11 July 1857
FRESH FERN LEAVES.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855, by ROBERT BONNER, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.
PEEPS AT PHILADELPHIA.
And this is Philadelphia! All hail, Philadelphia! Where a lady's aching fingers may be reprieved from the New York thraldom of skirt-holding off dirty pavements; where the women have the good taste in dress, to eschew the gaudy tulip and array themselves like the lily; where hoops are unknown, or at least so modified as to become debateable ground; where lady shop-keepers know how to be civil to their own sex, and do not keep you standing on one leg an hour after you hand them a bill, while with hawk eye and extended forefinger they peruse that nuisance called the "Counterfeit Detector." Where the goods, not better than in New York, save in their more quiet hue, are never crammed down a customer's unwilling throat; where omnibus drivers do not expectorate into the coach-windows, or bang clouds of dust into your doomed eyes from the roof, thumping for your fare, or start their vehicles before female feet have taken leave of what has nearly proved to so many of us the final step! where the markets———but hold! they deserve a paragraph by themselves.
Ye gods! what butter! Shall I ever again swallow the abominable concoction called butter in New York? That I—Fanny Fern—should have lived to this time, and never known the bliss of tasting Philadelphia butter!—never seen those golden pounds, each separately folded in its fresh green leaf, reposing so temptingly, and crying, eat me, so eloquently, from the snow white tubs! What have the Philadelphians done that they should be fed on such crisp vegetables, such fresh fruits, and such creamy ice-creams? That their fish should come dripping to their mouths from their native element. That their meat should wait to be carried home, instead of crawling by itself? Why should the most circumscribed and frugal of housekeepers, who goes with her snowy basket to buy her husband's dinner, be able to daintify his table with a fragrant sixpenny bouquet? Why should the strawberries be so big and dewy and luscious? Why should the peas and cauliflowers and asparagus and lettuce——— Great Cæsar—what have the Philadelphians done that they should wallow in such high-stepping clover?
I have it!
It is the reward of virtue—It is the smile of Heaven on men who are too chivalric to puff tobacco smoke in ladies faces which beautify and brighten their streets. They deserve it—they deserve their lily-appareled wives and roly-poly, kissable, sensibly-dressed children. They deserve to walk up those undefiled marble-steps, into their blessed home-sanctuaries, overshadowed by those grand patriarchal trees. They deserve that their bright-eyed sons should be educated in a noble institution like "The Central High School," where pure ventilation and cheerfulness are considered of as much importance as mathematics or Greek and Latin. Where the placid brow and winning smile of the Principal are more potent auxiliaries than ferules or frowns. Give me the teacher on whose desk blooms the bouquet, culled by a loving pupil's fingers; whose eye, magnetic with kindness—whose voice, electric with love for his calling, wakes up into untiring action all that is best and noblest in the sympathetic, fresh young hearts before him. A human teacher, who recognizes in every boy before him (be he poorly or richly clad—be he glorious in form and face as a young Apollo, or cramped and dwarfed into unshapeliness in the narrow cradle of poverty) an immortal soul, clamorous with its craving needs, seeking the light, throwing out its luxuriant tendrils for something strong and kindly to cling to, longing for the upper air of expansion and strength. God bless the human teacher who recognizes, and acts as if he recognized this! Heaven multiply such schools as "The Philadelphia High School," with its efficient Principal, its able Professors and teachers, and its graduates who number by scores the noble and honored of the land, and of the sea.
———I love to linger in cemeteries. And so in company with an editorial friend, Col. Fitzgerald of the Philadelphia City Item, to whose hospitality, with that of his lovely wife, I am much indebted, I visited "Laurel Hill." The group "Old Mortality" at its entrance needs no praise of mine. The eye might linger long ere it wearied in gazing at it. I like cemeteries, but I like not elaborate monuments, or massive iron railings; a simple hedge—a simple headstone, (where the tiny bird alights, ere like the parting spirit it plumes its wings for a heavenward flight), for its inscription—the words to whcih the universal heart has responded, and will respond till time shall be no longer—till the graves give up their dead; "Mother"—"Husband"—"Wife"—"Child"—what epitaph can improve this? what language more eloquently measure the height and breadth, and length and depth of sorrow?
And so, as I read these simple words at "Laurel Hill," my heart sympathised with those unallied to me, save by the common bond of bereavement; and thus I passed on—until I came to an Author's grave—no critic's pen again to sting that heart;—pulseless it must have been, not to have stirred with all the wealth of bud and blossom, waving tree and shining river, that lay bathed in the golden, summer sunlight above him. So, God willing, would I sleep at last; but not yet—not yet my pen, till thou hast shouted again and again—Courage! Courage!—to earth's down-trodden and weary-hearted.
Fanny Fern, "Peeps at Philadelphia. Number One.," The New-York Ledger (11 July 1857): 4
To cite this project:
Fanny Fern, "Peeps at Philadelphia. Number One.," Fanny Fern in The New York Ledger, Ed. Kevin McMullen (2019) http://fannyfern.org.