Humorous Masterpieces from American Literature
By Various

Presented by

Public Domain Books

Oliver Bell Bunce

(BORN, 1828.)



(In a Country Lane.)


“The country,” exclaimed Mr. Bluff, with an air of candor and impartiality, “is, I admit, a very necessary and sometimes a very charming place. I thank Heaven for the country when I eat my first green peas, when the lettuce is crisp, when the potatoes are delicate and mealy, when the well-fed poultry comes to town, when the ruddy peach and the purple grape salute me at the fruit-stands. I love the country when I think of a mountain ramble; when I am disposed to wander with rod and reel along the forest-shadowed brook; when the apple-orchards are in blossom; when the hills blaze with autumn foliage. But I protest against the dogmatism of rural people, who claim all the cardinal and all the remaining virtues for their rose-beds and cabbage-patches. The town, sir, bestows felicities higher in character than the country does; for men and women, and the works of men and women, are always worthier our love and concern than the rocks and the hills ...

–"Oh, yes! I have heard before of the pleasures of the garden. Poets have sung, enthusiasts have written, and old men have dreamed of them since History began her chronicles. But have the pains of the garden ever been dwelt upon? Have people, now, been entirely honest in what they have said and written on this theme? When enthusiasts have told us of their prize pears, their early peas of supernatural tenderness, their asparagus, and their roses, and their strawberries, have they not hidden a good deal about their worm-eaten plums–about their cherries that were carried off by armies of burglarious birds; about their potatoes that proved watery and unpalatable; about their melons that fell victims to their neighbors’ fowls; about their peaches that succumbed to the unexpected raid of Jack Frost; about their grapes that fell under the blight of mildew; about their green corn that withered in the hill; about the mighty host of failures that, if all were told, would tower in high proportion above the few much blazoned successes?

“Who is it that says a garden is a standing source of pleasure? Amend this, I say, by asserting that a garden is a standing source of discomfort and vexation ... A hopeless restlessness, according to my observation, takes possession of every amateur gardener. Discontent abides in his soul. There is, indeed, so much to be done, changed, rearranged, watched, nursed, that the amateur gardener is really entitled to praise and generous congratulations when one of his thousand schemes comes to fruition. We ought in pity to rejoice with him over his big Lawton blackberries, and say nothing of the cherries, and the pears, and the peaches, that once were budding hopes, but have gone the way of Moore’s ’dear gazelle.’ Then the large expenditures which were needed to bring about his triumph of the Lawtons. ’Those potatoes,’ said an enthusiastic amateur gardener to me once, ’cost twenty-five cents apiece!’ And they were very good potatoes, too–almost equal to those that could be bought in market at a dollar a bushel.

“And then, amateur gardeners are feverishly addicted to early rising. Men with gardens are like those hard drinkers whose susceptibilities are hopelessly blunted. Who but a man diverted from the paths of honest feeling and natural enjoyment, possessed of a demoniac mania, lost to the peace and serenity of the virtuous and the blessed, could find pleasure amid the damps, and dews, and chills, and raw-edgedness of a garden in the early morning, absolutely find pleasure in saturated trousers, in shoes swathed in moisture, in skies that are gray and gloomy, in flowers that are, as Mantalini would put it, ’demnition moist’? The thing is incredible! Now, a garden, after the sun has dried the paths, warmed the air, absorbed the dew, is admissible. But a possession that compels an early turning out into fogs and discomforts deserves for this fact alone the anathema of all rational beings.

“I really believe, sir, that the literature of the garden, so abundant everywhere, is written in the interest of suburban land-owners. The inviting one-sided picture so persistently held up is only a covert bit of advertising, intended to seduce away happy cockneys of the town–men supremely contented with their attics, their promenades in Fifth Avenue, their visits to Central Park, where all is arranged for them without their labor or concern, their evenings at the music gardens, their soft morning slumbers, which know no dreadful chills and dews! How could a back-ache over the pea-bed compensate for these felicities? How could sour cherries, or half-ripe strawberries, or wet rosebuds, even if they do come from one’s own garden, reward him for the lose of the ease and the serene conscience of one who sings merrily in the streets, and cares not whether worms burrow, whether suns burn, whether birds steal, whether winds overturn, whether droughts destroy, whether floods drown, whether gardens flourish, or not?"–Bachelor Bluff: his Opinions, Sentiments, and Disputations.


Bayard Taylor  •  William Allen Butler  •  John William De Forest  •  John Townsend Trowbridge  •  Oliver Bell Bunce  •  Charles Dudley Warner  •  Frances Lee Pratt  •  Louisa May Alcott  •  William Wirt Howe  •  Artemus Ward  •  Frank R. Stockton  •  Andrew Scoggin  •  Samuel Langhorne Clemens  •  Fitz Hugh Ludlow  •  Thomas Bailey Aldrich