FOUR HUMOROUS WORKS.

EVERY age has its humorists and wits, and the depth of their humor is no doubtful index to the literary attainments of its thinking minds. While one epoch jests like a Touchstone, another is content with nothing less than a Sheridan, and the age itself is clownish or witty accordingly. To those who have scanned most eagerly the literary horizon of our own age for the predicted rise of its great facetious luminary, the meteor-like appearance of Henry C. Carey* among its most brilliant stars came with all the surprise that the greatness of the event demands; and every American observer must congratulate himself that the supremely great humorist of this nineteenth century comes at so opportune a time. The centennial guns will mouth him a fitting welcome, and that too in the State of his nativity; while the bells of Independence Day will laugh in unison at the unapproachable wit and waggery of his "Social Science." At the very outset Mr. Carey like all great men, has to contend with misrepresentation; and we here take occasion to deny positively that Mr. Carey allowed his book to be placed before the world at this time, in order to ruin the sale of Noah Porter's humorous work on Intellectual Science.* Indeed, they are companion volumes, and whoever has read one will not less enjoy the other. We should be sorry to see either work displace its companion, for each is peerless in its way; and there are few other minds of the present age that will probably ever handle these subjects as these authors have done. While Mr. Porter's work addresses itself more especially to the old in wit; to the double-dyed jokers who "hanker arter" metaphysical puns, as it were, Mr. Carey's, on the other hand, contains a certain element of burlesque, which even undergraduate intellects can easily grasp and appreciate. The prose world of the latter is certainly much nearer our own, though where the refreshing greenness of both their worlds is so evident, further comparison between the two is unnecessary.

Rejecting the lead of a rival writer on economical topics, Mr. Carey does not introduce his great work with an original poem, but in its place we find the volume accompanied by a whole galaxy of literary satellites, all more or less quaintly humorous. There is a pathetic little novelette, by J. Wharton, on "National Self-Protection"; several brief and brilliant essays by Henry Carey Baird, such, indeed, as make the reader long for more, or at least return to his Noali Porter with a relish; and then two tender, almost poetical; morceaux in that rich vein of thought which his Honor Judge Kelley knows so well how to work.

This volume on "Social Science," as it stands alone, is itself a monument to the honor and fame of two humorists, the author and the editor. For, certainly, no one can have read the editor's preface without the keenest appreciation of Kate McKean's trenchant wit and delicate sense of humor. Employing that same careless freedom with matters of history which Mr. Carey only anticipated her in doing, she shows a novel, if not refreshing, independence of educated opinion, and even of the ordinary processes of reason, in her estimate of the few great men who were so unfortunate as to have preceded her. The whole preface is so thoroughly unsurpassed, so in keeping with the rest of the book, that it were a pity to select any one portion of it to point a review; but I cannot leave unnoticed the graceful way in which the editor, after flourishing the laurel crown of social science before the envious eyes of all past and present greatness, has finally deposited it on the head of modest Henry C. Carey. Not content with this even, the inimitable Kate pedestals her hero and, labelling him "the Newton of Social Science," reluctantly withdraws, that generations yet unborn may have opportunity to do him proper homage.

It is with a feeling of "sweet sorrow" that we part for the time with Carey and Porter, to look within the pages of two other works of a somewhat different school of American humor. While exhibiting a less fertility of imagination than the "Social Science," and perhaps less profundity of obfuscations than the "Intellectual Science," yet, in play of fancy and subtlety of wit, the "Harvard Bible"* is second to no other humorous production of this age. In it we think we find traces of a familiar pen, and recognize, here and there, the touches of a master hand, whose productions are not entirely unknown to the undergraduate world. There is a delightful vein of half-concealed, often completely hidden humor running through the work and coming into view only to the observing eye of those whose souls are attuned to the spirit of the composition, and whose memories yet retain the exhilarating tone of the Dean's afternoon receptions. The delightful little essay on Censure Marks becomes almost poetical in its phraseology, and but for a few slight trips in metre and a superfluous line we might be deceived into reading it as a sonnet. The directness and conciseness of the writing cannot be too much praised, though we could wish that the word shall might give way to the gentle "may" or to the potential and insinuating "can."

We have purposely reserved for our last word of praise that most curiously interesting "Vassar Manual."* It is not a new work, but has been recently discovered and reprinted, and around its contents cling the air and spirit of a bygone age. Its real date must be far earlier than that assigned by the title-page, though this may very well be the true date of a modern reprint. That this curious collection of brief essays, sonnets, epigrams, and oracular injunctions was intended for a most limited circulation, we infer from the direction on the cover of our copy, "Not to be taken from Room - ."

How little did these ancients suspect that within a few centuries the work whose exclusive enjoyment was theirs would become a part of the general edifying literature of the world. The arrangement of the work is excellent, considering its early date, and in general its wit is very pointed; but there are some humorous touches in it which we cannot satisfactorily explain. For instance, we find on page twelve an apparent reference to our modern games with forfeits. "A student who fails to do this forfeits her right to washing for the week." Was that a joke practised in the school or convent where we are led to think that this work originated? Certainly, if anything more than a joke, it points to a drought or a peculiar state of civilization. In another place we see evidence of the influence of some ancient Lister: "Valuables may at any time be deposited with the Assistant Treasurer for safe keeping." And again, we can almost see some former Professor of History, as he writes down this sententious little piece of wisdom, "Matches must be struck on the match-vases only, and, after being used, must be carefully extinguished," Another sheaf of garnered wisdom is instructively presented thus: "Great care must be taken not to let pins, pencils, or other small articles drop into the pianos." But right here this leads us to remark the strange oversight of the writers of these bright sayings. For instance, in this last the articles are limited to small ones; now stoves or coal-hods, or even axes, would certainly injure the tone of pianos into which they are dropped, the opinion of Cambridge firemen to the contrary, not withstanding. But the most singular characteristic of this ancient institution, as recorded here, is the marking off of divisions of the day by signal-bells instead of by hours: thus ten strokes means either rise or retire; eight means meals; six means prayers, and so on. Imagine the maiden of that day listening, half awake, to the signal strokes, and then wildly leaping into cavalry boots and ulster, - we mean balmorals and water-proof, - see her rushing to the chapel door, only to find that she counted six instead of ten, and can now return and dress at her leisure.

Throughout this work we find such minute directions that it would be insulting to their age to suppose that the girls at this institution were more than nine or ten years old; and we recommend the book as a curiosity, and as containing some useful hints to all who are interested in the primary-school system and Kindergartens of our country.

*Carey's Social Science: a Condensation of the "Principles of Social Science" of H. C. Carey, by Kate McKean.

*Elements of Intellectual Science: Noah Porter, D. D., LL. D.

*Regulations of the Harvard Faculty, 1875.

*Vassar Students' Manual, 1872.

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