Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885, October 20, 1887, Page 3, Image 4

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The unpretentious title "Katia" of Tolstoi's little novel is
suggestive of the character of the whole work. It is extremely
simple and commonplace; it has no all-absorbing plot and is
no fascinating romance; it seems rather the story of the life of
some friend. Tolstoi's power in this work, lies in his darc
ful observation and delineation of character. Katia is an or
dinary Russian girl, of a sincere nature and capable of intense
feeling, whom we understand and with whom we entirely
sympathize, while Scrgius Mikailovitch is a difficult study of
human nature. He is proud of his humility and unpleasant
traits of character, selfish in spite of the kindness and sym
pathy which he shows to all; but his chief characteristic is that
calm superiority with which he deems none wise or dear
enough to enter the citadel of his confidence and view him as
he really is. It is a real love story. Its interest depends
upon the development of the two princip al characters under
the subtle influence of love, Katia loses her despondency
and becomes introspective and dreamy; she knows she loves,
she feels Cupid's dart when it first quivers in her breast. We
seem to feel, rather than read the changes through which
Katia passes, the gradual assimilation of her tastes to those of
her lover, the variable modes of complete happiness or fear
ful doubt, the little devices to gain his love, the longing to
conceal her own, her joy at the discovery of his love lor her,
and finally her Desdemonia like plot to bring him to her feet.
He loves her she knows, for out in the orchard, as she peeped
over the wall, she heard him murmur, "Dear Katia," and
saw the tell-tale blushes as he discovered her watching him.
But his reserve and sober habits of life, together with a dis
parity between their ages, makes him regardless of her love,
and forces him blindly into a resigned state of unrequited
love. Katia understands this and brings about their mar
riagc. The marriage over, a new chapter in the lives of our
hero and heroine begins. They arc united in name and heart
but in their lives they arc as strangers, each blindly pursues,
the old course of livirg, no concessions are made by cither,
and as a result, misunderstanding and jealousy follow. The
writer traces, step by step, their feelings and thoughts, and
finally shows that estrangement is the inevitable result of such
a marriage. Their thoughts diveige, and they realize that
the old love dream is over. Tolstoi is a realistic writer. He
writes as he sees. He is in entire sympathy with his charac
ters, and describes accurately the working of their minds.
Indeed he eems to regard words as merely the index to the
the thoughts of his characters, and as the means of presenting
them to his readers as real human beings. He docs not force
them to pose before his readers as paragons of goodness or
greatness, we feel that they ac like us, the impulses that
actuate them, the emotions that stirs their hearts to better
Hazlett has said that "man is the only animal that laughs."
As such he requires something to laugh at. Wit and humor
are not essential to life and literature. To use an old illus
tration, they are, to the sober thoughts and actions ot" life,
what the frame is to a painting, and in adorning thought they
furnish a diversion which soothes the mind. A facetious man
is a blessing to society, provided his wit or humor lc ethically
pure. No matter how interesting the subject, a book devoid
of wit, becomes dry.
"What is wit?" is a question which many thoughtful men
from Aristotle to Sidney Smith and Leigh Hunt have at
tempted to answer: but no one has yet been able to give an
exhaustive and satisfactory definition. Voltaire says: "It
is a singular metaphor; it is the discovery of something in an
object which does not at first strike the observation, bui which
is really in it. It is the art of bringing together two things
apparently remote or of dividing two things which seem
united; or of opposing them to each other. It is that of ex
pressing one half of what you think and leaving the other
half to be guessed. In short, I would tell you of all the dif
ferent ways of showing wit if I had more."
Addison has well remarked that "the basis of all real wit
is truth," and that "it has good sense for its ground work."
Although Sydney Smith is far famed as a typical humorist,
many ol his jests lack truthfulness or arc tainted with coarse
ness and vulgarity. All desire to be witty and to be able to
appreciate wit. Indeed so predominant is this trait today
that the most revolting jests arc accepted as true wit be
cause they excite laughter. This sense of humor is so de
praved that it becomes impossible to understand true wit.
Douglas Jcrrold nicely illustrates the idea of true wit. When
speaking of a savage critic, he says: "O, yes, he'll review
the book as the cast wind reviews the apple tree," and of a
young writer, who had just brought out his first book, "he is
like a man who takes down his shop shutters before he has
any goods to sell." The necessity of surprise and novelty to
wit is seen in the insipidity of a stale joke. We enjoy pointed
repartee belter than a witty attack. The former has thtt
quality of freshness, while the latter suggests premeditation.
For the same reason one heartily enjoys a pun in conversa
tion, although in literature we are ready to pronounce them
an "unpardonable crime." Shakspcre, Hood, Lamb and
Boswcll sanction puns. Yet they always strike a discordant
note in the mind of the reader, however enlivening they may
be in conversation.
Dickens by means of caricature and exaggeration has suc
ceeded in giving the impression of wit. His "Pickwick"
contains a slight vein of humor; but instead of a careful de
lineation of witty characters he produces laughter by invest
ing each with a few artificial ludicrous traits, which arc ex
hibited on ever) occasion. We look to Shakspcre for speci
mens of true wit. Even in his tragedies, it is sometimes in
terspersed, while his comedies overflow with rollicking, nat
ural facctiousness.
An associate editor of this vox discipitlorum has of late,
been taking an almost painful interest in the subject of bald
ness, and has carefully examined the columns of recent medi
cal publications iu the hope of finding some specific for this
disagreeable associate of civilization. He has not met with
the desired succcss.but has Tound one article which, he thinks
fully repays him for his pains. Some of the members of our
little community may have reason to give attention to this sub
ject, and for the benefit of such he thinks it not out of place
to reproduce the following paragraphs from Dr. Ward's paper
in "The Medical Age":
"If you have a wife, mother, sister or daughter, or even a
barler who will carefully comb your hair aJ.d remove the
dandrufl once a week with a fine-tooth combj spend half an
hour at it, if necessary and then if you want to wash yourself,
do it with clean soft water, and never use on it any soap, oil,
or pomade, and never allow your hair to be cut close enough
to expose the scalp; and when it shows symptoms of dropping
out let it grow, instead of cutting it off three or four time