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The Retort Courteous Post by :jasmine427 Category :Essays Author :William Cowper Brann Date :July 2011 Read :2174

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The Retort Courteous

F. L. Lewis writes from San Antonio to an obscure sheet called the Railway Age, that Brann is not an Englishman as the Age editor in one of his elephantine efforts to be humorous seems to have suggested, and that "all Englishmen in this country repudiate his every utterance." Thanks, awfully; that's the highest compliment ever paid an American sovereign by a British subject. When I next visit San Antonio I'll testify my gratitude by giving Lewis 50 cents instead of the usual two-bits for toting my grip from the "Sap" depot to the Menger hotel. I once said, "There are some very decent and brainy Englishmen;" but as all Englishmen in this country repudiate the soft impeachment, I hasten to acknowledge my error. As the editor of the Age is quite anxious to ascertain my nationality he probably suspects that I may be his father.

. . .

The Independent, which I infer from the date-line of a letter calling attention to its existence, is published at Pomeroy, Wash., proposes, bumbye, to "give a history of the robberies committed by Brann during the war." H----;! I can do that myself. Attired in a triangular strip of birds-eye linen and emitting savage yells, I repeatedly stormed and captured the most magnificent breast-works ever built in Kentucky and ravenously appropriated whatsoever I found therein without so much as a thankee mum. Yes sirree, I was a robber dead-right in those old days; but the Independent editor is safe: he's got nothing but a shirt-tail full o' pied type and a card of membership in the A.P.A.--Aggregation of Pusillanimous Asses. I have no use for his "plant," and God knows I would not be caught dead in a Chinese opium den with his certificate of infamy concealed in my clothes.

. . .

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch of August 20, contains a half-page puff of one John Morrissey, who seems to be a peripatetic iconoclast who has started out with a Bible in one hand, and a free lunch in the other to abolish preachers. According to Morrissey he was a Roman Catholic until he learned better, a drunkard until "the Spirit of God entered his heart" and caused his reformation, and used to write sermons for St. Louis preachers who palmed them off as their own. I don't know about that; but I know that of the interview he gave the Pee-Dee a column was cribbed without credit from the article on "Charity" in "Brann's Scrap-Book." "The Spirit of God" may have done much for Morrissey, but it hasn't cured him of the thieving habit, and I would advise people to keep a sharp eyes on their portable property until this religious reformer succeeds in breaking into the penitentiary.

. . .

The Texas Republican, which appears semi-occasionally at Greenville, Tex., denounces in what Dorenus was wont to term "livid language," my statement to the effect that a nation pays for its imports with its exports. He says it is all "iconoclastic foolishness," declares that a nation does nothing of the kind, and proceeds to animadvert in an unchristian spirit on the density of my economic ignorance. My contemporary's criticism is clearly unconstitutional in that it is cruel and unusual punishment. Now that its editor has annihilated my poor little theory, it is his duty as a great public educator and charter member of the Markhanna Illuminati, to inform me what the hades a nation DOES pay for its imports with, instead of permitting me, as he seems inclined, to "burst in ignorance." You have the floor, my sweet little man, and the shades of all the standard economists from Smith to Walker are waiting to see you raise one of their favorite dogmas over the ropes. Call Prof. Jevons a jackass, give Ricardo a tremendous rap, have no mercy on John Stuart Mill, make old Adam Smith's bones to rattle, take a terrible fall out of Turgot--then flap your ears and bray until the welkin rings again. That's the way to settle a political adversary who goes galivanting off after false economic gods. In the meantime it might be a good idea to take your brains out, brush the cobwebs off its cogs and apply a little kerosene with a corncob.

. . .

It is seldom indeed that I give any attention to insulting letters, but I cannot refrain from paying my respects to one Byron Jassack Wales, who, with gray goose-quill for Pelian spear, charges down on the ICONOCLAST as blithely as a gay moss-trooper making an English swine-herd hard to catch. Such insults usually come unsigned--are simply crass insolence which their cowardly authors fear to father; but Byron sets down all the dreaful things he thinks of Brann, boldly signs his name and adds an ornamental flourish of defiance. The possibility of some long- legged, slouch-hatted, wire-moustached cowboy ambling into his august presence armed with a shooting iron carrying iron bullets as big as goose-eggs and hurling him with a flash and whoop into the problematical hitherto, does not shake to its base the heroic fortitude of the man whose mother named him for the most notorious chippy-chaser known to history. Byron proposed to express his opinion, to say what he dad-burned pleases, though the redoubtable Lieutenant-Colonel Rienzi Miltiades Johnsing, of Houston, who does all the ICONOCLAST'S fighting under yearly contract, should swoop down upon him like a double-barreled besom of destruction,

"With death-shot glowing in his fiery hand And eye that scorcheth all it looks upon."

Byron is offended because I saw fit to criticize New York's priorient parvenues for exploiting the pregnancy of their wives in the public-prints, and he lets me know where he can be found in case his remarks offend, by daringly dating his letter "New York." True, he refrains from giving his street and number--even tears the printed headings off the letter paper he employs; but that does not matter, as in a little village like New York a Texan with a hair-trigger temper has only to inquire of the first man he meets to be directed to the one he wants. Byron insists that I print his letter to show people what a desperate dare-devil he is; but I refrain lest it scare all the cattle off the range and cause Bill Fewell and Doc Yandell of EL Paso to move over into Mexico. Among other dreadful things he promises to have my paper suppressed by the postal authorities if I speak of him disrespectfully, which proves that he has a tremendous political pull concealed about his person. I guess I'm safe so far as he is concerned for a careful inspection of his letter makes apparent the utter impossibility of speaking of Lord Byron Jassack Wales disrespectfully--indicates that it were fulsome flattery to refer to him as a blind pile on the body politic, a suppurating sore on the hedonistic society of Sodom.

. . .

T. Shelley Sutton, of Boise City, Idaho, has "writ a pome" entitled "That Man Brann," and the proud author sends me an A.P.A. paper containing his production. It is an excellent composition--of its kind; and I am gratified to learn that it has at least gravitated to its proper level. Some six months ago a commercial traveller sent me substantially the same thing, saying that he had copied from the walls of a water closet in a Kentucky hotel. It appears that it was too foul to harmonize with the place in which it was composed, so it was stolen by a thieving yahoo in search of carrion and puked into the putrid columns of an A.P.A. paper. T. Shelley Sutton can probably find more "original poetry" in the same place.

. . .

"Rev." Bill Homan, who conducts a little pecasmman paper somewhere in North Texas for the long green and the misguidance of three or four hundred fork-o'-the-creek Campbellites, devotes two more columns of his raucous tommyrot and brainless balderdash to the Howell-Jones imbroglio. Although he manages to tell at least three deliberate lies in his idiotic eructation, he dares not deny that the trial committee, of which he was a member, permitted Jones to continue belching his fetid bile in the Christian pulpit after being cornered and compelled to confess to a cowardly crime which should be rewarded with a rope. Until this corticiferous little cur explains why he is defending a fourth-class preacher who confesses to having foully insulted, by a base forgery, a motherless young girl committed to his care, the ICONOCLAST must, for the sake of its own self-respect, decline further controversy.


(The end)
William Cowper Brann's essay: Retort Courteous

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