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A dog smiles, but if, as philosophers used to tell us, laughter is the distinctive peculiarity of mankind, it is remarkable to what expense the rich and great have put themselves to remain human under the burden of their responsibilities and possessions. Most men laugh cheap, and their difficulty is to be solemn. Certainly, they love a music-hall for its comic song, and a circus for its clown. But if you suggested to the average wage-earner to obtain perpetual laughter by keeping Harry Lauder in the back kitchen, he would stare, even if he could afford it. Yet that is what the rich and great did for many centuries in this country, and in some parts of the world still do, so fearful are they of losing their human attribute among the cares of riches.
Ranged with black pages, monkeys, poets, and dwarfs, there is no question that kings and nobles kept a Fool as an essential part of their retinue. We are reminded of it just now by the performance of "King Lear" under Mr. Herbert Trench's direction, for Lear's Fool is one of the most delicate among Shakespeare's imaginations. But the Fool at Court was no mere poetic vision, no child's conception of happiness beyond the dreams of laughter. During at least forty generations of Christian history the rulers and owners of the known world paid and fed a man as a matter of course to make them laugh. Sometimes that was not his only office, for the Fool's other name of Jester points to better days when, as a minstrel, he sang of deeds that called for no grinning. Even the Elizabethan Fool is generally a singer too, just as a barber sometimes still retains the emblems of old surgery, and it is the subtle Fool in "Twelfth Night" who sings "O Mistress Mine," the best of
love-songs. In Ireland also, where laughter was easier and the mighty hardly lived long enough to enjoy it, the Fool seems never to have supplanted the satiric bard, whose office was to make people, including his master, uncomfortable rather than jolly. But in the royal and baronial residences of Europe the Fool's true function was not song or satire, but simply laughter, and in the English Court it was less than a century ago that the Fool's office became merged once more in that of the poet-laureate.
It need not surprise us that the Fool, besides being originally something of a poet, was often identical with the dwarf. From Homer down to the White-eyed Kaffir, gods and men have always thought deformity a fine subject for laughter, and if the very look of a Fool was enough to raise a roar, his value as a wit was proportionately augmented. We know from Velasquez with what delight the presence of a dwarf could penetrate even the gloomy Court of Spain, for the male and female monsters of the day are as immortal upon his canvas as his flounced princesses or Philip himself. We know that if two of these laughable deformities married in some European Court, the whole capital went into paroxysms or amusement. Many of the best known Fools to our own Royal Family were in some way misshapen - too short, too long, or crooked in the legs; and on that account they were all the better received, just as the wealthy of to-day cherish pug dogs, dachunds, and "toy Poms," with special affection for their deformities. Nor can we condemn our fathers for primitive merriment while we still see the maids giggling at a humpback, and when we recognize that a "funny" face is seldom beautiful, that a
shrewdness to expression, that a stutter enforces the epigram, and a turnedup nose makes laughter catching.
It must have been a strange crisis in the life of a youth when he determined to be a Fool. Unless Nature had endowed him with some imbecility or dwarfish advantage-in which case his calling as village idiot or king's jester was but a Hobson's choice how did he decide upon that profession rather than another? What were his qualifications as a boy for the career of Fool? Did he feel the wit quickening in his brain and spring it on a king, just as in youth we now spring jokes on the editor of "Punch" by post? Or, perhaps, his homespun parents larded his hair and, leading him up to the castle, blew the horn, crossed the drawbridge, and thus accosted their lord, who at that time occupied the position of a school-management committee:
"May it please your Lordship," they would say, "his mother and me, we don't know what to do with this here boy of ourn, he's that silly and blusterous. He's always a-sayin', and when he isn't a-sayin', he starts doin' such as never. The things he do say, they be fit to make a cat laugh, let alone your Lordship, and as to doin', it's only yesterday he fixed a bag of flour so as the sexton coming in for a drop of ale lets it down on his head and covers himself white all over, whereby he warn't fit to be seen at the funeral after. And when she see that, his mother up and beats him, and says "That's just the sort of thing as his Lordship and the gentry do enjoy wonderful to keep 'em merry,' says she. So here we brings the boy to your Lordship in hopes you'll make a Fool on him."
Then, as a speculation in future merriment, the armored baron would take the boy into his retinue, shave his head bare, fit him a cap with ass's
ears and the comb of a cock, hang him with bells, give him a bauble of a carved stick to play with, cover his body with patchwork, and make one leg yellow and the other scarlet, so that at the very look of him the lords and ladies might feel cheerful and inclined to laugh.
But the absurdity of the dress was not only for laughter. We know the advantages of a mask; what alien courage a domino gives to dancers, and a pseudonym to the critic of our books. In "King Lear" itself, even the excellent and sensible Edgar becomes a far more interesting character as crazy Tom o' Bedlam - so much more interesting that the poet himself seems to have forgotten that Tom was but a counterfeit. And thus, from behind his motley, the Fool could say things that no one would dare to say if clothed and in his right mind. It must have been a gruesome thing for the Fool if he failed in his profession and could not raise a laugh-as gruesome as when the man who lives by a daily joke sees the printer's boy waiting and the page is bare. Nor can we assume that, because the records of the Jesters are to us the dullest form of literature, it was therefore easier to be a Fool then than now. While Shakespeare lived, it was the duty of the King's Jester to divert the Queen when she was tired of playing the game, "Rise, pig, and go," with her maids, and it may well have been as difficult for him as it would be now to divert a literary dinner. The fashion of laughter changes fast, and we cannot doubt that, as far as laughter goes, those heavy-seeming Fools made their living as honestly as the Pierrots, Pantaloons, Clowns, and humorists who are the successors that democracy keeps. But laughter from behind his motley was not the Fool's only function.
From East to West, throughout
man's history, a holy license has been granted to Fools. It was early discovered how nearly insanity and inspiration might be allied, and a village imbecile is still called "the natural," as though he came closer to Nature's heart. He is called "the simpleton," too, and "the innocent," as though his mind were clear of complications, and his spirit incapable of sin. The same thought was in the poet's heart when he said, "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained praise," and when the Franciscans took the title of "the World's Fools," they did not follow the tradition of the unlearned. In like manner an order of great simplicity fell to be called the "Fools of God," and in later times we come to Tolstoy's "Ivan the Fool," and the "Simple Fool" of Wagner's "Parsifal." Even in Court Fools something of that clear insight of innocency was expected-something of that intimate relationship to the heart of life. "I wear not motley in my brain," said Touchstone, but Lear's Fool is the best example of wisdom lying hid in folly. One remembers two sayings of historic Fools that come near his: one when the Jester dared to hint to the King of France that his navy had been destroyed at Sluy's, "Prythee, Sire," he said, "why are French sailors so much braver than English? For they all jumped into the sea and swam away, but not a single Englishman dared jump." And the other is a saying of the Jester to Charles the Bold, who was always boasting himself like Hannibal; "Uncle," he cried to the Duke, as they fled headlong after the great defeat at Granson, near Neuchatel, "this is the prettiest way of being Hannibal I ever saw." But in Lear's Fool, though he, too, tells the truth of things in parable, there is that delicacy, that gentleness of touch which we do not find in any of the historic
records. He has the Fool's privilege of truth, and is gifted with the Innocent's deep perception, but his knowledge fills him only with grief, and far more than the King himself he feels the pain of the sore he touches. We hear of him first that, since Cordelia went to France, he had much pined away; but for one half-smiling complaint against the storm, he never laments his own fortunes; and he disappears in the middle of the drama with the words, "And I'll to bed at noon," in which some interpreters read the prophecy of a broken heart. Then, like a spirit, he disappears and is seen
Like a spirit he disappears from the midst of chaos, for he has fulfilled the Fool's part, hardly of laughter, but rather of the classic chorus the Spirit of the Pities that pervades the play and is its justification. And, from hls example, we might possibly argue that in historic life the Kings of the earth, from the days of Lear whom Holinshed tells us was contemporary with Joash of Judah, down to the exSultan now dwelling at Salonica, with his Jester and eleven wives - we might argue that Kings had kept the Fool so constantly at their side, not merely for the laugh of folly, or even for the wisdom of the insane, but as a warning voice, an outside conscience, a slave that whispered of mortality, a dog of truth that could not be whipped to kennel. Time, which stirs even within the sheepfold of Royal Courts, has assigned part of the Fool's functions to the poet laureate, as we saw, and part to the Lord Chamberlain, who sub-lets it to the Censor. On the side of laughter, the Fool's duties are carried on without a breach; but to what official of modern times shall the King and Nation go for the wisdom of holy simplicity, or for the affectionate solicitude of a public conscience?
BOOKS AND AUTHORS.
Mr. Halliwell Sutcliffe's "Priscilla of the Good Intent" is a tale of a maiden's perversity and of the strange chances by which the struggle to win her raises one man to a higher plane of life, and brings pain and misfortune to another, his better in every way. Priscilla is a charming specimen of English moorland loveliness and shrewd innocence, and the book is one of the prettiest stories of the season, and abounds in gems of rustic wit and humor. Little, Brown & Co.
He who should endeavor to give a synopsis or a summary of Mr. J. Walker McSpadden's "The Land of Nod" would probably fail most miserably, but there is no doubt that children will enjoy reading of the tremendous adventures of Tess and Tinkie when the Sandman took them to Nod and showed them its principal personages all unearthly, and all either amusing or delightfully frightful. Eight full page plates, three of them colored, and many small sketches in black and white, the work of Mr. E. L. Chase, illustrate the book. Thomas Y. Crowell & Co.
"Tales of Wonder," the fourth Fairy Book produced in collaboration by Mrs. Kate Douglas Wiggin and her sister, Miss Norah Archibald Smith, is gathered from many sources, very few of them familiar to ordinary children; and the weary parents who despair of finding anything new for young folk learned in Lang, and Grimm, and Hans Christian Andersen, may here discover
it. The volume is prettily printed and bound and makes admirable provision for the small owner's name writing, but it has no pictures: each child must make his own. Doubleday, Page & Co.
Mr. Lincoln Steffens includes five biographies all written during the last
four years, in the volume to which he gives the name of "Upbuilders." His "upbuilders" are Mark Fagan, Mayor of Jersey City; Everett Colby, Senator; Ben Lindsey, the "children's judge"; W. S. U'Ren, a lobbyist for what seems righteousness to him; and Rudolph Spreckels, and he gives portraits of all, types with nothing in common in their physical appearance in spite of their moral resemblance. He writes of all with contagious enthusiasm, and a pleasant delight in revealing their goodness, and his book is equally well adapted to boys and to the voters, their fathers. Doubleday, Page & Co.
Lucky is the man who being in Paris and discovering, as Mr. E. V. Lucas puts it, that he is a foreigner, has Mr. Lucas's "A Wanderer in Paris" for a companion. Mr. Lucas has the Englishman's wholesome power of resistance to the vicious element in Latin civilization, but with it great capacity for admiring all that he finds admirable. His chapter headings indicate that he treats of Paris artistic and historical, of the Paris that amuses itself and of the Paris that works, and he has stories and legends to tell, even poems to recite. His work is illustrated by many reproductions from old pictures, and by sixteen full-page colored plates showing scenes in the Paris of to-day. It is unnecessary to say that the book is far above the average volume describing Paris, being the result of long acquaintance and study. Macmillan Company.
"The Homesteaders" has the names of Kate and Virgil D. Boyles on its title-page, but it shows no marks of collaboration, and is as homogeneous as if it were the work of one pen and one mind. It is the story of a South
ern brother and sister who "take up" land in the Northwest cattle country, and hardly realize how savagely they are hated by their neighbors until it is too late.
The ordinary company of characters in books of this species is strengthened by the addition of an educated Indian girl spoiled for the tepee by the white man's learning, but not accepted by him as an equal, and, as the cattlemen are described faithfully and without exaggeration, the story deserves closer attention than most of those belonging to its school. If the authors should choose to give it a sequel, describing the life of the heroine while she and her Indian friend manage her claim no reader of "The Homesteaders" would neglect it. A. C. McClurg & Co.
A new volume of Annie Payson Call's health-teaching is always welcome, and "Nerves and Common Sense" has a particularly promising title. The general principles familiar to students of the earlier books-"relaxing," "dropping resistance," "wholesome, sustained concentration," and, above all, "trustfulness in the Power that gives us life," are freshly emphasized in a series of chapters whose headings pique curiosity, like "The Tired Emphasis," "The Woman at the Next Desk," "The Trying Member of the Family," and "Why does Mrs. Smith Get on my Nerves?" The sceptic may doubt the permanent efficacy of "Imaginary Vacations," and complain that the lesson in "Take Care of your Stomach" seems to contradict that in "Why Fuss so much about What I Eat?" but the average woman with rebellious nerves will find much to encourage and stimulate her. Little, Brown & Co.
Mr. Frederic Rowland Marvin's "A Book of Quatrains" contains a hundred or more experiments in this by no means easy form of verse, and nearly
as many translations from the French, German, Latin, Persian and other sources. To say anything worth saying within the limits of four lines is difficult, and Mr. Marvin does not always achieve it; but some of the reflections which he puts in this form are pungent and epigrammatic. Witness this on Satan:
"Of Satan all our priests have made too much,
As though with God he played at chess;
And, matching love with hatred, cried out 'check-!
My curse on every soul you bless!" And this, "A Selfish Heart:"
"How oft our trembling nerves we drug, Neglecting the disease;
The trouble is a selfish heart,
That loves its own sweet ease." Sherman, French & Co.
There are forty stories in the Rev. George Hodges' pretty volume "The Garden of Eden," and all are taken from the first nine books of the Old Testament, once familiar to children, now often said to be too severe, too savage, too something for the delicate little souls to whom nothing harsh must be given. Dean Hodges does not agree with these gentle censors, and presents the incidents of Scripture story as written, merely adapting the superficial phraseology to the present time, but preserving the spirit intact, and keeping nearly all the famous phrases that are so interwoven with English literature that not to know their origin is to be deprived of an important part of a liberal education. No one who knows his Bible even respectably well needs to be told of the extraordinary charm of the Hebrew stories, and Mr. Walter H. Everett's pictures,— figures seen against backgrounds of a rare simplicity, subtly suggesting a life radically different from that familiar