|Collection||NY Historical Society|
|Dates of Creation||1847/11/17|
|Scope & Content||
Stony Brook, Nov 17th, 1847
My dear Lanman,
Since I received your letter I have been quite unwell. I endeavoured to write you on Sunday but it was no go. I was pleased to see by the Evening Post that your work "Summer in the Wilderness" had been favourably reviewed by the London Athenaeum and Examiner. I thank you for the art notices.
I should like to see Mr. Tuckerman's new work. He wrote to me for materials for a sketch of myself to be inserted in it, but I did not comply, having previously declined a similar request made by Mr. Lester. Though I felt highly complimented that he should consider me deserving of a notice. You desire me to write you something about Flat-fish, etc. In doing so, I fancy that I cannot add to your stock of knowledge upon that subject.
To those wishing exercise for their health the spearing of fish has the advantage over all others. I have derived great benefit from it. An old Negro by the name of Hector gave me the first lesson in spearing flat-fish, and eels. Early one morning we were along shore according to appointment, it was calm, and the water was as clear as a mirror, every object perfectly distinct to the depth from one to twelve feet, now and then could be seen an eel darting through the sea weed, or a flatfish shifting his
place and throwing the sand over his body for salty. "Steady there at the stern," said Hector, as he stood on the bow (with his spear held ready) looking into the element with all the philosophy of a Crane, while I would watch his motions, and move the boat according to the direction of his spear. "Slow now, we are coming on the ground,"-on sandy and gravelly bottoms are found the best fish. "Look out for the eyes," observes Hector, as he hauls in a flat fish, out of his bed of gravel, "he will grease the pan my boy," as the fish makes the water fly about in the boat. The old negro mutters to himself with a great deal of satisfaction, "fine day, not a cloud, we will make old mistress laugh, now creep-in fishing you must learn to creep," as he kept hauling in the flat-fish, and eels, right and left, with his quick and unering hand. "Stop the boat," shouts Hector, "shove a little back, more to the left, the sun bothers me - that will do, now young Master step this way. I will learn you to see and catch flat-fish. There," pointing with his spear, "dont you see those eyes, how they shine like diamonds." I looked for some time and finally assented that I did- "Well, now, dont you see the form of the whole fish (a noble one) as he lies covered lightly in the sand. Very good, now" says he, "I will strike it in the head," and away went his
iron and the clear bottom was nothing but a cloud of moving sand, caused by the death struggle. The old negro gave a grunt and sang out "I am a little negro but oh! Lord," as he threw his whole weight upon his spear. "I must drown him first, he is a crooked mouth, by golly." The fish proved to be a large flounder, and the way old Hector shouted was a caution to all wind instruments.
The negros here call a flounder a crooked mouth. l he mouth of the flounder is placed differently from the rusty Flat-fish. Dr. Deery I believe does not mention it in his description but the engravings show the difference. When flat-fish are out of their beds it often takes an experienced eye to see them, the body being covered over with brownish or rusty spots resembling the ground or bottom. The common flat-fish are at times extremely active and wide awake, they will often turn summerset before the spear reaches them and escape, and also move along with the shadow of the boat to keep out of sight. The above are important facts, and you can arrange the materials I send you as your fancy may dictate. I commenced to day, a portrait of Mrs. Eliza Smith, the mother of Charlotte. You remember "the partridge like bosom." My sister sends her best regards.
Yours very truly
Wm. S. Mount