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The Wit of Women Fourth Edition

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PROEM. We are coming to the rescue,Just a hundred strong;With fun and pun and epigram,And laughter, wit, and song; With badinage and repartee,And humor quaint or bold,And stories that are stories,Not several æons old; With parody and nondescript,Burlesque and satire keen,And irony and playful jest,So that it may be seen That women are not quite so dull:We come—a merry throng;Yes, we're coming to the rescue,And just a hundred strong.

Kate Sanborn.

Not Poem!



To begin a deliberate search for wit seems almost like trying to be witty: a task quite certain to brush the bloom from even the most fruitful results. But the statement of Richard Grant White, that humor is the "rarest of qualities in woman," roused such a host of brilliant recollections that it was a temptation to try to materialize the ghosts that were haunting me; to lay forever the suspicion that they did not exist. Two articles by Alice Wellington Rollins in the Critic, on "Woman's Sense of Humor" and "The Humor of Women," convinced me that the deliberate task might not be impossible to carry out, although I felt, as she did, that the humor and wit of women are difficult to analyze, and select examples, precisely because they possess in the highest degree that almost essential quality of wit, the unpremeditated glow which exists only with the occasion that calls it forth. Even from the humor of women found in books it is hard to quote—not because there is so little, but because there is so much.

The encouragement to attempt this novel enterprise of proving ("by their fruits ye shall know them") that women are not deficient in either wit or humor has not been great. Wise librarians have, with a smile, regretted the paucity of proper material; literary men have predicted rather a thin volume; in short, the general opinion of men is condensed in the sly question of a peddler who comes to our door, summer and winter, his stock varying with the season: sage-cheese and home-made socks, suspenders and cheap note-paper, early-rose potatoes and the solid pearmain. This shrewd old fellow remarked roguishly "You're gittin' up a book, I see, 'baout women's wit. 'Twon't be no great of an undertakin', will it?" The outlook at first was certainly discouraging. In Parton's "Collection of Humorous Poetry" there was not one woman's name, nor in Dodd's large volume of epigrams of all ages, nor in any of the humorous departments of volumes of selected poetry.

Griswold's "Female Poets of America" was next examined. The general air of gloom—hopeless gloom—was depressing. Such mawkish sentimentality and despair; such inane and mortifying confessions; such longings for a lover to come; such sighings over a lover departed; such cravings for "only"—"only" a grave in some dark, dank solitude. As Mrs....