TABLE ETIQUETTE IN ILLINOIS
Dear Sir—I presume it is within your recollection that during the years 1835—6 there was a regular Western Land Fever, raging throughout this country, and Western Lands and the Western Country was considered the “ El Dorado” of the Lord knows what. I was, unfortunately, attacked with the disease, and started out for the West one fine morning with a small carpetbag pretty well filled with the “ promises to pay” of some, now defunct, bank or other. However, they got value from me, and I exchanged their bits of paper for others, purporting to be Patents, Deeds, Claims &c., and came home, in my opinion, a millionaire, at least ; but somehow or other, I never could tell exactly how it was, but I held on “a leetle too long,” and for that reason am holding on now. I never look at these papers if I can help it, for it makes one feel disposed “ to take profanity the natural way.” But these Land Agents write me regularly once a year, and tell me lands are improving, some great State work is going to be “did,” and my lands are going to rise, and ask me very politely if I am going to pay my taxes ; of course, I believe all they say,--get out the papers, dust them off, look them over, and pay. ‘Tis melancholy business to commence upon, but I always have a good laugh before I get through, and as you look well when you laugh, I’ll tell you.
While in Illinois, I happened to buy a couple of Sections of land of a genuine “ Sucker,” who had been for the last twenty years in the Western wilderness, and was, consequently, a trifle behind the age in politeness and fashionable movements. After the purchase it became necessary for him to go with me to Quincy to arrange the papers with lawyers ; and as he was under my charge, or rather, as I liquidated the transituary expenses we “ put up” together at the Quincy House, kept by Munro, in a manner not inferior to any house west of the Alleganies. As I heard much of this house, my head quarters, during my perigrinations in search of desirable lands (and be ------ to ‘em,) I was acquainted with nearly all the people that “ fed thar,” who were mostly from the East, and preserved a certain degree of politeness and etiquette ! Being disposed to make my “ sucker” friend as comfortable as possible, I introduced him to a number of my acquaintances, all of whom conversed with him freely, but any attempt on his part to start a conversation with any one to whom he had not been introduced, happened to prove a failure, and he soon made the discovery that it was a useless expenditure of breath to talk to people in that place without first being introduced.
At dinner he appeared much astonished to see the knives so clean, and the fork was a perfect enigma to him—he could see no possible use for it. He was singularly impatient during the discussion of the soup, which he disdained to touch as being altogether too  vapid for his use, but amused himself in devouring his bread.
After the soup was removed and he was bountifully supplied with meats and vegetables, and was stowing them away with great “ gusto,” he stopped suddenly, and I thought he was choked; but after looking about the table, and at the waiter for some little time, he says to me with the greatest possible gravity— “I wish you would introduce me to this gentleman (pointing over his shoulder to the waiter), for I want some bread and I am not acquainted with him !”
I didn’t eat any more dinner that day, and have never seen his signature to the deed he gave me since, without having a glorious laugh.
Yours, &c. HARRY R.
Source: New York Spirit of the Times 15.44 (27 December 1845): 518. University of Virginia Alderman Library.
Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.
 Original text reads “to.”
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