The Past is a Foreign...Something

Bubbles, Apparently


This both charmed and baffled me when I ran across it:


Hurrah for bubbles! I go for bubbles, my dear – stopping for a moment on his way through the large drawing-rooms, and looking at his wife and the baby, very much as a painter might do, while in labor with a new picture. ‘Bubbles are the only things worth living for!’

‘Bubbles, Peter! – be quiet baby! – hush, my love, hush! Papa can’t take you now!’ Baby jumps at the table.

‘Confound the imp! There goes the inkstand.’

‘Yes, my dear – and the spectacles – and the lamp –and all your papers. And what else could you expect, pray? Here he’s been trying to make you stop and speak to him, every time you have gone by the table, for the last half hour, and holding out his little arms to you, while you have been walking to and fro as if you were walking for a wager, with your eyes rolled up in your head, muttering to yourself — mutter, mutter, mutter — and taking no more notice of him, poor little fellow! than if he was a rag baby, or belonged to someone else’

‘Oh don’t bother! – little arms, indeed! – about the size of my leg – I do wish he’d be quiet – I’m thinking out a problem.’

‘A problem! fiddl-de-dee! [sic] – hush baby! – a magazine article, more like – will you hush!’

Papa turns away in despair, muttering with a voice that grows louder and louder as he warms up – ‘wisdom and wit are bubbles! – “atoms and systems into ruin hurled and men a bubbleburst! – and now a world!” – I have it – hurrah! – can’t you keep that child still !’


“Bubbles!” n.p., n.d., Box 5: Documents & Manuscripts, Cataloged, Park Benjamin Papers, Rare Books & Manuscripts Library, Butler Library, Columbia University

An archivist’s note on the document itself attributes the piece to John Neal (1793-1876). Emphasis and quotation marks are as in original.

Image cite: Aeioux, “Bubbles,” Flickr, CC License