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Random Biographies by S. Y.


Julius Cæsar. An ancient Roman of celebrity. He advertised to the effect that he had rather be first at Rome than second in a small village. He was a man of great muscular strength. Upon one occasion he threw an entire army across the Rubicon. A general named Pompey met him in what was called the "tented field," but Pompey couldn't hold a Roman candle to Julius. We are assured upon the authority of Patrick Henry that "Cæsar had his Brutus." The unbiased reader of history, however, will conclude that, on the contrary, Brutus rather had Cæsar. This Brutus never struck me as an unpleasant man to meet, but he did Cæsar. After addressing a few oral remarks to Brutus in the Latin language, Cæsar expired. His subsequent career ceases to be interesting.

John Paul Jones. An American naval commander who sailed the seas during the Revolution, with indistinct notions about gold lace or what he should fly at the main. He was fond of fighting. He would frequently break off in the middle of a dinner to go on deck and whip a British frigate. Perhaps he didn't care much about his meals. If so, he must have been a good boarder.

Lucrezia Borgia. Daughter of old Mr. Borgia, a wealthy Italian gentleman. Lucrezia was one of the first ladies of her time. Beautiful beyond description, of brilliant and fascinating manners, she created an unmistakable sensation. It was a burning sensation. Society doted upon her. Afterward it anti-doted.

Benjamin Franklin. A philosopher and statesman. When a boy he associated himself with the development of the tallow-chandlery interest, and invented the Boston dip. He was lightning on some things, also a printer. He won distinction as the original Poor Richard, though he could not have been by any means so poor a Richard as McKean Buchanan used to be. Although born in Boston and living in Philadelphia, he yet managed to surmount both obstacles, and to achieve considerable note in his day. They show you the note in Independence Hall.

Mark Twain. A humorous writer of the nineteenth century. As yet, I have not had the honor of his acquaintance, but when I do meet him I shall say something jocose. I know I shall. I have it. My plan will be to inveigle him into going over a ferry to "see a man." As we pass up the slip on the other side, I shall draw out my flask, impromptu-like, with the invitation, "Mark, my dear fellow, won't you take something?" He will decline, of course, or else he isn't the humorist I take him for. I shall then consider it my duty to urge him. Fixing my eye steadily upon him, so he can understand that I am terribly in earnest, I shall proceed to apostrophize that genial victim as follows:

"Take, I give it willingly,
For invisibly to thee,
Spirits, Twain, have crossed with me."

Then I presume we shall go and "see a man."

Christopher Columbus. The man who discovered America two points off the port-bow. One day, in his garden, he observed an apple falling from its tree, whereupon a conviction flashed suddenly through his mind that the earth was round. By breaking the bottom of an egg and making it stand on end at the dinner-table, he demonstrated that he could sail due west and in course of time arrive at another hemisphere. He started a line of emigrant packets from Palos, Spain, and landed at Philadelphia, where he walked up Market street with a loaf of bread under each arm. The simple-hearted natives took him out to see their new Park. On his second voyage Columbus was barbarously murdered at the Sandwich Islands, or rather he would have been but for the intervention of Pocahontas, a lovely maiden romantically fond of distressed travelers. After this little incident he went West, where his intrepidity and masterly financial talent displayed itself in the success with which he acquired land and tobacco without paying for them. As the savages had no railroad of which they could make him president, they ostracized him—sent him to the island of St. Helena. But the spirit of discovery refused to be quenched, and the next year we find him landing at Plymouth Rock in a blinding snow-storm. It was here that he shot an apple from his son's head. To this universal genius are we indebted also for the exploration of the sources of the Nile, and for an unintelligible but correspondingly valuable scientific report of a visit to the valley of the Yellowstone. He took no side in our late unhappy war; but during the Revolution he penetrated with a handful of the garde mobile into the mountain-fastnesses of Minnesota, where he won that splendid series of victories which, beginning with Guilford Court-house, terminated in the glorious storming of Chapultepec. Ferdinand and Isabella rewarded him with chains. Genoa, his native city, gave him a statue, and Boston has named in his honor one of her proudest avenues. One day he rushed naked from the bath, exclaiming, "Eureka!" and the presumption is that he was right. He afterward explained himself by saying that he cared not who made the laws of a people, so long as he furnished their ballots. Columbus was cruelly put to death by order of Richard III. of England, and as he walked to the scaffold he exclaimed to the throng that stood around him, "The world moves." The drums struck up to drown his words. Smiling at this little by-play, he adjusted his crimson mantle about him and laid his head upon the block. He then drank off the cup of hemlock with philosophic composure. This great man's life (which, by the way, was not insured) teaches the beautiful moral lesson that an excess of virtue is apt to be followed by a redundancy of happiness, and that he who would secure the felicity of to-day must disdain alike the evanescent shadows of yesterday and the intangible adumbrations of the morrow.

S. Y