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corruptions of speech, have come to talk of quicksilver which you shall find on of “newspaper English,” as if it were in any of these encircling hills, so powersome way related to the “pigeon En- less to draw to it an atom of filth or glish” spoken at Hongkong or Canton ? rubbish, but ever attracting the smallWho will take the club of a philologistest particle of incorruptible silver and and knock on the head the more than gold? one hundred corrupt words and slang: It can hardly have escaped notice that phrases which have obtained more or less California, during this quarter-century, currency through the public journals of has produced more humorists, and more our own State? If by accident the club of that literature which is essentially should descend upon the head of any humorous, than all the rest of the councoiner of such vulgarity, be assured that try. It may be difficult to trace to any small damage will be done.
outward sources the inspiration of so One can not fail to note that the news- much wit. Does it lie in the odd conpaper has been gradually encroaching trasts and strange situations which so on the domain of literature. It has ab- often confront the observer here? Nor sorbed monthly magazines or forced pub- has this facetiousness depended at all lishers to resort to illustrations — to a for its development upon any degree of sort of picture-book literature for grown- prosperity. In fact, the boldest and up children. It has driven the lumber- bravest challenge which has ever been ing quarterlies into smaller fields and given to adverse fortune here has been diminished their relative importance. by the gentle humorists who have sufferThe average citizen craves the news ed from her slings and arrows. It is from a journal having the very dew of said: “Cervantes smiled Spain's chiv. the morning and the evening upon it. alry away.” But these modern satirists It must come to him damp and limp, made faces at bad fortune ; they lambringing whatever is best at the small. pooned her, and defied her to do her utest possible cost. The newspaper is most. The more miserable they ought the herald of the new era. Its errand to have been, the happier they were. must be swift, its statements compact, They found a grotesque and comic side and its thought eclectic and compre- to the most sober facts. They were hensive.
facetious when there was small stock in Three thousand years ago one of the the larder and smaller credit at the grand old prophets spoke mysteriously banker's. They smiled at the very grimof the “living spirit in the wheels.” ness of evil fortune until she fled, and, Was it other than the modern newspa- in doing this, they half-unconsciously per thrown off by the pulsing of the tickled the midriff of the world. A ripgreat cylinder press? But observe that ple of laughter ran over the surface of sothrough yonder Golden Gate, which the ciety. It sometimes made slow progress sun and the stars and the lamps of men when it here and there met a mountain glorify day and night, the devil - fish of obtuseness. But wit is wit; and what comes sailing up, and is no whit con- difference does it make if, failing to see cerned whether his accursed tentacula the point, some people laugh next year close around saint or sinner. Is not instead of this? I will not be distressed that the fittest symbol of a public jour- because my friend does not, to this day, nal conducted by ignorant and unscru- see how the immortal “Squibob" conpulous men? Rather would you not quered his adversary at San Diego by choose, as a more fitting symbol of the falling underneath him and inserting his ideal journal, one of the small globules nose between his teeth. Nor does it
greatly concern me that he does not as- not of the rankest soil, but of that which
quent indorsement in a wider field was
of A certain spontaneity of expression, a bird, and the sound of every living thing spring, a rioting song of gladness, are in the forest. But when all this is done, some of the signs of this more abound- that mocking - bird will sometimes give ing life. In homely phrase, we say there out a song which none other can match is a flavor of the soil about it. It might, with its melody. As much as this, and therefore, have been necessary that Mark more, lay within the range of this poetTwain should sleep on this soil, and satirist. His mocking had, however, should have a wide range of pioneer a deep and salient meaning in it. When experiences, before he could become the Truthful James rises to explain in what prince of grotesque humorists. He got respect Ah Sin is peculiar, he has a up suddenly from the very soil which in higher purpose than merely to show the its secret laboratory colors the olive and overreaching cunning of this bronzed the orange, and began to make the world heathen, laugh. With a keen sense of the sym- " With the smile that was child-like and bland." metry and harmony of things, he had a So long as Ah Sin and his race could keener perception of all the shams and be plucked and despoiled at will, he ridiculous aspects of life. His pungent provoked no antagonisms. But when gospel of humor is as sanitary as a gen- he overmatched the sharpness of his tle trade - wind. He knew a better se- spoilers, we have this tale, with its cret than the old alchemists. Every moral: time he made the world laugh he put a
“ Then I looked up at Nye, thousand ducats into his pocket. But
And he gazed upon me;
And he rose with a sigh, never until he had slept in his blankets,
And said, 'Can this be? had been robbed on the “Divide," and We are ruined by Chinese cheap labor!' had learned the delicate cookery of a
And he went for that heathen Chinee." miner's cabin, could he do this thing. Every demagogue in the State, who had But now he can not even weep at the rung the changes on the evils of cheap tomb of his ancestor, Adam, without labor, felt the thrust; and it is doubtful moving the risibles of half the world. if one of them has forgiven Harte to this He has also a finer touch and flavor, day.
The dogmatism and intolerant assump- Camp.” The rude miners around the tion which sometimes become rampant camp-fire drop their cards as one of in scientific societies is thus punctured them draws forth a book : by Truthful James, in his description of
"And then, while round them shadows gathered “The Society upon the Stanislaus :
faster, “But first I would remark that it is not a proper plan
And as the fire-light fell, For any scientific gent to whale his fellow-man,
He read aloud the book wherein the master And if a member don't agree with his peculiar whim,
Had writ of Little Nell.' To lay for that same member for to put a head' on "Perhaps 'twas boyish fancy--for the reader him."
Was youngest of them all — When Jones undertook to prove that cer- But, as he read, from clustering pine and cedar tain fossil bones were from one of his
A silence seemed to fall. * lost mules, then the trouble began:
“The fir-trees, gathering closer in the shadows,
Listened in every spray, "Now I hold it is not decent for any scientific gent While the whole camp with Nell' on English meat. To say another is an ass—at least, to all intent; Nor should the individual who happens to be meant
Wandered and lost their way. Reply by heaving rocks at him, to any great extent. “ Then Abner Dean of Angel's raised a point of order,
"Lost is that camp, and wasted all its fire, when
And he who wrought that spell ? A chunk of old red sandstone took him in the abdo
Ahl towering pine and stately Kentish spire,
Ye have one tale to tell! And he smiled a sickly smile, and curled up on the floor,
" Lost is that camp, but let its fragrant story And the subsequent proceedings interested him no
Blend with the breath that thrills
That fills the Kentish hills.
“And on that grave where English oak, and holly, In a warfare with the remnants of the paleozoic
And laurel wreaths entwine, age;
Deem it not all a too-presumptuous follyAnd the way they heaved those fossils in their an.
spray of western pine!” ger was a sin, Till the skull of an old mammoth caved the head of It was left to this shy man, who came Thompson in."
forth from the very wastes of this far-off When the supposed pliocene skull, wilderness, to lay upon the bier of the found in Calaveras County, had devel- dead humorist as fragrant an offering as oped a good deal of scientific quackery, any mortal fellowship could suggest. It Harte, in his "Geological Address,' was a song in a different key-as if one makes the skull declare that it belong- having entered into the very life of the ed to Joe Bowers of Missouri, who had great novelist had also for a moment fallen down a shaft. For six months entered into his death. thereafter no theorist was able to dis- The wit and the poetry which ripen cuss the character of that fossil with here are under the same sun which ria sober countenance. No Damascus pens the pomegranate and the citron. blade ever cut with keener stroke than The grain and texture have always been did the blade of this satirist, even when better than that suggested by the coarser it was hidden in a madrigal or conceal- materialism without. It is little to him ed in some polished sentence of prose. who is cutting his marble to the divinest
As a humorist he appreciated humor form, that the whole city reeks with grime in others. When Dickens died, not an- and smoke, and all its outlines are misother man in all the length and breadth shapen and ugly. It is little to poet or of the land contributed so tender and painter that sometimes the earth has beautiful a tribute to his memory as only a single tint of gray, since he may did Harte in his poem of "Dickens in sometimes see in contrast what a trans
figured glory there may be on mountain any more. But the magician of wit and on sea.
works by an enchantment that we can There are not at any time in this dull never despise. His spell is wrought world so many genuine humorists as one with such gifts as are only given from may count on his fingers. For lack of the very heavens to here and there one. some healthy laughter the world is go. It is not the mythical Puck who is to ing to the bad. It welcomes the gentle put a girdle round the world, but the missionary of humor, and for lack of him man of genius, whose thought is lumiit sometimes accepts those dreary coun- nous with the light of all ages. So : terfeits who commit assault and battery Shakspeare clasps the world, and Dickon our mother-tongue. As in olden ens belts it, and the men of wit and gentime the prophets were sometimes ston- ius furnish each a golden thread which ed in their own country, so in modern girds it about. The book of humor is times one can not tell whether the poet- the heart's ease. In every library it is prophet who comes up from the wilder- dog-eared, because it has in it some ness will fare better or worse. Woe to surcease for the secret ills of life. If him if the people can not interpret him, a million souls have been made happier or are piqued at his coming. It is a cu- for an hour through the fictions of Sir rious fact that when Harte had brought Walter Scott, what is the sum of good forth his first book with the modest title thus wrought! What lesser good have of Outcroppings, it was pelted from one they wrought who have come in later end of the State to the other. It did times to lighten the dead weight of our not contain a poem of his own. But it overweighted lives? did contain samples of the best poetry Do not despise the evangel of humor other than his own which had been pro- because he comes unlike one of old, wearduced in California. His critics, catch- ing a girdle of camel's hair, and eating ing the suggestion of the title, Aung at his locusts and wild honey. Bear with him porphyry, granite, and barren quartz, him if he comes in flaming neck-tie and but never a rock containing a grain of flamingo vestments, hirsute and robust. gold. He might have put a torpedo in- You shall know by his wit that he is no to a couple of stanzas and extinguished charlatan; but you can not tell it by his them all. But he saw the humorous side raiment, nor his bill of fare. It can not of the assault, and enjoyed it with a be shown that the wit of Diogenes was keener zest than any of his assailants. any better for his living in a tub. It is
None of us would be comfortable with not probable that a diet of water-cress only some pungent sauce for dinner. would inspire a better humor than a flagBut when a dreadful staleness over- on of wine and a saddle of venison. I takes the world, it is ready to cry out, would rather look for your modern hu“More sauce!” Whoever comes, there- morist in the top story of the crowded fore, bringing with him salt and season- and garish hostelry; because if he is ing, and whatever else gives a keener after game he will be sure to find it zest to life, never comes amiss. Sooner there. or later we shall know him. He will Another humorist, radically the prodcome very near to us in his books, and uct of California, was Prentice Mulford. by that subtile law of communion which When it was found that the boy had a through the brightest and noblest ut- genuine vein of wit in him, recognized terances makes all the better world akin. alike in the brilliant salon and the min
After we have seen the trick of the er's camp, he was sent forth as another magician, we do not care to know him missionary to reclaim the world.
Stoddard went through a gentle tran- Many of these books have had but a sition from poetry to prose, becoming local circulation, and are now almost subordinately a humorist because he forgotten. Some have gained more could not help it. If he excites no than a national reputation. I enumer. boisterous mirth, so much the better. ate among these Halleck's Internation. The best wine hath a delicate bouquet; al Law; Mountaineering, by Clarence so subtile, indeed, that one must taste King; Marine Mammals of the Northoften and daintily to know its better western Coast of North America, by quality.
Captain Scammon; The Luck of Roar. Without exhausting the list, these five ing Camp, by Bret Harte; and Native humorists, both in quality and number, Races, by Hubert H. Bancroft. Anothas the product of one State in a quarter er work just missed a more than national of a century, exceed the product of all recognition. Grayson, the self-taught the rest of the Union.
and heroic naturařist, traversed the forThe exacting conditions of pioneer ests and swamps of Mexico, stopping life are not favorable to authorship. If neither for morass nor jungle, until he during this quarter of a century not a had drawn and painted to life more than book had been written in California, we a hundred of the rarest birds of that might plead in mitigation the overshad- country. His work, which is still in owing materialism which, while coarsely sheets and manuscript, was probably at wrestling for the gains of a day, finds the cost of his life. But, besides the no place for that repose which favors works of Audubon and Wilson, I know culture and is fruitful of books.
But of nothing better in its way by any natover the arid plains, in the heat and uralist, living or dead. dust of the long summer, one may trace In this more notable list the OVERthe belt of green which the mountain LAND MONTHLY is justly entitled to a stream carries sheer down to the sea. place, because it has not only been read So there have been many thoughtful in every State in the Union, but has had men and women who have freshened a considerable circulation in Europe. It and somewhat redeemed these intellect is more than seven years since the first ual wastes. They have written more number was issued. Fifteen octavo volbooks in this quarter of a century than umes now represent the aggregate numthe great State of Ohio has produced bers, and they are essentially the prodin fifty years; more, in fact, than have uct of California writers. Ignoring all been written in all the other States west provincial limitations, they not only gave of the Mississippi River. The publica- to the magazine a cosmopolitan charaction of some of these books has cost ter, but they made it the exponent of a nearly their weight in gold. During literature which did not fall behind that this period of twenty-five years, more of any other magazine in the country. than 150 volumes have been written by You will not have to go far to find persons living at the time in this State.*
some sheltered valley, where both or* The following is a list of books written in Cali- Phænixiana...... ........ Lieutenant Derby. fornia. Law reports, digests, and school - books are California, Indoors and Out..... Eliza W. Farnhas. omitted.
California Life Illustrated........... William Tayix. History of Oregon and California ....R. Greenhow, Dow's Patent Sermons....
Dow, Jr. View of California....
Sermons on the Decalogue.. D. F. McDonald. ..J. D. Borthwick.
.Mrs. C. A. Chamberlain. Three Years in California............ Walter Colton. Life on the Plains and in the Diggings...A. Delaro. What I saw in California............ Edwin Bryant. Los Gringos....... .........Lieutenant Wise Colonial History of San Francisco.John W. Dwinelle. The Republic of Nicaragua....... William V. Wells, History of California...... ..Franklin Tuthill. Mountains and Molehills... Frank Martya
Three Years in California.