OUT OF THE HURLY-BURLY
(Charles Heber Clark)
I HAVE resolved to dedicate this book to a humorist who has had too little fame, to the most delicious, because the most unconscious, humorist, to that widely-scattered and multitudinous comedian who may be expressed in the concrete as
THE INTELLIGENT COMPOSITOR.
To his habit of perpetrating felicitous absurdities I am indebted for "laughter that is worth a hundred groans." It was he who put into type an article of mine which contained the remark, "Filtration is sometimes accomplished with the assistance of albumen," and transformed it into "Flirtation is sometimes accomplished with the resistance of aldermen." It was he who caused me to misquote the poet's inquiry, so that I propounded to the world the appalling conundrum, "Where are the dead, the varnished dead?" And it was his glorious tendency to make the sublime convulsively ridiculous that rejected the line in a poem of mine, which declared that a "comet swept o'er the heavens with its trailing skirt," and substituted the idea that a "count slept in the haymow in a traveling shirt." The kind of talent that is here displayed deserves profound reverence. It is wonderful and awful; and thus I offer it a token of my marveling respect.
PREFACE TO THE ENGLISH EDITION.
"Fun is the most conservative element of society, and it ought to be cherished and encouraged by all lawful means. People never plot mischief when they are merry. Laughter is an enemy to malice, a foe to scandal and a friend to every virtue. It promotes good temper, enlivens the heart and brightens the intellect."
This edition of "Out of the Hurly-Burly; or, Life in an Odd Corner," has been prepared with a view to its publication in England, and the sole right to issue the book in that country has been disposed of by me to Messrs. Ward, Lock and Tyler, who pay liberally for this exclusive privilege.
The volume is American in character, and in its incidents. It is, indeed, a story of life in a quiet American village which, unlike most of the towns in the United States, can count the years of its existence by centuries. I venture to hope that the book contains much that will interest intelligent Englishmen who do not care simply to be amused, while I am sure that those who believe that the man who laughs is the best and happiest man, will find some things in the volume which will provoke mirth.
It may be well to say that the use of the lash as a means of punishment, to which allusion is made in the 13th and 14th chapters, is peculiar to not more than two of the thirty-seven states in the Union. The mass of the people of the country, and, indeed, many of the citizens of the two commonwealths in question, regard the whipping-post as a relic of barbarism, and the flogging of criminals as inhuman, and wholly useless for the prevention of crime.
English readers of this book will find that the orthography differs in some respects from that to which they have been accustomed. I have adhered throughout to the spelling given in the dictionary of Noah Webster, which is the standard authority in the United States. The people of that land are, as it were, all under Noah's spell, and I have naturally followed the common practice. It is worth while to mention this fact so that those who are dissatisfied can find fault with Noah and not with me. He can bear harsh criticism more serenely than I can, for he is dead.
IT seems to be necessary to say a few words in reference to the contents of this volume as I offer it to the public. Several of the incidents related in the story have already appeared in print, and have been copied in various newspapers throughout the country. Sometimes they have been attributed to the author; but more frequently they have been given either without any name attached to them, or they have been credited to persons who probably never saw them. The best of the anecdotes have been imitated, but none of them, I believe, are imitations. I make this statement, so that if the reader should happen to encounter anything that has a familiar appearance, he may understand that he has the original and not a copy before him. But a very large portion of the matter contained in the book is entirely new, and is now published for the first time; while all the rest of it has been rewritten and improved, so that it is as good as new.
If this little venture shall achieve popularity, I must attribute the fact largely to the admirable pictures with which it has been adorned by the artists whose names appear upon the title page. All of these gentlemen have my hearty thanks for the efforts they have made to accomplish the best results; but while I express my appreciation of the beautiful landscapes of Mr. Schell, the admirable drawings of Mr. Sheppard and the excellent designs of Mr. Bensell, I wish to direct attention especially to the humorous pictures of Mr. Arthur B. Frost. This artist makes his first appearance before the public in these pages. These are the only drawings upon wood that he has ever executed, and they are so nicely illustrative of the text, they display so much originality and versatility, and they have such genial humor, with so little extravagance and exaggeration, that they seem to me surely to give promise of a prosperous career for the artist.