If I may strain a point and introduce among my “Southern Humorists” a man who evinced this vein solely through his conversation, I will make mention of the late Bishop Richard Wilmer, a native of Virginia, though Bishop of Alabama. His vein of wit and humor was fully equal to that of Sidney Smith, and I have frequently regretted that he did not have (like Smith) a biographer who would have handed down to posterity the brilliant gems of wit and humor that fell from his lips in every-day conversation. There is, I believe, no written or printed record of these, and only a few of them have been preserved by tradition. I will repeat one of these “bon mots” as it was related to me by a near relative of Bishop Wilmer’s. In a certain parish where he officiated in his early clerical life there was a lady whose table was loaded with the richest food, and who was notorious for being a gourmand. From overindulgence she had contracted a serious form of indigestion, one which, in addition to its physical ills, oppressed her spirits with deep gloom, especially in regard to her spiritual condition. In one of these spells of indigestion and consequent gloom, she told Mr. Wilmer she felt as if she were possessed of evil spirits, like the people at the time of our Lord’s advent. “Ah, Madam,” replied he, “this kind can go forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting”

A gentleman of his acquaintance having lost his wife, erected over her remains a tombstone bearing this legend: “The light of my life has gone out.” A couple of years later when the disconsolate widower had married a second time Bishop Wilmer remarked, on passing the tomb and reading the inscription, “Well, he has struck a match again.”

Soon after the war Bishop Wilmer wrote a work entitled “The Recent Past,” but it was not as brilliant as his conversation. Bishop Wilmer has left behind him a nephew who has very much the same vein of wit and humor, the Rev. C. Breckenridge Wilmer, now of Atlanta, Ga. Amongst other witticisms, one of Mr. Breckenridge Wilmer’s has been widely quoted and applauded, to this effect: “That the mischief with Virginians is, that they think if they are born Virginians they need not be born again.”

Mary Washington

Mary Washington was a contributor to the Southern Planter magazine of the early 20th century.

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