The King of the Carnival

The fame of the magnificent pageants of the Mistick Krewe of Comus, having spread throughout the length and breadth of the land, drew to our city such multitudes of strangers that they were unable to accommodate even the more distinguished of our visitors. Persons from abroad saw on the streets, in the day, a motly gathering of maskers, without organization, and at night, a procession which, though gorgeous, lasted but a short time. They heard of the splendid tableaux, the brilliant audiences, and the joyous balls, with which these festivities were rounded otf, but as the capacity of even our largest theatre was limited — and thousands were unable to obtain invitations — they were rather annoyed than pleased with these reports.

As years rolled on, the number of visitors increased, and the demand for cards to the evening entertainments grew more and more numerous, and the number who returned home disappointed was consequently larger every year. This was a source of regret to the members of the Mistick Krewe, whose entertainments, originally designed for the amusement of themselves and their immediate friends, had grown so popular as to attract immense crowds from distant cities.


  • It was not until about the 1st of February, 1872, that a plan for overcoming these difficulties was formed, and most successfully carried out, by Col. Walter Merriam, a gentleman whose cultivated taste, liberality and public spirit, have always been freely enlisted in enterprises looking to the prosperity of our city, and Edward C. Hancock, Esq., a prominent member of the New Orleans press, whose ready wit, ingenious mind and fluent pen have so often pleased our people, and never more so than in his able contributions, to what we may term, our Carnival literature.

  • February 17th, was a beautifully propitious day and the great success of the first parade seemed to have stimulated the Krewe to exert themselves for a grand turn-out. The Krewe assembled in Lafayette square, at nine o'clock, and were met by Mayor Waterman, whom they took prisoner, and marched through the streets with torch-lights and music; everywhere greeted by thousands of spectators. This year the Krewe revived the mythology of olden times in all its glory, presenting the different deities which have for so many ages given subjects for the sculptor's chisel, the poet's pen and the artist's pencil.

    Assuming the royal perogative in its most audacious and enlarged sense, taxes were levied, proclamations were issued suspending all other forms of government, closing all public and private places of business, including courts, schools, banks, post office, custom-house, etc., and ordering all people to enroll themselves into organizations for the purpose of forming a grand procession.

  • That the idea was a happy one was speedily assured by the prompt manner in which this self-constituted authority was obeyed. The Governor, the Legislature, prominent firms, officers of corporations, all vied with one another in sending letters of allegiance, which were published as received in the daily papers, and soon fanned the furror into a flame which burns brighter with every succeeding year.

  • This was assisted by a peculiar vein of solemn jocularity which pervaded all of his Majesty's utterances and doings, making the travesty on monarchial usages so close and so delicately humorous that an universal and enduring popularity was at once established. As only about ten days intervened between the time of organization and Mardi Gras, the King's affairs had to be pushed forward with lightning speed.

  • An association of forty young men of the city was speedily formed, and the material for a display was prepared, which, though immeasurably inferior to the subsequent appearances of the King in numbers, appointments and magnificence, not only pleased and satisfied, but astonished the public. The prominent peculiarity during this interval, and one which has since been well sustained, was the novel and original manner in which it was kept before the people, through the columns of the public press, which daily teemed with some new piece of rollicking fun, audacity, or keen, but kindly satire, upon prominent men and topics.

    We give a few samples of these articles, which were received with the utmost good humor by all.

The King of the Carnival is the offspring of Old King Cole and the Goddess Terpsichore, whom, in imitation of Jove, he wooed and carried off in the form of an Irish Bull. He is, therefore, gifted with immortality by virtue of his Olympian origin on his mother's side. He was born somewhere upon the shores of the Mediterranean, about the eighth century, and, in consequence, is now, though hale and hearty, somewhat advanced in years. Upon arriving at man's estate he speedily conquered the whole of Southern Europe, which he held under dominion for a long period of time. About two centuries ago he declared war against his cousin, King Gambrinus, who at that time held all Northern Europe under sway, and after fighting that monarch desperately for a long time, was finally conquerred and driven into obscurity. During these dark days of misfortune, he sought refuge in England, where he assumed the name of Joseph Miller, familiarly known as "Old Joe Miller," and devoted himself to politics, in which he subsequently achieved some fame as the author of the Junius Letters and the founder of the London Punch. A few years since he returned to Rome, where he established a race course on the Corso, and made a desperate attempt to reclaim his dynasty. Failing in this, through the machinations of Count Cavour and Victor Emmanuel, he set sail for the United States, where he landed in 1866, and has since been living in seclusion at the South, managing the political affairs of its people. The prince of mischief-makers and jokers, he is credited with having inspired the queer movements and social relations existing in this benighted section. Only a few days have elapsed since his successful attempt at overthrowing the government of Louisiana — one of the most remarkable occurrences on record — in a cheeky point of view.
His Majesty, in personal appearance, is more interesting than commanding. Rather below the medium height, an erect form, surmounted with a well-set head, covered with a profusion of snow-white hair, and a long patriarchial beard, his aspect is at once venerable and imposing. His brow is wide and expansive, his eyes dark and glittering, always fixed, as it were, on a dreamy futurity. His mouth firm set and stamped with a perpetual smile. His face bronzed with the exposure of centuries, and his entire appearance and bearing are calculated to inspire the most profound awe and respect.
His Majesty has never married, giving as an excuse that this state should not be entered into until experience has sobered the liveliness of youth, and all the wild oats have been sown. We give this latter piece of information for the benefit of the ladies, who are already overwhelming his Majesty with billet-doux.
It is well to note in the latter connection that the national air or anthem of the Carnival Dynasty, for many centuries past, has been, as it is at present, "If Ever I Cease to Love."