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He. ‘Nay, I’ll pardon you. But now, no sour faces, dear wife, but throw your arms round my neck and kiss me.’

“I gave him a little box on the ear, stole a quire of paper, and ran off with loud exultation. Bear followed into the kitchen growling horribly; but then I turned upon him armed with two delicious little patties, which I aimed at his mouth, and there they vanished. Bear, all at once, was quite still, the paper was forgotten, and reconciliation concluded.

“There is, Maria, no better way of stopping the mouths of these lords of the creation than by putting into them something good to eat.”

I wish I had room for my favorite Irishwoman, Lady Morgan, and her description of her first rout at the house of the eccentric Lady Cork.

The off-hand songs of her sister, Lady Clarke, are fine illustrations of rollicking Irish wit and badinage.

At one of Lady Morgan’s receptions, given in honor of fifty philosophers from England, Lady Clarke sang the following song with “great effect:”


Heigh for ould Ireland! Oh, would you require a land

Where men by nature are all quite the thing,

Where pure inspiration has taught the whole nation

To fight, love, and reason, talk politics, sing;

‘Tis Pat’s mathematical, chemical, tactical,

Knowing and practical, fanciful, gay,

Fun and philosophy, supping and sophistry,

There’s nothing in life that is out of his way.

He makes light of optics, and sees through dioptrics,

He’s a dab at projectiles—ne’er misses his man;

He’s complete in attraction, and quick at reaction,

By the doctrine of chances he squares every plan;

In hydraulics so frisky, the whole Bay of Biscay,

If it flowed but with whiskey, he’d store it away.

Fun and philosophy, supping and sophistry,

There’s nothing in life that is out of his way.

So to him cross over savant and philosopher,

Thinking, God help them! to bother us all;

But they’ll find that for knowledge ‘tis at our own college

Themselves must inquire for—beds, dinner, or ball.

There are lectures to tire, and good lodgings to hire,

To all who require and have money to pay;

While fun and philosophy, supping and sophistry,

Ladies and lecturing fill up the day.

So at the Rotunda we all sorts of fun do,

Hard hearts and pig-iron we melt in one flame;

For if Love blows the bellows, our tough college fellows

Will thaw into rapture at each lovely dame.

There, too, sans apology, tea, tarts, tautology,

Are given with zoology, to grave and gay;

Thus fun and philosophy, supping and sophistry

Send all to England home, happy and gay.

From George Eliot, whose humor is seen at its best in “Adam Bede” and “Silas Marner,” how much we could quote! How some of her searching comments cling to the memory!

“I’ve nothing to say again’ her piety, my dear; but I know very well I shouldn’t like her to cook my victuals. When a man comes in hungry and tired, piety won’t feed him, I reckon. Hard carrots ‘ull lie heavy on his stomach, piety or no piety. I called in one day when she was dishin’ up Mr. Tryan’s dinner, an’ I could see the potatoes was as watery as watery. It’s right enough to be speritial, I’m no enemy to that, but I like my potatoes mealy.”

“You’re right there, Tookey; there’s allays two ‘pinions: there’s the ‘pinion a man has of himsen, and there’s the ‘pinion other folks have on him. There’d be two ‘pinions about a cracked bell if the bell could hear itself.”

“You’re mighty fond o’ Craig; but for my part, I think he’s welly like a cock as thinks the sun’s rose o’ purpose to hear him crow.”

“When Mr. Brooke had something painful to tell it was usually his way to introduce it among a number of disjointed particulars, as if it were a medicine that would get a milder flavor by mixing.”

“Heaven knows what would become of our sociality if we never visited people we speak ill of; we should live like Egyptian hermits, in crowded solitude.”

“No, I ain’t one to see the cat walking into the dairy and wonder what she’s come after.”

“I have nothing to say again’ Craig, on’y it is a pity he couldna be hatched o’er again, and hatched different.”

“I’m not denyin’ the women are foolish; God Almighty made ‘em to match the men.”

“It’s a waste of time to praise people dead whom you maligned while living; for it’s but a poor harvest you’ll get by watering last year’s crop.”

“I suppose Dinah’s like all the rest of the women, and thinks two and two will come to make five, if she only cries and makes bother enough about it.”

“Put a good face on it and don’t seem to be looking out for crows, else you’ll set other people to watchin’ for ‘em, too.”

“I took pretty good care, before I said ‘sniff,’ to be sure she would say ‘snaff,’ and pretty quick, too. I warn’t a-goin’ to open my mouth like a dog at a fly, and snap it to again wi’ nothin’ to swaller.”



The same gratifying progress and improvement noticed in the wit of women of other lands is seen in studying the literary annals of our own countrywomen.

Think of Anne Bradstreet, Mercy Warren, and Tabitha Tenney, all extolled to the skies by their contemporaries.

Mercy Warren was a satirist quite in the strain of Juvenal, but in cumbrous, artificial fashion.

Hon. John Winthrop consulted her on the proposed suspension of trade with England in all but the necessaries of life, and she playfully gives a list of articles that would be included in that word:

“An inventory clear

Of all she needs Lamira offers here;

Nor does she fear a rigid Cato’s frown,

When she lays by the rich embroidered gown,

And modestly compounds for just enough,

Perhaps some dozens of mere flighty stuff;

With lawns and lute strings, blonde and Mechlin laces,

Fringes and jewels, fans and tweezer-cases;

Gay cloaks and hat, of every shape and size,

Scarfs, cardinals, and ribands, of all dyes,

With ruffles stamped and aprons of tambour,

Tippets and handkerchiefs, at least threescore;

With finest muslins that fair India boasts,

And the choice herbage from Chinesian coasts;

Add feathers, furs, rich satin, and ducapes,

And head-dresses in pyramidal shapes;

Sideboards of plate and porcelain profuse,

With fifty dittoes that the ladies use.

So weak Lamira and her wants so few

Who can refuse? they’re but the sex’s due.”

Mrs. Sigourney, voluminous and mediocre, is amusing because so absolutely destitute of humor, and her style, a feminine Johnsonese, is absurdly hifalutin and strained.

This is the way in which she alludes to green apples:

“From the time of their first taking on orbicular shape, and when it might be supposed their hardness and acidity would repulse all save elephantine tusks and ostrich stomachs, they were the prey of roaming children.”

And in her poem “To a Shred of Linen”:

“Methinks I scan

Some idiosyncrasy that marks thee out

A defunct pillow-case.”

She preserved, however, a long list of the various solicitations sent her to furnish poems for special occasions, and I think this shows that she possessed a sense of humor. Let me quote a few:

“Some verses were desired as an elegy on a pet canary accidentally drowned in a barrel of swine’s food.