The Humourist (March 19, 1754)

Today is another one of those days when you need to brew yourself another pot of coffee or tea BEFORE settling in with The Humourist!  

[19 March 1754]

Mr. Humourist,

If you think the following Poem deserves a Place in the Gazette, and will bear the Inspection of the Public, I refer it to you to make such Remarks upon it as you shall judge proper; and if you approve of it, will transmit the remaining Part. I am,

March 8, 1754.          Yours, etc.


An allegorical POEM.

When now no more the summer’s scorching sun,
Beats with fierce rays upon the parched earth,
But bounteous autumn with refreshing showers
Revives each herb and beautifies the lawns;
Then, spent with labour, I retir’d, to rest
My wearied limbs, upon the flow’ry bank
Of a small rivulet, that murmuring ran,
While many a shining pebble roll’d along,
And serv’d to lull uneasy care to rest.
Lost in wild thought, contemplating I lay
On mortal man’s unsettled state on earth;
How every one does Happiness pursue,
How every one, or most at least, fall short
Of this their general aim; because, instead
Of searching for it in fair Virtue‘s path,
They’re idly turn’d aside, by every gust
Of ruling passion, to that delusive road,
Where subtil Vice does promise them content;
Sometimes assuming virtue’s lovely look,
And sometimes boldly throwing off the mask,
Which, tho’ its first appearance startle us,
By custom grown familiar, gives delight.
Thus musing, gentle sleep upon me stole,
And lock’d my senses in his droony cave.
My roving fancy, then quite unconfin’d,
Sprung to the stars, or sunk into the deep;
Flew o’er this ball our earth, and all things view’d
In air, on land, or on the chrystal main:
Saw weathy cities near their lofty tow’rs,
While waving forests grace the verdant greens,
And the huge mountain tops rise to the clouds:
Then pass’d from these, unto that liquid plain,
Where failing ships and wat’ry monsters sport,
Amongst the still more monstrous tumbling waves,
That threaten ev’n th’ affflicted globe itself,
And would involve it in the former chaos,
If not restrain’d by Pow’r Omnipotent.
A prospect such as this, was giv’n to him
Who’s fabled to have had that winged steed,
Sprung from the blood of slain Medusa‘s snakes;
Who then attempting heav’n’s blest wall to scale
Was by thund’rer justly thrown to earth,
His native clime, with all his golden views.
Thus, rapt on thought’s aërial wings I fly;
When lo! a vast extended plain appears,
Where all mankind, by Jove‘s decree conven’d,
With admiration captivates my sense.
Not more in number to the wondering swain
Do heav’n’s refulgent ornaments appear,
When now at eve he stalks along the green,
And throws his eyes, admiring, to the stars.
Rack’d with suspence, each throbbing breast expects
The dread commands of an eternal God,
While awful silence reigns thro’out the whole;
Then straight a venerable lovely figure comes,
By men term’d innate Reason, but in heav’n
He’s called the Dictates of thAlmighty Pow’r;
who thus declar’d unto th’ expecting crowd,
Why Jove this vast assemblage had ordain’d.

Ye sons of men, in still attention wait
‘Till I your being’s end and aim unfold.
Altho’ to the pale victor death you stoop,
Think not he can annihilate the mind;
You’re made immortal pleasure to enjoy,
Along with Gods eternally to live,
To whom tho’ still aspiring, still remov’d
Because the distance infinitely great
‘Twixt them and you.  This day unto that temple
Where Happiness in splendor still resides,
And on the good all goodness does confer,
With me as guid, by Jove‘s decree, you go;
And if observant of my rules you walk,
Th’ expected port you shall with ease attain:
But if, allured by deceiving Vice,
Rejecting Virtue‘s salutary rules,
You scorn my precepts, and your reason yield
To those officious off’rers we shall meet
That promise you a pleasant nearer way;
Instead of Happiness, so much desir’d
You’ll find but disappointments, crosses, pains,
And all the mis’ries incident to man.

He ceas’d to speak, but did not to invite,
As soft persuasion sat upon his brow
His arguments with melting looks t’ enforce,
If mean would deign observance of his call.
But yet, who could refrain from tears? when told
That much the greater part of them fell off
From God’s Vice-gerent, foolishly seduc’d
To hateful Vice‘s part, by promise vain,
Of gaining Happiness, a surer way
Than by the thorny path of rigid Virtue.
For ev’ry fierce contending passion strives,
By specious Shews of Happiness prepar’d,
The inward call of Reason to evade.

To be continued.

[19 March 1754]



Notwithstanding your Oddities and Humours, so conspicuous in the South-Carolina Gazette, I find several Foreigners, as well as Natives, inclined to correspond with you.  Whether this Attraction proceeds from a latent Disposition in Nature to be Humourists in general, or an Inclination to humour Mr. Humourist in particular, I shall leave every Reader to judge according to his own Humour.

For my own Part, I am induced to correspond with you at Present, from the Examples of Messrs. Pot-Ash and Green-Tar.  The last is of my Country, and for some Thousands of Years past my Fellow-Traveller and Bosom-Friend, and of so salutary a Disposition and antient a Family, that he boasts of preserving the most antient Egyptian Mummies down to the Present Time.  I could brag of my Antiquity and Family also, but I shall at present trace my Genealogy no farther back that Peter the Great.  Mr. Green-Tar and I, have traversed the Globe together with Harmony and in a’-Cord.  I am a peaceable good Neighbor, fond of good Society, and never use any Man ill who uses me well; but, as I have a very musical Ear, I sometimes stop the Wind-pipe of those who are too fond of Discord.

I have been graciously received in most Empires and Kingdoms in the World, as indeed they can have no easy nor agreeable Communication without me.

I have remark’d in my Travels, that I am as much, if not more, wanted, in Great-Britain and its Plantations, than any where; as they cannot put those Bulwarks their Fleets to Sea, nor manage their Ordnance without me:  On which, Mr. Humourist, you must suffer me to make an Observation or two, or Supposition, of something I think very possible, tho’ seldom thought of by others.  Suppose my great Mistress of Russia should ever be found in the Humour to stop my Travels into Great-Britain, and send me to France or her other Allies (i.e. if you should quarrel with her); or that Sweden or Denmark should deny my Passage thro’ their Baltick Streights (for, Mr. Humourist, a Gun can sling a Shot to the opposite Shore); or, that these three Powers, combined with France, should keep me for their own Use; would not all honest Englishmen, in that Case, have great Reason to be fond of my Company?  Would it not be prudent in them therefore, to allow me a handsome Bounty to induce me to settle amongst them?

This Country agrees very well with myself and Fellow-Traveller; but we have seen too much of the World, to settle in a strange Land, ’till we see proper Provision made for our Subsistance, before we sit down to our Work.

Messrs. Indico, Pot-Ash, Green-Tar, and myself, have offered our Services in Carolina; we can live (as in one House) with Mr. Rice:  And as Mr. Spectator used to make his Lion roar, as he saw needful, so I am hopeful to find you in the Humour, to speak aloud of our Utility amongst the Inhabitants.

I have so good an Opinion of you, as to think your Oddities and Humours still couch some good Moral and Design in them; and therefore hope, you will convince the World, that you have no Antipathy or Dread on you to recommend me:  On the contrary, I am persuaded you have a true Regard for the very Name, more particularly the Sir-Name of

Your very humble Servant,


[19 March 1754]

Dorchester, March 16, 1754.

Mr. Humourist,

About a Month since I sent you Eleven Questions, Answers and Observations on which, I am persuaded, might, and probably would, have rendered them useful; Six of ’em I find you have suppressed, no Doubt you had very sufficient Reasons for so doing:  However, as you have not signified any Dislike to my Correspondence, I have presumed to trouble you with Eleven more Questions (some of them relative to the former ones) and shall esteem it a Favour done me if they can have a Place in the next Gazette.  I am, Sir,

Your most humble Servant,


Qu. 1.  Whether there is not an Act of Assembly of this Province in Force, for erecting a LightHouse.  (I am ignorant of the Laws; but I have been told, by my Neighbours, there is such an Act, and would be truly informed.)  And whether the Light of the Buoys can be of any Service to Vessels that sail in with your Bar in the Night, as they sometimes do in very hazy or tempestuous Weather?  I have suffered severely once thro’ the want of a Light-House.

Qu. 2.  Whether a Lazarette, a Light-House and a Beacon, could not be included in one Building, with Facility?  And whether Cumming‘s Island does not afford the properest Situation for them all?

Qu. 3.  Whether, one Fourth Part of the Damage done to the Southern Half of CharlesTown in the last Hurricane, 1would have been sustained, so many Lives lost, and the Fortifications at WhitePoint ruin’d, had the Curtain-Line been continued, from Granville‘s Bastion, round that Point?

Qu. 4.  Whether CharlesTown cannot be made more defensible than it at present is?

Qu. 5.  Whether a Couple or four Fire-Engines in CharlesTown, purchased at the Expence of the Parishes of St. Philip and St. Michael, (by which the Streets might also be watered all the Summer); and Wells sunk in all the cross Streets, would not be a great Means to prevent future Devastation by Fires?2  And how often the Fire-Masters do see, that your Houses are provided with Ladders and Buckets, in good Order?

Qu. 6.  Whether there are no Abuses committed in the Baking and Weight of Bread?

Qu. 7.  Whether the present detestable and dangerous Practice of taking up Letters, and never delivering them, cannot be restrained; by what Means?

Qu. 8.  Whether some eligible Method cannot be fallen upon, to prevent the dispeopling of BeachHill;3 and to encourage the better settling of poor DORCHESTER,4 ShimTown,5 Childsbury,6 Jacksonborough,7 and Radnor,8 and even some new Towns at Convenient Places?

The three Questions concerning Country Courts for Criminal Causes, the Recovery of Debts under 100£ in an easy Way, and about the Qualifications of Constables, may be suppressed, if you judge the Publication of them at this Time improper.

My Neighbours inform me, that it is a public Talk in Charles-Town, that a Bridge is to be built over Ashley-River.  If so, to be sure there must be an Act passed for it.  It would really be a good Thing:  And, if you, Mr. Humourist, are in the A—-y, we, and Thousands of others, hope you’ll befriend such a Bill, in which Case we will return you public Acknowledgements.


1 A major hurricane devastated Charleston in 1754.  For a full account, see “The Scourging Wrath of God: Early Hurricanes in Charleston, 1700 -1804.”

2 “In less than twenty-four hours, the fire of November 18, 1740, destroyed more than three hundred dwellings and commercial buildings, along with countless outbuildings and several wharves.”  Read the full story:  “Alfred O. Halsey Map Preservation Project.”

3 Beech-Hill was a section of the town of Dorchester, SC. See “A History of Dorchester, South Carolina.”

4 “From 1697 until the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the trading town of Dorchester flourished along the Ashley River, inland from colonial Charleston.”  Read more about it at Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site.

5 Shem-Town, along the Ashley River.

6 “Started in 1707, Childsbury and the adjacent Strawberry Landing (est. 1705) are examples of an early frontier settlement away from the Port of Charleston.” (South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.)

7 Named for John Jackson, Jacksonborough was a settlement along the Edisto River.  See “A History of Jacksonboro, South Carolina.”

8 Radnor, Beaufort County, SC.

2 thoughts on “The Humourist (March 19, 1754)

  1. The United States still does not see fit to grow the ancient and multi-useful hemp plant, a grass. Green tar is hard to find on Google; in fact, until I added The Humourist’s clues, I was unable to find it at all. According to very old newspaper accounts, it was derived from birch bark and used to make a hard, gemlike glaze which, along with hemp fibers, was used to wrap mummies. Potash, despite its Biblical sounding name, is still manufactured and mined, and used in fertilizers and explosives.

    Peter Hemp’s letters remind me of the Star Trek adventure in which Captain Kirk was marooned on an uninhabited planet with a lizardlike opponent and told that raw materials existed with which to make a weapon. He found giant bamboo (a grass) with which to make a cannon, and diamonds to use as projectiles. He also found the chemical elements needed to manufacture explosive black powder. He made his weapon and prevailed over his opponent.

    Am I the only one who sees a striking similarity between the mind of Peter Hemp and the imagination of Gene Roddenberry? Should the similarity be dismissed as coincidence? Or is The Humourist, as an earlier letter writer surmised, a literal Time Traveler!?


    • Thank you for your extensive explanation of Green Tar. I wonder whether your old newspaper account is the same as mine: The Oregon Scout (April 2, 1891). If it is another source, would you share?

      Interestingly enough, the Oxford English Dictionary notes that the first published reference to “Green Tar” was in an advertisement from the South Carolina Gazette, March 2, 1737: “It hath also sufficient quantity of high Land proper for Tarr, Pitch, Turpentine and Green Tarr.” (As an aside–and solely because I sense that you are a lover of words as well as an accomplished researcher–did you know that the Oxford English Dictionary has launched a public appeal for individuals “to assist OED editors in finding the earliest recorded date (or some other key aspect) of a word, to provide an accurate picture of when it made its first appearance in English.” You might want to explore this opportunity. Read more about it at OED Appeals.)

      The Humourist as a literal Time Traveler? Fascinating! I don’t know about that, but he was a literal MIND Traveler! Perhaps they’re one and the same! (Did you know that “Time Traveler” was first used by H. G. Wells in the National Observer, April 28, 1894: “‘There,’ said the Time Traveller, ‘I am unable to give you an explanation. All I know is that the climate was very much warmer than it is now.’” The Oxford English Dictionary allows for time travel and mind travel! Let me know if you find my OED Appeals opportunity appealing.


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