[Transcriber's Note: the Contents and Index were added to this e-book by the transcriber]
JOKES, STORIES, AND QUOTATIONS
HAROLD WORKMAN WILLIAMS
MARY KATHARINE REELY
ON THE POSSESSION OF A SENSE OF HUMOR
TOASTERS, TOASTMASTERS AND TOASTS
Nothing so frightens a man as the announcement that he is expected to respond to a toast on some appallingly near-by occasion. All ideas he may ever have had on the subject melt away and like a drowning man he clutches furiously at the nearest solid object. This book is intended for such rescue purpose, buoyant and trustworthy but, it is to be hoped, not heavy.
Let the frightened toaster turn first to the key word of his topic in this dictionary alphabet of selections and perchance he may find toast, story, definition or verse that may felicitously introduce his remarks. Then as he proceeds to outline his talk and to put it into sentences, he may find under one of the many subject headings a bit which will happily and scintillatingly drive home the ideas he is unfolding.
While the larger part of the contents is humorous, there are inserted many quotations of a serious nature which may serve as appropriate literary ballast.
The jokes and quotes gathered for the toaster have been placed under the subject headings where it seemed that they might be most useful, even at the risk of the joke turning on the compilers. To extend the usefulness of such pseudo-cataloging, cross references, similar and dissimilar to those of a library card catalog, have been included.
Should a large number of the inclusions look familiar, let us remark that the friends one likes best are those who have been already tried and trusted and are the most welcome in times of need. However, there are stories of a rising generation, whose acquaintance all may enjoy.
Nearly all these new and old friends have before this made their bow in print and since it rarely was certain where they first appeared, little attempt has been made to credit any source for them. The compilers hereby make a sweeping acknowledgment to the "funny editors" of many books and periodicals.
ON THE POSSESSION OF A SENSE OF HUMOR
"Man," says Hazlitt, "is the only animal that laughs and weeps, for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be." The sources, then, of laughter and tears come very close together. At the difference between things as they are and as they ought to be we laugh, or we weep; it would depend, it seems, on the point of view, or the temperament. And if, as Horace Walpole once said, "Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel," it is the thinking half of humanity that, at the sight of life's incongruities, is moved to laughter, the feeling half to tears. A sense of humor, then, is the possession of the thinking half, and the humorists must be classified at once with the thinkers.
If one were asked to go further than this and to give offhand a definition of humor, or of that elusive quality, a sense of humor, he might find himself confronted with a difficulty. Yet certain things about it would be patent at the outset: Women haven't it; Englishmen haven't it; it is the chiefest of the virtues, for tho a man speak with the tongues of men and of angels, if he have not humor we will have none of him. Women may continue to laugh over those innocent and innocuous incidents which they find amusing; may continue to write the most delightful of stories and essays—consider Jane Austen and our own Miss Repplier—over which appreciative readers may continue to chuckle; Englishmen may continue, as in the past to produce the most exquisite of the world's humorous literature—think of Charles Lamb—yet the fundamental faith of mankind will remain unshaken: women have no sense of humor, and an Englishman cannot see a joke! And the ability to "see a joke" is the infallible American test of the sense of humor.
But taking the matter seriously, how would one define humor? When in doubt, consult the dictionary, is, as always, an excellent motto, and, following it, we find that our trustworthy friend, Noah Webster, does not fail us. Here is his definition of humor, ready to hand: humor is "the mental faculty of discovering, expressing, or appreciating ludicrous or absurdly incongruous elements in ideas, situations, happenings, or acts," with the added information that it is distinguished from wit as "less purely intellectual and having more kindly sympathy with human nature, and as often blended with pathos." A friendly rival in lexicography defines the same prized human attribute more lightly as "a facetious turn of thought," or more specifically in literature, as "a sportive exercise of the imagination that is apparent in the choice and treatment of an idea or theme." Isn't there something about that word "sportive," on the lips of so learned an authority, that tickles the fancy—appeals to the sense of humor?
Yet if we peruse the dictionary further, especially if we approach that monument to English scholarship, the great Murray, we shall find that the problem of defining humor is not so simple as it might seem; for the word that we use so glibly, with so sure a confidence in its stability, has had a long and varied history and has answered to many aliases. When Shakespeare called a man "humorous" he meant that he was changeable and capricious, not that he was given to a facetious turn of thought or to a "sportive" exercise of the imagination. When he talks in "The Taming of the Shrew" of "her mad and head-strong humor" he doesn't mean to imply that Kate is a practical joker. It is interesting to note in passing that the old meaning of the word still lingers in the verb "to humor." A woman still humors her spoiled child and her cantankerous husband when she yields to their capriciousness. By going hack a step further in history, to the late fourteenth century, we met Chaucer's physician who knew "the cause of everye maladye, and where engendered and of what humour" and find that Chaucer is not speaking of a mental state at all, but is referring to those physiological humours of which, according to Hippocrates, the human body contained four: blood, phlegm, bile, and black bile, and by which the disposition was determined. We find, too, that at one time a "humour" meant any animal or plant fluid, and again any kind of moisture. "The skie hangs full of humour, and I think we shall haue raine," ran an ancient weather prophet's prediction. Which might give rise to some thoughts on the paradoxical subject of dry humor.
Now in part this development is easily traced. Humor, meaning moisture of any kind, came to have a biological significance and was applied only to plant and animal life. It was restricted later within purely physiological boundaries and was applied only to those "humours" of the human body that controlled temperament. From these fluids, determining mental states, the word took on a psychological coloring, but—by what process of evolution did humor reach its present status! After all, the scientific method has its weaknesses!
We can, if we wish, define humor in terms of what it is not. We can draw lines around it and distinguish it from its next of kin, wit. This indeed has been a favorite pastime with the jugglers of words in all ages. And many have been the attempts to define humor, to define wit, to describe and differentiate them, to build high fences to keep them apart.
"Wit is abrupt, darting, scornful; it tosses its analogies in your face; humor is slow and shy, insinuating its fun into your heart," says E. P. Whipple. "Wit is intellectual, humor is emotional; wit is perception of resemblance, humor of contrast—of contrast between ideal and fact, theory and practice, promise and performance," writes another authority. While yet another points out that "Humor is feeling—feelings can always bear repetition, while wit, being intellectual, suffers by repetition." The truth of this is evident when we remember that we repeat a witty saying that we may enjoy the effect on others, while we retell a humorous story largely for our own enjoyment of it.
Yet it is quite possible that humor ought not to be defined. It may be one of those intangible substances, like love and beauty, that are indefinable. It is quite probable that humor should not be explained. It would be distressing, as some one pointed out, to discover that American humor is based on American dyspepsia. Yet the philosophers themselves have endeavored to explain it. Hazlitt held that to understand the ludicrous, we must first know what the serious is. And to apprehend the serious, what better course could be followed than to contemplate the serious—yes and ludicrous—findings of the philosophers in their attempts to define humor and to explain laughter. Consider Hobbes: "The passion of laughter is nothing else but sudden glory arising from the sudden conception of eminency in ourselves by comparison with the inferiority of others, or with our own formerly." According to Professor Bain, "Laughter results from the degradation of some person or interest possessing dignity in circumstances that excite no other strong emotion." Even Kant, desisting for a time from his contemplation of Pure Reason, gave his attention to the human phenomenon of laughter and explained it away as "the result of an expectation which of a sudden ends in nothing." Some modern cynic has compiled a list of the situations on the stage which are always "humorous." One of them, I recall, is the situation in which the clown-acrobat, having made mighty preparations for jumping over a pile of chairs, suddenly changes his mind and walks off without attempting it. The laughter that invariably greets this "funny" maneuver would seem to have philosophical sanction. Bergson, too, the philosopher of creative evolution, has considered laughter to the extent of an entire volume. A reading of it leaves one a little disturbed. Laughter, so we learn, is not the merry-hearted, jovial companion we had thought him. Laughter is a stern mentor, characterized by "an absence of feeling." "Laughter," says M. Bergson, "is above all a corrective, it must make a painful impression on the person against whom it is directed. By laughter society avenges itself for the liberties taken with it. It would fail in its object if it bore the stamp of sympathy or kindness." If this be laughter, grant us occasionally the saving grace of tears, which may be tears of sympathy, and, therefore, kind!
But, after all, since it is true that "one touch of humor makes the whole world grin," what difference does it make what that humor is; what difference why or wherefore we laugh, since somehow or other, in a sorry world, we do laugh?
Of the test for a sense of humor, it has already been said that it is the ability to see a joke. And, as for a joke, the dictionary, again a present help in time of trouble, tells us at once that it is, "something said or done for the purpose of exciting a laugh." But stay! Suppose it does not excite the laugh expected? What of the joke that misses fire? Shall a joke be judged by its intent or by its consequences? Is a joke that does not produce a laugh a joke at all? Pragmatically considered it is not. Agnes Repplier, writing on Humor, speaks of "those beloved writers whom we hold to be humorists because they have made us laugh." We hold them to be so—but there seems to be a suggestion that we may be wrong. Is it possible that the laugh is not the test of the joke? Here is a question over which the philosophers may wrangle. Is there an Absolute in the realm of humor, or must our jokes be judged solely by the pragmatic test? Congreve once told Colly Gibber that there were many witty speeches in one of Colly's plays, and many that looked witty, yet were not really what they seemed at first sight! So a joke is not to be recognized even by its appearance or by the company it keeps. Perhaps there might be established a test of good usage. A joke would be that at which the best people laugh.
Somebody—was it Mark Twain?—once said that there are eleven original jokes in the world—that these were known in prehistoric times, and that all jokes since have been but modifications and adaptations from the originals. Miss Repplier, however, gives to modern times the credit for some inventiveness. Christianity, she says, must be thanked for such contributions as the missionary and cannibal joke, and for the interminable variations of St. Peter at the gate. Max Beerbohm once codified all the English comic papers and found that the following list comprised all the subjects discussed: Mothers-in-law; Hen-pecked husbands; Twins; Old maids; Jews; Frenchmen and Germans; Italians and Niggers; Fatness; Thinness; Long hair (in men); Baldness; Sea sickness; Stuttering; Bloomers; Bad cheese; Red noses. A like examination of American newspapers would perhaps result in a slightly different list. We have, of course, our purely local jokes. Boston will always be a joke to Chicago, the east to the west. The city girl in the country offers a perennial source of amusement, as does the country man in the city. And the foreigner we have always with us, to mix his Y's and J's, distort his H's, and play havoc with the Anglo-Saxon Th. Indeed our great American sense of humor has been explained as an outgrowth from the vast field of incongruities offered by a developing civilization.
It may be that this vaunted national sense has been over-estimated—exaggeration is a characteristic of that humor, anyway—but at least it has one of the Christian virtues—it suffereth long and is kind. Miss Repplier says that it is because we are a "humorous rather than a witty people that we laugh for the most part with, and not at our fellow creatures." This, I think, is something that our fellow creatures from other lands do not always comprehend. I listened once to a distinguished Frenchman as he addressed the students in a western university chapel. He was evidently astounded and embarrassed by the outbursts of laughter that greeted his mildly humorous remarks. He even stopped to apologize for the deficiencies of his English, deeming them the cause, and was further mystified by the little ripple of laughter that met his explanation—a ripple that came from the hearts of the good-natured students, who meant only to be appreciative and kind. Foreigners, too, unacquainted with American slang often find themselves precipitating a laugh for which they are unprepared. For a bit of current slang, however and whenever used, is always humorous.
The American is not only a humorous person, he is a practical person. So it is only natural that the American humor should be put to practical uses. It was once said that the difference between a man with tact and a man without was that the man with tact, in trying to put a bit in a horse's mouth, would first tell him a funny story, while the man without tact would get an axe. This use of the funny story is the American way of adapting it to practical ends. A collection of funny stories used to be an important part of a drummer's stock in trade. It is by means of the "good story" that the politician makes his way into office; the business man paves the way for a big deal; the after-dinner speaker gets a hearing; the hostess saves her guests from boredom. Such a large place does the "story" hold in our national life that we have invented a social pastime that might be termed a "joke match." "Don't tell a funny story, even if you know one," was the advice of the Atchison Globe man, "its narration will only remind your hearers of a bad one." True as this may be, we still persist in telling our funny story. Our hearers are reminded of another, good or bad, which again reminds us—and so on.
A sense of humor, as was intimated before, is the chiefest of the virtues. It is more than this—it is one of the essentials to success. For, as has also been pointed out, we, being a practical people, put our humor to practical uses. It is held up as one of the prerequisites for entrance to any profession. "A lawyer," says a member of that order, must have such and such mental and moral qualities; "but before all else"—and this impressively—"he must possess a sense of humor." Samuel McChord Crothers says that were he on the examining board for the granting of certificates to prospective teachers, he would place a copy of Lamb's essay on Schoolmasters in the hands of each, and if the light of humorous appreciation failed to dawn as the reading progressed, the certificate would be withheld. For, before all else, a teacher must possess a sense of humor! If it be true, then, that the sense of humor is so important in determining the choice of a profession, how wise are those writers who hold it an essential for entrance into that most exacting of professions—matrimony! "Incompatibility in humor," George Eliot held to be the "most serious cause of diversion." And Stevenson, always wise, insists that husband and wife must he able to laugh over the same jokes—have between them many a "grouse in the gun-room" story. But there must always be exceptions if the spice of life is to be preserved, and I recall one couple of my acquaintance, devoted and loyal in spite of this very incompatibility. A man with a highly whimsical sense of humor had married a woman with none. Yet he told his best stories with an eye to their effect on her, and when her response came, peaceful and placid and non-comprehending, he would look about the table with delight, as much as to say, "Isn't she a wonder? Do you know her equal?"
Humor may be the greatest of the virtues, yet it is the one of whose possession we may boast with impunity. "Well, that was too much for my sense of humor," we say. Or, "You know my sense of humor was always my strong point." Imagine thus boasting of one's integrity, or sense of honor! And so is its lack the one vice of which one may not permit himself to be a trifle proud. "I admit that I have a hot temper," and "I know I'm extravagant," are simple enough admissions. But did any one ever openly make the confession, "I know I am lacking in a sense of humor!" However, to recognize the lack one would first have to possess the sense—which is manifestly impossible.
"To explain the nature of laughter and tears is to account for the condition of human life," says Hazlitt, and no philosophy has as yet succeeded in accounting for the condition of human life. "Man is a laughing animal," wrote Meredith, "and at the end of infinite search the philosopher finds himself clinging to laughter as the best of human fruit, purely human, and sane, and comforting." So whether it be the corrective laughter of Bergson, Jove laughing at lovers' vows, Love laughing at locksmiths, or the cheerful laughter of the fool that was like the crackling of thorns to Koheleth, the preacher, we recognize that it is good; that without this saving grace of humor life would be an empty vaunt. I like to recall that ancient usage: "The skie hangs full of humour, and I think we shall haue raine." Blessed humor, no less refreshing today than was the humour of old to a parched and thirsty earth.
TOASTERS, TOASTMASTERS AND TOASTS
Before making any specific suggestions to the prospective toaster or toastmaster, let us advise that he consider well the nature and spirit of the occasion which calls for speeches. The toast, after-dinner talk, or address is always given under conditions that require abounding good humor, and the desire to make everybody pleased and comfortable as well as to furnish entertainment should be uppermost.
Perhaps a consideration of the ancient custom that gave rise to the modern toast will help us to understand the spirit in which a toast should be given. It originated with the pagan custom of drinking to gods and the dead, which in Christian nations was modified, with the accompanying idea of a wish for health and happiness added. In England during the sixteenth century it was customary to put a "toast" in the drink, which was usually served hot. This toast was the ordinary piece of bread scorched on both sides. Shakespeare in "The Merry Wives of Windsor" has Falstaff say, "Fetch me a quart of sack and put a toast in't." Later the term came to be applied to the lady in whose honor the company drank, her name serving to flavor the bumper as the toast flavored the drink. It was in this way that the act of drinking or of proposing a health, or the mere act of expressing good wishes or fellowship at table came to be known as toasting.
Since an occasion, then, at which toasts are in order is one intended to promote good feeling, it should afford no opportunity for the exploitation of any personal or selfish interest or for anything controversial, or antagonistic to any of the company present. The effort of the toastmaster should be to promote the best of feeling among all and especially between speakers. And speakers should cooperate with the toastmaster and with each other to that end. The introductions of the toastmaster may, of course, contain some good-natured bantering, together with compliment, but always without sting. Those taking part may "get back" at the toastmaster, but always in a manner to leave no hard feeling anywhere. The toastmaster should strive to make his speakers feel at ease, to give them good standing with their hearers without overpraising them and making it hard to live up to what is expected of them. In short, let everybody boost good naturedly for everybody else.
The toastmaster, and for that matter everyone taking part, should be carefully prepared. It may be safely said that those who are successful after-dinner speakers have learned the need of careful forethought. A practised speaker may appear to speak extemporaneously by putting together on one occasion thoughts and expressions previously prepared for other occasions, but the neophyte may well consider it necessary to think out carefully the matter of what to say and how to say it. Cicero said of Antonius, "All his speeches were, in appearance, the unpremeditated effusion of an honest heart; and yet, in reality, they were preconceived with so much skill that the judges were not so well prepared as they should have been to withstand the force of them!"
After considering the nature of the occasion and getting himself in harmony with it, the speaker should next consider the relation of his particular subject to the occasion and to the subjects of the other speakers. He should be careful to hold closely to the subject allotted to him so that he will not encroach upon the ground of other speakers. He should be careful, too, not to appropriate to himself any of their time. And he should consider, without vanity and without humility, his own relative importance and govern himself accordingly. We have all had the painful experience of waiting in impatience for the speech of the evening to begin while some humble citizen made "a few introductory remarks."
In planning his speech and in getting it into finished form, the toaster will do well to remember those three essentials to all good composition with which he struggled in school and college days, Unity, Mass and Coherence. The first means that his talk must have a central thought, on which all his stories, anecdotes and jokes will have a bearing; the second that there will be a proper balance between the parts, that it will not be all introduction and conclusion; the third, that it will hang together, without awkward transitions. A toast may consist, as Lowell said, of "a platitude, a quotation and an anecdote," but the toaster must exercise his ingenuity in putting these together.
In delivering the toast, the speaker must of course be natural. The after-dinner speech calls for a conversational tone, not for oratory of voice or manner. Something of an air of detachment on the part of the speaker is advisable. The humorist who can tell a story with a straight face adds to the humorous effect.
A word might be said to those who plan the program. In the number of speakers it is better to err in having too few than too many. Especially is this true if there is one distinguished person who is the speaker of the occasion. In such a case the number of lesser lights may well be limited to two or three. The placing of the guest of honor on the program is a matter of importance. Logically he would be expected to come last, as the crowning feature. But if the occasion is a large semi-public affair—a political gathering, for example—where strict etiquet does not require that all remain thru the entire program, there will always be those who will leave early, thus missing the best part of the entertainment. In this case some shifting of speakers, even at the risk of an anti-climax, would be advisable. On ordinary occasions, where the speakers are of much the same rank, order will be determined mainly by subject. And if the topics for discussion are directly related, if they are all component parts of a general subject, so much the better.
Now we are going to add a special paragraph for the absolutely inexperienced person—who has never given, or heard anyone else give, a toast. It would seem hardly possible in this day of banquets to find an individual who has missed these occasions entirely—but he is to be found. Especially is this true in a world where toasting and after-dinner speaking are coming to be more and more in demand at social functions—the college world. Here the young man or woman, coming from a country town where the formal banquet is unknown, who has never heard an after-dinner speech, may be confronted with the necessity of responding to a toast on, say "Needles and Pins." Such a one would like to be told first of all what an after-dinner speech is. It is only a short, informal talk, usually witty, at any rate kindly, with one central idea and a certain amount of illustrative material in the way of anecdotes, quotations and stories. The best advice to such a speaker is: Make your first effort simple. Don't be over ambitious. If, as was suggested in the example cited a moment ago, the subject is fanciful—as it is very apt to be at a college banquet—any interpretation you choose to put upon it is allowable. If the interpretation is ingenious, your case is already half won. Such a subject is in effect a challenge. "Now, let's see what you can make of this," is what it implies. First get an idea; then find something in the way of illustrative material. Speak simply and naturally and sit down and watch how the others do it. Of course the subject on such occasions is often of a more serious nature—Our Class; The Team; Our President—in which case a more serious treatment is called for, with a touch of honest pride and sentiment.
To sum up what has been said, with borrowings from what others have said on the subject, the following general rules have been formulated:
Prepare carefully. Self-confidence is a valuable possession, but beware of being too sure of yourself. Pride goes before a fall, and overconfidence in his ability to improvise has been the downfall of many a would-be speaker. The speaker should strive to give the effect of spontaneity, but this can be done only with practice. The toast calls for the art that conceals art.
Let your speech have unity. As some one has pointed out, the after-dinner speech is a distinct form of expression, just as is the short story. As such it should give a unity of impression. It bears something of the same relation to the oration that the short story does to the novel.
Let it have continuity. James Bryce says: "There is a tendency today to make after-dinner speaking a mere string of anecdotes, most of which may have little to do with the subject or with one another. Even the best stories lose their charm when they are dragged in by the head and shoulders, having no connection with the allotted theme. Relevance as well as brevity is the soul of wit."
Do not grow emotional or sentimental. American traditions are largely borrowed from England. We have the Anglo-Saxon reticence. A parade of emotion in public embarrasses us. A simple and sincere expression of feeling is often desirable in a toast—but don't overdo it.
Avoid trite sayings. Don't use quotations that are shopworn, and avoid the set forms for toasts—"Our sweethearts and wives—may they never meet," etc.
Don't apologise. Don't say that you are not prepared; that you speak on very short notice; that you are "no orator as Brutus is." Resolve to do your best and let your effort speak for itself.
Avoid irony and satire. It has already been said that occasions on which toasts are given call for friendliness and good humor. Yet the temptation to use irony and satire may be strong. Especially may this be true at political gatherings where there is a chance to grow witty at the expense of rivals. Irony and satire are keen-edged tools; they have their uses; but they are dangerous. Pope, who knew how to use them, said:
Satire's my weapon, but I'm too discreet To run amuck and tilt at all I meet.
Use personal references sparingly. A certain amount of good-natured chaffing may be indulged in. Yet there may be danger in even the most kindly of fun. One never knows how a jest will be taken. Once in the early part of his career, Mark Twain, at a New England banquet, grew funny at the expense of Longfellow and Emerson, then in their old age and looked upon almost as divinities. His joke fell dead, and to the end of his life he suffered humiliation at the recollection.
Be clear. While you must not draw an obvious moral or explain the point to your jokes, be sure that the point is there and that it is put in such a way that your hearers cannot miss it. Avoid flights of rhetoric and do not lose your anecdotes in a sea of words.
Avoid didacticism. Do not try to instruct. Do not give statistics and figures. They will not be remembered. A historical resume of your subject from the beginning of time is not called for; neither are well-known facts about the greatness of your city or state or the prominent person in whose honor you may be speaking. Do not tell your hearers things they already know.
Be brief. An after-dinner audience is in a particularly defenceless position. It is so out in the open. There is no opportunity for a quiet nod or two behind a newspaper or the hat of the lady in front. If you bore your hearers by overstepping your time politeness requires that they sit still and look pleased. Spare them. Remember Bacon's advice to the speaker: "Let him be sure to leave other men their turns to speak." But suppose you come late on the program! Suppose the other speakers have not heeded Bacon? What are you going to do about it? Here is a story that James Bryce tells of the most successful after-dinner speech he remembers to have heard. The speaker was a famous engineer, the occasion a dinner of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. "He came last; and midnight had arrived. His toast was Applied Science, and his speech was as follows: 'Ladies and gentlemen, at this late hour I advise you to illustrate the Applications of Science by applying a lucifer match to the wick of your bedroom candle. Let us all go to bed'."
If you are capable of making a similar sacrifice by cutting short your own carefully-prepared, wise, witty and sparkling remarks, your audience will thank you—and they may ask you to speak again.
"Pa," said little Joe, "I bet I can do something you can't."
"Well, what is it?" demanded his pa.
"Grow," replied the youngster triumphantly.—H.E. Zimmerman.
He was a New Yorker visiting in a South Carolina village and he sauntered up to a native sitting in front of the general store, and began a conversation.
"Have you heard about the new manner in which the planters are going to pick their cotton this season?" he inquired.
"Don't believe I have," answered the other.
"Well, they have decided to import a lot of monkeys to do the picking," rejoined the New Yorker. "Monkeys learn readily. They are thorough workers, and obviously they will save their employers a small fortune otherwise expended in wages."
"Yes," ejaculated the native, "and about the time this monkey brigade is beginning to work smoothly, a lot of you fool northerners will come tearing down here and set 'em free."
SHE—"I consider, John, that sheep are the stupidest creatures living."
HE—(absent-mindedly)—"Yes, my lamb."
The late Dr. Henry Thayer, founder of Thayer's Laboratory in Cambridge, was walking along a street one winter morning. The sidewalk was sheeted with ice and the doctor was making his way carefully, as was also a woman going in the opposite direction. In seeking to avoid each other, both slipped and they came down in a heap. The polite doctor was overwhelmed and his embarrassment paralyzed his speech, but the woman was equal to the occasion.
"Doctor, if you will be kind enough to rise and pick out your legs, I will take what remains," she said cheerfully.
"Help! Help!" cried an Italian laborer near the mud flats of the Harlem river.
"What's the matter there?" came a voice from the construction shanty.
"Queek! Bringa da shov'! Bringa da peek! Giovanni's stuck in da mud."
"How far in?"
"Up to hees knees."
"Oh, let him walk out."
"No, no! He no canna walk! He wronga end up!"
There once was a lady from Guam, Who said, "Now the sea is so calm I will swim, for a lark"; But she met with a shark. Let us now sing the ninetieth psalm.
BRICKLAYER (to mate, who had just had a hodful of bricks fall on his feet)—"Dropt 'em on yer toe! That's nothin'. Why, I seen a bloke get killed stone dead, an' 'e never made such a bloomin' fuss as you're doin'."
A preacher had ordered a load of hay from one of his parishioners. About noon, the parishioner's little son came to the house crying lustily. On being asked what the matter was, he said that the load of hay had tipped over in the street. The preacher, a kindly man, assured the little fellow that it was nothing serious, and asked him in to dinner.
"Pa wouldn't like it," said the boy.
But the preacher assured him that he would fix it all right with his father, and urged him to take dinner before going for the hay. After dinner the boy was asked if he were not glad that he had stayed.
"Pa won't like it," he persisted.
The preacher, unable to understand, asked the boy what made him think his father would object.
"Why, you see, pa's under the hay," explained the boy.
There was an old Miss from Antrim, Who looked for the leak with a glim. Alack and alas! The cause was the gas. We will now sing the fifty-fourth hymn.
—Gilbert K. Chesterton.
There was a young lady named Hannah, Who slipped on a peel of banana. More stars she espied As she lay on her side Than are found in the Star Spangled Banner.
A gentleman sprang to assist her; He picked up her glove and her wrister; "Did you fall, Ma'am?" he cried; "Did you think," she replied, "I sat down for the fun of it, Mister?"
At first laying down, as a fact fundamental, That nothing with God can be accidental.
Hopkinson Smith tells a characteristic story of a southern friend of his, an actor, who, by the way, was in the dramatization of Colonel Carter. On one occasion the actor was appearing in his native town, and remembered an old negro and his wife, who had been body servants in his father's household, with a couple of seats in the theatre. As it happened, he was playing the part of the villain, and was largely concerned with treasons, stratagems and spoils. From time to time he caught a glimpse of the ancient couple in the gallery, and judged from their fearsome countenance and popping eyes that they were being duly impressed.
After the play he asked them to come and see him behind the scenes. They sat together for a while in solemn silence, and then the mammy resolutely nudged her husband. The old man gathered himself together with an effort, and said: "Marse Cha'les, mebbe it ain' for us po' niggers to teach ouh young masser 'portment. But we jes' got to tell yo' dat, in all de time we b'long to de fambly, none o' ouh folks ain' neveh befo' mix up in sechlike dealin's, an' we hope, Marse Cha'les, dat yo' see de erroh of yo' ways befo' yo' done sho' nuff disgrace us."
In a North of England town recently a company of local amateurs produced Hamlet, and the following account of the proceedings appeared in the local paper next morning:
"Last night all the fashionables and elite of our town gathered to witness a performance of Hamlet at the Town Hall. There has been considerable discussion in the press as to whether the play was written by Shakespeare or Bacon. All doubt can be now set at rest. Let their graves be opened; the one who turned over last night is the author."
Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature.—Shakespeare.
To wake the soul by tender strokes of art, To raise the genius, and to mend the heart; To make mankind, in conscious virtue bold, Live o'er each scene, and be what they behold— For this the tragic muse first trod the stage.
ACTORS AND ACTRESSES
An "Uncle Tom's Cabin" company was starting to parade in a small New England town when a big gander, from a farmyard near at hand waddled to the middle of the street and began to hiss.
One of the double-in-brass actors turned toward the fowl and angrily exclaimed:
"Don't be so dern quick to jump at conclusions. Wait till you see the show."—K.A. Bisbee.
When William H. Crane was younger and less discreet he had a vaunting ambition to play Hamlet. So with his first profits he organized his own company and he went to an inland western town to give vent to his ambition and "try it on."
When he came back to New York a group of friends noticed that the actor appeared to be much downcast.
"What's the matter, Crane? Didn't they appreciate it?" asked one of his friends.
"They didn't seem to," laconically answered the actor.
"Well, didn't they give any encouragement? Didn't they ask you to come before the curtain?" persisted the friend.
"Ask me?" answered Crane. "Man, they dared me!"
LEADING MAN IN TRAVELING COMPANY—"We play Hamlet to-night, laddie, do we not?"
SUB-MANAGER—"Yes, Mr. Montgomery."
LEADING MAN—"Then I must borrow the sum of two-pence!"
LEADING MAN—"I have four days' growth upon my chin. One cannot play Hamlet in a beard!"
SUB-MANAGER—"Um—well—we'll put on Macbeth!"
HE—"But what reason have you for refusing to marry me?"
SHE—"Papa objects. He says you are an actor."
HE-"Give my regards to the old boy and tell him I'm sorry he isn't a newspaper critic."
The hero of the play, after putting up a stiff fight with the villain, had died to slow music.
The audience insisted on his coming before the curtain.
He refused to appear.
But the audience still insisted.
Then the manager, a gentleman with a strong accent, came to the front.
"Ladies an' gintlemen," he said, "the carpse thanks ye kindly, but he says he's dead, an' he's goin to stay dead."
Mrs. Minnie Maddern Fiske, the actress, was having her hair dressed by a young woman at her home. The actress was very tired and quiet, but a chance remark from the dresser made her open her eyes and sit up.
"I should have went on the stage," said the young woman complacently.
"But," returned Mrs. Fiske, "look at me—think how I have had to work and study to gain what success I have, and win such fame as is now mine!"
"Oh, yes," replied the young woman calmly; "but then I have talent."
Orlando Day, a fourth-rate actor in London, was once called, in a sudden emergency, to supply the place of Allen Ainsworth at the Criterion Theatre for a single night.
The call filled him with joy. Here was a chance to show the public how great a histrionic genius had remained unknown for lack of an opportunity. But his joy was suddenly dampened by the dreadful thought that, as the play was already in the midst of its run, none of the dramatic critics might be there to watch his triumph.
A bright thought struck him. He would announce the event. Rushing to a telegraph office, he sent to one of the leading critics the following telegram: "Orlando Day presents Allen Ainsworth's part to-night at the Criterion."
Then it occurred to him, "Why not tell them all?" So he repeated the message to a dozen or more important persons.
At a late hour of the same day, in the Garrick Club, a lounging gentleman produced one of the telegrams, and read it to a group of friends. A chorus of exclamations followed the reading: "Why, I got precisely the same message!" "And so did I." "And I, too." "Who is Orlando Day?" "What beastly cheek!" "Did the ass fancy that one would pay any attention to his wire?"
J. M. Barrie, the famous author and playwright, who was present, was the only one who said nothing.
"Didn't he wire you too?" asked one of the group.
"But of course you didn't answer."
"Oh, but it was only polite to send an answer after he had taken the trouble to wire me. So, of course, I answered him."
"You did! What did you say?"
"Oh, I just telegraphed him: 'Thanks for timely warning.'"
Twinkle, twinkle, lovely star! How I wonder if you are When at home the tender age You appear when on the stage.
—Mary A. Fairchild.
Recipe for an actor:
To one slice of ham add assortment of roles. Steep the head in mash notes till it swells, Garnish with onions, tomatoes and beets, Or with eggs—from afar—in the shells.
Recipe for an ingenue:
A pound and three-quarters of kitten, Three ounces of flounces and sighs; Add wiggles and giggles and gurgles, And ringlets and dimples and eyes.
"I know a nature-faker," said Mr. Bache, the author, "who claims that a hen of his last month hatched, from a setting of seventeen eggs, seventeen chicks that had, in lieu of feathers, fur.
"He claimed that these fur-coated chicks were a proof of nature's adaptation of all animals to their environment, the seventeen eggs having been of the cold-storage variety."
In a large store a child, pointing to a shopper exclaimed, "Oh, mother, that lady lives the same place we do. I just heard her say, 'Send it up C.O.D.' Isn't that where we live?"
An Englishman went into his local library and asked for Frederic Harrison's George Washington and other American Addresses. In a little while he brought back the book to the librarian and said:
"This book does not give me what I require; I want to find out the addresses of several American magnates; I know where George Washington has gone to, for he never told a lie."
Not long ago a patron of a cafe in Chicago summoned his waiter and delivered himself as follows:
"I want to know the meaning of this. Look at this piece of beef. See its size. Last evening I was served with a portion more than twice the size of this."
"Where did you sit?" asked the waiter.
"What has that to do with it? I believe I sat by the window."
"In that case," smiled the waiter, "the explanation is simple. We always serve customers by the window large portions. It's a good advertisement for the place."
"Advertising costs me a lot of money."
"Why I never saw your goods advertised."
"They aren't. But my wife reads other people's ads."
When Mark Twain, in his early days, was editor of a Missouri paper, a superstitious subscriber wrote to him saying that he had found a spider in his paper, and asking him whether that was a sign of good luck or bad. The humorist wrote him this answer and printed it:
"Old subscriber: Finding a spider in your paper was neither good luck nor bad luck for you. The spider was merely looking over our paper to see which merchant is not advertising, so that he can go to that store, spin his web across the door and lead a life of undisturbed peace ever afterward."
"Good Heavens, man! I saw your obituary in this morning's paper!"
"Yes, I know. I put it in myself. My opera is to be produced to-night, and I want good notices from the critics."—C. Hilton Turvey.
Paderewski arrived in a small western town about noon one day and decided to take a walk in the afternoon. While strolling ling along he heard a piano, and, following the sound, came to a house on which was a sign reading:
"Miss Jones. Piano lessons 25 cents an hour."
Pausing to listen he heard the young woman trying to play one of Chopin's nocturnes, and not succeeding very well.
Paderewski walked up to the house and knocked. Miss Jones came to the door and recognized him at once. Delighted, she invited him in and he sat down and played the nocturne as only Paderewski can, afterward spending an hour in correcting her mistakes. Miss Jones thanked him and he departed.
Some months afterward he returned to the town, and again took the same walk.
He soon came to the home of Miss Jones, and, looking at the sign, he read:
"Miss Jones. Piano lessons $1.00 an hour. (Pupil of Paderewski.)"
Shortly after Raymond Hitchcock made his first big hit in New York, Eddie Foy, who was also playing in town, happened to be passing Daly's Theatre, and paused to look at the pictures of Hitchcock and his company that adorned the entrance. Near the pictures was a billboard covered with laudatory extracts from newspaper criticisms of the show.
When Foy had moodily read to the bottom of the list, he turned to an unobtrusive young man who had been watching him out of the corner of his eye.
"Say, have you seen this show?" he asked.
"Sure," replied the young man.
"Any good? How's this guy Hitchcock, anyhow?"
"Any good?" repeated the young man pityingly. "Why, say, he's the best in the business. He's got all these other would-be side-ticklers lashed to the mast. He's a scream. Never laughed so much at any one in all my life."
"Is he as good as Foy?" ventured Foy hopefully.
"As good as Foy!" The young man's scorn was superb. "Why, this Hitchcock has got that Foy person looking like a gloom. They're not in the same class. Hitchcock's funny. A man with feelings can't compare them. I'm sorry you asked me, I feel so strongly about it."
Eddie looked at him very sternly and then, in the hollow tones of a tragedian, he said:
"I am Foy."
"I know you are," said the young man cheerfully. "I'm Hitchcock!"
Advertisements are of great use to the vulgar. First of all, as they are instruments of ambition. A man that is by no means big enough for the Gazette, may easily creep into the advertisements; by which means we often see an apothecary in the same paper of news with a plenipotentiary, or a running footman with an ambassador.—Addison.
See also Salesmen and Salesmanship.
Her exalted rank did not give Queen Victoria immunity from the trials of a grandmother. One of her grandsons, whose recklessness in spending money provoked her strong disapproval, wrote to the Queen reminding her of his approaching birthday and delicately suggesting that money would be the most acceptable gift. In her own hand she answered, sternly reproving the youth for the sin of extravagance and urging upon him the practise of economy. His reply staggered her:
"Dear Grandma," it ran, "thank you for your kind letter of advice. I have sold the same for five pounds."
Many receive advice, only the wise profit by it.—Publius Syrus.
A flea and a fly in a flue, Were imprisoned; now what could they do? Said the fly, "let us flee." "Let us fly," said the flea, And they flew through a flaw in the flue.
The impression that men will never fly like birds seems to be aeroneous.—La Touche Hancock.
"Mother, may I go aeroplane?" "Yes, my darling Mary. Tie yourself to an anchor chain And don't go near the airy."
Harry N. Atwood, the noted aviator, was the guest of honor at a dinner in New York, and on the occasion his eloquent reply to a toast on aviation terminated neatly with these words:
"The aeroplane has come at last, but it was a long time coming. We can imagine Necessity, the mother of invention, looking up at a sky all criss-crossed with flying machines, and then saying, with a shake of her old head and with a contented smile:
"'Of all my family, the aeroplane has been the hardest to raise.'"
A genius who once did aspire To invent an aerial flyer, When asked, "Does it go?" Replied, "I don't know; I'm awaiting some damphule to try 'er."
AFTER DINNER SPEECHES
A Frenchman once remarked:
"The table is the only place where one is not bored for the first hour."
Every rose has its thorn There's fuzz on all the peaches. There never was a dinner yet Without some lengthy speeches.
Joseph Chamberlain was the guest of honor at a dinner in an important city. The Mayor presided, and when coffee was being served the Mayor leaned over and touched Mr. Chamberlain, saying, "Shall we let the people enjoy themselves a little longer, or had we better have your speech now?"
"Friend," said one immigrant to another, "this is a grand country to settle in. They don't hang you here for murder."
"What do they do to you?" the other immigrant asked.
"They kill you," was the reply, "with elocution."
When Daniel got into the lions' den and looked around he thought to himself, "Whoever's got to do the after-dinner speaking, it won't be me."
Joseph H. Choate and Chauncey Depew were invited to a dinner. Mr. Choate was to speak, and it fell to the lot of Mr. Depew to introduce him, which he did thus: "Gentlemen, permit me to introduce Ambassador Choate, America's most inveterate after-dinner speaker. All you need to do to get a speech out of Mr. Choate is to open his mouth, drop in a dinner and up comes your speech."
Mr. Choate thanked the Senator for his compliment, and then said: "Mr. Depew says if you open my mouth and drop in a dinner up will come a speech, but I warn you that if you open your mouths and drop in one of Senator Depew's speeches up will come your dinners."
Mr. John C. Hackett recently told the following story:
"I was up in Rockland County last summer, and there was a banquet given at a country hotel. All the farmers were there and all the village characters. I was asked to make a speech.
"'Now,' said I, with the usual apologetic manner, 'it is not fair to you that the toastmaster should ask me to speak. I am notorious as the worst public speaker in the State of New York. My reputation extends from one end of the state to the other. I have no rival whatever, when it comes—' I was interrupted by a lanky, ill-clad individual, who had stuck too close to the beer pitcher.
"'Gentlemen,' said he, 'I take 'ception to what this here man says. He ain't the worst public speaker in the state. I am. You all know it, an' I want it made a matter of record that I took 'ception.'
"'Well, my friend,' said I, 'suppose we leave it to the guests. You sit down while I say my piece, and then I'll sit down and let you give a demonstration.' The fellow agreed and I went on. I hadn't gone far when he got up again.
"''S all right,' said he, 'you win; needn't go no farther!'"
Mark Twain and Chauncey M. Depew once went abroad on the same ship. When the ship was a few days out they were both invited to a dinner. Speech-making time came. Mark Twain had the first chance. He spoke twenty minutes and made a great hit. Then it was Mr. Depew's turn.
"Mr. Toastmaster and Ladies and Gentlemen," said the famous raconteur as he arose, "Before this dinner Mark Twain and myself made an agreement to trade speeches. He has just delivered my speech, and I thank you for the pleasant manner in which you received it. I regret to say that I have lost the notes of his speech and cannot remember anything he was to say."
Then he sat down. There was much laughter. Next day an Englishman who had been in the party came across Mark Twain in the smoking-room. "Mr Clemens," he said, "I consider you were much imposed upon last night. I have always heard that Mr. Depew is a clever man, but, really, that speech of his you made last night struck me as being the most infernal rot."
See also Orators; Politicians; Public Speakers.
The good die young. Here's hoping that you may live to a ripe old age.
"How old are you, Tommy?" asked a caller.
"Well, when I'm home I'm five, when I'm in school I'm six, and when I'm on the cars I'm four."
"How effusively sweet that Mrs. Blondey is to you, Jonesy," said Witherell. "What's up? Any tender little romance there?"
"No, indeed—why, that woman hates me," said Jonesy.
"She doesn't show it," said Witherell.
"No; but she knows I know how old she is—we were both born on the same day," said Jonesy, "and she's afraid I'll tell somebody."
As every southerner knows, elderly colored people rarely know how old they are, and almost invariably assume an age much greater than belongs to them. In an Atlanta family there is employed an old chap named Joshua Bolton, who has been with that family and the previous generation for more years than they can remember. In view, therefore, of his advanced age, it was with surprise that his employer received one day an application for a few days off, in order that the old fellow might, as he put it, "go up to de ole State of Virginny" to see his aunt.
"Your aunt must be pretty old," was the employer's comment.
"Yassir," said Joshua. "She's pretty ole now. I reckon she's 'bout a hundred an' ten years ole."
"One hundred and ten! But what on earth is she doing up in Virginia?"
"I don't jest know," explained Joshua, "but I understand she's up dere livin' wif her grandmother."
When "Bob" Burdette was addressing the graduating class of a large eastern college for women, he began his remarks with the usual salutation, "Young ladies of '97." Then in a horrified aside he added, "That's an awful age for a girl!"
THE PARSON (about to improve the golden hour)—"When a man reaches your age, Mr. Dodd, he cannot, in the nature of things, expect to live very much longer, and I—"
THE NONAGENARIAN—"I dunno, parson. I be stronger on my legs than I were when I started!"
A well-meaning Washington florist was the cause of much embarrassment to a young man who was in love with a rich and beautiful girl.
It appears that one afternoon she informed the young man that the next day would be her birthday, whereupon the suitor remarked that he would the next morning send her some roses, one rose for each year.
That night he wrote a note to his florist, ordering the delivery of twenty roses for the young woman. The florist himself filled the order, and, thinking to improve on it, said to his clerk:
"Here's an order from young Jones for twenty roses. He's one of my best customers, so I'll throw in ten more for good measure."—Edwin Tarrisse.
A small boy who had recently passed his fifth birthday was riding in a suburban car with his mother, when they were asked the customary question, "How old is the boy?" After being told the correct age, which did not require a fare, the conductor passed on to the next person.
The boy sat quite still as if pondering over some question, and then, concluding that full information had not been given, called loudly to the conductor, then at the other end of the car: "And mother's thirty-one!"
The late John Bigelow, the patriarch of diplomats and authors, and the no less distinguished physician and author, Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, were together, several years ago, at West Point. Dr. Bigelow was then ninety-two, and Dr. Mitchell eighty.
The conversation turned to the subject of age. "I attribute my many years," said Dr. Bigelow, "to the fact that I have been most abstemious. I have eaten sparingly, and have not used tobacco, and have taken little exercise."
"It is just the reverse in my case," explained Dr. Mitchell. "I have eaten just as much as I wished, if I could get it; I have always used tobacco, immoderately at times; and I have always taken a great deal of exercise."
With that, Ninety-Two-Years shook his head at Eighty-Years and said, "Well, you will never live to be an old man!"—Sarah Bache Hodge.
A wise man never puts away childish things.—Sidney Dark.
To the old, long life and treasure; To the young, all health and pleasure.
Youth is a blunder; Manhood a struggle; Old Age a regret.—Disraeli.
We do not count a man's years, until he has nothing else to count.—Emerson.
To be seventy years young is sometimes far more cheerful and hopeful than to be forty years old.—O.W. Holmes.
"John, whatever induced you to buy a house in this forsaken region?"
"One of the best men in the business."—Life.
A farmer, according to this definition, is a man who makes his money on the farm and spends it in town. An agriculturist is a man who makes his money in town and spends it on the farm.
In certain parts of the west, where without irrigation the cultivators of the land would be in a bad way indeed, the light rains that during the growing season fall from time to time, are appreciated to a degree that is unknown in the east.
Last summer a fruit grower who owns fifty acres of orchards was rejoicing in one of these precipitations of moisture, when his hired man came into the house.
"Why don't you stay in out of the rain?" asked the fruit-man.
"I don't mind a little dew like this," said the man. "I can work along just the same."
"Oh, I'm not talking about that," exclaimed the fruit-man. "The next time it rains, you can come into the house. I want that water on the land."
They used to have a farming rule Of forty acres and a mule. Results were won by later men With forty square feet and a hen. And nowadays success we see With forty inches and a bee.
Blessed be agriculture! if one does not have too much of it.—Charles Dudley Warner.
When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization.—Daniel Webster.
MIKE (in bed, to alarm-clock as it goes off)—"I fooled yez that time. I was not aslape at all."
"Alert?" repeated a congressman, when questioned concerning one of his political opponents. "Why, he's alert as a Providence bridegroom I heard of the other day. You know how bridegrooms starting off on their honeymoons sometimes forget all about their brides, and buy tickets only for themselves? That is what happened to the Providence young man. And when his wife said to him, 'Why, Tom, you bought only one ticket,' he answered without a moment's hesitation, 'By Jove, you're right, dear! I'd forgotten myself entirely!'"
A party of Manila army women were returning in an auto from a suburban excursion when the driver unfortunately collided with another vehicle. While a policeman was taking down the names of those concerned an "English-speaking" Filipino law-student politely asked one of the ladies how the accident had happened.
"I'm sure I don't know," she replied; "I was asleep when it occurred."
Proud of his knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon tongue, the youth replied:
"Ah, madam, then you will be able to prove a lullaby."
"What is alimony, ma?"
"It is a man's cash surrender value."—Town Topics
The proof of the wedding is in the alimony.
"Why don't you give your wife an allowance?"
"I did once, and she spent it before I could borrow it back."
WILLIE—"Teacher says we're here to help others."
PA—"Of course we are."
WILLIE—"Well, what are the others here for?"
There was once a remarkably kind boy who was a great angler. There was a trout stream in his neighborhood that ran through a rich man's estate. Permits to fish the stream could now and then be obtained, and the boy was lucky enough to have a permit.
One day he was fishing with another boy when a gamekeeper suddenly darted forth from a thicket. The lad with the permit uttered a cry of fright, dropped his rod, and ran off at top speed. The gamekeeper pursued.
For about half a mile the gamekeeper was led a swift and difficult chase. Then, worn out, the boy halted. The man seized him by the arm and said between pants:
"Have you a permit to fish on this estate?
"Yes to be sure," said the boy, quietly.
"You have? Then show it to me."
The boy drew the permit from his pocket. The man examined it and frowned in perplexity and anger.
"Why did you run when you had this permit?" he asked.
"To let the other boy get away," was the reply. "He didn't have none!"
Oliver Herford sat next to a soulful poetess at dinner one night, and that dreamy one turned her sad eyes upon him. "Have you no other ambition, Mr. Herford," she demanded, "than to force people to degrade themselves by laughter?"
Yes, Herford had an ambition. A whale of an ambition. Some day he hoped to gratify it.
The woman rested her elbows on the table and propped her face in her long, sad hands, and glowed into Mr. Herford's eyes. "Oh, Mr. Herford," she said, "Oliver! Tell me about it."
"I want to throw an egg into an electric fan," said Herford, simply.
"Hubby," said the observant wife, "the janitor of these flats is a bachelor."
"What of it?"
"I really think he is becoming interested in our oldest daughter."
"There you go again with your pipe dreams! Last week it was a duke."
The chief end of a man in New York is dissipation; in Boston, conversation.
When you are aspiring to the highest place, it is honorable to reach the second or even the third rank.—Cicero.
The man who seeks one thing in life, and but one, May hope to achieve it before life be done; But he who seeks all things, wherever he goes, Only reaps from the hopes which around him he sows A harvest of barren regrets.
Here's to the dearest Of all things on earth. (Dearest precisely— And yet of full worth.) One who lays siege to Susceptible hearts. (Pocket-books also— That's one of her arts!) Drink to her, toast her, Your banner unfurl— Here's to the priceless American Girl!
Eugene Field was at a dinner in London when the conversation turned to the subject of lynching in the United States.
It was the general opinion that a large percentage of Americans met death at the end of a rope. Finally the hostess turned to Field and asked:
"You, sir, must have often seen these affairs?"
"Yes," replied Field, "hundreds of them."
"Oh, do tell us about a lynching you have seen yourself," broke in half a dozen voices at once.
"Well, the night before I sailed for England," said Field, "I was giving a dinner at a hotel to a party of intimate friends when a colored waiter spilled a plate of soup over the gown of a lady at an adjoining table. The gown was utterly ruined, and the gentlemen of her party at once seized the waiter, tied a rope around his neck, and at a signal from the injured lady swung him into the air."
"Horrible!" said the hostess with a shudder. "And did you actually see this yourself?"
"Well, no," admitted Field apologetically. "Just at that moment I happened to be downstairs killing the chef for putting mustard in the blanc mange."
You can always tell the English, You can always tell the Dutch, You can always tell the Yankees— But you can't tell them much!
A newspaper thus defined amusements:
The Friends' picnic this year was not as well attended as it has been for some years. This can be laid to three causes, viz.: the change of place in holding it, deaths in families, and other amusements.
I wish that my room had a floor; I don't so much care for a door; But this crawling around Without touching the ground Is getting to be quite a bore.
I am a great friend to public amusements; for they keep people from vice.—Samuel Johnson.
TOMMY—"My gran'pa wuz in th' civil war, an' he lost a leg or a arm in every battle he fit in!"
JOHNNY—"Gee! How many battles was he in?"
They thought more of the Legion of Honor in the time of the first Napoleon than they do now. The emperor one day met an old one-armed veteran.
"How did you lose your arm?" he asked.
"Sire, at Austerlitz."
"And were you not decorated?"
"Then here is my own cross for you; I make you chevalier."
"Your Majesty names me chevalier because I have lost one arm. What would your Majesty have done had I lost both arms?"
"Oh, in that case I should have made you Officer of the Legion."
Whereupon the old soldier immediately drew his sword and cut off his other arm.
There is no particular reason to doubt this story. The only question is, how did he do it?
A western buyer is inordinately proud of the fact that one of his ancestors affixed his name to the Declaration of Independence. At the time the salesman called, the buyer was signing a number of checks and affixed his signature with many a curve and flourish. The salesman's patience becoming exhausted in waiting for the buyer to recognize him, he finally observed:
"You have a fine signature, Mr. So-and-So."
"Yes," admitted the buyer, "I should have. One of my forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence."
"So?" said the caller, with rising inflection. And then he added:
"Vell, you aind't got nottings on me. One of my forefathers signed the Ten Commandments."
In a speech in the Senate on Hawaiian affairs, Senator Depew of New York told this story:
When Queen Liliuokalani was in England during the English queen's jubilee, she was received at Buckingham Palace. In the course of the remarks that passed between the two queens, the one from the Sandwich Islands said that she had English blood in her veins.
"How so?" inquired Victoria.
"My ancestors ate Captain Cook."
Signor Marconi, in an interview in Washington, praised American democracy.
"Over here," he said, "you respect a man for what he is himself—not for what his family is—and thus you remind me of the gardener in Bologna who helped me with my first wireless apparatus.
"As my mother's gardener and I were working on my apparatus together a young count joined us one day, and while he watched us work the count boasted of his lineage.
"The gardener, after listening a long while, smiled and said:
"'If you come from an ancient family, it's so much the worse for you sir; for, as we gardeners say, the older the seed the worse the crop.'"
"Gerald," said the young wife, noticing how heartily he was eating, "do I cook as well as your mother did?"
Gerald put up his monocle, and stared at her through it.
"Once and for all, Agatha," he said, "I beg you will remember that although I may seem to be in reduced circumstances now, I come of an old and distinguished family. My mother was not a cook."
"My ancestors came over in the 'Mayflower.'"
"That's nothing; my father descended from an aeroplane."—Life.
When in England, Governor Foss, of Massachusetts, had luncheon with a prominent Englishman noted for boasting of his ancestry. Taking a coin from his pocket, the Englishman said: "My great-great-grandfather was made a lord by the king whose picture you see on this shilling." "Indeed!" replied the governor, smiling, as he produced another coin. "What a coincidence! My great-great-grandfather was made an angel by the Indian whose picture you see on this cent."
People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.—Burke.
From yon blue heavens above us bent, The gardener Adam and his wife Smile at the claims of long descent.
Charlie and Nancy had quarreled. After their supper Mother tried to re-establish friendly relations. She told them of the Bible verse, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath."
"Now, Charlie," she pleaded, "are you going to let the sun go down on your wrath?"
Charlie squirmed a little. Then:
"Well, how can I stop it?"
When a husband loses his temper he usually finds his wife's.
It is easy enough to restrain our wrath when the other fellow is the bigger.
MRS. JONES—"Does your husband remember your wedding anniversary?"
MRS. SMITH—"No; so I remind him of it in January and June, and get two presents."
"Suppose," asked the professor in chemistry, "that you were summoned to the side of a patient who had accidentally swallowed a heavy dose of oxalic acid, what would you administer?"
The student who, studying for the ministry, took chemistry because it was obligatory in the course, replied, "I would administer the sacrament."
"How fat and well your little boy looks."
"Ah, you should never judge from appearances. He's got a gumboil on one side of his face and he has been stung by a wasp on the other."
A certain theatrical troupe, after a dreary and unsuccessful tour, finally arrived in a small New Jersey town. That night, though there was no furore or general uprising of the audience, there was enough hand-clapping to arouse the troupe's dejected spirits. The leading man stepped to the foot-lights after the first act and bowed profoundly. Still the clapping continued.
When he went behind the scenes he saw an Irish stagehand laughing heartily. "Well, what do you think of that?" asked the actor, throwing out his chest.
"What d'ye mane?" replied the Irishman.
"Why, the hand-clapping out there," was the reply.
"Yes," said the Thespian, "they are giving me enough applause to show they appreciate me."
"D'ye call thot applause?" inquired the old fellow. "Whoi, thot's not applause. Thot's the audience killin' mosquitoes."
Applause is the spur of noble minds, the end and aim of weak ones.—Colton.
O Popular Applause! what heart of man is proof against thy sweet, seducing charms?—Cowper.
A war was going on, and one day, the papers being full of the grim details of a bloody battle, a woman said to her husband:
"This slaughter is shocking. It's fiendish. Can nothing he done to stop it?"
"I'm afraid not," her husband answered.
"Why don't both sides come together and arbitrate?" she cried.
"They did," said he. "They did, 'way back in June. That's how the gol-durned thing started."
"He seems to be very clever."
"Yes, indeed, he can even do the problems that his children have to work out at school."
SONNY—"Aw, pop, I don't wanter study arithmetic."
POP—"What! a son of mine grow up and not he able to figure up baseball scores and batting averages? Never!"
TEACHER—"Now, Johnny, suppose I should borrow $100 from your father and should pay him $10 a month for ten months, how much would I then owe him?"
JOHNNY—"About $3 interest."
"See how I can count, mama," said Kitty. "There's my right foot. That's one. There's my left foot. That's two. Two and one make three. Three feet make a yard, and I want to go out and play in it!"
"Two old salts who had spent most of their lives on fishing smacks had an argument one day as to which was the better mathematician," said George C. Wiedenmayer the other day. "Finally the captain of their ship proposed the following problem which each would try to work out: 'If a fishing crew caught 500 pounds of cod and brought their catch to port and sold it at 6 cents a pound, how much would they receive for the fish?'
"Well, the two old fellows got to work, but neither seemed able to master the intricacies of the deal in fish, and they were unable to get any answer.
"At last old Bill turned to the captain and asked him to repeat the problem. The captain started off: 'If a fishing crew caught 500 pounds of cod and—.'
"'Wait a moment,' said Bill, 'is it codfish they caught?'
"'Yep,' said the captain.
"'Darn it all,' said Bill. 'No wonder I couldn't get an answer. Here I've been figuring on salmon all the time.'"
A new volunteer at a national guard encampment who had not quite learned his business, was on sentry duty, one night, when a friend brought a pie from the canteen.
As he sat on the grass eating pie, the major sauntered up in undress uniform. The sentry, not recognizing him, did not salute, and the major stopped and said:
"What's that you have there?"
"Pie," said the sentry, good-naturedly. "Apple pie. Have a bite?"
The major frowned.
"Do you know who I am?" he asked.
"No," said the sentry, "unless you're the major's groom."
The major shook his head.
"Guess again," he growled.
"The barber from the village?"
"Maybe"—here the sentry laughed—"maybe you're the major himself?"
"That's right. I am the major," was the stern reply.
The sentry scrambled to his feet.
"Good gracious!" he exclaimed. "Hold the pie, will you, while I present arms!"
The battle was going against him. The commander-in-chief, himself ruler of the South American republic, sent an aide to the rear, ordering General Blanco to bring up his regiment at once. Ten minutes passed; but it didn't come. Twenty, thirty, and an hour—still no regiment. The aide came tearing back hatless, breathless.
"My regiment! My regiment! Where is it? Where is it?" shrieked the commander.
"General," answered the excited aide, "Blanco started it all right, but there are a couple of drunken Americans down the road and they won't let it go by."
An army officer decided to see for himself how his sentries were doing their duty. He was somewhat surprised at overhearing the following:
"Halt! Who goes there?"
"Friend—with a bottle."
"Pass, friend. Halt, bottle."
"A war is a fearful thing," said Mr. Dolan.
"It is," replied Mr. Rafferty. "When you see the fierceness of members of the army toward one another, the fate of a common enemy must be horrible."
See also Military Discipline.
The colonel of a volunteer regiment camping in Virginia came across a private on the outskirts of the camp, painfully munching on something. His face was wry and his lips seemed to move only with the greatest effort.
"What are you eating?" demanded the colonel.
"Good Heavens! Haven't you got any more sense than to eat persimmons at this time of the year? They'll pucker the very stomach out of you."
"I know, sir. That's why I'm eatin' 'em. I'm tryin' to shrink me stomach to fit me rations."
On the occasion of the annual encampment of a western militia, one of the soldiers, a clerk who lived well at home, was experiencing much difficulty in disposing of his rations.
A fellow-sufferer nearby was watching with no little amusement the first soldier's attempts to Fletcherize a piece of meat. "Any trouble, Tom?" asked the second soldier sarcastically.
"None in particular," was the response. Then, after a sullen survey of the bit of beef he held in his hand, the amateur fighter observed:
"Bill, I now fully realize what people mean when they speak of the sinews of war."—Howard Morse.
There was an old sculptor named Phidias, Whose knowledge of Art was invidious. He carved Aphrodite Without any nightie— Which startled the purely fastidious.
—Gilbert K. Chesterton.
The friend had dropped in to see D'Auber, the great animal painter, put the finishing touches on his latest painting. He was mystified, however, when D'Auber took some raw meat and rubbed it vigorously over the painted rabbit in the foreground.
"Why on earth did you do that?" he asked.
"Why you see," explained D'Auber, "Mrs Millions is coming to see this picture today. When she sees her pet poodle smell that rabbit, and get excited over it, she'll buy it on the spot."
A young artist once persuaded Whistler to come and view his latest effort. The two stood before the canvas for some moments in silence. Finally the young man asked timidly, "Don't you think, sir, that this painting of mine is—well—er—tolerable?"
Whistler's eyes twinkled dangerously.
"What is your opinion of a tolerable egg?" he asked.
The amateur artist was painting sunset, red with blue streaks and green dots.
The old rustic, at a respectful distance, was watching.
"Ah," said the artist looking up suddenly, "perhaps to you, too, Nature has opened her sky picture page by page! Have you seen the lambent flame of dawn leaping across the livid east; the red-stained, sulphurous islets floating in the lake of fire in the west; the ragged clouds at midnight, black as a raven's wing, blotting out the shuddering moon?"
"No," replied the rustic, "not since I give up drink."
Art is indeed not the bread but the wine of life.—Jean Paul Richter.
Now nature is not at variance with art, nor art with nature; they being both the servants of His providence. Art is the perfection of nature. Were the world now as it was the sixth day, there were yet a chaos. Nature hath made one world, and art another. In brief, all things are artificial; for nature is the art of God.—Sir Thomas Browne.
ARTIST—"I'd like to devote my last picture to a charitable purpose."
CRITIC—"Why not give it to an institution for the blind?"
"Wealth has its penalties." said the ready-made philosopher.
"Yes," replied Mr. Cumrox. "I'd rather be back at the dear old factory than learning to pronounce the names of the old masters in my picture-gallery."
CRITIC—"By George, old chap, when I look at one of your paintings I stand and wonder—"
ARTIST—"How I do it?"
CRITIC "No; why you do it."
He that seeks popularity in art closes the door on his own genius: as he must needs paint for other minds, and not for his own.—Mrs. Jameson.
The caller's eye had caught the photograph of Tommie Billups, standing on the desk of Mr. Billups.
"That your boy, Billups?" he asked.
"Yes," said Billups, "he's a sophomore up at Binkton College."
"Looks intellectual rather than athletic," said the caller.
"Oh, he's an athlete all right," said Billups. "When it comes to running up accounts, and jumping his board-bill, and lifting his voice, and throwing a thirty-two pound bluff, there isn't a gladiator in creation that can give my boy Tommie any kind of a handicap. He's just written for an extra check."
"And as a proud father you are sending it, I don't doubt," smiled the caller.
"Yes," grinned Billups; "I am sending him a rain-check I got at the hall-game yesterday. As an athlete, he'll appreciate its value."—J.K.B.
The supervisor of a school was trying to prove that children are lacking in observation.
To the children he said, "Now, children, tell me a number to put on the board."
Some child said, "Thirty-six." The supervisor wrote sixty-three.
He asked for another number, and seventy-six was given. He wrote sixty-seven.
When a third number was asked, a child who apparently had paid no attention called out:
"Theventy-theven. Change that you thucker!"
The following is a recipe for an author:
Take the usual number of fingers, Add paper, manila or white, A typewriter, plenty of postage And something or other to write.
Oscar Wilde, upon hearing one of Whistler's bon mots exclaimed: "Oh, Jimmy; I wish I had said that!" "Never mind, dear Oscar," was the rejoinder, "you will!"
THE AUTHOR—"Would you advise me to get out a small edition?"
THE PUBLISHER—"Yes, the smaller the better. The more scarce a book is at the end of four or five centuries the more money you realize from it."
AMBITIOUS AUTHOR—"Hurray! Five dollars for my latest story, 'The Call of the Lure!'"
FAST FRIEND—"Who from?"
AMBITIOUS AUTHOR—"The express company. They lost it."
A lady who had arranged an authors' reading at her house succeeded in persuading her reluctant husband to stay home that evening to assist in receiving the guests. He stood the entertainment as long as he could—three authors, to be exact—and then made an excuse that he was going to open the front door to let in some fresh air. In the hall he found one of the servants asleep on a settee.
"Wake up!" he commanded, shaking the fellow roughly. "What does this mean, your being asleep out here? You must have been listening at the keyhole."
An ambitious young man called upon a publisher and stated that he had decided to write a book.
"May I venture to inquire as to the nature of the book you propose to write?" asked the publisher, very politely.
"Oh," came in an offhand way from the aspirant to literary fame, "I think of doing something on the line of 'Les Miserables,' only livelier, you know."
"So you have had a long siege of nervous prostration?" we say to the haggard author. "What caused it? Overwork?"
"In a way, yes," he answers weakly. "I tried to do a novel with a Robert W. Chambers hero and a Mary E. Wilkins heroine."—Life.
Mark Twain at a dinner at the Authors' Club said: "Speaking of fresh eggs, I am reminded of the town of Squash. In my early lecturing days I went to Squash to lecture in Temperance Hall, arriving in the afternoon. The town seemed very poorly billed. I thought I'd find out if the people knew anything at all about what was in store for them. So I turned in at the general store. 'Good afternoon, friend,' I said to the general storekeeper. 'Any entertainment here tonight to help a stranger while away his evening?' The general storekeeper, who was sorting mackerels, straightened up, wiped his briny hands on his apron, and said: 'I expect there's goin' to be a lecture. I've been sellin' eggs all day."
An American friend of Edmond Rostand says that the great dramatist once told him of a curious encounter he had had with a local magistrate in a town not far from his own.
It appears that Rostand had been asked to register the birth of a friend's newly arrived son. The clerk at the registry office was an officious little chap, bent on carrying out the letter of the law. The following dialogue ensued:
"Your name, sir?"
"Man of letters, and member of the French Academy."
"Very well, sir. You must sign your name. Can you write? If not, you may make a cross."—Howard Morse.
George W. Cable, the southern writer, was visiting a western city where he was invited to inspect the new free library. The librarian conducted the famous writer through the building until they finally reached the department of books devoted to fiction.
"We have all your books, Mr. Cable," proudly said the librarian. "You see there they are—all of them on the shelves there: not one missing."
And Mr. Cable's hearty laugh was not for the reason that the librarian thought!
Brief History of a Successful Author: From ink-pots to flesh-pots—R.R. Kirk.
"It took me nearly ten years to learn that I couldn't write stories."
"I suppose you gave it up then?"
"No, no. By that time I had a reputation."
"I dream my stories," said Hicks, the author.
"How you must dread going to bed!" exclaimed Cynicus.
The five-year-old son of James Oppenheim, author of "The Olympian," was recently asked what work he was going to do when he became a man. "Oh," Ralph replied, "I'm not going to work at all." "Well, what are you going to do, then?" he was asked. "Why," he said seriously, "I'm just going to write stories, like daddy."
William Dean Howells is the kindliest of critics, but now and then some popular novelist's conceit will cause him to bristle up a little.
"You know," said one, fishing for compliments, "I get richer and richer, but all the same I think my work is falling off. My new work is not so good as my old."
"Oh, nonsense!" said Mr. Howells. "You write just as well as you ever did. Your taste is improving, that's all."
James Oliver Curwood, a novelist, tells of a recent encounter with the law. The value of a short story he was writing depended upon a certain legal situation which he found difficult to manage. Going to a lawyer of his acquaintance he told him the plot and was shown a way to the desired end. "You've saved me just $100," he exclaimed, "for that's what I am going to get for this story."
A week later he received a bill from the lawyer as follows: "For literary advice, $100." He says he paid.
"Tried to skin me, that scribbler did!"
"What did he want?"
"Wanted to get out a book jointly, he to write the book and I to write the advertisements. I turned him down. I wasn't going to do all the literary work."
At a London dinner recently the conversation turned to the various methods of working employed by literary geniuses. Among the examples cited was that of a well-known poet, who, it is said, was wont to arouse his wife about four o'clock in the morning and exclaim, "Maria, get up; I've thought of a good word!" Whereupon the poet's obedient helpmate would crawl out of bed and make a note of the thought-of word.
About an hour later, like as not, a new inspiration would seize the bard, whereupon he would again arouse his wife, saying, "Maria, Maria, get up! I've thought of a better word!"
The company in general listened to the story with admiration, but a merry-eyed American girl remarked: "Well, if he'd been my husband I should have replied, 'Alpheus, get up yourself; I've thought of a bad word!'"
"There is probably no hell for authors in the next world—they suffer so much from critics and publishers in this."—Bovee.
A thought upon my forehead, My hand up to my face; I want to be an author, An air of studied grace! I want to be an author, With genius on my brow; I want to be an author, And I want to be it now!
—Ella Hutchison Ellwanger.
That writer does the most, who gives his reader the most knowledge, and takes from him the least time.—C.C. Colton.