Working a Passage, and Other Stories

Could a better reason have been given for a pig being found in one's parlour? I have seen guests in parlours since, whose presence could not be accounted for in half so satisfactory a manner.Working a Passage


The authority of a ship-master, like that of a slave-owner, is too great not to be abused. It is not in human nature to resist the temptation to tyranny that our law holds out to ship-masters. Men cannot help holding in contempt those over whom they exercise unlimited control.Working a Passage


We have entire faith in our ability to bring out the required supply of American novels and romances. Like the gold in the gulches of the Rocky Mountains, they are only waiting for a little adventurous prospecting to bring them to light.—"The Old and the New"

While that last quote refers specifically to the editor's discovery and publication of original American literature, I find it applicable today to my own recovery of such nearly-forgotten treasures, due to the fact that complete, historic collections of The Knickerbocker, Putnam's Monthly, and Atlantic Monthly are available online, if only in the form of scanned images and sadly flawed OCR text. I could easily spend the rest of my life delving into, extracting, and refining those lodes, but I'm not satisfied simply with that. Like a true armchair scholar, I am frustrated by enticing leads which I cannot readily follow.

When I first encountered Charles Frederick Briggs, and decided to transcribe and publish a Kindle edition of The Adventures of Harry Franco, I searched for other works, and learned that two significant works of his were not available online in digital form: Working a Passage, and The Trippings of Tom Pepper, Volume II. Fortunately, I found both at NAU Cline Library here in Flagstaff, the former in book form, and the latter on microfilm.

Since then, I have encountered other, similar situations, but not so readily resolved. While researching digital resources for The History of Rinaldo Rinaldini, I discovered the original English translation, which unfortunately was only available through a library subscribing to Gale ECCO, the closest of which is in Gallup, NM. Most recently, while transcribing Lois Waisbrooker's The Wherefore Investigating Company, I encountered an intriguing review of Daughters of Cain in the Land of Nod, by A. M. Freeman, only to find no digital version available, and the closest print edition reported by WorldCat to be in Illinois.

The text of Working a Passage, or Life in a Liner, was scanned from a photographic reproduction of the 1846 edition, published by Garrett Press, New York, 1970. The text of Asmodeus; or, the Iniquities of New York is taken from this scan of the 1849 edition. The text of the remaining short works is taken from these digital collections of The Knickerbocker and Putnam's Monthly. Obvious typographical errors are corrected; although many spellings are preserved that are common to the times, a few variations are standardized to a single form, notably won't and ain't. For the most part, I have left Shakspeare vs. Shakespeare alone, save where the spellings conflict in the same piece, in which case I enforce the latter.

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

As the narrator of Working a Passage says: "I am entirely in favour of temperance, even total abstinence; but if I were a captain or owner of a ship, she should never go to sea without whiskey."

July 28, 2021


Appendix: The Pinto Letters

One extraordinary period of Briggs' literary endeavors was the publication of a series of letters in 1846 and 1847, from a "foreign correspondent," satirizing not only the current vogue of Anglophilia, but also the willingness of otherwise somewhat sane American citizens to defend the "Peculiar Institution" of slavery.

While I do not include that material in this published anthology of short works, nonetheless I have transcribed the Pinto Letters as collected by Bette S. Wiedmann, and present them here.

ffred's nearly-forgotten treasures