The Land of Contrasts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 243 pages of information about The Land of Contrasts.
in his jests also.  His jokes must be unmistakable; he wants none of your quips masquerading as serious observations.  A mere twinkle of the eye is not for him a sufficient illumination between the serious and the comic.  “Those animals are horses,” Artemus Ward used to say in showing his panorama.  “I know they are—­because my artist says so.  I had the picture two years before I discovered the fact.  The artist came to me about six months ago and said, ’It is useless to disguise it from you any longer—­they are horses.’"[16] This is the form of introduction that John Bull prefers for his witticisms.  He will welcome a joke as hospitably as a visitor, if only the credentials of the one as of the other are unimpeachable.

Now the American does not wish his joke underlined like an urgent parliamentary whip.  He wants something left to his imagination; he wants to be tickled by the feeling that it requires a keen eye to see the point; he may, in a word, like his champagne sweet, but he wants his humour dry.  His telephone girls halloo, but his jokes don’t.  In this he resembles the Scotsman much more than the Englishman; and both European foreigners and the Americans themselves seem aware of this.  Thus, Max O’Rell writes: 

     De tous les citoyens du Royaume plus ou moins Uni l’ami
     Donald est le plus fini, le plus solide, le plus positif, le plus
     perseverant, le plus laborieux, et le plus spirituel.

Le plus spirituel! voila un grand mot de lache.  Oui, le plus spirituel, n’en deplaise a l’ombre de Sydney Smith....  J’espere bien prouver, par quelques anecdotes, que Donald a de l’esprit, de l’esprit de bon aloi, d’humour surtout, de cet humour fin subtil, qui passerait a travers la tete d’un Cockney sans y laisser la moindre trace, sans y faire la moindre impression.

The testimony of the American is equally explicit.

The following dialogue, quoted from memory, appeared some time since in one of the best American comic journals: 

     Tomkyns (of London).—­I say, Vanarsdale, I told such a good
     joke, don’t you know, to MacPherson, and he didn’t laugh a bit!  I
     suppose that’s because he’s a Scotsman?

     Vanarsdale (of New York).—­I don’t know; I think it’s more
     likely that it’s because you are an Englishman!

An English audience is usually much slower than an American or Scottish one to take up a joke that is anything less than obvious.  I heard Max O’Rell deliver one of his witty orations in London.  The audience was good humored, entirely with the lecturer, and only too ready to laugh.  But if his joke was the least bit subtle, the least bit less apparent than usual, it was extraordinary how the laughter hung fire.  There would be an appreciable interval of silence; then, perhaps, a solitary laugh in a corner of the gallery; then a sort of platoon fire in different

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The Land of Contrasts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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