A Book of Burlesques

H.L. Mencken

A Book of Burlesques, by H. L. Mencken

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Title: A Book of Burlesques
Author: H. L. Mencken

Release Date: July 25, 2007 [eBook #22145]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
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A BOOK OF BURLESQUES
by
H. L. MENCKEN

[Illustration]

Published at the Borzoi New York by Alfred A Knopf
Copyright, 1916, 1920, by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Printed in the United States of America

CONTENTS
CHAPTER PAGE
I. DEATH: A PHILOSOPHICAL DISCUSSION 11 II. FROM THE PROGRAMME OF A CONCERT 27 III. THE WEDDING: A STAGE DIRECTION 51 IV. THE VISIONARY 71 V. THE ARTIST: A DRAMA WITHOUT WORDS 83 VI. SEEING THE WORLD 105 VII. FROM THE MEMOIRS OF THE DEVIL 135 VIII. LITANIES FOR THE OVERLOOKED 149 IX. ASEPSIS: A DEDUCTION IN SCHERZO FORM 159 X. TALES OF THE MORAL AND PATHOLOGICAL 183 XI. THE JAZZ WEBSTER 201 XII. THE OLD SUBJECT 213 XIII. PANORAMAS OF PEOPLE 223 XIV. HOMEOPATHICS 231 XV. VERS LIBRE 237

The present edition includes some epigrams from "A Little Book in C Major," now out of print. To make room for them several of the smaller sketches in the first edition have been omitted. Nearly the whole contents of the book appeared originally in The Smart Set. The references to a Europe not yet devastated by war and an America not yet polluted by Prohibition show that some of the pieces first saw print in far better days than these.
H. L. M.
February 1, 1920.

I.--DEATH
I.--Death. A Philosophical Discussion
The back parlor of any average American home. The blinds are drawn and a single gas-jet burns feebly. A dim suggestion of festivity: strange chairs, the table pushed back, a decanter and glasses. A heavy, suffocating, discordant scent of flowers--roses, carnations, lilies, gardenias. A general stuffiness and mugginess, as if it were raining outside, which it isn't.
A door leads into the front parlor. It is open, and through it the flowers may be seen. They are banked about a long black box with huge nickel handles, resting upon two folding horses. Now and then a man comes into the front room from the street door, his shoes squeaking hideously. Sometimes there is a woman, usually in deep mourning. Each visitor approaches the long black box, looks into it with ill-concealed repugnance, snuffles softly, and then backs of toward the door. A clock on the mantel-piece ticks loudly. From the street come the usual noises--a wagon rattling, the clang of a trolley car's gong, the shrill cry of a child.
In the back parlor six pallbearers sit upon chairs, all of them bolt upright, with their hands on their knees. They are in their Sunday clothes, with stiff white shirts. Their hats are on the floor beside their chairs. Each wears upon his lapel the gilt badge of a fraternal order, with a crpe rosette. In the gloom they are indistinguishable; all of them talk in the same strained, throaty whisper. Between their remarks they pause, clear their throats, blow their noses, and shuffle in their chairs. They are intensely uncomfortable. Tempo: Adagio lamentoso, with occasionally a rise to andante maesto. So:
FIRST PALLBEARER
Who woulda thought that he woulda been the next?
SECOND PALLBEARER
Yes; you never can tell.
THIRD PALLBEARER
(An oldish voice, oracularly.) We're here to-day and gone to-morrow.
FOURTH PALLBEARER
I seen him no longer ago than Chewsday. He never looked no better. Nobody would have----
FIFTH PALLBEARER
I seen him Wednesday. We had a glass of beer together in the Huffbrow Kaif. He was laughing and cutting up like he always done.
SIXTH PALLBEARER
You never know who it's gonna hit next. Him and me was pallbearers together for Hen Jackson no more than a month ago, or say five weeks.
FIRST PALLBEARER
Well, a man is lucky if he goes off quick. If I had my way I wouldn't want no better way.
SECOND PALLBEARER
My brother John went thataway. He dropped like a stone, settin' there at the supper table. They had to take his knife out of his hand.
THIRD PALLBEARER
I had an uncle to do the same thing, but without the knife. He had what they call appleplexy. It runs in my family.
FOURTH PALLBEARER
They say it's in his'n, too.
FIFTH PALLBEARER
But he never looked it.
SIXTH PALLBEARER
No. Nobody woulda thought he woulda been the next.
FIRST PALLBEARER
Them are the things you never can tell anything about.
SECOND PALLBEARER
Ain't it true!
THIRD PALLBEARER
We're here
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