Henry Livingston, Jr.
1791 New-York Magazine; or Literary Repository

A tongue-firmly-stuck-in-cheek description, not of a fruit

Van Deusen-Kosinski Collection

New-York Magazine; or, Literary Repository
July, 1791, p.378-9

The Honey-dew

For the New-York Magazine.

Messrs. Swords,

IF all the phenomena of nature were faithfully registered, besides the satisfaction resulting to the public from novel relations, natural history would receive important additions.

On the 18th day of the last month, I was surveying in the woods about a mile west from Hudson's river, and eighty miles north of the city of New-York. At noon, the sky being perfectly clear, and the sun shining hot, I remarked that the whole forest glistened in a manner not less uncommon than beautiful.

Surveying in field

I at first imagined it occasioned by either rain or dew, till, upon a moment's reflection, I found it could not be the former, as there was not a cloud to be seen, not the latter, as it must long before have disappeared in a day so warm and serene. Some of the company declared they had observed similar appearances before, and called it honey-dew. Every green leaf on the trees, as well as those that were dry under our feet, were covered with a substance perfectly transparent, and in taste not inferior to dissolved sugar-candy. We could not refrain continually drawing the foliage between our lips to taste a syrup that fresh from heaven.

The preceding night had been clear and still, and a small southern breeze blew all morning. It is probably that this modern manna would have been discernable by the taste in the morning, but it was not noticed till the heat of the meridian sun inspissated and gave it the appearance of an elegant varnish.

I have seen accounts of this phenomenon in the Connecticut newspapers, which determine its extension above an hundred miles -- perhaps it has covered a considerable part of North America. When it is considered that every leaf of every tree, and each blade of grass upon the thousand hills of an extensive country was perfectly candied over with the purest sugar, palpable to the touch, visible to the eye, and poignant upon the palate, the quantity must have been prodigious.
R.June, 1791.

chain bundle chain spread out

Surveying was a profession much practiced among educated and ambitious men. The work gave the surveyor an early look at potentially valuable property, and much early wealth was built on land speculation. Henry learned the profession from his father Henry Sr, who had learned it from his father, Gilbert, who had learned it from his father, Robert Livingston, the first Lord of Livingston Manor.

Other prominent surveyors were Governor George Clinton, the brother of Henry's commander in the Montgomery Expedition, Colonel James Clinton, and Governor DeWitt Clinton.

When I first began reading Henry's writing, this piece confused the heck out of me until I found Henry's pieces on the Memoirs of a Pine Tree and a Journal of an Asiatic Expedition.

Satire. Right.

I admit to still being confused as to whether a piece in the July, 1788 American Magazine is his.

See also:

Facts and Remarks respecting SWALLOWS.

THE history of our common Swallow has long been a problem in ornithology. --Whilst people in general supposed them birds of passage, a few who appear to have better informed, supported the contrary. The opinion of the many was founded on what they thought probable -- that of the few, on fact.

Being told by my nurse that swallows wintered in the moon, and by men after I grew bigger, that they were birds of passage; to the doctrine of their descending to pass the winter in the gloomy element of water, I was a real sceptic -- but I now as much doubt the theory of those naturalists who contend they are birds of passage, as I disbelieve the philosophy of my nurse.

In the year 1780, in conversing with a zoologer who lived about twenty miles from Boston, on the phenomenon of the sudden exit, but gradual and irregular return of swallows, I observed that geese and other sea fowl, which in the spring visited the lakes, and in the fall returned, were observed both in their flight from and return to the sea. -- That black-birds, in the fall of the year were seen in flocks of vast numbers directing their course to the south-est. -- That as we never observed a collection of swallows appearing to be on their passage to another country, I thought it probable when they began their passage, they flew only in the night, or that they ascended beyond the reach of the human eye.

The gentleman replied they were not a bird of passage: That the cause of their sudden disappearance, but irregular return, was, that they had a fixed day for immersing into the water, but none for emerging from it. On my doubting his hypothesis, he said, as a neighbor of his, not long before, was draining a pond, in a warm day near that season of the year in which swallows first appear, his attention was attracted by observing the mud, which in consequence of draining the pond, had for some time been exposed to the rays of the sun, move and appear animated. --His curiosity was excited, and he ordered a quantity of this mud to be conveyed to a room in his house, which he caused to be gradually warmed by a slow fire, till from it there rose a number of swallows, hovering over the head of himself and family, who had been spectators of their resurrection.

Mr. Hyde, carrier of the public mail, and whose veracity is universally acknowledged, informed me, that he had seen in the month of January, a swallow, which appeared like a piece of frozen dirt, gradually warmed till it became animated and flew about the room.

In the year 1782, I lived near the mill-pond in Boston. About the middle of August this pond was covered with swallows, some flying just above the surface of the water -- others lighting upon the rushes and water lillies that raised their heads above it. ON my enquiring of a neighbor who had for many years lived by the pond, the cause of such an unusual collection of swallows to it, he said it was no more than what happened every year at that season. "For some days before they take their annual flight," continued he, "they rendezvous at this pond." He then mentioned the day of the month (August) which I do not remember, on which he said they would all disappear, which took place accordingly. --Perhaps on the banks of this pond, might be a good place to investigate this phaenonenon.

But a place I think more convenient, and the knowledge of which, has been a principal cause of my offering this for publication, is at Bethlehem, State of Pennsylvania. As this little elysium is generally visited in the summer by men of science, I hope this may attract the attention of such as may happen to be there about the 20th of August, to attempt a full discovery.

Before I was convinced that swallows passed the winter under water, I was in the month of August at Bethlehem. A little before sun-set I used to walk to the gardens between the Monorcas creek and the Lehigh, where I was astonished at the collection of swallows that were alighting upon, and hovering over the willows which grow on the bank fo the creek, about opposite the sisters garden. On my enquiring the cause of their leaving their nests in old buildings and collecting to pass the night in those green willows, I was informed by the Rev. Mr. Vanvleek, it was what happened every year at that season. About the 20th not one of them was to be seen. --Perhaps it is from the branches of those willows, that hang over the creek, that they altogether immerse into the water.

That swallows are properly ambibious, I believe no one will contend. --If they do lie, during the winter, in a torpid state under water, why they should, whilst in full life and vigor, and in the warmest month of the year, plunge into an element, in which they cannot exist, except in a state of insensibility, may afford matter for speculation to the curious.

New York July 23, 1788.

1 Apr 18 - 140 acres of vacant land near the farm of Samuel McCord
Oct 10 - 4 acres purchased by Egbert Benson from Myndert Van Kleeck
Oct 10 - 1/2 acre purchased by Charles Crooke from Myndert Van Kleeck
Feb 3 - flats opposite the land of Peter Tappen & Gilbert Livingston
Feb 22 - south part of the farm whereon the late James Livingston resided
May 23 - Magdalane Van Dertaller's long inherited piece of land
Apr 9 - John Linnenton - surveyed later
Dec 9 & 11 - Evert Pills, deceased, sold to Gunn & others
? 11 - land from John Copeman to Samuel Curry
Feb 20 - 227 acres of the farm of Col. John Freer
Mar 18 - 94 acres from Henry Livingston to Gerardus Duyckinck
Dec 23 - 47 acres of L. Van Kleeck's
Jun 13 - land bounded by that sold by Wm Davies to Rt Williams
Jun 8 - land surveyed originally sold by Thomas & Elsie Sanders to Sarah Gravaraeth (1712)
Feb 13 - 3 acres sold by John Drake Jun. to Dr. John Pinckney for 650 pounds
Apr 15 - Valentine Bakers flats
Oct - a Block lot from the 1767 division of the Crooke estate
Mar 26 - 71 acres in Pawling sold by Matthew Paterson (father-in-law) to Peter Brill Jun. and Wm Vincent


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