An Essay towards Fixing the True Standards of Wit, Humour, Railery, Satire, and Ridicule (1744) by Morris, Corbyn
Series Two: _Essays on Wit_
[Corbyn Morris] _An Essay towards Fixing the True Standards of Wit, Humour, Raillery, Satire, and Ridicule_ (1744)
With an Introduction by James L. Clifford and a Bibliographical Note
The Augustan Reprint Society November, 1947 Price: $1.00
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RICHARD C. BOYS, University of Michigan EDWARD NILES HOOKER, University of California, Los Angeles H.T. SWEDENBERG, JR., University of California, Los Angeles
EMMETT L. AVERY, State College of Washington LOUIS I. BREDVOLD, University of Michigan BENJAMIN BOYCE, University of Nebraska CLEANTH BROOKS, Yale University JAMES L. CLIFFORD, Columbia University ARTHUR FRIEDMAN, University of Chicago SAMUEL H. MONK, University of Minnesota JAMES SUTHERLAND, Queen Mary College, London
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The _Essay_ here reproduced was first advertised in the London _Daily Advertiser_ as "this day was published" on Thursday, 17 May 1744 (The same advertisement, except for the change of price from one shilling to two, appeared in this paper intermittently until 14 June). Although on the title-page the authorship is given as "By the Author of a Letter from a By-stander," there was no intention of anonymity, since the Dedication is boldly signed "Corbyn Morris, Inner Temple, Feb. 1, 1743 ."
Not much is known of the early life of Corbyn Morris. Born 14 August 1710, he was the eldest son of Edmund Morris of Bishop's Castle, Salop. (_Alumni Cantabrigienses_). On 17 September 1727 he was admitted (pensioner) at Queen's College, Cambridge, as an exhibitioner from the famous Charterhouse School. Exactly when he left the university, or whether he took a degree, is not certain.
Morris first achieved some prominence, though anonymously, with _A Letter from a By-stander to a Member of Parliament; wherein is examined what necessity there is for the maintenance of a large regular land-force in this island_. This pamphlet, dated at the end, 26 February 1741/42, is a wholehearted eulogy of the Walpole administration and is filled with statistics and arguments for the Mercantilist theories of the day. At the time there was some suspicion that the work had been written either by Walpole himself or by his direction. When the _Letter from a By-stander_ was answered by the historian Thomas Carte, an angry pamphlet controversy ensued, with Morris writing under the pseudonym of "A Gentleman of Cambridge." Throughout, Morris showed himself a violent Whig, bitter in his attacks on Charles II and the non-jurors; and it was undoubtedly this fanatical party loyalty which laid the foundation for his later government career.
The principal facts of Morris's later life may be briefly summarized. On 17 June 1743 he was admitted at the Inner Temple. Throughout the Pelham and Newcastle administrations he was employed by the government, as he once put it, "in conciliating opponents." From 1751 to 1763 be acted as Secretary of the Customs and Salt Duty in Scotland, in which post he was acknowledged to have shown decided ability as an administrator. From 1763 to 1778 he was one of the commissioners of customs. He died at Wimbledon 22 December 1779 (_Musgrave's Obituary_), described in the _Gentleman's Magazine_ as a "gentleman well known in the literary world, and universally esteemed for his unwearied services and attachment to government."
Throughout his long years of public service he wrote numerous pamphlets, largely on economic and political questions. Merely the titles of a few may be sufficient to indicate the nature of his interests. _An Essay towards Deciding the Question whether Britain be Permitted by Right Policy to Insure the Ships of Her Enemies _(1747); _Observations on the Past Growth and Present State of the City of London_ (containing a complete table of christenings and burials 1601- 1750) (175l); _A Letter Balancing the Causes of the Present Scarcity of Our Silver Coin_ (1757).
It would be a mistake, however, to consider Morris merely as a statistical economist and Whig party hack. A gentleman of taste and wit, the friend of Hume, Boswell, and other discerning men of the day, he was elected F.R.S. in 1757, and appears to have been much respected. In later life Morris had a country place at Chiltern Vale, Herts., where he took an active delight in country sports. One of his late pamphlets, not listed in the _D.N.B_. account of him, entertainingly illustrates one of his hobbies. _The Bird-fancier's Recreation and Delight, with the newest and very best instructions for catching, taking, feeding, rearing, &c all the various sorts of SONG BIRDS... containing curious remarks on the nature, sex, management, and diseases of ENGLISH SONG BIRDS, with practical instructions for distinguishing the cock and hen, for taking, choosing, breeding, keeping, and teaching them to sing, for discovering and caring their diseases, and of learning them to sing to the greatest perfection_.
Although there is little surviving evidence of Morris's purely literary interests, a set of verses combining his economic and artistic views appeared in a late edition of _The New Foundling Hospital for Wit_ (new edition, 1784, VI, 95). Occasioned by seeing Bowood in Wiltshire, the home of the Earl of Shelburne, the lines are entitled: "On Reading Dr. Goldsmith's Poem, the Deserted Village."
This was the man who at the age of thirty-three brought out _An Essay towards Fixing the True Standards of Wit, Humour, Raillery, Satire, and Ridicule_. That it was ever widely read we have no evidence, but at least a number of men of wit and judgment found it interesting. Horace Walpole included it in a packet of "the only new books at all worth reading" sent to Horace Mann, but the fulsome dedication to the elder Walpole undoubtedly had something to do with this recommendation. More disinterested approval is shown in a letter printed in the _Daily Advertiser_ for 31 May 1744. Better than any modern critique the letter illustrates the contemporary reaction to the _Essay_.
Christ Church College, Oxford,
I have examin'd the _Essay_ you have sent me for _fixing the true Standards of Wit, Humour, &c._ and cannot perceive upon what pretence the Definitions, as you tell me, are censured for Obscurity, even by Gentlemen of Abilities, and such as in other Parts of the Work very frankly allow it's Merit: the Definition of Wit, which presents itself at first, you say is, particularly objected to, as dark and involv'd; in answer to which I beg Leave to give you my plain Sentiments upon it, and which I apprehend should naturally occur to every Reader: In treating upon Wit, the Author seems constantly to carry in his View a Distinction between _This_ and _Vivacity_: there is a Lustre or Brilliancy which often results from wild unprovok'd Sallies of Fancy; but such unexpected Objects, which serve not to _elucidate_ each other, discover only a Flow of Spirits, or rambling Vivacity; whereas, says he, Wit is the Lustre which results from the quick _Elucidation_ of one Subject, by the just and unexpected Arrangement of it with another Subject.--To constitute _Wit_, there must not only arise a _Lustre_ from the quick Arrangement together of two Subjects, but the new Subject must be naturally introduced, and also serve to _elucidate_ the original one: the Word _Elucidation_, though it be not new, is elegant, and very happily applied in this Definition; yet I have seen some old Gentlemen here stumble at it, and have found it difficult to persuade them to advance farther:--I have also heard Objections made to the Words _Lustre_ and _Brilliancy_ of Ideas, though they are Terms which have been used by the _Greeks_ and _Romans_, and by elegant Writers of all Ages and Nations; and the Effect which they express, is perfectly conceiv'd and felt by every Person of true Genius and Imagination.
The Distinctions between _Wit_ and _Humour_, and the Reasons why _Humour_ is more pleasurably felt than _Wit_, are new and excellent: as is the Definition of an _Humourist_, and the happy Analysis of the Characters of _Falstaff_, _Sir Roger de Coverly_, and _Don Quixote_; But, as you say, the Merit of these Parts is universally allowed; as well as the Novelty, and liberal Freedom of the [word apparently omitted]; which have such Charms in my Eye, as I had long ceased to expect in a Modern Writer.
I am, &c 25 May, 1744 J---- W---- [not identified]
If the "Gentlemen of Abilities" of the day found some of Morris's definitions obscure, modern readers will find them more precise than those of most of his predecessors. All who had gone before--Cowley, Barrow, Dryden, Locke, Addison, and Congreve (he does not mention Hobbes)--Morris felt had bungled the job. And although he apologizes for attempting what the great writers of the past had failed to do, he has no hesitation in setting forth exactly what he believes to be the proper distinctions in the meanings of such terms as wit, humour, judgment, invention, raillery, and ridicule. The mathematician and statistician in Morris made him strive for precise accuracy. It was all very clear to him, and by the use of numerous anecdotes and examples he hoped to make the distinctions obvious to the general reader.
The _Essay_ shows what a man of some evident taste and perspicacity, with an analytical mind, can do in defining the subtle semantic distinctions in literary terms. Trying to fix immutably what is certain always to be shifting, Morris is noteworthy not only because of the nature of his attempt, but because he is relatively so successful. As Professor Edward Hooker has pointed out in an Introduction to an earlier _ARS_ issue (Series I, No. 2), his is "probably the best and clearest treatment of the subject in the first half of the eighteenth century." It may be regretted that political and economic concerns occupied so much of his later life, leaving him no time for further literary essays.
In the present facsimile edition, for reasons of space, only the Introduction and the main body of the _Essay_ are reproduced. Although Morris once remarked to David Hume that he wrote all his books "for the sake of the Dedications" (_Letters of David Hume_ ed. Greig, I, 380), modern readers need not regret too much the omission of the fulsome 32 page dedication to Walpole (The Earl of Orford). Morris insists at the beginning that the book was inspired by a fervent desire of "attempting a Composition, independent of Politics, which might furnish an occasional Amusement" to his patron. The praise which follows, in which Walpole is said to lead "the _Empire_ of _Letters_," is so excessive as to produce only smiles in twentieth century readers. Walpole is praised for not curbing the press while necessarily curbing the theatre, his aid to commerce and industry, indeed almost every act of his administration, is lauded to the skies. The Church of England, in which "the _Exercise_ of _Reason_ in the solemn Worship of God, is the sacred _Right_, and indispensible _Duty_, of Man," receives its share of eulogy. In every connection the Tories are violently attacked.
The Dedication ends in a peroration of praise for Walpole's public achievements which "shall adorn the History of _Britain_," and for his "_Private Virtues_ and all the _softer Features_" of his mind. His home of retirement is referred to in the lines of Milton:
"Great Palace now of Light! Hither, as to their Fountain, other Stars Repairing, in their golden Urns, draw Light; And here [sic] the Morning Planet gilds her Horns."
[P.L. 7. 363-66]
"Thus splendid, and superior, your Lordship now flourishes in honourable Ease, exerting universal Benevolence...." But in dedications, as in lapidary inscriptions, as Dr. Johnson might have agreed, a writer need not be upon oath.
At the end of the _Essay_ Morris reprinted two essays from _The Spectator_, Nos. 35 and 62, and William Congreve's "An Essay concerning Humour in Comedy. To Mr. Dennis" (Congreve's _Works_, ed. Summers, III, 161-68). Since these are readily available, they have not been included in this edition.
The present facsimile is made from a copy owned by Louis I. Bredvold, with his kind permission.
James L. Clifford
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[Transcriber's Note: The ARS edition included an errata slip, reproduced here. Where text was changed or deleted, the original is given in brackets. Corrections to the _Essay_ itself are listed after the ARS errata.]
Please paste the following in your copy of Corbyn Morris's _Essay towards Fixing the True Standards of Wit_....
(_ARS_, Series One, No. 4)
page 5, line 1--"word apparently omitted" should be inclosed in brackets.
page 5, line 6--"not identified" should be inclosed in brackets.
page 6, line 5--the first "of" should be omitted. ["modern readers need not regret too much of the omission of the fulsome 32 page dedication"]
page 6, line 12, should read "Walpole is praised for not curbing the press while necessarily curbing the theatre, his aid to commerce". ["Walpole is praised for not curbing the theatre; his aid to commerce"]
page 6, line 25--"sic" should be inclosed in brackets, as also "P.L. 7. 363-66" in the next line.
[ ESSAY ON WIT:
page viii: Whence in _Aristotle_ such Persons are termed "epidexioi", dexterous Men The Greek may read "epidezioi"; the letter-form is ambiguous.
page 14: ... without any Reference to their whimsical _Oddities_ or _Foibles_; Text reads _Oddistie_.
page 20 and elsewhere: "Biass" is an attested variant spelling; it has not been changed.
page 25: "teizes" (modern "teases") is an attested variant spelling; it has not been changed.
page 40: --It is therefore no wonder that Signior _Don Quixote of la Mancha_ ... Text reads _Quoxote_. ]
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Towards Fixing the TRUE STANDARDS of WIT, HUMOUR, RAILLERY, SATIRE, and RIDICULE.
To which is Added, an ANALYSIS Of the CHARACTERS of
An HUMOURIST, Sir John Falstaff, Sir Roger De Coverly, and Don Quixote.
Inscribed to the RIGHT HONORABLE ROBERT Earl of ORFORD.
By the AUTHOR of a LETTER from a BY-STANDER.
---- _Jacta est Alea_.
Printed for J. ROBERTS, at the Oxford-Arms, in Warwick-lane; and W. BICKERTON, in the Temple-Exchange, near the Inner-Temple-Gate, Fleet-Street.
M DCC XLIV. [Price 2s.]
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An Attempt to _describe_ the precise _Limits_ of WIT, HUMOUR, RAILLERY, SATIRE and RIDICULE, I am sensible, is no easy or slight Undertaking. To give a _Definition_ of WIT, has been declared by Writers of the greatest Renown, to exceed their Reach and Power; and Gentlemen of no less Abilities, and Fame, than _Cowley_, _Barrow_, _Dryden_, _Locke_, _Congreve_, and _Addison_, have tryed their Force upon this Subject, and have all left it free, and unconquered. This, I perceive, will be an Argument with some, for condemning an _Essay_ upon this Topic by a young Author, as rash and presumptious. But, though I desire to pay all proper Respect to these eminent Writers, if a tame Deference to great Names shall become fashionable, and the Imputation of Vanity be laid upon those who examine their Works, all Advancement in Knowledge will be absolutely stopp'd; and _Literary_ Merit will be soon placed, in an _humble Stupidity_, and _solemn Faith_ in the Wisdom of our Ancestors.
Whereas, if I rightly apprehend, _an Ambition to excell_ is the Principle which should animate a Writer, directed by a _Love_ of _Truth_, and a _free Spirit_ of _Candour_ and _Inquiry_. This is the _Flame_ which should warm the rising Members of every Science, not a poor Submission to those who have preceded. For, however it may be with a _Religious_ DEVOTION, a _Literary_ One is certainly the CHILD of _Ignorance_.
However, I must acknowledge, that where I have differed from the great Authors before mentioned, it has been with a Diffidence, and after the most serious and particular Examination of what they have delivered. It is from hence, that I have thought it my Duty, to exhibit with the following _Essay_, their several Performances upon the same Subject, that every Variation of mine from their Suffrage, and the Reasons upon which I have grounded it, may clearly appear.
The following _Ode_ upon WIT is written by Mr. _Cowley_.
ODE of WIT.
Tell me, oh tell!, what kind of Thing is _WIT_, Thou who _Master_ art of it; For the _first Matter_ loves Variety _less_; Less _Women_ love't, either in _Love_ or _Dress_. A thousand diff'rent Shapes it bears, Comely in thousand Shapes appears; Yonder we saw it plain, and here 'tis now, Like _Spirits_ in a Place, we know not _how_.
_London_, that vents of _false Ware_ so much Store, In no _Ware_ deceives us more; For Men, led by the _Colour_, and the Shape, Like _Zeuxis' Bird_, fly to the painted Grape. Some things do through our Judgment pass, As through a _Multiplying Glass_: And sometimes, if the _Object_ be too far, We take a _falling Meteor_ for a _Star_.
Hence 'tis a _Wit_, that greatest _Word_ of Fame, Grows such a common Name; And _Wits_, by our _Creation_, they become; Just so as _Tit'lar Bishops_ made at _Rome_. 'Tis not a _Tale_, 'tis not a _Jest_, Admir'd with _Laughter_ at a Feast, Nor florid _Talk_ which can that _Title_ gain; The _Proofs_ of _Wit_ for ever must remain.
'Tis not to force some Lifeless _Verses_ meet, With their five gouty Feet. All ev'ry where, like _Man's_, must be the _Soul_, And _Reason_ the _inferior Pow'rs_ controul. Such were the _Numbers_ which could call The _Stones_ into the _Theban_ Wall. Such _Miracles_ are ceas'd, and now we see No _Towns_ or _Houses_ rais'd by _Poetry.
Yet 'tis not to adorn, and gild each Part, That shews more _Cost_ than _Art_. _Jewels_ at _Nose_, and _Lips_, but ill appear; Rather than _all Things Wit_, let _none_ be there. Several _Lights_ will not be seen, If there be nothing else between. Men doubt; because they stand so thick i' th' Sky. If those be _Stars_ which paint the _Galaxy_.
'Tis not when two like Words make up one Noise; Jests for _Dutch Men_, and _English Boys_. In which, who finds out _Wit_, the same may see In _An'grams_ and _Acrostiques Poetry_. Much less can that have any Place, At which a _Virgin_ hides her Face; Such _Dross_ the _Fire_ must purge away; 'Tis just The _Author blush_, there where the _Reader_ must.
'Tis not such _Lines_ as almost crack the _Stage_, When _Bajazet_ begins to rage; Not a tall _Metaphor_ in th' _bombast Way_, Nor the dry Chips of short-lung'd _Seneca_. Nor upon all Things to obtrude, And force some odd _Similitude_. What is it then, which like the _Pow'r Divine_, We only can by _Negatives_ define?
In a true Piece of _Wit_, all Things must be, Yet all Things there _agree_; As in the _Ark_, join 'd without Force or Strife, All _Creatures_ dwelt; all _Creatures_ that had Life. Or as the _primitive Forms_ of all, (If we compare great Things with small) Which without _Discord_ or _Confusion_ lie, In the strange _Mirror_ of the _Deity_.
But _Love_, that moulds _one Man_ up out of _two_, Makes me forget, and injure you. I took _You_ for _Myself_, sure when I thought That You in any thing were to be taught. Correct my Error with thy Pen, And if any ask me then, What thing right _Wit_, and Height of _Genius_ is, I'll only shew your _Lines_, and say, _'Tis this_.
The _Spirit_ and _Wit_ of this _Ode_ are excellent; and yet it is evident, through the whole, that Mr. _Cowley_ had no clear Idea of _Wit_, though at the same time it _shines_ in most of these Lines: There is little Merit in saying what WIT _is not_, which is the chief Part of this _Ode_. Towards the End, he indeed attempts to describe what _it is_, but is quite vague and perplex'd in his Description; and at last, instead of collecting his scatter'd Rays into a _Focus_, and exhibiting succinctly the clear Essence and Power of WIT, he drops the whole with a trite Compliment.
The learned Dr. _Barrow_, in his _Sermon against foolish Talking and Jesting_, gives the following profuse Description of WIT.
But first it may be demanded, What the Thing we speak of is? Or what the Facetiousness (or _Wit_ as he calls it before) doth import? To which Questions I might reply, as _Democritus_ did to him that asked the Definition of a Man, _'Tis that we all see and know._ Any one better apprehends what it is by Acquaintance, than I can inform him by Description. It is indeed a Thing so versatile and multiform, appearing in so many Shapes, so many Postures, so many Garbs, so variously apprehended by several Eyes and Judgments, that it seemeth no less hard to settle a clear and certain Notion thereof, than to make a Portrait of _Proteus_, or to define the Figure of the fleeting Air. Sometimes it lieth in pat Allusion to a known Story, or in seasonable Application of a trivial Saying, or in forging an apposite Tale: Sometimes it playeth in Words and Phrases, taking Advantage from the Ambiguity of their Sense, or the Affinity of their Sound: Sometimes it is wrapp'd in a Dress of humorous Expression: Sometimes it lurketh under an odd Similitude: Sometimes it is lodged in a sly Question, in a smart Answer, in a quirkish Reason, in a shrewd Intimation, in cunningly diverting, or cleverly retorting an Objection: Sometimes it is couched in a bold Scheme of Speech, in a tart Irony, in a lusty Hyperbole, in a startling Metaphor, in a plausible Reconciling of Contradictions, or in acute Nonsense; Sometimes a scenical Representation of Persons or Things, a counterfeit Speech, a mimical Look or Gesture passeth for it. Sometimes an affected Simplicity, sometimes a presumptuous Bluntness giveth it Being. Sometimes it riseth from a lucky Hitting upon what is Strange; sometimes from a crafty wresting obvious Matter to the Purpose. Often it' consisteth in one knows not what, and springeth up one can hardly tell how. Its ways are unaccountable, and inexplicable, being answerable to the numberless Rovings of Fancy, and Windings of Language. It is, in short, a Manner of Speaking out of the simple and plain Way (such as Reason teacheth, and proveth Things by) which by a pretty, surprizing Uncouthness in Conceit or Expression, doth affect and amuse the Fancy, stirring in it some Wonder, and breeding some Delight thereto. It raiseth Admiration, as signifying a nimble Sagacity of Apprehension, a special Felicity of Invention, a Vivacity of Spirit, and Reach of Wit, more than vulgar; it seeming to argue a rare Quickness of Parts, that one can fetch in remote Conceits applicable; a notable Skill that he can dextrously accommodate them to the Purpose before him; together with a lively Briskness of Humour, not apt to damp those Sportful Flashes of Imagination. (Whence in _Aristotle_ such Persons are termed "epidexioi", dexterous Men, and "eutropoi", Men of facile or versatile Manners, who can easily turn themselves to all Things, or turn all Things to themselves.) It also procureth Delight, by gratifying Curiosity with its Rareness, or Semblance of Difficulty. (As Monsters, not for their Beauty, but their Rarity; as juggling Tricks, not for their Use, but their Abstruseness, are beheld with Pleasure;) by diverting the Mind from its Road of serious Thoughts, by instilling Gaiety, and Airiness of Spirit; by provoking to such Disposition of Spirit in Way of Emulation, or Complaisance; and by seasoning Matters otherwise distasteful or insipid, with an unusual and thence grateful Tange.
This Description, it is easy to perceive, must have cost the Author of it a great deal of Labour. It is a very full Specimen of that Talent of entirely _exhausting_ a Subject, for which Dr. _Barrow_ was remarkable; and if the _Point_ was, to exhibit all the various Forms and Appearances, not of WIT only, but of _Raillery_, _Satire_, _Sarcasms_, and of every Kind of _Poignancy_ and _Pleasantry_ of Sentiment, and Expression, he seems to have perfectly succeeded; there being perhaps no Variety, in all the Extent of these Subjects, which he has not presented to View in this Description.--But he does not pretend to give any _Definition_ of WIT, intimating rather that it is quite impossible to be given: And indeed from his Description of it, as a _Proteus_, appearing in numberless various Colours, and Forms; and from his mistaking, and presenting for WIT, other different Mixtures and Substances, it is evident that his Idea of it was quite confused and uncertain: It is true, he has discovered a vast Scope of Fertility of Genius, and an uncommon Power of collecting together a Multitude of Objects upon any Occasion, but he has here absolutely mistaken his work; for instead of exhibiting the Properties of WIT in a clearer Light, and confuting the _false Claims_ which are made to it, he has made it his whole Business to perplex it the more, by introducing, from all Corners, a monstrous Troop of new unexpected _Pretenders_.
_Dryden_, in the Preface to his _Opera_, entitled, _The State of Innocence_, or _Fall of Man_, gives the following _Decree_ upon WIT. The _Definition of WIT_, (which has been so often attempted, and ever unsuccessfully by many Poets) is only this: That it is _a Propriety of Thoughts and Words; or in other Terms, Thoughts and Words elegantly adapted to the Subject_.
If Mr. _Dryden_ imagined, that he had succeeded _himself_ in this _Definition_, he was extremely mistaken; for nothing can be more distant from the Properties of WIT, than those he describes. He discovers no Idea of the _Surprize_, and _Brilliancy_ of WIT, or of the sudden _Light_ thrown upon a Subject. Instead of once pointing at these, he only describes the Properties of clear _Reasoning_, which are _a Propriety of Thoughts and Words_;--Whereas WIT, in its sudden _Flashes_, makes no Pretension to _Reasoning_; but is perceived in the pleasant _Surprize_ which it starts, and in the _Light_ darted upon a Subject, which instantly vanishes again, without abiding a strict Examination.
The other Definition he gives, which is, _Thoughts and Words elegantly adapted to the Subject_, is very different from the former, but equally unhappy.
For _Propriety_, in _Thoughts_ and _Words_, consists in exhibiting _clear, pertinent Ideas_, in _precise_ and _perspicuous Words_.
Whereas ELEGANCE consists in the _compt_, _well pruned_ and _succinct Turn_ of a Subject.
The Object of the _First_, is to be _clear_, and _perspicuous_; whence it often appears in pursuit of these, not _compt_ or _succinct_: Whereas the _Essence_ of ELEGANCE is to be _compt_ and _succinct_, for the Sake of which Ornaments it often neglect _Perspicuity_, and _Clearness_.--In short, a _Propriety_ of Thoughts and Words, may subsist without any _Elegance_; as an _Elegance_ of Thoughts and Words may appear without a perfect _Propriety_.
The last _Definition_, as it is thus very different from the former is also equally unhappy: For ELEGANCE is no _essential_ Property of WIT. _Pure_ WIT resulting solely from the _quick Elucidation_ of one Subject, by the sudden _Arrangement_, and _Comparison_ of it, with another Subject.--If the two Objects _arranged_ together are _elegant_, and _polite_, there will then be superadded to the WIT, an _Elegance_ and _Politeness_ of Sentiment, which will render the WIT more amiable. But if the Objects are _vulgar_, _obscene_, or _deformed_, provided the _first_ be _elucidated_, in a lively Manner, by, the sudden _Arrangement_ of it with the _second_, there will be equally WIT; though, the Indelicacy of Sentiment attending it, will render such WIT shocking and abominable.
It is with the highest Respect for the great Mr. _Locke_, that I deliver his Sentiments upon this Subject.
And hence, perhaps, may be given some Reason of that common Observation, that Men who have a great deal of _Wit_, and prompt Memories, have not always the clearest Judgment or deepest Reason: For _Wit_ lying most in the Assemblage of _Ideas_, and putting those together with Quickness and Variety, wherein can be found any Assemblance or Congruity, thereby to make up pleasant Pictures, and agreeable Visions in the Fancy. _Judgment_, on the contrary, lies quite on the other side; in separating carefully one from another, _Ideas_, wherein can be found the least Difference, thereby to avoid being missed by Similitude, and by Affinity to take one thing for another. This is a Way of proceeding quite contrary to Metaphor and Allusion; wherein for the most Part lies that Entertainment and Pleasantry of _Wit_, which strikes so lively on the Fancy, and therefore is acceptable to all People, because its Beauty appears at first Sight, and there is required no Labour of Thoughts to examine what Truth, or Reason, there is in it. The Mind, without looking any further, rests satisfied with the Agreeableness of the Picture, and the Gaiety of the Fancy. And it is a kind of an Affront to go about to examine it by the severe Rules of Truth, and good Reason, whereby it appears, that it conflicts in something that is not perfectly conformable to them.
It is to be observed that Mr. _Locke_ has here only occasionally, and passantly, delivered his Sentiments upon this Subject; but yet he has very happily explained the chief Properties of WIT. It was _his_ Remark _First_, that it lies for the most _Part_ in _assembling_ together with _Quickness_ and _Variety_ Objects, which possess an _Affinity_, or _Congruity_, with each other; which was the _first_ just Information obtained by the literary World, upon this Subject.
As to what he adds, That the Intention, and Effects, of this _Assemblage_ of _similar_ Objects, is _to make up pleasant Pictures, and agreeable Visions in the Fancy_, it is, as I humbly apprehend, not quite perfect: For the Business of this _Assemblage_ is not merely to raise pleasant Pictures in the Fancy, but also to _enlighten_ thereby the _original_ Subject.--This is evident; because in such _Assemblages_, the only Foundation upon which the _new Subject_ is suddenly introduced, is the _Affinity_, and consequently the _Illustration_, it bears to the _first_ Subject.--The Introduction of pleasant Pictures and Visions, which present not a new _Illustration_, and _Light_, to the _original_ Subjects, being rather wild Sallies of _Vivacity_, than well-aimed, apposite Strokes of WIT.
It is Mr. _Locke_'s Conclusion, at last, That WIT _consists in something that is not perfectly conformable to Truth, and good Reason_.--This is a _Problem_ of some Curiosity; and I apprehend Mr. _Locke_'s Determination upon it to be right:--For the _Direction_ of WIT is absolutely different from the _Direction of_ TRUTH and GOOD REASON; It being the Aim of WIT to strike the _Imagination_; of TRUTH and GOOD REASON, to convince the _Judgment_: From thence they can never be perfectly coincident.
It is however true, that there may be Instances of WIT, wherein the _Agreement_ between the two Objects shall be absolutely _just_, and perceived to be such at the first Glance. Such Instances of WIT, will be then also _Self-evident_ TRUTHS. They will _both_ agree in their obvious, and quick _Perspicuity_; but will be still different in this, that the Effort of the _One_ is to strike the _Fancy_, whereas the _Other_ is wholly exerted in gratifying the _Judgment_.
The Sentiments of Mr. _Addison_ upon WIT, are professedly delivered in the _Spectator_ Nº. 62. annexed to the following _Essay_. He has there justly commended Mr. _Locke_'s Description of WIT; but what he adds, by Way of Explanation to it, that the _Assemblage_ of Ideas must be such as shall give _Delight_, and _Surprize_, is not true, in regard to the Former, _Delight_ being no _essential_ Property of WIT; for if the _original_ Subject be unpleasant, or deformed, the sudden unexpected _Arrangement_ of a _similar_ Object with it, may give us _Surprize_, and be indisputably WIT, and yet be far from creating any _Delight_.
This Gentleman has also given the following Example, in order to illustrate the Necessity there is, that _Surprize_ should be always an Attendant upon WIT.
"When a Poet tells us, the Bosom of his Mistress is as white as Snow, there is no _Wit_ in the Comparison; but when he adds, with a Sigh, that it as cold too, it then grows to Wit."
--To compare a Girl's _Bosom_ to _Snow_ for its _Whiteness_ I apprehend to be WIT, notwithstanding the Authority of so great a Writer to the contrary. For there is a _Lustre_ resulting from the _natural_ and _splendid Agreement_ between these Objects, which will _always_ produce WIT; such, as cannot be destroyed, though it will quickly be rendered _trite_, by frequent Repetition.
This _Problem_, _How far_ SURPRIZE _is, or is not, necessary to_ WIT, I humbly apprehend, may be thus solved.--In Subjects which have a _natural_ and _splendid Agreement_, there will always be WIT upon their _Arrangement_ together; though when it becomes _trite_, and not accompanied with _Surprize_, the _Lustre_ will be much faded;--But where the _Agreement_ is _forced_ and _strained_, _Novelty_ and _Surprize_ are absolutely necessary to usher it in; An unexpected _Assemblage_ of this Sort, striking our Fancy, and being gaily admitted at first to be WIT; which upon frequent Repetition, the _Judgment_ will have examined, and rise up against it wherever it appears;--So that in short, in Instances where the _Agreement_ is _strained_ and _defective_, which indeed are abundantly the most general, _Surprize_ is a necessary _Passport_ to WIT; but _Surprize_ is not necessary to WIT, where the _Agreement_ between the two Subjects is _natural_ and _splendid_; though in these Instances it greatly heightens the _Brillancy_.
The subsequent Remark of Mr. _Addison_, _That the Poet, after saying his Mistress's Bosom is as white as Snow, should add, with a Sigh, that it is as cold too, in order that it may grow to_ WIT, is I fear, very incorrect. For as to the _Sigh_, it avails not a Rush; and this Addition will be found to be only a _new_ Stroke of WIT, equally _trite_, and less perfect, and natural, than the former Comparison.
It may also be observed, That Mr. _Addison_ has omitted the _Elucidation_ of the _original_ Subject, which is the grand Excellence of WIT. Nor has he prescribed any _Limits_ to the Subjects, which are to be arranged together; without which the Result will be frequently the SUBLIME or BURLESQUE; In which, it is true, WIT often appears, but taking their whole Compositions together, they are different Substances, and usually ranked in different _Classes_.
All that Mr. _Congreve_ has delivered upon WIT, as far as I know, appears in his _Essay_ upon HUMOUR, annexed to this Treatise. He there says, To define HUMOUR, perhaps, were as difficult, as to define WIT; for, like that, it is of infinite Variety. --Again, he afterwards adds, But though we cannot certainly tell what WIT is, or what HUMOUR is, yet we may _go near_ to shew something, which is not WIT, or not HUMOUR, and yet often mistaken for both. --In this _Essay_, wherein he particularly considers HUMOUR, and the Difference between _this_, and WIT, he may be expected to have delivered his best Sentiments upon both: But these Words, which I have quoted, seem to be as important and precise, as any which he has offered upon the Subject of WIT. As such, I present them, without any Remarks, to my Reader, who, if he only _goes near_ to be _edified_ by them, will discover a great Share of _Sagacity_.
The Sentiments of these eminent Writers upon WIT, having thus been exhibited, I come next to the Subject of HUMOUR. This has been _defined_ by some, in the following Manner, with great _Perspicuity._ --HUMOUR is the genuine WIT of _Comedies_,--which has afforded vast Satisfaction to many _Connoissures_ in the _Belles Lettres_; especially as WIT has been supposed to be incapable of any _Definition._
This Subject has also been particularly considered by the _Spectatator_ Nº. 35. inserted at the End of the following _Essay_. Mr. _Addison_ therein _gravely_ remarks, that It is indeed much easier to describe what is not HUMOUR, than what it is; which, I humbly apprehend, is no very _important_ Piece of Information.--He adds, And very difficult to define it otherwise, than as _Cowly_ has done WIT, by Negatives. This Notion of _defining_ a Subject by _Negatives_, is a favourite _Crotchet_, and may perhaps be assumed upon other Occasions by future Writers: I hope therefore I shall be pardoned, if I offer a proper Explanation of so good a _Conceit_;--To declare then, _That a Subject is only to be_ DEFINED _by_ NEGATIVES, is to cloath it in a _respectable_ Dress of _Darkness_. And about as much as to say, That it is a _Knight_ of _tenebrose Virtues_; or a _serene Prince_, of the _Blood_ of _Occult Qualities_.
Mr. _Addison_ proceeds, Were I to give my own Notions of HUMOUR, I should deliver them after _Plato's_ Manner, in a Kind of Allegory; and by supposing HUMOUR to be a Person, deduce to him, all his Qualifications, according to the following Genealogy: TRUTH was the Founder of the Family, and the Father of GOOD SENSE; GOOD SENSE was the Father of WIT, who married a Lady of a collateral Line called MIRTH, by whom he had Issue HUMOUR. --It is very unfortunate for this _Allegorical_ Description, that there is not one Word of it just: For TRUTH, GOOD SENSE, WIT, and MIRTH, represented to be the immediate _Ancestors_ of HUMOUR; whereas HUMOUR is derived from the _Foibles_, and whimsical _Oddities_ of _Persons_ in real Life, which flow rather from their _Inconsistencies_, and _Weakness_, than from TRUTH and GOOD SENSE; Nor is WIT any _Ancestor_ of HUMOUR, but of a quite different _Family_; it being notorious that much HUMOUR may be drawn from the Manners of _Dutchmen_, and of the most formal and dull Persons, who are yet never guilty of WIT. Again, MIRTH is not so properly the _Parent_ of HUMOUR, as the _Offspring_.--In short, this whole _Genealogy_ is a _nubilous_ Piece of Conceit, instead of being any _Elucidation_ of HUMOUR. It is a formal Method of trifling, introduced under a deep Ostentation of Learning, which deserves the severest Rebuke.--But I restrain my Pen, recollecting the _Visions_ of MIRZA, and heartily profess my high Veneration for their admirable Author.
The _Essay_ upon HUMOUR, at the End of this Treatise, written by Mr. _Congreve_, is next to be considered. It appears, that at first he professes his absolute Uncertainty in regard to this Subject; and says, "_We cannot certainly tell what_ WIT _is, or what_ HUMOUR _is_." But yet, through his whole Piece, he neglects the Subject of HUMOUR in general, and only discourses upon the HUMOUR, by which he means barely the _Disposition_, of Persons: This may particularly appear from the following Words.
A Man may change his Opinion, but I believe he will find it a Difficulty to part with his HUMOUR; and there is nothing more provoking than the being made sensible of that Difficulty. Sometimes we shall meet with those, who perhaps indifferently enough, but at the same time impertinently, will ask the Question, WHY ARE YOU NOT MERRY? WHY ARE YOU NOT GAY, PLEASANT, AND CHEARFUL? Then instead of answering, could I ask such a Person, WHY ARE YOU NOT HANDSOME? WHY HAVE YOU NOT BLACK EYES, AND A BETTER COMPLEXION? Nature abhors to be forced.
The two famous Philosophers of _Ephesus_ and _Abdera_, have their different Sects at this Day. Some weep, and others laugh at one and the same Thing.
I don't doubt but you have observed several Men laugh when they are angry; others, who are silent; some that are loud; yet I cannot suppose that it is the Passion of ANGER, which is in itself different, or more or less in one than t'other, but that it is the HUMOUR of the Man that is predominant, and urges him to express it in that Manner. Demonstrations of PLEASURE, are as various: One Man has a HUMOUR of retiring from all Company, when any thing has happened to please him beyond Expectation; he hugs himself alone, and thinks it an Addition to the Pleasure to keep it a Secret, &c.
All which, I apprehend, is no more than saying; That there are different _Dispositions_ in different _Persons_.
In another Place, he seems to understand by _Humour_, not only the _Disposition,_ but the _Tone_ of the _Nerves_, of a Person, thus,
"Suppose MOROSE to be a Man naturally splenetic, and melancholy; is there any thing more offensive to one of such a DISPOSITION (where he uses the Word instead of _Humour_) than Noise and Clamour? Let any Man that has the Spleen (and there are enough in England) be Judge. We see common Examples of this HUMOUR in little every Day. 'Tis ten to one, but three Parts in four of the Company you dine with, are discomposed, and started at the cutting of a Cork, or scratching of a Plate with a Knife; it is a Proportion of the same HUMOUR, that makes such, or any other Noise, offensive to the Person that hears it; for there are others who will not be disturbed at all by it.
At this Rate every _Weakness_ of _Nerves_, or _Particularity_ of _Constitution,_ is HUMOUR.
It is true, he justly points out in another Place the different Sentiments, which ought to be adapted to different _Characters_ in _Comedy_, according to their different _Dispositions_, or, as he phrases it, _Humours_: As for Instance, he very rightly observes, That a Character of a splenetic and peevish HUMOUR, Should have a satirical WIT. A jolly and sanguine HUMOUR should have a facetious WIT. --But still this is no Description of what is well felt, and known, by the general Name of HUMOUR.
However, as what I have already quoted, may appear to be only his looser Explanations, it will be necessary to deliver his more closed and collected Sentiments upon this Subject. These he gives in the following Words, I should be unwilling to venture, even in a bare _Description_ of _Humour_, much more to make a _Definition_ of it; but now my Hand is in, I will tell you what serves me instead of either. I take it to be, _A singular and unavoidable Manner of doing or saying any thing, peculiar and natural to one Man only, by which his Speech and Actions are distinguished from those of other Men." --This Description is very little applicable to HUMOUR, but tolerably well adapted to other Subjects.--Thus, a Person, who is happy in a particular _Grace_, which accompanies all his Actions, may be said to possess _a singular and unavoidable Manner of doing or saying any thing, peculiar and natural to him only, by which his Speech and Actions are distinguished from those of other Men_. And the same may be said of a Person of a peculiar _Vivacity_, _Heaviness_, or _Awkwardness_.--In short, this Description is suited to any _Particularity_ of a Person in general, instead of being adapted to the _Foibles_ and _whimsical Oddities_ of Persons, which alone constitute HUMOUR.
These are the only Pieces upon WIT, and HUMOUR, which have fallen within my Knowledge; I have here fairly delivered them at length; and from the Respect which is due to such eminent Writers, have distinctly and deliberately examined the Merit of each.--As to my own _Performance_, which is now submitted to the Public, I have to wish, that it may gain a candid and strict Examination. It has been my Endeavour to give _Definitions_ of the Subjects, upon which I have treated; A _Plan_ the most difficult of all others to be executed by an Author; But such an one, as I apprehend, deserves to be more generally introduced, and established. If once it was expected by the Public, that _Authors_ should strictly _define_ their Subjects, it would instantly checque an Inundation of Scribbling. The _desultory_ Manner of Writing would be absolutely exploded; and _Accuracy_ and _Precision_ would be necessarily introduced upon every Subject.
This is the _Method_ pursued in Subjects of _Philosophy_; Without clear and precise _Definitions_ such noble Advances could never have been made in those Sciences; And it is by the Assistance of _these_ only, that Subjects of _Polite Literature_, can ever be enlightened and embellished with just Ornaments. If _Definitions_ had been constantly exacted from Authors there would not have appeared _one hundreth_ Part of the present Books, and yet every Subject had been better ascertained.--Nor will this Method, as some may imagine, be encumbered with Stiffness; On the contrary, in _illustrating_ the Truth of _Definitions_ there is a full Scope of the utmost Genius, Imagination, and Spirit of a Writer; and a Work upon this _Plan_ is adorned with the highest Charms appearing with _Propriety_, _Clearness_, and _Conviction_, as well as Beauty.
It is true, that the Difficulties, which attend an able Execution of this _Method_, are not open to a careless Eye; And it is some Mortification to an _Author_ upon this _Plan_, that his greatest _Merit_ is likely to lie concealed; A _Definition,_ or _Distinction,_ which after much Attention and Time he has happily delivered with _Brevity_ and _Clearness_, appearing hereby quite obvious, to others, and what they cannot imagine could require Pains to discover.
As to the _Examples_, by which I have illustrated the _Definition_ of _Wit_, they are _common_ and _trite_; but are the best, which I could find upon deliberate Enquiry. Many Modern instances of _Wit_, which left very lively Impressions upon me, when I heard them, appearing upon Re-examination to be quite strained and defective. These, which I have given, as they are thus _trite_, are not designed in themselves for any Entertainment to the Reader; but being various, and distant from each other, they very properly serve to explain the Truth, and Extent of the _Definition_.
The Character of an HUMOURIST, I expect, will be strange to most of my Readers; and if no Gentleman is acquainted with a _Person_ of this _Cast_, it must pass for a _Monster_ of my own Creation;--As to the Character of Sir _John Falstaff_, it is chiefly extracted from _Shakespear_, in his 1st Part of King _Henry_ the _IVth_; But so far as _Sir John_ in _Shakspear's_ Description, sinks into a _Cheat_ or a _Scoundrel_, upon any Occasion, he is different from that _Falstaff_, who is designed in the following _Essay_, and is entirely an amiable Character.
It is obvious, that the Appearance, which _Falstaff_ makes, in the unfinished Play of _The Merry Wives of Windsor_, is in general greatly below his true Character. His Imprisonment and Death in the latter Part of King _Henry_ the _IVth_, seem also to have been written by _Shakespear_ in Compliance with the _Austerity_ of the Times; and in order to avoid the Imputation of encouraging _Idleness_ and mirthful _Riot_ by too amiable and happy an Example.
The Criticism, which I have made, upon _Horace_'s Narrative of his _Adventure_ with an _Impertinent Fellow_, I offer with Respect; And beg leave to observe that the chief Part which I object to, is the _Propriety_ of his introducing himself in so _ridiculous a Plight_; --Dum sudor ad imos Manaret Talos; And Demitto Auriculas, ut iniquæ mentis Acellus Cum gravius dorso subiit onus. And other Representations of the same sort, seem to place _Horace_ in a very mean and ludicrous Light; which it is probable he never apprehended in the full Course of exposing his Companion;--Besides, the Conduct of his Adversary is in several Places, excessively, and, as it may be construed, _designedly_, insolent and contemptuous; and as no Merit or Importance belongs to this Person, there appears no Reason why _Horace_ should endure such Treatment; or, if the other was too _powerful_ for him, it is not an _Adventure_ of _Honour_; or what _Horace_ should chuse to expose to the World in this manner, with all the Particulars of his own despicable Distress.
However, the _Mirth_ which results from this Narrative, as it now stands, is perhaps rather the stronger at first, by the full _Ridicule_ which lies against _Horace_, and his Adversary;--But, upon Reflection, there arises a Disgust, at the Impropriety of _Horace's_ exposing his own _Meanness_, as well as at the nauseous _Impudence_ of his Companion.
As to _uncommon_ Words, if any such appear in this _Introduction_, or in the following _Essay_, I hope they want neither _Propriety_, _Clearness_, nor _Strength_;--And if the _Length_of this Piece to an _Essay_ so _short_ shall happen at first to _disturb_ any _Critic_, I beg leave to inform him, that all, which can be fairly collected from it, is only, that it may have cost _me_ the more Trouble;--But upon mentioning the _Length_ of this Piece, what behoves me the most, is, to return my Thanks to two _Gentlemen_, who suffered me to read to them the whole, as it was gradually written; And by whose _judicious_ and _friendly Instructions_ in the Course of it, my own _Imagination_ was often prevented from running into _Riots_.
However, I am far from imagining, that I have always been reduced within just Bounds; And now feel a sufficient Share of _Concern_ and _Anxiety_, for the _Fate_ of this Work;--Yet, I humbly apprehend, that _this_ must freely be allowed me, that I have not been a _Plagiary_; But have constantly delivered my own _original_ Sentiments, without _purloining_ or _disfiguring_ the Thoughts of others; An _Honesty_, which, I hope, is laudable in an _Author_; And as I have not _stolen_, neither have I _concealed_, the _Merit_ of other Writers.
It will also be found, as I humbly apprehend, that I have never _shunned_ the Subject: I mention this particularly, because it is the Practice of many eminent Writers, after much _curvetting_ and _prauncing_, suddenly to wheel, and retire, when they are expected to make their most full Attack.--These Gentlemen, it is true, very happily avoid _Danger_, and advance and retreat in _excellent Order_: But, with their Leave, I must observe that they never do any _Execution_; For Subjects, which have not been surveyed, and laid open, are like _fortified Places_; and it is the Business of a _Writer_, as well as of a _Soldier_, to make an Attack;--This has been the Conduct I have held in the following _Essay_; and however I may be _shattered_ upon any Occasion, I hope it will appear (if I may be allowed the Expression) that I have fairly _charged_ the Subjects.
Having offered these Circumstances in my Favour, I must frankly acknowledge, that I am not able to plead any _Hurry_ or _Precipitancy_ in the publishing of this Work, in Excuse of its Errors; Though I clearly understand, that by making this Discovery, I absolutely deprive myself of the most _genteel_ and _fashionable Screen_ now used by Authors;--But I imagined, that it became me to spare no Labour or Attention upon a Work, which I should presume to offer to the World; Happening to esteem this _Care_ and _Concern_, a _Respect_ due to the _Public_, and the proper Species of _Humility_ and _Modesty_ in an _Author_.
* * * * *
An ESSAY on Wit, Humour, Raillery, & c.
WIT is the LUSTRE resulting from the quick ELUCIDATION of one Subject, by a _just_ and unexpected ARRANGEMENT of it with another Subject.
This _Definition_ of WIT will more clearly appear by a short Explanation.
It is the Province of WIT to _elucidate_, or _enlighten_ a Subject, not by reasoning upon that Subject, but by a just and unexpected Introduction of another _similar_, or _opposite_ Subject; whereby, upon their _Arrangement_ together, the _original_ Subject may be _set off_, and more clearly _enlighten'd_, by their obvious Comparison.
It may be proper, for the sake of Distinction, to call the Subject, which is the Basis and Ground-work, the _original_ Subject; and that which is introduced, in order to _elucidate_ it, the _auxiliary_ Subject.
That there be always an apparent Chain or Connexion, or else an obvious Agreement or Contrast, between the two Subjects, is absolutely requir'd, in order that the _Auxiliary_ one may be _justly_ introduced; otherwise, instead of WIT, there will only appear a rambling _Vivacity_, in wild, unprovoked Sallies.
And yet _every just_ or _natural_ Introduction of an _auxiliary_ Subject will not produce WIT, unless a new _Lustre_ is reflected from thence upon the _original_ Subject.
It is further to be observed, that the Introduction of the _auxiliary_ Subject ought not only to be _just_, but also _unexpected_, which are entirely consistent together; For as every Subject bears various Relations and Oppositions to other Subjects, it is evident that each of these Relations and Oppositions upon being exhibited, will be _unexpected_ to the Persons, who did not perceive them before; and yet they are _just_ by Supposition.
It is upon such _unexpected_ Introductions of _auxiliary_ Subjects, that we are struck with a _Surprize_; from whence the high _Brilliancy_ and _Sparkling_ of WIT, result.
Whereas _Auxiliary_ Subjects, introduced upon such Occasions, as they have been frequently exhibited before, are apt to fall dull, and heavy upon the Fancy; and unless they possess great natural Spirit, will excite no sprightly Sensation.
It is also necessary to observe, that, in WIT, the Subjects concern'd must be _ordinary_ and _level_; By which are intended, not such as are _common_, but such as have no _extraordinarily exalted_, or _enlarged_, Qualities; and are not _unsizeable_ in the particular Circumstances in which they are compared to each other;--otherwise it is easy to perceive, that the Result of their _Arrangement_ will not be so properly WIT, as either the SUBLIME, or BURLESQUE.
To all this is to be added, that either _Gallantry, Raillery_, _Humour_, _Satire_, _Ridicule_, _Sarcasms_, or other Subjects, are generally blended with WIT; It has been for want of this Discovery, and of a proper Separation of these Subjects, that the Attempts which have hitherto been made to _define_ WIT, have been all involv'd and overwhelm'd in Perplexity; For the different Mixtures of these foreign Ingredients with WIT, have discover'd such various and opposite _Colours_ and _Substances_, as were impossible to be comprehended in one certain steady _Definition_;--Whereas _pure_ WIT alone, constantly appears in _one uniform_ Manner; which is, _In the _quick Elucidation_ of one Subject, by _unexpectedly_ exhibiting its _Agreement_ or _Contrast_ with another Subject_.
It is proper in this Place, to distinguish between WIT, SIMILES, and METAPHORS. SIMILES, though they _illustrate_ one Subject, by _arranging_ it with another Subject, are yet different from WIT, as they want its _sudden_ and _quick Elucidation_.
Again; In WIT, the _Elucidation_ is thrown only upon _one_ Point of a Subject; or if more Points be _elucidated_, they are so many different Strokes of WIT;--Whereas every SIMILE touches the Subject it _illustrates_ in _several Points_.
It is from hence, that the _Elucidation_, as before mention'd, arising from a SIMILE, is _slower_ than from WIT; But then is is generally more _accurate_ and _compleat_;--In short, WIT, from its _Quickness_, exhibits more _Brilliancy_, But SIMILES possess greater _Perfection_.
A METAPHOR, is the _Arrayment_ of one Subject, with the _Dress_, or _Colour_, or any _Attributes_, of another Subject.
In WIT, the two Subjects are suddenly confronted with each other, and upon their joint View, the _original_ one is _elucidated_ by the obvious _Agreement_ or _Contrast_ of the _auxiliary_ Subject.
But METAPHOR goes further, and not content with _arranging_ the two Subjects together, and exhibiting from thence their _Agreement_ or _Contrast_, it actually snatches the Properties of the _auxiliary_ one, and fits them at once upon the _original_ Subject.
It is evident from hence, that there may be WIT without any METAPHOR; But in every just METAPHOR there is WIT; The _Agreement_ of the two Subjects being in a METAPHOR more strictly and sensibly presented.
There is also this Difference between WIT and METAPHOR, that in WIT the _original_ Subject is _enlighten'd_, without altering its _Dress_; whereas in METAPHOR the _original_ Subject is cloathed in a _new Dress_, and struts forwards at once with a different _Air_, and with strange _unexpected Ornaments_.
It is from hence, that by METAPHOR a more masculine Air and Vigour is given to a Subject, than by WIT; But it too often happens, that the METAPHOR is carried so far, as instead of _elucidating_, to obscure and disfigure, the _original_ Subject.
To exhibit some Examples of WIT.
_Henry_ the IVth of _France_, intimating to the _Spanish_ Ambassador the Rapidity, with which he was able to over-run _Italy_, told him, that _if once he mounted on Horseback, he should breakfast at_ Milan, _and dine at_ Naples; To which the Ambassador added, _Since your Majesty travels at this rate, you may be at Vespers in_ Sicily.
The Introduction of the _Vespers_ at SICILY is here _natural_, and easy; as it seems only to be carrying on his Majesty's Journey at the same rate, and to compleat the Progress of the Day; But it ushers at once into View the _Destruction_ of the _French_ upon a _similar_ Occasion, when they formerly over-ran SICILY, and were all massacred there at the ringing of the Bell for _Vespers_;--The sudden Introduction and _Arrangement_ of this Catastrophe, with the Expedition then threaten'd, sets the Issue of such a Conquest in a new _Light_; And very happily exhibits and _elucidates_ the Result of such vain and restless Adventures.
It may be observed, that the _quick_ Introduction and _Arrangement_ of any former Conquest of _Italy_ by the _French_, with the Expedition then threaten'd, would have exhibited WIT; whatever the Issue had been of such former Conquest; But in this Instance, there sits couched under the WIT, a very _severe Rebuke_ upon the _French_ Monarch.
_Alexander_ the VIth was very busily questioning the Ambassador of _Venice_, Of whom his Masters held their Customs and Prerogatives of the Sea? To which the Ambassador readily answer'd; _If your_ HOLINESS _will only please to examine your Charter of St._ PETER's _Patrimony, you will find upon the Back of it, the Grant made to the_ VENETIANS _of the_ ADRIATIC.
The Authority of the _Grant_ to the _Venetians_ is in this Instance the _original_ Subject, which is thus suddenly _elucidated_ to the _Pope_, by _arranging_, and connecting it with the holy _Charter_ of St. _Peter_'s Patrimony; There is a peculiar Happiness in the Address of this Answer to the _Pope_, as he was obliged to receive it as a satisfactory Account of the Truth of the _Grant_, and a clear _Elucidation_ of its sacred Authority.
In this Instance, besides the WIT which shines forth, the _Pope_ is severely expos'd to your _Raillery_, from the Scrape into which he has brought the _Charter_ of St. _Peter's_ Patrimony, by his Attack of the _Ambassador_; The _fictitious_ Existence of both the _Charter_ and _Grant_ being sarcastically pointed out, under this respectable Air of _Authenticity_.
Upon the Restoration Mr. _Waller_ presented a congratulatory Copy of Verses to King _Charles_; His Majesty, after reading them, said,-- _Mr_. Waller, _these are very good, but not so fine as you made upon the_ PROTECTOR.--To which Mr. _Waller_ return'd,--_Your Majesty will please to recollect, that we Poets always write best upon_ FICTIONS.
The _original_ Subject in this Instance is _the superior Excellence of Mr_. WALLER's _Verses upon_ Cromwell; This he most happily excuses, by starting at once, and _arranging_ along with them, the Remark, that _Poets have always excell'd upon Fiction_; whereby he unexpectedly exhibits his _more excellent_ Verses to _Cromwell_, as a plain _Elucidation_ of the _fictitious_ Glory of the Protector; And intimates at the same time, that the _Inferiority_ of his present Performance was a natural _Illustration_ of his Majesty's _real_ Glory;--Never was a deep Reproach averted by a more happy Reply; which comprehends both the highest Compliment to his Majesty, and a very firm poetical Excuse of the different Performances.
_Leonidas_ the _Spartan_ General, when he advanced near the _Persian_ Army, was told by one of his own Captains, that _their Enemies were so numerous, it was impossible to see the Sun for the Multitude of their Arrows_; To which he gallantly reply'd, _We shall then have the Pleasure of fighting in the Shade_.
The vast Cope of _Persian_ Arrows is here the _original_ Subject; which instead of being observed by _Leonidas_ with Terror, presents to his Fancy the pleasant Idea of a cool _Canopy_. There is an _Agreement_ and Affinity between the two Objects, in regard to the _Shelter from the Sun_, which is at once obvious, and _unexpected_; And the Cloud of the Enemies Arrows is thus gaily _elucidated_, by the _Arrangement_ and Comparison of it with so desirable an Object as _shady Covering_.
This Saying of the _Spartan_ General has been handed through many Ages to the present Time; But the chief Part of the Pleasure it gives us, results not so much from the WIT it contains, as from the _Gallantry_, and _chearful Spirit_, discover'd in Danger, by _Leonidas_.
An Instance of WIT in the _Opposition_, I remember to have read somewhere in the _Spectators_; where Sir _Roger de Coverley_ intimating the Splendor which the perverse Widow should have appear'd in, if she had commenced Lady _Coverley_, says:
_That he would have given her a_ Coalpit _to have kept her in_ clean Linnen: _And that her Finger should have_ sparkled _with one hundred of his richest_ Acres.
The joint Introduction of these _opposite_ Objects, as a _Coalpit_ with _clean Linnen_, and _dirty Acres_ with the _Lustre_ of a _Jewel_, is _just_ in this Instance, as they really produce each other in their Consequences; The _natural Opposition_ between them, which is strongly _elucidated_ by their _Arrangement_ together, and at the same time their _unexpected Connexion_ in their Consequences, strike us with a _Surprize_, which exhibits the _Brilliancy_ and _Sparkling_ of WIT.
There is also in this Instance, besides the WIT, a Spirit of _Generosity_, and _Magnificence_, discover'd by Sir _Roger_, from the known Value of a _Coalpit_, and of so many rich _Acres_.
This Kind of WIT, resulting from the sudden _Arrangement_ together of two _opposite_ Objects, is rarer, than that which is obtained from two _similar_ Objects; It abounds with a high _Surprize_, and _Brilliancy_; and also strongly _elucidates_ the _original_ Object, from the _Contrast_ presented between _this_, and the _auxiliary_ one; In the same manner as _White_ is more clearly set _off_, by being arranged with _Black_.
It may be proper to observe, that WIT, besides being struck out by _just_, and _direct_ Introductions of _auxiliary_ Subjects, is also sometimes obtain'd by _Transitions_ from one Subject to another, by the Help of an _equivocal Word_; which like a _Bridge_, with two Roads meeting at the End of it, leads to two different Places. _Transitions_, thus made from the right Course, have indeed the Pretence of being _natural_; but they ought always to lead us to something _brilliant_ or poignant, in order to justify their _Deviation_; and not to end only at a ridiculous PUN, void of all Spirit and Poignancy.
The WIT, in such Instances, results, as in all others, from the quick _Arrangement_ together of two Subjects; But that, which was first intended for the _original_ one, is dropped; And a new _original_ Subject is started, through the _double Meaning_ of a Word, and suddenly _enlighten'd_.
To give a _trite_ Instance of this kind of WIT.
A PEER coming out of the House of Lords, and wanting his Servant, called out, _Where's my Fellow?_ To which another PEER, who stood by him, returned, _Faith, my Lord, not in_ England.
A Transition is here unexpededly made from the Sense intended in the Question to another Point, through the double Meaning of the word _Fellow_; it being obvious, that his Lordship's _Servant_ is the Sense of the Word in the Question; and what Person is _like_ to his Lordship, the Construction put upon it in the Answer: Thus a new _original_ Subject is started, and being suddenly _arranged_ with all that appear _similar_ to it, is _enlighten'd_ thereby, being found to have no _equal_ in _England_.
However, though WIT may be _thus_ struck out, and also appears in the _Contrast_ with great _Brilliancy_, yet the highest and most perfect Instances of it result from the sudden and _direct Arrangement_ together of two Objects, which hold a perspicuous and splendid _Agreement_ with each other; It is then adorn'd with the Charms of _Propriety_, _Clearness_ and _Illustration_; It dispels the Darkness around an Object, and presents it diftinctly and perfectly to our View; chearing us with its _Lustre_, and at the same time informing us with its _Light_.
Thus, a Gentleman was observing, that _there was_ somewhat _extremely pleasing in an excellent_ Understanding, _when it appeared in a beautiful_ Person; To which another returned, _It is like a fine_ Jewel _well set_; You are here pleased with the Happiness, Propriety, and Splendor of this _new_ Object, which finely _elucidates_ the original Sentiment;--In short, it is the Excellence of WIT, _to present the_ first Image _again to your mind, with new unexpected_ Clearness _and_ Advantage.
It is also proper to add, that there may be WIT in a _Picture_, _Landscape_, or in any _Prospect_, where a gay unexpected _Assemblage_ of _similar_, or _opposite_ Objects, is presented.
JUDGMENT, is the Faculty of discerning the various _Dimensions_, and _Differences_, of Subjects.
INVENTION is the Faculty of finding out new _Assortments_, and _Combinations_, of _Ideas_.
HUMOUR is any _whimsical Oddity_ or _Foible_, appearing in the _Temper_ or _Conduct_ of a _Person_ in _real Life_.
This _whimsical Oddity_ of Conduct, which generally arises from the strange _Cast_, or _Turn_ of Mind of a _queer_ Person, may also result from _accidental_ Mistakes and Embarrassments between other Persons; who being misled by a wrong Information and Suspicion in regard to a Circumstance, shall act towards each other upon this Occasion, in the same _odd whimsical_ manner, as _queer_ Persons.
If a _Person_ in real Life, discovers any odd and remarkable _Features_ of Temper or Conduct, I call such a Person in the _Book_ of _Mankind_, a _Character_. So that the chief Subjects of HUMOUR are Persons in real Life, who are _Characters_.
It is easy to be perceived, that HUMOUR, and WIT are extremely different.
HUMOUR appears only in the _Foibles_ and _whimsical Conduct_ of _Persons_ in real Life; WIT appears in _Comparisons_, either between _Persons_ in real Life, or between _other Subjects_.
HUMOUR is the _whimsical Oddity_, or _Foible_, which fairly appears in its Subject, of itself; whereas WIT, is the _Lustre_ which is thrown upon _one_ Subject, by the _sudden Introduction_ of another Subject.
To constitute HUMOUR, there need be no more than _one_ Object concern'd, and this must be always some _Person_ in _real Life_;-- whereas to produce WIT, there must be always _two_ Objects _arranged_ together, and either or both of these may be _inanimate_.
However, though HUMOUR and WIT are thus absolutely different in themselves, yet we frequently see them blended together.
Thus if any _Foible_ of a _Character_ in real Life is _directly_ attacked, by pointing out the unexpected and ridiculous _Affinity_ it bears to some _inanimate_ Circumstances, this Foible is then ridiculed with WIT, from the _Comparison_ which is made.--At the same time, as the _whimsical Oddity_ of a _Character_ in real Life is the _Ground_ of the whole, there is also _Humour_ contain'd in the Attack.
If instead of referring the _Foible_ of a Person to any _inanimate_ Circumstance, the _Allusion_ had been made to any other ridiculous _Person_ in _real Life_; As a _conceited Fellow_, perpetually recommending his own Whims, to a _Quack-Doctor_;--This _Foible_ will then be ridiculed with HUMOUR; which is likewise the original _Ground_: At the same Time, from the _Comparison_ which is made, there is apparently WIT in the Description.
So that where-ever the _Foible_ of a _Character_ in real Life is concern'd, there HUMOUR comes in; and wherever a sprightly unexpected _Arrangement_ is presented of two _similar_, or _opposite_ Subjects, whether animate or inanimate, there WIT is exhibited.
HUMOUR and WIT, as they may thus both be united in the same Subject, may also separately appear without the least Mixture together; that is, there may be HUMOUR without WIT, and WIT without HUMOUR.
Thus, if in order to expose the _Foible_ of a _Character_, a _real Person_ is introduc'd, abounding in this _Foible_, gravely persisting in it, and valuing himself upon the Merit of it, with great Self- sufficiency, and Disdain of others; this _Foible_ is then solely ridiculed with HUMOUR.
Again, if a gay unexpected _Allusion_ is made from one _inanimate_ Object to another, or from one _Person_ in _real_ Life to another, without any Reference to their whimsical _Oddities_ or _Foibles_; there WIT only appears.--Various Instances of which, independent of HUMOUR, have been already exhibited.
A _Man_ of WIT is he, who is happy in _elucidating_ any Subject, _by a just and unexpected Arrangement_ and _Comparison_ of it with another Subject.
It may be also proper to describe a _Man_ of HUMOUR, and an HUMOURIST, which are very different Persons.
A _Man_ of HUMOUR is one, who can happily exhibit a weak and ridiculous _Character_ in real Life, either by assuming it himself, or representing another in it, so naturally, that the _whimsical Oddities,_ and _Foibles,_ of that _Character,_ shall be palpably expos'd.
Whereas an HUMOURIST is a _Person_ in real Life, obstinately attached to sensible peculiar _Oddities_ of his own genuine Growth, which appear in his Temper and Conduct.
In short, a _Man_ of _Humour_ is one, who can happily exhibit and expose the Oddities and Foibles of an _Humourist_, or of other _Characters_.
The _Features_ of an HUMOURIST being very remarkable and singular, seem justly to deserve an explicit Description. It is then to be observ'd, that an _Humourist_, at the same time that he is guided in his Manners and Actions by his own genuine original Fancy and Temper, disdains all _Ostentation_; excepting that alone of his _Freedom_ and _Independency_, which he is forward of shewing upon every Occasion, without Ceremony; he is quite superior to the _Affectation_ of a Virtue or Accomplishment, which he thinks does not belong to him; scorns all _Imitation_ of others; and contemns the rest of the World for being servilely obedient to Forms and Customs; disclaiming all such Submission himself, and regulating his Conduct in general by his own _Conviction_,
The _Humourist_ is forward upon many Occasions to deliver his Opinion, in a peremptory Manner, and before he is desir'd; but he gives it sincerely, unbiass'd by _Fear_ or _Regard_, and then leaves it to the Persons concern'd to determine for themselves; For he is more pleas'd in the Bottom to find his Opinion _slighted_, and to see the Conduct of others agreeable to that System of Folly and Weakness, which he has established with himself, to be the Course of their Actions.--To view a rational Conduct, even in pursuance of his own Advice, would greatly disappoint him; and be a Contradiction to this _System_ he has laid down;--Besides it would deprive him of an Occasion of gratifying his Spleen, with the Contempt of that Folly, which he esteems to be natural to the rest of Mankind; For he considers himself in the World, like a _sober_ Person in the Company of Men, who are _drunken_ or _mad_; He may advise them to be calm, and to avoid hurting themselves, but he does not expect they will regard his Advice; On the contrary, he is more pleas'd with observing their _Freaks_ and _Extravagancies_.--It is from hence that he discourages and depreciates all who pretend to _Discretion_; Persons of this Temper not yielding him Sport or Diversion.
It is certain that the _Humourist_ is excessively _proud_, and yet without knowing or suspecting it. For from the Liberty which he frankly allows to others, of rejecting his Opinion, he is fully persuaded, that he is free from all _Pride_; But tho' he acts in this Circumstance without over-bearing, it has already appear'd, not to be the Effect of his _Humility_, but of a different Motive; a Pleasure which he takes in observing the Extravagancies of others, rather than their Discretion. But to demonstrate his _Pride_, besides the peremptory Manner in which he delivers his Opinion, and conducts himself upon every Occasion, without any Deference to others, there is this Circumstance against him; that he is the most stung by a Defeat, upon any Topic, of all Men living; And although he disregards Accusations of Roughness and Oddity, and rather esteems them to be meritorious; yet he will never admit, that he has been fairly overthrown in a Debate.
It is odd to observe how the _Humourist_ is affected by _contemptuous_ Treatment. An Insult of this Sort, which justly excites the _Resentment_ of others, _terrifies_ him: It sets him upon _suspecting_ himself, and upon doubting whether he be really that Person of superior Sense to the rest of the World, which he has long fancied. The Apprehension, that he actually deserves the Contempt which is put upon him, and that he is no more than one of the common Herd, almost distracts him; And instead of violently depreciating, or attacking again, the Person who has contemn'd him, he will incessantly court his Favour and good Opinion, as a Cordial he wants, though without seeming to do so. This is a very extraordinary Weakness, and such as the _Humourist_ would be infinitely uneasy to find ever observ'd.
The _Humourist_, though he quickly espies, and contemns the _Contradictions_ of others, is yet wilfully attach'd to several himself, which he will sometimes persue through a long Course of his own Mortification.--It may be often observ'd, that he will avoid the Company he likes, for fear they should think he needs their Support.-- At the same time, if he happens to fall into Company, which he tallies not with, instead of avoiding this Company, he will continually haunt them: For he is anxious, lest any Imputation of a Defeat should stand out against him, and extremely sollicitous to wipe it away; Besides, he cannot endure it should be thought that he is driven from the Pit. --Thus, in the first Instance, his _Pride_ shall persuade him to neglect the Company he likes; and shall force him, in the last, to follow the Company he hates and despises.
It is also observable that the _Humourist_, though he makes it his Point to regulate his Conduct only by his own Conviction, will sometimes run counter to it, merely from his Disdain of all _Imitation_. Thus he will persist in a wrong Course, which he knows to be such, and refuse his Compliance with an Amendment offer'd by others, rather than endure the Appearance of being an _Imitator_. This is a _narrow_ Side of the _Humourist_; and whenever he is turn'd upon it, he feels great Uneasiness himself. It strikes a durable Pain into his Breast, like the constant gnawing of a Worm; and is one considerable Source of that Stream of Peevishnesss incident to _Humourists_.
Upon the same Principle of scorning all _Imitation_, the _Humourist_ seldom heartily assents to any speculative Opinion, which is deliver'd by another; for he is above being inform'd or set right in his Judgment by any Person, even by a Brother _Humourist_. If two of this _Cast_ happen to meet, instead of uniting together, they are afraid of each other; and you shall observe _one_, in order to court the good Opinion of the _other_, produce a Specimen of his own Perfection as an _Humourist_; by exhibiting some unusual Strain of _sensible Oddity_, or by unexpectedly biting a poor _Insipid_; which the other _Humourist_ shall answer again in the same manner, in order to display _his_ Talents.
These are the _Foibles_ and _narrow_ Whims of a perfect _Humourist_. But, on the other hand, he stands upon a very enlarged Basis; Is a Lover of Reason and Liberty; and scorns to flatter or betray; nor will he falsify his Principles, to court the Favour of the Great. He is not credulous, or fond of Religious or Philosophical Creeds or Creed- makers; But then he never offers himself to forge Articles of Faith for the rest of the World. Abounding in poignant and just Reflections; The Guardian of Freedom, and Scourge of such as do wrong. It is _He_ checks the Frauds, and curbs the Usurpations of every Profession. The venal Biass of the assuming Judge, the cruel Pride of the starch'd Priest, the empty Froth of the florid Counsellor, the false Importance of the formal Man of Business, the specious Jargon of the grave Physician, and the creeping Taste of the trifling Connoisseur, are all bare to his Eye, and feel the Lash of his Censure; It is _He_ that watches the daring Strides, and secret Mines of the ambitious Prince, and desperate Minister: _He_ gives the Alarm, and prevents their Mischief. Others there are who have Sense and Foresight; but _they_ are brib'd by Hopes or Fears, or bound by softer Ties; It is _He_ only, the _Humourist_, that has the Courage and Honesty to cry out, unmov'd by personal Resentment: He flourishes only in a Land of _Freedom_, and when _that_ ceases he dies too, the last and noblest _Weed_ of the Soil of _Liberty_.
It is a palpable _Absurdity_ to suppose a Person an _Humourist_, without excellent Sense and Abilities; as much as to suppose a _Smith_ in his full Business, without his _Hammers_ or _Forge_.--But the _Humourist_, as he advances in Years, is apt to grow intolerable to himself and the World; becoming at length, uneasy, and fatigued with the constant View of the same Follies; like a Person who is tir'd with seeing the same Tragi-Comedy continually acted. This sowres his Temper; And unless some favorable Incidents happen to mellow him, he resigns himself wholly to Peevishness.--By which Time he perceives that the World is quite tir'd of _him_.--After which he drags on the Remainder of his Life, in a State of _War_ with the rest of Mankind.
The _Humourist_ is constitutionally, and also from Reflection, a Man of _Sincerity_.--If he is a _Rogue_ upon any Occasion, he is more wilfully one, and puts greater Violence upon himself in being such, than the rest of the World; And though he may generally seem to have little _Benevolence_, which is the common Objection against him, it is only for want of proper Objects; for no Person has certainly a quicker _Feeling_; And there are Instances frequent, of greater Generosity and humane Warmth flowing from an _Humourist_, than are capable of proceeding from a weak _Insipid_, who labours under a continual Flux of Civility.
Upon the whole, the _Humourist_ is perhaps the least of all others, a _despicable_ Character. But Imitations, which are frequently seen of this Character, are excessively despicable.--What can be more ridiculous, than a Wretch setting up for an _Humourist_, merely upon the Strength of disrelishing every Thing, without any Principle;--The Servants, Drawers, Victuals, Weather,--and growling without Poignancy of Sense, at every new Circumstance which appears, in public or private. A perfect and compleat _Humourist_ is rarely to be found; and when you hear his _Voice_, is a different Creature.--In writing to _Englishmen_, who are generally tinged, deeply or slightly, with the _Dye_ of the _Humourist_, it seem'd not improper to insist the longer upon this Character; However, let none be too fond of it; For though an _Humourist_ with his Roughness is greatly to be preferr'd to a smooth _Insipid_, yet the Extremes of both are equally wretched: _Ideots_ being only the lowest Scale of _Insipids_, as _Madmen_ are no other than _Humourists_ in Excess.
It may be proper to observe in this place, that though all _Ostentation_, _Affectation_, and _Imitation_ are excluded from the Composition of a perfect _Humourist_; yet as they are the obvious _Foibles_ of some Persons in Life, they may justly be made the Subject of _Humour_.
For HUMOUR extensively and fully understood, is _any remarkable_ Oddity _or_ Foible _belonging to a_ Person _in_ real Life; _whether this_ Foible _be constitutional, habitual_, or _only affected; whether partial in one or two Circumstances; or tinging the whole Temper and Conduct of the_ Person.
It has from hence been observ'd, that there is more HUMOUR in the _English_ Comedies than in others; as we have more various odd _Characters_ in real Life, than any other Nation, or perhaps than all other Nations together.
That HUMOUR gives more Delight, and leaves a more pleasurable Impression behind it, than WIT, is universally felt and established; Though the Reasons for this have not yet been assign'd.--I shall therefore beg Leave to submit the following.
1. HUMOUR is more _interesting_ than WIT in general, as the _Oddities_ and _Foibles_ of _Persons_ in _real Life_ are more apt to affect our Passions, than any Oppositions or Relations between _inanimate_ Objects.
2. HUMOUR is _Nature_, or what really appears in the Subject, without any Embellishments; WIT only a Stroke of _Art_, where the original Subject, being insufficient of itself, is garnished and deck'd with auxiliary Objects.
3. HUMOUR, or the Foible of a _Character_ in real Life, is usually insisted upon for some Length of Time. From whence, and from the common Knowledge of the Character, it is universally felt and understood.--Whereas the Strokes of WIT are like sudden _Flashes_, vanishing in an Instant, and usually flying too fast to be sufficiently marked and pursued by the Audience.
4. HUMOUR, if the Representation of it be just, is compleat and perfect in its Kind, and entirely fair and unstrain'd.--Whereas in the Allusions of WIT, the Affinity is generally imperfect and defective in one Part or other; and even in those Points where the Affinity may be allow'd to subsist, some Nicety and Strain is usually requir'd to make it appear.
5. HUMOUR generally appears in such Foibles, as each of the Company thinks himself superior to.--Whereas WIT shews the Quickness and Abilities of the Person who discovers it, and places him superior to the rest of the Company.
6. Humour, in the Representation of the _Foibles_ of _Persons_ in _real Life_, frequently exhibits very _generous benevolent_ Sentiments of the Heart; And these, tho' exerted in a particular odd Manner, justly command our Fondness and Love.--Whereas in the Allusions of WIT, _Severity_, _Bitterness_, and _Satire_, are frequently exhibited.--And where these are avoided, not worthy amiable Sentiments of the _Heart_, but quick unexpected Efforts of the _Fancy_, are presented.
7. The odd Adventures, and Embarrassments, which _Persons_ in _real Life_ are drawn into by their _Foibles_, are fit Subjects of _Mirth_. --Whereas in pure WIT, the Allusions are rather _surprizing_, than _mirthful_; and the _Agreements_ or _Contrasts_ which are started between Objects, without any relation to the _Foibles_ of _Persons_ in real Life, are more fit to be _admired_ for their _Happiness_ and _Propriety_, than to excite our _Laughter_.--Besides, WIT, in the frequent Repetition of it, tires the Imagination with its precipitate Sallies and Flights; and teizes the Judgment.--Whereas HUMOUR, in the Representation of it, puts no Fatigue upon the _Imagination_, and gives exquisite Pleasure to the _Judgment_.
These seem to me to be the different Powers and Effects of HUMOUR and WIT. However, the most agreeable Representations or Competitions of all others, appear not where they _separately_ exist, but where they are _united_ together in the same Fabric; where HUMOUR is the _Ground- work_ and chief Substance, and WIT happily spread, _quickens_ the whole with Embellishments.
This is the Excellency of the _Character_ of Sir _John Falstaff_; the _Ground-work_ is _Humour_, the Representation and Detection of a bragging and vaunting _Coward_ in _real Life_; However, this alone would only have expos'd the _Knight_, as a meer _Noll Bluff_, to the Derision of the Company; And after they had once been gratify'd with his Chastisement, he would have sunk into Infamy, and become quite odious and intolerable: But here the inimitable _Wit_ of Sir _John_ comes in to his Support, and gives a new _Rise_ and _Lustre_ to his Character; For the sake of his _Wit_ you forgive his _Cowardice_; or rather, are fond of his _Cowardice_ for the Occasions it gives to his _Wit_. In short, the _Humour_ furnishes a Subject and Spur to the _Wit_, and the _Wit_ again supports and embellishes the _Humour_.
At the _first_ Entrance of the _Knight_, your good Humour and Tendency to _Mirth_ are irresistibly excited by his jolly Appearance and Corpulency; you feel and acknowledge him, to be the fittest Subject imaginable for yielding _Diversion_ and _Merriment_; but when you see him immediately set up for _Enterprize_ and _Activity_, with his evident _Weight_ and _Unweildiness_, your Attention is all call'd forth, and you are eager to watch him to the End of his Adventures; Your Imagination pointing out with a full Scope his future Embarrassments. All the while as you accompany him forwards, he _heightens_ your Relish for his future Disasters, by his happy Opinion of his own Sufficiency, and the gay Vaunts which he makes of his Talents and Accomplishments; so that at last when he falls into a Scrape, your Expectation is exquisitely gratify'd, and you have the full Pleasure of seeing all his trumpeted Honour laid in the Dust. When in the midst of his Misfortunes, instead of being utterly demolish'd and sunk, he rises again by the superior Force of his _Wit_, and begins a _new_ Course with fresh Spirit and Alacrity; This excites you the more to _renew_ the Chace, in full View of his _second_ Defeat; out of which he recovers again, and triumphs with new Pretensions and Boastings. After this he immediately starts upon a _third_ Race, and so on; continually detected and caught, and yet constantly extricating himself by his inimitable _Wit_ and _Invention_; thus yielding a perpetual _Round_ of Sport and Diversion.
Again, the genteel _Quality_ of Sir _John_ is of great Use in supporting his Character; It prevents his _sinking_ too low after several of his Misfortunes; Besides, you allow him, in consequence of his _Rank_ and _Seniority_, the Privilege to dictate, and take the Lead, and to rebuke others upon many Occasions; By this he is sav'd from appearing too _nauseous_ and _impudent_. The good _Sense_ which he possesses comes also to his Aid, and saves him from being _despicable_, by forcing your Esteem for his real Abilities.--Again, the _Privilege_ you allow him of rebuking and checking others, when he assumes it with proper Firmness and Superiority, helps to _settle_ anew, and _compose_ his Character after an Embarrassment; And reduces in some measure the _Spirit_ of the Company to a proper _Level_, before he sets out again upon a fresh Adventure;--without this, they would be kept continually _strain'd_, and _wound up_ to the highest Pitch, without sufficient Relief and Diversity.
It may also deserve to be remark'd of _Falstaff_, that the _Figure_ of his _Person_ is admirably suited to the _Turn_ of his _Mind_; so that there arises before you a perpetual _Allusion_ from one to the other, which forms an incessant Series of _Wit_, whether they are in _Contrast_ or _Agreement_ together.--When he pretends to _Activity_, there is _Wit_ in the _Contrast_ between his _Mind_ and his _Person_, --And _Wit_ in their _Agreement_, when he triumphs in _Jollity_.
To compleat the whole,--you have in this Character of _Falstaff_, not only a free Course of _Humour_, supported and embellish'd with admirable _Wit_; but this _Humour_ is of a Species the most _jovial_ and _gay_ in all Nature.--Sir _Jobn Falstaff_ possesses Generosity, Chearfulness, Alacrity, Invention, Frolic and Fancy superior to all other Men;--The _Figure_ of his _Person_ is the Picture of Jollity, Mirth, and Good-nature, and banishes at once all other Ideas from your Breast; He is happy himself, and makes you happy.--If you examine him further, he has no Fierceness, Reserve, Malice or Peevishness lurking in his Heart; His Intentions are all pointed at innocent Riot and Merriment; Nor has the Knight any inveterate Design, except against _Sack_, and that too he _loves_.--If, besides this, he desires to pass for a Man of _Activity_ and _Valour_, you can easily excuse so harmless a _Foible_, which yields you the highest Pleasure in its constant _Detection_.
If you put all these together, it is impossible to _hate_ honest _Jack Falstaff_; If you observe them again, it is impossible to avoid _loving_ him; He is the gay, the witty, the frolicksome, happy, and fat _Jack Falstaff_, the most delightful _Swaggerer_ in all Nature.-- You must _love_ him for your _own_ sake,--At the same time you cannot but _love_ him for _his own_ Talents; And when you have _enjoy'd_ them, you cannot but _love_ him in _Gratitude_;--He has nothing to disgust you, and every thing to give you Joy;--His _Sense_ and his _Foibles_ are equally directed to advance your Pleasure; And it is impossible to be tired or unhappy in his Company.
This _jovial_ and _gay_ Humour, without any thing _envious_, _malicious_, _mischievous_, or _despicable_, and continually _quicken'd_ and adorn'd with _Wit_, yields that peculiar Delight, without any _Alloy_, which we all feel and acknowledge in _Falstaff's_ Company.--_Ben Johnson_ has _Humour_ in his _Characters_, drawn with the most masterly Skill and Judgment; In Accuracy, Depth, Propriety, and Truth, he has no _Superior_ or _Equal_ amongst _Ancients_ or _Moderns_; But the _Characters_ he exhibits are of _satirical_, and _deceitful_, or of a _peevish_ or _despicable_ Species; as _Volpone_, _Subtle_, _Morose_, and _Abel Drugger_; In all of which there is something very justly to be _hated_ or _despised_; And you feel the same Sentiments of _Dislike_ for every other _Character_ of _Johnson_'s; so that after you have been _gratify'd_ with their _Detention_ and _Punishment_, you are quite tired and disgusted with their Company:--Whereas _Shakespear_, besides the peculiar _Gaiety_ in the _Humour_ of _Falstaff_, has guarded him from disgusting you with his _forward Advances_, by giving him _Rank_ and _Quality_; from being _despicable_ by his real good _Sense_ and excellent _Abilities_; from being _odious_ by his _harmless Plots_ and _Designs_; and from being _tiresome_ by his inimitable Wit, and his new and incessant _Sallies_ of highest _Fancy_ and _Frolick_.
This discovers the _Secret_ of carrying COMEDY to the highest Pitch of Delight; Which lies in drawing the Persons exhibited, with such chearful and amiable _Oddities_ and _Foibles_, as you would chuse in your own _Companions_ in _real Life; --otherwise, tho' you may be diverted at first with the _Novelty_ of a Character, and with a proper _Detection_ and _Ridicule_ of it, yet its _Peevishness_, _Meanness_, or _Immorality_, will begin to disgust you after a little Reflection, and become soon _tiresome_ and _odious_; It being certain, that whoever cannot be endured as an _accidental_ Companion in _real Life_, will never become, for the very same Reasons, a _favorite comic Character_ in the Theatre.
This _Relish_ for _generous_ and _worthy_ Characters alone, which we all feel upon the _Theatre_, where no Biass of Envy, Malice, or personal Resentment draws us aside, seems to be some Evidence of our _natural_ and _genuin_ Disposition to _Probity_ and _Virtue_; tho' the Minds of most Persons being early and deeply _tinged_ with vicious Passions, it is no wonder that _Stains_ have been generally mistaken for _original Colours_.
It may be added, that _Humour_ is the most exquisite and delightful, when the _Oddities_ and _Foibles_ introduc'd are not _mischievous_ or _sneaking_, but _free_, _jocund_, and _liberal_; and such as result from a generous Flow of Spirits, and a warm universal _Benevolence_.
It is obviously from hence, that the _Character_ of Sir _Roger_ de _Coverly_ in the _Spectators_ is so extremely agreeable. His _Foibles_ are all derived from some amiable Cause.--If he believes that _one Englishman_ can conquer _two Frenchmen_, you laugh at his _Foible_, and are fond of a _Weakness_ in the Knight, which proceeds from his high Esteem of his _own Country-men_.--If he chuses you should employ a _Waterman_ or _Porter_ with _one_ Leg, you readily excuse the Inconvenience he puts you to, for his worthy regard to the Suffering of a brave _Soldier_.--In short, though he is guilty of continual Absurdities, and has little Understanding or real Abilities, you cannot but _love_ and _esteem_ him, for his _Honour_, _Hospitality_, and universal _Benevolence_.
It is indeed true, that his _Dignity_, _Age_, and _Rank_ in his Country, are of constant Service in _upholding_ his Character. These are a perpetual _Guard_ to the Knight, and preserve him from _Contempt_ upon many Occasions.--All which corresponds entirely with the fore-going _Remark_. For you would be fond of Sir _Roger's_ Acquaintaince and Company in _real Life_, as he is a Gentleman of _Quality_ and _Virtue_; You love and admire him in the _Spectators_ for the _same_ Reasons; And for these also he would become, if he was rightly exhibited, a _favorite_ Character in the _Theatre_.
It may be proper to observe in this Place, that the _Business_ of COMEDY is to exhibit the whimsical _unmischievous Oddities_, _Frolics,_ and _Foibles_ of _Persons_ in _real Life_; And also to _expose_ and _ridicule_ their _real Follies_, _Meanness_, and _Vices_. The _former_, it appears, is more pleasurable to the Audience, but the _latter_ has the Merit of being more instructive.
The _Business_ of TRAGEDY is to exhibit the _Instability_ of _human_ Grandeur, and the unexpected _Misfortunes_ and _Distresses_ incident to the _Innocent_ and _Worthy_ in all Stations.--And also to shew the terrible Sallies and the miserable Issue and Punishment of ungovern'd Passions and Wickedness.--The _former_ softens the Heart and fills it with Compassion, Humility and Benevolence.--Compositions of this Sort are the highest, most admirable, and useful in all Nature, when they are finish'd with Propriety and Delicacy, and justly wrought up with the Sublime and Simplicity.--The _latter_ Species of _Tragedy_ terrifies and shocks us, in exhibiting both the Crimes and the Punishments. It threatens us into Moderation and Justice, by shewing the terrible Issue of their Contraries. Pieces of this Sort, conducted with Propriety, and carrying Application to ourselves, can scarcely be desireable; But as they are generally conducted, they amount only to giving us an absurd Representation of a Murther committed by some furious foaming _Basha_, or _Sultan_.
To return.--_Johnson_ in his COMIC Scenes has expos'd and ridicul'd _Folly_ and _Vice_; _Shakespear_ has usher'd in _Joy_, _Frolic_ and _Happiness_.--The _Alchymist_, _Volpone_ and _Silent Woman_ of _Johnson_, are most exquisite _Satires_. The _comic_ Entertainments of _Shakespear_ are the highest Compositions of _Raillery_, _Wit_ and _Humour_. _Johnson_ conveys some Lesson in every Character. _Shakespear_ some new Species of Foible and Oddity. The one pointed his Satire with masterly Skill; the other was inimitable in touching the Strings of Delight. With _Johnson_ you are confin'd and instructed, with _Shakespear_ unbent and dissolv'd in Joy. _Johnson_ excellently concerts his Plots, and all his Characters unite in the one Design. _Shakespear_ is superior to such Aid or Restraint; His Characters continually sallying from one independent Scene to another, and charming you in each with fresh Wit and Humour.
It may be further remark'd, that _Johnson_ by pursuing the most useful Intention of _Comedy_, is in Justice oblig'd to _hunt down_ and _demolish_ his own Characters. Upon this Plan he must necessarily expose them to your _Hatred_, and of course can never bring out an amiable Person. His _Subtle_, and _Face_ are detected at last, and become mean and despicable. Sir _Epicure Mammon_ is properly trick'd, and goes off ridiculous and detestable. The _Puritan Elders_ suffer for their Lust of Money, and are quite nauseous and abominable; And his _Morose_ meets with a severe Punishment, after having sufficiently tir'd you with his Peevishness.--But _Shakespear_, with happier Insight, always supports his Characters in your _Favour_. His Justice _Shallow_ withdraws before he is tedious; The _French_ Doctor, and _Welch_ Parson, go off in full Vigour and Spirit; Ancient _Pistoll_ indeed is scurvily treated; however, he keeps up his Spirits, and continues to threaten so well, that you are still desirous of his Company; and it is impossible to be tir'd or dull with the gay unfading Evergreen _Falstaff_.
But in remarking upon the Characters of _Johnson_, it would be unjust to pass _Abel Drugger_ without notice; This is a little, mean, sneaking, sordid Citizen, hearkening to a Couple of Sharpers, who promise to make him rich; they can scarcely prevail upon him to resign the least Tittle he possesses, though he is assur'd, it is in order to get more; and your Diversion arises, from seeing him _wrung_ between _Greediness_ to _get_ Money, and _Reluctance_ to _part_ with any for that Purpose. His Covetousness continually prompts him to follow the Conjurer, and puts him at the same Time upon endeavouring to stop his Fees. All the while he is excellently managed, and spirited on by _Face_. However, this Character upon the whole is _mean_ and _despicable_, without any of that free spirituous jocund Humour abounding in _Shakespear_. But having been strangely exhibited upon the Theatre, a few Years ago, with odd Grimaces and extravagant Gestures, it has been raised into more Attention than it justly deserved; It is however to be acknowledg'd, that _Abel_ has no Hatred, Malice or Immorality, nor any assuming Arrogance, Pertness or Peevishness; And his eager Desire of getting and saving Money, by Methods he thinks lawful, are excusable in a Person of his Business; He is therefore not odious or detestable, but harmless and inoffensive in private Life; and from thence, correspondent with the Rule already laid down, he is the most capable of any of _Johnson_'s Characters, of being a Favourite on the Theatre.
It appears, that in Imagination, Invention, Jollity and gay Humour, _Johnson_ had little Power; But _Shakespear_ unlimited Dominion. The first was cautious and strict, not daring to sally beyond the Bounds of Regularity. The other bold and impetuous, rejoicing like a Giant to run his Course, through all the Mountains and Wilds of Nature and Fancy.
It requires an almost painful Attention to mark the Propriety and Accuracy of _Johnson_, and your Satisfaction arises from Reflection and Comparison; But the Fire and Invention of _Shakespear_ in an Instant are shot into your Soul, and enlighten and chear the most indolent Mind with their own Spirit and Lustre.--Upon the whole, _Johnson_'s Compositions are like finished Cabinets, where every Part is wrought up with the most excellent Skill and Exactness;-- _Shakespear_'s like magnificent Castles, not perfectly finished or regular, but adorn'd with such bold and magnificent Designs, as at once delight and astonish you with their Beauty and Grandeur.
RAILLERY is a genteel poignant Attack of a _Person_ upon any _slight Foibles_, _Oddities_, or _Embarrassments_ of his, in which he is tender, or may be supposed to be tender, and unwilling to come to a free Explanation.
SATIRE is a witty and severe Attack of _mischievous Habits_ or _Vices_;
RIDICULE is a free _Attack_ of any _Motly Composition_, wherein a real or affected _Excellence_ and _Defect_ both jointly appear, _glaring_ together, and _mocking_ each other, in the same _Subject_.
Hence the Aim of _Raillery_, is to please you, by some little _Embarrassment_ of a _Person_; Of _Satire_, to scourge _Vice_, and to deliver it up to your just _Detestation_; And of _Ridicule_, to set an Object in a mean ludicrous Light, so as to expose it to your _Derision_ and _Contempt_.
It appears therefore that _Raillery_ and _Ridicule_ differ in several Circumstances.
1. _Raillery_ can only be employ'd in relation to _Persons_, but _Ridicule_ may be employ'd in what relates either to _Persons_, or other _Objects_.
2. _Raillery_ is us'd only upon _slight_ Subjects, where no real Abilities or Merit are questioned, in order to avoid degrading the Person you attack, or rendering him contemptible; Whereas _Ridicule_ observes no such Decency, but endeavours really to degrade the Person attack'd, and to render him contemptible.
3. _Raillery_ may be pointed at a whimsical Circumstance, only because a Person is known to be tender upon it; and your Pleasure will arise from the _Embarrassment_ he suffers, in being put to an Explanation;-- Thus a young Gentleman may be _rallied_ upon his Passion for a Lady;-- At the same Time there may be no Ground for _Ridicule_ in this Circumstance, as it may no way deserve your _Derision_ or _Contempt_.
4. As it thus appears that there are Subjects of _Raillery_, into which _Ridicule_ cannot justly be admitted; So there are Subjects of _Ridicule_, wherein your Derision and Contempt are so strongly excited, that they are too gross for _Raillery_;--As a person tossed in a Blanket; or the unfortunate Attack which another has made upon a Windmill.
5. In short, _Raillery_, if the Adventures it is turn'd upon are too _gross_ and _luscious_, becomes _Ridicule_; And therefore, in Comparison together, _Raillery_ appears like _Wine_ of a thin Body, and delicate poignant Flavour; _Ridicule_, like a _Wine_ which is fuller, and more rich, and luscious.
_Quixote_ is a Character, wherein _Humour_ and _Ridicule_ are finely interwoven;--It is not a Subject of _Satire_, as the Knight is free from all Badness of Heart, and Immorality; Nor properly of _Raillery_, his Adventures in general being too _gross_ and _disastrous_;-- The _Humour_ appears, in the Representation of a Person in real Life, fancying himself to be, under the most solemn Obligations to attempt _hardy_ Atchievements; and upon this Whimsy immediately pursuing the most romantic Adventures, with great Gravity, Importance, and Self- sufficiency; To heighten your Mirth, the _hardy_ Atchievements to be accomplish'd by this Hero, are wittily contrasted by his own meagre weak Figure, and the _desperate Unfierceness_ of his Steed _Rozinante_;--The _Ridicule_ appears in the strange Absurdity of the Attempts, upon which the Knight chuses to exercise his Prowess; Its Poignancy is highly quicken'd, and consequently the Pleasure it gives you, by his miserable Disasters, and the doleful Mortifications of all his Importance and Dignity;--But here, after the Knight, by diverting you in this manner, has brought himself down to the lowest Mark, he rises again and forces your Esteem, by his excellent Sense, Learning and Judgment, upon any Subjects which are not ally'd to his Errantry; These continually act for the Advancement of his Character; And with such Supports and Abilities he always obtains your ready Attention, and never becomes heavy or tedious.
To these you are to add the perfect _good Breeding_ and _Civility_ of the Knight upon every Occasion; which are some Kind of Merit in his Favour, and entitle him to Respect, by the Rules of common Gentility and Decency; At the same time his Courage, his Honour, Generosity, and Humanity, are conspicuous in every Act and Attempt; The _Foibles_ which he possesses, besides giving you exquisite Pleasure, are wholly inspir'd by these worthy Principles; Nor is there any thing base, or detestable, in all his Temper or Conduct; It was from hence that the DUKE and the DUTCHESS were extremely delighted with his Visit at their _Castle_; And you yourself, if he existed in real Life, would be fond of his Company at your own Table; which proves him, upon the whole, to be an amiable Character;--It is therefore no wonder that Signior _Don Quixote of la Mancha_ has been so courteously receiv'd in every Country of _Europe_.
Thus delightfully wrought, as this History is, with _Humour_ and _Ridicule_, yet _Cervantes_, still fearful of tiring you with too much of the _Errantry_, has introduc'd the most charming Variety of other Adventures; --All along in the pacific Intervals, you are inform'd of the private Occurrences between the Knight and his 'Squire; And from these, where it is least to be expected, you are surpriz'd with the most high and delicious Repast;-- Nothing can be more pregnant with Mirth, than the Opposition continually working between the grave Solemnity and Dignity of _Quixote_, and the arch Ribaldry and Meanness of _Sancho_; And the Contrast can never be sufficiently admir'd, between the _excellent fine Sense_ of the ONE, and the _dangerous common Sense_ of the OTHER.
It is here that the Genius and Power of _Cervantes_ is most admirably shewn; He was the greatest Master that ever appear'd, in finely opposing, and contrasting his Characters. It is from hence that you feel a Poignancy and Relish in his Writings, which is not to be met with in any others; The natural Reflexions and Debates of _Quixote_ and _Sancho_ would have been barren, insipid, and trite, under other Management; But _Cervantes_, by his excellent Skill in the _Contrast_, has from these drawn a Regale, which for high, quick, racy Flavour, and Spirit, has yet never been equall'd.
It may here be enquir'd, What Species of Composition or Character is the most pleasurable, and mirthful, in all Nature?--In _Falstaff_, you have _Humour_ embelish'd with _Wit_; In _Quixote_, _Humour_ made poignant with _Ridicule_; And it is certain that _Humour_ must always be the Ground-work of such Subjects, no Oddities in inanimate Objects being capable of interesting our Passions so strongly, as the Foibles of Persons in real Life;--The chief Substance of _Johnson_'s Compositions is _Humour_ and _Satire_; upon which Plan, as hath been already observ'd, he is oblig'd to demolish, and render detestable, his own Characters;--_Humour_ and _Raillery_ are also capable of furnishing a Repast of quick Relish and Flavour; In written Compositions, the Attack of the _Raillery_, as well as the Reception of it, may be happily conducted, which in other accidental Encounters are liable to Hazard; All Peevishness or Offence is thus easily avoided, and the Character attack'd is sav'd from being really contemptible;--But then indeed the Pleasure you are to receive generally depends upon the Confusion of the Person attack'd, without there being in reason a sufficient Cause for this Confusion;--It is for want of this just Foundation, that the Pleasure arising from _Raillery_ is apt to come forth with less Freedom, Fulness, and Conviction, though with more Delicacy, than that which is derived from _Wit_, or _Ridicule_;--However, _Humour_ and _Raillery_ united together, when the _Raillery_ is founded upon some _real_ Embarrassment in the Circumstance, as well as in the Confusion of the Person attack'd, will furnish a very high Entertainment; which has Pretensions to rival either _Humour_ and _Wit_, or _Humour_ and _Ridicule_.
To give an Instance of _Humour_ and _Raillery_, I shall insert _Horace_'s famous Description of his Embarrassment with an impertinent Fellow. This indeed is entitl'd, in almost all the Editions of _Horace_, a _Satire_, but very improperly, as the Subject is not _Vice_ or _Immorality_;
Ibam fortè viâ sacrâ, sicut meus est mos, Nescio quid meditans nugarum, at totus in illis: Accurrit quidam notus mihi nomine tantum; Arreptâque manu, Quid agis, dulcissime rerum? Suaviter, ut nunc est, inquam: & cupio omnia quæ vis. Cum affectaretur, Num quid vis? occupo. At ille, Nôris nos, inquit; docti sumus. Hìc ego: Pluris Hoc, inquam, mihi eris. Miserè discedere quærens, Ire modò ocyùs, interdum consistere: in aurem Dicere nescio quid puero: cùm sudor ad imos Manaret talos. O te, Bollane, cerebri Felicem: aiebam tacitus! Cùm quidlibet ille Garriret, vicos, urbem laudaret; ut illi Nil respondebam: Miserè cupis, inquit abire. Jamdudum video: sed nil agis: usque tenebo: Persequar: hinc quò nunc iter est tibi? Nil opus est te Circumagi: quemdam volo visere, non tibi notum: Trans Tiberim longè cubat is, propè Cæsaris hortos. Nil habeo quod agam, & non sum piger: usque sequar te, Demitto auriculas ut iniquæ mentis asellus, Cùm gravius dorso subiit onus. Incipit ille: Si benè me novi, non Viscum pluris amicum, Non Varium facies; nam quis me scribere plures Aut citiùs possit versus? quis membra movere Mollius? invideat quod & Hermogenes, ego canto. Interpellandi locus hic erat: Est tibi mater, Cognati, queis te salvo est opus? Haud mihi quisquam: Omnes composui. Felices! nunc ego resto: Confice: namque instat fatum mihi triste, Sabella Quòd puero cecinit divinâ mota anus urnâ, Hunc neque dira venena, nec hosticus auferret ensis, Nec laterum dolor, aut tussis, nec tarda podagra; Garrulus hunc quando consumet cumque loquaces. Si sapiat, vitet, simul atque adoleverit ætas. Ventum erat ad Vestæ, quartâ jam parte diei Præteritâ; & casu tunc respondere vadato Debebat: quòd ni fecisset, perdere litem. Si me amas, inquit, paulùm hîc ades. Inteream, si Aut valeo stare, aut novi civilia jura: Et propero quò scis. Dubius sum quid faciam, inquit; Tenè relinquam, an rem. Me, sodes. Non faciam, ille; Et præcedere coepit. Ego, ut contendere durum est Cum victore, sequor. Mecænas quomodo tecum? Hinc repetit. Paucorum hominum, & mentis benè sanæ. Nemo dexteriùs fortuna est usus. Haberes Magnum adjutorem, posset qui ferre secundas, Hunc hominem velles si tradere: dispeream, ni Summôsses omnes. Non isto vivimus illic Quò tu rere modo, domus hac nec purior ulla est, Nec magis his aliena malis: nil mî officit unquam, Ditior hic, aut est quia doctior: est locus uni Cuique suus. Magnum narras, vix credibile. Atqui Sic habet. Accendis, quare cupiam magis illi Proximus esse. Veils tantummodò: quæ tua virtus, Expugnabis; & est qui vinci possit: eoque Difficiles aditus primos habet. Haud mihi deero, Muneribus servos corrumpam: non, hodie si Exclusus fuero, desistam: tempera quæram: Occurram in triviis: deducam. Nil sine magno Vita labore dedit mortalibus. Hæc dum agit, ecce Fuscus Aristius occurrit mihi carus, & illum Qui pulchrè nôsset. Consistimus. Unde venis? & Quo tendis? rogat, & respondet. Vellere coepi, Et prensare manu lentissima brachia, nutans, Distorquens oculos, ut me eriperet. Malè salsus Ridens dissimulare: mecum jecur urere bilis. Certè nescio quid secretò velle loqui te Aiebas mecum. Memini benè; sed meliori Tempora dicam: hodie tricesima sabbata, vin'tu Curtis Judæis oppedere? Nulla mihi, inquam, Religio est. At mî, sum paulo infirmior; unus Multorum ignosces; aliàs loquar. Hunccine solem Tam nigrum surrexe mihi: Fugit improbus, ac me Sub cultro linquit. Casu venit obvius illi Adversarius; &, Quò tu turpissime! magnâ Inclamat voce; &, Licet antestari? Ego verò Oppono auriculam; rapit in jus. Clamor utrinque Undique concursus. Sic me servavit _Apollo_.
[Transcriber's Note: See end of _Essay_ for translation information.]
The Intention of _Horace_ in this Piece, is to expose an _impertinent_ Fellow, and to give a ludicrous Detail of his own _Embarrassment_; Your Pleasure arises from the View which he gives you of his own Mortification, whereby he lays himself fairly open to your _Raillery_; This is the more poignant, and quick, from the real Distress which you see he endur'd, in this odd Attack; At the same Time the particular Turn of the Fellow, who chose in this Manner to pin himself upon another, is a very odd Species of impertinent _Humour_.--This Piece, as it stands, irresistibly forces your Mirth, and shakes you with Laughter; But to a Person of Discernment, it is chiefly at _Horace_'s Expence; Who in receiving and enduring such insolent Treatment, appears in a Light too low and ridiculous, though he has thought fit himself to exhibit the Scene again for the Diversion of the Public;
The Misere, cupis, ---- abire, Jamdudum video, sed nil agis, usque tenebo, Persequar;--
was an absolute Insult; And very unfit to be related by the Person who suffer'd it, as a Matter of Merriment;--Besides this Tameness of _Horace_, the Impudence of the Fellow is excessively nauseous and disgusting at the Bottom, though the whole carries a Froth of _Raillery_ and _Humour_ upon the Surface.
The Truth is, that this Piece, as it stands, would have properly proceeded from another Person, who had intended to expose the Impertinence and Impudence of the Fellow, and freely to _rally_ poor _Horace_, with some Mixture of _Ridicule_, upon his unfortunate Embarrassment; upon this Basis it will appear with Propriety; Without which all Compositions of _Wit_, or _Humour_, or _Taste_, tho' at first they may pleasurably strike the Fancy or Sight, are at last disgusting to the Judgment.
Having here occasionally offer'd some Remarks upon this Composition, as it now stands, it may be proper to point out the Manner in which the _Humour_ and _Raillery_ of such an Embarrassment, might have been carried to the highest Pitch; And the Description of it have been given by _Horace_ himself, without any Diminution of his own Gentility or Importance;--Imagine then that he had been join'd in his Walk by a weak, ignorant Person, of Good-nature, and the utmost Civility; one who fancy'd himself possessed of the greatest Talents, and fully persuaded that he gave all he convers'd with a particular Pleasure;-- Upon such an Attack, no Resentment or Anger could have been decently shewn by _Horace_, As the Person thus pestering him, was all the while intending the highest Compliment; And must therefore be received, and attended to, with perfect Complaisance; The _Humour_ of this Person would have been very entertaining, in the strange Conceit which he held of his own Abilities, and of the paticular Pleasure he was granting to _Horace_, in condescending to give him so much of his Company; In these Sentiments he should regard all _Horace_'s Excuses, Endeavours, and Struggles to be gone, as Expressions of his Sense of the Honour done him; which should be an Argument with this Person for obstinately persisting to honour him still further; All the while he must be supported by some _real Importance_ belonging to him, attended with _good Breeding_, and strengthened by such occasional Instances of _Sense_, as may secure him from being trampled upon, or becoming absolutely contemptible; In such an Adventure the Mortification, and Distress of _Horace_, would be excessively whimsical and severe; especially as he would be depriv'd of all Succour and Relief; being in Decency oblig'd, not only to suppress all Anger or Uneasiness, but, what is exquisitely quick, to receive this whole Treatment with the utmost Complacency; An _Embarrassment_ of this sort, finely described, would have yielded the greatest Pleasure to the Reader, and carried the _Raillery_ upon _Horace_, without hurting or degrading him, to the highest Degree of _Poignancy_; And from hence may be conceiv'd, what delightful Entertainments are capable of being drawn from _Humour_ and _Raillery_.
It is also easy to apprehend, that the several Subjects of _Wit_, _Humour_, _Raillery_, _Satire_, and _Ridicule_, appear not only _singly_ upon many Occasions, or _two_ of them combined together, but are also frequently united in other Combinations, which are more _complicate_; An Instance of the Union together of _Humour_, _Raillery_, and _Ridicule_, I remember to have read somewhere in _Voiture_'s Letters; He is in _Spain_, and upon the Point of proceeding from thence to some other Place in an _English_ Vessel; After he has written this Account of himself to a Lady at _Paris_, he proceeds in his Letter to this Purpose;
"You may perhaps apprehend, that I shall be in some Danger this Voyage, of falling into the Hands of a _Barbary_ Corsair; But to relieve you from all such Fears, I shall beg Leave to tell you, what my honest Captain has inform'd me himself, for my own Satisfaction; He suspected, it seems, that I might have some Uneasiness upon this Head; and has therefore privately assured me, that I have no need to be afraid of being taken with him; for that whenever it is likely to come to this, he will infallibly blow up the Ship with his own Hands;--After this, I presume, you will be perfectly easy, that I am in no Danger of going to _Sallee_;"
This is exquisitely _rich_; The brave and odd Fancy of the _English_ Captain, in finding out for himself, and _privately_ communicating to _Voiture_, this Method of Security from Slavery, abounds with the highest _Humour_; At the same time the honest Tar, as a _Projecter_, is excessively open to _Ridicule_, for his Scheme to blow them all up, in order to prevent their being taken Prisoners; There is besides these, a very full _Raillery_, which _Voiture_ here opens upon _himself_; For as this Adventure, which he is going to be engaged in, has been attended, as yet, with no Mischief; nor is certain to be so, the whole is to be consider'd, at present, as only a slight Scrape; especially as he exhibits it in this manner himself, and invites you to make it the Object of your Pleasure, and _Raillery_;--It may also be observ'd, that the _Humour_ in this Subject, which flows from the _Captain_, is adorn'd with a very peculiar, and pleasing _Propriety_; As it is not barely a _Whim_, or the Result of an _odd Sourness_ or _queer Pride_, but the Effect of his _Courage_, and of that Freedom from all Terror at Death, which is perfectly amiable in his Character.
There are other Combinations of _Wit_, _Humour_, _Raillery_, _Satire_, and _Ridicule_, where _four_ of them, or all _five_, are united in one Subject;--Like various _Notes_ in _Music_, sounding together, and jointly composing one exquisite Piece of Harmony;--Or like different _Rays_ of _Light_, shining together in one _Rainbow_: It is pleasant to _divide_ these _Combinations_, and to view as with a _Prism_, the different Rays united in each; of which _Humour_, like the _Red_, is eminent for its superior Force and Excellence;--When the Judgment is thus capable of parting, and easily assigning the several Quantities, and Proportions of each, it heightens our Pleasure, and gives us an absolute Command over the Subject; But they are often so intimately mix'd, and blended together, that it is difficult to separate them clearly, tho' they are all certainly felt in the same Piece;--Like the different _Flavours_ of rich _Fruits_, which are inseparably mix'd, yet all perfectly tasted, in one _Pine-Apple_.
_Raillery_, and _Satire_, are extremely different;
1. _Raillery_, is a genteel poignant Attack of _slight_ Foibles and Oddities; _Satire_ a witty and severe Attack of _mischievous_ Habits and Vices.
2. The _Intention_ of _Raillery_, is to procure your _Pleasure_, by exposing the little Embarrassment of a Person; But the _Intention_ of _Satire_, is to raise your _Detestation_, by exposing the real Deformity of his Vices.
3. If in _Raillery_ the Sting be given too deep and severe, it will sink into Malice and Rudeness, And your Pleasure will not be justifiable; But _Satire_, the more deep and severe the Sting of it is, will be the more excellent; Its Intention being entirely to root out and destroy the Vice.
4. It is a just Maxim upon these Subjects, that in _Raillery_ a good-natur'd Esteem ought always to appear, without any Resentment or Bitterness; In _Satire_ a generous free Indignation, without any sneaking Fear or Tenderness; It being a sort of partaking in the Guilt to keep any Terms with Vices.
It is from hence that _Juvenal_, as a _Satirist_, is greatly superior to _Horace_; But indeed many of the short Compositions of _Horace_, which are indiscriminately ranged together, under the general Name of _Satires_, are not properly such, but Pieces of _Raillery_ or _Ridicule_.
As _Raillery_, in order to be decent, can only be exercised upon _slight_ Misfortunes and Foibles, attended with no deep Mischief, nor with any Reproach upon real Merit, so it ought only to be used between _Equals_ and _Intimates_; It being evidently a Liberty too great to be taken by an _Inferior_; and too inequitable to be taken by a _Superior_, as his Rank shields him from any Return.
_Raillery_ is the most agreeable, when it is founded on a _slight_ Embarrassment or Foible, which upon being unfolded, appears to have arisen from the _real Merit_, or from the _Excess_ of any _Virtue_, in the Person attack'd.
But yet this Embarrassment must always be _real_, and attended with the Chagrin or Confusion of the _rally'd_ Person, or capable of being fairly suppos'd to have been so; otherwise the Attack will be void of all Poignancy, and Pleasure to the Company; And evaporate either into _indirect Flattery_, or else into the _Insipid_.
Thus, to attack a _fine Lady_ upon the Enemies she has made, by the mischievous Effects of her Beauty, will be properly genteel indirect _Flattery_--if it be well conducted,--otherwise, the _Insipid_; But it cannot be deem'd _Raillery_; It being impossible to suppose the Lady _really_ chagrin'd by such an imaginary Misfortune, or uneasy at any Explanation upon this Subject;
_Raillery_ ought soon to be ended; For by long keeping the Person attack'd, even in a _slight_ Pain, and continuing to dwell upon his Mis-adventures, you become rude and ill-natur'd;--Or if the _Raillery_ be only turn'd upon an Embarrassment, arising from the Excess of Merit or Abilities, Yet if it be long confined upon the same Subject, the Person it is pointed at, will either suspect that your Aim is, to leave some _Impression_ against him, or else that you are designing him a tedious dark _Compliment_; And accordingly he will either regard you with Hatred or Contempt;--Much less should a Person, who introduces himself as a Subject of _Raillery_, insist long upon it; For either he will be offensive in engrossing all Attention to himself; or if the Company are pleas'd, it must be by his Buffoonery.
The Difference between _Satire_, and _Ridicule_, has been already pointed out;--_Satire_ being always concerned with the _Vices_ of _Persons_;--Whereas _Ridicule_ is justly employ'd, not upon the _Vices_, but the _Foibles_ or _Meannesses_ of _Persons_, And also upon the _Improprieties_ of other Subjects; And is directed, not to raise your _Detestation_, but your _Derision_ and _Contempt_;--It being evident that _Immoralities_ and _Vice_ are too _detestable_ for _Ridicule_, and are therefore properly the Subject of _Satire_; Whereas _Foibles_ and _Meannesses_ are too _harmless_ for _Satire_, and deserve only to be treated with _Ridicule_.
The usual Artillery of _Ridicule_ is _Wit_; whereby the _Affinity_ or _Coincidence_ of any Object with others, which are absurd and contemptible, is unexpectedly exhibited;--There is also another, very forcible, Manner in which _Ridicule_ may act; And that is by employing _Humour_ alone; Thus the Foible or Queerness of any Person will be most fully _ridicul'd_, by naturally dressing yourself, or any other Person in that Foible, and exerting its full Strength and Vigour.
The POLITENESS of a Subject is the _Freedom_ of that Subject from all _Indelicacy_, Aukardness_, and _Roughness_.
GOOD BREEDING consists in a _respectful_ Carriage to others, accompany'd with _Ease_ and _Politeness_.
It appears from hence that GOOD BREEDING and POLITENESS differ in this; that GOOD BREEDING relates only to the Manners of _Persons_ in their Commerce together; Whereas Politeness may relate also to _Books_, as well as to _Persons_, or to any Subjects of Taste and Ornament.
So that _Politeness_ may subsist in a Subject, as in a _Cornish_, or _Architrave_, where _good Breeding_ can't enter; But it is impossible for _good Breeding_ to be offer'd without _Politeness_.
At the same time _good Breeding_ is not to be understood, as merely the _Politeness_ of _Persons_; But as _Respect_, tender'd with _Politeness_, in the Commerce between _Persons_.
It is easy to perceive, that _good Breeding_ is a different Behaviour in different Countries, and in the same Countries at different Periods, according to the Manners which are us'd amongst _polite_ Persons of those Places and Seasons.
In _England_ the chief Point of it _formerly_ was plac'd, in carrying a _Respect_ in our Manners to all we convers'd with; whence every Omission of the slightest Ceremony, as it might be construed into a want of _Respect_, was particularly to be avoided; So that _good Breeding_ became then a precise Observance and Exercise of all the Motions and Ceremonies, expressive of Respect, which might justly be paid to every Person; --This, as it is easy to imagine, requir'd much Nicety in the Adjustment upon many Occasions, and created immense Trouble and Constraint, and most ridiculous Embarrassments.
However, these Modes of _good Breeding_ were not to be abolished, as it was impossible to dispense with the _Respect_ annex'd to them, without some further Pretence than of their _Inconvenience_ only; which no Person could decently urge, or admit in his own behalf, when it was his Province to pay any Ceremonies to another; In this Difficulty it was at last happily observ'd, for the Advantage of genteel Commerce and Society, that _whatever gives Trouble, is inconsistent with Respect_; Upon which Foundation, all Ceremonies which create Embarrassments or Trouble to either Side, are now justly exploded; And the _Ease_ of each other is the Point most peculiarly consulted by _well-bred_ Persons.
If this Attention to _Ease_ was properly conducted, so that it might always appear to have _Respect_ for its Motive; And only to act in Obedience to _that_, as the ruling Principle, it would then comprehend the just Plan of _good Breeding_; But as _this_ was formerly encumber'd with Ceremonies and Embarrassments, so the modern _good Breeding_ perhaps deviates too far into Negligence and Disregard; --A Fault more unpardonable than the former; As an Inconvenience, evidently proceeding from the _Respect_ which is paid to us, may be easily excus'd; But a Freedom, which carries the Air of _Neglect_ with it, gives a lasting Offence.
BEAUTY is the delightful _Effect_ which arises from the _joint Order_, _Proportion_, and _Harmony_ of all the Parts of an _Object_. And to have a good TASTE, is to have a just _Relish_ of BEAUTY.
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Translations of Horace _Satire_ I.9 are available from Project Gutenberg as e-text 5419 (verse translation, plain text) or 14020 (prose translation, text or html).]
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An / Essay / Towards Fixing the / True Standards / of / Wit, Humour, Raillery, / Satire, and Ridicule. / To which is Added, an / Analysis / Of the Characters of / An Humourist, Sir John Falstaff, Sir Roger / De Coverly, and Don Quixote. / Inscribed, to the Right Honorable / Robert Earl of Orford. / [rule] / By the Author of a / Letter from a By- Stander. / [rule] /--Jacta est Alea. / [double rule] / London: / Printed for J. Roberts, at the Oxford-Arms, in War- / wick-lane; and W. Bickerton, In the Temple-Ex- / change, near the Inner-Temple-Gate, Fleet-street. / M DCC XLIV. [Price 2 s.] /
Collation: A, a-c, in fours; d in two; a-d, in fours; B-K in fours; L in two. A, title; verso blank; A^2-d, dedication; d^2 erratum and advertisements; a-d^4, Introduction; B-L^2, text.
The first edition. A second edition was published in 1758.
Colton Storm Clements Library
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