Madam Scribblerus

Madam Scribblerus

from Historic Houses of New Jersey by W. Jay Mills, 1902

In the last years of the eighteenth century, during our breach with France, Madam Scribblerus conceived a violent aversion for everything French. Other Perth Amboy dames might look to France for their manners and their gewgaws, but she ” detested” the nation. Taking the matter to heart, she set about to improve the perverted taste of the town, and hurled several bombastic poems at the ” frog-eaters.” The following one, written at the beginning of Jefferson’s administration, is a good example of them.


Says William to Thomas I’ll hold you a bet
That the French are confoundedly frighted;
They thought they our Federal Ships had o’erset,
But they find that they staunch are, and righted.

They slighted our Pleno’s and made a demand
That we a shameful Tribute should pay them,
Or else (as they plundered at Sea) on the Land
Neither Rapine nor Murder should stay them!

But those who are born in the woods can’t be scared
By the croaking of Bull-frogs in ditches.
Nor will we of Frenchmen at all be afraid,
A people who’re sans honor, sans breeches.

They’ve taken our coats from our backs, and say too
That they will have our shirts and our smocks, air;
But faith if they try it the project they’ll rue,
For we’ll give them some flesh-burning knocks, sir!

They’ve tried ev’ry art which deception could frame,
But our Congress too wise were to heed them.
They’ve Heaven defied, and have put aside shame,
And have gone all lengths the Devil would lead them.

Little of Elizabeth Kearny’s work ever saw the light of the press, and it is sad to think much that would have interested posterity should have been lost when the original manuscript was destroyed. Although apart from Philip Freneau, Joel Barlow, and Timothy and Theodore Dwight, the four most noted disciples of American literature of the time, she deserves a small place in the history of our belles-lettres. In her own Perth Amboy she was a much lauded celebrity and had her large group of admirers. These were the solace of a life adversity had narrowed and blighted when in its full bloom. Their praise to her ears was the world’s sweetest lullaby. When surrounded by them she forgot the whispers of carping care and smiled with Calliope.