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The Best American Humorous Short Stories


humorists."[2] Nor have such later writers who were essentially
humorists as "Bill Nye" (Edgar Wilson Nye, 1850-1896) been
considered, because their work does not attain the literary standard
and the short story standard as creditably as it does the humorous
one. When we come to the close of the nineteenth century the work
of such men as "Mr. Dooley" (Finley Peter Dunne, 1867- ) and
George Ade (1866- ) stands out. But while these two writers
successfully conform to the exacting critical requirements of good
humor and—especially the former—of good literature, neither—
though Ade more so—attains to the greatest excellence of the short
story. Mr. Dooley of the Archey Road is essentially a wholesome
and wide-poised humorous philosopher, and the author of Fables
in Slang is chiefly a satirist, whether in fable, play or what not.
This volume might well have started with something by
Washington Irving, I suppose many critics would say. It does not
seem to me, however, that Irving's best short stories, such as The
Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, are essentially
humorous stories, although they are o'erspread with the genial light
of reminiscence. It is the armchair geniality of the eighteenth
century essayists, a constituent of the author rather than of his
material and product. Irving's best humorous creations, indeed, are
scarcely short stories at all, but rather essaylike sketches, or
sketchlike essays. James Lawson (1799-1880) in his Tales and
Sketches: by a Cosmopolite (1830), notably in The Dapper
Gentleman's Story, is also plainly a follower of Irving. We come to
a different vein in the work of such writers as William Tappan
Thompson (1812-1882), author of the amusing stories in letter
form, Major Jones's Courtship (1840); Johnson Jones Hooper
(1815-1862), author of Widow Rugby's Husband, and Other Tales
of Alabama (1851); Joseph G. Baldwin (1815-1864), who wrote
The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi (1853); and Augustus
Baldwin Longstreet (1790-1870), whose Georgia Scenes (1835)
are as important in "local color" as they are racy in humor. Yet
none of these writers yield the excellent short story which is also a
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