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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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              [newspaper clipping: first column]
  OLD New Orleans proper (French-Town, as it is termed by steam-
boatmen; Le Carr�, as its own inhabitants call it) is principally,
though not wholly, comprised in the great quadrilateral bounded
by Canal, Esplanade, Rampart, and Old Levee streets. Where the
horse-cars now run upon those thoroughfares formerly stood the
bastioned walls of the colonial city, encircled by a deep moat.
Double rows of trees now mark the old rampart lines upon three
sides of the quadrilateral, and birds sing in their branches at just
the height where brazen cannon once showed their black throats,
where Swiss or Spanish sentries paced to and fro against the sky.
Within the Carr� the streets are serried, solid, and picturesque.
Memories of aristocratic wealth still endure in certain vast man-
sions, broad-balconied and deep-courted, now mostly converted
into hotels or lodging-houses, half the year void of guests; but the
majority of the dwellings are rather curious than splendid.  Near-
ly all the larger ones are build in the form of an L, the lower line
of the letter representing the street front, the upper line a shallow
but lofty wing reaching far back from the main building at right
angles, and flanked by an enormous green or brown cistern as by
a round tower.  A really imposing archway often pierces the street
fa�ade�giving carriageway into the deep court�much like those
quaint archways characteristic of old London taverns.  Such a
building often possesses three sets of stairways�invarible two�
one for the main edifice, one for the wing.  But these immense
winter residences, once sheltering a population of servants and
clients large as that comprised in the Roman familia, are now for
the most part in a state of decay.  There is much crumbling of
wood-work, looseness of jointing, ulcerous exposure of the brick
skeleton where plaster has rotted away in patches from piazza pil-
lars and from the ribs of archways.  Grass struggles up between
the flagging; microscopic fungi patch the wall surfaces with sick-
ly green.  The semi-tropical forces of nature in the South are
mighty to destroy the work of man.  Dismally romantic is the
Greek front upon Toulouse Street, in rear of the old H�tel Saint
Louis, and once famous as �The Planters� Bank.�  Through cracks
in the high board fence, erected about its desolation once may see
the weeds squeezing their way through the joints of its broad stone
steps, the green creepers wriggling around its columns, and bushes
actually growing from the angles of its pediment�a vegetation
planted, doubtless, by birds.  This ruin has a veritable classic dig-
nity�a melancholy that is antique.  Sorrowful likewise are the
voiceless courts of the once beautiful French hotel, with their void
galleries above and dried-up fountains below.  Millions upon mill-
ions have changed hands within that building; princely revels were
held there of old by the feudal lords of Louisiana; the splendors
of the past linger in the tarnished gilding and dying colors of the
lofrt apartents, and in the decorations of the porcelain dome
frescoed by Casanova.
  Many of the French and Spanish dwellings are as full of archi-
tectural mysteries and surprises as the Castle of Otranto�corri-
dors that serpentine, stairways that leap from building to building,
cabinets masked in the recesses of dormer-windows, curious cov-
ered bridges worthy of Venice.  Looking up or down one of these
streets, the eye is astonished by the long patchwork of colors mot-
ley as Joseph�s coat, ultimately fading off into grayish-blues where
the vista meets the horizon.  Under the golden glow of the sun
these tints take delightful warmth; there are chrome and gamboges
yellows, deep-sea greens, ashen pinks, brick reds, chocolates, azures,
blazing whites, all trimmed with the intenser green of iron balco-
nies and the antiquated window-shutters folded back against the
wall.  The old French Opera-house I have seen painted in a pecul-
iarly pleasing hue, to which a summer sun would lend the mellow-
ness of antique marble.  It was a ripe-ivorine tint, with just the
faintest conceivable flush of pink; it was a warm and human col-
or�it was the color of creole flesh!
  Speaking of it recalls the curious statement of divers writers to
the effect that the skin of the West Indian creole feels cooler than
that of a European or American from the Northern States.  The
same is true of the Louisiana creole: the vigorous European or
Northerner who touches a creole hand during the burning hours
of a July or August day has reason to be surprised at its coolness
�such a coolness as tropical fruits retain even under the perpen-
dicular fires of an equatorial sun.
  When an educated resident of New Orleans speaks of the cre-
oles he must be understood as referring to the descendants of the
early Latin colonists, the posterity of those French and Spanish
settlers who founded or ruled Louisiana.  The diminutive criollo,
derived from the Spanish crier, �to beget,� primarily signified the
colonial-born child of European blood, as distinguished from the
offspring of the Conquistadores by slave women, whether Indian
or African.  Nothing could be more etymologically antithetical,
therefore, than the phrase �colored creoles,� although it has ob-
tained considerable currency as a convenient term to distinguish
those colored people who can claim a partly Latin origin, from the
plainer �American� colored folk who have neither French nor
Spanish blood in their veins, and to whom the creole dialect is
supremely unintelligible.  Among the colored population of light-
er tint, moreover, the characteristics of the Latin blood show them-
selves so strongly that the popular use of the term distinguishing
them from ordinary types of mulatto, quadroon, quinteroon, or
octoroon appears justifiable.
  What old Bryan Edwards, in his excellent but obsolete History
of the British West Indies, wrote concerning the creoles of the An-
tilles, largely apples to the creoles of Louisiana likewise, especial-
ly in relation to their physical characteristics.  In whatever part
of the civilized temperate zone pronounced, the very word �creole�
conveys to the hearer fancies tropical as the poetry of Baudelaire;
to the imagination of well-informed readers the creole invariable
appears as a person of European blood corporeally and morally
modified by the influences of a torrid climate.  Whether we hear
of the English creoles of the West Indian, East Indian, or West
African colonies, the French creoles of Algeria, Martinique, or Sen-
egal, or the Dutch creoles of Malabar, the name invariably pro-
vokes fancies of burning suns, of monstrous vegetation, of nights
lighted by the Southern Cross.  In New Orleans we are only at
the Gate of the Tropics; sometimes our orange-trees shiver in
frosty winds, our rare palms droop in January colds.  But
the climate is torrid enough nevertheless to have produced
marked physical changes in the native white population of
Louisiana during the lapse of generations.  It has modified the
osteogeny of the true creoles almost as remarkably as in Mar-
tinique or Trinidad; it has greatly deepened the eye-sockets to
shelter the sight from the furnace glow of summer heat; it has
made limbs suppler, extremities more delicate; and to these
changes wrought in the body�s frame-work is wholly attributable
that languis and singular grace which distinguishes the Louisia-
naise among her fairer American sisters.  Creole eyes�the eyes
that tantalized Gottschalk into the musical utterance of Ojos Cri-
olles�are large, luminous, liquidly black, deeply fringed, and their
darkness is strangely augmented by the uncommon depth of the
orbit.  The pilose system�to use anatomical phraseology�is rich-
ly developed; the women have magnificent hair, and creole beards
and mustaches are usually very handsome.  Formerly the Louisi-
ana creoles excelled in exercises demanding grace and quickness

[newspaper clipping: second column]
of eye; they were fine dancers and famous swordsmen�indeed,
the art of fencing is not yet lost among them.  The beauty of the
women is peculiar: they possess a sveltese�a slender elegance
that is very fascinating, but to Northerners they seem fragile of
physique, more delicate than they really are.  A rosy face, a bright,
fresh complexion, is rarely seen among them; they have an ivo-
rine tint, a convalescent palor, that contrasts oddly with the fire of
their dark pupils and the lustrous blackness of their hair.  When 
the tint is darker, a Spanish swarthiness, the effect is less strange.
Creole blondes are few.
  The creole temperament is one of great nervous sensibility;
phlegmatic characters are anomalies; a disposition to violent ex-
tremes of anger or affection is often masked by an exterior ap-
pearance of listless indifference.  The climate itself (nine months
of summer heat, three of snowless chill, long periods of heavy
calm, broken by storms of extraordinary and splendid violence�
a climate enervating, fitful, luxuriant) has reflected its character-
istics in the native population.  The mind develps precociously,
blossoms richly.  There are few educated creoles who can not
speak two or three languages well; many speak more; and the
writer has known one who was almost a Mezzofanti.  Love of the
mother-country is not dead among the creoles, and their attach-
ment to ancient French customs has but little abated.  Their
home life has scarcely changed during a century, although they
are becoming less socially exclusive.  Nevertheless, the Northern
stranger invited to visit the home of a creole family may even
now consider himself the subject of a rare compliment.  Such a
visit, however, will scarcely be made within the limits of the old
colonial city, for the creoles are no longer there.  They have moved
away to newer districts, north and south�away from the decaying
streets and the crumbling cemeteries�out to quiet suburbs where
the air is sweet with breath of jasmine flowers and orange blos-
soms, out to dreamy Bayou Saint Jean, where clusters of white-
pillared cottages slumber in green.  They have mostly abandoned
the Carre to the European Latins�French emigrants from the
Mediterranean coasts, Italians, Sicilians, Spaniards, Greeks; to the
population of the French Market, the venders of fruits and meats;
to the keepers of what Sala called �absurd little shops�; and es-
pecially to the French-speaking element of color, which still clings
to the ruined Past with something of the strange affection that
erst subsisted between master and slave.
  How long will even that ruined Past endure?  The somnolent
quiet of the old streets is being already broken by the energetic
bustle of American commerce; the Northern Thor is already threat-
ening the picturesque town with iconoclastic hammer.  Colossal
capital advances menacingly from the southern side, showing the
sheet-lightning of its gold.  One huge firm has already devoured
a whole square, and extended itself into four streets at once, cru-
ciform-wise, like a Greek basilica.  Even the old Napoleon First
furniture sets, the massive four-pillared beds, the ponderous cab-
inets curiously carved, the luxuriant fauteuils, the triple-footed ta-
bles�all those solid household gods which stood upon eagle feet of
gilded brass�are being brought up by shrewd speculators and sent
North to fetch prices which no one here would dream of paying.
Perhaps the antique life will make its last rally about the old
Place d�Armes (Plaza de Arma), in the vicinity of the quaint ca-
thedral, under the shadow of those towers whose bells for a hun-
dred years have run diurnally for the repose of the soul of Don
Andr� Almonaster Roxas, Knight of the Royal and Distinguished
Spanish Order of Charles III., R[egidor?] and Alferez-Real of His
Most Catholic Majesty.  So long as the iron tongues of those bells
can speak, so long as the iron heart of the great tower-clock shall
beat, something of the old life and the old faith must live in the
creole quarter.  Long after most of the quaint architecture shall
have disappeared I fancy those two massive Spanish edifices, the
old Cabildo and Casa Curial, will still remain standing upon either
side of the cathedral, like grim soldiery guarding a commissary of
the Holy Inquisition.  The Spaniard builded well: after the lapse
of nearly a hundred years, those ragged edifices testify grandly to
the solied Roman character of their creators. The plaster may peel
fro the stout pillars of their arcades; but dilapidation only adds
nobility to their quaintness; they are dignified by the scars of
their battle with Time; they are imposing without loftiness; they
are superb without artifice�deep-shouldered, thickset, broad-
backed, firm upon their feet like veteran troops, like the splendid
Spanish infantry of three hundred years ago.
  IN Sweden and Finland the Lapps are usually divided into fish-
er, mountain, and forest Lapps; the latter two are the true repre-
sentatives of the race.  In Norway they are classed as sea Laps,
river Lapps, and mountain Laps; the first two settled, the last,
wandering or nomadic.  Their habits are most conservative, and
can hardly have altered since the far distant time when they first
tamed the reindeer.  Reindeer form the chief wealth of the Lapps,
and Thomson�s lines may still be taken as an accurate descrip-
tion of the uses to which their skins and horns are put, although
one would think spoons more likely than cups to be carved out of
the latter; but then where would a great deal of poetry be if the
poet could not draw on his poetic license at pleasure; perhaps,
however, Thomson alluded to the milk�
	�The reindeer form their riches: these their tents,
	  Their robes, their beds, and all their homely wealth
	  Supply; their wholesome food and cheerful cups.�
The mountain Lapps have learned to drink coffee and wear stout
Norwegian cloth, but they set as much story by the reindeer as
ever.  A poor family will have fifty and upward in a flock, the
middle classes three hundred to seven hundred, and the richest
one thousand or more.  The reindeer is as much beloved by the
Lapp as his pig by the Irishman, and the reindeer often sleep in
his hut in much the same fashion.  The Lapp will whisper to his
reindeer when harnessing him to his sleigh, and will tell him where
he is to go, and declares he understands him.  The reindeer is
much like a stag, only smaller; all the people, animals, and trees
in Lapland are very diminutive, the men are mostly under five feet
high, and the women under four feet nine inches, so great are the
rigors of the climate in this as in all countries under the arctic
circle, and the cows, sheep, and goats are all small in proportion.
In summer the reindeer feed upon grass, and give excellent milk;
in the winter they feed upon moss, which they scratch up under
great depths of snow with marvellous instinct.  When winter
draws near, great numbers are killed, and the flesh is dried and
smoked to provide food when the ground is covered with snow,
and but few birds, like ptarmigan, partridges, and caper-cailzie, are
met with.  The flesh is very nutritious, and after a course of grass
feeding it is surprising how soon the reindeer become fat and
plump.  The skin makes their dresses and boots, the sinews their
thread and fishing-lines, and the horns their spoons and domestic
utensils.  The utensils are not all of horn; the Lapps have always
some kettles of copper and iron, and sometimes also bowls of wood
and tin, or even of silver among the rich ones.
  The wandering Lapps usually live in rude huts, formed of trees
or poles in the shape of a cone, with an opening in the centre to
allow the smoke to escape, and a few mats are spread on the floor.
Each side of the fire-place is divided into three chambers, sepa-
rated by mats or skins, the innermost for husband and wife, the

[newspaper clipping: third column]
next for the children, and the outer for servants; when they are
too poor for servants, they often find room for some reindeer.  The
winter dwellings are much more substantial, and are roofed with
beams, on which are hung the dried cakes and reindeer flesh,
while, outside, the huts are covered with bushes and earth; the
door is very low and small, and can only be entered by creeping
on the hands and knees.  Sometimes these winter huts are made
large enough to hold a dozen families, separated by curtains of
skins.  The windows are made from the intestines of seals, pre-
pared and sewed together.  The furniture is very primitive; such
as it is, it is made by the men, who also do the cooking and make
the boats, sleighs, skiddor or snow-shoes, and the bows and arrows.
  The Lapp as he appears in his own country is very different
from many of the pictures so familiar to us.  His usual dress con-
sists of dirty old reindeer pelts and a filthy peaked blue cap. In
winter all the dress is made of reindeer-skins, except the cap,
which is made of blue cloth, and shaped like a sugar-loaf.  The
dress of men and women is much alike; they wear their hair long
and straight, falling down the sides of the head and the back, and
as beards and whiskers are never seen, there is some difficulty in
distinguishing the sexes: you can tell the by their boots: the
men wear long, the women short ones.  The costume is in the
Bloomer style, and consists of a short skin coat, with the hair out-
side, fastened round the waist with a belt and buckle, and a pair
of tight-fitting breeches of tanned reindeer leather.  The breeches
are fastened round the ankle, and the boots are also of tanned
reindeer leather, peaked and turned up at the toes, and are drawn
over the legs of the breeches and fastened at the top by a long
piece of list, which keeps out the snow and makes them nearly
  Even in the depth of winter the Lapps have their necks always
bare.  They wear no linen or stockings, and stuff the boots, which
are very roomy, with soft hay made from cypress-grass.  Their
gloves are like mittens, and often ornamented with great taste.  In
summer the same leather breeches are worn, but the coat is made
of coarse blue cloth.  The women carry a tobacco pouch, pipe,
scissors, and a spoon to drink spirits from, hanging from the waist,
which the richer Lapps decorate with silver braid.
  In winter the Lapps use snow-shoes or skiddor, and they always
carry a spear with a four-edged spike about a foor in length, mount-
ed on an aspen shaft six feet long.  Their equipment for the win-
ter is completed with an old skin knapsack for provisions, a rough
case-knife in the belt, and a little iron pipe for their delectation 
in smoking, and sometimes a gun like a pea-rifle.  The sleighs are
like small boats cut in half, and only hold one person, and are so
cranky that the driver is obliged to use a short pole to keep the
sleigh steady, so that between driving the reindeer which are fast-
ened to the sleigh, and keeping the balance with the short pole, he
has enough to do.  If the sleigh turns over, which it does some-
times, the occupant can not fall out, as he is so tightly packed in
with skins; but he has an awkward time of it, and gets sadly
bumped in the snow if the reindeer dash off at full speed, as they
have a habit of doing.
  The Lapps all live by fishing and hunting.  Their game is elk,
bears, foxes, and wolves, with ermines and squirrels.  The Rus-
sian Lapps are chiefly fishers; they are quiet, hospitable, honest,
and inoffensive, and decidedly favorable speciments of a semi-civ-
ilized race still retaining their patriarchal traditions.  The father
is supreme in the family, and can apportion his property at death,
and disinherit any of his children should he see fit.  If a son
wishes to leave the house and set up for himself, he can take no-
thing with him but his gun and his wife�s dowry.  Drunkenness
is their great failing.
		          HOME, AT SEA.
	WILD winds are howling savagely,
	  But in the cabin, billow-tossed,
	The sailors gather cozily,
	  �Mid swaying lights by shadows crossed,
	  That speak of change�joys won or lost�
	And blended moods of grief or glee.

	Within the rude but ship-shape room�
	  A dusky bulk against the glare�
	One figure sits, a form of gloom
	  You might not choose to wish were there,
	  So worn his cheek, so grave his air,
	�Mongst those hale faces all abloom.
	Yet him his comrades crowd around;
	  He leads the story and the laugh.
	And now what spell, think you, he�s found?
	  Only a woman�s photograph;
	  But all gaze eagerly, and half
	In musing fantasy are bound.

	He tells of home and snowy days
	  Ashore at Christmas, in the past:
	�They�ll come no more along my ways,�
	  Sighing he falters out at last.
	  (I hear the creaking of the mast,
	While the fierce ocean round us plays.)

	�Yet, lads, it�s good to think of home!�
	  And they agree, with voices deep;
	And fancy flits across the foam,
	  To join the feast their dear ones keep.
	  Love haunts us still, awake, asleep,
	Where�er we stay, where�er we roam.

	So, if or calm or tempest be,
	  We well may keep the Christmas-tide
	With tender thought, bright memory�
	  Blessings like angels� wings spread wide.
	  If loyal heartiness abide,
	You�ll still have home with you, at sea.
  Books have a peculiar appropriateness for purpose of gift-
making which belongs to nothing else in the whole category of
possible presents.  They fit themselves alike to the convenience
of the one who gives and the need of the one who receives.
  In our educated age one would need almost to make an effort
in order to go amiss in selecting books for purposes of presenta-
tion.  They are of so many kinds as to contents and workman-
ship; they appeal so directly to every possible taste, whether of
the old, the young, or the middle-aged, the highly cultivated or
theose who make no pretense to culture, the lover of art and the
lover of letters�in brief, they address themselves so precisely and
so successfully to all manner of men and women and children,
and may be bought for so very little as compared with their in-
trinsic value or with the intellectual labor and artistic skill ex-
pended upon them, that the holiday buyer who once enters a well-
stocked book-shop or secures possession of a bookseller�s cata-
logue may choose almost at will without fear of erring.
  But while book of every kind�putting those that offend against
morals and those that have no literary worth out of the account�
are fit for presentation purposes, some books have special quali-               
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