Item of the Day: The Foresters, an American Tale (1834)

Full Title: The Foresters, an American Tale: Being a Sequal to the History of John Bull the Clothier in a Series of Letters to a Friend. Exeter: Ulman & Jefferds, 1834.

[Jeremy Belknap was a clergyman, historian, author, essayist, opponent of the African slave trade, member of the American Philosophical Society, founder of the Massachusetts Historical Society and overseer of Harvard College. Although probably best know for his History of New Hampshire and American Biographies, he also wrote The Foresters, An American Tale—a satirical fiction first published in 1792. The narrative was written as a series of letters, the subject of which is the settling, development and growth of the British colonies in America. Below is an excerpt from the 1834 edition of that work.]


LETTER II.

Sickness and Delirium of Mr. Bull’s Mother. –Adventures of Perigrine Pickle. –John Codline. –Humphry Ploughshare. –Roger Carrier, and Theophilus Wheat-ear.

DEAR SIR,About the time in which these first attempts were making, and the same of them had raised much jealousy among some, and much expectation among others, there happened a sad quarrel in John Bull’s family. His mother,* poor woman, had been seized by hysteric fits, which caused her at times to be delirious and full of all sorts of whims. She had taken it into her head that every one of the family must hold a knife and a fork and spoon exactly alike; that they must all wash their hands and face precisely in the same manner; that they must sit, stand, walk, kneel, bow, spit, blow their noses, and perform every other animal function by the exact rule of uniformity which she had drawn up with her own hand, and from which they were not allowed to vary one hair’s breadth. If any one of the family complained of a lame ancle [sic] or a stiff knee, or had the crick in his neck, or happened to cut his finer, or was any other way so disabled as not to perform his duty to a tittle, she was so far from making the least allowance, that she would frown, scold and rave like a bedlamite; and John was such an obedient son to his mother, that he would lend her his hand to box their ears, or his foot to kick their backsides, for not complying with her humours. This way of proceeding raised an uproar in the family; for though most of them complied, either through affection for the old lady, or through fear, or some other motive, yet others looked sour, and grumbled; some would openly find fault and attempt to remonstrate, but they were answered with a kick or a thump, or a cato’-nine tails or shut up in a dark garret ‘till they promised a compliance. Such was the logic of the family in those days!

Among the number of the disaffected, was Peregrine Pickle, ** a pretty clever sort of fellow about his business, but a great lover of sour crout [sic], and of an humour that would not bear contradiction. However, as he knew it would be fruitless to enter into a downright quarrel, and yet could not live there in peace; he had so much prudence as to quit the house, which he did by getting out of the window in the night. Not liking to be out of employ, he went to the house of Nic Frog,+ his master’s old friend and rival, told him the story of his sufferings, and got leave to employ himself in one of his workshops till the storm should be over. After he had been here a while, he thought Nick’s family were so much too loose in their manners as Bull’s were too strict; and having heard a rumour of the Forest, to which Nick had some kind of claim, he packed up his little all, and hired one of Nick’s servants who had been there a hunting, to pilot him to that part of the Forest to which Nick laid claim. But Frog had laid an anchor to windward of him; for as Pickle had said nothing to him about a lease, he supposed that when Peregrine had got into the Forest he would take a lease of his old master Bull, which would strengthen his title, and weaken his own; he therefore bribed the pilot to shew Peregrine to a barren part of the forest, instead of that fertile place ++ to which he had already sent his surveyors, and of which he was contriving to get possession. Accordingly the pilot having conducted Pickle to a sandy point which runs into the lake, +++ it being the dusk of the evening,++++ bade him good night, and walked off. Peregrine, who was fatigued with his march, laid down and went to sleep, but waking in the morning, saw himself alone in a very dreary situation, where he could get nothing to live upon but clams, and a few acorns which the squirrels had left. In this piteous plight, the poor fellow folded his arms, and walking along the sandy beach, fell into such a soliloquy as this . . .

*The Church of England.
**The Plymouth Adventures.
+The States of Holland.
++Hudson’s River.
+++Cape Cod.
++++The month of December.


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Filed under 1830's, Fiction, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

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