American Humorous Short Strories

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American humorous short stories

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<ul><li><p>2015.04.11. www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/10947/pg10947.html</p><p>http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/10947/pg10947.html 1/170</p><p>ProjectGutenberg'sTheBestAmericanHumorousShortStories,byVarious</p><p>ThiseBookisfortheuseofanyoneanywhereatnocostandwithalmostnorestrictionswhatsoever.Youmaycopyit,giveitawayorreuseitunderthetermsoftheProjectGutenbergLicenseincludedwiththiseBookoronlineatwww.gutenberg.net</p><p>Title:TheBestAmericanHumorousShortStories</p><p>Author:Various</p><p>ReleaseDate:February5,2004[EBook#10947]</p><p>Language:English</p><p>***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKAMERICANHUMOR***</p><p>ProducedbyKeithM.EckrichandPGDistributedProofreaders</p><p>THEBESTAMERICANHUMOROUSSHORTSTORIES</p><p>EditedbyALEXANDERJESSUP,Editorof"RepresentativeAmericanShortStories,""TheBookoftheShortStory,"the"LittleFrenchMasterpieces"Series,etc.</p><p>INTRODUCTION</p><p>Thisvolumedoesnotaimtocontainall"thebestAmericanhumorousshortstories"therearemanyotherstoriesequallyasgood,Isuppose,inmuchthesamevein,scatteredthroughtherangeofAmericanliterature.Ihavetriedtokeepacertainunityofaimandimpressioninselectingthesestories.InthefirstplaceIdeterminedthatthepiecesofbrieffictionwhichIincludedmustfirstofallbenotmerelygoodstories,butgoodshortstories.IputmyselfinthepositionofonewhowasabouttoselectthebestshortstoriesinthewholerangeofAmericanliterature,[1]butwho,justbeforehestartedtodothis,wasnotifiedthathemustrefrainfromselectinganyofthebestAmericanshortstoriesthatdidnotcontaintheelementofhumortoamarkeddegree.ButIhavekeptinmindthewideboundariesofthetermhumor,andalsothefactthatthehumorousstandardshouldbekeptsecondalthoughaclosesecondtotheshortstorystandard.</p><p>Inviewofthenecessarylimitationsastothevolume'ssize,IcouldnothopetorepresentallperiodsofAmericanliteratureadequately,norwasthisnecessaryinordertogiveexamplesofthebestthathasbeendoneintheshortstoryinahumorousveininAmericanliterature.Probablyalltypesoftheshortstoryofhumorareincludedhere,atanyrate.NotonlycopyrightrestrictionsbutinameasuremyownopinionhavecombinedtoexcludeanythingbyJoelChandlerHarrisUncleRemusfromthecollection.Harrisisprimarilyinhisbestworkahumorist,andonlysecondarilyashortstorywriter.Asahumoristheisofthefirstrankasawriterofshortstorieshisplaceishardlysohigh.His</p></li><li><p>2015.04.11. 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2/170</p><p>humorisnotmerefunninessanddiversionheisahumoristinthefundamentalandlargesense,asareCervantes,Rabelais,andMarkTwain.</p><p>Nobookisdullerthanabookofjokes,forwhatisrefreshinginsmalldosesbecomesnauseatingwhenperusedinlargeassignments.Humorinliteratureisatitsbestnotwhenservedmerelybyitselfbutwhenpresentedalongwithotheringredientsofliteraryforceinordertogiveawiderepresentationoflife.Therefore"professionalliteraryhumorists,"astheymaybecalled,havenotbeenmuchconsideredinmakingupthiscollection.InthehistoryofAmericanhumortherearethreenameswhichstandoutmoreprominentlythanallothersbeforeMarkTwain,who,however,alsobelongstoawiderclassification:"JoshBillings"(HenryWheelerShaw,18151885),"PetroleumV.Nasby"(DavidRossLocke,18331888),and"ArtemusWard"(CharlesFarrarBrowne,18341867).InthehistoryofAmericanhumorthesenamesrankhighinthefieldofAmericanliteratureandtheAmericanshortstorytheydonotranksohigh.Ihavefoundnothingoftheirsthatwasfirstclassbothashumorandasshortstory.PerhapsjustbelowthesethreeshouldbementionedGeorgeHoratioDerby(18231861),authorofPhoenixiana(1855)andtheSquibobPapers(1859),whowroteunderthename"JohnPhoenix."Ashasbeenjustlysaid,"Derby,Shaw,LockeandBrownecarriedtoanextremenumeroustricksalreadyinventedbyearlierAmericanhumorists,particularlythetricksofgiganticexaggerationandcalmfacedmendacity,buttheyareplainlyinthemainchannelofAmericanhumor,whichhaditsorigininthefirstcommentsofsettlersupontheconditionsofthefrontier,longdrewitsprincipalinspirationfromthedifferencesbetweenthatfrontierandthemoresettledandcompactregionsofthecountry,andreacheditshighestdevelopmentinMarkTwain,inhisyouthachildoftheAmericanfrontier,admirerandimitatorofDerbyandBrowne,andeventuallyamanoftheworldandoneofitsgreatesthumorists."[2]Norhavesuchlaterwriterswhowereessentiallyhumoristsas"BillNye"(EdgarWilsonNye,18501896)beenconsidered,becausetheirworkdoesnotattaintheliterarystandardandtheshortstorystandardascreditablyasitdoesthehumorousone.Whenwecometothecloseofthenineteenthcenturytheworkofsuchmenas"Mr.Dooley"(FinleyPeterDunne,1867)andGeorgeAde(1866)standsout.Butwhilethesetwowriterssuccessfullyconformtotheexactingcriticalrequirementsofgoodhumorandespeciallytheformerofgoodliterature,neitherthoughAdemoresoattainstothegreatestexcellenceoftheshortstory.Mr.DooleyoftheArcheyRoadisessentiallyawholesomeandwidepoisedhumorousphilosopher,andtheauthorofFablesinSlangischieflyasatirist,whetherinfable,playorwhatnot.</p><p>ThisvolumemightwellhavestartedwithsomethingbyWashingtonIrving,Isupposemanycriticswouldsay.Itdoesnotseemtome,however,thatIrving'sbestshortstories,suchasTheLegendofSleepyHollowandRipVanWinkle,areessentiallyhumorousstories,althoughtheyareo'erspreadwiththegeniallightofreminiscence.Itisthearmchairgenialityoftheeighteenthcenturyessayists,aconstituentoftheauthorratherthanofhismaterialandproduct.Irving'sbesthumorouscreations,indeed,arescarcelyshortstoriesatall,butratheressaylikesketches,orsketchlikeessays.JamesLawson(17991880)inhisTalesandSketches:byaCosmopolite(1830),notablyinTheDapperGentleman'sStory,isalsoplainlyafollowerofIrving.WecometoadifferentveinintheworkofsuchwritersasWilliamTappanThompson(18121882),authoroftheamusingstoriesinletterform,MajorJones'sCourtship(1840)JohnsonJonesHooper(18151862),authorofWidowRugby'sHusband,andOtherTalesofAlabama(1851)JosephG.Baldwin(18151864),whowroteTheFlushTimesofAlabamaandMississippi(1853)andAugustusBaldwinLongstreet(17901870),whoseGeorgiaScenes(1835)areasimportantin"localcolor"astheyareracyinhumor.Yetnoneofthesewritersyieldtheexcellentshortstorywhichisalsoagoodpieceofhumorousliterature.Buttheyopenedthewayfortheworkoflaterwriterswhodidattainthesecombinedexcellences.</p><p>ThesentimentalveinofthemidcenturyisseenintheworkofSebaSmith(17921868),ElizaLeslie(17871858),FrancesMiriamWhitcher("WidowBedott,"18111852),MaryW.Janvrin(18301870),andAliceBradleyHavenNeal(18281863).ThewellknownworkofJosephClayNeal(18071847)issoallpervadedwithcaricatureandhumorthatitbelongswiththeworkoftheprofessionalhumoristschoolratherthanwiththeshortstorywriters.TomentionhisCharcoalSketches,orScenesinaMetropolis(18371849)mustsuffice.TheworkofSebaSmithissufficientlyexpressedinhistitle,</p></li><li><p>2015.04.11. www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/10947/pg10947.html</p><p>http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/10947/pg10947.html 3/170</p><p>WayDownEast,orPortraituresofYankeeLife(1854),althoughhisLettersofMajorJackDowning(1833)isbetterknown.OfhissinglestoriesmaybementionedTheGeneralCourtandJaneAndrews'FirkinofButter(October,1847,Graham'sMagazine).TheworkofFrancesMiriamWhitcher("WidowBedott")isofsomewhatfinergrain,bothashumorandinotherliteraryqualities.Herstoriesorsketches,suchasAuntMagwire'sAccountofParsonScrantum'sDonationParty(March,1848,Godey'sLady'sBook)andAuntMagwire'sAccountoftheMissiontoMuffletegawmy(July,1859,Godey's),wereafterwardscollectedinTheWidowBedottPapers(18555680).ThescopeoftheworkofMaryB.Havenissufficientlysuggestedbyherstory,Mrs.Bowen'sParlorandSpareBedroom(February,1860,Godey's),whilethebeststoriesofMaryW.JanvrinincludeTheForeignCountor,HighArtinTattletown(October,1860,Godey's)andCityRelationsor,theNewmans'SummeratClovernook(November,1861,Godey's).TheworkofAliceBradleyHavenNealisofsomewhatsimilartexture.Herbook,TheGossipsofRivertown,withSketchesinProseandVerse(1850)indicatesherfield,asdoesthesingletitle,TheThirdClassHotel(December,1861,Godey's).PerhapsthemostrepresentativefigureofthisschoolisElizaLeslie(17871858),whoas"MissLeslie"wasoneofthemostfrequentcontributorstothemagazinesofthe1830's,1840'sand1850's.OneofherbeststoriesisTheWatkinsonEvening(December,1846,Godey'sLady'sBook),includedinthepresentvolumeothersareTheBatsonCottage(November,1846,Godey'sLady'sBook)andJulietIrwinor,theCarriagePeople(June,1847,Godey'sLady'sBook).OneofherchiefcollectionsofstoriesisPencilSketches(18331837)."MissLeslie,"wroteEdgarAllanPoe,"iscelebratedforthehomelynaturalnessofherstoriesandforthebroadsatireofhercomicstyle."ShewastheeditorofTheGiftoneofthebestannualsofthetime,andinthatpositionperhapsexertedherchiefinfluenceonAmericanliteratureWhenonehasreadthreeorfourrepresentativestoriesbythesesevenauthorsonecangraspthemall.Theirtitlesasarulestrikethekeynote.Thesewriters,except"theWidowBedott,"areperhapssentimentalistsratherthanhumoristsinintention,butreadinthelightoflaterdaystheirapparentseriousdelineationsofthefrolicsandfoiblesoftheirtimetakeonahighlyhumorousaspect.</p><p>GeorgePopeMorris(18021864)wasoneofthefoundersofTheNewYorkMirror,andforatimeitseditor.Heisbestknownastheauthorofthepoem,Woodman,SpareThatTree,andotherpoemsandsongs.TheLittleFrenchmanandHisWaterLots(1839),thefirststoryinthepresentvolume,isselectednotbecauseMorriswasespeciallyprominentinthefieldoftheshortstoryorhumorousprosebutbecauseofthissinglestory'srepresentativecharacter.EdgarAllanPoe(18091849)followswithTheAngeloftheOdd(October,1844,ColumbianMagazine),perhapsthebestofhishumorousstories.TheSystemofDr.TarrandProf.Fether(November,1845,Graham'sMagazine)mayberatedhigher,butitisnotessentiallyahumorousstory.Ratheritisincisivesatire,withtoobitinganundercurrenttopassmusterinthecompanyofthegenialinliterature.Poe'shumorousstoriesasawholehavetendedtobelittleratherthanincreasehisfame,manyofthemvergingontheinane.Therearesome,however,whichareatleastexcellentfoolingfewmorethanthat.</p><p>ProbablythisishardlytheplaceforanextendeddiscussionofPoe,sincethepresentvolumecoversneitherAmericanliteratureasawholenortheAmericanshortstoryingeneral,andPoeisnotahumoristinhismorenotableproductions.LetitbesaidthatPoeinventedorperfectedmoreexactly,perfectedhisowninventionofthemodernshortstorythatishisgeneralandsupremeachievement.Healsostandssuperlativeforthequalityofthreevarietiesofshortstories,thoseofterror,beautyandratiocination.InthefirstclassbelongADescentintotheMaelstrom(1841),ThePitandthePendulum(1842),TheBlackCat(1843),andTheCaskofAmontillado(1846).IntherealmofbeautyhisnotableproductionsareTheAssignation(1834),Shadow:aParable(1835),Ligeia(1838),TheFalloftheHouseofUsher(1839),Eleonora(1841),andTheMasqueoftheRedDeath(1842).ThetalesofratiocinationwhatarenowgenerallytermeddetectivestoriesincludeTheMurdersintheRueMorgue(1841)anditssequel,TheMysteryofMarieRogt(18421843),TheGoldBug(1843),TheOblongBox(1844),"ThouArttheMan"(1844),andThePurloinedLetter(1844).</p><p>Then,too,Poewasamasterofstyle,oneofthegreatestinEnglishprose,possiblythegreatestsinceDeQuincey,andquitethemostremarkableamongAmericanauthors.Poe'sinfluenceontheshortstoryformhasbeentremendous.Althoughtheeffectsofstructuremaybeastoundingintheirpoweror</p></li><li><p>2015.04.11. 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4/170</p><p>unexpectedness,yetthemeansbywhichtheseeffectsarebroughtaboutarepurelymechanical.Anystudentoffictioncancomprehendthem,almostanypractitioneroffictionwithabenttowardformcanfairlymasterthem.Themeritofanyshortstoryproductiondependsonmanyotherelementsaswellthevalueofthestructuralelementtotheproductionasawholedependsfirstontheselectionoftheparticularsortofstructuralschemebestsuitedtothestoryinhand,andsecondly,onthewayinwhichthisiscombinedwiththepieceofwritingtoformawellbalancedwhole.Styleismoredifficulttoimitatethanstructure,butontheotherhandtheoriginofstructuralinfluenceismoredifficulttotracethanthatofstyle.Sowhile,inageneralway,wefeelthatPoe'sinfluenceonstructureintheshortstoryhasbeengreat,itisdifficultratherthanobvioustotraceparticularinstances.Itisfeltintheadvanceofthegenerallevelofshortstoryart.Thereisnothingpersonalaboutstructurethereiseverythingpersonalaboutstyle.Poe'sstyleisbothtoomuchhisownandtoosuperlativelygoodtobesuccessfullyimitatedwhomhavewehadwho,evenifhewereamasterofstructuraleffects,couldbeasecondPoe?Lookingatthematterinanotherway,Poe'sstyleisnothisownatall.Thereisnothing"personal"aboutitinthepettysenseofthatterm.Ratherwefeelthat,inthecaseofthisauthor,universalityhasbeenattained.ItwasPoe'sgoodfortunetobehimselfinstyle,asoftenincontent,onaplaneofuniversalappeal.Butinsomegeneralcharacteristicsofhisstylehisworkcanbe,notperhapsimitated,butemulated.Greatervividness,deftimpressionism,brevitythatstrikesinstantlytoatellingeffectalltheseanauthormayhavewithoutimitatinganyone'sstylebutratherimitatingexcellence.Poe's"imitators"whohaveamountedtoanythinghavenottriedtoimitatehimbuttoviewithhim.Theyarestrivingafterperfectionism.OfcoursethesortofgoodstyleinwhichPoeindulgedisnotthekindofstyleorthevarietiesofstylesuitedforallpurposes,butforthepurposestowhichitisadapteditmaywellbecalledsupreme.</p><p>Thenasapoethisworkisalmostorquiteasexcellentinasomewhatmorerestrictedrange.InverseheisprobablythebestartistinAmericanletters.Herehissolepursuitwasbeauty,bothofformandthoughtheisvividandapt,intenselylyricalbutwithoutmuchrangeofthought.Hehasdeepintuitionsbutnocomprehensivegraspoflife.</p><p>Hiscriticismis,onthewhole,theleastimportantpartofhiswork.Hehadafewgoodandbrilliantideaswhichcameatjusttherighttimetomakeastirintheworld,andthesehislogicalmindandtellingstyleenabledhimtopresenttothebestadvantage.Asacriticheisneitherbroadminded,learned,norcomprehensive.Norishe,exceptinthefewideasreferredto,deep.Heis,however,limitedlyoriginalperhapsintenselyoriginalwithinhisnarrowscope.ButtheexcellencesandlimitationsofPoeinanyonepartofhisworkwerehislimitationsandexcellencesinall.</p><p>AsPoe'sbestshortstoriesmaybementioned:Metzengerstein(Jan.14,1832,PhiladelphiaSaturdayCourier),Ms.FoundinaBottle(October19,1833,BaltimoreSaturdayVisiter),TheAssignation(January,1834,Godey'sLady'sBook),Berenice(March,1835,SouthernLiteraryMessenger),Morella(April,1835,SouthernLiteraryMessenger),TheUnparalleledAdventureofOneHansPfaall(June,1835,SouthernLiteraryMessenger),KingPest:aTaleContaininganAllegory(September,1835,SouthernLiteraryMessenger),Shadow:aParable(September,1835,SouthernLiteraryMessenger),Ligeia(September,1838,AmericanMuseum),TheFalloftheHouseofUsher(September,1839,Burton'sGentleman'sMagazine),WilliamWilson(1839:Giftfor1840),TheConversationofEirosandCharmion(December,1839,Burton'sGentleman'sMagazine),TheMurdersintheRueMorgue(April,1841,Graham'sMagazine),ADescentintotheMaelstrom(May,1841,Graham'sMagazine),Eleonora(1841:Giftfor1842),TheMasqueoftheRedDeath(May,1842,Graham'sMagazine),ThePitandthePendulum(1842:Giftfor1843),TheTellTaleHeart(January,1843,Pioneer),TheGoldBug(June21and28,1843,DollarNewspaper),TheBlackCat(August19,1843,UnitedStatesSaturdayPost),TheOblongBox(September,1844,Godey'sLady'sBook),TheAngeloftheOdd(October,1844,ColumbianMagazine),"ThouArttheMan"(November,1844,Godey'sLady'sBook),ThePurloinedLetter(1844:Giftfor1845),TheImpofthePerverse(July,1845,Graham'sMagazine),TheSystemofDr.TarrandProf.Fether(November,1845,Graham'sMagazine),TheFactsintheCaseofM.Valdemar(December,1845,AmericanWhigReview),TheCaskofAmontillado(November,1846,Godey'sLady'sBook),andLander'sCottage</p></li><li><p>2015.04.11. 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