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All our readers are, we presume, familiar with the history of the ill-fated Charles II. and his concealment after the battle of Worcester, at Boscobel House. Our engraving represents it in the state it was when the defeated and fugitive king, with his friend Colonel Carlos, took refuge there, and is copied from a rare and valuable print.
In Dr. Stukely's time the “Royal Oak,” into which the king and his companion climbed by means of the hen-roost ladder, and which grew “just by a horse tract passing through the wood," whence the place derived its name, was enclosed with a brick wall.
Over a door by which this enclosure was entered, an inscription on a marble slab commemorated the fact that this tree had afforded an asylum to the “ most powerful king Charles II.” A fitter epithet might have been selected.
WIT AND FUN. PEALS of laughter met Mrs. Waylett's ear as she descended to the dining room, where she found Harold entertaining his brothers and sisters with a description of his adventures in walking home from the office, Harold being one of those privileged people, who can never stir without meeting with more adventures than ever happen in the life time of more sober minded, or as he would say, “less observant" persons.
For some minutes the young group were so convulsed with merriment that the narrator alone was sufficiently composed to reach a chair, which he placed in the most convenient nook, and offered to his mother, with a respectful smile.
“What amuses you all so much?” asked Mrs. Waylett"some marvel, of Harold's discovery, I presume.” . “Begin again, begin again, Harold,” was the general cry.
“Nay!" interposed Mrs. Waylett, “I will not trouble you to do that Harold; pray go on wherever you are in your story,–I dare say I shall comprehend it, for you know the time is short, and you must be punctual to office hours."
The youth therefore continued his narrative, with all the gesticulation for which he was noted, and which, with his own peculiar diction, was, in fact, the chief charm of incidents so common-place, that if detailed, we should despair of exciting the smiles which were produced in Harold's audience.
Mrs. W. looked benevolently at her children's mirthful faces, but Harold did not feel quite satisfied with the expression of her eye, and after a few minutes silence, he exclaimed with his accustomed frankness:
“Mother dear, I hope you did not think there was anything wrong in our fun?”.
“Not exactly wrong, my son, but I should be sorry for you to degenerate into a buffoon."
“ Indeed, mother, I hope never to be such a contemptible fellow as a buffoon.”
“Then, my boy, you must keep a check upon these admirable talents for satire and mimicry, or they may carry you further than you desire."
“ But, dear mamma," remarked one of the young ladies, “surely we may laugh at wit!"
“Are you sure, Emma, that wit is always calculated to provoke laughter ?”
“I always fancied so !-but here comes papa!" and Emma gladly availed herself of the necessity for taking her place at the dinner table to prevent the reply to a question, for which she had no satisfactory answer ready.
The family repasts at “The Square” were always peculiarly lively, for the scattered members of its circle met as true friends, and indulged in that rational unbending, from their daily toils, which proved the most welcome refreshment, both to weary bodies and busy minds. To-day all were so quiet and sedate, that papa enquired the reason for such an unusual change.
“Why, papa!" replied Emma, “Mamma has asked us such a knotty question, that I was delighted to find dinner would prevent my answering it; but I really believe every body has been thinking what sort of an answer ought to be given.”
"It must be something very deep to occasion such remarkable gravity; if mamma will be so kind as to propound the query once more, I shall no doubt be greatly edified by all your answers, so now I am all attention, and will try to screw up my faculties to the needful point," continued Mr. Waylett with an air of teachable simplicity.
“I shall be glad if papa is puzzled,” remarked little Lucy in a whisper.
"I believe," rejoined Mrs. W., “I had just asked Emma if wit always caused laughter?--How should you describe wit, my dear girl?"
“Why, wit is the same as fun, is it not mamma?”
"Oh no Emma," said Harold, “ that will not do for a description of wit, because you know there are funny looks, and funny actions, and wit always seems some sort of speech."
"Is not wit,” remarked the quiet Jane, “the general faculty of the mind, a clear perception of things, because it is a common saying, that a person has lost his wits'; and as Lady Fairfax said at King Charles's trial, when her husband's name was called, he has more wit than to be here.""
“That no doubt is the primary and most enlarged meaning, Jane,” replied her papa. “Indeed it is derived from an old
Saxon word, signifying to know; hence the term 'wit' used to distinguish a wise man: the Wittenagemote of our forefathers was an assembly of wise men.”
“Dear me!" exclaimed Harold, shrugging his shoulders with a look of dismay, “it was a serious thing to set up for a wit in the olden time; but wit now-a-days must surely mean something funny and laughable, father, does it not? because I cannot fancy Dean Swift or Sydney Smith, who are universally quoted as wits, taking their places in the grave Wittenagemote.”
“ And yet the very talent they possessed, of tracing causes and effects, and showing up remote consequences, by illustrations which none could mistake, would certainly rank them among one of the nine species of wits enumerated by Dr. Johnson."
“Nine sorts of wit! Well I should think there could be but one true kind.”
“It is perhaps more easy to say what is not wit, than to define the art which merits the appellation."
"Does not a lively fancy mean wit, papa ?” enquired Philip.
“Lively fancy alone is scarcely sufficient to originate wit, my dear. Lively fancy can paint exquisite scenery, or bring into play a variety of imaginary. characters under all possible variety of circumstances, but these may, or may not be witty; but wit implies also an apt grouping together of things dissimilar, so that a few words convey a wide, yet definite meaning."
“Then it must be droll too, papa, must it not?” pursued the merry-faced boy.
“True wit oftener raises a smile, than a laugh, Philip; there is something so pleasing in the appositeness of the comparison and the congruity of its language, that the mind pauses to enjoy the quiet satisfaction which a boisterous laugh would rudely interrupt. Hence you may observe that the gravest characters have a keen enjoyment of wit, while the trifling you call fun either excites their contempt by its absurdity, or renders them melancholy from its depravity.”
“Now Harold,” remarked Philip, "you see why our grave sister Jane so seldom laughs at our puns. Papa's definition of wit will not suit them, so we must leave off punning.”
“When we set up for wits,” interposed Harold, -"but, papa,