Racing and running of every description, have become so common at the present period, that it may well be doubted, whether it is possible for any thing new or wonderful on the subject to be brought to light. We do not know, however, that we have ever heard, or read of any occurrence, of a more “physical” nature, than the tale we shall presently tell. There is, to be sure, a tale of a race between Atalanta and Hippomenes, told by some ancient traditionist, which, be it either the truth, as the musty mythologians of the old world called it, or fable, as the wise men and learned call it now, bears this much resemblance to our present history—both heroes run for a wife—and a similar cause to that which gained Hippomenes a bride, nearly lost one to our hero; the first won, by tossing his intended a golden apple—the last came nigh losing, by tampering with a bank note.

A few weeks ago, a country gentleman, whom we shall hold nameless, resident in the county of Maury, and state of Tennessee, being under matrimonial engagement to one of the “daughters of men” set out one fine morning for Columbia, the chief place in said county, where the clerk of the county court had his head quarters, for the purpose of procuring, as he expressed it, a pair of license.” This wedding was a thing he had arranged in his mind about four months previous, and would have had it consummated long ere now, but having understood that the gallant law-givers of our state, intended shortly to reduce the marriage fee from seventy-five, to fifty cents, and having always an eye to the economical disposition of his funds, he determined to tarry a little until the law should be passed; calculating, and correctly too, that he would be a gainer of thirty-three and one third per centum on their cost at that time. Well, in due time the law was made, and our friend, as we mentioned before, set out with a beating heart, a smiling eye, and a thousand beatific visions of the blessedness of a married life, dancing merrily through his brain, and in good season arrived at the destined place. Here, after some little delay, in fruitlessly endeavoring to trade ‘coon skins for the license, the clerk not being willing to sell for any thing but the “money up,” he put up the cash and marched off in triumph with his paper, which authorized “any minister having the care of souls or any magistrate” having the care of bodies, to solemnize the rites of matrimony, between ----- and -----. He read, and re-read the precious document, seeming as though he could never get tired of perusing its contents—showed it to all his friends around, and acted as if he had found a treasure of great value. But like the foolish barn yard fowl, which Esop in his book of fables, hath written about, “he crowed too soon,” his boasting was rather premature, and in the end cost him pretty dear. Some half dozen waggish fellows, determined to show their wit and smartness, upon our innocent, and lamb-like “lion,” and accordingly while he was delightfully occupied in perusing the invaluable paper, which united two single folks, so tightly and closely together that they made but one in the eye of the law,--one of them accosted him with a proposition to sell his license, which was backed with a piteous tale of his having bought twice—that he had unfortunately lost both, and the clerk having some enmity against him, had refused to furnish him with any more, and wound up by offering him five dollars for the “pair” he had just purchased. Our friend taken with the liberality of the offer, hesitated but a short time—it was a good speculation, and in an evil hour for his happiness, he closed the bargain.

Not being able to get married without the legal sanction, he trudged back to the office for “more license.” Here a difficulty awaited him, which he had not anticipated. He was told that the law allowed no man to be furnished more than once for the same wedding. He was thunder-struck! and begged, prayed, but all in vain, the clerk was inexorable; and with a heavy heart, he returned to find out the fellow who had outwitted him, and traded or swapped him out of his “true and lawful” license. To find him was an easy matter, for the roguish wags who first proposed the joke, had contrived to be unobserved witnesses of all that had taken place since his first bargain, and now appeared in full view, making merry over the cause of all his perplexities. Accosting the man with whom he had bargained, and showing the five dollar bill, he informed him he wanted to trade back. This was hooted at as a thing he would never do, not even for ten times that amount. Almost driven to madness by this unwelcome news, and the jokes they constantly passed on him, he resolved upon a desperate push for the recovery of his treasure. Placing the note in the hands of one of the company, he loudly asserted it was counterfeit; and while all were busy examining, seized the license, which his tormentor held carelessly in his hand, and commenced a race as if for life and death. A sham pursuit was immediately raised, and the “view hallo” started. John Gilpin’s famous race, was nothing compared to this. Now that he had secured his license, he stopped not to peril life and limb, to gain his destined goal.—Blind alleys and high fences, while in the surburbs of the town, stopped not his career,--The tangled thicket, and the brush heap of the forest, stayed not his course—the little hills he jumped over, and the high hills he ran round,--creeks and branches were crossed, the cries of his pursuers constant sounding in his ears, till he was almost exhausted with terror and fatigue. Duck river at last appeared in sight, and he immediately plunged in, trusting to the mercy of ‘wind and wave’ rather than to that of those behind him.

This proved the Rubicon, beyond which his hunters would not go; and being satisfied with having sped him thus far on his journey to the house of his beloved, they returned—yelling and shouting at the glorious sport. Our hero soon arrived at the opposite bank, and emerged from the water, but what a sight!—Had he been a disembodied spirit, just escaped after suffering a shipwreck in the river Styx, he could not have appeared in a more pitiful condition. Wet, and dropping as he was, he pushed on until he arrived at the house of his fair one’s farther, where he narrated all his perils and disasters—dried himself outwardly by a rousing fire—inwardly with a tumbler of hot punch—sent for a clergyman—produced the license, which had been the producing cause of all his troubles, and was married to his bride the same evening. Peace, plenty and happiness be around thee, my worthy friend; prosperity and fruitfulness be the portion of thy wife, and may thy children flourish as the olive trees around thy house.

Franklin (Tenn.) Review.


Source: Spirit of the Times and Life in New York. 7 April 1832 (vol 1, no 17): 1. (University of Virginia Alderman Library).

Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.

We would like to thank the staff of the Library of Virginia Archives and Special Collections, Alderman Library, and Barrett Collection for their assistance. This page contains material in the public domain and it may be reproduced in its entirety or cited for courses, scholarship, or other non-commercial uses. We ask that users cite the source and support the archives that have provided materials to the Spirit site.