Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > American
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. I–V: American
 
Sayings of Mrs. Partington
By Benjamin Penhallow Shillaber (1814–1890)
 
From “Life and Sayings of Mrs. Partington”

A Solemn Fact

“YOUR plants are most flagrantly odious,” said Mrs. Partington, as she stooped over a small oval red table in a neighbor’s house, which table was covered with cracked pots filled with luxuriant geraniums, and a monthly rose, and a cactus, and other bright creations, that shed their sweetness upon the almost tropical atmosphere of a southerly room in April, while a fragrant vine, hung in chains, graced the window with a curtain more gorgeous than any other not exactly like it. Mrs. Partington stood gazing upon them in admiration.
  1
  “How beautiful they are!” she continued. “Do you profligate your plants by slips, mem?”  2
  She was told that such was the case; they were propagated by slips.  3
  “So was mine,” said Mrs. P. “I was always more lucky with my slips than with anything else.”  4
  Bless thy kind old heart, Mrs. Partington! it may be so with you, but it is not so with all; for the way of the world is hard, and many slips are made, and for the unfortunates whose feet or tongues slip on the treacherous path, a sentence generally awaits which admits small chance of reversal—a soiled coat or a soiled character sticking to them until both are worn out. Dear old lady! your humble chronicler remembers that many of the young and beautiful are profligated by slips—slips so gradual that propriety could hardly call them such at first—which end, heaven and earth and perdition know how deep.  5
 
The Largest Liberty

“Now go to meeting, dear,” said Mrs. Partington, as Isaac stood smoothing his hair preparatory to going out on Sunday. He looked down at his new shoes, and a thought of the green fields made him sigh. A fishing-line hung out of one pocket, which Mrs. Partington didn’t see.
  6
  “Where shall I go to?” asked Ike.  7
  Since the old lady had given up her seat in the Old North Church, she had no stated place of worship.  8
  “Go,” she said sublimely, as she pulled down his jacket behind, “go anywheres the Gospel is dispensed with.”  9
  Such liberality is rare. Bigotry finds no place in her composition, and the truth, in her view, throws its light into every apartment of the Christian edifice, like an oysterman’s chandelier into his many booths. The simile is not the very best, but the best to be had at present.  10
 
After a Wedding

“I like to tend weddings,” said Mrs. Partington, as she came back from a neighboring church where one had been celebrated, and hung up her shawl, and replaced the black bonnet in her long-preserved bandbox. “I like to see young people come together with the promise to love, cherish, and nourish each other. But it is a solemn thing, is matrimony—a very solemn thing—where the pasture comes into the chancery, with his surplus on, and goes through with the cerement of making ’em man and wife. It ought to be husband and wife; for it ain’t every husband that turns out a man. I declare I shall never forget how I felt when I had the nuptial ring put on to my finger, when Paul said, “With my goods I thee endow.” He used to keep a dry-goods store then, and I thought he was going to give me all there was in it. I was young and simple, and didn’t know till arterwards that it only meant one calico gound in a year. It is a lovely sight to see the young people plighting their trough, and coming up to consume their vows.”
  11
  She bustled about and got tea ready, but abstractedly she put on the broken teapot, that had lain away unused since Paul was alive, and the teacups, mended with putty, and dark with age, as if the idea had conjured the ghost of past enjoyment to dwell for the moment in the home of present widowhood.  12
  A young lady, who expected to be married on Thanksgiving night, wept copiously at her remarks, but kept on hemming the veil that was to adorn her brideship, and Ike sat pulling bristles out of the hearth-brush in expressive silence.  13
 
A Nave in the Church

“A nave in our church!” screamed Mrs. Partington, as her eye rested on the description of the new edifice, and the offensive word struck terror to her soul; “a nave in our church! Who can it be? Dear me, and they have been so careful, too, who they took in—exercising ’em aforehand, and putting ’em through the catechis and the lethargy, and pounding ’em into a state of grace! Who can it be?” And the spectacles expressed anxiety. “I believe it must be slander, arter all. Oh, what a terrible thing it is to pizen the peace of a neighborhood deterotating and backbiting, and lying about people, when the blessed truth is full bad enough about the best of us!”
  14
  What a lesson is here for the mischief-maker to ponder upon! Truth lent dignity to her words, and gave a beam to her countenance, reminding one somewhat of a sunset in the fall on a used-up landscape.  15
 
Mysterious Action of Rats

“As for the rats,” said Mrs. Partington, as she missed several slices of cake, the disappearance of which she imputed to them, “it ain’t no use to try to get rid of ’em. They rather like the vermin anecdote, and even chlorosive supplement they don’t make up a face at. It must be the rats,” continued she, thoughtfully, and took a large thumb and forefinger full of rappee to help her deliberation—“it can’t be Isaac that took the cake, because he is a perfect prodigal of virtue, and wouldn’t deceive me so, for I might leave a house full of bread with him and he wouldn’t touch it.”
  16
  Ike sat there demurely, with his right foot upon his left knee, thinking what a capital sun-glass one eye of the old lady’s specs would make, while a trace of crumbs was visible about his mouth. It is feared that not even chlorosive supplement, nor anything weaker than a padlock, will save Mrs. Partington’s cake.  17
 
Mrs. Partington on Tobacco

“I know that tobacco is very dilatorious,” said Mrs. Partington, as Mr. Trask sat conversing with her upon the body and soul destroying nature of the weed. “I know that tobacco is dilatorious, especially to a white floor;” and, taking out her snuff-box—the broad one with the picture of Napoleon on the cover—she tapped it and offered a pinch to her guest.
  18
  “Snuff is just as bad,” said he, laying his finger gently on her arm and speaking earnestly—“snuff injures the intellect, affects the nerves, destroys the memory; it is tobacco in its most subtle form, and the poison appears as the devil did in Eden, under a pleasing exterior.”  19
  She gazed upon him a moment in silence.  20
  “I know,” said she, “it has a tenderness to the head; but I couldn’t do without it, it is so auxiliarating to me when I am down to the heel; and if it is a pizen, as you call it, I should have been killed by it forty years ago. Good snuff, like good tea, is a great blessing, and I don’t see how folks who have no amusement can get along without it.”  21
  The box was dropped back into its receptacle, and her friend took his leave, sighing that she would persist in shortening her days by the use of snuff, and stopped a moment to lecture Ike, who was enjoying a sugar cigar upon the front door-step.  22
 
 
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