Page images

slovenly, nor perched forward foppishly. His winter clothing is usually a peet jacket and trowsers, of strong pilot cloth, boots made of thick leather, with heavy soles, a fur cap, and woollen mittens.

The news-boy, deeming propriety of costume or manner a slavish obedience to social tyranny, discards all such degrading shackles, and exhibits his independence no less in the selection of his clothing, than in more important particulars. Combining in his personal contour the picturesque abandonment of the Italian Lazzaroni with the inartificial contempt of adornment of the Fulton-market lounger, his fur cap in winter, and open-flapped beaver in summer, appear thrown upon his fertile cranium by the Genius of Disorder ; now displaying its front to the left, anon to the right, and again to the rear ; causing this oracle of penny-a-liners not unfrequently to appear like a crab — walking backward — when the rogue is using his pedals in the due order of nature.

His rough, out-at-the-elbows monkey-jacket, fished from the lowest depths of a pawn-broker's omnium gatherum, and trowsers to match, may be similar in form and texture to other articles of the like kind; but no sooner are they transferred to the wardrobe of the news-boy, than they seem invested with a new-being; as unlike any clothing extant, as is the wearer in comparison with the rest of his species. Watch him daily, and you will not detect a button-hole of his coat in conjunction with its lawfully-wedded button, nor any other part of his dress, in the position which the artist designed. The left angle of his coat collar will be found perched high above his ear, while its mate is quietly dosing in unambitious obscurity, under the right shoulder of the garment. His shoes are akin to his upper-benjamin ; out at the toes, slip-shod, and exhibiting at every point that disregard of the unities which would throw a modern critic into convulsions.

The news-boy entertains some highly dangerous doctrines in relation to the distinction between meum and tüum. According to his logic, the cause which justifies war between nations, is equally a warrant for individual hostilities; and emulating the enlightened conduct of the British people toward their Gallic neighbors, he holds the juvenile venders of matches and pocket-combs to be his natural foes, against whom it is justifiable to declare eternal warfare. The faithful representative of the social movement of which he is the walking title-page, the catch-words and leading head-lines of the penny-press are familiar to him as household gods. He opens his mouth, and out flies a winged army of proverbs calculated to ridicule wealth, and contemn station. The news-boy hath no existence out of his vocation. From whence he emerges at the early dawn to run his erratic course, or whither he vanishes at the close of his daily labors, are pro. found mysteries, of which the public have not the clue. We may entertain a shadowy and imperfect idea that this running commentary on the superficial acquirements of the masses has at some period been like unto other children, in the possession of parents, guardians, and play-fellows; but in endeavoring to solve the problem, we at once are lost in the individuality of the official, nor can our mental laboratory furnish the wherewithal to separate the news-boy from his functional existence. His kindred or friends, if such he possess, have no being distinct from him ; but like lesser lights, are lost in the blaze of his renown.'

The news-boy may be known by certain infallible characteristics. Meet him where and when you will, whether on the trottoir of Wallstreet, or in the purlieus of the Exchange; on the thronged quay, or in the busy market-place; at morning, noontide, or evening; his hat or cap will be thrown rakishly on the side of his head, his literary burthen under one arm, while the other appears ever making preparation to single out a sheet for his customer; his eyes roving on every side to catch the slightest intimation that his paper is in demand.

During his perambulations in the centre of a block, he will trot along at a gait between a walk and a pace, but on reaching a corner, he invariably pauses to survey the scene on every side ; and if no customer is in view, his feet involuntarily strike up a jig, the twin of which hath not yet been heralded in any work of the professors of the sublime art, nor reduced to practice by Taglioni or Celeste. It partakes, in truth, neither of the spirit of the horn-pipe, the life of the fandango, the voluptuousness of the waltz, nor the grace of the quadrille. If it beareth affinity to any dance extant, the doubleshuffle' of old Virginia, or the come-it-strong' of Communipaw, are entitled to the distinction; but there are so many scientific touches engrafted on the parent movement, that it may be safely classed among the novelties of the day.

While the news-man moves steadily around, in his accustomed circle, discarding innovation, and repudiating change, the news-boy delights in the invention of novel conceits, and rejoices in throwing off the quips and quiddities engendered in the exuberance of his wayward fancy. Regularity and system are the tutelar deities of the first, while the latter scorns to worship at their shrine. He points triumphantly to Napoleon, who subverted dynasties in defiance of all rules, overthrew systems like nine-pins, and planted his throne amid their ruins! If reminded of the necessity of continued patience and sustained energy, to accomplish any important result, he will inform you that ever-restless Genius leaps to its goal, while dull-paced Mediocrity lingers at the starting-post. He who would challenge him to a contest of wits, must don his most defensive armor, and look well to his guards, if he would not be worsted in the encounter. Many a rash gallant has rued the day, when he dared the news-boy to such a tilt; and it would make an anchorite smile, to view the crest-fallen champion of the upper ranks retreat, followed by the huzzas of the crowd, as his Lilliputian antagonist raises his thumb to his nose, extends his fingers, and with a wink and a leer, demands of his vanquished foe

if he knows Joe Smith,' and with mock-gravity inquires if he sees any thing green in his (the news-boy's) eye!'

The news-boy is emphatically a creation of the new world, bearing on his front the impress of that rapidity of motion, and absence of repose, which exist in perfection in no other quarter of the globe. In other lands, the spirit of innovation affects but a small portion of the multitude ; but with us, it is the great trait of national character; exhibiting itself in the cabinet of the statesman, the counting-room of the merchant, the work-shop of the mechanic, the drawing-room of the man of fashion, and the granary of the farmer. As the locomotive and the steam-boat are the mute heralds of its sway, so the newsboy may be termed its speaking representative. He cries his lite

rary novelties from street to street, as customers are supplied, and is never guilty of neglecting opportunities.

The professor of metaphysics, in dissecting his mental structure, will find new veins of thought, scattered like trellis-work over its surface, compensating for their lack of depth, in the infinitude of their • variety. Among other prominent characteristics, the organ of antipathy will be found in him more extensively developed than is consistent with a perfect mental organization.

The canons of fashion, the laws of dress, and the dictates of cleanliness, he especially eschews; averring that they are begot by pride from effeminacy, and totally unworthy the regard of a lad of spirit. Sobriety of demeanor he classes with hypocrisy, and denominates reflection the child of stupidity. Thought is in him the parent of action, and his imagination conceives no paradise, in which motion is not the main element.

Indolence and misery are synonymous in his lexicon, and his conceptions can embody no greater evil than the suspension of his locomotive powers. Being blest with a large share of assurance, he holds no communion with modesty. He confounds hesitation with unwor. thiness, and deems a strict regard to truth a sure evidence of a lack of invention. A decided utilitarian, with him the question 'cui bono ?' in its practical application, is a test for every theory in science, morals, and political economy. The romance of the heart, with its alternate tears and sunshine, he attributes to mental hallucination, and denies the existence of any ill which is unallied to bodily suffering. For the devices of heraldry, with their accompanying honors, he entertains no respect. Himself a creation of the hour, he owns no ancestry, and would conceive himself insulted by an allusion to the dignities conferred by noble lineage.

With him the past and the future are equally invisible. He plumes his wing for the sunny regions of the present, and looks not beyond its charmed boundary. His sheet is indeed an epitome of the hour; a picture to be glanced at and forgotten; a moving diorama, ever exhibiting new features; a vision, like the dawn of morning, pleasant but evanescent.

The news-man occupies a midway station between the ancient system and the new, infusing into the former a portion of the moving energy of the latter, and so mingling the elements of official character as not to be distanced in the march of improvement. If he lag somewhat behind the intelligence of the age, and the news-boy be found sporting in advance, the eccentric and desultory wanderings of the latter from the main track, frequently bring him to the side of his stearly-minded senior. Whether the penny press has created greater evils than it has eradicated, is a mooted question; and as a consequence, the utility of the news-boy has been zealously denied, on the one hand, and as earnestly asserted on the other. But all this the news-boy heeds not. Feeling the vital principle strong within him, he trusts to the necessity which created him, to carry him through triumphantly; and with the world before him, falls back on his genius and aptitude, and they never fail to sustain him. But a short period has elapsed, since a portion of the conductors of the penny press attempted, like Mahmoud the Mighty, in the case of the Jannizaries,

[ocr errors]

to annihilate the whole tribe of news-boys at a blow; but the effort met with signal discomfiture. The experiment taught the editors that the news-boy is a constituent part of the system; an important ingredient entering into its essence and vitality, and indispensable to its existence.

Like a practical philosopher the news-boy takes the world as it goes, never repining at the rise or fall of stocks, the prevalence of storm or sunshine, or the abundance or scarcity of supplies. Good news or ill are equally acceptable, as both increase the demand for his sheet.

The news-boy is a politician, but no partisan. Holding doctrines sufficiently radical to border on the revolutionary, he pronounces the leaders of both parties little better than public marauders, whose marches and countermarches are guided by a single regard to their personal interests. His love for the people is not manifested by sickly adulation. Like a candid friend, he admits that the dear

rogues are great rascals, but avers that he and his editor were especially born to reform them. Having no confidence in the virtue, or integrity, or punctuality of his patrons, like a modern politician, he demands the quid pro quo' at sight!

It is but just to admit, that in the boldness of his innovations, the news-boy at times exhibits a disregard of the moralities, and a contempt for the humanities, of his species. Independent of the habit of exaggeration, which may be termed an element of his trade, he has been known to retain funds placed in his hands by credulous patrons, wherewith to procure change, and when casually confronted by the presence of his exasperated creditor, met him with a smile, facetiously remarking, that like the banks he had been obliged to 'suspend. His assaults upon his weaker brethren of the craft are at all times severe and unprovoked; but it is fair to suppose that a laudable desire to retain his ascendancy, causes this apparent deviation from the path of good-feeling. The news-boy is a portion of the drama, and an oracle of the amphitheatres. He prideth himself on being enabled to recognize the stars and lesser lights which twinkle in the Thespian galaxy, and with a patronizing air will inform you that “there goes Tom Hamblin,' or yonder comes Ned Forrest.' For the benighted countryman, who is ignorant of the sayings and doings of the great metropolis, he expresses profound sympathy. In his opinion the man who has yet to learn the meaning of Jim-alongJosey,' 'All round my Hat,' 'Sich a Gittin' up Stairs,' 'Jump Jim Crow,' and phrases of the like elegance and point, is little better than a heathen, who could not have been reared in a civilized quarter. His perfect acquaintance with the thoroughfares and prominent places of resort in the great metropolis, has inculcated in him the belief that no one but an idiot can be ignorant of their localities; and on a stranger's inquiring of one of the tribe the direction to the Astor House, that interesting personage placed his thumb against his pug-nose, fanned the air with his extended fingers, and informed the querist that he could n't come that gag over this child, no way he could fix it !'

In awarding to the news-boy the palm of superior activity and shrewdness, when compared with his senior, it is but just to admit that their relative positions exercise no little influence in producing

such a result. The official station of the news-man is that of a mere messenger, a bearer of despatches, while the news-boy holds the rank of minister plenipotentiary. The duty of the first is specified and clearly defined : the latter is thrown upon his mental resources, and success is the result of their judicious application.

As may be inferred from his official cognomen, the news-boy, in the ordinary course of events, must at length outgrow his profession, and enter on a new state of being. Appearing on the stage of action at the height of three-feet-six, his exit may be dated from the period at which he reaches four-feet-three. From thence his history is a blank. In fact he is the news-boy no longer. The body may remain, but the soul, the spirit has departed. Like the bottle of champagne uncorked at the last night's revel, the sparkle has evaporated, leaving dregs, 'stale, flat and unprofitable.' :.. While contemplating the rapid course of time, bearing onward to oblivion the monuments of pride, folly, and mediocrity, it is pleasant to indulge in a dream of immortality. Such a vision, dear reader, it is our happiness to descry in the vista. Whatever imperfections may be discerned in the present sketch, our humble name shall be inscribed on the lofty pedestal which after ages shall erect to the fame of the news-boy ; and when posterity pays a willing tribute to his achievements, his early historian will not be forgotten!






A GENTLEMAN of Switzerland, having observed a talent in his son for painting, sent him carly to a renowned artist in Italy, where he remained many years, and then returned, accompanied by his master. On being asked if he did not prefer Italy to the land of his birth, he replied as follows:

I went, this morning early, with my master,
Upon the neighboring cliffs. Night's sable veil
Was yet but slightly lifted from the landscape :
Though the proud head of one stupendous glacier
Did soon begin, in this broad sea of night,
Like a far light-house cupola, to glisten!
"What, what is that! cried I; "have they then, herg
As in our clime, earth's grim, fire-belching craters ?
Hath our Vesuve a giant brother here ?'
My master thus, in tremulous voice, replied :
That is the peak of the great Alps-queen, Jungfrau,
Who, every morn, before her neighbors wake,
Dresses her lofty head with solar fire-flowers.
And lo! while we did gaze, the snow-cap'd peaks
Of other mountains straight begin to sparkle;
And soon each Alpine spire stood glowing there,
Resplendent in the dark blue vault of heaven!
To me it seemed, that now was to be held
High matin mass beneath this dome of God!
That the sacrists had hastened to the altar.
To light these lofty, consecrated cressets :
Devoutly then I downward sank in prayer.

Ah! now I well could feel and understand
The Switzer's passion for his father-land!

« PreviousContinue »