Little Masterpieces of American Wit and Humor online

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And true love has an eye for a dinner,
And starves beneath shady trees.
His wing is the fan of a lady,
His foot's an invisible thing,
And his arrow is tipp'd with a jewel
And shot from a silver string.


* * * * *


_Uncle Jack:_ It is very good lemonade, I am sure; but tell me, Bonnie,
why do you sell yours for three cents a glass when Charley gets five for

_Miss Bonnie:_ Well, you mustn't tell anybody, Uncle Jack, but the puppy
fell in mine and I thought it ought to be cheaper.

A Hingham, Massachusetts, woman is said to have hit upon a happy idea
when she was puzzled what to do in order to tell her mince and apple
pies apart. She was advised to mark them, and did so, and complacently
announced: "This I've marked 'T. M.' - 'Tis mince; an' that I've marked
'T. M.' - 'Taint mince."

Doctor Oliver Wendell Holmes used to be an amateur photographer. When he
presented a picture to a friend, he wrote on the back of it, "Taken by
O. W. Holmes & Sun."


Hans Breitmann gife a barty:
Dey had biano-blayin':
I felled in lofe mit a 'Merican frau,
Her name was Madilda Yane,
She hat haar as prown as a pretzel,
Her eyes vas himmel-plue,
Und ven dey looket indo mine,
Dey shplit mine heart in two.

Hans Breitmann gife a barty:
I vent dere, you'll be pound.
I valtzet mit Madilda Yane
Und vent shpinnen round and round.
De pootiest Fräulein in de house,
She veyed 'pout dwo hoondred pound,
Und efery dime she gife a shoomp
She make de vindows sound.

Hans Breitmann gife a barty:
I dells you it cost him dear.
Dey rolled in more ash sefen kecks
Of foost rate Lager Beer,
Und venefer dey knocks de shpicket in
De Deutschers gifes a cheer.
I dinks dat so vine a barty
Nefer coom to a het dis year.

Hans Breitmann gife a barty:
Dere all vas Souse und Brouse;
Ven de sooper comed in, de gompany
Did make demselfs to house.
Dey ate das Brot und Gensy broost,
De Bratwurst und Braten fine,
Und vash der Abendessen down
Mit four parrels of Neckarwein.

Hans Breitmann gife a barty:
We all cot troonk ash pigs.
I poot mine mout to a parrel of beer,
Und emptied it oop mit a schwigs.
Und denn I gissed Madilda Yane
Und she shlog me on the kop,
Und de gompany fited mit dable-lecks
Dill de coonsthable made oos shtop.

Hans Breitmann gife a barty - -
Where ish dat barty now!
Where ish de lofely golden cloud
Dat float on de mountain's prow?
Where ish de himmelstrahlende Stern - -
De shtar of de shpirit's light?
All goned afay mit de Lager Beer - -
Afay in de Ewigkeit!




"O, no, Mr. Crane, by no manner o' means, 'tain't a minnit tow soon for
you to begin to talk about gittin' married agin. I am amazed you should
be afeerd I'd think so. See - how long's Miss Crane ben dead? Six
months! - land o' Goshen! - why, I've know'd a number of individdiwals get
married in less time than that. There's Phil Bennett's widder 't I was
a-talkin' about jest now - she 't was Louisy Perce - her husband hadent
been dead but _three_ months, you know. I don't think it looks well for
a _woman_ to be in such a hurry - but for a _man_ it's a different
thing - circumstances alters cases, you know. And then, sittiwated as you
be, Mr. Crane, it's a turrible thing for your family to be without a
head to superintend the domestic consarns and tend to the children - to
say nothin' o' yerself, Mr. Crane. You dew need a companion, and no
mistake. Six months! Good grievous! Why, Squire Titus dident wait but
six _weeks_ arter he buried his fust wife afore he married his second. I
thought ther wa'n't no partickler need o' his hurryin' so, seein' his
family was all grow'd up. Such a critter as he pickt out, tew! 'twas
very onsuitable - but every man to his taste - I hain't no dispersition
to meddle with nobody's consarns. There's old farmer Dawson, tew - his
pardner hain't ben dead but ten months. To be sure, he ain't married
yet - but he would a-ben long enough ago if somebody I know on'd gin him
any incurridgement. But 'tain't for me to speak o' that matter. He's a
clever old critter and as rich as a Jew - but - lawful sakes! he's old
enough to be my father. And there's Mr. Smith - Jubiter Smith; you know
him, Mr. Crane - his wife (she 'twas Aurory Pike) she died last summer,
and he's ben squintin' round among the wimmin ever since, and he _may_
squint for all the good it'll dew him so far as I'm consarned - tho' Mr.
Smith's a respectable man - quite young and hain't no family - very well
off, tew, and quite intellectible - but I'm purty partickler. O, Mr.
Crane! it's ten year come Jinniwary sence I witnessed the expiration o'
my belovid companion - an oncommon long time to wait, to be sure - but
'tain't easy to find anybody to fill the place o' Hezekier Bedott. I
think _you're_ the most like husband of ary individdiwal I ever see, Mr.
Crane. Six months Murderation! Curus you should be afeered I'd think't
was tew soon - why, I've know'd - - "

MR. CRANE. "Well, widder - I've been thinking about taking
another companion - and I thought I'd ask you - - "

WIDOW. "O, Mr. Crane, egscuse my commotion, it's so onexpected.
Jest hand me that are bottle of camfire off the mantletry shelf - I'm
ruther faint - dew put a little mite on my handkercher and hold it to my
nuz. There - that'll dew - I'm obleeged tew ye - now I'm ruther more
composed - you may perceed, Mr. Crane."

MR. CRANE. "Well, widder, I was a-going to ask you
whether - whether - - "

WIDOW. "Continner, Mr. Crane - dew - I knew it's turrible
embarrissin'. I remember when my dezeased husband made his suppositions
to me he stammered and stuttered, and was so awfully flustered it did
seems as if he'd never git it out in the world, and I s'pose it's
ginnerally the case, at least it has been with all them that's made
suppositions to me - you see they're ginerally oncerting about what kind
of an answer they're a-gwine to git, and it kind o' makes 'em narvous.
But when an individdiwal has reason to suppose his attachment's
reperated, I don't see what need there is o' his bein' flustrated - tho'
I must say it's quite embarrassin' to me - pray continner."

MR. C. "Well, then, I want to know if yu're willing I should
have Melissy?"

WIDOW. "The dragon!"

MR. C. "I hain't said anything to her about it yet - thought the
proper way was to get your consent first. I remember when I courted
Trypheny, we were engaged some time before mother Kenipe knew anything
about it, and when she found it out she was quite put out because I
dident go to her first. So when I made up my mind about Melissy, thinks
me, I'll dew it right this time and speak to the old woman first - - "

WIDOW. "_Old woman_, hey! That's a purty name to call
me! - amazin' perlite, tew! Want Melissy, hey! Tribbleation! Gracious
sakes alive! Well, I'll give it up now! I always know'd you was a
simpleton, Tim Crane, but I _must_ confess I dident think you was
_quite_ so big a fool! Want Melissy, dew ye? If that don't beat all!
What an everlastin' old calf you must be to s'pose she'd _look_ at
_you_. Why, you're old enough to be her father, and more tew - Melissy
ain't only in her twenty-oneth year. What a reedickilous idee for a man
o' your age! as gray as a rat, tew! I wonder what this world _is_
a-comin' tew: 'tis astonishin' what fools old widdiwers will make o'
themselves! Have Melissy! Melissy!"

MR. C. "Why, widder, you surprise me. I'd no idee of being
treated in this way after you'd been so polite to me, and made such a
fuss over me and the girls."

WIDOW. "Shet yer head, Tim Crane - nun o' yer sass to me.
_There's_ yer hat on that are table, and _here's_ the door - and the
sooner you put on _one_ and march out o' t'other, the better it'll be
for you. And I advise you afore you try to git married agin, to go out
West and see 'f yet wife's cold - and arter ye're satisfied on that pint,
jest put a little lampblack on yer hair - 'twould add to yer appearance
undoubtedly, and be of sarvice tew you when you want to flourish round
among the gals - and when ye've got yer hair fixt, jest splinter the
spine o' yerback - 'twould'n' hurt yer looks a mite - you'd be intirely
unresistible if you was a _leetle_ grain straiter."

MR. C. "Well, I never!"

WIDOW. "Hold yer tongue - you consarned old coot you. I tell ye
_there's_ your hat, and _there's_ the door - be off with yerself, quick
metre, or I'll give ye a hyst with the broomstick."

MR. C. "Gimmeni!"

WIDOW (_rising_). "Git out, I say - I ain't a-gwine to start'
here and be insulted under my own ruff - and so git along - and if ever
you darken my door again, or say a word to Melissy, it'll be the woss
for you - that's all."

MR. C. "Treemenjous! What a buster!"

WIDOW. "Go 'long - go 'long - go 'long, you everlastin' old gum.
I won't hear another word" [stops her ears]. "I won't, I won't, I

[_Exit Mr. Crane._

(_Enter Melissa, accompanied by Captain Canoot._)

"Good-evenin', Cappen Well, Melissy, hum at last, hey? Why didn't you
stay till mornin'? Party business keepin' me up here so late waitin' for
you - when I'm eny most tired to death ironin' and workin' like a slave
all day - ought to ben abed an hour ago. Thought ye left me with
agreeable company, hey? I should like to know what arthly reason you had
to s'pose old Crane was agreeable to me? I always despised the critter;
always thought he wuz a turrible fool - and now I'm convinced on't. I'm
completely disgusted wit him - and I let him know it to-night. I gin him
a piece o' my mind 't I guess he'll be apt to remember for a spell. I
ruther think he went off with a flea in his ear. Why, Cappen - did ye
ever hear of such a piece of audacity in all yer born days? for
_him_ - _Tim Crane_ - to durst to expire to my hand - the widder o' Deacon
Bedott, jest as if _I'd_ condescen' to look at _him_ - the old numbskull!
He don't know B from a broomstick; but if he'd a-stayed much longer I'd
a-teached him the difference, I guess. He's got his _walkin' ticket_
now - I hope he'll lemme alone in futur. And where's Kier? Gun hum with
the Cranes, hey! Well, I guess it's the last time. And now, Melissy
Bedott, you ain't to have nothin' more to dew with them gals - d'ye hear?
You ain't to 'sociate with 'em at all arter this - twould only be
incurridgin' th' old man to come a-pesterin' me agin - and I won't have
him round - d'ye hear? Don't be in a hurry, Cappen - and don't be alarmed
at my gittin' in such passion about old Crane's presumption. Mabby you
think 'twas onfeelin' in me to use him so - an' I don't say but what
'twas _ruther_, but then he's so awful disagreeable tew me, you
know - 'tain't _everybody_ I'd treat in such a way. Well, if you _must_
go, good-evenin'! Give my love to Hanner when you write agin - dew call
frequently, Cappen Canoot, dew." - _The Bedott Papers._


When deeply in love with Miss Emily Pryne,
I vowed, if, the maiden would only be mine,
I would always endeavor to please her.
She blushed her consent, though the stuttering lass
Said never a word except "You're an ass - -
An ass - an ass-iduous teaser!"

But when we were married, I found to my ruth,
The stammering lady had spoken the truth;
For often, in obvious dudgeon,
She'd say, if I ventured to give her a jog
In the way of reproof - "You're a dog - you're a dog - -
A dog - a dog-matic curmudgeon!"

And once when I said, "We can hardly afford
This extravagant style, with our moderate hoard,
And hinted we ought to be wiser.
She looked, I assure you, exceedingly blue,
And fretfully cried, 'You're a Jew - you're a Jew - -
A very ju-dicious adviser!'"

Again, when it happened that, wishing to shirk
Some rather unpleasant and arduous work,
I begged her to go to a neighbor,
She wanted to know why I made such a fuss,
And saucily said, "You're a cuss - cuss - cuss - -
You were always ac-cus-tomed to labor!"

Out of temper at last with the insolent dame,
And feeling that madam was greatly to blame
To scold me instead of caressing,
I mimicked her speech - like a churl that I am -
And angrily said, "You're a dam - dam - dam
A dam-age instead of a blessing!"


* * * * *


Several years ago there labored in one of the Western villages of
Minnesota a preacher who was always in the habit of selecting his texts
from the Old Testament, and particularly some portion of the history of
Noah. No matter what the occasion was, he would always find some
parallel incident from the history of this great character that would
readily serve as a text or illustration.

At one time he was called upon to unite the daughter of the village
mayor and a prominent attorney in the holy bonds of matrimony. Two
little boys, knowing his determination to give them a portion of the
sacred history touching Noah's marriage, hit upon the novel idea of
pasting together two leaves in the family Bible so as to connect,
without any apparent break, the marriage of Noah and the description of
the Ark of the Covenant.

When the noted guests were all assembled and the contracting parties
with attendants in their respective stations, the preacher began the
ceremonies by reading the following text: "And when Noah was one hundred
and forty years old, he took unto himself a wife" (then turning the page
he continued) "three hundred cubits in length, fifty cubits in width,
and thirty cubits in depth, and within and without besmeared with
pitch." The story seemed a little strong, but he could not doubt the
Bible, and after reading it once more and reflecting a moment, he turned
to the startled assemblage with these remarks: "My beloved brethren,
this is the first time in the history of my life that my attention has
been called to this important passage of the Scriptures, but it seems to
me that it is one of the most forcible illustrations of that grand
eternal truth, that the nature of woman is exceedingly difficult to


In her "Abandoning an Adopted Farm," Miss Kate Sanborn tells of her
annoyance at being besieged by agents, reporters and curiosity seekers.
She says: "I was so perpetually harassed that I dreaded to see a
stranger approach with an air of business. The other day I was just
starting out for a drive when I noticed the usual stranger hurrying on.
Putting my head out of the carriage, I said in a petulant and weary
tone, 'Do you want to see me?' The young man stopped, smiled, and
replied courteously, 'It gives me pleasure to look at you, madam, but I
was going farther on.'"

* * * * *

A small boy in Boston, who had unfortunately learned to swear, was
rebuked by his father. "Who told you that I swore?" asked the bad little
boy. "Oh, a little bird told me," said the father. The boy stood and
looked out of the window, scowling at some sparrows which were scolding
and chattering. Then he had a happy thought. "I know who told you," he
said. "It was one of those - - sparrows."


It is said that when President Polk visited Boston he was impressively
received at Faneuil Hall Market. The clerk walked in front of him down
the length of the market, announcing in loud tones:

"Make way, gentlemen, for the President of the United States! The
President of the United States! Fellow-citizens, make room!"

The Chief had stepped into one of the stalls to look at some game, when
Mr. Rhodes turned round suddenly, and, finding himself alone, suddenly
changed his tone and exclaimed:

"My gracious, where has that darned idiot got to?"


The editor sat with his head in his hands
And his elbows at rest on his knees;
He was tired of the ever-increasing demands
On his time, and he panted for ease.
The clamor for copy was scorned with a sneer,
And he sighed in the lowest of tones:
"Won't somebody come with a dollar to cheer
The heart of Emanuel Jones?"

Just then on the stairway a footstep was heard
And a rap-a-tap loud at the door,
And the flickering hope that had been long deferred
Blazed up like a beacon once more;
And there entered a man with a cynical smile
That was fringed with a stubble of red,
Who remarked, as he tilted a sorry old tile
To the back of an average head:

"I have come here to pay" - Here the editor cried
"You're as welcome as flowers in spring!
Sit down in this easy armchair by my side,
And excuse me awhile till I bring
A lemonade dashed with a little old wine
And a dozen cigars of the best....
Ah! Here we are! This, I assure you, is fine;
Help yourself, most desirable guest."

The visitor drank with a relish, and smoked
Till his face wore a satisfied glow,
And the editor, beaming with merriment, joked
In a joyous, spontaneous flow;
And then, when the stock of refreshments was gone,
His guest took occasion to say,
In accents distorted somewhat by a yawn,
"My errand up here is to pay - - "

But the generous scribe, with a wave of his hand,
Put a stop to the speech of his guest,
And brought in a melon, the finest the land
Ever bore on its generous breast;
And the visitor, wearing a singular grin,
Seized the heaviest half of the fruit,
And the juice, as it ran in a stream from his chin,
Washed the mud of the pike from his boot.

Then, mopping his face on a favorite sheet
Which the scribe had laid carefully by,
The visitor lazily rose to his feet
With the dreariest kind of a sigh,
And he said, as the editor sought his address,
In his books to discover his due:
"I came here to pay - my respects to the press,
And to borrow a dollar of you!"

ANDREW V. KELLEY ("Parmenas Mix").



P. T. BARNUM, Esq.

_Dear Sir:_ We have a large soiled Asiatic elephant visiting us now,
which we suspect belongs to you. His skin is a misfit, and he keeps
moving his trunk from side to side nervously. If you have missed an
elephant answering to this description, please come up and take him
away, as we have no use for him. An elephant on a place so small as ours
is more of a trouble than a convenience. I have endeavored to frighten
him away, but he does not seem at all timid, and my wife and I, assisted
by our hired man, tried to push him out of the yard, but our efforts
were unavailing. He has made our home his own now for some days, and he
has become quite _de trop_. We do not mind him so much in the daytime,
for he then basks mostly on the lawn and plays with the children (to
whom he has greatly endeared himself), but at night he comes up and lays
his head on our piazza, and his deep and stertorous breathing keeps my
wife awake. I feel as though I were entitled to some compensation for
his keep. He is a large though not fastidious eater, and he has
destroyed some of my plants by treading on them; and he also leaned
against our woodhouse. My neighbor - who is something of a wag - says I
have a lien on his trunk for the amount of his board; but that, of
course, is only pleasantry. Your immediate attention will oblige.



It was a tall young oysterman lived by the riverside,
His shop was just upon the bank, his boat was on the tide;
The daughter of a fisherman, that was so straight and slim,
Lived over on the other bank, right opposite to him.

It was the pensive oysterman that saw a lovely maid,
Upon a moonlight evening, a-sitting in the shade:
He saw her wave a handkerchief, as much as if to say,
"I'm wide awake, young oysterman, and all the folks away."

Then up arose the oysterman, and to himself said he,
"I guess I'll leave the skiff at home, for fear that folks should see;
I read it in the story-book, that, for to kiss his dear,
Leander swam the Hellespont, and I will swim this here."

And he has leaped into the waves, and crossed the shining stream,
And he has clambered up the bank, all in the moonlight gleam;
Oh, there are kisses sweet as dew, and words as soft as rain - -
But they have heard her father's step, and in he leaps again!

Out spoke the ancient fisherman: "Oh, what was that, my daughter?"
"'Twas nothing but a pebble, sir, I threw into the water."
"And what is that, pray tell me, love, that paddles off so fast?"
"It's nothing but a porpoise, sir, that's been a-swimming past."

Out spoke the ancient fisherman: "Now, bring me my harpoon!
I'll get into my fishing-boat, and fix the fellow soon."
Down fell that pretty innocent, as falls a snow-white lamb;
Her hair drooped round her pallid cheeks, like seaweed on a clam.

Alas! for those two loving ones! she waked not from her swound,
And he was taken with the cramp, and in the waves was drowned;
But Fate has metamorphosed them, in pity of their woe,
And now they keep an oyster shop for mermaids down below.




Wal, the very next mornin' Josiah got up with a new idee in his head.
And he broached it to me to the breakfast table. They have been havin'
sights of pleasure exertions here to Jonesville lately. Every week
a'most they would go off on a exertion after pleasure, and Josiah was
all up on end to go, too.

That man is a well-principled man as I ever see, but if he had his head
he would be worse than any young man I ever see to foller up picnics and
4th of Julys and camp-meetin's and all pleasure exertions. But I don't
encourage him in it. I have said to him time and again: "There is a time
for everything, Josiah Allen, and after anybody has lost all their teeth
and every mite of hair on the top of their head, it is time for 'em to
stop goin' to pleasure exertions."

But good land! I might jest as well talk to the wind! If that man should
get to be as old as Mr. Methusler, and be goin' on a thousand years old,
he would prick up his ears if he should hear of a exertion. All summer
long that man has beset me to go to 'em, for he wouldn't go without me.
Old Bunker Hill himself hain't any sounder in principle than Josiah
Allen, and I have had to work head-work to make excuses and quell him
down. But last week they was goin' to have one out on the lake, on a
island, and that man sot his foot down that go he would.

We was to the breakfast table a-talkin' it over, and says I:

"I shan't go, for I am afraid of big water, anyway."

Says Josiah: "You are jest as liable to be killed in one place as

Says I, with a almost frigid air as I passed him his coffee, "Mebee I
shall be drounded on dry land, Josiah Allen, but I don't believe it."

Says he, in a complainin' tone: "I can't get you started onto a exertion
for pleasure anyway."

Says I, in a almost eloquent way: "I don't believe in makin' such
exertions after pleasure. As I have told you time and agin, I don't
believe in chasin' of her up. Let her come of her own free will. You
can't ketch her by chasin' after her no more than you can fetch up a
shower in a drowth by goin' outdoors and runnin' after a cloud up in the
heavens above you. Sit down and be patient, and when it gets ready the
refreshin' raindrops will begin to fall without none of your help. And
it is jest so with pleasure, Josiah Allen; you may chase her up over all
the oceans and big mountains of the earth, and she will keep ahead of
you all the time; but set down and not fatigue yourself a-thinkin' about
her, and like as not she will come right into your house unbeknown to

"Wal," says he, "I guess I'll have another griddle-cake, Samantha."

And as he took it and poured the maple syrup over it, he added gently
but firmly:

"I shall go, Samantha, to this exertion, and I should be glad to have
you present at it, because it seems jest to me as if I should fall
overboard durin' the day."

Men are deep. Now that man knew that no amount of religious preachin'
could stir me up like that one speech. For though I hain't no hand to
coo, and don't encourage him in bein' spoony at all, he knows that I am
wrapped almost completely up in him. I went.

Wal, the day before the exertion Kellup Cobb come into our house of a
errant, and I asked him if he was goin' to the exertion; and he said he

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