When I stepped outside my hotel early this morning and saw a double rainbow for the first time in my life, I knew that today would bring joyful and transformative discoveries about my scholarly work on The Humourist essays.
I was right!
I have no doubt whatsoever—in fact, I am certain of it—that you will recall the promise that The Humourist made to us in his November 26, 1753 essay:
… as an inducement to the World to Read my Paper, they may shortly expect a Present of my Picture, which, like the Statue of Mercury in the Fable, shall be thrown into the Bargain.
And then in his next essay of December 10, 1753, The Humourist wrote:
I promised in my last paper, to give you a copy of my countenance; but as it is impossible to procure it in any reasonable time, if the painter may be allowed to shew his skill or do justice to my person, I shall therefore beg my readers patience, and present them with a true sketch of my figure in print.
What a tease!
However, today, I found something new…nothing major, mind you, but new, nonetheless…something that I had missed before.
Slight though it is, here’s what I found, and it pleases me.
December 3, 1753
The Printer has received the HUMORIST’s Picture, and will exhibit it to the Public the first convenient Opportunity.
Isn’t that splendid! I am thrilled. Now, however, I am beginning to wonder whether a connection exists between the Printer and The Humourist? Are they in this “pseudonymous game” together? Is the Printer covering for The Humourist? Are they both teasing us?
More joy came my way today.
Today, I became a member of the Charleston Library Society. I became a Friend of the Library. By way of joining, I have connected with those seventeen young men who founded the Charleston Library Society in 1748:
- Alexander Baron
- Samuel Brailsford
- Robert Brisbane
- William Burrows
- John Cooper
- Paul Douxsaint
- James Grindlay
- William Logan
- Alexander McCauley
- Patrick McKie
- Thomas Middleton
- John Neufville, Jr.
- Thomas Sacheverel
- John Sinclair
- Paul Stevenson
- Peter Timothy
- Joseph Wragg, Jr.
- Samuel Wragg, Jr.
Other joys I had as well as I perused various issues of The South Carolina Gazette. Let me share with you, if you will, several from the November 26, 1753, issue:
For starters, I was intrigued by the following employment opportunity!
A SOBER, Humane and Careful Person, is wanted to be Warden of the Hospital and Work-House in Charles-Town: A Person qualified for that Office, may apply to the Subscribers, and treat about the same.
William Glen, Benjamin Mathewes, Henry Laurens, Rice Price, Samuel Perkins, Commissioners of the Poor, and Work-House
Also, I was intrigued by the following notice of books that had just arrived:
JUST IMPORTED, and to be sold cheap by the Printer hereof, for ready Money, a great variety of small History Books, Primers, Dyche’s Spelling Books, Psalters, Fisher’s young Man’s Companion (very useful) the Child’s Delight, Child’s new Year’s Gift, Scougall’s Life of God in the Soul of Man with Prayers, Hervey’s Meditations, and Prayer-Books, &c, Also,
Burnet’s History, 6 Vol.
Swift’s Works, 10 Vol.
Prideau’s Connect 4 v.
Paradise lost, with Cuts,
Arabian Nights Entertainments,4 Vol. &c.
Shakespear’s Works, 8 vol.
Age of Lewis 14th, 2 Vol.
Reflections on Incredulity,
All of the best Editions, and very neatly bound.
Fast forward with me now, if you will, to May 3, 1754. I was intrigued by the following notice, simply because of the Virginia connection!
A Young Lady going to Virginia by Sea, in about Three Weeks time, is desirous of carrying with her a sober, discreet Person of her own Sex, either in the Capacity of a Companion or waiting Woman. Any such Person inclinable to go, may meet with Encouragement by inquiring of
Tomorrow may not bring a double rainbow my way—in fact, I hope that it does not: twice in succession would somehow sully today’s joy—but I am confident that tomorrow will bring new discoveries as I continue my literary meanderings in Charleston, South Carolina!
So, when you thought The Humourist had not published an essay on December 3, in fact he had?! Wow! And yet, still no picture! Did they have letters to the editor back then? Did no one write in, reflecting incredulously on this lack of follow-through?
Meanwhile, I am astonished at the number and variety of books that were being offered, some still read today. I was under the impression that nobody read anything but dusty, dry sermons, and yet, for amusement, they have Shakespeare, Swift, and the Arabian Nights. I’m impressed!
Yes, indeed! The Humourist had published a “blurb” on December 3. Somehow I missed it. It wasn’t a big discovery, but I was pleased that the brief notice mentioned his picture!
Letters to the editor? Absolutely! But no one wrote asking about the picture. Is it possible that Charlestonians KNEW who The Humourist was? I wonder.
As we move ahead with The Humourist essays, you will discover that The Humourist wrote letters to himself, under the guise of other names! He really IS a humourist!
Dusty dry sermons? Yes: The Great Awakening minister George Whitefield preached in Charleston at least on one occasion while The Humourist was there. But Colonial South Carolinians had extensive literary tastes going far beyond sermons.