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[104] fund of curious and learned anecdote, make him at once the centre and life of a party, which, to be sure, was before neither very lifeless nor very sad. Every day he has something new and strange to tell; and as he takes a particular delight in teasing me, he commonly relates something out of the way respecting our North American Indians, which by a dexterous turn he contrives to make those present think is equally true of the citizens of the United States, and ends by citing some of the strange opinions of Buffon or Raynal to support himself, and put me out of countenance. Of course we come at once into a regular discussion, in which he goes on to allege more perverse authorities against me, calls us a younger and feebler creation, says that we have not yet freed ourselves from the rude manners of the wilderness, etc., etc. This soon finishes with a general laugh, sometimes against one side, sometimes against the other, though oftenest, I think, against me; for, if I have the best of the argument, he always has, and always will have, the best of the joke.

This, however, though it ends the discussion for the time, does not finally conclude it. The next day the old gentleman comes with his books and authorities to support all he had said the day before; and this he is generally able to do by some means or other, for there is nothing so absurd that has not at some time been said about us; and though he knows as well as anybody what is true, and what is exaggerated or false, he proceeds at once to argue for victory and not for truth. Still, with all his inexhaustible learning, he is often unable to find perverse authorities enough to support what in a moment of thoughtless humor he has said merely to tease me; and so, to supply what is wanting in the litera scripta, he invents extemporaneously whatever suits his immediate purpose. Thus, a few days ago, as I had denied that the Americans use the Indian steam-baths made by pouring water upon hot stones, the old gentleman had come with a curious letter of William Penn's on the subject, which he read aloud in English; but as this went no further than to the Indians, and not to the whites, he adroitly inserted a sentence or two gratis, from which it seemed the practice was common in Boston; and he did the thing so admirably that I did not at first suspect the trick. Two days afterwards he undertook to play off a similar joke with a French book. But, as I had luckily remarked that it was printed in 1588, above thirty years before the first colonists came to New England, I obtained at once a famous victory, and turned the laugh decidedly against him.

Yesterday one of the servants of the library came to my room with three huge quartos, and Prof. Blumenbach's compliments, saying they


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