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tions to it may be traced the germs of nearly everything that he did afterwards; in it he tried the various stops of his genius; he discovered his own power; his career was determined; thereafter it was only a question of energy or necessity. o In the summer of 1808 there were printed at Ballston-Spa- then the resort of fashion and the arena of flirtation — seven numbers of a duodecimo bagatelle in prose and verse, entitled “The Literary Picture Gallery and Admonitory Epistles to the Visitors of Ballston-Spa, by Simeon Senex, Esquire.” This piece of summer nonsense is not referred to by any writer who has concerned himself about Irving's life, but there is reason to believe that he was a contributor to it if not the editor." In these yellow pages is a melancholy reflection of the gayety and gallantry of the Sans Souci hotel seventy years ago. In this “Picture Gallery,” under the thin disguise of initials, are the portraits of well-known belles of New York whose charms of person and graces of mind would make the present reader regret his tardy advent into this world, did not the “Admonitory Epistles,” addressed to the same sex, remind him that the manners of seventy years ago left much to be desired. In respect of the habit of swearing, “Simeon” advises “Myra" that if ladies were to confine themselves to a single round oath, it would be quite sufficient; and he objects, when he is at the public table, to the conduct of his neighbor who carelessly took up “Simeon’s” fork and used it as a tooth-pick. All this, no doubt, passed for wit in the beginning of the century. Punning, broad satire, exaggerated compliment, verse which has love for its theme and the “sweet bird of Venus ” for its object, an affectation of gallantry and of ennui, with anecdotes of distinguished visitors, out of which the screaming fun has quite evaporated, make up the staple of these faded mementos of an ancient wateringplace. Yet how much superior is our comedy of to-day ? The beauty and the charms of the women of two generations ago exist only in tradition; perhaps we should give to the wit of that time equal admiration if none of it had been preserved.
1 For these stray reminders of the old-time gayety of Ballston-Spa, I am indebted to J. Carson Brevoort, Esq., whose father was Irving's most intimate friend, and who told him that Irving had a hand in them.
Irving, notwithstanding the success of “Salmagundi,” did not immediately devote himself to literature, nor seem to regard his achievements in it as anything more than aids to social distinction. He was then, as always, greatly influenced by his surroundings. These were unfavorable to literary pursuits. Politics was the attractive field for preferment and distinction; and it is more than probable that, even after the success of the Knickerbocker history, he would have drifted through life, half lawyer and half placeman, if the associations and stimulus of an old civilization, in his second European residence, had not fired his ambition. Like most young lawyers with little law and less clients, he began to dabble in local politics. The experiment was not much to his taste, and the association and work demanded, at that time, of a ward politician soon disgusted him. “We have toiled through the purgatory of an election,” he writes to the fair Republican, Miss Fairlie, who rejoiced in the defeat he and the Federals had sustained : —
“What makes me the more outrageous is, that I got fairly drawn into the vortex, and before the third day was expired, I was as deep in mud and politics as ever a moderate gentleman would wish to be ; and I drank beer with the multitude; and I talked hand-bill fashion with the demagogues; and I shook hands with the mob, whom my heart abhorreth. 'T is true, for the first two days I maintained my coolness and indifference. The first day I merely hunted for whim, character, and absurdity, according to my usual custom; the second day being rainy, I sat in the bar-room at the Seventh Ward, and read a volume of “Galatea,’ which I found on a shelf; but before I had got through a hundred pages, I had three or four good Feds sprawling round me on the floor, and another with his eyes half shut, leaning on my shoulder in the most affectionate manner, and spelling a page of the book as if it had been an electioneering hand-bill. But the third day — ah! then came the tug of war. My patriotism then blazed forth, and I determined to save my country Oh, my friend, I have been in such holes and corners; such filthy nooks and filthy corners; sweep offices and oyster cellars “I have sworn brother to a leash of drawers, and can drink with any tinker in his own language during my life,’ — faugh! I shall not be able to bear the smell of small beer and tobacco for a month to come... ... Truly this saving one's country is a nauseous piece of business, and if patriotism is such a dirty virtue, – prythee, no more of it.”
He unsuccessfully solicited some civil appointment at Albany, a very modest solicitation, which was never renewed, and which did not last long, for he was no sooner there than he was “disgusted by the servility and duplicity and rascality witnessed among the swarm of scrub politicians.” There was a promising young artist at that time in Albany, and Irving wishes he were a man of wealth, to give him a helping hand; a few acts of munificence of this kind by rich nabobs, he breaks out, “would be more pleasing in the sight of Heaven, and more to the glory and advantage of their country, than building a dozen shingle church steeples, or buying a thousand venal votes at an election.” This was in the “good old times' " Although a Federalist, and, as he described himself, “an admirer of General Hamilton, and a partisan with him in politics,” he accepted a retainer from Burr's friends in 1807, and attended his trial in Richmond, but more in the capacity of an