Odds and Ends

Hours spent doing research can produce any number of interesting – if useless – pieces of information. Let me pass on some recent discoveries for your benefit:

In 1839, there were 442 ships lost at sea, not including 37 vessels reported missing. 537 lives were known to have been lost, but it was suspected that the loss of life was far greater. (Hartford Courant, January 10, 1840.)

More recently, a correspondent of the Princeton Alumni Weekly reported that he had thought it must be wonderful to work with astronomers “whose eyes were always on infinity and who live detached from earthly miseries” but he had learned that “astronomers are as petty as poets (and) fight over jam at breakfast.”

For the grammarians among us (if any!):
When Andrew Jackson appointed Martin Van Buren Ambassador to England, John Randolph of Virginia warned Jackson that Van Buren could not speak or write the English language properly, and would substitute “will” for “shall.”
Van Buren, of course, became our eighth president nevertheless and established the precedent that proper English is not a requirement for the office. Even the present incumbent, light years ahead of his predecessor, gets his pronouns wrong (“for Michelle and I”). If he gets his policies right, that may be what matters.

I also came across the fact that a fire in Sag Harbor in 1840-something destroyed over a hundred houses in the center of town and a report of the number of barrels of whale oil brought in by a ship recently arrived in Hartford.

None of this has any relevance to the book I am currently researching, but it seemed to me that it ought to be of interest to someone!

1 Comment

SandraApril 19th, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Please tell us about the book you are presently researching!

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