Three Open Letters by Edgar Wilson Bill Nye
Colonel John L. Sullivan, at large:
DEAR SIRWill you permit me, without wishing to give you the
slightest offense, to challenge you to fight in France with bare
knuckles and police interference, between this and the close of
I have had no real good fight with anybody for some time, and should
be glad to co-operate with you in that direction, preferring, however,
to have it attended to in time so that I can go on with my fall
plowing. I should also like to be my own stake holder.
We shall have to fight at 135 pounds, because I can not train above
that figure without extra care and good feeding, while you could train
down to that, I judge, if you begin to go without food on receipt of
this challenge. I should ask that we fight under the rules of the
London prize ring, in the Opera House in Paris. If you decide to
accept, I will engage the house at once and put a few good reading
notices in the papers.
I should expect a forfeit of $5,000 to be put up, so that in case
you are in jail at the time, I may have something to reimburse me for
my trip to Paris and the general upheaval of my whole being which
arises from ocean travel.
I challenge you as a plain American citizen and an amateur,
partially to assert the rights of a simple tax-payer and partly to
secure for myself a name. I was, as a boy, the pride of my parents, and
they wanted me to amount to something. So far, the results have been
different. Will you not aid me, a poor struggler in the great race for
supremacy, to obtain that notice which the newspapers now so
reluctantly yield? You are said to be generous to a fault, especially
your own faults, and I plead with you now to share your great fame by
accepting my challenge and appearing with me in a mixed programme for
the evening, in which we will jointly amuse and instruct the people,
while at the same time it will give me a chance to become great in one
day, even if I am defeated.
I have often admired your scholarly and spiritual expressions, and
your modest life, and you will remember that at one time I asked you
for your autograph, and you told me to go where the worm dieth not and
the fire department is ineffectual. Will you not, I ask, aid a
struggler and panter for fame, who desires the eye of the public, even
if his own be italicised at the same time?
I must close this challenge, which is in the nature of an appeal to
one of America's best-known men. Will you accept my humble challenge,
so that I can go into training at once? We can leave the details of the
fight to the Mail and Express, if you will, and the championship
belt we can buy afterward. All I care for is the honor of being mixed
up with you in some way, and enough of the gate money to pay for arnica
and medical attendance.
Will you do it?
I know the audience would enjoy seeing us dressed for the fray, you
so strong and so wide, I so pensive and so flat busted about the chest.
Let us proceed at once, Colonel, to draw up the writings and begin to
train. You will never regret it, I am sure, and it will be the making
I do not know your address, but trust that this will reach you
through this book, for, as I write, you are on you way toward Canada,
with a requisition and the police reaching after you at every town.
I am glad to hear that you are not drinking any more, especially
while engaged in sleep. If you only confine your drinking to your
waking hours, you may live to be a very old man, and your great,
massive brain will continue to expand until your hat will not begin to
What do you think of Browning? I should like to converse with you on
the subject before the fight, and get your soul's best sentiments on
his style of intangible thought wave.
I will meet you at Havre or Calais, and agree with you how hard we
shall hit each other. I saw, at a low variety show the other day, two
pleasing comedians who welted each other over the stomach with canes,
and also pounded each other on the head with sufficient force to
explode percussion caps on the top of the skull, and yet without
injury. Do you not think that a prize-fight could be thus provided for?
I will see these men, if you say so, and learn their methods.
Remember, it is not the punishment of a prize-fight for which I
yearn, but the effulgent glory of meeting you in the ring, and having
the cables and the press associate my budding name with that of a man
who has done so much to make men bettera man whose name will go down
to posterity as that of one who sought to ameliorate and mellow and
desiccate his fellow-men.
I will now challenge you once more, with great respect, and beg
leave to remain, yours very truly,
Hon. Ferdinand de Lesseps, Paris, France:
DEAR SIRI have some shares in the canal which you have been
working on, and I am compelled to hypothecate them this summer, in
order to paint my house. You have great faith in the future of the
enterprise, and so I will give you the first chance on this stock of
mine. You have suffered so much in order to do this work that I want to
see the stock get into your hands. You deserve it. You shall have it.
Ferdie, if you will send me a post-office money order by return mail,
covering the par value of five hundred shares, I will lose the premium,
because I am a little pressed for money. The painters will be through
next week, and will want their pay.
As I say, I want to see you own the canal, for in fancy I can see
you as you toiled down there in the hot sun, floating your wheelbarrow
and your bonds down the valley with your perspiration. I can see you in
the morning, with hot, red hands and a tin dinner pail, going to your
toil, a large red cotton handkerchief sticking out of your hip pocket.
So I have decided that you ought to have control, if possible, of
this great water front; besides, you have a larger family than I have
to support. When I heard that you were the father of fifteen little
children, and that you were in the sere and yellow leaf, I said to
myself, a man with that many little mouths to feed, at the age of
eighty, shall have the first crack at my stock. And so, if you will
send the face value as soon as possible, I will say bong jaw, messue.
To the Seven Haired Sisters, 'Steenth Street, New York:
MESDAMES, MAMSELLES AND FELLOW-CITIZENSI write these few lines to
say that I am well and hope this will find you all enjoying the same
great blessing. How pleasant it is for sisters to dwell together in
unity and beloved by mankind. You must indeed have a good time standing
in the window day after day, pulling your long hair through your
fingers with pride. When I first saw you all thus engaged, for the
benefit of the public, I thought it was a candy pull.
I now write to say that the hair promoter which you sold me at the
time is not up to its work. It was a year ago that I bought it, and I
think that in a year something ought to show. It is a great nuisance
for a public man who is liable to come home late at night to have to
top-dress his head before he can retire. Your directions involve great
care and trouble to a man in my position, and still I have tried
faithfully to follow them. What is the result? Nothing but
disappointment, and not so very much of that.
You said, if you remember, that your father was a bald-headed
clergyman, but one day, with a wild shriek of Eureka! he discovered
this hair encourager, and for the rest of his life filled his high hat
with hair every time he put it on. You said that at first a fine growth
of down, like the inside of a mouse's ear, would be seen, after that
the blade, then the stalk, and the full corn in the ear. In a pig's
ear, I am now led to believe.
Fair, but false seven-haired sisters, I now bid you adieu. You have
lost in me a good, warm, true-hearted, and powerful friend. Ask me not
for my indorsement, or for my before and after taking pictures to use
in your circulars; I give my kind words and photographs hereafter to
the soap men. They are what they seem. You are not.
When a woman betrays me she must beware. And when seven of them do
so, it is that much worse. You fooled me with smiles and false
promises, and now it will be just as well for you to look out. I would
rather die than be betrayed. It is disagreeable. It sours one, and also
Here at this point our ways will diverge. The roads fork at this
place. I shall go on upward and onward hairless and cappy, also
careless and happy, to my goal in life. I do not know whether each or
either of you have provided yourselves with goals or not, but if not
you will do well now to select some. The world may smile upon you, and
gold pour into your coffers, but the day will come when you will have
to wrap the drapery of your hair about you and lie down to pleasant
dreams. Then will arise the thought, alas!Then You'll Remember Me.
I now close this letter, leaving you to the keen pangs of remorse
and the cruel jabs of unavailing regret. Some people are born bald,
others acquire baldness, whilst still others have baldness thrust upon
them with a paint brush. Some are bald on the outside of their heads,
others on the inside. But oh, girls, beware of baldness on the soul. I
ask you, even if you are the daughters of a clergyman, to think
seriously of what I have said.