Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > American
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. I–V: American
 
Antony Van Corlear
By Washington Irving (1783–1859)
 
From “Knickerbocker’s History of New York”

THE VERY first movements of the great Peter, on taking the reins of government, displayed his magnanimity, though they occasioned not a little marvel and uneasiness among the people of the Manhattoes. Finding himself constantly interrupted by the opposition, and annoyed by the advice of his privy council, the members of which had acquired the unreasonable habit of thinking and speaking for themselves during the preceding reign, he determined at once to put a stop to such grievous abominations. Scarcely, therefore, had he entered upon his authority than he turned out of office all the meddlesome spirits of the factious cabinet of William the Testy; in place of whom he chose unto himself counselers from those fat, somniferous, respectable burghers who had flourished and slumbered under the easy reign of Walter the Doubter. All these he caused to be furnished with abundance of fair long pipes, and to be regaled with frequent corporation dinners, admonishing them to smoke, and eat, and sleep for the good of the nation, while he took the burden of government upon his own shoulders—an arrangement to which they all gave hearty acquiescence.
  1
  Nor did he stop here, but made a hideous rout among the inventions and expedients of his learned predecessor, rooting up his patent gallows, where caitiff vagabonds were suspended by the waistband; demolishing his flag-staffs and windmills, which, like mighty giants, guarded the ramparts of New Amsterdam; pitching to the duyvel whole batteries of Quaker guns; and, in a word, turning topsy-turvy the whole philosophic, economic and windmill system of the immortal sage of Saardam.  2
  The honest folks of New Amsterdam began to quake now for the fate of their matchless champion, Antony the Trumpeter, who had acquired prodigious favor in the eyes of the women by means of his whiskers and his trumpet. Him did Peter the Headstrong cause to be brought into his presence, and eying him for a moment from head to foot, with a countenance that would have appalled anything else than a sounder of brass—“Pr’ythee, who and what art thou?” said he. “Sire,” replied the other, in nowise dismayed, “for my name, it is Antony Van Corlear; for my parentage, I am the son of my mother; for my profession, I am champion and garrison of this great city of New Amsterdam.” “I doubt me much,” said Peter Stuyvesant, “that thou art some scurvy costard-monger knave. How didst thou acquire this paramount honor and dignity?” “Marry, sir,” replied the other, “like many a great man before me, simply by sounding my own trumpet.” “Aye, is it so?” quoth the Governor; “why, then, let us have a relish of thy art.” Whereupon the good Antony put his instrument to his lips, and sounded a charge with such a tremendous outset, such a delectable quaver, and such a triumphant cadence, that it was enough to make one’s heart leap out of one’s mouth only to be within a mile of it. Like as a war-worn charger, grazing in peaceful plains, starts at a strain of martial music, pricks up his ears, and snorts, and paws, and kindles at the noise, so did the heroic Peter joy to hear the clangor of the trumpet; for of him might truly be said, what was recorded of the renowned St. George of England, “there was nothing in all the world that more rejoiced his heart than to hear the pleasant sound of war, and see the soldiers brandish forth their steeled weapons.” Casting his eye more kindly, therefore, upon the sturdy Van Corlear, and finding him to be a jovial varlet, shrewd in his discourse, yet of great discretion and immeasurable wind, he straightway conceived a vast kindness for him, and discharging him from the troublesome duty of garrisoning, defending and alarming the city, ever after retained him about his person as his chief favorite, confidential envoy and trusty squire. Instead of disturbing the city with disastrous notes, he was instructed to play so as to delight the Governor while at his repasts, as did the minstrels of yore in the days of the glorious chivalry—and on all public occasions to rejoice the ears of the people with warlike melody—thereby keeping alive a noble and martial spirit.  3
 
 
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