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Thomas Hood. 1. Let us be grateful to those beneficent authors who in their works have taught us to be cheerful—men who have written “Pickwick Papers,” and “Punch Papers," and “Sparrowgrass Papers,” and all other kinds of papers, to make us laugh and be happy together. “To everything there is a season,” says the best of books; and I am very glad "a time to laugh " is especially enumerated among those seasons.
2. But there is a kind of humor abroad in the world which is to be avoided everywhere. Indelicacy is never funny. Vulgarity is always out of place. The man who implants in my memory a coarse story or a broad jest does me an injury for life and is forever odious in my recollection. I thank no one for trying to make me laugh at the expense of decency.
3. Who would not like to go out of the world as Hood did, feeling sure that he had never given pain to any one's sense of refinement, but that he had added smiles, not tears, to human life?
4. Thomas Hood's unsullied pages are as nutritious and comforting as they are amusing. When you have a rebellious tooth, or a wicked headache, or an extra screw of rheumatism, or a stab in the back by a false friend, over
haul your “ Tom Hood," and, my word for it, you will feel better for the operation. One day I heard this order given from a sick-bed : “Bring me a bowl of gruel and the second volume of Hood's Own';" and it sounded most sensible and encouraging. I once asked a friend who had long and dangerous illnesses what he took when the spasms were severest ; and he replied, “ • Pickwick Papers' and • Pagsley Papers ' mixed.”
5. Blessings, I say, on all who have contributed to the harmless laughter and simple amusement of mankind; who have aided and abetted in the cause of human love and charity,—the "week-day preachers," as Thackeray calls them, who have done what they could to help a universal good-will to man.
6. How to make people happier is one of the noblest employments of man or woman kind ; how to be generous and forgiving to human frailty ; how to be helpful to the poor; how to encourage the weak and suffering ; how to be neighborly and considerate toward young persons, and very tenderly disposed toward the feelings of little children, who have a difficult time of it, poor things ! for lack of sympathy, and are shoveled off to bed at eight o'clock, while everybody else is having a good time down-stairs.
7. Now, all these amenities of life Tom Hood came on a special mission to teach us in his cheerful pages. He was a wit, a humorist, a satirist, but never a buffoon. Great artists in fun, like Shakespeare, and Dickens, and Hood, are always masters of the revels, but are never mastered by them.
8. Ill health followed poor Hood through his whole career. Longfellow, who called to see him one day in 1843, with Dickens, described the poet to me as a small, thin man, looking very pale and worn, not saying much
himself, but listening to Dickens with evident affection and interest. A perfectly-well day Hood never experienced for twenty-five years; but his good spirits never deserted him, and his most humorous productions were composed when disease was preying most severely upon him. When the doctor told him that many of his pains came from the fact that, anatomically, his heart was placed lower down than is usual, he replied : “ The more need for me to keep it
9. One day he said to his wife, “Never let us meet trouble half-way, but let him have the whole walk for his pains."
10. His energy and good spirits triumphed always over all oppositions to health and personal comfort. His famous poem of “ Miss Killmansegg” was written under the most adverse circumstances, when he was suffering from weakness occasioned by loss of blood, and when he was kept alive only by the doctor's utmost skill.
11. In one of his prefaces, written after a long and severe illness, Hood tells his readers : “ As to my health, which is the weather of the body, it hails, it rains, it blows, it snows, at present; but it may clear up by and by. Things may take a turn, as the pig said on the spit.” His fortitude and fun under trouble never deserted him. He never repined or uttered a complaint.
12. When they were getting up a subscription in London for his monument, some of the most distinguished names in England were prominent on the list ; but to my thinking, those small sums that came up from the workingpeople of Manchester and Bristol and Preston far outweighed the piles of guineas poured out by the great ones.
13. Some of those little packages that were sent in from the working districts were marked, “From a few
“ From seven
dressmakers" ; "From twelve poor men in the coal-mines." The rich gave of their abundance, to honor the wit, the Englishmen of genius, the great author ; but the poor women of Britain remembered who it was that sung the “Song of the Shirt " and “The Bridge of Sighs," and, down there in their dark dens of sorrow and poverty, they resolved to send up their mite, though coined out of heart's blood, for the good man's monument.
14. They had heard all about their dying friend, who hau been pleading their cause through so many years. They knew that he had been sending out of his sick-chamber lessons of charity and forbearance : reminding Wealth of Want, Feasting of Fasting, and Society of Solitude and Despair.
15. Hood's breath of life—so fitful for years—went out at last without a struggle or a sigh. The month of May was always an eventful month to him. He was born in May, married in May, and was laid to rest under the pink and white blossoms of May.
JAMES T. FIELDS,
Thomas Hood was born in London, England, in 1798 and died May 3, 1845. He holds a high place both as a humorist and as a serious poet. His “Miss Killmansegg” (10) is one of the wittiest and most humorous poems in English, while his “Song of the Shirt” and “The Bridge of Sighs" (13) are among the most perfect poems of their kind we have.
William Makepeace Thackeray (5), born 1811, died 1863, was a writer of both prose and verse. He will be best remembered by his novels; from one of these, “The Newcomes,” an extract will be found toward the end of this volume.
Charles Dickens (7), born 1812, died 1870, was one of the greatest novelists and humorists that England has produced. He occupies a field that no other writer has cultivated. His good characters, however, are only humanly good; their goodness does not spring from a moral or religious motive. The Dublin Review says of him : “He
was certainly a moral writer and lauded the household virtues ; but there is a higher aspect of morality, one in which Catholic readers are bound to regard every book which professes to deal with the condition of man; and so regarded, Mr. Dickens's works are false as any of those of the undisguised materialistic writers of the day.”
William Shakespeare (7), the greatest of dramatic poets, was born in England in 1564 and died April 23, 1616. His genius was something wonderful. There is scarcely a subject of which he has not made some mention. “He was the man,” says Dryden, “who of all modern and perhaps ancient poets had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the images of nature were present to him, and when he describes anything, you more than see it-you feel it too."
Henry W. Longfellow (8) was born at Portland, Me., in 1807 and died in 1882. His poetry is remarkable for its simplicity, refinement, and grace. He is undoubtedly the most popular of American poets.
Explain the expressions “stab in the back” (4); "coined out of heart's blood” (13). What is meant by “the best of books,” referred to in paragraph 1 ?
1. scope; n. extent.
especially of fish.
tempt. 4. strănd; n. the sea-shore. 4. előave; v. to divide by force.
4. phos' phor-līght ed; a.
lighted up by the phosphorous
in the sea-water. 6. off' ing; n. that part of the
sea where there is deep water. 6. soŭgh' ing (súf' ing);
The Fishermen of Wexford. 1. There is an old tradition sacred held in Wexford town,
Upon St. Martin's Eve no net shall be let
No fisherman of Wexford shall, upon that holy day,