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as distinct from each other-qualities which gratify are not called by the name of Beauty,” and when we say that the humour consists of an emotion awakened by an exercise of judgment, we do not pretend to determine how far the emotion has been modified by judgment, and judgment directed by emotion.
We cannot properly suppose that there is anything really wrong in external objects brought before us, and did we recognise that everything moves in a regular pre-ordained course, we should be obliged to consider 'everything right, and conclude that the error we observe is imaginary, and flows from our own false standard. We do so with regard to the so-called works of Nature, and, therefore, we never laugh at a rock or a tree—no matter how strange its form. But in the general circumstances brought before us the reign of law is not so clear, especially when they depend on the actions of men, which we feel able to pronounce judgment upon, and condemn when opposed to our ideal. In humorous representations we are actually beholding what is false; in ludicrous we think we are, though we cannot avoid at times detecting some infirmity in our own discernment. Thus, in the case of a child's puzzle, a person unable to solve it sometimes exclaims,“ How dull I am! I ought
Voltaire and Dryden.
to be able to do it," and people occasionally find fault with their senses, as we sometimes see them laughing when dazzled by rapidly revolving colours. Such instances may suggest to us that the fault we find really originates in our own obtuseness.
But before proceeding, we must allow that philosophers and literary men are divided in opinion as to the existence of any feeling of wrong in the ludicrous. Voltaire, tilting against the windmills which the old animosity school had set up, observes, “When I was eleven years old, I read all alone for the first time the ' Amphitryon' of Molière, and I laughed until I was on the point of falling down. Was this from hostility ? - one is not hostile when alone !” This will not seem to most of us more conclusive reasoning than that of his opponents. We seldom laugh when alone, although we often feel angry.
Dryden says “Wit is a propriety of words and thoughts adapted to the subject,” and Pope gives us a similar opinion in the following words— “True wit is nature to advantage dressed,
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed,
'Taking this view of the subject, we should be inclined to think the Psalms of David
especially witty, and to agree with the pretentious young lady who, being asked what she thought of Euclid, replied at a hazard that “ It was the wittiest book she had ever read.” But it seems probable from other passages in Pope's works that he did not here intend to give a fuil definition, but only some characteristics. Moreover, in former times, Wit was not properly distinguished from Wisdom, and the above authors probably used the word in the old sense. Young says, “Well-judging wit is a flower of wisdom,” to which we may reply in the words of an old proverb, “Wit and Wisdom, like the seven stars, are seldom found together.”
Brown, in his lectures on “The Human Understanding,” observes that in the ludicrous we do not condemn, but admire, and he cites as an illustration the case of some friends dining at an hotel. Boniface smilingly inquires what wine they would like to drink. One says Champagne, another Claret, another Burgundy, but the last one observes knowingly that he should like that best for which he should not have to pay. Now in this there is certainly a fault, for the answer is not applicable to the question. Brown's theory is that the ludicrous arises from the contemplation of incongruities, and he finds himself somewhat puzzled when he considers that the incongruities in science
Brown and Jean Paul.
in chemistry, for instance-do not make us laugh. He is at some trouble to explain that the importance of the subject renders us serious. But had he recognised the fact that the ludicrous implies condemnation, he would have seen that we could not be amused at incongruities in science, because we have a strong conviction that they are not real but only apparent. Some very ignorant persons, as he observes, do occasionally laugh at philosophic truths. I knew a lady who laughed at being told of the great distance of the planets, and a gentleman assured me that a friend of his, a man who had such shrewdness that he rose from the lowest ranks and acquired £100,000, would never believe that the earth was round!
Jean Paul, taking the same admiration view, observes that “women laugh more than men, and the haughty Turk not at all.” But are not these facts referable to comparative excitability and apathy, and also to the multiplicity and variety of female ideas compared with the dulness of the Moslem's apprehension. Jean Paul proceeds to say that the more people laugh at our joke, the better we are pleased, and that this does not seem as though the enjoyment came from a feeling of triumph. But what is really laughed at is the humour, and not the humorist, and as
a man wishes the beauty of a poem he has written to be generally aɔknowledged, so he desires to see the point of his satire appreciated by as many as possible.
A fruitful source of error in the investigation of humour arises from the difficulty in determining where it lies—of localizing it, if I may be allowed the expression. We hear a very amusing observation, and at once join heartily in the laugh, but cannot say whether we are laughing at a circumstance or a person, at a representation or a reality.
We come now to the most important authority on this side of the question. The systems which the German philosophers have propounded are more serviceable to themselves than edifying to the ordinary reader. High abstractions afford but a very vague and indefinite idea to the mind, nor can their application be fully understood but by those who have ascended the successive stages by which each philosopher has himself mounted. On the present subject, their opinions seem to have been influenced by their views on other subjects. As we have already observed, Kant and several of the leading German idealists are in favour of considering the ludicrous as a “ resolution” or a “deliverance of the absolute, captive by the finite,” an opinion which reminds us of