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[156] at the White House. Mortimer Thompson (1832-75), actor, salesman, journalist, rhymester, was one of the most spirited of mid-century humorists, though his work is little more than (to use his own phrase) ‘a series of unpremeditated extravagances.’ He indulged in impudent prefaces, incredible titles, fantastic illustrations, and breathless satire upon every current popular enthusiasm. He went to Niagara and wrote back contemptuous letters to The New York Tribune. His Plu-Ri-Bus-Tah (1856) burlesqued Hiawatha in meter and the American eagle in attitude. His pseudonym was characteristically ‘Q. C. Philander Doesticks, P. B.’ In their day The Orpheus C. Kerr1 Papers (1862-68) had a great vogue. They furnished sharp satire upon civil and military affairs in the darker days of the war. Lincoln read with great satisfaction their burlesque of the unescapable office-seeker of the time. The lampooning seems rather reckless today and the characterization overbroad. Newell was also a writer of serious and burlesque poems; he was well read, a clever wag, and an effective parodist.

George Horatio Derby (1823-61) has been called the real father of the new school of humour which began to flourish toward the middle of the nineteenth century. His sketches, with the signature ‘John Phoenix,’ began to appear about 1850, and were afterwards collected in two volumes, Phoenixiana (1855) and Squibob papers (1859). Derby had graduated from West Point, had served in the Mexican War, and, as an engineer, had been engaged in surveying in the West and South. As a means of relaxation from his strenuous and exacting work, he set about writing down in humorous fashion his observations upon the life about him. In his books are to be found most of the elements used by humorists of more recent times. He delighted in the use of big words, high-sounding phrases and figures of speech, and euphemistic statements. We quote a short example:

This resplendent luminary, like a youth on the Fourth of July, has its first quarter; like a ruined spendthrift, its last quarter; and like an omnibus, is occasionally full and new. The evenings in which it appears between these last stages are beautifully illumined by its clear, mellow light.

1 Orpheus C. Kerr =Office Seeker.

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