Origin of kissing; the Scandinavian tradition; an old poet’s idea—Kissing in ancient Rome, and among the Jews and early Christians—Biblical kissing—Religious significance—Kissing in early England—Ancient kissing customs as described by Erasmus—The puritanical views of John Bunyan—How Adam kissed Eve—A kiss defined: By the dictionary, Shakespeare, Robert Herrick, Sidney, Coleridge—Comical and short descriptions—A grammar of kissing—The scientific reason why kisses are pleasant.
Of kissing it has been quaintly said that nature was its author and it began with the first courtship. The Scandinavian tradition was that kissing was an exotic introduced into England by Rowena, the beautiful daughter of Hengist, the Saxon. At a banquet given by the British monarch in honor of his allies the princess, after pressing the brimming beaker to her lips, saluted the astonished and delighted Vortigern with a little kiss, after the manner of her own people.
For a long time it was an act of religion in ancient Rome and among the Romans the sacredness of the kiss was inviolable. At length it was degraded into a current form of salutation.
The kiss was, in process of time, used generally as a form of salutation in Rome where men testified their regard and the warmth of their welcome for each other chiefly by the number of their kisses. There was a curious law among the Romans made by Constantine; that, if a man had kissed his betrothed she gained thereby the half of his effects should he die before the celebration of the marriage; and should the lady herself die, under the same circumstances, her heirs or nearest to kin would take the half due her, a kiss among the ancients being the sign of plighted faith.
Among the Jews, kissing was a customary mode of salutation as we may judge from the circumstance of Judas approaching his Master with a kiss. The Rabbis did not permit more than three kinds of kisses, the kiss of reverence, of reception and dismissal. Kissing in many religions has played a part as a mark of adoration or veneration. In Hosea xiii-2, speaking of idolatry, we find the sentence “Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.” Again, the discontented prophet is told that even in idolatrous Israel are seven thousand knees which have not bowed to Baal, “and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” The Mohammedans, on their pious pilgrimage to Mecca, kiss the sacred black stone and the four corners of the Kaaba. The Roman Catholic priest kisses the aspergillum, and Palm Sunday the palm.
In the works of St. Augustine we find an account of four kinds of kissing; the first, the kiss of reconciliation which was given between enemies wishing to become friends; the second, the kiss of peace which Christians exchanged in church in the time of the celebration of the holy eucharist. The third, the kiss of love which loving souls gave to one another and to those whom they showed hospitality. St. Peter and St. Paul used to finish their letters by saying, “salute one another with a holy kiss.” In the early church kissing seems to have been a common form of greeting, irrespective of age, sex, or social condition, and, in some it seems to have created a jealous feeling.
One heathen writer speaks of how annoying it must be to a heathen husband to see his wife exchanging kisses with the Christian brethren. Origen, one of the early Christian writers, says that the kisses must be “holy.” He may have had occasion to give this reminder for mention is made by another writer of kisses so loud that they resounded through the churches and occasioned foul suspicions and evil reports.
In the Bible there are eight kinds of kisses mentioned:
Salutation.—David fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times; and they [David and Jonathan] kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded. I. Samuel xx, 41. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. I. Thess. v, 26. Salute one another with a holy kiss. Romans xvi, 16. See also Ex. xviii, 7; I. Cor. xvi, 20; I. Pet. v, 14.
Valediction.—The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband [Naomi to her daughter-in-law.] Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. Ruth i, 9.
Reconciliation.—So Joab came to the king, and told him; and when he had called for Absalom, he came to the king, and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king; and the king kissed Absalom. II. Samuel xiv, 33.
Subjection.—Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Psalm ii, 12.
Adoration.—All the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him. I. Kings xix, 18. [See also Hosea xiii, 2.] And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with ointment. Luke vii, 38.
Approbation.—Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer. Prov. xxiv, 26.
Treachery.—Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; hold him fast, and forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Master; and kissed him. Matt. xxvi, 48, 49. The kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Prov. xxvii, 6. [See also Prov. vii, 13.]
Affection.—When Laban heard the tidings of Jacob, his sister’s son, he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. Gen. xxix, 13. Moreover he [Joseph] kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them. Gen. xlv, 15. And Joseph fell upon his father’s face, and wept upon him, and kissed him. Gen. l, 1. [See also Gen. xxxi, 55; xxxiii, 4; xlviii, 10; Exod. iv, 27; Luke xv, 20; Acts xx, 37.]
Among the poets we will select Johannus Secundus (Johannes Everard) to sing to the origin of kisses:
And the poet goes on to say that as Triptolemus gave a golden plenty to the land:
In England during the reign of Edward IV., kissing was very popular; a guest was expected on his arrival and also on his departure to salute not only his hostess but all the ladies of the family. So well did this novel importation thrive under the cloudy skies of England that from being an occasional luxury it soon became an every-day enjoyment and the English were celebrated far and near as a kissing people. In 1497 when Erasmus was in England, according to his description, the practice was at its height. He says “if you go to any place you are received with a kiss by all; if you depart on a journey you are dismissed with a kiss; you return, kisses are exchanged; they have come to visit you—a kiss the first thing; they leave you—you kiss them all round. Do they meet you anywhere?—kisses in abundance. Lastly wherever you move there is nothing but kisses—and if you had but once tasted them! how soft they are! how fragrant! on my honor you would not wish to reside here for ten years only, but for life!”
John Bunyan, the author of the “Pilgrim’s Progress,” writing over a hundred years later, did not view the practice with enthusiasm. He wrote: “The common salutation of women I abhor; it is odious to me in whomsoever I see it. When I have seen good men salute those women that they have visited, or that have visited them, I have made my objections against it; and when they have answered that it was but a piece of civility, I have told them that it was not a comely sight. Some, indeed, have urged the holy kiss; but then, I have asked them why they make balks? why they did salute the most handsome and let the ill favored ones go.”
In an old book called “The Ladies Dictionary,” speaking of kissing in Scotland, the author says: “But kissing and drinking are now both grown to a greater custom among us than in those days with the Romans.” And to what extent kissing was carried on in Rome, Martial has stated in his “Epigrams.” “Every neighbor,” he says, “every hairy-faced farmer presses on you with a strongly scented kiss. Here the weaver assails you, there the fuller and the cobbler, who has just been kissing leather; here the owner of the filthy beard, and a one-eyed gentleman; there one with bleared eyes, and fellows whose mouths are defiled with all manner of abominations.”
In England the custom of universal kissing seems to have gone out about the time of the Restoration. Its abandonment in England might have formed part of that French code of politeness which Charles II introduced on his return. Returning to our first thought as to the origin of Kissing, we may use the very safe phrase that “its origin is involved in mystery,” and agree with the poet that
How Adam kissed Eve has been described in “Paradise Lost:”
Though we may be unfortunate in tracing back the origin of this pleasing custom, let us see if we have better luck in an attempt to answer the question, “What is a kiss?”
First, we will go to the dictionary where we learn that a kiss, a smack, or a buss, is “a salute made by touching with the lips pressed closely together and suddenly parting them.”
Dr. Stormouth says that the word kiss seems to have had its origin in the practice of feudal times of expressing homage to a superior by kissing the hand, foot or some part of the body or, in his absence, some object belonging to him, as a gate or a lock.
One poet calls kisses “the fragrant breath of summer flowers.” This is a very happy conceit that is not always found to be true, for how fragrant kisses are depends very much on the breath of the principals engaged. Coleridge calls them “nectar breathing.” Shakespeare speaks of them as “seals of love,” and Sidney tells us they tie souls together. An old poet asks:
Robert Herrick, the old English divine, says of a kiss:
Among short definitions we have that of the old Georgia farmer who caught a young couple kissing on a train that was passing through a tunnel, and called the act “dipping sugar.” A kiss is like a rumor, because it goes from mouth to mouth; its shape is a lip-tickle; as a grammatical part of speech it is a conjunction; kisses are the interrogation points in the literature of love. Then again, kissing has been called lip-service and has been defined as the prologue to sin; more often, let us hope, it is simply a sweetmeat which satisfies the hunger of the heart.
Martial, the old satirist, has called the kisses of his favorite “the fragrance of balsam extracted from aromatic trees; the ripe odor yielded by the teeming saffron; the perfume of fruits mellowing in their winter repository; the flowery meadows in the vernal season; amber warmed by the hand of a maiden; a garden that attracts the bees.”
Kisses have been called the balm of love; Cupid’s seal; the lover’s fee; the fee of parting; the first and last of joys; the homage of the life; the hostage of promise; love’s chief sign; love’s language; love’s mintage; love’s print; love’s tribute; love’s rhetoric; the nectar of Venus; the pledge of bliss and love; the seal of bliss; the melting sip, and the stamp of love.
Johannas Secundus says to his sweetheart:
Kisses, according to Sam Slick, are like creation, because they are made out of nothing and are very good. Another wag says they are like sermons, they require two heads and an application.
An ingenious American grammarian thus conjugates the verb: Buss, to kiss; rebus, to kiss again; pluribus, to kiss without regard to number; sillybus, to kiss the hand instead of the lips; blunderbus, to kiss the wrong person; omnibus, to kiss every person in the room; erebus, to kiss in the dark.
Robert Burns thus speaks of it:
But kissing baffles all attempts at analysis; as Josh Billings says “the more a man tries to analize a kiss, the more he can’t; the best way to define a kiss is to take one.” Kisses are commodities costing nothing, never wearing out, and always to be had in abundance. After all, why are kisses pleasant? A scientist says that kissing is pleasant because the teeth, jawbones and lips are full of nerves, and when the lips meet an electric current is generated.
The late George D. Prentice said he had a female correspondent who wrote “when two hearts are surcharged with love’s electricity, a kiss is the burning contract, the wild leaping flames of love’s enthusiasm.” The humorist observed that the idea was very pretty, “but a flash of electricity is altogether too brief to give a correct idea of a truly delicious kiss.” We agree with Byron that the strength of a kiss is generally measured by its length. Still, there should be a limit, and we really think that Mrs. Browning, strong-minded woman as she is, transcends all reasonable limits in her notions of a kiss’s duration. In her ‘Aurora Leigh’ she talks of a kiss
‘As long and silent as the ecstatic night.’
That, indeed, must be ‘linked sweetness’ altogether too long drawn out.
How to kiss—The act fully described—Size of the mouth to be considered—Large mouths and those of the rose-bud sort—The girl who claws and struggles—Poetical directions—Dangers of hugging—Tapping the lips of a Mexican senorita—Kissing a Chinese girl—How to receive a kiss—Long-remembered kisses—The kiss in betrothal and marriage.
Having at least learned something as to the nature of a kiss, let us seek information on how to kiss. There are various general directions; the gentleman must be taller than the lady he intends to kiss. Take her right hand in yours and draw her gently to you; pass your left hand over her right shoulder, diagonally down across her back, under her left arm; press her to your bosom, at the same time she will throw her head back and you have nothing to do but lean a little forward and press your lips to hers, and then the thing is done. Don’t make a noise over it as if you were firing off shooting crackers, or pounce upon it like a hungry hawk upon an innocent dove, but gently fold the damsel in your arms without smashing her standing collar or spoiling her curls, and by a sweet pressure upon her mouth, revel in the blissfulness of your situation without smacking your lips on it as you would over a glass of beer. It might be well at the conclusion of the operation to ask the young woman if it was satisfactory, for we are never satisfied that a lady understands a kiss unless we have it from her own mouth.
A Kentucky authority insists that a man must be in humor for the business; you want to get the idea into your head that the girl is just dying to be kissed by you and is only waiting for you to make the break. Then you want to take a good view of her mouth and see just how much of it you can take in. If she has a regular rose-bud mouth, why, take it all in and throw your whole soul into one kiss, but if her mouth has the appearance of a landscape cut in two by a waterless river, then the safest plan is to take in the corners and byways, and sort of divide your kiss into sections. Most girls have no end of cheek, therefore a fellow can seldom miss fire in kissing a girl on the cheek. Do not kiss her ear as nine cases out of ten the girl will make a slight dodge so as to impress you with the idea that you are really surprising her in your action; the result is you miss the ear, kiss her hair and get your mouth full of ten-cent hair oil. Only actors kiss on the brow. If a girl has a pretty mouth kiss it every time, but if her mouth is so large that you endanger your life by getting too near it, then resort to the next best thing and kiss her on the cheek.
We repeat, to kiss a woman properly the size of her mouth must be carefully gauged before proceeding to the work. Large mouths put a man to the severest test; he will be driven to his wit’s end whether to begin at one corner and conclude on the other, or to make a heroic dash at the middle and endeavor to reach both corners. The heroic dash is considered by students in the art of kissing to be the best, for it takes the least amount of time, and allowance should always be made for the struggle to get away from the kisser which, albeit only a mock effort, might inadvertently prove successful. Delicately-formed mouths with rounded lips and of a velvety color are the easiest to kiss, and most submissive.
You must never kiss a young girl if she doesn’t want you to. The main ingredient that makes kissing endurable is a willingness on the part of the female. If it deepens into anxiety so much the better. When a girl claws a man’s hair and scratches his face like a little fool drop her at once. As long as the girl doesn’t claw and yell and struggle like a panther, it is perfectly safe to continue prospecting. If you are just beginning to teach a shy girl, who has only been kissed heretofore by her brothers and father, touch your lips gently to her forehead. She will take this as an exhibition of profound respect. That position gained, working the way down to the lips is as natural and easy as the course of a log sliding down the wood flume of a lumber company.
A popular comic song with the imperative title of “Sock her on the kisser” states that when a man falls in love with a little turtle-dove “he will linger all around her under-jaw” and goes on, in a chorus, to give directions, to wit:
That rhyme will do for the “gallery gods”; those in the orchestra seats will appreciate the following:
Of course hugging is often a legitimate part of kissing. A Western writer has given us a humorous account of the dangers of hugging. He claims that hugging is a comparatively modern institution and draws the line between the hug and the embrace. The hug is an earnest, quick, impetuous contraction of the muscles of the arms and the chest when the object to be hugged lies within the circle bounded by the arms, while the chest is the goal or final point of the hug. The warmth of the hug is determined by the extent of the muscular contraction. But the hug is not, as anatomists assert, terminated when the object is brought in contact with the chest. On the contrary the sweeping in is but the shell of the operation. The kernel is reached when the space between the hugger and the huggee is annihilated, and the blade of a knife could scarcely be inserted between both surfaces. The release, if not skillfully managed, is attended with danger and should be as gradual as the elementary pressure. Expressions of anguish on the part of the huggee may, as a rule, be regarded as hypocritical, and should have no effect in inducing the hugger to diminish the pressure. Danger signals, from the huggee, without foundation may be punished by from two to three pounds additional pressure.
The senoritas of Mexico, it is said, have but a faint idea of kissing, that art from which so few possess the capacity of extracting the most available ecstasy. An American stopping in Mexico writes: “I one day offered to show a dark-eyed, raven-haired young lady how los Americanos performed the act. She laughingly agreed and I advanced upon her, my right arm bent at the elbow, afforded my hand an opportunity of accumulating her dimpled chin. Gently folding back her head and throwing a look or rather a rapid series of looks of unutterable nothing into my eyes, I gazed clean through hers for a moment, and then with a long drawn breath I tapped her lips. It was a revelation to her; she quivered visibly, but, instead of returning my kiss she broke away from my embrace and ran off to lock herself up, frightened, pleased, but astonished. With me it was merely a mechanical operation but, after two days, I saw her and she told me with a deep blush that she wished she had been born in America.”
An American naval officer who, while in Japan, had become smitten with a Chinese girl, invited her to give him a kiss. Finding her comprehension of his request somewhat obscure, he suited the action to the word, and took a delicious kiss. The girl ran in another room exclaiming “terrible man-eater. I shall be devoured.” But in a moment finding herself uninjured she returned to him, saying “I would learn more of your American rite, kee-es me.” He knew it was not right but he kept on instructing her in the rite of “kee-es me” until she knew how to do it like a native Yankee girl. And after that she suggested a second course, remarking “kee-es me some more, Mee-lee-kee!” (American). And the lesson went on until her mamma’s voice rudely awakened them from their delicious dream.
The concluding lines of a Chinese poem show that in some circles of China, at least, kissing is understood:
A man ought to know how to kiss and a girl ought to know how to receive a kiss. The Rev. Sidney Smith, the witty divine, says: “we are in favor of a certain amount of shyness when a kiss is proposed, but it should not be too long, and when the fair one gives it, let it be administered with a warmth and energy; let there be soul in it. If she close her eyes and sighs immediately after it the effect is greater. She should be careful not to slobber a kiss but give it as a humming-bird runs his bill into a honeysuckle, deep but delicate. There is much virtue in a kiss when well delivered. We have the memory of one we received in our youth which lasted us forty years, and we believe it will be one of the last things we shall think of when we die.”
The poets have sung of long remembered kisses. One fugitive poem entitled “Three Kisses” describes the lover as sitting beneath the whispering trees and speaking the tender words that rose unbidden upon his lips.
After ten years the sweetheart, now his wife, dies and he is gazing at the pale shape of clay, once warm with the throb of human life.
And so the bereaved one gives way to his sad thoughts and recognizes the fact that he must struggle on alone. But while his tearless eyes with madness shine he feels the arms of his baby child stealing round his neck and the baby lips laid against his own.
There is another anonymous fugitive poem also entitled “Three Kisses.” The first of the three is “sacred unto pain,” and on account of the many times the twain had hurt each other. The second kiss is full of joy’s sweet thrill.
The last kiss is given with the remembrance that they may die and never see each other.
A poetical apostrophe to the benefit of a wife’s kiss is entitled “Angel food”;
And here is a description of “Two Kisses”:
In the ceremony of betrothal a kiss has played an important part in several nations. A nuptial kiss in church at the conclusion of the marriage services is solemnly enjoined by the York Missal and the Sarum Manual. In the old play of “The Insensate Countess,” by Marston, occurs the line:
It was also considered an honor to be the first to kiss the bride after the ceremony, and all who would might contend for the prize. In the “Collier’s Wedding,” by Edward Chicken, we read:
When ladies’ lips were at the service of all it became usual to have fragrant scented comfits or sweets, of which we find frequent mention. In Massinger’s “Very Woman” occurs the following:
Pliny describes the introduction of the custom to the degeneracy of the Roman ladies who, in violation of the hereditary delicacy of the females of Rome, descended to the indulgence of wine. Kissing was resorted to by husbands as the most courteous process to ascertain the quality of their wives’ libations; and Cato, the elder, recommends the plan to the serious attention of all careful heads of families.
The significance of kisses—The kissing of hands in religious ceremony and social life, in ancient Rome, Mexico and Austria—The politic achievement of a kiss—An indignant cardinal—A kiss within the cup—Something about lips, the sweet petitioners for kisses—Dancing and kissing—An Irish kissing festival—Electric kissing parties—Kissing under the mistletoe—New year’s kissing in old New York—A Western kissing bee.
There is much significance in kisses. To kiss the lips is to adore the living breath of the person saluted; to kiss the feet or the ground is to express humiliation; to kiss the garments to express veneration. The kissing of hands is of great antiquity, and seems to have been equally employed in religion and in social life. It was thus that the sun and moon were worshipped from the remotest ages. Job alludes to this custom when he says: “If I have looked upon the sun when he was shining forth, or at the moon advancing bright, and my heart have been secretly enticed, and my hand have kissed my mouth, this also were an iniquity,” etc. Lucian relates of Demosthenes that, having fallen into the hands of Antipater and obtained permission to enter a temple in the neighborhood, he carried his hand to his mouth on entering, which his guards took for an act of religion, but, when too late, found he had swallowed poison. Among the Romans, persons were treated as atheists who would not kiss their hands when they entered a temple. In the early days of Christianity, it was the custom of the primeval bishops to give their hands to be kissed by the ministers who served at the altar. This custom, however, as a religious rite, declined with paganism.
In society, the kissing of hands has always been regarded as a mute form of compliment, and used in asking favors, in thanking those from whom they have been received, and in showing veneration for superiors. Priam, in Homer, kissed the hands and embraced the knees of Achilles in conjuring him to restore the body of Hector. This custom prevailed in ancient Rome, but it varied. In the first ages of the Republic it seems to have been only practiced by inferiors to their superiors; equals gave their hands and embraced. In the progress of time, even the soldiers refused to show this mark of respect to their generals; and their kissing the hand of Cato when he was obliged to quit them was regarded as an extraordinary circumstance, at a period of such refinement. Under the emperors, kissing hands became an essential duty, even for the great themselves; inferior courtiers were obliged to be content to adore the purple by kneeling, touching the robe of the emperor by the right hand, and carrying it to the mouth. Even this was thought too free; and at length they saluted the emperor at a distance by kissing their hands, in the same manner as when they adored the gods. Solomon says of the flatterers and suppliants of his time, that they ceased not to kiss the hands of their patrons till they had obtained the favors which they had solicited. Cortez found the custom in Mexico, where upwards of a thousand of the nobility saluted him by touching the earth with their hands, which they carried afterwards to their mouths.
Kissing the hand is a national custom in Austria. A gentleman on meeting a lady friend kisses her hand, and does the same at parting from her. A beggar-woman to whom you have given an alms, either kisses your hand or says: “I kiss your hand.” The stranger must expect to have his hand kissed not only by beggars, but by chambermaids, lackeys, and even by old men.
In Ben Jonson’s play, “Cynthia’s Revels,” Hedon says to his friend: “You know I call Madam Philantia, my Honor; and she calls me her Ambition. Now, when I meet her in the presence, anon, I will come to her and say, ‘Sweet Honor, I have hitherto contented my sense with the lilies of your hand, but now I will taste the roses of your lips;’ and, withal, kiss her; to which she cannot but blushingly answer, ‘Nay, now you are too ambitious.’ And then do I reply: ‘I cannot be too Ambitious of Honor, sweet lady. Will’t not be good?’”
And his friend assures him that it is “a very politic achievement of a kiss.”
When the gallant Cardinal, John of Lorraine, was presented to the Duchess of Savoy, she gave him her hand to kiss, greatly to the indignation of the irate churchman. “How, madam,” he exclaimed, “am I to be treated in this manner? I kiss the Queen, my mistress, who is the greatest queen in the world, and shall I not kiss you, a dirty little Duchess?” Without more ado he caught hold of the princess and kissed her thrice in the mouth. He was apparently of the mind of Selden, who thought “to kiss ladies’ hands after their lips, as some do, is like little boys who, after they eat the apple, fall to the paring.”
It was a custom among the Greeks and Romans to drink from the same cup as their lady friends, and from the spot where the fair one had touched the brim. Ben Jonson borrows this idea from a Greek poet when he says:
One of the older poets referring to this custom, writes:
Of course the poets have had a good deal to say about lips. Anacreon speaks of “lip-provoking kisses,” and, alluding to the lip of another fair one, calls it a “sweet petitioner for kisses.” Tatius speaks of “lips soft and delicate for kissing;” and Lucretius gave it as his opinion that girls who have large lips kiss much sweeter than others. The ancient ladies seemed to enter into kissing with such enthusiasm that they often bit their lovers. Cattalus, in one of his poems, asks:
And Horace, in one of his odes, says:
When kissing was a common civility of daily intercourse, it is not to be wondered at that it should find its way into the courtesies of dancing, and thus we learn that a kiss was anciently the established fee of a lady’s partner. In a dialogue between Custom and Verite, concerning the use and abuse of dancing and minstrelsie, is the following verse:
In the “Tempest” this line occurs:
And Henry says to Anne Boleyn:
A correspondent having bitterly complained of the lascivious character of the dancing of the period, Budgell, in the course of his reply, remarks:
“I must confess I am afraid that my correspondent had too much reason to be a little out of humor at the treatment of his daughter; but I conclude that he would have been much more so had he seen one of those kissing dances, in which Will Honeycomb assures me they are obliged to dwell almost a minute on the fair one’s lips, or they will be too quick for the music, and dance quite out of time.”
Sir John Suckling, in his “Ballad of the Wedding,” published some years before this period, said:
Brand, in his “Popular Antiquities,” tells us that the custom of kissing in dancing, is still prevalent in many parts of the country. “When the fiddler thinks young couples have had music enough, he makes his instrument squeak out two notes, which all understand to say ‘kiss her.’” The panting bucolic swains are not slow to claim this privilege from their blushing partners.
In the “Banquet” of Xenophon, quoted by Burton in his “Anatomy of the Melancholy,” there is an account of an interlude, or dance, in which Dionysius and Ariadne were engaged, which was of such a pleasing character that the account states that “the audience were so ravished with it, that they that were unmarried swore they would forthwith marry, and those that were married called instantly for their horses and galloped home to their wives.”
In Hone’s “Table Book” there is an account of a curious kissing festival held in Ireland. It is stated that on Easter Monday several hundred young persons of the town and neighborhood of Potsferry, County Down, dressed in their best, went to a pleasant walk near the town. “The avowed object of each person is to see the fun, which consists in the men kissing the females, without reserve, whether married or single. This mode of salutation is quite a matter of course; it is never taken amiss, nor with much show of coyness. The female must be ordinary indeed who returns home without having received at least a dozen hearty kisses.”
Some writer of the future, in describing the manners and customs of our modern age, will doubtless allude to the “electric kissing parties,” which it is averred exist in New England, and which are thus described:
“The ladies and gentlemen range themselves about the room. In leap year the lady selects a partner, and together they shuffle about on the carpet until they are charged with electricity, the lights in the room having first been turned low. Then they kiss in the dark, and make the sparks fly for the amusement of the on-lookers. Oh, the shock is delightful! I have never been but to one electric party, but I understand that after a young lady has played the game for a while it is impossible to give her a shock. Probably the gentleman don’t shuffle his feet hard enough on the carpet. Gracious! I’m afraid I should wear the soles off my shoes.”
Kissing under the mistletoe is a custom of very remote origin, and a practice too common to be dealt with here, though it may not, perhaps, be known that, owing to the licentious revelry to which it gave occasion, mistletoe was formerly excluded by ecclesiastical authority from the decoration of the church at Christmas time. Hone tells us that there was an old belief that unless a maiden was kissed under the mistletoe at Christmas time, she would not be married during the ensuing year.
The special custom connected with the mistletoe on Christmas Eve is undoubtedly a relic of the days of Druidism, and is familiar to most readers. A branch of the mystic plant is suspended from the wall or ceiling, and any one of the fair sex who, either from inadvertence or on purpose, passes beneath the plant, incurs the penalty of being then and there kissed by any man who has the courage to avail himself of the privilege.
The Scandinavian tradition is that Balder was killed by a mistletoe arrow given to the blind Höder by Loki, the god of mischief and potentate of our earth. Balder was restored to life, but the mistletoe was placed in future under the care of Friga, and was never again to be an instrument of evil till it touched the earth, the empire of Loki. Hence, it is always suspended from ceilings. And when persons of opposite sexes pass under it, they give each other the kiss of peace and love, in the full assurance that the plant is no longer an instrument of mischief.
A modern English writer says that in Battersea Park on bank holiday he found kissing to be all the vogue. “But what kissing! Instead of the rhythmic chant, the graceful dance, or even the sportive chase of the northern kissing games, here was simply promiscuity of osculation of the most unabashed description. There was no ring to begin with, only an imperfectly cleared space in the middle of a great crowd. In this crowd a young woman would approach a young man—as often as not a perfect stranger—thrust a chip into his hand, and then bolt across the green. The man chases her, runs her down, and brings her back with his arm around her waist, enters the cleared space, and kisses her, sometimes half a dozen times, before the on-lookers. Sometimes the girl chases the man, sometimes the man the girl. If they wanted their kisses sans ceremonie they were caught at once, and kissed without more ado.”
In Diedrich Knickerbocker’s veracious History of New York, it is told how the good burghers of New Amsterdam, with their wives and daughters, dressed in their best clothes, repaired to the governor’s house, where the rite of kissing the women a happy new year was observed by the governor. Antony, the Trumpeter, who acted as head usher, was a young and handsome bachelor. “Nothing could keep him from following the heels of the old governor, whom he loved as he did his very soul; so, embracing all the young vrouws, and giving every one of them that had good teeth and rosy lips a dozen hearty smacks, he departed, loaded with their kind wishes.” The Trumpeter seems to have been a prodigious favorite among the women, and was the first to exact the toll of a kiss levied on the fair sex at Kissing Bridge, on the highway to Hellgate.
In the far west they have “kissing bees,” and the rural husking frolic common to many parts of the country has been described by Joel Barlow, an early American poet:
Kissing in different countries: In Arabia, Egypt, Russia, Finland, Iceland, Paraguay—A pleasing but perplexing Norwegian custom—The “blue laws” of Connecticut—Kissing in the eyes of the law—Money value of a stolen kiss—Sanitary dangers of kissing—Kissing the dying—Famous kisses—The Blarney Stone—Soulful kisses—Kissing the feet of beggars.
The custom of kissing varies in different countries. The Arabian women and children kiss the beards of their husbands; the superior returns the salute by a kiss on the forehead. In Egypt, the inferior kisses the hand of a superior, generally on the back, but sometimes on the palm; the son kisses the hand of his father, the wife that of her husband, the slave, and often the free servant, that of the master; the slaves and servants of a grandee kiss their lord’s sleeve or the skirt of his clothing.
In Russia, the Easter salutation is a kiss. Each member of the family salutes the other; chance acquaintances on meeting kiss; principals kiss their employés; the General kisses his officers; the officers kiss their soldiers; the Czar kisses his family, retinue, court and attendants, and even his officers on parade, the sentinels at the palace gates, and a select party of private soldiers, probably elaborately prepared for this “royal salute.” In other parts, the poorest serf, meeting a high-born dame on the street, has but to say, “Christ is risen,” and he will receive a kiss and the reply, “He is truly risen.” The Empress Catherine of Russia instituted assemblies of men and women to promote the cultivation of polite manners. Among the rules for maintaining the decency of those assemblies she directed that “no gentleman should force a kiss from, or strike a woman in the assembly, under pain of execution.”
A most pleasant, tender, but, at the same time, perplexing salute, is that bestowed upon one by the women of Norway, who, after having put you to bed and tucked you up well between the sweet-smelling sheets, bend their fresh, fair faces, and kiss you honestly upon the beard, without a shadow even of shame or doubt.
In Finland, contrary to the usual custom, the women object to the practice of osculation. A Finnish matron, on hearing that it was a common thing in England for man and wife to kiss, expressed great disgust thereat, declaring emphatically that if her husband dared to take such a liberty, she would give him a box on the ears he would feel for a month!
In Iceland illegitimate and illicit kissing has had deterrent penalties of great severity. For kissing another man’s wife, with or without her consent, the punishment of exclusion, or its pecuniary equivalent, was awarded. A man rendered himself liable for kissing an unmarried woman under legal guardianship without her consent; and, even if the lady consented, the law required that every kiss should be wiped out by a fine of three marks, equivalent to 140 ells of wadmal, a quantity sufficient to furnish a whole ship’s crew with pilot jackets.
In Paraguay you are by force of custom obliged to kiss every lady you are introduced to, though this is not such an inestimable privilege as one would suppose, for there all the females above thirteen chew tobacco! But one-half of the young women you meet are really tempting enough to render you happy regardless of the consequences, and you would sip the dew of the proffered lip in the face of a tobacco factory—even in the double distilled honey-dew of old Virginia.
Under the notorious “blue laws” of Connecticut, no woman was allowed to kiss even her child on the Sabbath, or fasting day, under heavy penalties. Only a few years ago it was considered remarkable that a Western magistrate should impose a heavy fine and a term of incarceration upon an unfortunate fellow who had kissed a pretty girl on the ears without her consent, but police justices in New York have quite frequently imposed the same punishment for similar offenses that have occurred in recent years. In the eyes of the law, kissing a lady without her will and permission is a common assault, punishable by a fine and imprisonment. Some one of an inquiring turn of mind has tried to definitely determine the average money value of a stolen kiss in the United States. Court rulings show that the act of forced osculation in Pennsylvania costs $750, while in New York it is placed at $2,500. New Jersey, with a shocking disregard to the merits of the stolen sweets to be drawn from the ruby lips of her lovely lasses, puts the value of a kiss at $1.15. Kissing goes by favor is a trite saying, but the figures submitted indicate that the sands of Jersey offer the greatest inducements to indulge in this delightful diversion.
From the medical point of view there is danger in kissing. The spread of diphtheria, it is said, is largely due to the practice of kissing children. It is hard to conceive of any mode of propagation more directly suited to the spread of the infection or more general in its operation. It stands to diphtheria in about the same relation that promiscuous hand-shaking formerly did to the itch. A physician in explaining to a third party the warning he gave his wife not to let the children kiss any one, said: “I tell you it wasn’t Judas alone who betrayed with a kiss. Hundreds of lovely, blooming children are kissed into their graves every year. There is death in a kiss. The beloved and lamented Princess Alice, of Hesse, took diphtheria from the kiss of her child, and followed it to the grave. Diphtheria, malaria, scarlet fever, blood poison, death lurk in the kisses!”
There are superstitions about kissing. There is a man living at Luray, Virginia, who became convinced when young that kissing was wicked because Christ was betrayed with a kiss. He resolved never to kiss anybody. He has been married twenty years and is the father of eleven children, but has never kissed his wife or one of his offspring.
Among the quaint customs wherein kissing is involved is the surprisal of any person asleep by one of the opposite sex. In such a situation the drowsy party may be kissed with impunity, and must, in addition, pay the saluting party the forfeit of a pair of gloves.
St. Valentine has also a good deal of kissing to answer for. The osculatory customs of this holiday are capitally and graphically illustrated by Sir Walter Scott in “The Fair Maid of Perth,” where the heroine kisses her stalwart lover, Harry, on St. Valentine’s morning, and they afterwards exchange their betrothal gifts prepared on such occasions with much forethought and circumspection as to their suitability and appropriateness.
It was the custom among the Romans to give the dying a last kiss, in order, as they thought, to catch the parting breath. Spenser, in his pastoral elegy on the death of Sir Philip Sidney, mentions it as a circumstance which renders the loss of his illustrious friend more to be lamented, that no one was nigh to close his eyelids “and kiss his lips.” A little after he notices the “dearest love” of the deceased weeping over him.
When Lord Nelson was dying on board his flagship, he took leave of his faithful friend, Hardy, by kissing him. “Kiss me, Hardy!” he said, and these were the last words he uttered. And so, too, Sir Walter Scott, when dying, kissed Lockhart, saying, “Be good, my dear! be good.”
Many famous kisses might be mentioned. It is recorded in the book of Genesis that when Jacob kissed Rachel he “lifted up his voice and wept.” One of the funny writers has attempted to account for his weeping. He gives, among other reasons, that he wept because it was not time to kiss her again; because Rachel threatened to tell her ma; he wept because the damsel did not kiss him; he thought she was fast colors, and cried when the paint came off; when he lifted up his voice, he found it heavy, and could not get it so high as he intended; he wept because Rachel encouraged him to kiss her twice more, and he was afraid to do it; finally, he wept because his first enjoyment of the most delightful pleasure of life overcame him.
Duncan Mackenzie, a veteran of Waterloo, who died at Elgin, Scotland, in 1866, delighted in relating how he kissed the duchess in taking the shilling from between her teeth to become one of her regiment, the Gordon Highlanders, better known as the Ninety-second. The old Scottish veteran has not one left behind him to tell the same tale about kissing the blue-eyed duchess in the market-place of Dutkill.
There is a famous kiss in the “Beggar’s Opera.” It was given by Macbeth to Jenny Diver, and the unpleasant effect which it produced on him may be judged from the sarcastic remark: “One may know by your kiss that the gin is excellent.”
Petruchio gave his bride a kiss of enormous calibre. We are told that he “kist her lips with such a clamorous smack, that at the parting all the church echoed.” Tennyson speaks of the kiss given to Fatima by her lover:
Margarida gave her lover a kiss, which fact coming to the knowledge of her husband, he gave her the troubadour’s heart to eat, disguised as a savory morsel. When Queen Margaret kissed Chartier, the ugliest man in France, she exclaimed: “I kiss the soul that sings.” Voltaire was kissed in the stage-box at the theatre by the lovely Countess de Villars. John Milton, when a collegian, was kissed by a high-born Italian beauty; and Sterne, the novelist, says of kisses: “For my own part, I would rather kiss the lips I love than dance with all the graces of Greece, after bathing themselves in the springs of Parnassus. Flesh and blood for me, with an angel in the inside.”
Tom Hood once questioned whether the grave, sedate Hannah More had ever been kissed; and Horace Smith, in his “Rejected Addresses,” affirms that on a certain occasion:
Every one remembers the famous kiss imprinted by Mr. Bumble on the “chaste nose” of Mrs. Corney; and the still more famous kiss applied to the lips of Mary, the pretty housemaid, by Sam Weller. Sam had dropped his hat, which the housemaid picked up, and Sam kissed her.
“You don’t mean to say you did that on purpose?” said the pretty housemaid, blushing.
“No, I didn’t then,” said Sam, “but I vill now.” So he kissed her again.
“Sam!” said Mr. Pickwick, calling over the banisters.
“Coming, sir!” replied Sam, running up-stairs.
“How long you have been!” said Mr. Pickwick.
“There was something behind the door which perwented our getting it open for ever so long, sir,” replied Sam.
And this was the first passage of Mr. Weller’s first love.
The custom of kissing the Blarney Stone is explained as follows: In the year 1602, when the Spaniards were inciting the Irish chieftains to harass the English authorities, Cormac MacCarthy held, among other dependencies, the Castle of Blarney, and had concluded an armistice with the Lord-President, on condition of surrendering this fort to an English garrison. Day after day did his lordship look for the fulfillment of the compact, while the Irish Pozzo di Borgo, as loath to part with his stronghold as Russia to relinquish the Dardanelles, kept protocolizing with soft promises and delusive delays, until at last Carew became the laughing stock of Elizabeth’s ministers, and “Blarney talk” proverbial.
A popular tradition attributes to the Blarney Stone the power of endowing whoever kisses it with the sweet, persuasive, wheedling eloquence so perceptible in the language of the Cork people, and which is generally termed blarney. This is the true meaning of the word, and not, as some writers have supposed, a faculty of deviating from veracity with an unblushing countenance, whenever it may be convenient.
The curious traveler will seek in vain the real stone, unless he allows himself to be lowered from the northern angle of the lofty castle, when he will discover it about twenty feet from the top, with the inscription, “Cormac MacCarthy fortis me fierifecit, A. D. 1446.” As the kissing of this would be somewhat difficult, the candidate for Blarney honors will be glad to know that at the summit, and within easy access, is another real stone, bearing the date of 1703.
The famous “soulful” kiss given to Fatima suggests the thought that such kisses are by no means new, though, in the present day, they may be out of fashion. In “Don Juan” Byron speaks of
Diagnosing such a kiss, the poet informs us that on such occasions the blood is like lava, the pulse is all ablaze, and each kiss of that kind he declares is a “heart-quake.”
In the time of Herrick there was an anonymous poet who thus philosophized on the “soulful kiss”:
The kings and queens of England in ancient times practiced the ceremony of washing the feet of beggars, in imitation of Christ, who washed the feet of His disciples. They washed and kissed the feet of as many poor people as they themselves numbered in years, and bestowed a gift, or maunday, upon each; the ceremony occurred on Maundy-Thursday. Queen Elizabeth performed this ceremony when she was thirty-nine years old—that is, she kissed the feet of thirty-nine paupers after their feet had been washed by yeomen of the laundry with warm water and sweet herbs, and afterward by the sub-almoner. The last of the English monarchs who performed this office in person was James II., in 1731, in his forty-eighth year. In 1530, on Maundy-Thursday, Cardinal Wolsey washed and kissed the feet of fifty-nine poor men, “and, after he had wiped them, he gave every one of the said poor men twelve pence in money, three ells of good canvas to make them shirts, a pair of new shoes, a cask of red herrings and three white herrings, and, to one of them, two shillings.” This custom is no longer observed, but the poor still receive their gifts from the royal bounty.
Different kinds of kisses: The long, long kiss, the paroxysmal, the icy, the Western, the life-teeming kiss—How college girls kiss—The kiss of a female cornetist—Platonic kisses—Roman osculation—Characteristics of kisses—The kiss as a punishment—The king of baby-kissers—The kiss after marriage—Stolen kisses, sometimes called “dainty bits of plunder”—The story of a Circassian girl.
There are a great many kinds of kisses. There is Byron’s “long, long kiss of youth and love.” A rural suitor kissed his girl repeatedly after this fashion. When he finally ceased, the tears came into her eyes, and she said, in sad tones: “Ah, Rufus! I fear you have ceased to love me!” “Oh, no, I haven’t,” he replied, with a wearied air, “but I must breathe!” The “paroxysmal kiss” has been described as a kiss “buttered with soul-lightning.” Very different from the kiss of a certain prominent actress:
There is a story told of a light, free-hearted Western girl—probably auburn-haired—who, while engaged in the osculatory performance with her lover, swooped down upon him like a summer fog upon a millstone and scooped him in. She sat in his lap and kissed him with a kissness which an emotional actress would have given ten years of her life to imitate upon the stage. It was an earthquake of love, a simoon of affection. She kissed him until his back hair smoked.
It is said that in nearly all the famous colleges for women there is a special teacher or doctress in physiology, and in the so-called oral recitations the pernicious effects of osculation are considered at great length. By way of tolerating what seems to be a necessary evil, various theories are advanced and various provisions advocated. The girl who comes from Smith College, Northampton, kisses on the oblique lines that fall from the left corner of your mouth, but when kissed, is so adroit in the way she jerks her head, that the point of salutation may be found on a radius from the right of her demure little mouth. The Vassar graduate kisses more than her Smith College friend, but the chin is her choice, as you will observe in an attempt to salute her. The seniors from Wellesley press their kisses high up on the face, almost under the sweep of the eyelash, and the Lake Forest and Harvard Annex maidens kiss at a point equally distant from the nose and ear.
Very peculiar is the kiss of the female cornetist. A young man who had attended a concert gives his experience. “I had known her in childhood, when we together hunted the same schoolmaster with bean-blowers, and at the conclusion of her cornet solo I greeted her for the first time in several years. Of course we kissed each other impulsively. Good heavens! That was my mental exclamation. I felt as though I had been hit with brass knuckles or smacked by a cast-iron image. I instinctively pressed my handkerchief to my benumbed mouth, and looked for the weapon with which I had been assaulted. It was the girl’s kiss, however, that I had felt. Good playing on the cornet depends upon the amount of inflexibility which can be imparted to the upper lip. Hers had become fairly adamantine.”
There is the “life-teeming kiss,” and, on the other hand, there is the Platonic kiss.
As for the gallant Frenchman, he said:
The Romans had different words to distinguish the different kinds of kisses. A kiss between two friends was called osculum; basium, a kiss of politeness; and suavium, a kiss of love. The Roman emperors saluted their principal officers by a kiss. Kissing the mouth or the eyes was the usual compliment upon any happy event. Soldiers kissed the hand of the general when he quitted his office. Fathers amongst the Romans had so much delicacy that they never embraced their wives in the presence of their daughters. Near relatives were allowed to kiss their female kindred on the mouth, but this was done in order to know whether they smelt of wine or not.
Kisses are forced, unwilling, cold, comfortless, frigid and frozen, chaste, timid, rosy, balmy, humid, dewy, trembling, soft, gentle, tender, tempting, fragrant, sacred, hallowed, divine, soothing, joyful, affectionate, delicious, rapturous, deep-drawn and inebriating, ardent, flaming and akin to fire, ravishing, lingering and long. One also hears of parting, tear-dewed, savory, loathsome, poisonous, treacherous, false, rude, stolen, and great fat noisy kisses.
There is the proud kiss, a pledge of eternal hatred, which strikes the recipient like a falling avalanche of Alpine snow. There is the icy kiss, which sends your heart into your boots and almost stifles the ebb and flow of one’s life-blood. There is the frothy kiss, which means nothing, and is common between relations and friends. There is the hypocritical, or Judas kiss, which gives you a convulsive bang of pretended affection on both cheeks—lips saying, “I am so glad to see you,” etc., and the heart saying, “I dislike you, and if I could show it, I would.” There is the spiteful kiss, which, whilst it seems teeming with sweetness, would like to impart venom with the embrace. There is the leather kiss, which gives back to the kisser no more feeling response than the orifice of a gutta-percha speaking-tube, and as comfortless as frozen water to a starved snake; and there is the noisy kiss.
There is the first kiss of love:
Moore sings of a lover who taught his sweetheart how to kiss in the dark, and chides her afterwards for her dullness in learning the lesson.
During the late rebellion, so much kissing had to be done on the part of the soldiers in bidding adieu to their female friends that an ingenious officer reduced the operation to three motions. First motion: Bend the right knee, straighten the left, bring the head on a line with the piece; at the same time extend the arms and clasp the cheeks of the piece firmly in both hands. Second motion: Bend the body slightly forward, pucker the mouth slightly, and apply the lips smartly to the muzzle mouldings. Third motion: Break off promptly in both legs to escape the jarring or injury should the piece recoil.
There is the pleasing punishment of a kiss. In an anonymous poem, a lover tells what he would do to his sweetheart if she offended him; he would whip her with a feather, give her a cross of pearl, and smother her with roses.
One of the sweetest poems on the subject of a kiss is after Catullus, the Roman poet:
In the spring of 1888 it was asserted of Congressman Lewis E. McComas, of Maryland, that he was the king of baby-kissers, having reduced baby-kissing to a fine art. The proceeding was something like this: First of all, Mr. McComas stands over the baby, and beams on it with his large, tender, hazel eyes. Then, as if moved by a sudden and irresistible impulse of affection, he snatches the little one to his bosom with all the fervor of the deserted stage mother. After pressing it for a moment with head bowed in emotion, he holds it in front of him in a horizontal position, beams once more on the little face; then his head slowly descends, there is an agonizing pause before the big moustache reaches the little lips, the angels hovering about suspend the flapping of their wings, a long-drawn sigh of joy proceeds from the Congressman’s breast, a low, sweet, lingering, honey-suggesting smack is heard—and the deed is done.
There used to be a minstrel ballad describing the wedding of our simian ancestor. It was said:
After which, the chronicler asserts:
There is the kiss after marriage. A story is told of a wife who was scolding her husband because he had found fault with certain conduct of their daughter. The old gentleman lost all patience, finally.
“Now, see here, old woman,” said he, kindly, but firmly; “if you don’t hush your nonsense and dry up, I’ll tell Matilda’s beaux not to be caught swinging on the gate with her at night, and I’ll tell ’em why.”
“You will, hey?”
“Yes, I will; because when I was a courting young man, I was swinging on the gate with a young woman, one night, and Sam Solomon happened to pass by just as she gave me a good-night kiss.”
She commenced feeling around for something.
“It was the most unlucky kiss I ever got, for Sam gave up trying after that, and as soon as he got out of the way, it was me or nobody.”
It was lucky he got over the fence and around the corner as quick as he did, or the surgeon wouldn’t have had such an easy job of it.
It might be well to memorize one or two proverbs on this subject: “To kiss a man’s wife, or wipe his knife, is but a thankless office.” “He that kisseth his wife in the market-place shall have enough to teach him.”
Finally, there is the stolen kiss. The bold lover says:
The more backward swain argues the matter to himself:
And the man of observation has given his experience in the matter:
The prudent Scotch girl has expressed the views of many of her sex in regard, not to the impropriety of kissing, but of kissing “before folk”:
A Circassian was walking along one road, and a woman along another. The roads finally united, and reaching the point of junction at the same time, they walked on together. The man was carrying a large iron kettle on his back; in one hand he held the legs of a live chicken, in the other a cane, and he was leading a goat. They neared a dark ravine. Said the woman: “I am afraid to go through that ravine with you; it is a lonely place, and you might overpower me and kiss me by force.” Said the man: “How can I possibly overpower you and kiss you by force, when I have this iron kettle on my back, a cane in one hand, a live chicken in the other, and am leading this goat? I might as well be tied hand and foot.” “Yes,” replied the woman; “but if you should stick your cane in the ground and tie your goat to it, and turn the kettle bottom upward and put the chicken under, then you might wickedly kiss me in spite of my resistance.” “Success to thy ingenuity, O woman!” said the rejoicing man to himself; “I should never have thought of this or similar expedients.” And when they came to the ravine, he stuck his cane into the ground, and tied the goat to it, and gave the chicken to the woman, saying: “Hold it while I cut some grass for the goat,” and then—so runs the legend—lowering the kettle from his shoulders, he put the fowl under it, and wickedly kissed the woman, as she was afraid he would.
Men kissing each other in France, in England, and in Germany—Origin of the custom of kissing the Pope’s toe—Henry IV. and his punishment—Kissing the feet of royalty an ancient custom—Kisses as rewards of genius—The part osculation has paid in politics—Curious bargains for kisses—What legally constitutes a kiss—A kiss at auction—Giving $50 to kiss Edwin Booth.
To an Englishman, full of his insular reserve, there is something unmanly in the way men at a public railway station in France salute each other upon both cheeks; and yet in England itself it was at one time the recognized form of salutation. In Hone’s “Year Book” occurs the following passage:
“Another specimen of our ancient manners is seen in the French embrace. The gentleman, and others of the male sex, lay hands on the shoulders and touch the side of each other’s cheeks; but on being introduced to a lady, they say to her father or brother or friend, permettez moi, and salute each of her cheeks.”
During the time of James I. kissing was a common civility among men. Evelyn in his Diary and Correspondence, 1680, says in a letter to Mrs. Owen: “Sir J. Shaw did us the honor of a visit on Thursday last, when it was not my hap to be at home, for which I was very sorry. I met him since casually in London, and kissed him there unfeignedly.”
In Sir Walter Scott’s “Waverley,” after the Baron had shaken Edward heartily by the hand in the English fashion, he embraced him à-la-mode Françoise, and kissed him on both sides of his face; while the hardness of his gripe, and the quantity of Scotch snuff which his accolade communicated, called corresponding drops of moisture to the eyes of his guest.
Among the Germans it is no uncommon sight to find two great, bearded and mustached giants, kissing each other like a pair of turtle doves. In July, 1888, when the Emperor William met the Russian Czar at St. Petersburg, the two rulers embraced and kissed each other several times.
There is no doubt, however, that Germans fully appreciate osculation between members of the opposite sex. In a well-known German novel, this passage occurs: “Sophia returned my kiss and the earth went from under my feet; my soul was no longer in my body; I touched the stars; I knew the happiness of Seraphim.” And it may be added, that an enthusiastic old German beau of former times declared, as the result of practical experience, that kissing was an infallible cure for the toothache!
Among the English the custom has become obsolete. As for women kissing each other, the modern rhymster says:
As to the custom of kissing the Pope’s toe, Matthew of Westminster writes that it was customary at one time to kiss the hand of His Holiness, but that a certain woman in the eighth century not only kissed the Pope’s hand, but squeezed it. The Pope, seeing the danger to which he was exposed, cut off his hand, and afterwards offered his foot.
But another authority says that kissing the Pope’s toe was a fashion introduced by one of the Leos, who had mutilated his right hand and was too vain to expose the stump.
In Charles Reade’s “Cloister and the Hearth,” there is a short dissertation on some curious kissing customs. Fra Colonna, enamored of the pagan days, overwhelms Brother Jerome with copious quotations, showing the antiquity and pagan origin of many modern ecclesiastical customs. “Kissing of images and the Pope’s toe is Eastern paganism,” said Fra Colonna. “The Egyptians had it of the Assyrians, the Greeks of the Egyptians, and we of the Romans, whose Pontifax Maximus had his toe kissed under the Empire. The Druids kissed their High Priest’s toe a thousand years B.C. The Mussulmans who, like you, professed to abhor heathenism, kissed the stone of the Caaba—a pagan practice. The priests of Baal kissed their idols.”
Kissing the foot, or the toe, has been required by the popes as a sign of respect since the eighth century. The first to receive the honor was Constantine. It was paid to him by the Emperor Justinian II. on his entry into Constantinople 710. About 827 Valentine I. required every one to kiss his foot, and from that time this mark of reverence has been expected. The Pope wears a slipper with a cross, which is kissed. In recent times Protestants have not been required to perform the ceremony, but to bend the knee slightly. When the excommunicated German emperor, Henry IV., had been humbled by three days of penance, barefoot, and fasting, in the month of January, before the palace of Pope Gregory VII., he was admitted to “the superlative honor” of kissing the pontiff’s toe.
Kissing the feet of princes was a token of subjection which was sometimes carried so far that the print of the foot received the kiss, so as to give the impression that the very dust had become sacred by the royal tread, or that the subject was not worthy to salute even the prince’s foot, but was content to kiss the earth itself near, or on which he trod. The Bible says:
“And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord, for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.”—(Isaiah xlix. 23.)
“They shall lick the dust like a serpent, they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth; they shall be afraid of the Lord our God and shall fear because of thee.”—(Micah, vii. 17.)
Kisses have been the reward of genius, as when Voltaire was publicly kissed in the stage-box by the young and lovely Duchess de Villars, who was ordered by an enthusiastic pit thus to reward the author of “Merope.” In politics they have been used as bribes, as in the famous Eatanswill elections of the “Pickwick Papers,” and also in a still more famous election. For, when Fox was contesting the hard-won seat at Westminster, the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire offered to kiss all who voted for the great statesman. And fully as famous, and perhaps in a better cause, was the self-denying patriotism of the beautiful Lady Gordon, who, when the ranks of the Scottish regiments had been sadly thinned by cruel Badajoz and Salamanca, turned recruiting sergeant, and, to tempt the gallant lads, placed the recruiting shilling in her lips, from whence who would might take it with his own.
In England, during the last century, a certain candidate for a Norfolk borough kissed the voters’ wives with guineas in his mouth, for which he was expelled the House. Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, gave Steel, the butcher, a kiss for his vote nearly a century since.
There have been bargains for kisses. A French poet speaks of a country girl who required “thirty sheep for one short kiss.” The shepherd thought the bargain a good one, but the next day he was agreeably astonished at being able to get from the same girl thirty kisses for one sheep. And then
Strode, a minor English poet of the seventeenth century, writes about how he and his sweetheart played for kisses:
Some time ago, a Mr. Finch, who was in the jewelry business in Newbern, sold to a young lady named Miss Waters what was described as a beautiful set of real jet, the bargain being that he was to receive in payment one hundred kisses, to be paid at the rate of one kiss daily. Mr. Finch was to call at the lady’s house every day, Sundays excepted, to receive his daily kiss, which Miss Waters undertook and promised to daily deliver to him. For thirty consecutive days, Sundays excepted, Mr. Finch punctually called upon Miss Waters, and duly received the stipulated salutation. On the thirty-first day, however, Mr. Finch made a formal complaint that Miss Waters was not fulfilling her contract, inasmuch as she insisted upon permitting him to kiss her cheek only. He maintained that this did not constitute a legal kiss, and demanded that he should be permitted to put his left arm around her waist and kiss her in the highest style of art. To this, however, a firm refusal was returned. The lady offered Mr. Finch a choice of cheeks, but insisted that the contract would not bear the construction put upon it. Thereupon Mr. Finch, in great indignation, brought an action for breach of contract against the lady. This action raised several new and interesting questions, among the most important of which was what constituted, in the eye of the law, a kiss. The plaintiff set up the further plea that there was a difference between active and passive kisses; that Miss Waters had promised to give him a certain number of kisses—not merely allow him to take them—and that giving kisses was an act which required the use of the lips. The case was the subject of considerable controversy in the press and elsewhere, but a compromise of some sort was brought about.
An equally remarkable kissing transaction occurred in Austria: In this instance a kiss was actually put up for sale at auction, and publicly bestowed upon the highest bidder. The occasion was a charity fête got up in the little town of Torrantal on behalf of the poor of Agram. The well-meant endeavor of the benevolent ladies and gentlemen who acted as salesmen and stall-holders to induce visitors to purchase trifles exposed for sale at twenty times their value had not succeeded. Business was not brisk. The public who had filled the sale were not in a generous mood, and the organizers of the fête were disheartened. At this juncture, one of the lady patronesses, a remarkably beautiful woman, had what she thought a happy inspiration. She took her husband aside, conferred with him for a few minutes, and shortly after, with his consent, offered a kiss to the highest bidder, the sum paid for the favor to be added to the receipts of the fête. Very low sums were at first offered by the young men—for, of course, the feminine portion of the visitors were not tempted by the opportunity—and ultimately the kiss was knocked down at the relatively paltry figure of fifteen florins and eleven kreutzers. The husband of the lady, seeing the slight store set by the favor, offered to pay the amount himself and take the kiss; but the claimant had already handed over the money, and as he refused to agree to the bargain being canceled, the kiss was exchanged before the assembled company.
It is said that a California girl disposed of her kisses at two cents apiece. One week her receipts were $11.25. At regular rates she should have had $11.75, but she sold one job lot of twelve dozen at $2.50, which accounted for the difference. One devoted admirer made a special contract. In consideration of his doing all his kissing with her, he was charged much less than the regular schedule rates. This traffic went on for some months without the knowledge of any persons except those immediately concerned.
There is a story to the effect that when Booth was traveling on the Boston & Albany Road one day, having just closed an engagement in the New England metropolis, he heard an expensively-dressed, handsome, middle-aged woman back of him sigh and say to her companion: “I would give fifty dollars to kiss that man!” Booth turned suddenly and looked at the speaker. “Do you mean that?” he demanded, fixing his fine, dark eyes upon her, and causing the blood to mount up to the very roots of her hair. “Why, yes, of course I do!” replied the woman, confusedly, looking in a helpless sort of way at the great tragedian and at the smiling passengers. “Well, I accept the terms, madam!” exclaimed Booth, solemnly. “And I stand by my proposition,” said the woman, recovering her self-possession, and, rising, she imprinted a sound kiss upon the actor’s lips. Booth’s face did not betray the slightest emotion. He received the kiss stolidly, and did not return it, but waited until the impetuous woman found her purse and handed him a fifty-dollar bill. He took the money, thanked her, and turning to a feeble, shabbily-dressed woman on the other side of the aisle, who was traveling with two young children, placed the money in her hands, and, with a courtly bow, said: “This is for the children, madam! Take it, please,” and, without another word, he left the car.
Excuses for kissing; how all nature justifies the practice—The childish and the humorous excuse—Kissing casuistry—The gluttony of kissing; unaccountable osculatory demands—Excuses for not kissing—Kissing experiences—Dominie Brown’s first kiss—The kiss of the Spanish girl, the nurse, the mother—A curious German custom.
It must be remembered that the only animal that knows how to kiss is man. Dogs lick their masters and bears their ragged cubs; cats their kittens, while donkeys and the Esquimaux rub their noses; cows and horses fondle each others’ necks and heads; love-birds, pigeons, and other birds, nestle together and have methods of their own of showing affection peculiar to each; but none of these creatures kiss. Even low-class savages do not kiss like other men; so that we may take this habit to be an evidence of intellect and civilization.
Various excuses have been made for kissing. Shelley draws his excuses from Dame Nature herself:
A poet of later days has carried out the same conceit in very happy fashion:
There is a poem about a father lying beside his little child, Daisy, as she is being put to bed, and asking the foolish question that wife and lover ask over and over again:
A humorous excuse was that given by the defendant in a case of breach of promise. The defendant was allowed to say a word in his own behalf. “Yes,” he said, “I kissed her almost continually every evening I called at her house.” Lawyer for plaintiff: “Then you confess it?” Defendant: “Yes, I do confess it, but I had to do it.” Lawyer: “You had to do it! What do you mean?” Defendant: “That was the only way I could keep her from singing.”
The casuistry of kissing has been set forth in these lines:
There is a certain gluttony of kissing of which many examples might be given. There was once a jovial vicar who was such a glutton for kisses, that when he obtained the wished-for kiss, far from being satisfied he asked for a score; and
There is a proverb which says: “When gorse is out of blossom, kissing is out of favor;” and gorse blossoms always, year in and year out. This matter of countless kisses has been the theme of many a poet. Catullus averred that though his crop of kissing were thicker than the dry ears of the corn-field, he would not have enough. Another ancient poet starts off with a thousand kisses, adds a hundred thousand, repeats the process (in rhyme, of course) twice, and urges that he and his sweetheart shall purposely confuse their memories as to the number and begin all over again. Another poet wants kisses equal in number as the grains of sand on the seashore, as the stars in the heavens.
The poet exclaims that love was never satisfied with numbers, and argues that no one would dream of counting each blade of grass, each ear of ripening grain, or to a scanty hundred would confine the clustering bunches of grapes. Who would ask for a thousand bees and no more, or regulate the number of rain-drops that should fall on some parched pasture-land? One of our modern poets, John G. Saxe, has expressed this ancient desire, and from much of our modern poetry we should imagine the sentiment was still in favor:
Old Ben Jonson said that it would be his wish that he might die kissing, and it is said so grave a philosopher as John Ruskin once invited a young lady to kiss him—“not sometimes, but continually.”
A young lady reading in a newspaper of a girl having been made crazy by a sudden kiss, called the attention of her uncle, who was in the room, to that singular occurrence, whereupon the old gentleman gruffly demanded what the fool had gone crazy for. “What did she go crazy for?” archly asked the ingenuous maiden; “why, for more, I suppose.”
And, in rhyme, we have the same sentiment.
Some curious excuses are recorded for not kissing. In a certain Methodist church the young people were in the habit of playing games whose forfeits were kisses, but a pious old deacon was much troubled about it; he said he was not opposed to kissing if they did not kiss with “an appetite.” A woman in trying to express her contempt for a certain female friend, said: “If I was a man I would no more kiss such a woman than I would kiss a pair of tongs that had been left out over night in a snow-bank.”
Kissing experiences vary. A country damsel, describing her first kiss, told her female friend that she never knew how it happened, but the last thing she remembered was a sensation of fighting for her breath in a hot-house full of violets, with the ventilation choked by blush-roses and tu-lips.
A Western man relates his experience. “Talk about kissing! Go away! I have kissed in the North, I have kissed in the South; I have repeated the soul-stirring operation East and West; I have kissed in Texas and away down in Maine; I have kissed at Long Branch and at the Golden Gate—in fact, in every State in the Union; in every language and according to the manners and customs of every nation. I have kissed on the Mississippi and all its tributaries; but, young man, for good sound kissing, give me a full-fledged Caribou girl. When you feel the pegs drawn right through the soles of your feet, from your boots, that’s kissing, that is.”
We read of a king’s kiss that “fell like a flame,” sending through every vein love’s joy and pain. And Shakespeare speaks of two lovers whose lips were “four red roses on a stalk, and in their simple beauty kissed each other.” A country girl insisted on taking a stamp instead of a stamped envelope at the post-office. “My beau,” she said, “doesn’t like stamped envelopes. He lives away out in Colorado, and he says he never gets a chance to see me; but if I lick the stamp and stick it on, he can chew it, and it is the next thing to kissing me.” The fact is, that a young lady’s first love-kiss has the same effect on her as being electrified; it’s a great shock, but it’s soon over.
Almost every one has heard of the first kiss given by Dominie Brown to his sweetheart Janet, after a courtship of seven years. One evening, as they sat together in the customary solemn silence, Mr. Brown summoned courage and said: “We have been acquainted now for seven years, and I’ve ne’er gotten a kiss yet. D’ye think I might tak’ wan, my bonnie girl?”
“Just as you like, John, only be becoming wi’ it.”
“Surely, Janet, we’ll ask a blessing. For what we are about to receive, Lord make us truly thankful.”
The kiss was taken, and the worthy divine, overpowered by the blissful sensation, rapturously exclaimed: “Oh! Janet, it is gude. We’ll return thanks.” Six months afterwards they were married.
There is a poetic account of the kiss of that black-eyed Spanish girl who first kisses with her glances, practicing for the coming encounter:
And there is what may be called the apropos experience, equally interesting:
And there is another kind of good-night kiss. A certain swain, after having escorted his sweetheart to and from a New England forfeit party, where the poor girl, the belle of the evening, had been kissed, as he expressed it, “slobbered over by all, and sundry,” of course kissed her good-night at the gate. He declared in that one chaste salute he could discriminate nine distinct and separate flavors, viz., onions, tobacco, brandy, peppermint, gin, lager-beer, checkerberry, musk, and camphor.
With some of us a kiss is our earliest recollection:
In that old-fashioned youthful game, “Kiss in the Ring,” a favorite manœuvre of some of the boys was to keep out of a place in the ring till they had kissed all the pretty girls in succession. Those who grow up with the same fondness for osculatory attentions would probably like the custom in some parts of Germany, which requires a young man who is engaged to a girl, to salute, upon making his adieu for the evening, the whole of the family, beginning with the mother. Thus, in a family circle embracing half-a-dozen girls, each having a lover, no less than forty-eight kisses would have to be given on the occasion of a united meeting; and when we consider that each lover would give his own sweetheart ten times as many kisses as he gave her sisters, the grand total would outnumber a hundred.
We must not omit the mother’s kiss. Her good-bye kiss has been the charm which has kept many a schoolboy in the right path when he has got free from home influences. Tom Brown, en route for Rugby, made a bargain with his father, before starting, that he was not to be subjected to the indignity of a paternal kiss; not so, however, with his mother, whose last kiss all the racket of public school life could never efface from his memory. Benjamin West, the artist, once said: “A kiss from my mother made me a painter.”
The important consequences connected with kissing—Arrah-na-Pogue—Refusing the sacrament on account of a kiss—How a child’s kiss affected the course of a desperate man—What a little mare’s kiss did—Brought to life by a kiss—The kiss of death—Kissing in tunnels—A mountain experience—Kissing the cook.
Many curious stories might be related of important consequences coming from a kiss. Sometimes a kiss proves useful. There is a romantic story of the great Irish rebellion, in which an imprisoned patriot under sentence of death was enabled to make his escape, the plan of operations being conveyed to him in a billet carried to him by his sweetheart in her mouth, and passed to him by the medium of a kiss through the iron grating of his dungeon. This was done under the very noses of the governor and sentinels placed there to intercept any improper communication. This story has been used in Arrah-na-Pogue, which means literally “Arrah of the kiss.”
In the “Memoirs of Adam Black,” published by his sons in Edinburgh, is related an incident which occurred in Adam’s youth, and illustrates the severe sort of orthodoxy that then prevailed among the Evangelicals of Scotland. On one sacrament Sunday morning the wife of the Rev. John Colquhoun, of Leith, being desirous of having him nicely rigged out for the occasion, had his coat well brushed, his shirt as white as snow, and his bands hanging handsomely on his breast; and when she surveyed her gudeman, she was so delighted with his comely appearance that she suddenly took him around the neck and kissed him. The Rev. John, however, was so offended by this carnal proceeding, that he debarred his wife from the sacrament that day.
In a prison at New Bedford, Mass., there was a man whom we will call Jim, who was a prisoner on a life sentence. He was regarded as a desperate, dangerous man, ready for rebellion at any hour. He planned a general outbreak, but was “given away” by one of the conspirators. He plotted a general mutiny or rebellion, and was again betrayed. He then kept his own counsel, and while never refusing to obey orders, he obeyed like a man who only needed backing to make him refuse to. One day, a party of strangers came into the institution. One was an old gentleman, the others ladies, and two of the ladies had small children. The guide took one of the children on his arm, and the other walked until the party came to climbing the stairs. Jim was working near by, sulky and morose as ever, when the guide said to him: “Jim, won’t you help this little girl up the stairs?”
The convict hesitated, a scowl on his face; and the little girl held out her arms to him and said: “If you will, I guess I’ll kiss you.” The scowl vanished in an instant, and he lifted the child as tenderly as a father. Half-way up the stairs she kissed him. At the head of the stairs she said, “Now, you’ve got to kiss me, too.”
He blushed like a woman, looked into her innocent face, and then kissed her cheek, and before he reached the foot of the stairs again the man had tears in his eyes. From that day he was a changed man, and no one in the place gave less trouble. Maybe in his far Western home he had a Katie of his own. No one knows, for he never revealed his inner life; but the change so quickly wrought by a child gave hope that he would forsake his evil ways.
When Mr. Cole, a well-known circus proprietor in the South, sold his stock in New Orleans, three dun ring horses that he had owned for years went with the others by mistake. Mr. Cole at once bought them back, saying that he would never consent to have the horses become the property of any one who would make them work, and that he had decided to put them to a painless death. He proposed bleeding them to death, but W. B. Leonard, a liveryman, suggested that the use of chloroform would be a better and less painful mode. This was finally decided upon, and a reliable man procured, who was to have performed the operation.
They were all collected in the circus tent. There were Cole, Leonard, the riders and the clowns, the ringmaster, the tumblers and leapers, and the three pet duns. Calling the little mare by name, he told her to kiss them all good-bye. The intelligent animal, stretching forward her head, kissed each one. This was more than they could stand, and the sacrifice was put off. Cole had no place to take them to, so Mr. Leonard promised to find some one who would assume charge of them, under a guarantee never to work them, but to keep them in good order until death should claim them for the grave.
A remarkable case of a child being brought back to life by a kiss occurred in Louisville, Ky. A man named Joseph Meyer had two children, a boy about ten years and a girl about two months old. This baby, which appeared healthy, was suddenly taken ill with something like convulsions, and came very near dying before medical aid could be summoned. The doctor was called in and gave the child some medicine, not thinking, however, that it could possibly live. He then left, but returned the next morning. When he reached the house the child was barely breathing, and in a few minutes afterwards respiration stopped altogether. Every appearance of death was visible; the face assumed the hue of death, the jaw dropped, limbs relaxed, and the eyes became glazed. The doctor examined the pulse, and listened for the beating of the heart, but failing to find any signs of life, pronounced the child dead. It lay thus for fully ten minutes, with the members of the family grouped around the bed lamenting, as is usual in such cases. The little girl’s brother, who was just old enough to understand the situation, and who seemed to be greatly grieved, suddenly stepped from the circle and approached the supposed corpse, leaned over and imprinted a kiss upon the pallid lips. The baby’s mouth was slightly open, and in kissing her the boy blew his breath down her throat. The little lips suddenly moved, the child gave one or two sudden gasps and then commenced to breathe, slowly and feebly at first, and then gradually stronger, until respiration became almost natural. Every one around was terribly astonished at this unlooked-for coming back from the dead, and did not seem to realize the fact until the child had been breathing for half an hour. The little one rapidly improved, and eventually regained its health.
An old Roman Catholic missionary in a little Mexican town speaks of a curious superstition among his people in regard to a certain grave in the cemetery. “A spirit,” he says, “is said to have appeared to every one buried in that grave, and to warn the family whenever any of them is about to pass away. Its appearance, which is generally made in the following manner, is believed to be uniformly fatal, being an omen of death to those who are so unhappy as to meet with it.
“When a funeral takes place, the spirit is said to watch the person who remains last in the graveyard, over whom it possesses a fascinating influence.
“If the person be a young man, the spirit takes the shade of a fascinating young female, inspires him with a charmed passion, and exacts a promise that he will meet her at the graveyard a month from that day. This promise is sealed with a kiss that communicates a deadly taint to him who complies. The spirit then disappears. No sooner does the person from whom it received the promise and the kiss pass the boundary of the churchyard than he remembers the history of the spectre. He sinks into despair and insanity and dies. If, on the contrary, the spectre appears to a young woman, it assumes the form of a young man of exceeding elegance and beauty.”
On the subject of the humors of kissing there is abundant material to draw from. Stories about kissing in tunnels naturally come to mind. The well-known court-plaster incident is said to have occurred in one of the tunnels of the Hudson River Railroad. A very pretty lady was seated opposite to a good-looking gentleman, who was accompanying a party to Saratoga Springs. It was observed that this exceedingly handsome young woman had the smallest bit of court-plaster on a slight abrasion of the surface of her red upper lip. As the cars rambled into the darkness of the tunnel, a slight exclamation of “Oh!” was heard from the lady, and when the cars again emerged into the light, the little piece of court-plaster aforesaid had become in some mysterious manner transferred to the upper lip of the young gentleman.
Horace Vernet, the artist, was going from Versailles to Paris by railway. In the same compartment with him were two ladies whom he had never seen before, but who were evidently acquainted with him. They examined him minutely, and commented freely upon his martial bearing, his hale, old age, the style of his dress, etc. They continued their annoyance until finally the painter determined to put an end to the persecution. As the train passed through the tunnel of St. Cloud, the three travelers were wrapped in complete darkness. Vernet raised the back of his hand to his mouth and kissed it twice violently. On emerging from the obscurity he found that the ladies had withdrawn their attention from him, and were accusing each other of having been kissed by a man in the dark.
Presently they arrived at Paris, and Vernet, on leaving them, said: “Ladies, I shall be puzzled all my life by the inquiry, which of these two ladies was it that kissed me?”
There have been some amusing osculatory experiences in the far western part of our country. A young Montana chap, upon stepping aboard of a sleeping-car, thus addressed the conductor: “See here, captain, I want one of your best bunks for this young woman, and one for myself individually. One will do for us when we get to the Bluff—hey, Mariar?” (Here he gave a playful poke at “Mariar,” to which she replied: “Now, John, quit.”) “For, you see, we’re goin’ to git married at Mariar’s uncle’s. We might a bin married at Montanny, but we took a habit to wait till we got to the Bluff, bein’ Mariar’s uncle is a minister, and they charge a gosh-fired price for hitchin’ folks at Montanny.”
“Mariar” was assigned one of the best “bunks.” During a stoppage of the train at a station, the voice of John was heard in pleading accents, unconscious that the train had stopped, and that his tones could be heard throughout the car:
“Now, Mariar, you might give a feller jes one.”
“John, you quit, or I’ll git out right here and hoof it back to Montanny in the snowstorm.”
“Only one little kiss, Mariar, and I hope to die if I don’t——”
At this moment an old gray-beard poked his head out of his berth, at the other end of the car, and cried out:
“Maria, for pity’s sake, give John one kiss, so that we can go to sleep some time to-night.”
Thereupon John subsided and retired to his berth to dream of the distinction between the hesitancy of the kiss of courtship and the freedom of the kiss connubial.
A young and romantic Western girl, kissed for the first time, said that she felt like a tub of butter swimming in honey, cologne, nutmegs, and cranberries, and as though something was running through her nerves on feet with diamonds, escorted by several little Cupids in chariots drawn by angels, shaded with honeysuckles, and the whole spread with melted rainbows!
Among the comic songs about kissing, the one about Esau is the best:
A young lady of the gushing sort, while passing through one of the military hospitals, overheard the remark that a young lieutenant had died that morning.
“Oh, where is he? Let me see him. Let me kiss him for his mother!” exclaimed the maiden.
The attendant led her into an adjoining ward, when, discovering Lieutenant H., of the Fifth Kansas, lying fast asleep on his hospital couch, and thinking to have a little fun, he pointed him out to the girl. She sprang forward and, bending over him, said: “Oh, you dear Lieutenant, let me kiss you for your mother.”
What was her surprise when the awakened “corpse” ardently clasped her in his arms, returned the salute with interest, and exclaimed:
“Never mind the old lady, Miss; go it on your own account; I haven’t the least objection.”
There is the experience of kissing the cook. “I say, Mr. Smithers,” said Mrs. Smithers to her husband, “didn’t I hear you down in the kitchen kissing the cook?” “My dear,” replied Smithers, blandly, “permit me to insist upon my right to be reasonably ignorant. I really cannot say what you may have heard.” “But wasn’t you down there kissing the cook?” “My dear, I really cannot recollect. I only remember going into the kitchen and out again. I may have been there, and from what you say I infer I was. But I cannot recollect just what occurred.” “But,” persisted the ruthless cross-examiner, “what did Jane mean when she said: ‘Oh, Smithers, don’t kiss so loud, or the old she-dragon up-stairs will hear us?’” “Well,” said Smithers, in his blandest tones, “I cannot remember what interpretation I did put on the words at the time. They are not my words, you must remember.”
Our journey in the sweet fields of osculation stops here. As a conclusion to the whole matter, let us say with the immortal bard:
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