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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw) (1818–1885)


From “Complete Works”

MARRIAGE iz a fair transaction on the face ov it.

But thare iz quite too often put up jobs in it.

It iz an old institushun, older than the pyramids, and az phull ov hyrogliphicks that noboddy kan parse.

History holds its tounge who the pair waz who fust put on the silken harness, and promised tew work kind in it, thru thick and thin, up hill and down, and on the level, rain or shine, survive or perish, sink or swim, drown or flote.

But whoever they waz they must hav made a good thing out ov it, or so menny ov their posterity would not hav harnessed up since and drov out.

Thare iz a grate moral grip in marriage; it iz the mortar that holds the soshull bricks together.

But there ain’t but darn few pholks who put their money in matrimony who could set down and giv a good written opinyun whi on arth they cum to did it.

This iz a grate proof that it iz one ov them natral kind ov acksidents that must happen, jist az birds fly out ov the nest, when they hav feathers enuff, without being able tew tell why.

Sum marry for buty, and never diskover their mistake; this iz lucky.

Sum marry for money, and—don’t see it.

Sum marry for pedigree, and feel big for six months, and then very sensibly cum tew the conclusion that pedigree ain’t no better than skimmilk.

Sum marry tew pleze their relashuns, and are surprized tew learn that their relashuns don’t care a cuss for them afterwards.

Sum marry bekauze they hav bin highsted sum whare else; this iz a cross match, a bay and a sorrel; pride may make it endurable.

Sum marry for love without a cent in their pocket, nor a friend in the world, nor a drop ov pedigree. This looks desperate, but it iz the strength ov the game.

If marrying for love ain’t a suckcess, then matrimony iz a ded beet.

Sum marry bekauze they think wimmin will be skarse next year, and liv tew wonder how the crop holds out.

Sum marry tew git rid ov themselfs, and diskover that the game waz one that two could play at, and neither win.

Sum marry the seckond time to git even, and find it a gambling game, the more they put down, the less they take up.

Sum marry tew be happy, and not finding it, wonder whare all the happiness on earth goes to when it dies.

Sum marry, they kan’t tell whi, and liv, they kan’t tell how.

Almoste every boddy gits married, and it iz a good joke.

Sum marry in haste, and then set down and think it careful over.

Sum think it over careful fust, and then set down and marry. Both ways are right, if they hit the mark.

Sum marry rakes tew convert them. This iz a little risky, and takes a smart missionary to do it.

Sum marry coquetts. This iz like buying a poor farm, heavily mortgaged, and working the balance ov yure days tew clear oph the mortgages.

Married life haz its chances, and this iz just what gives it its flavor. Every body luvs tew phool with the chances, bekauze every boddy expekts tew win. But i am authorized tew state that every boddy don’t win.

But, after all, married life iz full az certain az the dry goods bizziness.

No man kan swear exackly whare he will fetch up when he touches calico.

Kno man kan tell jist what calico haz made up its mind tew do next.

Calico don’t kno even herself.

Dri goods ov all kinds iz the child ov circumstansis.

Sum never marry, but this iz jist az risky, the diseaze iz the same, with no other name to it.

The man who stands on the bank shiwering, and dassent, iz more apt tew ketch cold, than him who pitches hiz hed fust into the river.

Thare iz but phew who never marry bekauze they won’t; they all hanker, and most ov them starve with slices ov bread before them (spread on both sides), jist for the lack ov grit.

Marry yung! iz mi motto.

I hav tried it, and kno what i am talkin about.

If enny boddy asks yu whi yu got married (if it needs be), tell him, yu don’t reccollekt.

Marriage iz a safe way to gamble—if yu win, yu win a pile, and if yu loze, yu don’t loze enny thing, only the privilege ov living dismally alone, and soaking yure own feet.

I repeat it, in italicks, marry young!

Thare iz but one good excuse for a marriage late in life, and that iz—a second marriage.