« AnteriorContinuar »
revised Errata. All changes in the text have been made with ink, by the author. The present interest in Indian linguistics is perhaps a sufficient excuse for this brief statement, to which the special attention of our associates, Drs. Hale and Chamberlain is called.
We have been able from time to time to throw light upon the evolution of the American public library. The social libraries, lyceums, reading clubs, village libraries, etc., suggest some of the early forms taken by this important movement. The brief official record of the “BoardingHouse Library" established at Worcester in the year 1817, is here preserved. The minor entries of the clerk and treasurer, which are for the years 1817-19, 1821 and 1822, relate to the purchase of books with the receipts therefor, and the payment of dues. The agreement, which contains nineteen signatures, is apparently in the handwriting of Isaac Goodwin clerk—an honored member of this Society for twenty years and of its Council from 1825 until his death in 1832. Following is the compact:
“C.C. Pleas, Worcester, December term, 1817. The subscribers, members of the bar of the County of Worcester, desirous of purchasing a small number of useful law books for their mutual accommodation, during the sitting of the Courts in Worcester, agree to pay into the hands of such person as a majority shall designate as their treasurer, the sum of fifty cents each at the present term, and twenty-five cents at each of the succeeding terms of the C. C. Pleas for the year next ensuing the date hereof and for such further time as two thirds of the members for the time being shall agree upon, to be appropriated for the purchase of the books aforesaid.
And they hereby mutually agree each for himself with all the others that the books to be purchased as aforesaid shall be kept in the town of Worcester at the house occupied by a majority of the members of this Association as a boarding house, and shall not be carried therefrom on any occasion unless by the permission of such majority.
And they severally agree as aforesaid, that if any one of the members of this Association shall voluntarily leave the said boarding house he shall be considered as having relinquished his interest in said books for the benefit of those who may remain, and for such others as may be admitted parties to this agreement in manner hereafter provided.
And it is furthur mutually agreed, by the parties aforesaid that no person other than the original parties to this agreement shall become members of this Association without the consent of a majority of the members for the time being, and paying to their treasurer two thirds of the sum that shall have then been paid by each of the original members.
Worcester, Decr. 11, 1817.”
I present the following letters from our Associate Dr. Kingsbury:
WATERBURY, Conn., Oct. 11, 1904. EDMUND M. BARTON, Esq., Librarian, etc., Dear Sir:
There is, or was a few years since, a word in common use in Eastern Massachusetts, to wit “Cornwallis," in regard to the origin of which, as it was there used, I have been much puzzled. I think I first saw it in Hosea Biglow's letter where he says,
"Didn't we have lots of fun, you'n I an' Ezry Hollis,
Down to Waltham Plain last fall, a havin' the Cornwallis?" and in the Article “Cambridge" in the “Fireside Traveller" Lowell says, "The Cornwallis had entered upon the estate of the old Guy Fawkes procession, confiscated by the Revolution," from which I judge that the
Cornwallis' was a burlesque military performance, like what we in Connecticut used to call "The Invincibles," and which I think was sometimes called the “Antiques and Horribles,” this evidently being a play on the title of the “Ancient and Honorable" Artillery Company of Boston.
I cannot learn that the name 'Cornwallis' was used in Western Massachusetts, but lately to my great surprise, I came across it used in Eastern New York with apparently the same sense that it had in Eastern Massachusetts.
In the diary of a Connecticut boy, Daniel Garnsey, of Waterbury, then about 2i, kept while visiting, or temporarily residing, at New City, now the shire town of Rockland County in the State of New York, under date of Nov. 6, 1781, he writes: “went through Warwick, where was an ox roasting for the Cornwallis. A huge number of misses, women and children gathered around it and among them many fashionable ladies, all very earnest and much excited."
I had supposed that the name Cornwallis was a post-revolutionary title given to this sham military performance as a slur on the military abilities of the defeated general, but this use of the word in a way that
shows it to be apparently a phrase of common usage certainly points to an earlier introduction. Whether its use spread from New York to Massachusetts or vice-versa there is nothing here to indicate, although this application of the word seems more like a piece of Massachusetts humor. Cornwallis's defeat at Yorktown was less than three weeks before the date above given in the diary, hardly more than time for the news to have reached that point and certainly not long enough for the word to have been applied to this use and adapted as a part of the vernacular. All this points to some earlier date and apparently to some specific occasion as having given rise to the application of the word in this sense.
Mr. James L. Whitney of the Boston Library, to whose attention I called the phrase, suggests that as Cornwallis had been in the country five or six years the name may have been first applied on some previous occasion. This is plausible; but when and why? There is just a possibility that this New York State celebration was one of a number immediately following Cornwallis's capture, and that there was genuine rejoicing, of which Cornwallis's defeat was the occasion, and that afterward the celebrations, while retaining the name, lapsed in dignity until they became a mere burlesque. Indeed, on reflection this appears to me a quite probable solution. But I would like either a confirmation or & confutation.
It has occurred to me that there might exist in your library some material known to you which would throw some light on the question. If not I leave it as a nut to be cracked by students of “words and their uses."
Truly yours, FREDERICK J. KINGSBURY.
Oct. 21, 1904. My Dear MR. BARTON:
I have another note in Garnsey's diary concerning his visit to Warwick, viz.: “Nov. 6, Thro. Warwick, where great number of people gathered for public rejoicing for the taking of Cornwallis, and whole ox a roasting.” This shows that my conjecture as to the use of the word in that place was correct, but leaves us in the dark as to how the Massachusetts use came about.
Yours truly, FREDERICK J. KINGSBURY.
Mention of the Cornwallis is to be found in Senator Hoar's "The Life of a Boy Sixty Years Ago.” See The Youth's Companion of March 10, 1898. After quoting three verses from Lowell's famous ballad “The Courtin'" he writes: “We did not have fire-places like this in my father's house although they were common in the farmer's houses round about. We ought to have had the old King's arms. My great-grandfather, Abijah Pierce of Lincoln, was at Concord bridge in the Lincoln Company, of which his son-in-law, Samuel Hoar, was lieutenant. He had been chosen Colonel of the regiment of the Minutemen the day before, but had not qualified and had not got his
accoutrements; and so went into battle armed with nothing but a cane. He crossed the bridge, and from one of two British soldiers who lay wounded and dying, took a cartridge-box and musket, which he used during the day and preserved for many years. I suppose it was the first trophy of the Revolution. A great many years afterward one of the neighbors borrowed the musket of my uncle to take to a Cornwallis and it was lost and never recovered. I would give its weight in gold to get it back.” Five years later in his “Autobiography of Seventy Years" volume I., page 55, Mr. Hoar writes: “But the great day of all was called Cornwallis, which was the anniversary of the capture of Cornwallis at Yorktown. There were organized companies in uniform representing the British army and an equally large number of volunteers generally in old fashioned dress, and with such muskets and other accoutrements as they could pick up, who represented the American Army. There was a parade and a sham fight which ended as all such fights, whether sham or real, should end, in a victory for the Americans, and Cornwallis and his troops were paraded, captive and ignominious. I quite agree with Hosea Biglow when he says, 'There is fun to a Cornwallis though; I a'int agoin' to deny it.'”
Perhaps the latest contribution is from our Vice-President Hon. Samuel A. Green, in his Historical Address delivered at Groton, Massachusetts, July 12, 1905 on the celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of the town. On pages 32 and 33, Dr. Green says: “Akin to the subject of military matters, was a custom which formerly prevailed in some parts of Massachusetts, and perhaps elsewhere, of celebrating occasionally the anniversary of the surrender of Yorktown, which falls on October 17. Such a celebration was called a “Cornwallis;" and it was intended to represent in a burlesque manner, the siege of the town, as well as the ceremony of its surrender. The most prominent generals on each side would be per
sonated, while the men of the two armies would wear what was supposed to be their peculiar uniform. I can recall now more than one sham fight that took place in this town during my boyhood. In 10 Cushing, 252, is to be found a decision of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts enjoining a town treasurer from paying money that had been appropriated for such a celebration.
"James Russell Lowell, in his Glossary to the Biglow apers, thus defines the word, Cornwallis: 'a sort of muster in masquerade; supposed to have had its origin soon after the Revolution, and to commemorate the surrender of Lord Cornwallis. It took the place of the old Guy Fawkes' procession.' Speaking in the character of Hosea Biglow, he asks, "Recollect what fun we had, you'n I n' Ezry Hollis,
Up there to Waltham plain last fall, along o' the Cornwallis?” “He further says in a note: 'i hait the sight of a feller with a musket as I du pizn but ther is fun to a cornwallis I aint agoin' to deny it.'
“The last Cornwallis in this immediate neighborhood came off about sixty years ago at Pepperell; and I remember witnessing it. Another Cornwallis on a large scale occurred at Clinton in the year 1853 in which uniformed companies of militia took part. On this occasion the burlesque display, both in numbers and details, far outshone all former attempts of a similar character, and like the song of the swan,
ended a custom that had come down from a previous century. At the present day nothing is left of this quaint celebration but a faded memory and an uncertain tradition.'"