Salmagundi, chapter 17


From: Salmagundi, No. XVII, Wednesday, November 17, 1807

How Gotham city conquered was,

And how the folk turn'd apes because. Link. Fid.

ALBEIT, much about this time it did fall out that the thrice renowned and delectable city of GOTHAM did suffer great discomfiture, and was reduced to perilous extremity, by the invasion and assaults of the HOPPINGTOTS. These are a people inhabiting a far distant country, exceedingly pleasaunte and fertile ; but they being withal egregiously addicted to migrations do thence issue forth in mighty swarms, like the Scythians of old, overrunning divers countries, and commonwealths, and committing great devastations wheresoever they do go, by their horrible and dreadful feats and prowesses. They are specially noted for being right valorous in all exercises of the leg; and of them it hath been rightly affirmed that no nation in all Christendom or elsewhere, can cope with them in the adroit, dexterous, and jocund shaking of the heel.

This engaging excellence doth stand unto them a sovereign recommendation, by the which they do insinuate themselves into universal favour and good countenance ; and it is a notable fact, that, let a Hoppingtot but once introduce a foot into company, and it goeth hardly if he doth not contrive to flourish his whole body in thereafter. The learned Linkum Fidelius, in his famous and unheard-of treatise on man, whom he defineth, with exceeding sagacity, to be a corn-cutting, toothdrawing animal, is particularly minute and elaborate in treating of the nation of the Hoppingtots, and betrays a little of the Pythagorean in his theory, inasmuch as he accounteth for their being so wonderously adroit in pedestrian exercises, by supposing that they did originally acquire this unaccountable and unparalleled aptitude for huge and unmatchable feats of the leg, by having heretofore been condemned for their numerous offences against that harmless race of bipeds or quadrupeds, for herein the sage Linkum Fidelius appeareth to doubt and waver exceedingly the frogs, to animate their bodies for the space of one or two generations.

He also giveth it as his opinion, that the name of Hoppingtots is manifestly derivative from this transmigration. Be this, however, as it may, the matter, albeit it hath been the subject of controversy among the learned, is but little pertinent to the subject of this history; wherefore shall we treat and consider it as naughte.

Now these people being thereto impelled by a superfluity of appetite, and a plentiful deficiency of the wherewithal to satisfy the same, did take thought that the antient and venerable city of Gotham, was, peradventure, possessed of mighty treasures, and did, moreover, abound with all manner of fish and flesh, and eatables and drinkables, and such like delightsome and wholesome excellencies withal. Whereupon calling a council of the most active heeled warriors, they did resolve forthwith to put forth a mighty array, make themselves masters of the same, and revel in the good things of the land. To this were they hotly stirred up, and wickedly incited, by two redoubtable and renowned warriors, hight PIROUET and RIGADOON; ycleped in such sort, by reason that they were two mighty, valiant, and invincible little men; utterly famous for the victories of the leg which they had, on divers illustrious occasions, right gallantly achieved.

These doughty champions did ambitiously and wickedly inflame the minds of their countrymen, with gorgeous descriptions, in the which they did cunninglie set forth the marvellous riches and luxuries of Gotham; where Hoppingtots might have garments for their bodies, shirts to their ruffles, and might riot most merrily every day in the week on beef, pudding, and such like lusty dainties. They, Pirouet and Rigadoon, did likewise hold out hopes of an easy conquest; forasmuch as the Gothamites were as yet but little versed in the mystery and science of handling the legs; and being, moreover, like unto that notable bully of antiquity, Achilles, most vulnerable to all attacks on the heel, would doubtless surrender at the very first assault. Whereupon, on the hearing of this inspiriting counsel, the Hoppingtots did set up a prodigious great cry of joy, shook their heels in triumph, and were all impatience to dance on to Gotham and take it by storm.

The cunning Pirouet and the arch caitiff Rigadoon, knew full well how to profit of this enthusiasm. They forthwith did order every man to arm himself with a certain pestilent little weapon, called a fiddle; to pack up in his knapsack a pair of silk breeches, the like of ruffles, a cocked hat of the form of a half-moon, a bundle of catgut and inasmuch as in marching to Gotham, the army might, peradventure, be smitten with scarcity of provisions, they did account it proper that each man should take especial care to carry with him a bunch of right merchantable onions. Having proclaimed these orders by sound of fiddle, they, Pirouet and Rigadoon, did accordingly put their army behind them, and striking up the right jolly and sprightful tune of Ca Ira, away they all capered towards the devoted city of Gotham, with a most horrible and appalling mattering of voices.

Of their first appearance before the beleaguered town, and of the various difficulties which did encounter them in their march, this history saith not; being that other matters of more weighty import require to be written. When that the army of the Hoppingtots did peregrinate within sight of Gotham, and the people of the city did behold the villainous and hitherto unseen capers, and grimaces, which they did make, a most horrific panic was stirred up among the citizens; and the sages of the town fell into great despondency and tribulation, as supposing that these invaders were of the race of the Jig-hees, who did make men into baboons when they achieved a conquest over them. The sages, therefore, called upon all the dancing men, and dancing women, and exhorted them with great vehemency of speech, to make heel against the invaders, and to put themselves upon such gallant defence, such glorious array, and such sturdy evolution, elevation, and transposition of the foot as might incontinently impester the legs of the Hoppingtots, and produce their complete discomfiture. But so it did happen, by great misclmnce, that divers light-heeled youth of Gotham, more especially those who are descended from three wise men, so renowned of yore for having most venturesomely voyaged over sea in a bowl, were, from time to time, captured and inveigled into the camp of the enemy ; where, being foolishly cajoled and treated for a season with outlandish disports and pleasantries, they were sent back to their friends, entirely changed, degenerated, and turned topsy-turvy; insomuch that they thought thenceforth of nothing but their heels, always essaying to thrust them into the most manifest point of view ; and, in a word, as might truly be affirmed, did for ever after walk upon their heads outright.

And the Hoppingtots did day by day, and at late hours of the night, wax more and more urgent in this their investment of the city. At one time they would, in goodly procession, make an open assault by sound of fiddle in a tremendous contra dance; and anon they would advance by little detachments and manoeuvres to take the town by figuring in cotillions. But truly their most cunning and devilish craft, and subtilty, was made manifest in their strenuous endeavours to corrupt the garrison, by a most insidious and pestilent dance called the Waltz. This, in good truth, was a potent auxiliary; for, by it, were the heads of the simple Gothamites most villainously turned, their wits sent a wool-gathering, and themselves on the point of surrendering at discretion even unto the very arms of their invading foemen.

At length the fortifications of the town began to give manifest symptoms of decay; inasmuch as the breastwork of decency was considerably broken down, and the curtain works of propriety blown up. When that the cunning caitiff Pirouet beheld the ticklish and jeopardized state of the city " Now, by my leg," quoth he, he alwaya swore by his leg, being that it was an exceeding goodlie leg; " Now, by my leg," quoth he, " but this is no great matter of recreation; I will show these people a pretty, strange, and new way forsooth, presentlie, and will shake the dust off my pumps upon this most obstinate and uncivilized town." Whereupon he ordered, and did command his warriors, one and all, that they should put themselves in readiness, and prepare to carry the town by a GRAND BALL. They, in no wise to be daunted, do forthwith, at the word, equip themselves for the assault ; and in good faith, truly, it was a gracious and glorious sight, a most triumphant and incomparable spectacle, to behold them gallantly arrayed in glossy and shining silk breeches tied with abundance of riband; with silken hose of the gorgeous colour of the salmon ; right goodlie morocco pumps decorated with clasps or buckles of a most cunninge and secret contrivance, inasmuch as they did of themselves grapple to the shoe without any aid of fluke or tongue, marvellously ensembling witchcraft and necromancy. They had, withal, exuberant chitterlings ; which puffed out at the neck and bosom, after a most jolly fashion, like unto the beard of an antient he-turkey ; and cocked hats, the which they did carry not on their heads, after the fashion of the Gothamites, but under their arms, as a roasted fowl his gizzard. Thus being equipped, and marshalled, they do attack, assault, batter and belabour the town with might and main; most gallantly displaying the vigour of their legs, and shaking their heels at it most emphatically. And the manner of their attack was in this sort; first, they did thunder and gallop forward in a contre-temps; and anon, displayed column in a Cossack dance, a fandango, or a gavot. Whereat the Gothamites, in no wise understanding this unknown system of warfare, marvelled exceedinglie, and did open their mouths incontinently, the full distance of a bow-shot, meaning a cross-bow, in sore dismay and apprehension. Whereupon, saith Eigadoon, flourishing his left leg with great expression of valour, and most magnific carriage, "my copesmates, for what wait we here; are not the townsmen already won to our favour? do not their! women and young damsels wave to us from the walls in such sort that, albeit there is some show of defence, yet is it manifestly converted into our interests?" so saying, he made no more ado, but leaping into the air about a flight-shot, and crossing his feet six times, after the manner of the Hoppingtots, he gave a short partridge-run, and with mighty vigour and swiftness did bolt outright over the walls with a somerset. The whole army of Hoppingtots danced in after their valiant chieftain, with an enormous squeaking of fiddles, and a horrific blasting and brattling of horns insomuch that the dogs did howl in the streets, so hideously were their ears assailed. The Gothamites made some semblance of defence, but their women having been all won over into the interest of the enemy, they were shortly reduced to make most abject submission; and delivered over to the coercion of certain professors of the Hoppingtots, who did put them under most ignominious durance, for the space of a long time, until they had learned to turn out their tec, and nourish their legs after the true manner of their conquerors. And thus, after the manner I have related, was the mighty and puissant city of Gotham circumvented, and taken by a coup de pied: or as it might by rendered, by force of legs.

The conquerors showed no mercy, but did put all ages, sexes, and conditions to the fiddle and the dance; and, in a word, compelled and enforced them to become absolute Hoppingtots. "Habit," as the ingenious Linkum Fidelius profoundly affirmeth, " is second nature." And this original and invaluable observation hath been most aply proved, and illustrated, by the example of the Gothamites, ever since this disastrous and unlucky mischance. In process of time, they have waxed to be most flagrant, outrageous, and abandoned dancers; they do ponder on noughte but how to gallantize it at balls, routs, and fandangoes ; insomuch that the like was in no time or place ever observed before. They do, moreover, pitifully devote their nights to the jollification of the legs, and their days forsooth to the instruction and edification of the heel. And to conclude ; their young folk, who whilome did bestow a modicum of leisure upon the improvement of the head, have of late utterly abandoned this hopeless task ; and have quietly, as it were, settled themselves down into mere machines, wound up by a tune, and set in motion by a fiddle-stick!