Academic journal article Walt Whitman Quarterly Review

Life and Adventures of Jack Engle: An Auto-Biography; in Which the Reader Will Find Some Familiar Characters

Academic journal article Walt Whitman Quarterly Review

Life and Adventures of Jack Engle: An Auto-Biography; in Which the Reader Will Find Some Familiar Characters

Article excerpt

A Story of New York at the Present Time

This story will be completed in six numbers, or less. The Writer having placed the manuscript complete in our hands we shall give such quantities weekly as to enable the reader to see the end within that time.-EDS.

PREFATORY.-Candidly reader we are going to tell you a true story. The narrative is written in the first person; because it was originally jotted down by the principal actor in it, for the entertainment of a valued friend. From that narrative, although the present is somewhat elaborated, with an unimportant leaving out here, and putting in there, there has been no departure in substance. The main incidents were of actual occurrence in this good city of New York; and there will be a sprinkling of our readers by no means small, who will wonder how the deuce such facts, (as they happen to know them) ever got into print.

We shall, in the narrative, give the performers in this real drama, unreal names; and for good reasons, throw just enough of our own toggery about them to prevent their being identified by strangers.

Some of the faces embodied in the story have come to our knowledge from sources other than that above mentioned[.] These, we shall add, or withhold, as the interest of the detail may demand.


An approved specimen of young America-the Lawyer in his office-Old age, down at the heel-entrance of Telemachus and Ulysses-a bargain closed.

Punctually at half past 12, the noon-day sun shining flat on the pavement of Wall street, a youth with the pious name of Nathaniel, clapt upon his closely cropt head, a straw hat, for which he had that very morning given the sum of twenty-five cents, and announced his intention of going to his dinner.


Attorney at Law"

stared into the room (it was a down-town law-office) from the door which was opened wide and fastened back, for coolness; and the real Covert, at that moment, looked up from his cloth-covered table, in an inner apartment, whose carpet, book-cases, musty smell, big chair, with leather cushions, and the panels of only one window out of three being opened, and they but partially so, announced it as the sanctum of the sovereign master there. That gentleman's garb marked him as one of the sect of Friends, or Quakers. He was a tallish man, considerably round-shouldered, with a pale, square, closely shaven face; and one who possessed any expertness as a physiognomist, could not mistake a certain sanctimonious satanic look out of the eyes. From some suspicion that he didn't appear well in that part of his countenance, Mr. Covert had a practice of casting down his visual organs. On this occasion, however, they lighted on his errand-boy.

"Yes, go to thy dinner; both can go," said he, "for I want to be alone."

And Wigglesworth, the clerk, a tobacco-scented old man-he smoked and chewed incessantly-left his high stool, in the corner where he had been slowly copying some document.

Old Wigglesworth! I must drop a word of praise and regret upon you here; for the Lord gave you a good soul, ridiculous old codger that you were.

I know few more melancholy sights than these old men present, whom you see here and there about New York; apparently without chick or child, very poor, their lips caved in upon toothless gums, dressed in seedy and greasy clothes, and ending their lives on that just debatable ground between honorable starvation and the poor house.

Old Wigglesworth had been well off once. The key to his losses, and his old age of penury, was nothing more nor less than intemperance. He did not get drunk, out and out, but he was never perfectly sober. Covert now employed him at a salary of four dollars a week.

Nathaniel, before-mentioned, was a small boy with a boundless ambition; the uttermost end and aim of which was that he might one day drive a fast horse of his own on Third avenue. In the mean time [vc], he smoked cheap cigars, cultivated with tenderness upon his temples, his bright brown hair, in that form denominated "soap-lock," and swept out the office and ran the errands; occasionally stopping to settle a dispute by tongue or fist. …

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