14 JULY 1866, Page 17


WE suppose this very tiny book, almost too small to be honoured with a stiff back, is made up as a kind of literary announcement of Artemus Ward's arrival in England. It only contains forty exceedingly small and widely printed pages, but these, few as they are, have certainly that peculiar character of humour which is most _properly called drollery. Drollery seems to us distinguish- able from other forms of humour in this, that it bubbles up from an ecstasy of inward laughter which inspires men,—of ten by temperament melancholy, —with improvised extravagances such as draw all spectators or readers susceptible of such laughter under their influence. When Charles Lamb, for instance, was at his best, he was always spoken of by his friends as in a ' wild ' humour. He was, in consequence of some sudden inward stimulus, possessed for some minutes or hours by the reckless genius of in- ward laughter, and would either do or say the wildest things, of which the only connecting link was his intense inward appre- ciation of the contradictions involved to the ordinary usages of custom or thought. A droll man must not only have the keenest possible sense of what is absurd and laughable, like any other humourist, but he must be at times seized by a sudden frolic desire to extemporize for himself some outward expression of this

• drkmus Ward among the Fenians, with the Showman's Observations on Mfg in Washington and Military drdour in Salaaming. London: John Camdeu Hotton.

inward laughter. Drollery is always personal, though it may be greatest when disguised under a grave mien. It implies not only a humorous mind, but a mind liable to certain freaks of impulse, to kick up its heels, and run on, either in writing or in action, into the absurdest chain of audaciously incompatible notions or actions which a wildly humorous or mischievous fancy, with its ears laid back, as it were, can plunge into. Thus, when Dickens describes Mr. Pecksniff getting drunk, he is at first only humorous, but as the idea takes possession of Mr. Dickens and runs away with him, you see laughter possessing him till he almost screams with it, and when the hypocritical old architect finally stands in his nightshirt on the landing at Todgers's, and, leaning over the banister, asks Mrs. Todgers in his most familiar didactic way for her idea of a wooden leg, Pecksniff has become a mere mask, behind which you see the author himself shaking with inward laughter at his own caricature of his own thought. In other words, his humour has become drollery. In a very much less degree Arteums Ward seems to us to have the power of true drollery. His humour is not of a very subtle or large kind, but such as it is it seizes him, and makes him, when at his best, wild with a sort of frolic extravagance of his own. Thus, when in the follow- ing passage he describes going home after the Fenian meeting to his wife, the humour is not of a very high kind, but such as it is, it is drollery. You see him disregarding sense, and everything but the frolic spirit of reckless inward laughter, in the amusing rubbish he writes :—

" It was late whea I got home. The children and any wife was all abed. But a candle—a candle made from taller of our own raisin'— gleamed in Betsy's room ; it gleamed for I! All was still. The sweet silver mom] was a shinin' bright, and the beautiful stars was up to their usual doins ! I felt a sentymental mood so gently oro me stealin', I pawaed before Betsy's winder, and sung, in a kind of op'ratie vets, as fellers, impromtoo, to wit:—

" Wake, Deasy, wake, My sweet galoot !

Rise up, fair lady, While I touch my lute!'

The winder—I regret to say that the winder went up with a vilent -crash, and a form robed in spotless white exclaimed, Cum into the house, you old fooL To-morrer you'll be goin' round complainin' about your liver!' I sot up a spell by the kitchen fire readin' Lewis Napo- leon's Life of Julius Ccesar. What a reckless old cuss he was ! Yit Lewis picturs him in glowin' callers, Ca2ear made it lively for the boys in Gaul, didn't he ? He slewd one million of citizens, male and female— Gauls and Gaulusses—and then he sold another million of 'em into slavery. He continnered this cheerful stile of thing for sum time, when one day he was 'sassinated in Rome by sum high-toned Roman genl'men, hid on by Mr. Brutus. When old Bruty inserted his knife into him, Cassar admitted that he was gone up. His funeral was a great BIICZ8SS, the house bein' crowded to its utmost capacity. Ten minutes after the doors were opened the Ushers had to put up cards on which was printed, • Standin' Room Only.' I went to bed at last. 'And so,' I said, thou haat no ear for sweet melody ?' A silvery snore was my only answer. Betsy slept."

The following, too, has the true reckless spirit in it which turns humour into drollery :—

" Yon may not be awair, by the way, that I've been a invalid here to tome for sev'ril weeks. And it's all owin to my own improodens. Not Seelin' like eating a full meal when the ears stopt for dinner, in the South, where I lately was, I went into a Resterater and et 20 hard biled eggs. I think they effected my Liver. My wife says, Po, po. She says I've got a splendid liver for a man of any time of life. I've heard of men's livers gradooally wastin' away till they hadn't none. It's a dread- ful thing when a man's liver gives him the shake. Two years ago comm n this May, I bad a 'tack of fover-'n-ager, and by the advice of Miss Peasley (who continues single, and is correspondinly unhappy in the same ratio) I consulted a Spiritooul mejum—a writin' mejum. I got a letter from a cerbrated Injin chief, who writ me, accordin' to the mejum, that he'd been ded two hundred and seventeen (217) years, and liked it. He then said, let the Pale face drink sum yarb tea! I drinkt it, and it- really helpt me. I've writ to this talented savage this time thro' the same mejum, but as yet I hain't got any answer. Perhap§ he's in a -spear where they hain't got any postage stamps. But, thanks to careful mussin', I'm improvie rapid. The Town Hall wa:. jam-full of people, *mostly Irish citizens, and the enthusiasm was immense. They cheer'd everybody and everything. They cheer'd me. 'llurroo for Ward ! Hurroo !' They was all good nabers of mine, and I ansered in a pleasant voice, 'All right, boys, all right. Mavoorneen, och hone, aroon, Cooshla' macree! ' These Irish remarks beim' received with great applause, I added, Mushier ! 3Iushler !'" if Mr. Brown, or Artemus Ward, as he calls himself, is really in England, it is probable enough, we think, that he will secure a great emcees. All men of real drollery carry with them in their countenances much which it is impossible to translate by any power into print. The difficulty is to know how drollery can reproduce itself professionally and for a purpose, as it certainly could in Grimaldi and in Robson for instance, who could always wake the whole house laugh by the mere power of condensed laughter in their faces. But unless Mr. Ward has this faculty to some extent under voluntary command, he would scarcely think of

lecturing in person from town to town, as he did in America. At all events, if his drollery of expression is at all equal to his literary drollery, he will not leave England without giving much hearty amusement and causing much unforced mirth.