Slike strani
PDF
ePub

being equal, is strongest in the highest order of existence: a strange insect affects us more than a strange vegetable; and a strange quadruped more than a strange insect.

However natural novelty may be, it is a matter of experience, that those who relish it the most are careful to conceal its influence. Love of novelty it is true prevails in children, in idlers, and in men of shallow understanding; and yet, after all, why should one be ashamed of indulging a natural propensity? A distinction will afford a satisfactory answer. No man is ashamed of curiosity when it is indulged in order to acquire knowledge. But to prefer any thing merely because it is new, shows a mean taste, which one ought to be ashamed of: vanity is commonly at the bottom, which leads those who are deficient in taste to prefer things odd, rare, or singular, in order to distinguish themselves from others. And in fact, that appetite, as above mentioned, reigns chiefly among persons of a mean taste, who are ignorant of refined and elegant pleasures.

244. One final cause of wonder, hinted above, is, that this emotion is intended to stimulate our curiosity. Another, somewhat different, is, to prepare the mind for receiving deep impressions of new objects. An acquaintance with the various things that may affect us, and with their properties, is essential to our well-being: nor will a slight or superficial acquaintance be sufficient; they ought to be so deeply engraved on the mind, as to be ready for use upon every occasion. Now, in order to make a deep impression, it is wisely contrived, that things should be introduced to our acquaintance with a certain pomp and solemnity productive of a vivid emotion. When the impression is once fairly made, the emotion of novelty, being no longer necessary, vanisheth almost instantaneously; never to return, unless where the impression happens to be obliterated by length of time or other means; in which case the second introduction hath nearly the same solemnity with the first.

Designing wisdom is nowhere more legible than in this part of the human frame. If new objects did not affect us in a very peculiar manner, their impressions would be so slight as scarce to be of any ise in life on the other hand, did objects continue to affect us deeply as at first, the mind would be totally engrossed with them. and have no room left either for action or reflection.

The final cause of surprise is still more evident than of novelty Self-love makes us vigilantly attentive to self-preservation; but selflove, which operates by means of reason and reflection, and impels not the mind to any particular object or from it, is a principle too cool for a sudden emergency: an object breaking in unexpectedly affords no time for deliberation; and, in that case, the agitation of

243. Emotion of wonder rises with the rank of its object.-Why and when are men shamed of curiosity.

surprise comes in seasonably to rouse self-love into action: surprise gives the alarm; and, if there be any appearance of danger, our whole force is instantly summoned up to shun or to prevent it.

CHAPTER VII.

RISIBLE OBJECTS.

245. SUCH is the nature of man, that his powers and faculties are soon blunted by exercise. The returns of sleep, suspending all activity, are not alone sufficient to preserve him in vigor; during his waking hours, amusement by intervals is requisite to unbend his mind from serious occupation. To that end, nature hath kindly made a provision of many objects, which may be distinguished by the epithet of risible, because they raise in us a peculiar emotion expressed externally by laughter: that emotion is pleasant; and, being also mirthful, it most successfully unbends the mind and recruits the spirits. Imagination contributes a part by multiplying such objects without end.

Ludicrous is a general term, signifying, as may appear from its derivation, what is playsome, sportive, or jocular. Ludicrous, therefore, seems the genus, of which risible is a species, limited as above to what makes us laugh.

246. However easy it may be, concerning any particular object, to say whether it be risible or not, it seems difficult, if at all practicable, to establish any general character by which objects of that kind may be distinguished from others. Nor is that a singular case; for, upon a review, we find the same difficulty in most of the articles already handled. There is nothing more easy, viewing a particular object, than to pronounce that it is beautiful or ugly, grand or little; but were we to attempt general rules for ranging objects under different classes, according to these qualities, we should be much gravelled. A separate cause increases the difficulty of distinguishing risible objects by a general character: all men are not equally affected by risible objects, nor the same man at all times; for, in high spirits, a thing will make him laugh outright, which scarce provokes a smile in a grave mood. Risible objects, however, are circumscribed within certain limits which I shall suggest, without pretending to accuracy. And, in the first place, I observe that no object is risible but what appears slight, little, or trivial; for we laugh at nothing

244. Final causes of wonder.-Designing wisdom here shown.-Final cause of surprise. 245. The use of risible objects. How multiplied.-Ludicrous and risible objects distinguished.

that is of importance to our own interest or to that of others. A real distress raises pity and therefore cannot be risible; but a slight or imaginary distress, which moves not pity, is risible. The adventure of the fulling-mills in Don Quixote, is extremely risible; so is the scene where Sancho, in a dark night, tumbling into a pit, and, attaching himself to the side by hand and foot, hangs there in terrible dismay till the morning, when he discovers himself to be within a foot of the bottom. A nose remarkably long or short, is risible; but to want it altogether, far from provoking laughter, raises horror in the spectator. Secondly, With respect to works both of nature and of art, none of them are risible but what are out of rule, some remarkable defect or excess; a very long visage, for example, or a very short one. Hence nothing just, proper, decent, beautiful, proportioned, or grand, is risible.

247. Even from this slight sketch it will readily be conjectured that the emotion raised by a risible object is of a nature so singular as scarce to find place while the mind is occupied with any other passion or emotion; and the conjecture is verified by experience, for we scarce ever find that emotion blended with any other. One emotion I must except; and that is, contempt raised by certain improprieties every improper act inspires us with some degree of contempt for the author; and if an improper act be at the same time risible to provoke laughter, of which blunders and absurdities are noted instances, the two emotions of contempt and of laughter unite intimately in the mind, and produce externally what is termed a laugh of derision or of scorn. Hence objects that cause laughter may be distinguished into two kinds; they are either risible or ridiculous. A risible object is mirthful only; a ridiculous object is both mirthful and contemptible. The first raises an emotion of laughter that is altogether pleasant; the pleasant emotion of laughter raised by the other, is blended with the painful emotion of contempt, and the mixed emotion is termed the emotion of ridicule. The pain a ridiculous object gives me is resented and punished by a laugh of derision. A risible object, on the other hand, gives me no pain; it is altogether pleasant by a certain sort of titillation, which is expressed externally by mirthful laughter. Ridicule will be more fully explained afterwards; the present chapter is appropriated to the other

emotion.

Risible objects are so common, and so well understood, that it is unnecessary to consume paper or time upon them. Take the few following examples:

Falstaff. I do ren ember him at Clement's inn, like a men made after supper of a cheese-paring. When he was naked, he was for all the world like a forked radish, with a head fantastically carved upon it with a knife.

Second Part, Henry IV. Act III. Sc. 5.

246. Why difficult to distinguish risible objects by a general character.-Two limits assigned to risible objects.-Don Quixote.--A nose.-When are works both of nature and art risible?

The foregoing is of disproportion. The following examples are of slight or imaginary misfortunes:

my.

Falstaff. Go fetch me a quart of sack; put a toast in 't. Have I lived to be carried in a basket, like a barrow of butcher's offal, and to be thrown into the Thames! Well, if I be served such another trick, I'll have my brains ta'en out and butter'd and give them to a dog for a new-year's gift. The rogues slided me into the river with as little remorse as they would have drown'd a biten's blind puppies, fifteen i' th' litter: and you may know by my size that I have a kind of alacrity in sinking: if the bottom were as deep as hell, I should down. I had been drown'd, but that the shore was shefvy and shallow; a death that I abhor; for the water sweils a man; and what a thing should I have been when I had been swell'd? I should have been a mountain of mamMerry Wives of Windsor, Act III. Se. 15. Falstaff. Nay, you shall hear, Master Brook, what I have suffered to bring this woman to evil for your good. Being thus crammed in the basket, a couple of Ford's knaves, his hinds, were called forth by their mistress, to carry me in the name of foul clothes to Datchet-lane. They took me on their shoulders, met the jealous knave their master in the door, who asked them once or twice what they had in their basket. I quaked for fear, lest the lunatic knave won.d have searched it; but Fate, ordaining he should be a cuckold, held his hand. Well, on went he for a search, and away went I for foul clothes, But mark the sequel, Master Brook. I suffered the pangs of three egregious deaths; first, an intolerable fright, to be detected by a jealous rotten bell-wether; next, to be compassed like a good bilbo, in the circumference of a peck, hilt to point, heel to head; and then to be stopped in, like a strong distillation, with stinking clothes that fretted in their own grease. Think of that, a man of my kidney; think of that, that am as subject to heat as butter; a man of contin dal dissolution and thaw; it was a miracle to 'scape suffocation. And in the height of this bath, when I was more than half stewed in grease, like a Dutch dish, to be thrown into the Thames, and cooled glowing hot, in that surge like a horse-shoe; think of that; hissing hot; think of that, Master Brook. Merry Wives of Windsor, Act III. Sec. 17.

CHAPTER VIII.

RESEMBLANCE AND DISSIMILITUDE.

248. HAVING discussed those qualities and circumstances of single objects that seem peculiarly connected with criticism, we proceed, according to the method proposed in the chapter of beauty, to the relations of objects, beginning with the relations of resemblance and dissimilitude.

The connection that man hath with the beings around him, requires some acquaintance with their nature, their powers, and their qualities, for regulating his conduct. For acquiring a branch of knowledge so essential to our well-being, motives alone of reason and interest are not sufficient: nature hath providently superadded curiosity, a vigorous propensity, which never is at rest. This pro

247 Emotion raised by risible objects not blended with other emotions; except what ?— Two kinds of objects causing laughter.-Define emotion excited by a risille object; by a ridiculous one. Examples from Shakspeare.

pensity attaches us to every new object (see chapter vi.); and incites us to compare objects, in order to discover their differences and resemblances.

Resemblance among objects of the same kind, and dissimilitude among objects of different kinds, are too obvious and familiar to gratify our curiosity in any degree: its gratification lies in discovering differences among things where resemblance prevails, and resemblances where difference prevails. Thus a difference in individuals of the same kind of plants or animals is deemed a discovery; while the many particulars in which they agree are neglected: and in different kinds, any resemblance is greedily remarked, without attending to the many particulars in which they difler.

249. A comparison, however, may be too far stretched. When differences or resemblances are carried beyond certain bounds, they appear slight and trivial; and for that reason will not be relished by a man of taste: yet such propensity is there to gratify passion, curiosity in particular, that even among good writers we find many comparisons too slight to afford satisfaction. Hence the frequent instances among logicians of distinctions without any solid difference; and hence the frequent instances among poets and orators, of similes without any just resemblance. Shakspeare, with uncommon humor, ridicules such disposition to simile-making, by putting in the mouth of a weak man a resemblance that will illustrate the point before us:

Fluellen. I think it is in Macedon where Alexander is porn: I tell you, Captain, if you look in the maps of the orld, I warrant that you sall find, in the comparisons between Macedon and Monmouth, that the situations, look you, is both alike. There is a river in Macedon, there is also moreover a river in Monmouth: it is called Wye at Monmouth, but it is out of my prains what is the name of the other river: but it is all one, 'tis as like as my fingers to my fingers, and there is salmons in both. If you mark Alexander's life well, Harry of Monmouth's life is come after it indifferent well; for there is figures in all things. Alexander, God knows, and you know, in his rages, and his furies, and his wraths, and his cholars, and his moods, and his displeasures, and his indignations; and also being a little intoxicates in his prains, did, in his ales and his angers, look you, kill his pest friend Clytus.

Gower. Our king is not like him in that; he never killed any of his friends. Fluellen. It is not well done, mark you now, to take the tales out of my mouth, ere it is made and finished. I speak but in figures, and comparisons of it: as Alexander killed his friend Clytus, being in his ales and his cups; so also larry Monmouth, being in his right wits and his good judgments, turned away the fat knight with the great belly doublet; he was full of jests, and gypes, and knaveries, and mocks: I have forgot his name.

Gower. Sir John Falstaff.

Fluellen. That is he: I tell you there is good men porn at Monmouth. King Henry V. Act IV. Sc. 13.

250. Instruction, no doubt, is the chief end of comparison; but that it is not the only end will be evident from considering, that a

248. What relations of objects to be considered.-What provision is made for securing our acquaintance with surrounding objects?-Why does curiosity incite us to compare ob jects? Where does curiosity prompt us to look for differences and resemblances?

249. A comparison may be stretched too far. Example.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »