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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Southwest by a Yankee

Painting: Circa 1835 Natchez on the Hill by James Tooley
So a couple of days ago, I typed "Natchez" into the search engine on eBay and came across a two-volume book written in 1835 called Southwest by a Yankee by Joseph Holt Ingraham. It's a description of New Orleans and Natchez, and it's really quite wonderful.
So I wrote my friend Mimi Miller, who heads the Historic Natchez Foundation and told her of my find. She replied that Joseph Holt Ingraham wrote her absolute favorite description of Natchez in that selfsame book.
I'll make a few blog posts as I'm reading along. I honestly think that the closest thing to immortality is in writing your thoughts and leaving those behind. I feel as though I'm inside the writer's experience. It's wonderful. A trip through space and time.

So, for my first share, I give you Ingraham's observations of fellow travelers on a steamboat headed from New Orleans to Natchez.  He was talking about con men, who cruised the river, never on the same boat, lest they be recognized.  Then his attention was drawn to a pious woman:

  "Even the sanctity of the Sabbath is no check to this amusement:  all day yesterday the tables were surrounded with players, at two of which they were dealing "faro;" at the third playing "brag."  And this was on the Sabbath!  Indeed the day was utterly disregarded by every individual on board.  Travelling is a sad demoralizer.  My fellow-passengers seemed to have adopted the sailors' maxim, "no Sunday off soundings."  Their religion was laid by for shore use.  One good, clever-looking old lady, was busily engaged all the morning hemming a handkerchief; when someone remarked near her, "This time last Sunday we made the Balize."

"______ Sunday!  to-day Sunday!" she exclaimed, in the utmost consternation, "Is to-day Sunday, sir?"

"It is, indeed, madam."

"Oh, me!  What a wicked sinner I am!  O dear, that I should sew on Sunday!" ---- and away she tottered to her state-room, amidst the pitiless laughter of the passengers, with both hands elevated in horror and ejaculating,  "Oh, me!  What a wicked sinner!  How could I forget!"

All I can say is I LOVE it!