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* Whether the nymph shall break Diana's law,
Or some frail china jar receives a flaw;
Or stain her honour, or her new brocade ;
Forget her prayers, or miss a masquerade,
Or lose her heart, or necklace, at a ball ;

Or whether Heaven has doom'd that Shock must fall.”* This is humorous, in that it is a lively sketch of the female estimate of mischances, as our poet's commentator rightly terms it, marked out by a few striking lineaments. It is likewise witty, for, not to mention the play on words, like that remarked in the former example, a trope familiar to this author, you have here a comparison of a woman's chastity to a piece of porcelain ; her honour to a gaudy robe; her prayers to a fantastical disguise ; her heart to a trinket; and all these together to her lapdog, and that founded on one lucky circumstance (a malicious critic would perhaps discern or imagine more), by which these things, how unlike soever in other respects, may be compared, the impression they make on the mind of a fine lady.

Hudibras, so often above quoted, abounds in wit in almost all its varieties, to which the author's various erudition hath not a little contributed. And this, it must be owned, is more suitable to the nature of his poem. At the same time it is by no

means destitute of humour, as appears particularly in the different exhibitions of character given by the knight and his squire. But in no part of the story is this talent displayed to greater advantage than in the consultation of the lawyer, t to which I shall refer the reader, as the passage is too long for my transcribing. There is, perhaps, no book in any language wherein the humorous is carried to a higher pitch of perfection, than in the adventures of the celebrated knight of La Mancha. As to our English dramatists, who does not acknowledge the transcendent excellence of Shakspeare in this province, as well as in the pathetic? Of the latter comic writers, Congreve has an exuberance of wit, but Farquhar has more humour. It may, however, with too much truth, be affirmed of English comedy in general (for there are some exceptions), that, to the discredit of our stage, as well as of the national delicacy and discernment, obscenity is made too often to supply the place of wit, and ribaldry the place of humour.

Wit and humour, as above explained, commonly concur in a tendency to provoke laughter, by exhibiting a curious and unexpected affinity; the first, generally by comparison, either direct or implied, the second, by connecting in some other relation, such as causality or vicinity, objects apparently the most dissimilar and heterogeneous; which incongruous affin

* Rape of the Lock, canto 2.

+ Part iii., canto 3.

ity, we may remark by the way, gives the true meaning cf the word oddily, and is the proper object of laughter.

The difference between these and that grander kind of eloquence treated in the first part of this chapter, I shall, if possible, still farther illustrate by a few similitudes borrowed from the optical science. The latter may be conceived as a plain mirror, which faithfully reflects the object, in colour, size, and posture. Wit, on the contrary, Proteus-like, transforms itself into a variety of shapes. It is now a convex speculum, which gives a just representation in form and colour, but withal reduces the greatest objects to the most despicable littleness; now a concave speculum, which swells the smallest trifles to an enormous magnitude ; now, again, a speculum of a cylindrical, a conical, or an irregular make, which, though in colour, and even in attitude, it reflects a pretty strong resemblance, widely varies the proportions. Humour, when we consider the contrariety of its effects, contempt and laughter (which constitute what in one word is termed derision), to that sympathy and love often produced by the pathetic, mày, in respect of these, be aptly compared to a concavé mirror, when the object is placed beyond the focus ; in which case it appears, by reflection, both diminished and inverted, circumstances which happily adumbrate the contemptible and the ridiculous.

SECTION III.

OF RIDICULE.

The intention of raising a laugh is either merely to divert by that grateful titillation which it excites, or to influence the opinions and purposes of the hearers. In this, also, the risible faculty, when suitably directed, hath often proved a very potent engine. When this is the view of the speaker, as there is always an air of reasoning conveyed under that species of imagery, narration, or description, which stimulates laughter, these, thus blended, obtain the appellation of ridicule, the poignancy of which hath a similar effect, in futile subjects, to that produced by what is called the vehement in solemn and important matters.

Nor doth all the difference between these lie in the dignity of the subject. Ridicule is not only confined to questions of less moment, but is fitter for refuting error than for supporting truth ; for restraining from wrong conduct, than for inciting to the practice of what is right. Nor are these the sole restrictions ; it is not properly levelled at the false, but at the absurd in tenets; nor can the edge of ridicule strike with equal force every species of misconduct : it is not the criminal part which it attacks, but that which we denominate silly or foolish. With regard to doctrine, it is evident that

it is not falsity or mistake, but palpable error or absurdity (a thing hardly confutable by mere argument), which is the object of contempt; and, consequently, those dogmas are beyond the reach of cool reasoning which are within the rightful confines of ridicule. That they are generally conceived to be so, appears from the sense universally assigned to expressions like these, “Such a position is ridiculous. It doth not deserve a serious answer." Everybody knows that they import more than “ It is false,” being, in other words, “This is such an extravagance as is not so much a subject of argument as of laughter." And that we may discover what it is, with regard to conduct, to which ridicule is applicable, we need only consider the different departments of tragedy and of comedy. In the last it is of mighty influence ; into the first it never legally obtains admittance. Those things which principally come under its lash are awkwardness, rusticity, ignorance, cowardice, levity, foppery, pedantry, and affectation of every kind. But against murder, cruelty, parricide, ingratitude, perfidy,* to attempt to raise a laugh, would show such an unnatural insensibility in the speaker, as would be excessively disgustful to any audience. To punish such enormities, the tragic poet must take a very different route.

Now from this distinction of vices or faults into two classes, there hath sprung a parallel division in all the kinds of poesy which relate to manners. The epopee, a picturesque or graphical poem, is either heroic, or what is called mock-heroic, and by Aristotle iambic,t from the measure in which poems of this kind were at first composed. The drama, an animated poem, is either in the buskin or in the sock; for farce deserves not a place in the subdivision, being at most but a kind of dramatical apologue, whereof the characters are monstrous, the intrigue unnatural, the incidents often impossible, and which, instead of humour, has adopted a spurious bantling, called fun. To satisfy us that satire, whose end is persuasion, admits also the like distribution, we necd only recur to the different methods pursued by the two famous Latin satirists, Juvenal and Horace. The one declaims, the other derides. Accordingly, as Dryden justly observes, I vice is the quarry of the former, folly of the latter.ỹ Thus, of

* To this black catalogue an ancient pagan of Athens or of Rome would have added adultery, but the modern refinements of us Christians (if with: out profanation we can so apply the name) absolutely forbid it, as nothing in our theatre is a more common subject of laughter than this. Nor is the laugh raised against the adulterer, else we might have some plea for our morals, if none for our taste; but, to the indelible reproach of the taste, the sense, and the virtue of the nation, in his favour. How much degenerated from our worthier, though unpolished, ancestors, of whom Tacitus affirms, “Nemo illic vitia ridet; nec corrumpere et corrumpi sæculum vocatur.' De Mor. Germ., c. 19. + Poet. 4. | Origin and Progress of Satire.

The differences and relations to be found in the several forms of poetry

the three graver forms, the aim, whether avowed or latent, always is, or ought to be, the improvement of morals; of the three lighter, the refinement of manners.* But though the latter have for their peculiar object manners, in the limited and distinctive sense of that word, they may, with propriety, admit many things which directly conduce to the advancement of morals, and ought never to admit anything which hath a contrary tendency.. Virtue is of primary importance, both for the happiness of individuals, and for the well-being of society ; an external polish is at best but a secondary accomplishment, ornamental, indeed, when it adds a lustre to virtue, pernicious when it serves only to embellish profligacy, and in itself comparatively of but little consequence, either to private or to public felicity.t mentioned, may be more concisely marked by the following scheme, which brings them under the view at once:

Facetious. Fancy-Great Epic.-Little Epic.

Narrator

Serious.

Insinuation.

The object.

Passion-Tragedy.

-Comedy

Conforma. Representer

tion. Persuasion. Reasoner

Will-High Satire.

Low Satire.

* These observations will enable us to understand that of the poet :

“Ridiculum acri Fortius et melius magnas plerumque secat res." —Hor. Great and signal, it must be owned, are the effects of ridicule; but the sub ject must always appear to the

liculer, and

those affected by his pleasantry, under the notion of littleness and futility, two essential requisites in the object of contempt and risibility.

+ Whether this attention has been always given to morals, particularly in comedy, must be left to the determination of those who are most conversant in that species of scenic representations. One may, however, venture to prognosticate that, if in any period it shall become fashionable to show no regard to virtue in such entertainments; if the hero of the piece, a fine gen tleman, to be sure, adorned, as usual, with all the superficial and exterior graces which the poet can confer, and crowned with success in the end, shall be an unprincipled libertine, a man of more spirit, forsooth, than to be checked in his pursuits by the restraints of religion, by a regard to the common rights of mankind, or by the laws of hospitality and private friendship, which were accounted sacred among pagans and those whom we denomi nate barbarians; then, indeed, the stage will become merely the school of gallantry and intrigue; thither the youth of both sexes will resort, and will not resort in vain, in order to get rid of that troublesome companion, modesty, intended by Providence as a guard to virtue, and a check against licentiousness; there vice will soon learn to provide herself in a proper flock of effrontery, and a suitable address for effecting her designs, and triumphing over innocence; then, in fine, if religion, virtue, principle, equity, gratitude, and good faith, are not empty sounds, the stage will prove the greatest of nuisances, and deserve to be styled the principal corrupter of the age. Whether such an era hath ever happened in the history of the theatre, in this or any other country, or is likely to happen, I do not take upon me to decide.

Another remarkable difference, the only one which reinains to be observed, between the vehement or contentious and the derisive, consists in the manner of conducting them. As in each there is a mixture of argument, this in the former ought, in appearance at least, to have the ascendant, but not in the latter. The attack of the declaimer is direct and open; argument, therefore, is his avowed aim. On the contrary, the passions which he excites ought never to appear to the auditors as the effects of his intention and address, but both in him and them, as the native, the unavoidable consequences of the subject treated, and of that conviction which his reasoning produces in the understanding. Although, in fact, he intends to move his auditory, he only declares his purpose to convince them. To reverse this method, and profess an intention to work upon their passions, would be, in effect, to tell them that he meant to impose upon their understandings, and to bias them by his art, and, consequently, would be to warn them to be on their guard against him. Nothing is better founded than the famous aphorism of rhetoricians, that the perfection of art consists in concealing the art.* On the other hand, the assault of him who ridicules is from its very nature covert and oblique. What we profess to contemn, we scorn to confute. It is on this account that the reasoning in ridicule, if at all delicate, is always conveyed under a species of disguise. Nay, sometimes, which is more astonishing, the contempt itself seems to be dissembled, and the railer assumes an air of arguing gravely in defence of that which he actually exposeth as ridiculous. Hence, undoubtedly, it proceeds, that a serious manner commonly adds energy to a joke. The fact, however, is, that in this case the very dissimulation is dissembled. He would not have you think him in earnest, though he affects the appearance of it, knowing that otherwise his end would be frustrated. He wants that you should perceive that he is dissembling, which no real dissembler ever wanted. It is, indeed, this circumstance alone which distinguishes an ironical expression from a lie. Accordingly, through the thinness of the veil employed, he takes care that the sneer shall be discovered. You are quickly made to perceive his aim, by means of the strange arguments he produces, the absurd consequences he draws, the odd embarrassments which in his personated character he is involved in, and the still odder methods he takes to disentangle himself. In this manner doctrines and practices are treated, when exposed by a continued run of irony; a way of refutation which bears a strong analogy to that species of demonstration termed by mathematicians apagogical, as reducing the adversary to what is contradic

* Artis est celare artem.

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