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themselves as we contemplate the genial side of the humorous style — Walton, Lamb, Addison, Christopher North, Burns, Dickens and Irving: men “ full of the milk of human kindness," in whom the heart always asserted its claims and who positively refused to be in high glee at the expense of any one's character or feelings. Herein lies much of the charm of Chaucer, who, at the very opening of our national letters, happily set the form for all later writers and made it a possible and desirable thing for English style, ever afterward, to be humorous and yet hearty.
Genuine pleasantry, thus conceived, cannot live in the presence of the captious and cynical; the morose and morbid, but finds its home in the tenderest affections of the soul, and seeks to do good to men by adding to their rational happiness. It accepts the world at its best and aims to make it still better; fully believes that to every man enough of the disciplinary and depressing will come, and that he is a real friend of the race who gives scope to his most generous impulses and, when he can get rid of care and wrong in no other way, laughs them out of countenance by the sheer force of pleasantry.
We note, at this point, the striking absence of the humorous in the character and style of many of the ablest writers of English Prose: in Hooker, Bacon, Milton, Hume, Gibbon, Burke, Thomas Arnold, Landor, Coleridge, Southey, Wordsworth, Matthew Arnold, as in most of the leading historians, essayists and even novelists of the England of to-day. Fiction, itself the natural home of humor, in its present religious tendency, on the one hand, and its sensual tendency, on the other, is fast eliminating this happy, cheerful tone. Whether we read the ethical philosophy of George Eliot or the debasing sentiments of Emile Zola, we are out of the region of exhilarating mirth, and must, first, be sober and then sad.
Some would refer this state of things to the introspective habit of the student of literature; some, to peculiar historical antecedents and environment, while others, as Mr. Taine, would refer its absence in England to the saturnine temperament of the race and their unduly ethical nature and habit. There is some truth, perhaps, in each of these explanations, while the fact remains that, in English Literature and Style, the spirit of genuine humor is not sufficiently pronounced. Our leading humorists stand out by way of contrast, and but serve to reveal the intensely serious manner in which most of our writers prosecute their work. How strikingly is this seen in such writers'as, Shairp, Minto, Patterson, Nichol, Ainger, Courthope and others, holding themselves, as a rule, strictly to the letter and the line of the authorship; rarely venturing out into fanciful excursion or daring to interrupt the severe sobriety of the narrative by playful allusion and pleasantry. There is danger, here, lest the reading public revolt and the literaturę of mirth," so held in abeyance, give way, at length, by violent reaction, to the fast and loose indulgences of the days of the Stuarts. The genius of Shakespeare is nowhere more apparent than in the way in which he relieves the body of his dramatic verse by the humorous quality, so that, even in tragedy itself, we have not always to hold our breath under the terrible pressure of the unfolding plot. It is this quality, among others, that keeps his plays alive and will so keep them for all time.
Style is the expression of thought, but it is more. It is the expression of the man behind the thought; the revelation of human consciousness, experience and aspiration. In the nature of the case, therefore, it must run up and down the entire scale of human life, touching every chord and giving voice to every sentiment. If the scientific and philosophic have their claims, the entertaining has its claims; partly, on grounds of literary variety, but, mainly, because, as Emerson tells us, “its absence is a defect.” Even so didactic a writer as Plutarch contended that philosophy and life alike needed the element of mirth.
The thousands of Americans who sat with enthusiastic interest at the feet of Charles Dickens to listen to the recitation of his own productions, did so, chiefly, on the ground that he had done so much by his humorous writings to brighten English fiction and human life. It was an ingenuous testimony to the beneficent ministry of pleasantry in authorship. It will be difficult, indeed, to say which we could the better spare from our vernacular letters, Bacon's “Novum Organum," or Lamb's “Essays of Elia,” Addison's criticism of " Paradise Lost” or his portraiture of Sir Roger de Coverley; Irving's “Life of Washington," or his “Knickerbocker Sketches," Webster's Orations” or the “Biglow Papers,” the judicial gravity of Hamilton or the jollity of Holmes-in a word, fact or humor; history or comedy.
We are, happily, shut up to no such alternative, as we discern, in the wide diversity of thought and life, a proper place for each, and, also, discern that the principle of comprehensive unity insists that each shall be given its rightful function in the everwidening province of literature and style.
THE HUMOROUS STYLE.
Examples There are two sorts of dangers which hang over railroads; the one, retail dangers, where individuals are concerned; the other, wholesale dangers, where the whole train is put in jeopardy. But the most absurd of all legislative enactments is this hemiplegian law—an act of Parliament to protect one side of the body and not the other.
The first person of rank who is killed will put everything in order. I hope it will not be one of the bench of bishops; but should it be so destined, let the burnt bishop—the unwilling Latimer-remember that, however painful gradual cineration by fire may be, his death will produce unspeakable benefit to the public. From that moment no more fatal deference to the directors; no barbarous inattention to the anatomy and physiology of the human body, no commitment to the locomotive prison with warrant.—Sidney Smith's " Letters.”
I cannot like all people alike. I have been trying all my life to like Scotchmen, and am obliged to desist from the experiment in despair. They cannot like me, and, in truth, I never knew one of that nation who attempted to do it. We know one another at first sight. There is an order of imperfect intellects, under which mine must be content to rank, which in its constitution is essentially anti-Caledonian. The brain of