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purposely leaving it to us to fill out the scene or statement. Herein lie its attractiveness and effect. Mr. Emerson, in his “Essay on the Comic,” lays special stress on this, as he says, “ The essence of all comedy seems to be an honest or a well-intended halfness; a non-performance of what is intended to be performed, at the same time that one is giving loud pledges of performance. The frustrated expectation, the break of continuity in the intellect is comedy; " is, he would say, humor. As in sublimity, obscurity or partial manifestation for added effect is a prime element, so, here, there is a legitimate "halfness” for the sake of final whole
In this respect, humor carries out the Tennysonian principle
“For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within."
To this extent, at least, Talleyrand's half-truth, " that language is the art of concealing thought has a place and an application. It conceals as well as reveals.
2. Spontaneity. If there is any one type or quality of style where the feature of naturalness must be preserved as all important, it is in humor. It is nothing if not natural. In the language of another, it is the "overflow of strength," the overflow, we may add, of heart, mind and soul; the unrestrained and unrestrainable expression of the inner man. It is just as free and self-directing as the involuntary bodily functions, and is something other than itself just to the degree in which it is restricted. Wherever else literary students may disagree, they agree, without exception, here, that spontaneousness is the soul of humor. As Mr. Stedman states it—“Humor is congenital," and he rightly criticises Poe for working on the “ delusion that humor comes by works and not by inborn gift." It is because of this that we find it impossible fully to dissect and explain it. No effort of the intellect or will can evoke it when it is not ready to appear, in its own way, by “spontaneous generation." No teachings of the schools; no canons of criticism will induce it from without in a nature in which it is not primarily at home. That author must have rare powers of concealment who can, in any sense, use it at second hand as if it were his by original endowment. There is such a thing as “mother-wit " or mother-humor, and there is no other worth the name—an innate, intuitive habit of mind and order of style, which bears upon every lineament of it the evidence of its origin and excellence.
3. Delicacy. Reference is here made to that particular form of the humorous style which is termed, the subdued or contemplative; as seen, for example, in the fiction of Hawthorne and the writings of the old Knickerbocker School. Though partially present in the humor of ridicule, this delicacy of cast and touch is especially seen in this less demonstrative type. It is pure, chaste and affable in its character; sensitive, almost to a fault,
to any possible violation of ethical or literary law. Mr. Stedman, in speaking of Holmes, possibly refers to this feature, when he says—“ As a humorist, he was among the first to teach his countrymen that pathos is an equal part of true humor .. .. that jest is redeemed from coarseness by emotion.” It is this conspicuous absence of “coarseness" to which we allude in speaking of the delicacy of humor. It is what Mr. Arnold would call, “ urbanity.” Mr. Disraeli would thus place it among the "amenities ” of literature, whereby the way is graded and smoothed for the reception of the truth beneath the humor. If there is much in genuine pleasantry that is sweet and satisfying to a cultured taste, it is largely owing to this winsome element, whereby all the rough edges of thought and language are removed, and the truth is made palatable. Reference has been made to Hawthorne. What appreciative reader of that gifted author has failed to note the delicacy of his humor; so subdued, graceful and happily expressed; so meditative, and yet so cheerful; so searching and subtle, and yet so gentle; so ethical, yet so attractive, so felicitous in tone and in the general type of its art, that modern literature has yet to surpass it. Serious, reverent and quiet in all his utterances, so that no one would dare impugn his character, or trespass, in the least, upon the sanctity of his innermost life and habit, he is yet as sportive as a child · at play, and reassures us, at every step, of his personal welcome. This is nature, and it is, also, the
perfection of art, a second nature, expressive of the first. Humor, in any of its forms, is recompensing but when expressed with this delicacy of subjectmatter and of manner becomes, indeed, the most pleasing and attractive product of literary work.
4. Individuality. The very idea of humor involves that of personality. A writer may more lawfully be imitated in any other department of written expression. When he comes to the art of pleasantry for the sake of pleasantry, it must be the man himself and no other one, who speaks to
One of the most palpable distinctions between wit and humor is at this point; in that the one is dependent and adaptive of borrowed suggestion, while the other is purely original.
This characteristic is evident whether we have reference to individual or national humor. All the great humorists, such as Cervantes, Molière, Lamb, Dickens and Irving, have been such in their own way. No one would confound the pleasantry of Doctor Johnson with that of De Quincey; or that of Addison with that of Carlyle, or that of Hawthorne with that of Holmes. So in humor as nationally exhibited. How marked the difference between the somewhat slow and measured mirth of the North Europeans as a class and the quick, epigrammatic pleasantry of Southern Europe. Mr. Bryce, in his “ American Commonwealth,” writing of American traits says: “ All the world knows that they are a humorous people, as conspicuously the purveyors of humor to the nineteenth century as the French were the purveyors of wit to the eighteenth.” The most casual observer detects certain cardinal features of British humor as distinct from American, nor is he slow to see that the broad, serious manner of the Englishman or the Scotchman is something quite different from the dash and flash of Celtic humor as expressed in Ireland and Wales. Thackeray, in his “ Irish Sketches,” has given us choice specimens of these characteristics, while such Celtic anthors as Goldsmith and Moore personally illustrate them. In so far as Carlyle was a humorist as distinct from a satirist, he was wholly himself, and in this respect satisfied one of the prime conditions of success in the art of pleasing.
5. We note, as the final and crowning element of Humor, its Geniality. It is full of "good feeling and fellow feeling;” open-hearted and wholesouled; sympathetic and generous; unwilling to inflict a wound, even when indulging in its most extreme exercise, and never so satisfied as when it adds pleasure to pleasure in the experience of the object of its mirth. There is no place where the humorist appears to better advantage than here, or where humor, as a phase of style, better fulfills its primary purpose. Such a writer aims to be on good terms with all mankind; to note their follies and foibles with a charitable eye; to impart cheer and courage where they did not, heretofore, exist; often, as Falstaff of old, making itself the object of its mirth. Certain names always suggest