand how a notion so absurd on its very face must have
operated to retard the progress of all true knowledge- which makes its
advances almost invariably by intuitive bounds. The ancient idea
confined investigations to crawling; and for hundreds of years so
great was the infatuation about Hog especially, that a virtual end was
put to all thinking, properly so called. No man dared utter a truth to
which he felt himself indebted to his Soul alone. It mattered not
whether the truth was even demonstrably a truth, for the bullet-headed
savans of the time regarded only the road by which he had attained it.
They would not even look at the end. “Let us see the means,” they
cried, “the means!” If, upon investigation of the means, it was
found to come under neither the category Aries (that is to say Ram)
nor under the category Hog, why then the savans went no farther, but
pronounced the “theorist” a fool, and would have nothing to do with
him or his truth.
Now, it cannot be maintained, even, that by the crawling system
the greatest amount of truth would be attained in any long series of
ages, for the repression of imagination was an evil not to be
compensated for by any superior certainty in the ancient modes of
investigation. The error of these Jurmains, these Vrinch, these
Inglitch, and these Amriccans (the latter, by the way, were our own
immediate progenitors), was an error quite analogous with that of
the wiseacre who fancies that he must necessarily see an object the
better the more closely he holds it to his eyes. These people
blinded themselves by details. When they proceeded Hoggishly, their
“facts” were by no means always facts- a matter of little
consequence had it not been for assuming that they were facts and must
be facts because they appeared to be such. When they proceeded on
the path of the Ram, their course was scarcely as straight as a
ram’s horn, for they never had an axiom which was an axiom at all.
They must have been very blind not to see this, even in their own day;
for even in their own day many of the long “established” axioms had
been rejected. For example- “Ex nihilo nihil fit”; “a body cannot
act where it is not”; “there cannot exist antipodes”; “darkness cannot
come out of light”- all these, and a dozen other similar propositions,
formerly admitted without hesitation as axioms, were, even at the
period of which I speak, seen to be untenable. How absurd in these
people, then, to persist in putting faith in “axioms” as immutable
bases of Truth! But even out of the mouths of their soundest reasoners
it is easy to demonstrate the futility, the impalpability of their
axioms in general. Who was the soundest of their logicians? Let me
see! I will go and ask Pundit and be back in a minute…. Ah, here
we have it! Here is a book written nearly a thousand years ago and
lately translated from the Inglitch- which, by the way, appears to
have been the rudiment of the Amriccan. Pundit says it is decidedly
the cleverest ancient work on its topic, Logic. The author (who was
much thought of in his day) was one Miller, or Mill; and we find it
recorded of him, as a point of some importance, that he had a
mill-horse called Bentham. But let us glance at the treatise!
Ah!- “Ability or inability to conceive,” says Mr. Mill, very
properly, “is in no case to be received as a criterion of axiomatic
truth.” What modern in his senses would ever think of disputing this
truism? The only wonder with us must be, how it happened that Mr. Mill
conceived it necessary even to hint at any thing so obvious. So far
good- but let us turn over another paper. What have we here?-
“Contradictories cannot both be true- that is, cannot co-exist in
nature.” Here Mr. Mill means, for example, that a tree must be
either a tree or not a tree- that it cannot be at the same time a tree
and not a tree. Very well; but I ask him why. His reply is this- and
never pretends to be any thing else than this- “Because it is
impossible to conceive that contradictories can both be true.” But
this is no answer at all, by his own showing, for has he not just
admitted as a truism that “ability or inability to conceive is in no
case to be received as a criterion of axiomatic truth.”
Now I do not complain of these ancients so much because their
logic is, by their own showing, utterly baseless, worthless and
fantastic altogether, as because of their pompous and imbecile
proscription of all other roads of Truth, of all other means for its
attainment than the two preposterous paths- the one of creeping and
the one of crawling- to which they have dared to confine the Soul that
loves nothing so well as to soar.
By the by, my dear friend, do you not think it would have puzzled
these ancient dogmaticians to have determined by which of their two
roads it was that the most important and most sublime of all their
truths was, in effect, attained? I mean the truth of Gravitation.
Newton owed it to Kepler. Kepler admitted that his three laws were
guessed at- these three laws of all laws which led the great
Inglitch mathematician to his principle, the basis of all physical
principle- to go behind which we must enter the Kingdom of
Metaphysics. Kepler guessed- that is to say imagined. He was
essentially a “theorist”- that word now of so much sanctity,
formerly an epithet of contempt. Would it not have puzzled these old
moles too, to have explained by which of the two “roads” a
cryptographist unriddles a cryptograph of more than usual secrecy,
or by which of the two roads Champollion directed mankind to those
enduring and almost innumerable truths which resulted from his
deciphering the Hieroglyphics.
One word more on this topic and I will be done boring you. Is it not
passing strange that, with their eternal prattling about roads to
Truth, these bigoted people missed what we now so clearly perceive
to be the great highway- that of Consistency? Does it not seem
singular how they should have failed to deduce from the works of God
the vital fact that a perfect consistency must be an absolute truth!
How plain has been our progress since the late announcement of this
proposition! Investigation has been taken out of the hands of the
ground-moles and given, as a task, to the true and only true thinkers,
the men of ardent imagination. These latter theorize. Can you not
fancy the shout of scorn with which my words would be received by
our progenitors were it possible for them to be now looking over my
shoulder? These men, I say, theorize; and their theories are simply
corrected, reduced, systematized- cleared, little by little, of
their dross of inconsistency- until, finally, a perfect consistency
stands apparent which even the most stolid admit, because it is a
consistency, to be an absolute and an unquestionable truth.
April 4.- The new gas is doing wonders, in conjunction with the
new improvement with gutta percha. How very safe, commodious,
manageable, and in every respect convenient are our modern balloons!
Here is an immense one approaching us at the rate of at least a
hundred and fifty miles an hour. It seems to be crowded with people-
perhaps there are three or four hundred passengers- and yet it soars
to an elevation of nearly a mile, looking down upon poor us with
sovereign contempt. Still a hundred or even two hundred miles an
hour is slow travelling after all. Do you remember our flight on the
railroad across the Kanadaw continent?- fully three hundred miles
the hour- that was travelling. Nothing to be seen though- nothing to
be done but flirt, feast and dance in the magnificent saloons. Do
you remember what an odd sensation was experienced when, by chance, we
caught a glimpse of external objects while the cars were in full
flight? Every thing seemed unique- in one mass. For my part, I
cannot say but that I preferred the travelling by the slow train of
a hundred miles the hour. Here we were permitted to have glass
windows- even to have them open- and something like a distinct view of
the country was attainable…. Pundit says that the route for the
great Kanadaw railroad must have been in some measure marked out about
nine hundred years ago! In fact, he goes so far as to assert that
actual traces of a road are still discernible- traces referable to a
period quite as remote as that mentioned. The track, it appears was
double only; ours, you know, has twelve paths; and three or four new
ones are in preparation. The ancient rails were very slight, and
placed so close together as to be, according to modern notions,
quite frivolous, if not dangerous in the extreme. The present width of
track- fifty feet- is considered, indeed, scarcely secure enough.
For my part, I make no doubt that a track of some sort must have
existed in very remote times, as Pundit asserts; for nothing can be
clearer, to my mind, than that, at some period- not less than seven
centuries ago, certainly- the Northern and Southern Kanadaw continents
were united; the Kanawdians, then, would have been driven, by
necessity, to a great railroad across the continent.
April 5.- I am almost devoured by ennui. Pundit is the only
conversible person on board; and he, poor soul! can speak of nothing
but antiquities. He has been occupied all the day in the attempt to
convince me that the ancient Amriccans governed themselves!- did
ever anybody hear of such an absurdity?- that they existed in a sort
of every-man-for-himself confederacy, after the fashion of the
“prairie dogs” that we read of in fable. He says that they started
with the queerest idea conceivable, viz: that all men are born free
and equal- this in the very teeth of the laws of gradation so
visibly impressed upon all things both in the moral and physical
universe. Every man “voted,” as they called it- that is to say meddled
with public affairs- until at length, it was discovered that what is
everybody’s business is nobody’s, and that the “Republic” (so the
absurd thing was called) was without a government at all. It is
related, however, that the first circumstance which disturbed, very
particularly, the self-complacency of the philosophers who constructed
this “Republic,” was the startling discovery that universal suffrage
gave opportunity for fraudulent schemes, by means of which any desired
number of votes might at any time be polled, without the possibility
of prevention or even detection, by any party which should be merely
villainous enough not to be ashamed of the fraud. A little
reflection upon this discovery sufficed to render evident the
consequences, which were that rascality must predominate- in a word,
that a republican government could never be any thing but a rascally
one. While the philosophers, however, were busied in blushing at their
stupidity in not having foreseen these inevitable evils, and intent
upon the invention of new theories, the matter was put to an abrupt
issue by a fellow of the name of Mob, who took every thing into his
own hands and set up a despotism, in comparison with which those of
the fabulous Zeros and Hellofagabaluses were respectable and
delectable. This Mob (a foreigner, by-the-by), is said to have been
the most odious of all men that ever encumbered the earth. He was a
giant in stature- insolent, rapacious, filthy, had the gall of a
bullock with the heart of a hyena and the brains of a peacock. He
died, at length, by dint of his own energies, which exhausted him.
Nevertheless, he had his uses, as every thing has, however vile, and
taught mankind a lesson which to this day it is in no danger of
forgetting- never to run directly contrary to the natural analogies.
As for Republicanism, no analogy could be found for it upon the face
of the earth- unless we except the case of the “prairie dogs,” an
exception which seems to demonstrate, if anything, that democracy is a
very admirable form of government- for dogs.
April 6.- Last night had a fine view of Alpha Lyrae, whose disk,
through our captain’s spy-glass, subtends an angle of half a degree,
looking very much as our sun does to the naked eye on a misty day.
Alpha Lyrae, although so very much larger than our sun, by the by,
resembles him closely as regards its spots, its atmosphere, and in
many other particulars. It is only within the last century, Pundit
tells me, that the binary relation existing between these two orbs
began even to be suspected. The evident motion of our system in the
heavens was (strange to say!) referred to an orbit about a
prodigious star in the centre of the galaxy. About this star, or at
all events about a centre of gravity common to all the globes of the
Milky Way and supposed to be near Alcyone in the Pleiades, every one
of these globes was declared to be revolving, our own performing the
circuit in a period of 117,000,000 of years! We, with our present
lights, our vast telescopic improvements, and so forth, of course find
it difficult to comprehend the ground of an idea such as this. Its
first propagator was one Mudler. He was led, we must presume, to
this wild hypothesis by mere analogy in the first instance; but,
this being the case, he should have at least adhered to analogy in its
development. A great central orb was, in fact, suggested; so far
Mudler was consistent. This central orb, however, dynamically,
should have been greater than all its surrounding orbs taken together.
The question might then have been asked- “Why do we not see it?”-
we, especially, who occupy the mid region of the cluster- the very
locality near which, at least, must be situated this inconceivable
central sun. The astronomer, perhaps, at this point, took refuge in
the suggestion of non-luminosity; and here analogy was suddenly let
fall. But even admitting the central orb non-luminous, how did he
manage to explain its failure to be rendered visible by the
incalculable host of glorious suns glaring in all directions about it?
No doubt what he finally maintained was merely a centre of gravity
common to all the revolving orbs- but here again analogy must have
been let fall. Our system revolves, it is true, about a common
centre of gravity, but it does this in connection with and in
consequence of a material sun whose mass more than counterbalances the
rest of the system. The mathematical circle is a curve composed of
an infinity of straight lines; but this idea of the circle- this
idea of it which, in regard to all earthly geometry, we consider as
merely the mathematical, in contradistinction from the practical,
idea- is, in sober fact, the practical conception which alone we
have any right to entertain in respect to those Titanic circles with
which we have to deal, at least in fancy, when we suppose our
system, with its fellows, revolving about a point in the centre of the
galaxy. Let the most vigorous of human imaginations but attempt to
take a single step toward the comprehension of a circuit so
unutterable! I would scarcely be paradoxical to say that a flash of
lightning itself, travelling forever upon the circumference of this
inconceivable circle, would still forever be travelling in a
straight line. That the path of our sun along such a circumference-
that the direction of our system in such an orbit- would, to any human
perception, deviate in the slightest degree from a straight line
even in a million of years, is a proposition not to be entertained;
and yet these ancient astronomers were absolutely cajoled, it appears,
into believing that a decisive curvature had become apparent during
the brief period of their astronomical history- during the mere point-
during the utter nothingness of two or three thousand years! How
incomprehensible, that considerations such as this did not at once
indicate to them the true state of affairs- that of the binary
revolution of our sun and Alpha Lyrae around a common centre of
gravity!
April 7.- Continued last night our astronomical amusements. Had a
fine view of the five Neptunian asteroids, and watched with much
interest the putting up of a huge impost on a couple of lintels in the
new temple at Daphnis in the moon. It was amusing to think that
creatures so diminutive as the lunarians, and bearing so little
resemblance to humanity, yet evinced a mechanical ingenuity so much
superior to our own. One finds it difficult, too, to conceive the vast
masses which these people handle so easily, to be as light as our
own reason tells us they actually are.
April 8.- Eureka! Pundit is in his glory. A balloon from Kanadaw
spoke us to-day and threw on board several late papers; they contain
some exceedingly curious information relative to Kanawdian or rather
Amriccan antiquities. You know, I presume, that laborers have for some
months been employed in preparing the ground for a new fountain at
Paradise, the Emperor’s principal pleasure garden. Paradise, it
appears, has been, literally speaking, an island time out of mind-
that is to say, its northern boundary was always (as far back as any
record extends) a rivulet, or rather a very narrow arm of the sea.
This arm was gradually widened until it attained its present
breadth- a mile. The whole length of the island is nine miles; the
breadth varies materially. The entire area (so Pundit says) was, about
eight hundred years ago, densely packed with houses, some of them
twenty stories high; land (for some most unaccountable reason) being
considered as especially precious just in this vicinity. The
disastrous earthquake, however, of the year 2050, so totally
uprooted and overwhelmed the town (for it was almost too large to be
called a village) that the most indefatigable of our antiquarians have
never yet been able to obtain from the site any sufficient data (in
the shape of coins, medals or inscriptions) wherewith to build up even
the ghost of a theory concerning the manners, customs, &c., &c.,
&c., of the aboriginal inhabitants. Nearly all that we have hitherto
known of them is, that they were a portion of the Knickerbocker
tribe of savages infesting the continent at its first discovery by
Recorder Riker, a knight of the Golden Fleece. They were by no means
uncivilized, however, but cultivated various arts and even sciences
after a fashion of their own. It is related of them that they were
acute in many respects, but were oddly afflicted with monomania for
building what, in the ancient Amriccan, was denominated “churches”-
a kind of pagoda instituted for the worship of two idols that went
by the names of Wealth and Fashion. In the end, it is said, the island
became, nine tenths of it, church. The women, too, it appears, were
oddly deformed by a natural protuberance of the region just below
the small of the back- although, most unaccountably, this deformity
was looked upon altogether in the light of a beauty. One or two
pictures of these singular women have in fact, been miraculously
preserved. They look very odd, very- like something between a
turkey-cock and a dromedary.
Well, these few details are nearly all that have descended to us
respecting the ancient Knickerbockers. It seems, however, that while
digging in the centre of the emperors garden, (which, you know, covers
the whole island), some of the workmen unearthed a cubical and
evidently chiseled block of granite, weighing several hundred
pounds. It was in good preservation, having received, apparently,
little injury from the convulsion which entombed it. On one of its
surfaces was a marble slab with (only think of it!) an inscription-
a legible inscription. Pundit is in ecstacies. Upon detaching the
slab, a cavity appeared, containing a leaden box filled with various
coins, a long scroll of names, several documents which appear to
resemble newspapers, with other matters of intense interest to the
antiquarian! There can be no doubt that all these are genuine Amriccan
relics belonging to the tribe called Knickerbocker. The papers
thrown on board our balloon are filled with fac-similes of the
coins, MSS., typography, &c., &c. I copy for your amusement the
Knickerbocker inscription on the marble slab:-

This Corner Stone of a Monument to
The Memory of

GEORGE WASHINGTON

Was Laid With Appropriate Ceremonies
on the
19th Day of October, 1847
The Anniversary of the Surrender of
Lord Cornwallis
to General Washington at Yorktown
A. D. 1781
Under the Auspices of the
Washington Monument Association of
the City of New York

This, as I give it, is a verbatim translation done by Pundit
himself, so there can be no mistake about it. From the few words
thus preserved, we glean several important items of knowledge, not the
least interesting of which is the fact that a thousand years ago
actual monuments had fallen into disuse- as was all very proper- the
people contenting themselves, as we do now, with a mere indication
of the design to erect a monument at some future time; a
corner-stone being cautiously laid by itself “solitary and alone”
(excuse me for quoting the great American poet Benton!), as a
guarantee of the magnanimous intention. We ascertain, too, very
distinctly, from this admirable inscription, the how as well as the
where and the what, of the great surrender in question. As to the
where, it was Yorktown (wherever that was), and as to the what, it was
General Cornwallis (no doubt some wealthy dealer in corn). He was
surrendered. The inscription commemorates the surrender of- what? why,
“of Lord Cornwallis.” The only question is what could the savages wish
him surrendered for. But when we remember that these savages were
undoubtedly cannibals, we are led to the conclusion that they intended
him for sausage. As to the how of the surrender, no language can be
more explicit. Lord Cornwallis was surrendered (for sausage) “under
the auspices of the Washington Monument Association”- no doubt a
charitable institution for the depositing of corner-stones.- But,
Heaven bless me! what is the matter? Ah, I see- the balloon has
collapsed, and we shall have a tumble into the sea. I have, therefore,
only time enough to add that, from a hasty inspection of the
fac-similes of newspapers, &c., &c., I find that the great men in
those days among the Amriccans, were one John, a smith, and one
Zacchary, a tailor.
Good-bye, until I see you again. Whether you ever get this letter or
not is point of little importance, as I write altogether for my own
amusement. I shall cork the MS. up in a bottle, however, and throw
it into the sea.
Yours everlastingly, PUNDITA.

THE END

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