HAPPY thought,—.skip this review if you read Punch regularly.. More happy thought,—skip it under any circumstances ; get the books, and form an independent judgment. For our own parts we are amongst Mr. Burnand's sincere admirers, and many of our-
happy thoughts are associated with his. But it seems a pity that such a master of humour—from boyish fun to real wit, through the gradations of pure nonsense and amusing satire—should be so unable to weave any deeper human interest into his stories. Many of the situations in which Mr. Burnand lands his hero remind us of the adventures of Mr. Pickwick and his friends, and are sometimes described with a vivid humour not unworthy of Dickens. The hero of happy thoughts on horseback relates his troubles and alarms with a comical pathos that may challenge Dickens' account of Winkle's agonising sensations on the tall.
horse. But though Pickwick and his disciples are desultory enough in their adventures, and shallow enough in their tastes and charac- ters, they have infinitely more individuality and their adventures more interest and continuity than belong to Mr. Burnand's heroes. These seem to us unnecessarily feeble and purposeless, even when we take into account that his object is to describe only
the idle votaries of pleasure,—the killers of time. Surely such a keen observer could detect the comical element in other than those
wholly frivolous, vain and shallow and given to practical jokes, or else pedantic and shallow and given to prosing on subjects quite out of their depth. Without a more serious element fun soon cloys ; the hearty laughs are gradually transformed into smiles, and these grow feebler and feebler till they are succeeded by yawns, and the book is laid down with a sense that we have been foolishly wasting our time, or doing worse, gorging ourselves with unwholesome food ; much as a healthy schoolboy would feel after a meal of candied fruits, chocolate and bon-bons. This sense of disappointment and annoyance is so strong, that we almost wish Mr.
Burnand had never collected his happy thoughts and the thoughtsof his funny, valetudinarian, suggestive and other friends into books at all ; but had left them in Punch, where they served as a charming
relish -to more nourishing weekly literature, never bringing with them the remorseful sense that we had been frittering away time
while so much real reading remained to be done. There is, how- ever, a certain convenience, if they are to be used at all in future, in having them in compact volumes, and Bradbury and Evans have supplied us with these in pretty and portable forms, though,
as in everything both inside and out, not excepting the absence of illustrations, the original Happy Thoughts keeps well ahead of
its successors. These illustrations, which are very much in Hood's style, and many of which are expressive as well as comic—suggest- ing with fidelity the characters which we should attribute, judging by the written development, to the persons sketched—are, never- theless, scarcely an improvement. They are a sort of admission that the text wants helping out, and have rather the effect of turning "genteel" into " low " comedy. They must not, how- ever, be passed over. They belong exclusively to Happy-Thought Hall, and bring out Mr. Burnand's unsuspected powers as a cari- caturist with his pencil as well as with his pen. The sketches of Cazell, Boodels and Chilvern are very happy, as are also those designated "But—soft! ! I must dissemble," " I'm the postman, Sir," " Etre martyr—son Métier," and others. There is humour,
spirit and character in them, but the coarsenesss and blackness of style. with which some of them are executed, and which is appro- priate enough in Lear's illustrations of his nonsense rhymes—
supposed, as they are, to be the drawings of very young children —is not only unnecessarily ugly, but with its blots and blurs
hides the outlines of the features which, in the more carefully finished pictures, are really effective. Here and there, however, a most amusing and expressive result is obtained by a few' blots and black lines.
* Happy.Thought Hall. By F. C. Burnand. My Health. By F. Bninand..
Loudon : Bradbury, Evans, •and Co.
But Mr. Burnand has exhausted himself as a writer by over- production,—we should be sorry to believe that he had worked himself out. The fun is much more laboured, extravagant and far-fetched, and the really happy thoughts much fewer and farther between. The exquisitely ridiculous situations which abound in the first story are searched for in vain in the two books now before us. There is nothing that will compare with the hunting scene, the ones in which the hero has to sing the comic
song about the little pig, in which he is dressed up, plays whist, is visited in bad by a bull-dog, retires to a house on the Thames to write, attempts to fish, takes a country house infested with vermin and insects, travels down to Bovor, and listens to Rous- seau's dream with variations. Every one of these contain situa- tions full of real humour, and not a humorous aspect is missed. In My Health, on the contrary, there is scarcely one, and of the few there are, that on the yacht, where sea-sickness and courtship con- tend together, is the only one effectively utilised. We get perfectly tired of the nervous, sentimental aunt and her maid Doddridge, and of boisterous " cousin John from sea," of Samuel and the Turkish bath, and the abrupt fussiness of Wetherby, and such filling-in as that about the Tract Company (Limited), the fancy chemists, the degrees for servants, and, in Happy- Thought Hall, the scientific friend's algebraical lecture on the "pleasures of wealth," is almost too extravagant to excite even a languid smile. In Happy-Thought Hall it is the same, and the most amusing part is the discussion which takes
place as to building a house before it is decided to hire the one
afterwards designated Happy-Thought Hall. The farce which the company assembled there acts, and which is given in extenso, occupies a large portion of the volume, and is not remarkably amusing.
The humour of Mr. Burnand's first story is derived mainly from the endeavours of the timid and self-conscious hero to extri- cate himself from difficult situations without wrecking the good opinions of his acquaintances or wounding his own self-love ; in the later ones it is obtained—or is not obtained—from a strained and forced comicality in describing a series of ordinary events. Nevertheless, we do not wish to imply that Mr. Burnand has lost his enchanter's wand, but he wields it more feebly because he ex- hausts himself with wielding it too incessantly. There are many little bits scattered through these two volumes worthy of his former reputation. Here is one of his famous cogitations with himself on his timidity in a dark passage alone in an empty house :— " Odd. I don't hear their voices. They can't be playing me any trick, and hiding. If there is a thing I detest, if there is one thing above another absolutely and positively wicked and reprehensible, it is hiding behind a door or a curtain . . . or in fact behind anything . . and then popping out on yon suddenly. Heard of a boy to whom this was done, and he remained an idiot for the rest of his life I say, Milburd ?' cautiously. No. Not a sound. I own to being a little nervous. Someone—Boodels, I think—once said that fine natures were always nervous. Happy Thought.—When nervous, reason with yourself quietly. I say, to myself, reasoning, this is not fright : this is not cowardice : it's simply nervousness. You wouldn't (this addressed to myself) be afraid of meeting a . . . a . . . for instance . . . say . . a ghost . . . no. Why should you ? You've never injured a ghost that you know of, and why should a ghost hurt you ? Besides . . . nonsense . . . there are no ghosts . . . and as to burglars . . . the house doesn't belong to us yet, and so if I meet one, there'd be no necessity to struggle . . . on the contrary, I might be jocosely polite ; I might say, 'Make yourself at home ; you've as much right here as I have.' . . . . But, on second thoughts, no one would, or could, come here to rob this place.
And here is a specimen of pure nonsense :— " Happy Thought for Sunday.—Write down meditations. Like Marcus Aurelius did. Why not go in for Sunday Books? Telegraph to Popgood and Groolly (my publishers, who have been in treaty with me for two years about Typ. Developments), and say Good notion for you. Sunday book. Nothing solemn. Lightly contemplative. Will you ? Wire back. Forgot it's Sunday, and no telegrams can be sent. Very absurd. Why shouldn't one want to send a telegram on Sunday equally as much as on Monday ? -Welegraphic people might arrange for holidays easily enough, by having small extra Sunday staff. Happy Thought—Will commence my Meditations. Happy Thought.—Write the meditations first, see what they come out like, and then give them a name. This will, so to speak, 'suit my book,' as to-morrow, with a name and everything cut and dried, I can write particulars to Popgood and Groolly. For the nonce—(good word, by the way, 'the nonce ')— only it's always given me the idea of sounding like a vague part of the body, where one could be hit or knocked down. I mean it would never surprise me to hear that some one had met a man and hit him on the nonce. Result fatal.
'He was not found for some days after, but there is no doubt that he was killed by a blow on the nonce—Ex/rad/ram local paper.
To resume :—For the nonce, I will head them merely for my own personal information, Sayings for Sunday.' Happy Thought.—Good Hebdomadal Alliterative Series. Sayings for Sundays, 1 voL Mysteries for Mondays, ditto. Tales for Tuesdays, ditto. Wit for Wednesdays. Themes for Thursdays. Fun for Fridays. Sonnets for Saturdays. And then all, in a monthly volume, as Medleys for the Month. Now I'll begin. Knock at the door. Mr. Orby Frimmely wants to know
if I will stroll out with him and meet the Signor returning. With
pleasure. Leave the sayings for another. Sunday. We strolL" •
Here, too, is one of those insignificant little associations, so easily suggested, which delight our simple hero as much as trifling coincidences surprise him :—
"Mentioning the word ' Crone' to Boodels, I ask him what relation it bears to Cronie." Cronie,' almost obsolete now, means 'a familiar friend,' I explain to him. He says thank you, and supposes that the two words have nothing in common except sound. I offer him my idea on the subject. He asks, ' What is it ?" Happy Thought.— 'Crone' is the feminine of Cronie."Cronie 'is an old friend, 'Crone' is an old friend's old wife. Which sounds like a sentence in one of my German Exercises. The Old wife of the Old friend met the Lion in the garden.' Boodels says Pooh!' If he doesn't understand a thing at once he dismisses it with pooh.' "
Satire, both personal and social, is one of Mr. Burnand's powers which is used, of course, in a way not too profound or severe, but which is sometimes—as in the following instance—exceedingly amusing :— •
"Jenkyns Soamos, our Professor of Scientific Economy, was talking of the Zoological Gardens. 'I dispute,' says he, ' the fact of the Hymns laughing.'—' Why ?'—' Why ? Solvitur ambulando, or rather, non ambulando, for I've stood in front of his cage for half an hour, and I've never seen him laugh once.' This was repeated to Mrs. Boodels. ' Yes,' says she, 'that's very probable.' But when Mr. Jenkyns went away. .
Of Mr. Burnand's good-humoured ridicule of our social system, the formation of the society at Happy-Thought Hall may serve as a specimen, and with this we must conclude :-
" The next thing is to make up a party. Cazell tells us what we ought to do.' We ought,' he says, 'to form ourselves into a committee, and ask so many people.' Boodels replies that ' we can't have any arrangements without a hostess.' He says, after some consideration, that he has got a Grandmother who might be useful. Chilvern, defer- entially, proposes an Aunt of his own, but does not, as it were, press her upon us, on account of some infirmities of temper. I've got a half- sister who was a widow about the time I was born, and if she's not in India. . . . On the whole, we think that if Boodels would have no objection to his grandmother coming. . . . . 'Not in the least,' says Boodels, 'I think she can stand a fortnight of it or so: Carried nem. con. Boodels' grandmother to be lent for three weeks, and to be returned safely. Happy Thought (to suggest to ladies).—Why shouldn't there be a sisterhood of chaperons? Let somebody start it. 'Oh !' says a young lady, can't go there, wherever it is, because I can't go alone, and I haven't got a chaperon.' Now carry out the idea. The young lady goes to the Home (this sort of establishment is always a Home—possibly because people to be hired are never not at home),—well, she goes to the Home, sees the lady superioress or manageress, who asks her what sort of a chaperon she wants She doesn't exactly know ; but say, age about 50, cheerful disposition, polished manners. Good. Down comes photograph book. Young lady inspects chaperons and selects one. She comes downstairs. 'Is she,' asks the lady manageress, 'to be dressed for evening or for day, a fête or for what?' Well, then, that's all settled. Terms, so much an hour, and something for herself. What the French call a pour-boi re. This is a genuinely good idea, and one to be adopted, I am sure. What an excellent profession for ladies of good family and education, of a certain age, and an uncertain income. They might form a Social Beguinage, on the model of the one at Ghent. No vows. All sorts of dresses. All sorts of feeding. Respectable address. And a Home. Boodels' grandmother, it turns out, is deaf. Here again what a recommendation for a chaperon ! and how very few employments are open to deaf people. No harmless, bodily ailment would disqualify, except a violent cold and sneezing. A chaperon with a song: useful. Consider this idea in future. Pat it doivn and assist the others in our list."