Chapter XI.

“A soldier may be anything, if brave;  

So may a merchant, if not quite a knave.” COWPER.


“Trade his delight and hope; and, if alive,  

Doubt I have none, that Barnaby will thrive.” CRABBE.

{William Cowper (English poet, 1731-1800), Hopelines 201-210. George Crabbe (English poet, 1754-1832), Posthumous Tales:“VIII Barnaby; the Shopman” lines II.3-4}

WE have really been very remiss in omitting so long to notice the rapid strides with which Mr. Pompey Taylor had advanced on the road to fame and fortune, during the two years in which we have lost sight of him. He might have addressed, to the reader, the remark that the Emperor Napoleon applied to his secretary, after the conquest of Prussia and Austria: “J’ai fait des progres immenses depuis que Bourienne { sic} m’a quitté!”

{“J’ai fait des ... ” = I have made immense progress since Bourienne left me! Louis-Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne (1769-1834) was a French diplomat who served as Napoleon’s private secretary during his invasion of Egypt}

It is a rule, in composition, it was so, at least, when people wrote by rule, to compare the little with the great. If we were to follow the direction, it would be easy to prove that these two individuals, the conqueror, Napoleon, and the speculator, Taylor, were not too widely separated for many points of resemblance to be traced between them. Ambition was the ruling passion of both; and both were alike insatiable. Bonaparte added kingdom to kingdom; Taylor, house to house; the emperor might believe himself equal to ruling half the world; the merchant felt capable of owning the other half. The one raised army after army; the other fitted out vessel after vessel. The energies of both were inexhaustible, and both aimed at an ever-receding goal; while each, in his own way, soon reached a height never dreamed of by the mothers who rocked their cradles. Nor would it be justice to Mr. Taylor, to suppose, that the love of money, alone, was the main-spring of his actions; he, too, was spurred on by the love of glory; dollars and cents were not the end, with him; he looked upon his thousands, in gold and paper, as Napoleon did upon his thousands in flesh and blood — they were but the instruments which were to open the road to fame. The man of commerce, and the man of war, were alike lavish of their treasures, when the object of their lives was in view. If one was the boldest of generals, the other was the most enterprising of merchants; and Fortune favoured the daring of both. In short, Mr. Taylor was no common, plodding trader, content with moderate gains and safe investments, and fixing his hopes on probabilities — he pursued traffic with the passion of a gambler, united to the close calculation of a miser; and yet, he spent freely what he had acquired easily.

There are merchants, who, by their education, their integrity, their talents and their liberality, are an honour to the profession; but Mr. Pompey Taylor was not of the number. We have all heard the anecdote of the young man addicted to the sin of swearing, whose conversation, during dinner, was taken down in short-hand, and, when read afterwards, shocked the individual himself. Could the thoughts and words of Mr. Taylor, during a single day, have been as fairly registered, perhaps he himself would have been astonished to find how very large a portion of them were given to gain and speculation, in some shape or other. At social meetings, whether dinners or evening parties, he seldom talked long on any other subject: he has been known to utter the word ‘stocks,’ just as he entered a church, on Sunday; while a question about certain lots was the first sentence which passed his lips, as he crossed the threshold on his way out. Eating his meals under his own roof; walking down Broadway to Wall- Street, every morning, at nine o’clock, and back again every afternoon at three; still the echo of Mr. Taylor’s thoughts and words was ‘dollars,’ ‘stocks,’ and ‘lots’ — ’ lots,’ ‘stocks,’ and ‘dollars.’ He had a value for everything in dollars — his jokes turned upon stocks — and his dreams were filled with lots. Let it not be supposed, however, that Mr. Pompey Taylor was born with the phrenological organ of the love of money more strongly developed than other human beings. By no means. He was endowed by nature with faculties and feelings as varied as other men. But, from the time he could first walk and talk, precept and example had gradually turned all his faculties in one direction; for, such had been the opinions and views of his father and elder brothers; and there was no other impulse in his nature or education, sufficiently strong to give a different bent to his energies. Under other circumstances, Pompey Taylor might have been a quick-witted lawyer, a supple politician, a daring soldier, or, with a different moral training, he might have been something far superior to either; but the field of commerce was the only one that opened to him, at his entrance into life; and it was too well adapted to the man, such as nature and education had made him, to be neglected. He found full scope, in such a sphere, for all his energies of body and mind — he delighted in its labours and its rewards.

{“phrenological” = from the pseudo-science of phrenology, which interpreted character by feeling the bulges on the human head}

Mr. Taylor had forgotten, if he had ever known the fact, that the best pleasures of this world even, are those which money cannot purchase, the severest wants those which it cannot supply. He had no conception of any consideration equal to that which riches give. Beauty unadorned was no beauty in his eyes; and he chiefly valued talent as a means of making good investments and wily speculations. He looked upon Science as the hand-maiden of Commerce; Armies and Navies existed only to defend a nation’s wealth, not its liberties, or its honour. The seat of his patriotism was in his pocket; and the only internal improvement in which he was interested, was that which opened new facilities for acquiring money. It is surprising how totally such a mind becomes unfitted to enjoy and admire any great or noble quality in the abstract; in spite of a quick wit and keen organs, such men become the most one-sided beings, perhaps, in the whole human family. To moral beauty Mr. Taylor seemed quite blind; his mental vision resembled the physical sight of those individuals whose eyes, though perfect in every other respect, are incapable of receiving any impression of an object tinged with blue — the colour of the heavens. Even the few ideas he had upon religious subjects partook of the character of loss and gain; the simple spirit of true piety could never enter into a mind in the state of his. And yet, Mr. Taylor was looked upon as a happy man. Fortunate he certainly was, for wealth and luxury had risen around him almost as readily as if possessed of Aladdin’s lamp. Had he been actually in possession of this gift of the genii, he could scarcely have found a wish to gratify, as money had already provided him with all it can supply in this country, and the pursuit of wealth itself was his delight. Deprived of this, Othello’s occupation were gone.

{“Othello’s occupation were gone” = William Shakespeare, Othello, III.iii.358}

Justice to Mr. Taylor would require that we should follow him to the counting-house, for it was there that he appeared in the most brilliant light. His talents were undoubted; his sagacity, his skill, and his daring were great; and his undertakings were generally successful. Thus far all appeared very well; but those who looked closer into the matter would have found that his integrity was anything but unimpeachable, his love of money far surpassing his love of truth and justice. This part of his career must be left, however, to other hands; it is only what he was in social and domestic life, that the merchant appears among our Longbridge friends.

The first few months after he had removed to New York, the utmost extent of Mr. Taylor’s ambitious dreams had been the possession of a brick house in Broadway, on a lot of ground twenty-three feet by seventy. According to the favourite rule of New York architecture, the rule of three, the building was to be three stories high, and three windows wide. But the end of the first ninety days in Wall-Street, brought an accession of several thousands, and the brilliant promise of so many more, that this plan was enlarged several inches each way. As every succeeding season brought an increase of wealth and ambition, the projected dwelling grew at last to be taller and broader by several feet, until, at length, it had reached the limits which magnificence usually attains on the island of Manhattan. Had Mr. Taylor built his house in Philadelphia, or almost any other American town, he might have laid rather a broader foundation for his habitation; but New York houses, as a rule, are the narrowest and the tallest in the land. Some of those three-story dwellings, however, whatever may be their architectural defects, contain inmates who are as much to be desired for friends as any others in the world. But to return to Mr. Taylor’s new house; we have said that it was one of the proud few which could boast its four stories and its four windows. He was perfectly satisfied with the result when finished, for his house from the garret to the cellar was a faithful copy of one opposite to him, which had been built some months earlier, and was pronounced the house of the season.

The American people may have been perfectly original in their constitution, but in most other respects they are particularly imitative. An observer, at a first glance, wonders that so much cleverness should be wasted in mere imitation; but it is, after all, the simple result of the position of the country. An intelligent people, we are furnished by books with more ideas than we have models on which to shape them. In an old state of society, there is always a class who labour after originality, and are proud to be called eccentric; but a young nation, cut off from the rest of the civilized world, must necessarily be imitative in its character until it has arrived at maturity. This spirit of imitation, to a certain extent an advantage, is, to be sure, often carried to a laughable extent when it loses sight of common sense. People seem to forget the fact that propriety must always be the first step to true elegance. As a proof of it, we see men who appear to have consulted their neighbours’ tastes, habits, and means, instead of their own, in building the house they themselves are to inhabit; like Mr. Taylor, without any very good reason, they imitate their opposite neighbour. Again, it is surprising to see what time and toil are spent in following every variation of fashion in dress, by many women who certainly can ill afford it; we do not mean fashion in its general outlines, but in its most trifling details. If one could watch the progress of an idle fancy of this nature, from the moment it springs from the caprice of some European élégante, with more time and money than she knows how to throw away, until it becomes a necessity to an American housemaid, earning a dollar a week — we have no doubt the period would be found surprisingly short.

{“élégante” = a fashionable lady (French)}

The habit of imitation just alluded to, is more striking perhaps in architecture than in anything else, for in that shape it is always before our eyes; and no place in the country is more marked with it than New York. In no town in he world are there as many dwellings so much alike; and this fact is not the result of necessity, or of any plan of architectural unity — it is not that the plan first hit upon proved to be the most rational, or best suited to the spot and its inhabitants — but it is chiefly the consequence of a spirit of imitation.

To return to our story: this new house of Mr. Taylor, this successful imitation of his opposite neighbour, had been opened the first of May, the general moving day in New York. It was fitted up in the richest manner, young Taylor having received carte blanche from his father to purchase handsome furniture in Paris. Rosewood and satin, gilt bronzes and Sèvres vases, were all of the best kind — and Mr. Taylor was perfectly satisfied with the effect of his two drawing-rooms. It was determined they should be shown off during the following winter, by a succession of dinners and parties. He had already tried his hand at entertaining; after having eaten a dozen great dinners with different commercial notabilities, he had given one himself just before leaving town. The affair, a man-dinner, of course, had gone off brilliantly — thanks to his beautiful porcelaine de Sèvres, his candelabras and his épergnes, his English plate and English glass; all of which showed off to great advantage the best of the good things abounding in the New York market, cooked by a Frenchman, and washed down by wines from the most famous vineyards of France, Germany, and Spain. His entertainment was pronounced as handsome as any given that winter in town; and Mr. Taylor determined that it should be only the first of a long series.

{“general moving day” = in New York City, at this time, leases for the rental of houses generally expired on May 1; “porcelaine de Sévres” = expensive chinaware from the French town of Sévres; “épergne” = an elaborate bowl used as a table centerpiece (French)}

His country-house rivalled his establishment in town. By his first plan, he had intended that it should equal that of Mr. Hubbard, at Longbridge; but eighteen months had made a material change in his affairs, which produced corresponding alterations in the building. First one large wing was added, then another; Mr. Hubbard’s house had but one Corinthian portico, Mr. Taylor’s had two. He was born in a house which had been painted only on one front, and he was now of the opinion of the old tar, who purchased a handsome jacket like his commanding officer, but ordered the back as well as the front to be made of satin, and meeting the admiral, pulled up his coat-tails to show that there was “no sham.” Mr. Taylor could not outdo the plate- glass, and mahogany doors of Mr. Hubbard’s house, but he had great satisfaction in showing him his portico on the south front, and in proving there was no sham. When the wings were added, they were completely surrounded on three sides by a colonnade. Mr. Taylor having happened, just at the moment, to make thirty thousand dollars by one successful speculation, he sent orders to the master-builder for a double set of columns; and as a consequence, the colonnade was so very conspicuous that it became the pride of the neighbourhood. Mr. Taylor, himself, was so much struck with the first view, when completed, that he decided to name the place “Colonnade Manor.” There is no accounting for taste in names, we suppose, any more than in other matters. Like No. five hundred and — Broadway, Colonnade Manor was furnished with rosewood and satin from Paris.

Mrs. Taylor, good soul, entered very little into the spirit of this magnificence. She still sat in her nursery with her younger children as much as possible, darning all the stockings of the family; an occupation which Adeline thought very ungenteel, for she never condescended to use her needle at all. To make Mrs. Taylor a fine lady had been one of the least successful of Mr. Taylor’s efforts; she was much too honest by nature to assume a character for which she was so little qualified. There was but one way in which she could succeed in interesting herself in all the parade which gratified Mr. Taylor’s taste; she found it gave pleasure to her husband and children, and she endeavoured to make the best of it. She wore the fine dresses purchased for her by Adeline, and drove out once in a while in her handsome carriage, to pay at least a few of the many visits urged by Mr. Taylor. Among the new acquaintances she had made in the last ten years, there were few Mrs. Taylor liked as well as Miss Wyllys; and Miss Agnes, in her turn, respected all that was honest and straight- forward in the character of her new neighbour; indeed, the whole family at Wyllys-Roof very much preferred her to the more pretending husband and daughter. The note, of which Adeline was the bearer, was an application to Miss Wyllys for advice in some domestic difficulty. It ran as follows:


“You have been so kind to me, ever since we moved into your neighbourhood, that I hope you will excuse me for asking your assistance, this morning. I have been a good deal plagued in my kitchen ever since we came into the country this spring. My cook and chamber-maid, who are sisters, are always finding some excuse for wanting to go to the city; and last night they got a letter, or pretended to get one from New York, saying that their father was very sick; and as I didn’t know but it might be true, I couldn’t refuse them, and they have gone for a week — though I won’t be sure it was not for a mere frolic. As it happened, Mr. Taylor and Adeline came back from Saratoga, last night, and brought a house-full of company with them; an old friend of mine whom I had not seen for years, and some new acquaintances of Adeline’s. To make matters worse, my nurse, a faithful, good girl, who has lived with me for years, was taken sick this morning; and John, the waiter, had a quarrel with the coachman, and went off in a huff. You know such things always come together. So I have now only the coachman and his daughter, a little girl of twelve, in the house; happily they are both willing, and can do a little of everything. If you know of anybody that I can find to take the place of cook, or housemaid, I shall be truly obliged to you for giving the coachman their names and directions.

“Adeline is to have a little party this evening; she met several of our Longbridge friends on board the boat yesterday, and took that opportunity of asking them, as she is very anxious to make the house pleasant to her company. I dare say she has already invited all your family, and I shall be very sorry if you are not able to come, for we always miss you more than any others of our neighbours.

“Hoping you will excuse the trouble I give you, I remain, dear Madam,

“Very respectfully and truly yours,


Miss Wyllys had no sooner read the note, than, full of sympathy for Mrs. Taylor’s difficulties, she held a consultation with her female factotum, Elinor’s nurse, or Mammy as she was called. All the men, women, and children in the neighbourhood, who might possibly possess some qualifications for the duties of cook, chamber-maid, or footman, were run over in Miss Agnes’ mind; and she succeeded at last, by including one superannuated old woman, and another child of ten, in making out a list of some dozen names for her neighbour’s benefit. The whole morning was spent by the coachman, scouring the country with the Taylor barouche and horses — for no time was to be spent in changing harness — in pursuit of Dianthy This, and Araminty That. Mrs. Taylor, of course, awaited his return with trembling anxiety; the Saratoga party had gone off to fish, escorted by Mr. Taylor and a younger daughter; Adeline having taken that opportunity to go to see Jane, excusing herself from accompanying the fishing set, on account of the arrival of this very intimate friend of hers. The mistress of the house, after having administered a dose of medicine to the sick nurse, and sent the little girl of twelve to make the beds and sweep, gave one melancholy look at things in the kitchen, and then remembered that she could no longer leave this particular old friend of her’s alone in the drawing-room. While talking over past times, Mrs. Taylor chose a rocking-chair commanding a view of the approach to the house: just at the moment when she began to fear the horses had run away, killed the coachman, and broken the carriage, she saw the barouche driving up the avenue, but, alas, sans cook! She kept her seat womanfully, and heard out the end of a long story which the old friend was relating about a family of relations. But at length Mrs. Taylor found that the moment for action had come; and giving her friend the choice of her own knitting-work, or a walk in the garden with her youngest child, a pretty prattling little boy, she excused herself for a few moments, under pretext of looking after the sick nurse. The old friend was quite a talkative person, and one to whom a listener was very necessary; she preferred the little boy to the knitting-work, and set out to look at- the garden.

Mrs. Taylor instantly disappeared in the direction of the kitchen.

“Well, John!”

“Well, marm, I couldn’t pick up nobody, for love or money.”

“Didn’t Miss Wyllys know of any one in the neighbourhood?”

“Yes, marm; I have got a list here; but some of ‘em had got places already; there was two that was sick; one, Araminty Carpenter, I guess, would have suited Mrs. Taylor very well, for, I know the young woman’s father; but she has gone over to Longbridge, to work at the Union Hotel, for a week. There was one name written so I couldn’t make it out; and two of ‘em I couldn’t find; folks couldn’t tell me where they lived. There is a young thing down at the Mill, who looks handy, but doesn’t know anything of cooking; but, I engaged her to come to- morrow, and Mrs. Taylor can see if she suits.”

“Why didn’t you bring her with you at once, John?”

“She couldn’t come, no ways, till to-morrow; she was washing; and, if she left the work, there was no one to do it.”

Let it not be supposed that Mrs. Taylor sunk under these difficulties. The fishing-party returned; and, by means known only to herself, the coachman, and the little girl of twelve, a dinner, much as usual, was provided for her guests, who were left in happy ignorance of the desertion in the kitchen.

It must be surprising, to those unaccustomed to such things, to observe with what courage and cheerfulness the mistress of an American family encounters the peculiar evils of her lot — evils undreamt of by persons in the same station in any other part of the world. Her energies seem to rise with the obstacles that call them out; she is full of expedients — full of activity; and, unless fairly worn out by exertion for which she has not the physical strength, always manages to keep up appearances, and provide for the comfort of her household, until her troubles are surmounted, for the time being, and she gathers strength, in a moment of respite, for fresh difficulties, when they present themselves. Even her husband and sons are seldom aware of her toils and vexations. Many people are ignorant of the number of virtues that are included, at such moments, in that of hospitality; could a plain, unvarnished account, be made out, of the difficulties surmounted, at some time or other, by most American matrons, the world would wonder at their fortitude and perseverance. Not that difficulties like those of our friend, Mrs. Taylor, are of constant duration, but they occur oftener than the uninitiated are aware of. Yet even obstacles like these seem never to interfere with that constant intercourse, from tea-parties to visits of weeks, which are exchanged between all American families and their friends. But then no people in the world are more truly hospitable — none are more social in their feelings, than the inhabitants of these United States.