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use has that 'sanction of competent ecclesiastical authority' which the committee regarded as necessary to warrant the introduction of it. And if our readers will take the trouble of referring to what we have said under the head of Incense (p. 193), they will be able to judge of Mr. Mackonochie's statement tha his present practice is ‘not disallowed by legal opinion.'
Art. VIII.—1. Josh Billings : His Book of Sayings. London,
1866. 2. Wit and Humour. Poems by Oliver Wendell Holmes.
London, 1866. 3. The Potiphar Papers. By George William Curtis. London,
1866. 4. The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table. London, 1866. 5. Poems. By J. G. Saxe. London, 1866. 6. Artemus Ward: His Book. London, 1865. 7. The Biglow Papers. London, 1865.
8. Letters of Major Downing, Major Downingville Militia, 2nd : Brigade, to his old friend Mr. Dwight, fc. New York, 1834.
9. The Naseby Papers. London, 1865. 10. Phænixiana. London, 1865. 11. Orpheus C. Kerr Papers. London. 1865. 12. The Conduct of Life. By R. W. Emerson. London,
1860. 13. The Professor at the Breakfast Table. Boston, 1860. 14. American Wit and Humour. New York, 1859. 15. Dred. By Mrs. H. B. Stowe. London, 1856. 16. Mosses from an Old Manse. By N. Hawthorne. London,
1856. 17. Putnam's Monthly Magazine. Vol. I. New York, 1853. 18. Literature and Life. By E. P. Whipple. London, 1851. THE NHERE are persons so destitute of a sense of humour, that
they cannot make merry, have no ear for a jest, no eye for the 'gayest, happiest attitude of things,'no heart to rejoice in it. And the puritanical spirit would fain have human nature re-formed and re-stamped according to this dull and dismal pattern ; would, in truth, make this life a preparatory process to fit us for a smileless eternity, and begin by trying to paralyse the risible muscle of the human face, But the greatest and the wisest men have not been of this type; they could laugh as well as weep, and they lived in fuller perfection of spiritual health. The deepest seers have frequently been the men who not only felt the seriousness of life, but who also saw the province of humour as a pleasant reconciler of opposites, and who bore their lot and wrought their work in a brave spirit. The most earnest, we do not mean the grimmest, of men, have had the keenest sense of fun.
We will not propose to define the nature of humour, nor to discuss, metaphysically or philosophically, the difference betwixt wit and humour; but as we shall have to use the terms with some distinction of meaning, we may indicate by a few examples the sense in which we understand and use them. When Curran was asked by a brother lawyer, 'Do you see anything ridiculous in this wig?' and he replied, “Nothing but the head !' that was wit. And when Scott describes the inmates of Cleikum Inn, in ‘St. Ronan's Well,' who thought they had seen the ghost of a murdered man, we get humour, the root of which lies far deeper in human nature.
the two maidens took refuge in their bedroom, whilst the hump-backed postillion fled like wind into the stable, and with professional instinct began in his terror to saddle a horse. This was his most natural refuge from the supernatural; a touch of humour at which we smile gravely, if at all. When Hood describes a fool whose height of folly constitutes his own monument, he calls him
(a column of fop,
That is wit. But when Chaucer describes the fox as desirous of capturing the cock, and trying to flatter him into singing by telling him how his respected father used to sing, and put his heart so much into his song that he was obliged to shut his eyes, and by this means gets poor chanticleer to imitate his father and sing and shut his eyes also, whereupon the fox pounces on him and bears him off, that is humour; a sort of shut-eyed humour quite irresistible. Again, we have wit when Jerrold defines dogmatism as puppyism come to maturity. But we get at humour when Panurge, in his mortal fear of shipwreck, cries, “Would to heaven that I were safe on dry land with (we presume, to make quite sure of his footing) somebody kicking me!'
The strokes of wit that are the most delightfully surprising are often the most evanescent. A flash, and all is over. You must be very much on the qui vive to see by its lightning, or you may find yourself in a similar predicament to that of the poor fly which turned about after its head was off, to find it out. with humour. It does not cut you short. It is for keeping it up.' Wit gives you a nod in passing, but with humour you are at home. Wit is a later societary birth. Humour was from the beginning. There are persons who have a sense of humour to whom the pranks of wit are an impertinence. The true account
of Sydney Smith’s joke respecting the necessity of trepanning a Scotsman is that the Scotch have the pawkiest appreciation of humour, but do not so plentifully produce or care so much for mere wit.
In its lowest range humour can produce its effects with means most slight and simple. Indeed it is here as it is in art, we sometimes admire all the more, and are apt to overrate results, on account of the insignificance of the means employed. A good deal of what is called American humour has been produced in this lower mental range. It is not much beyond that which is uttered nightly by the gallery 'gods' of our theatres, or daily by some village humourist, who is noted locally for his ludicrous perceptions and unctuous sayings. Artemus Ward's 'How goes it old Sweetness, said I?' is precisely on a par with the humour of English canal boatmen. Like the Scotch, the Americans have more humour than wit. Their writers would not shine brilliantly in company with such men as Hood, Lamb, Sydney Smith, or Jerrold. But the humour is many-sided, quaint, and characteristic, ranging from the drily demure to the uproariously extravagant.
The Yankee character is in itself an exceedingly humorous compound. "A strange hybrid, indeed, did circumstance beget here in the new world upon the old Puritan stock, and the earth never before saw such mystic practicalism, such niggard geniality, such calculating fanaticism, such cast-iron enthusiasm, such sour-faced humour, such close-fisted generosity. The Yankee will make a living out of anything, and anywhere. His ingenuity is just the most certain lever for removing difficulties and obstacles from his path. It has been remarked that if a Yankee were shipwrecked overnight on an unknown island, he would be going round the first thing in the morning trying to sell maps to the inhabitants. Put him,' says Lowell, on Juan Fernandez, and he would make a spelling-book first and a salt-pan afterwards.' A long, hard warfare with necessity has made him one of the handiest, shiftiest, thriftiest of mortals. In trading, he is the very incarnation of the keenest shrewdness. He will be sure to do business under the most adverse circumstances, and secure a profit also. This propensity is portrayed in the story of Sam Jones: that worthy, we are told, called at the store of a Mr. Brown, with an egg in his hand, and wanted to dicker' it for a darning-needle. This done, he asks Mr. Brown if he isn't going to treat?' •What, on that trade?' 'Certainly ; a trade is a trade, big or little. Well, what will you have ? 'A glass of wine,' said Jones. The wine was poured out, and Jones remarked that he preferred his wine with an egg in it,
The storekeeper handed to him the identical egg which he had just changed for the darning-needle. On breaking it, Jones discovered that the egg had two yolks. Says he, 'Look here,--you must give me another darning-needle!' Or to relate one other veracious history
5" Reckon I could'nt drive a trade with you to-day, Square," said a genuine specimen of the Yankee pedlar, as he stood at the door of a merchant in St. Louis, "“I reckon you calculate about right, for you
noways." **Wall, I guess you need'nt git huffy 'beout it. Now, here's a dozen ginooine razor-strops —wuth two dollars and a half: you may her 'em for two dollars."
"“I tell you I don't want any of your traps, so you may as well be going along."
6+ Wall, now, look here, Square. I'll bet you five dollars that if you make me an offer for them 'ere strops, we'li hev a trade yet.”
“Done," said the merchant, and he staked the money. “Now," says he, chaffingly, “I'll give you sixpence for the strops."
6- They're your'n!” said the Yankee, as he quietly pocketed the stakes! “But," continued he, after a little reflection, and with a burst of frankness, “I calculate a joke's a joke; and if you don't want them strops, I'll trade back.” The merchant looked brighter. “You're not so bad a chap, after all,” said he. “Here are your strops- give me the money.” “There it is," said the Yankee, as he took the strops and handed back the sixpence. “ A trade is a trade, and a bet is a bet. Next time you trade with that ere sixpence, don' you buy razorstrops."
The Yankee, however, unlike the Jew or the Greek, has a soft place in this hard business nature; there is a blind side to this wide-awake character; he may be .bamboozled' through his better feelings. And, strangest thing of all, this acutest of creatures, is just the first to be taken in by words. We might have fancied that a people so full of shrewdest mother-wit, and so matter-of-fact, would easily see through pretence, and sham, and snuffle.
"'Tis odd,' says Emerson, that our people should have, not water on the brain, but a little gas there. Can it be that the American forest has refreshed some weeds of old Pictish barbarism just ready to die out—the love of the scarlet feather, of beads and tinsel ? The English have a plain taste. Pretension is the foible especially of American youth. But surely the boasting and buffoonery that is tolerated on American platforms, and in American papers, cannot all be seriously swallowed by the masses that pretend to believe in it. Surely it must be to a great extent another form taken by the national humour. Naturally enough, human nature likes to see itself look grand, and next to seeing this, we should suppose the greatest pleasure is hearing it. And the Americans ' must be cracked up,' and patriotically and institutionally tickled; so it looks as if speakers and listeners had tacitly leagued to keep the thing going, and that whilst the speaker or writer distributed buncombe' and balderdash, the listeners accepted it with the proper twinkle of the eye and the nod of understanding. What but a suppressed sense of humour in both speaker and auditors could possibly have carried off such a speech as that attributed to Webster :
“Men of Rochester, I am glad to see you; and I am glad to see your noble city. Gentlemen, I saw your falls, which I am told are one hundred and fifty feet high. That is a very interesting fact. Gentlemen, Rome had her Cæsar, her Scipio, her Brutus, but Rome in her proudest days had never a waterfall a hundred and fifty fect high! Gentlemen, Greece had her Pericles, her Demosthenes, and her Socrates, but Greece in her palmiest days NEVER had a waterfall a hundred and fifty feet high! Men of Rochester, go on. No people ever lost their liberties who had a waterfall one hundred and fifty feet high!' The kind of humour (such as it is to which this belongs has been named by the Americans themselves as high falutin.
We are told that there was a paper in Cincinnati which was very much'given to 'high falutin' on the subject of this great country,' until a rival paper somewhat modified its continual bounce with the following burlesque :
“This is a glorious country! It has longer rivers and more of them, and they are muddier and deeper, and run faster, and rise higher, and make more noise, and fall lower, and do more damage than anybody else's rivers. It has more lakes, and they are bigger and deeper, and clearer, and wetter than those of any other country. Our rail-cars are bigger, and run faster, and pitch off the track oftener, and kill more people than all other rail-cars in this and every other country. Our steamboats carry bigger loads, are longer and broader, burst their boilers oftener, and send up their passengers higher, and the captains swear harder than steamboat captains in any other country. Our men are bigger, and longer, and thicker; can fight harder and faster, drink more mean whisky, chew more bad tobacco, and spit more, and spit further than in any other country. Our ladies are richer, prettier, dress finer, spend more money, break more hearts, wear bigger hoops, shorter dresses, and kick up the devil generally to a greater extent than all other ladies in all other countries. Our children squall louder, grow faster, get too expansive for their pantaloons, and become twenty years old sooner by some months than any other children of any other country on the earth.'
This, however, which is meant to be a satire, can be equalled in expression and excelled in sentiment from the ordinary