Observations on American Art: Selections from the Writings of John Neal (1793-1876)

By Harold Edward Dickson | Go to book overview

Brother Jonathan (1843)

"AUDUBON -- THE AMERICAN NATURALIST!"

"Is A native of New Orleans!" Odds-bobbs! You don't say so! Just think of John James Audubon being only a native of New Orleans, after all! But then, it must be true -- it must -- whatever we may know to the contrary; because the writer who communicates the startling intelligence, had "an interview with him! -- at St. Louis! -- in April!" -- (To be sure he doesn't mention the day of the month: but we would bet a trifle, 'twas the first); and goes on to give a full and particular account of his length and breadth -- of the shape of his nose -- and and [sic] the color of his hair, and whiskers and eyes -- of the place where his teeth ought to be -- and of the soaked sea biscuit and molasses, whereof the American naturalist makes his own pap: after "walking thirty-five miles a day, for months!" and sleeping "anywhere;" adding, by the way, that 'he is very pleasant and agreeable in conversation' (what! -- both! -- agreeable and pleasant too! -- what a man, to be sure!) and makes one perfectly at ease in his presence -- (The d - - - 1 he does!) -- and that, among other things, the American Naturalist told him that "a man might live a hundred years by temperate habits, regularity, and attention to diet!" We dare say! -- and the only wonder is that he didn't swear that he had lived a hundred years -- that he was born, walking thirty-five miles a-day, and sleeping anywhere -- and that he never had any teeth -- all which would appear by a baptismal register in his trunk, at home, certified by the wandering Jew.

Of course, the writer must have had his information about the birthplace of the 'American Naturalist,' from the gentleman himself. Directly, or indirectly, it must be so; as well as that walk "of thirty-five miles a day for months;" for who else, under Heaven, would know or care to know the first, or dare to tell such a story, as the last? Nor should we be at all surprised to hear that he had proved the fact, by letters from Daniel Boone himself, (after the squirrel-hunt), or from Louis Philippe, (acknowledging the beauty and truth of that sketch -- the Ptarmigans in a snow-storm, for which his Majesty paid our American Naturalist five thousand francs) -- or from David, the painter, (enclosing a receipt for his pay as drawingmaster, at so much a lesson) all certifying that they were personally present at his birth, and acknowledging their belief in the stories that were abroad, about his having wrestled with a grizzly bear, at close hug, the better part of a long day in summer, on the edge of a crumbling precipice -- about

-66-

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Observations on American Art: Selections from the Writings of John Neal (1793-1876)
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Selections from the Writings of John Neal *
  • Randolph, a Novel (1823) 1
  • Bladwood's Edinhurgh Magazine (1824-1825) 26
  • The Yankee (1828-1829) 38
  • Brother Jonathan (1843) 66
  • The Atlantic Monthly (1868-1869) 69
  • Appendix 93
  • Index 109
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