Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Granny who was a man

GRANNY NEDDY SPOONEY, of the Star, is very indignant at us, and shakes her withered fist, and snaps her toothless jaws at us in a very unfeminine and unbecoming manner. How naughty in a dignified and pious old lady thus to

--unpack her heart in words,
And fall to cursing like a very drab.

Ah! well, times aint now as they used to was, and these "Woman's rights Conventions" are rapidly unsexing the sex, and making breeches in the ranks of maidenly propriety. Poor Spooney !

"We could have better spared a better wo-man."...

OUR GRANDMOTHER is most respectively informed that it is not for us to explain or reconcile the resolution, cited by her, with the actual facts of the transaction. All we know is that our statement was literally true, and that the city bore none of the expenses consequent upon the Coney Island clam-bake and its "savage" guests. You have flourished your broomstick in the wrong direction, granny....

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Wednesday, July 17, 1850

Wow. What IS this? Could the Eagle really write something so cruel about an elderly woman?

Nah. Sounds like "Ned Spooney" (not sure that was his real name) was a man who edited the Brooklyn Star. Google and Bing don't offer any leads. The whole thing seems to have started a bit earlier. I guess the newspaper liked to berate someone named Ranger.

The smart one from the Jersey woods is particularly anxious that some person will do him the favor to "bay the moon. If it were BRAYING at the moon, or any other luminary, Master Ranger is the very individual for the job.--Brooklyn Star.

Spooney continues to wax facetious, and countless are the jibes and jokes that our venerable monitor showers down upon the terrible individual from the "Jarsey woods." Ranger is impervious to sarcasm, but nevertheless we would advise him to lay low while the dog "Star" rages. Let him remember the old nursery rhyme:

High diddle diddle,
Uncle Ned's cornstalk fiddle,
In the paws of a funny Galphin cooney ;
Let "Jarsey" clar de track;
And never once look back,
If he would avoid a whack
From the pen of a Long Island Spooney.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Tuesday, July 9, 1850

A CARD.--Grandmother Spooney, of the Star, known as the Mrs. Partington of the Brooklyn press, is respectfully informed that we shall prescribe for her complaint (which we believe to be "chronic fidgets,") at our earliest convenience.--Her attack on Saturday last has a Holmes-pun appearnce which commends itself to our sympathies. In the meantime we caution the old lady to be sparing in the use of snuff, and to soak her head nightly before going to bed.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Monday, July 15, 1850

Mrs. Partington was a fictional character--a kind-hearted but not so bright aunt caring for her young nephew Ike. Bartleby.com notes their relationship is a lot like Tom Sawyer and Aunt Polly. SeacoastNH.com's printing of one of the stories sounds a lot like the other two I read. So anyway, they're likening the newspaper editor to this woman.

Then shortly after the Coney citation above, there's a poem "To the Lady Florence", by "Ranger," that has this brilliant line:

A "broken heart" is a thing quickly mended
(Mine has been broken quite often,)
And people who lose their intended
Don't often resort to a coffin.

It ends:

MY DEAR EAGLE:--The above limps somewhat in measure, and is slightly crippled in metre. Let Spooney of the Star, harpoon its imperfections, and bless the benevolence which induced me to toss him another bone....

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Monday, July 15, 1850

Note the pronoun "him" to confirm that they're facetiously calling this character a grandmother.

And the volleys continue:

Mr. Crawford, it is said, is preparing a letter to be laid before the House of Representatives, offering to deposit the money received by him from the Gaphin claim, or to submit to the decision of the Supreme Court in the matter. This does not look like dishonesty. What does our neighbor of the Eagle say to it? Restitution and thievery do not inhabit generally the same breast.--Star.

What does the Eagle say to it? We say just what Spooney says--that "it is said, Mr. Crawford, &c. It is also "said" that the moon is made of green cheese. What does our neighbor of the Star say to it ?

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Thursday, July 18, 1850

That seems to have ended the matter, at least on the Eagle's side. Well, at least, there didn't seem to be any more references to "Spooney" as a character through 1860 or so.

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