Графични страници
PDF файл

all the polite nations of Europe. Being thus qualified, I intend, by the advice of my friends, to set up for an ogling-master. 1 teach the church ogle in the morning, and the playhouse ogle by candle-light. I have also brought over with me a new flying ogle fit for the ring, which I teach in the dusk of the evening, or in any hour of the day by darkening one of my windows. I have a manuscript by me called The complete Ogler, which I shall be ready to shew you upon any occasion. In the mean time, I beg you will publish the substance of this letter in an advertisement, and you will very much oblige,

“ "Your's, &c."


No. 47. TUESDAY, APRIL 24.

Ride si sapis


Laugh if you're wise.1

MR. HOBBS, in his discourse of human nature, which, in my humble opinion, is much the best of all his works, after some very curious observations upon laughter, concludes thus: 'The passion of laughter is nothing else but sudden glory arising from some sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves by comparison with the infirmity of others, or with our own formerly: for men laugh at the follies of themselves past, when they come suddenly to remembrance, except they bring with them any present dishonour.

According to this author, therefore, when we hear a man laugh excessively, instead of saying he is very merry, we ought to tell him he is very proud. And indeed, if we look into the bottom of

1 See Dennis's original letters, p. 147.-C.


this matter, we shall meet with many observa.ions to con in this opinion. Every one laughs at some body that i inferior state of folly to himself. It was formerly the cus every great house in England to keep a tame fool dressed ticoats, that the heir of the family might have an opportu joking upon him, and diverting himself with his absurdities the same reason idiots are still in request in most of the co Germany, where there is not a prince of any great magni who has not two or three dressed, distinguished, undispute in his retinue, whom the rest of the courtiers are always br their jests upon.

The Dutch, who are more famous for their industry a plication, than for wit and humour, hang up in several of streets what they call the sign of the Gaper; that is, the h an idiot dressed in a cap and bells, and gaping in a most derate manner: this is a standing jest at Amsterdam.

Thus every one diverts himself with some person or that is below him in point of understanding, and triumphs superiority of his genius, whilst he has such objects of de before his eyes. Mr. Dennis has very well expressed thi couple of humourous lines, which are part of a translation satire in Monsieur Boileau.

Mr. Hobbs's reflection gives us the reason why the insigni Deople above mentioned are stirrers up of laughter among

[ocr errors]

of ma

of a gross taste but as the more understanding part do not find their risibility affected by such ordinary objed may be worth the while to examine into the several provoca of laughter in men of superior sense and knowledge.

In the first place I must observe, that there is a set of

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]


drolls, whom the common people of all countries admire, and se to love so well that they could eat them, according to the proverb; I mean those circumforaneous wits whom every nati calls by the name of that dish of meat which it loves best. Holland they are termed Pickled Herrings; in France, Je Pottages; in Italy, Maccaronies; and in Great Britain, Ja Puddings. These merry wags, from whatsoever food they ceive their titles, that they may make their audiences laugh ways appear in a fool's coat, and commit such blunders and m takes in every step they take, and every word they utter, as the who listen to them would be ashamed of.

But this little triumph of the understanding, under the d guise of laughter, is no where more visible than in that cust which prevails every where among us on the first day of t present month, when every body takes it in his head to make many fools as he can. In proportion as there are more foll discovered, so there is more laughter raised on this day than any other in the whole year. A neighbour of mine, who is haberdasher by trade, and a very shallow conceited fellow, mal his boasts, that, for these ten years successively, he has not ma less than an hundred April fools. My landlady had a falling o with him about a fortnight ago, for sending every one of h children upon some 'sleeveless errand,' as she terms it. H eldest son went to buy an halfpenny worth of inkle at a sho maker's; the eldest daughter was dispatched half a mile to sec monster; and, in short, the whole family of innocent childr made April fools. Nay, my landlady herself did not escape hi This empty fellow has laughed upon these conceits ever since.

This art of wit is well enough, when confined to one day a twelvemonth; but there is an ingenious tribe of men spru up of late years, who are for making April fools every day in t year. These gentlemen are commonly distinguished by the nam


of Biters, a race of men that are perpetually employed in ing at those mistakes which are of their own production.

Thus we see, in proportion as one man is more refin another, he chuses his fool out of a lower or higher class kind; or, to speak in a more philosophical language, that elation and pride of heart which is generally called la arises in him from his comparing himself with an objec him, whether it so happens that it be a natural or an artifici It is indeed very possible, that the persons we laugh at the main of their characters, be much wiser men than our but if they would have us laugh at them, they must fall s us in those respects which stir up this passion.

I am afraid I shall appear too abstracted in my specul if I shew that when a man of wit makes us laugh, it is by ing some oddness or infirmity in his own character, or in t resentation which he makes of others; and that when we at a brute, or even at an inanimate thing, it is at some ac incident that bears a remote analogy to any blunder or abs in reasonable creatures.

But, to come into common life, I shall pass by the con tion of those stage coxcombs that are able to shake a who dience, and take notice of a particular sort of men who ar provokers of mirth in conversation, that it is impossible for or merry-meeting to subsist without them; I mean those gentlemen that are always exposed to the wit and raill

1 "A new fashioned way of being witty, and they call it a Bite must ask a bantering question or tell some damned lie in a serious n then she will answer or speak as if you were in earnest, and then c 'Madam. there's a Bite."" V. Swift's Works, vol. XIX. p. 4.-"I wo have you undervalue this," adds the stern satirist, "for it is the co amusement in court and every where else among the great people let you know it in order to have it obtain among you, and to teach new refine.nent." Rowe wrote a farce on this subject, and called 'Biter.' V. also Tatler No. 12, and Spectator 504.-G.

their well-wishers and companions; that are pelted by men, women, and children, friends, and foes; and, in a word, stand as Butts in conversation, for every one to shoot at that pleases. I know several of these Butts who are men of wit and sense, though by some odd turn of humour, some unlucky cast in their person or behaviour, they have always the misfortune to make the company merry. The truth of it is, a man is not qualified for a Butt, who has not a good deal of wit and vivacity, even in the ridiculous side of his character. A stupid Butt is only fit for the conversation of ordinary people: men of wit require one that will give them play, and bestir himself in the absurd part of his behaviour. A Butt with these accomplishments frequently gets the laugh on his side, and turns the ridicule upon him that attacks him. Sir John Falstaff was an hero of this species, and gives a good description of himself in his capacity of a Butt, after the following manner; 'Men of all sorts (says that merry knight) take a pride to gird at me. The brain of man is not able to invent any thing that tends to laughter more than I invent, or is invented on me. I am not only witty in myself, but the cause that wit is in other men.'


« ПредишнаНапред »