Henry Livingston, Jr.
Henry Livingston's Prose

For the Northern Whig.

Si possem, sanior essem;
Sed trahit invitam nova vis: aliudque cupido
Mens aliud suadet. Video meliora, proboque;
Deteriora sequor.Ovid, lib. 6.

Nothing is, which is not of use.-- There may exist many things, the practical good resulting from the use fo which will fall infinitely short of a just compensation for the complicated mischiefs, which the mere existence of these same things must necessarily produce. We are bound to receive and to profit by every sallutary good, which is offerd us, come it whence it may. We shall therefore transcribe a letter from an old and must esteemed friend, the reported son of Somnus and Nox.

Dear R.

Time first invigorates then enervates, the human constitution; and lastly leads man tottering to the grave: Not so its effects upon genuine friendship; which still continues to grow and strengthen in spite of fortune's frowns, nor knows not change till the last expiring breath. -- Old and feeble, on the verge of eternity, the mind cons more than the trembling hand can record. -- Something so with me. However I cannot forgo the pleasure of communicating to you some interresting particulars of a late, and hazardous tour of mine. -- Early in the morning of the day in which the mysteries of Diana, were wont to be celebrated, I departed for the Oracle of Jupiter Ammon. My blundering guide, mistook the name for the planet Jupiter for which he shaped his course, but lost his way and about sunset landed me in a valley of the Moon, at the foot of the mountain Leibnitz. Through this valley flowed a majestic river, on the hither bank of which stood a pleasant little City. Judge of my surprise, when on entering it, I heard sung, and by a charming girl too, these lines--

There is a custom in our town,
Odd indeed it is, sir,
The Buck and Beau and City Clown,
Its supporters are, sir:
Skulking, peeping, trembling, flying,
Like the tim'rous Hare, sir;
Sitting, gazing, whisp'ring, gig'ling,
Never thing so rare, sir.

This unintelligible jargon filled my mind with anxiety, excited suspicion, doubt, fear, which considerably quickened my step. Arriving at an Inn, my doubts and fears were soon dissipated.-- An intelligent old Lunarian very ingeniously related to me a few particulars of the "custom," to which the above "lines" had reference.

It was thus:

"You observe many young people in town. As it is in most other places on our planet, so it is here. The whole herd of gallants, from the fopling to the clown, profess to be extremely fond of the ladies. While they can seize hold of the arm of a fair one in the street, all seems well enough; the tongue does its office, -- sociability ensures. Not being thus successful, the face of things is wholly changed. The ladies must be sought, either at their own, or at some neighbor's house. Instead of walking and and making known their errand; they first believe it necessary to "find out who's there." The means of effecting this, to say the least of it, is truly laughable. -- The front windows are commonly darkened in the evening; and for salutary resons. Consequently some one, of the most approved courage, steals along through the back way, -- peeps into the room, -- and -- half informed -- flies back, lest he should be seized by the throat as a trespasser; and with justice: For verily his suspicious actions would clearly mark him a thief. If however the report be satisfactory, they then drive in without hesitation. Seat themselves in one part of the room, which of course compells the Ladies to remain in the other. Thus they continue -- no hilarity -- no freedom of conversation -- gaze at each other -- say but little -- though they probably think the more -- whisper a good deal -- titter and laugh as much. There are exceptions, -- but even these are exceptionable. Although they are lively and fluent in words yet they too often insult the understanding of the fair sex, by dwelling upon light and trivial subjects in their conversation with them, as though they were but half witted, or at most, of capacity just enough to receive, and be well pleased with the slanderous , or envious dialect: -- or with the fooleries, foperies or vanities of the day: -- or with the fulsome flattery, or cunning hypocrisy, of the ignorant, weak or designing. -- There is one other circumstance which ought not to be omitted. If a stranger happen in, generally he may sit till his eyes grow dim with age, or his tongue loose its use, before he will be addressed or made acquainted with any one. Such are the outlines of this singular "custom" among us lunarians. You will draw what inferences you plese."

I did; and they are these: that such conduct is inconsiderate, improper; and such as the censorious might handle to much advantage. Skulking round the house -- peeping into the windows -- "visum teneatis? quia ridiculum est." -- So after they get into the room the striking peculiarity of most of their actions seem evidently to originate either from ignorance or bashfulness. -- While in this posture of alternately ogling and staring, gigling and sorrowing, they appear to be very modest waiting for a polite invitation from the Ladies to change seats, or enter into conversation with them: -- And what a pity it is they will nto so far condescend as to gratify them.

But from all I could learn, the subject matter of what little conversation there is in these parties, of all things is the greatest outrage upon common right and common sense. Such as -- for instance, -- Bucks, Belles, Beaux, Fops, Clowns, Beauties, Deformities, &c. &c. with a patch on the back of each, made up of a goodly number of defects either real or supposed, both of body and mind, whether from nature or education or neither: -- pink gowns, hats, bonnets, caps, ribbons of various colors, handsome or humbly, -- occasionally interspersed with a choice smattering of big, pompous, high sounding epithets, and farfetched phrases.

I trust you will soon take occasion of showing the intrinsic worth of woman, and of pointing out some of the many easy means of arriving to that degree of celebrity, to which the natural excellency of their nature so justly entitles them. There is a vast difference between right and wrong. If one begin wrong, and persist in it, five to one if his days be not full of trouble. Adieu, kind sir. Momus.

A fine specimen indeed of the urbanity of Luna's children. Their manners however are so like those we have witnessed in many places in this wide world, that, verily we should have no doubt of their being copied from some of us, were there any possible means of communication for visible mortals between the two planets.

People in general have no occasion to complain of their lack of rational faculties, though perhaps many have of their culpable neglect of them. "Video meliora, proboque; deteriora sequor:" we see the right course and approve it, still however we follow the wrong one. Most men however have an easy method of doing away their sense of duty, of reconciling their consciences to the multitude of improprities which mark their career through life. "Si possem, sanior essem," each one exclaims; I would do better if I could: and all is supposed well enough.

Wednesday, Oct. 3, 1809.

Northern Whig
Nov 21, 1809; by R


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