The schoolmistress spoke out, and said she didn't think the wit meant any irreverence. It was only another way of saying, Paris is a heavenly place after New York or Boston.
A jaunty-looking person, who had come in with the young fellow they call John, —evidently a stranger,—said there was one more wise man's saying that he had heard it was about our place, but he didn't know who said it—A civil curiosity was manifested by the company to hear the fourth wise saying. I heard him distinctly whispering to the young fellow who brought him to dinner, Shall I tell it? To which the answer was, Go ahead !—Well,—he said,—this was what I heard:—
"Boston State-House is the hub of the solar system. You couldn't pry that out of a Boston man, if you had the tire of all creation straightened out for a crowbar."
Sir,—said I,—I am gratified with your remark. It expresses with pleasing vivacity that which I have sometimes heard uttered with malignant dulness. The satire of the remark is essentially true of Boston,—and of all other considerable—and inconsiderable—places with which I have had the privilege of being acquainted. Cockneys think London is the only place in the world. Frenchmen —you remember the line about Paris, the Court, the World, etc.—I recollect well, by the way, a sign in that city which ran thus: "Hotel de l'Univers et des États Unis"; and as Paris is the universe to a Frenchman, of course the United States are outside of it.—" See Naples and then die."—It is quite as bad with smaller places. I have been about, lecturing, you know, and have found the following propositions to hold true of all of them.
1. The axis of the earth sticks out visibly through the centre of each and every town or city.
2. If more than fifty years have passed since its foundation, it is affectionately styled by the inhabitants the "good old town of" ——(whatever its name may happen to be).
3. Every collection of its inhabitants that comes together to listen to a stranger is invariably declared to be a "remarkably intelligent audience."
4. The climate of the place is particularly favorable to longevity.
5. It contains several persons of vast talent little known to the world. (One or two of them, you may perhaps chance to remember, sent short pieces to the "Pactolian" some time since, which were "respectfully declined.")
Boston is just like other places of its size;—only, perhaps, considering its excellent fish-market, paid fire-department, superior monthly publications, and correct habit of spelling the English language, it has some right to look down on the mob of cities. I'll tell you, though, if you want to know it, what is the real offence of Boston. It drains a large water-shed of its intellect, and will not itself be drained. If it would only send away its first-rate men, instead of its second-rate ones, (no offence to the well-known exceptions, of which we are always proud,) we should be spared such epigrammatic remarks as that which the gentleman has quoted. There can never be a real metropolis in this country, until the biggest centre can drain the lesser ones of their talent and wealth—I have observed, by the way, that the people who really live in two great cities are by no means so jealous of each other, as are those of smaller cities situated within the intellectual basin, or suction-range, of one large one, of the pretensions of any other. Don't you see why? Because their promising young author and rising lawyer and large capitalist have been drained off to the neighboring big city,—their prettiest girl has been exported to the same market; all their ambition points there, and all their thin gilding of glory comes from there. I hate little toad-eating cities.