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but also in result. The same idea produces different emotions in different men, and the same emotion different effects. One man will regard an event as insignificant, and will not laugh at it; another will consider it important, but still will be unable to keep his countenance, where most men would be grave. The experience of daily life teaches us that different men act very differently under the same kind of emotion. The Ancients laughed at calamities, which would call forth our commiseration, their consideration for others not being so great, nor their appreciation of suffering so acute. But in the cases of some few individuals, and of barbarous nations, we sometimes find at the present day instances of the ludicrous seasoned with considerable hostility. Flögel tells us that he knew a man in Germany who took especial delight in witnessing tortures and executions, and related the circumstances attending them with the greatest enjoyment and laughter. In “Two Years in Fiji,” we read, “ Among the appliances which I had brought with me to Fiji, from Sydney, were a stethoscope and a scarifier. Nothing was considered more witty by those in the secret than to place this apparently harmless instrument on the back of some unsuspecting native, and touch the spring. Religious Feelings.
a man II
In an instant twelve lancets would plunge into the swarthy flesh. Then would follow a longdrawn cry, scarcely audible amidst peals of laughter from the bystanders.”
It has been said that our non-appreciation of hostile humour is much owing to the suppression of feeling in conventional society, but I think that there is also an influence in civilization, which subdues and directs our emotions. A certain difference in this respect can be traced in the higher and lower classes of the population. This, and the difference in reasoning power, have led to the observation that “the last thing in which a cultivated man can have community with the vulgar is in jocularity.”
Jesting on religious subjects, has generally arisen from scepticism, deficiency in taste, or disbelief in the injurious consequences of the practice. Some consider that levity is likely to bring any subject it touches into contempt, or is only fitly used in connection with light subjects; while others regard it as merely a source of harmless pleasure, and can even laugh at a joke against themselves. In like manner some consider it inconsistent with the profession of religion to attend balls, races, or theatres, or even to wear gay-coloured clothes. Congreve has been blamed even for calling a coachman a “Jehu.” On the other hand, at the beginning
of this century, “a man of quality ” could scarcely get through a sentence without some profane expletive. Sir Walter Scott makes a highwayman lament that, although he could “swear as round an oath as any man,” he could never do it “like a gentleman.” Lord Melbourne was so accustomed to garnish his conversation in this way that Sydney Smith once said to him, “We will take it for granted that everybody is damned, and now proceed with the subject.” In former times, and even sometimes in our own day, the most eminent Christians have occasionally indulged in jest. At the time of the Reformation, a martyr comforted a fellow-sufferer, Philpot, by telling him he was a “pot filled with the most precious liquor ;” and Latimer called bad passions “ Turks,” and bade his hearers play at “Christian Cards.” “Now turn up your trumphearts are trumps.” Robert Hall, a most pious Christian, was constantly transgressing in this direction, and I have heard Mr. Moody raise a roar of laughter while preaching.
Now it is quite impossible to say that in any of the above cases there was a want of faith, although we are equally unable to agree with those who maintain that profane jests are most common when it is the strongest. What they show is a want of control of feelEffects of Civilisation.
ing, or a deficiency in taste, so that people do not regard such things as either injurious or important. A sceptic at the present day is generally less profane than a religious man was in the last century. Such is the result of civilization, although unbelief in itself inclines to profanity, and faith to reverence.
It is self-evident that peculiar feelings and convictions will prevent our regarding things as ludicrous, at which we should otherwise be highly amused. Religious veneration, or the want of it, often causes that to appear sacred to one person which seems absurd to another. Many Jewish stories seem strange to Gentile comprehensions. Elias Levi states that he had been told by many old and pious rabbis that at the costly entertainment at which the Messiah should be welcomed among the Jews, an enormous bird should be killed and roasted, of which the Talmud says that it once threw an egg out of its nest which crushed three hundred lofty cedars, and when broken, swept away sixty villages.
The following petition was signed by sixteen girls of Charleston, S.C., and presented to Governor Johnson in 1733, and was no doubt thought to set forth a serious evil.
“The humble petition of all the maids whose names are under written. Whereas we, the humble petitioners are at present in a very melancholy disposition of mind, considering bow all the bachelors are blindly captivated by widows, the consequence is this our request that your Excellency will for the future order that no widow presume to marry any young man until the maids are provided for, or else to pay each of them a fine. The great disadvantage it is to us maids, is that the widows by their forward carriages do snap up the young men, and have the vanity to think their merit beyond ours which is a just imposition on us who ought to have the preferencc. This is bumbly recommended to your Excellency's consideration, and we hope you will permit no further insults. And we poor maids in duty bound will ever pray,” &c.
It is almost impossible to limit the number of influehces, wnich affect our appreciation of the ludicrous. “ Nothing," writes Goethe, “is more significant of a man's character than what he finds laughable.” We find highly intellectual men very different in this respect. Quintilian notices the different kind of humour of Aulus Galba, Junius Bassus, Cassius Severus, and Domitius Afer, In modern times Pitt was grave; Fox, Melbourne, and Canning were witty. Sir Henry Holland enumerates as the wits of his day, Canning, Sydney Smith, Jekyll, Lord Alvanley, Lord Dudley, Hookham Frere, Luttrell, Rogers, and Theodore Hook, and he adds
“Scarcely two of the men just named were witty exactly in the same vein. In Jekyll and Hook the talent of the simple punster predominated, but in great perfection of the art, while Bishop Blomfield and Baron Alderson, whom I have often seen in friendly conflict, enriched this art by the high classical accompaniments they brought to it. The