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court might see how very satisfactorily that same case could be answered ;— and then most powerfully he answered what he himself had just stated. It is needless to add that the humor of this superb bit of impertinence as well as the high capacity which carried it off was the talk of the day through all the Inns of Court.
This same Dunning, when Solicitor General, passed a vacation in Prussia. The king thought his title meant the rank of a general in the British army, and, therefore, invited him to a review of troops, mounting him, because of his supposed military eminence, of course, on one of his finest chargers. There was Dunning, spare, ascetic and eminently lawyer-like in looks, for the second or third time in his life upon a horse, and a mettlesome one at that. The charger carried him through all the evolutions of the day, the “general" in every movement being in a most dreadful fright, and duty never allowing him to dismount. Though he was scared, as he told some of his cronies afterwards, he would have been more so had not the extreme ridiculousness of the whole thing appealed to him. “It was almost as hard not to laugh as it was to stay astride o' that damn saddle.”
The character of Dunning, so far as the mixture of ability and a certain sardonic humor goes, reminds one of Ellenborough, Lord Chief Justice of England in the latter part of the eighteenth century and the forepart of the nineteenth. It is told of him that once a barrister was boring him to death (as even lawyers sometimes do) by dwelling in a long harangue upon non-essential details. The judge gave a characteristic, angry snort at a certain point of the argument, at which the barrister paused to say: "Is it the pleasure of the Court that I should proceed with my statement?” “Pleasure, Mr. Blank" replied Ellenborough, “has been out of the question for a long time. But proceed."
Again (and the tale is much of the same sort), the famous Lord Mansfield was once listening to an argument of the insolently proud and unpopular Sir Fletcher Norton, once Speaker of the Commons, upon a case involving certain manorial rights. "My Lord,” said Norton, “I can instance the point in person. Now I have, myself, two little manors.' “We are well aware
of that," instantly said the bench, smiling benignly. Which quite reminds one of Addison's entirely sound dictum: "Humor," said he, "should always lie under the check of reason, for it requires the direction of the nicest judgment, by so much the more as it indulges itself in the most boundless freedoms."
Humor, like the poor, we have always with us, though (like the poor) we often forget it. Yet it goes everywhere,-even into funerals, there to temper the morbid atmosphere. It is said of Senator Hoar, who physically resembled Pickwick and was quite as beneficent and genial as he, though capable of far keener shafts of repartee, that he was acquainted by the family of Wendell Phillips (Hoar detested Phillips) of the funeral arrangements and asked to be a pall-bearer. He sent word declining, but with the remark “however, I approve of the proceedings." Once more; at the funeral of Frederick, Duke of York, Lord Eldon, who, though great as lawyer and judge, was fidgety and self-centered, carefully stood on his hat, beside the open grave, to keep from catching cold, notwithstanding that he had made loud protestations of being lost in grief. Hinc illa lachryme!
If wit and humor are not to be expected at funerals, they are not less than essential to the success of dinners. It is said that Edward Everett and Judge Story, the great jurist and intimate friend of Webster, were once the prominent personages at a Boston banquet. Story, as
Story, as a voluntary toast gave: "Fame follows merit where Everett goes." Whereupon the gentleman thus delicately complimented, without the slightest hesitation returned the equally facile: "To whatever height judicial learning may attain in this country there will always be one Story higher." Had Amiel heard of that, would he yet have insisted that “Wit is useful for everything, but sufficient for nothing''?
Disraeli's attraction lay largely in a brand of sardonic humor peculiar to him, and undoubtedly obtained through his training as one who always took time to gather in every possible impression before he allowed passion to suggest itself. Shortly after his entrance into political life, and while standing for a certain Middlesex borough in the Conservative interest, he made a personal house-to-house canvass. Among those whose votes
and aid he thus solicited was a well-to-do but irascible farmer, supposed to be doubtful in his political convictions. “Vote for you!" he shouted when the future Lord Beaconsfield made known the object of his call, “Why I'd vote for the devil sooner.” “Ah, quite so," came the instant, suave reply; “but in the event of your friend not standing,-may I hope for your interest ?”
It is said that one of the best (surely one of the briefest) speeches ever heard in our Senate was delivered by Proctor of Vermont. A colleague from Massachusetts was engaged in biting sarcasm at the expense of the Green Mountain state, and had said: “No man in Vermont is allowed to vote unless he has made two thousand dollars trading with Massachusetts people. At once Proctor was on his feet with “And we all vote."
Perhaps it is not unnatural that we children of a busy day are accustomed to associate the keener kind of wit with the more leisurely eighteenth century, or, at latest, with the early Victorians. Certainly it was found at these times,-along with a deal of cursing and mighty bad manners; it is hardly worth while to go further than the great Doctor Johnson and Lord Thurlow to illustrate the point. But is such an idea adequately borne out by present facts? To go back to the idea of humor as a factor in social evolution, is it not the case that here and now it is more the rule than ever even in the past to be mellow, genial, and generally receptive to pleasantry? If the citizen of some long ago had been pushed and mauled as happens daily to us in crowded cars and streets, the atmosphere would have shown deep indigo. No, humor is yet with us,-increasingly with us. The future annalist of the time we call "ours" will see it and rejoice.
H. MERIAN ALLEN. Philadelphia, Pa.
SEEING AMERICA *
The study of the history of these United States in the light of their industrial and economic development is rapidly beginning to displace the old system of examination under which the political and martial features of that story were given prominence out of all proportion to their relative importance in the growth of our national institutions. It is likewise cause for genuine gratification to all those unbiased students of our country who desire to view, in just proportion and true perspective, the feature of this complex and variegated national life, that the part played by the South and West in American history is at last beginning to receive both careful scrutiny and minute study. The combination of these two impulses, commendable each in itself, is found in the work which occupies my present consideration. In the perusal of these volumes, which have appeared within the present year and have attracted the attention of the country in a more than ordinary degree, we go a-voyaging and a-journeying through America from the early days of the rude and the primitive to the present era of the scientific and advanced modes of travel. There is at once romantic charm and sober reality in this journey across the plains and across the centuries, over the natural barriers to advance and over the recalcitrant obstacles to the progress of civilization. We live again the life of the Red Man, the voyageur, the hunter, the trapper, the coureur-de-bois, the pioneer. We march southward, and westward-ever westward toward the setting suncarrying in one hand the weapons of the conqueror, in the other the arts and the crafts of civilization. Before us, in wavering outline, moves the vast wave-fringe of the frontier-reproducing again and again, at each successive advance, the slow march of progress, from savagery to enlightenment.
* A History of Travel in America. Showing the Development of Travel and Transportation from the Crude Methods of the Canoe and Dog-sled to the Highly Organized Railway Systems of the Present; together with a Narrative of the Human Experiences and Changing Social Conditions that accompanied this Economic Conquest of the Continent. By Seymour Dunbar. With maps, colored plates, and other illustrations reproduced from early engravings, original centemporaneous drawings, and broadsides. In four volumes. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Co. $10 net.
In this great journey, which is but recently ended in America's story, the battle of civilization was fought with eyes little sharpened by the great exigencies of the future. The pressure of immediate needs, the imperative call for the satisfaction of wants that must be instantaneously met—these immitigable conditions of pioneer civilization have left an ineradicable impression upon our social and economic life. It is one thing to build for the moment, to meet the pressing necessity of the hour; it is quite another to lay down great interlocking systems of transcontinental communication adequate to the needs of the present and potential for the needs of the future.
The author of these fascinating volumes is not carried away by a natural enthusiasm for his enthralling subject into purblind indifference to the temporary and transitory character of the economic beginnings upon which the greater transportation systems of the future must rest. Such clear-sighted consideration prompts the conclusion:
“It therefore appears that the underlying thought and basic plan of the inexperienced pioneers, out of which grew the system they made and bequeathed to us—and which we are still using—is not altogether such a thoughtful and economic plan as fits our later desire and determination. A conflict between old conditions and new ideas has resulted. Various methods and practices which developed out of the pioneer procedure have been outgrown, and no longer fit the age into which they have survived. We are now seeking to rid ourselves of the undesirable parts of our inheritance, with resolution so to do, and are likewise trying to avoid the making of similar mistakes while dealing with the same large subject.”
Travel, in a word, follows its own law of evolution. The man who paddled his canoe could no more foresee the hydroplane than Daniel Boone could previsage the vestibuled limited. Nor would it even be possible for this present generation to build a fully adequate system of transportation to stand the crucial tests of time and progress without a vision into the long, long future. Yet a complete and detailed knowledge of the past, with the abundant lessons of mistake and failure, as afforded in part through the volumes under examination, promises to assist us in coping with the insistent problems of the present, and in suggesting the application of more rational and soundly based principles to the affairs which point to the future.