Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Review of A Pleasant Peregrination Through the Prettiest Parts of Pennsylvania,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. IX: Literary Criticism - part 02 (1902), pp. 36-43


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[page 36, continued:]

A PLEASANT PEREGRINATION THROUGH THE PRETTIEST PARTS OF PENNSYLVANIA. PERFORMED BY PEREGRINE PROLIX. PHILADELPHIA: GRIGG AND ELLIOT.

[Southern Literary Messenger, June, 1836.]

WE know nothing farther about Peregrine Prolix than that he is the very clever author of a book entitled “Letters descriptive of the Virginia Springs,” and that he is a gentleman upon the wrong side of forty. The first fact we arse enabled easily to perceive from the peculiarity of an exceedingly witty — pedantic style characterizing, in a manner not to be mistaken, both the Virginia and the Pennsylvania Letters — the second appears from the first stanza of a rhyming dedication (much better than eulogistic) to John Guillemard, Esquire, Fellow of the Royal Society, London[page 37:]

I send my friend a little token

Three thousand miles across the sea,

Of kindness, forty years unbroken

And cherished still for him by me.

However these matters may be, it is very certain that Peregrine Prolix is a misnomer, that his book is a very excellent thing, and that the Preface is not the worst part of it.

Our traveller, before setting out on his peregrinations, indulges us, in Letter, with a very well executed outline sketch, or scratch, of Philadelphia, not troubling himself much about either his keeping or his fillings in. We cannot do better than just copy the whole of his picture. —

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Having taken passage for himself and the friend in the Pioneer line, at 8 A. M., for Hallidaysburg, Mr. Prolix dates his second letter from Lancaster. This epistle is full of fun, bustle, and all good things — gives a lively picture of the horrors of early rising and half-eaten breakfasts — of a cruise in an omnibus, about the city of Brotherly Love, in search of the due quota of passengers — of the depôt in Broad Street — of an unilocular car with its baggage and passengers — of an old woman in a red cloak and an old gentleman in a red nose — of a tall, good looking Englishman, who was at the trouble of falling asleep — and of an infantile little American gentleman, who had no trouble whatever about fulfilling all his little occasions. Some account, too, is given of the ride to the foot of the inclined plane on the western bank of the Schuylkill, of the viaduct by which the plane is approached, the view from the viaduct, of the country between Philadelphia [page 38:] and Lancaster, of the Columbia rail road, of Lancaster city, and of Mrs. Hubley’s very respectable hotel.

Letter III is dated from Dunoon’s Island. Mr. Prolix left Lancaster at 5 A. M. in a raid road car, drawn by two horses tandem, arrived at Columbia in an hour and a half, and stopped at Mr. Donley’s Red Lion Hotel, where he “breakfasted and dined, and found the house very comfortable and well kept.”

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Our author does not think that the state affords the public as good a commodity of travelling as the public ought to have for the money paid. Each passenger car, he says, pays for locomotive power two cents per mile, for each passenger — for toll two cents a mile for itself, and one cent per mile for each passenger — burthen cars paying half these rates. There is some mistake here or — we are mistaken. The estimated cost of working an engine, including interest and repairs, is sixteen dollars per day — and the daily sum earned is twenty eight dollars — the state clearing twelve dollars per day on each locomotive. Empty cars pay the same toll and power-hire as full ones, which, as Mr. Prolix observes, is unreasonable.

At 4 P. M. our peregrinator went on board a boat to ascend the canal which follows the eastern bank of the Susquehanna. His description of the genus “canal boat,” species “Pioneer Line,” is effective, and will interest our readers.

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At an hour past midnight Mr. Prolix arrived at Harrisburg, where the boat stops for half an hour to let out and take in passengers. It was pitch dark, however, and nothing was visible from the boat. We [page 39:] miss, therefore, a description of the town, which is cavalierly snubbed by the tourist for containing no more than forty-five hundred inhabitants. He goes to sleep, and awaking at 5 in tho morning, finds himself opposite to Duncan’s Island. He lands, and takes up his quarters at the hotel of Mrs. Duncan. Unlike the hotels previously described, which were all “elegant, respectable and neat,” this one is merely “neat, elegant and respectable.”

Letter IV is dated from Hallidaysburg. Leaving Duncan’s Island at 6, the traveller embarked in the canal packet Delaware, Captain Williams, following the bank of Duncan’s Island in a north-western course for about a mile, and then crossing the Juniata over “a substantial aqueduct built of timber and roofed in.” In the course of the day he passed Millerstown, Mexico and Mifflin, arriving at Lewistown before sunset, a distance of about forty miles. Lewistown contains about sixteen hundred inhabitants, some of whom, says Mr. Prolix, make excellent beer. Waynesburg and Hamiltonville were past during the night, and Huntingdon at 7 in the morning. In the course of the day Petersburg, Alexandria and Williamsburg made their appearance, and at 3 P. M. a shower of rain. At half past 6, “the packet glided into the basin at Hallidaysburg.” Here terminates that portion of the Pennsylvania canal which lies east of the Alleghany mountains. Goods destined for the west are taken from the boats and placed in burthen cars, to make their passage over the mountains by means of the Alleghany portage rail road. Mr. Prolix here put up at Moore’s hotel, which was not only very “neat, elegant,” &c but contained at least one vacant room, six feet wide by fourteen long, with a double bed, two chairs, and [page 40:] a wash-stand, “whose cleanliness was as great as its littleness.”

Letter V is headed Bedford Springs, August 7,1635. At half past 8 on the 6th, “after a good and abundant breakfast,” Mr. P. left Hallidaysburg in a coach and four for these Springs. The distance is thirty-four milos — direction nearly south. In six hours he arrived at Buckstown, a little village consisting of two taverns, a blacksmith’s shop, and two or three dwellings. Here our traveller put up at a tavern whose sign displayed the name of P. Amich — probably, quoth Mr. P, a corruption of Peregrini Amicus. Leaving this establishment at 3 P. M. he proceeded eleven miles to the Tillage of Bedford — thence two miles farther to the Springs, of which we have a very pretty description. “The benches,” says Mr. Prolix, “and wooden columns of the pavilion have suffered much from the ruthless ambition of that numerous class of aspirants after immortality who endeavor to cut their way to the temple of fame with their penknives, and inflict the ambitious initials of their illustrious names on every piece of stuff they meet. As a goose delights in its gosling, so does one of these wits in his whittling.”

Letters VI and VII are a continuation of the description of the Springs. From letter VII we extract, for the benefit of our invalid readers, an analysis by Doctor William Church of Pittsburgh, of a quart of the water from the particular springs ycleped Anderson’s.

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To which must be added 181 cubic inches of carbonic acid gas.

“These waters,” says our author, “have acquired so great a reputation that immense quantities are sent [page 41:] away daily in barrels to perform long and expensive journeys by land to go and cure those who cannot come to them. The price of a barrel filled, and ready booted and spurred for its journey, is three dollars — and that is enough to last a regular and prudent toper four months.”

Letter VIII is dated “Somerset, August 14.” At 10 in the morning of this day, our traveller left the Spnofi in a hack, to join the mail coach at Bedford on its way to Somerset. “In an hour,” says Mr. P. “were snugly ensconced in one of Mr. Reeside’s well-appointed coaches, and rumbling over the stone turnpike on our way to the great west. The road for eleven miles is, we are told, not very hilly. Afterwards the corntry rises gradually from plateau to plateau, for a distance of fourteen miles, when you reach the summit of the Alleghany. Here is a large stone tavern, where the coach takes fresh horses. The country is now nearly level — but for the next six miles descends by alternate declivities and levels into “the broad valley which lies between the summits of the Alleghany Mountain and Laurel Hill,” the distance between which is about twenty miles. In this valley stands Somerset, which Mr. P. reached at half past 7 P. M.” having been eight hours and a half in travelling thirty-eight miles from Bedford.”

Letter IX is dated “Pittsburg, August 16.” At half past 3 A M. on the 15th, the tourist took the coach from the east bound to the City of Furnaces — at 7 passed the summit of Laurel Hill — at 5 arrived at Jones’ Mills, about one-third down the western declivity of (he mountain, and breakfasted — at one reached Mount Pleasant, having passed through two mountain villages, Donegal and Madison — thence [page 42:] twenty miles to Slewartsville — thence thirteen farther to

Pittsburgium, longæ finis chartæque viaque,

in spite of the manifold temptations offered to keen appetites by the luxuries of ChalfanPs, at Turtle Creek, which, quoth Mr. Prolix, “is a very good house.” His opinions of Pittsburgh, as of every thing else, are entitled to much weight, and in the present instance we give them entire.

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Letter X is dated “Johnstown, August 20.” Mr. P. left Pittsburgh on the 18th, at nine in the evening, in the canal packet Cincinnati, Captain Fitzgerald. In a few minutes after moving, the packet entered the aqueduct which carries the canal over to the western bank of the Alleghany, “along which it runs in a north eastern direction for thirty miles.” At five o’clock on the morning of the 19th, our tourist passed the village of Freeport, which stands on the western bank of the Alleghany, below the mouth of the Kiskeminilas. A few minutes afterwards he crossed the Alleghany through an aqueduct, which “carries the canal over that river to the northern bank of the Kiskeminilas, the course of which the canal now pursues in a south eastern direction.”

At eight A. M. Mr. P. passed Leechburg, at twelve Saltsburgh — and at two P. M. an aqueduct leading the canal into a tunnel eight hundred feet long, going through the mountain and cutting off a circuit of four miles. At 3 A. M. on the 20th, Johnstown is reached, “the eastern end of the trans-Alleghanian canal, and the western beginning of the Portage rail road.”

Letter XI gives a vivid picture of the Portage rail road. This also we will be pardoned for copying.

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Letter XII is dated from Lancaster and is occupied with the return home of the adventurous Mr. Prolix, [page 43:]whose book we heartily recommend to all lovers of the utile el dulce.

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - JAHCW, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Review of A Pleasant Peregrination Through the Prettiest Parts of Pennsylvania)