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SOCIAL LIFE IN WASHINGTON.
and songs; and as the participants were generally cultivated and representative men, it needed no formal rule to exclude vulgarity. Every one had a constituency of some sort to respect and fear, even if he did not respect himself; and, as they were of all sides in politics, many meeting for the first time, and never to meet again, they did their best to leave the best impressions. Ah, could those “Noctes Ambrosianæ" have been taken down in short-hand, or recorded by a faithful scribe like Pepys, Boswell, or Crabbe Robinson, what a delicious repast would have been left to posterity! When William E. Burton came to Washington to play, and after the curtain fell would join one of these assemblies, and give us his raciest things spontaneously; when Charlie Oakford, of Philadelphia-clever, genial, and ever-ready Oakford — rolled out Drake's “Ode to the American Flag,” with a voice so rich and mellow; when Murdoch moved us to tears with Janvier's “Sleeping Sentinel,” or stilled us with the sweet drowsiness of Buchanan Read's ' Drifting;" when John Hay recited one of his fine creations, or Fitz-James O'Brien or Charles G. Halpine thrilled us with a song of war or of love; when Jack Savage sung us “The Temptation of St. Anthony," or rare Forrest dropped the tragedian, and played for us the mimic and the comedian ; or Jefferson sung his “Cuckoo Song;" or Nesmith of Oregon left the Senate to set our table in a roar; we had no thought of phonography, and no time that was not crowded with ecstacy. Some of these are dead, and all are absent from the scenes of these happy evenings. Other forms crowd the saloons; other voices wake the echoes of other hearts; other eyes glisten with responsive smiles and tears. Every night we had something new, for the inventors of our amusements were artists, who worked for the best of all rewards—the happiness of their fellows.
At one time it was an opera sung by a corps of amateurs, with a houseful of Congressmen in the choruses. Then we “Buried Joe Sanders," to illustrate the sin of idleness. This
was the late John L. Dawson's great story. Joe was a village nuisance, who would not work, and lived upon what he could borrow or beg. At last it was resolved to bury him alive, and so relieve the village. A coffin was duly prepared, with a place for him to see and breathe, and the procession started, Joe inside, resigned to his fate. Passing by the blacksmith, who stood at his shop-door, Vulcan asked who was to be buried. The chief mourner answered,“ Joe Sanders.” “What! is poor Joe dead ?” “Oh no! but he is so great a nuisance that, rather than support him any longer, we have resolved to put him in the grave alive.” “Oh, that won't do,” says the smith; "I have enough corn to keep him going for some time, and he shall have it.” Joe overhears the dialogue, lifts the coffin lid, and quietly asks, “Is the corn shelled?” “No," is the indignant reply. “Well, then,” says the disgusted Joe, “ go on with the funeral.” Dawson used to tell this as a joke upon the Southerners, to prove that they lived without labor. To play this piece was quite an event, and required a first-rate Joe and a very considerable procession, with a good feast after the dead man was in his grave-generally the back parlor.
One memorable night in January of 1859 deserves to be specially embalmed. It has been recorded in a volume for private circulation, but has never had any public place. Albert Pike, a name well known in poetry and journalism, though not so well remembered in the North for his part in the rebellion, yet withal one of the most genial of men, was reported killed by an accident, to the great grief of his very many friends in Washington. The report was proved to be false by the sudden appearance of Pike himself, whereupon John F. Coyle, of the National Intelligencer, determined to honor him by an Irish “wake” at his residence. More than a hundred people participated. It was called “The Life Wake of the fine Arkansas Gentleman who died before his time.” The “obituary” was read by Alexander Dimitry, of New Orleans, after which Coyle sang a capital
THE WAKE OF ALBERT PIKE.
parody on Pike's own rare parody of the “Fine Old English Gentleman,” a few verses of which will show its quality. Pike had lived a varied life, especially among the Indians of Arkansas, which will account for the allusions to the red men:
The fine Arkansas gentleman restored to life once more,
This fine Arkansas gentleman,
Who died before his time.
And distant chiefs and warriors came with bow and gun and spear;
Gros Ventres, Arrapahoes, Comanches, Creeks, Navajoes, Choctaws,
This fine Arkansas gentleman, etc. “They welcomed him with all the sports well known on the frontier,
He hunted buffalo and elk, and lived on grouse and deer;
cards, with instructions in seven - up, brag, bluff, and was whooped
This fine Arkansas gentleman, etc. “He went to sleep among these friends, in huts or tents of skin, And if it rained or hailed or snowed, he didn't care a pin, For he'd lined his hide with whisky and a brace of roasted grouse, And he didn't mind the weather any more than if he slept in a four-story brown-stone front, tip roof, fire-proof Fifth Avenue house.
This fine Arkansas gentleman, etc.
The chase and pipe and bottle, and such like forbidden things,
camphene accidents, collisions, explosions, defalcations, seductions,
This fine Arkansas gentleman, etc.
“But far above the common grief-though he was good as gold
His creditors, like Jacob's wife, refused to be consoled ;
statesmen, congressmen, actors, editors, letter - writers, route agents,
This fine Arkansas gentleman, etc.
We knew from a remark he made' that he was still alive ;
This fine Arkansas gentleman, etc.”
A racy song in such a voice electrified the dead man, who woke and spoke at length, and in part as follows:
“If any of us have unfortunately, and even by their fault, become estranged from old friends, and if in this circle we miss any
of the old familiar faces that were once welcomed among us with delight, surely I shall not be deemed to tread upon forbidden ground if, thinking aloud, I murmur that at some time hereafter, when perhaps it is too late, perhaps not until the portals of another life open to us, but surely then, at the furthest, all the old kindly feelings will revive, and the misunderstanding of the past will seem to have been only unreal shadows.
“ Let us remember that'we love but to lose those we love, and to see the grave-yards become populous with the bodies of the dead, where in our childhood were open woods or cultivated fields;' and that we can not afford to lose any of our friends while yet they live. 'Every where around us, as we look out into the night, we can see the faces of those we have loved, and who have gone away before us, shining upon us like stars.' Alas! for us, if, besides these that we have lost, there are other faces of the living looking sadly upon us out of the darkness, regretting that they too could not, even if it be their own fault, have been with us here to-night, beaming with pleasure and sympathy as of yore. Must not I, at least, always feel how true
A NIGHT AT JOHNNY COYLE's.
it is that if men were perfect they might respect each other more, but would love each other less ? and that we love our friend more for his weaknesses and failings, which we must overlook and forgive, than for his rigid virtues, which demand our admiration more than our affection ? Let the memories of the dead soften our feelings toward the living, and while by experience we grow in knowledge; let us also knowing that we all fall short of perfect excellence, grow in love-from within, like the large oaks, as well as from without, like the hard, cold crystals.
“I submit it to your indulgence to decide whether, desiring to be at peace with all the world and to serve my fellows, I may not be forgiven for wishing to live a little longer. If I desired to live for myself alone, the judgment rendered against me ought to be affirmed. In that case I would already have lived too long. I wish, and I am sure we all wish, to work for the men of the future, as the men of the past have lived for us,
and to plant the acorns from which shall spring the oaks that shall shelter those who will live after we are dead. It is as natural as to enjoy the shade of those our fathers planted.
“I detain you too long. May the memory of each of you, when it comes to you to die, be as kindly cherished and as gently dealt with as mine has been; and if you, like me, should have the good fortune to read your own obituaries, may you have as good cause to be grateful for the consequences of the mistake as I have! You deserve no less fortune, and I could wish you none better.”
Afterward John Savage sung Pike's own song on his own demise, in a noble tenor, a strain of which I quote:
“A gentleman from Arkansas, not long ago, 'tis said,
Waked up one pleasant morning and discovered he was dead;