The Best American Humorous Short Stories_10947_10947

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<ul><li><p>6/1/2015 www.gutenberg.org/files/10947/10947.txt</p><p>http://www.gutenberg.org/files/10947/10947.txt 1/188</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>Charactersetencoding:ASCII</p><p>***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKAMERICANHUMOR***</p><p>ProducedbyKeithM.EckrichandPGDistributedProofreaders</p><p>THEBESTAMERICANHUMOROUSSHORTSTORIES</p><p>_Editedby_ALEXANDERJESSUP,_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.NotonlycopyrightrestrictionsbutinameasuremyownopinionhavecombinedtoexcludeanythingbyJoelChandlerHarris_UncleRemus_fromthecollection.Harrisisprimarilyinhisbestworkahumorist,andonlysecondarilyashortstorywriter.Asahumoristheisofthefirstrank;asawriterofshortstorieshisplaceishardlysohigh.Hishumorisnotmere</p></li><li><p>6/1/2015 www.gutenberg.org/files/10947/10947.txt</p><p>http://www.gutenberg.org/files/10947/10947.txt 2/188</p><p>funninessanddiversion;heisahumoristinthefundamentalandlargesense,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).InthehistoryofAmericanhumorthesenamesrankhigh;inthefieldofAmericanliteratureandtheAmericanshortstorytheydonotranksohigh.Ihavefoundnothingoftheirsthatwasfirstclassbothashumorandasshortstory.PerhapsjustbelowthesethreeshouldbementionedGeorgeHoratioDerby(18231861),authorof_Phoenixiana_(1855)andthe_SquibobPapers_(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,andtheauthorof_FablesinSlang_ischieflyasatirist,whetherinfable,playorwhatnot.</p><p>ThisvolumemightwellhavestartedwithsomethingbyWashingtonIrving,Isupposemanycriticswouldsay.Itdoesnotseemtome,however,thatIrving'sbestshortstories,suchas_TheLegendofSleepyHollow_and_RipVanWinkle_,areessentiallyhumorousstories,althoughtheyareo'erspreadwiththegeniallightofreminiscence.Itisthearmchairgenialityoftheeighteenthcenturyessayists,aconstituentoftheauthorratherthanofhismaterialandproduct.Irving'sbesthumorouscreations,indeed,arescarcelyshortstoriesatall,butratheressaylikesketches,orsketchlikeessays.JamesLawson(17991880)inhis_TalesandSketches:byaCosmopolite_(1830),notablyin_TheDapperGentleman'sStory_,isalsoplainlyafollowerofIrving.WecometoadifferentveinintheworkofsuchwritersasWilliamTappanThompson(18121882),authoroftheamusingstoriesinletterform,_MajorJones'sCourtship_(1840);JohnsonJonesHooper(18151862),authorof_WidowRugby'sHusband,andOtherTalesofAlabama_(1851);JosephG.Baldwin(18151864),whowrote_TheFlushTimesofAlabamaandMississippi_(1853);andAugustusBaldwinLongstreet(17901870),whose_GeorgiaScenes_(1835)areasimportantin"localcolor"astheyareracyinhumor.Yetnoneofthesewritersyieldtheexcellentshortstorywhichisalsoagood</p></li><li><p>6/1/2015 www.gutenberg.org/files/10947/10947.txt</p><p>http://www.gutenberg.org/files/10947/10947.txt 3/188</p><p>pieceofhumorousliterature.Buttheyopenedthewayfortheworkoflaterwriterswhodidattainthesecombinedexcellences.</p><p>ThesentimentalveinofthemidcenturyisseenintheworkofSebaSmith(17921868),ElizaLeslie(17871858),FrancesMiriamWhitcher("WidowBedott,"18111852),MaryW.Janvrin(18301870),andAliceBradleyHavenNeal(18281863).ThewellknownworkofJosephClayNeal(18071847)issoallpervadedwithcaricatureandhumorthatitbelongswiththeworkoftheprofessionalhumoristschoolratherthanwiththeshortstorywriters.Tomentionhis_CharcoalSketches,orScenesinaMetropolis_(18371849)mustsuffice.TheworkofSebaSmithissufficientlyexpressedinhistitle,_WayDownEast,orPortraituresofYankeeLife_(1854),althoughhis_LettersofMajorJackDowning_(1833)isbetterknown.Ofhissinglestoriesmaybementioned_TheGeneralCourtandJaneAndrews'FirkinofButter_(October,1847,_Graham'sMagazine_).TheworkofFrancesMiriamWhitcher("WidowBedott")isofsomewhatfinergrain,bothashumorandinotherliteraryqualities.Herstoriesorsketches,suchas_AuntMagwire'sAccountofParsonScrantum'sDonationParty_(March,1848,_Godey'sLady'sBook_)and_AuntMagwire'sAccountoftheMissiontoMuffletegawmy_(July,1859,_Godey's_),wereafterwardscollectedin_TheWidowBedottPapers_(18555680).ThescopeoftheworkofMaryB.Havenissufficientlysuggestedbyherstory,_Mrs.Bowen'sParlorandSpareBedroom_(February,1860,_Godey's_),whilethebeststoriesofMaryW.Janvrininclude_TheForeignCount;or,HighArtinTattletown_(October,1860,_Godey's_)and_CityRelations;or,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.Oneofherbeststoriesis_TheWatkinsonEvening_(December,1846,_Godey'sLady'sBook_),includedinthepresentvolume;othersare_TheBatsonCottage_(November,1846,_Godey'sLady'sBook_)and_JulietIrwin;or,theCarriagePeople_(June,1847,_Godey'sLady'sBook_).Oneofherchiefcollectionsofstoriesis_PencilSketches_(18331837)."MissLeslie,"wroteEdgarAllanPoe,"iscelebratedforthehomelynaturalnessofherstoriesandforthebroadsatireofhercomicstyle."Shewastheeditorof_TheGift_oneofthebestannualsofthetime,andinthatpositionperhapsexertedherchiefinfluenceonAmericanliteratureWhenonehasreadthreeorfourrepresentativestoriesbythesesevenauthorsonecangraspthemall.Theirtitlesasarulestrikethekeynote.Thesewriters,except"theWidowBedott,"areperhapssentimentalistsratherthanhumoristsinintention,butreadinthelightoflaterdaystheirapparentseriousdelineationsofthefrolicsandfoiblesoftheirtimetakeonahighlyhumorousaspect.</p><p>GeorgePopeMorris(18021864)wasoneofthefoundersof_TheNewYorkMirror_,andforatimeitseditor.Heisbestknownastheauthorofthepoem,_Woodman,SpareThatTree_,andotherpoemsandsongs._TheLittleFrenchmanandHisWaterLots_(1839),thefirststoryinthepresentvolume,isselectednotbecauseMorriswasespeciallyprominentinthefieldoftheshortstoryorhumorousprosebutbecauseofthissinglestory'srepresentativecharacter.EdgarAllanPoe(18091849)followswith_TheAngeloftheOdd_(October,1844,_ColumbianMagazine_),perhapsthebestofhishumorousstories._TheSystemofDr.TarrandProf.Fether_(November,1845,_Graham'sMagazine_)mayberatedhigher,butitisnotessentiallyahumorousstory.Ratheritisincisivesatire,withtoobitinganundercurrenttopassmusterinthecompanyofthegenialinliterature.Poe'shumorousstoriesasawholehavetendedtobelittleratherthan</p></li><li><p>6/1/2015 www.gutenberg.org/files/10947/10947.txt</p><p>http://www.gutenberg.org/files/10947/10947.txt 4/188</p><p>increasehisfame,manyofthemvergingontheinane.Therearesome,however,whichareatleastexcellentfooling;fewmorethanthat.</p><p>ProbablythisishardlytheplaceforanextendeddiscussionofPoe,sincethepresentvolumecoversneitherAmericanliteratureasawholenortheAmericanshortstoryingeneral,andPoeisnotahumoristinhismorenotableproductions.LetitbesaidthatPoeinventedorperfectedmoreexactly,perfectedhisowninventionofthemodernshortstory;thatishisgeneralandsupremeachievement.Healsostandssuperlativeforthequalityofthreevarietiesofshortstories,thoseofterror,beautyandratiocination.Inthefirstclassbelong_ADescentintotheMaelstrom_(1841),_ThePitandthePendulum_(1842),_TheBlackCat_(1843),and_TheCaskofAmontillado_(1846).Intherealmofbeautyhisnotableproductionsare_TheAssignation_(1834),_Shadow:aParable_(1835),_Ligeia_(1838),_TheFalloftheHouseofUsher_(1839),_Eleonora_(1841),and_TheMasqueoftheRedDeath_(1842).Thetalesofratiocinationwhatarenowgenerallytermeddetectivestoriesinclude_TheMurdersintheRueMorgue_(1841)anditssequel,_TheMysteryofMarieRoget_(18421843),_TheGoldBug_(1843),_TheOblongBox_(1844),_"ThouArttheMan"_(1844),and_ThePurloinedLetter_(1844).</p><p>Then,too,Poewasamasterofstyle,oneofthegreatestinEnglishprose,possiblythegreatestsinceDeQuincey,andquitethemostremarkableamongAmericanauthors.Poe'sinfluenceontheshortstoryformhasbeentremendous.Althoughthe_effects_ofstructuremaybeastoundingintheirpowerorunexpectedness,yetthe_means_bywhichtheseeffectsarebroughtaboutarepurelymechanical.Anystudentoffictioncancomprehendthem,almostanypractitioneroffictionwithabenttowardformcanfairlymasterthem.Themeritofanyshortstoryproductiondependsonmanyotherelementsaswellthevalueofthestructuralelementtotheproductionasawholedependsfirstontheselectionoftheparticularsortofstructuralschemebestsuitedtothestoryinhand,andsecondly,onthewayinwhichthisis_combined_withthepieceofwritingtoformawellbalancedwhole.Styleismoredifficulttoimitatethanstructure,butontheotherhand_theoriginofstructuralinfluence_ismoredifficulttotracethanthatofstyle.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,bothofformandthought;heisvividandapt,intenselylyricalbutwithoutmuchrange</p></li><li><p>6/1/2015 www.gutenberg.org/files/10947/10947.txt</p><p>http://www.gutenberg.org/files/10947/10947.txt 5/188</p><p>ofthought.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,Philadelphia_SaturdayCourier_),_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:_Giftfor_1840),_TheConversationofEirosandCharmion_(December,1839,_Burton'sGentleman'sMagazine_),_TheMurdersintheRueMorgue_(April,1841,_Graham'sMagazine_),_ADescentintotheMaelstrom_(May,1841,_Graham'sMagazine_),_Eleonora_(1841:_Gift_for1842),_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:_Gift_for1845),_TheImpofthePerverse_(July,1845,_Graham'sMagazine_),_TheSystemofDr.Ta...</p></li></ul>