Sunday, August 24, 2008
April 6, 1932
MR. LINCOLN--ST. JOHN THE DIVINE
IN HIS OFFICE.
TRANSCRIPTION OF CONVERSATION AND CERTAIN EVENTS.
"Would you like a pipe, Miss Graydon?"
"No, thank you."
"You're so polite.... Did you read the book I gave you last?"
"Yes and Mr. Lincoln, I'm confused. It's fiction. None of that is true. I have a factual history of New York and they hardly mention the Communipaw. Just that it was a region of Hudson County and there were some Dutch homesteads there."
"Are you saying that Mr. Irving, my namesake, was a liar, Miss Graydon."
"Of course not, he was a writer of stories. That history is fictional. Not to mention he makes the Dutchmen at Communipaw look like lazy fools."
"Hmmm, I see, that's what you believe. Let's review the facts you've come across in your reading. Did the Dutch settle New Amsterdam?"
"Was there a place called Communipaw across the river?"
"Was there such historical figures as he spoke of in that text?"
"I would assume they were characitures of real people? Peter Stuyvesant and such."
"Did the Dutch have a strong devotion to St. Nicholas?"
"So I've read."
"Then where are the lies, Miss Graydon?"
"Mr. Lincoln, I'm having a hard time believing that St. Nicholas sat on a cloud and guided the Communipaw Dutchman to island of Manhattan, convincing them to settle there."
"Then you're in the wrong line of work."
"I'm not in a line of work, sir. I'm a student."
"Come with me." He hopped off his little chair. "This is your real lesson, Miss Graydon. Words are your passion, well you better start believing in them." He walked me to a tiny wooden door with a cathedral arch. "Do you know what an archivist here does, Miss Graydon?" He fumbled for a key on his collection of identical keys. Again, looking like he was picking out something arbitrary.
He unlocked the door and led me down a dark passage. He stopped and without even being able to see, I heard him fumble for another key and unlock another door. When he turned on the light switch, the sight nearly made me collapse. A vaulted room the size of my entire dormatory filled with ancient books, maps, and scrolls. There were at least two differen levels to the room with walls shelved from floor to ceiling.In the center was a large Gothic-style statue of a tall robed man with a long beard and a pointed bishop's hat. It was more books and papers than I had ever seen in one place, including the library on Columbia's campus.
"Everything ever written here from 1630 to yesterday can be found in this room in some form or another. Not even Washington Irving himself would believe it. But it exists." My mouth never closed. "So lesson one: not all facts are factual, and not all fiction is fictional. This collection, started by are ancestors is the Communipaw's contribution to history. History just hasn't gotten around to recording it. We were are guardians of the land, sea, and the written word." He pointed to the statue. "And that is our greatest patron and guide. St. Nick. Washington Irving, when he wrote, wrote to make fun of the myth of us. We were folklore by time he came poking around. But it was because of him that we have our own folklore to begin with. And someday, amongst other things, this will all be your responsibility, Miss Graydon."
Photo: Trinity College Library, Dublin.