The Trippings of Tom Pepper

"As you say, his lies are not brilliant, but they never slack up—they are always on time. Some of them are awkward—very stupid and awkward—but that is to be expected, of course, where a man is at it so constantly and exhaustively..."
—Mark Twain, "Remarkable Dream"

No, that quote isn't about Donald Trump, nor is it actually about Tom Pepper, although he is a character in Mark Twain's fable. The nautical legend of Tom Pepper—"who was such a preposterous liar that he couldn't get to heaven and they wouldn't have him in hell"—goes back years, perhaps centuries, before Charles Frederick Briggs gave up his life as a sailor and took up the pen. While The Adventures of Harry Franco may have been his most popular and successful novel, The Trippings of Tom Pepper was certainly his most notorious, for its unflattering depictions of the literary circles of New York, not to mention its plethora of satirically-drawn characters reflecting various aspects of contemporary urban life. Tom Pepper has been referenced, quoted, praised, and denigrated, but it is quite difficult to obtain an actual complete copy today. Hence my determination to provide one.

The primary source for Volume I [1847] is the following (erroneously listed as Volume II):

Because some pages of that copy are cropped, I also relied upon this source as a backup:

Volume II [1850] is not available online, as far as I can tell. However, I had the great fortune to find it on microfilm at NAU Cline Library, and scanned it there. Here is the online catalog entry:

I must admit that the source material, being in such sad shape, was vexing. My OCR software often failed to recognize passages, even entire pages. Free trials of several, more expensive alternatives, failed to do a better job. Ultimately, I resigned myself to the necessity of manually retyping a good deal of it. It didn't take me long, however, to arrive at the conclusion that the ongoing effort was quite worthwhile.

Previously, in transcribing certain works, I was careful to preserve variant spellings which I considered possibly reflective of the setting. For example, in Harry Franco, I preserved the flipping back and forth of "cigar" vs. "segar." Lately, I am of the opinion that such variation was merely the sloppiness of the publisher in translating a serial novel from magazine to book form. In that light, while preparing this edition, I chose to standardize certain spellings that appeared inconsistently: most notably "canvass" to "canvas," and "Glenlivat" to "Glenlivet." Some character names seem to have been revised for book form, and a few apparent slips in the text are corrected accordingly. Other obvious typographical errors, including inconsistent chapter numbers, are corrected, and I have standardized the use of double vs. single quotes, and of apostrophes. Otherwise—and in adherence to principles which I have stated for my previous publications—not one sentence has been intentionally omitted or altered grammatically.

Were I a true scholar, of course, I would document every deviation from the printed text. Sorry, folks, that's not my bag. I leave that exercise to another.

So here it is: the master HTML version, the home-brew Kindle version, and the actual Amazon publication.

Like many a serially published novel, it is neither deep nor difficult, nor does it maintain scrupulous self-consistency. Admittedly, Briggs is a relatively minor author, and his works scarcely world masterpieces. Nonetheless, Tom Pepper remains a fascinating and entertaining account of life in New York during the early 1800's.

As Mr. Wilton says: "There! taste of that you dog! Is it good, ha?"

April 22, 2020

ffred's nearly-forgotten treasures