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he makes some general remarks on the cause of ridicule; and explains himself more fully in a prose definition illustrated by examples. The definition, or rather description, is in these words. “ That which makes objects ridiculous, “ is some ground of admiration or esteem “ connected with other more general circum“stances comparatively worthless or deformed;

or it is some circumstance of turpitude or “ deformity connected with what is in general 6 excellent or beautiful: the inconsistent pro

perties existing either in the objects them“ selves, or in the apprehension of the person “ to whom they relate; belonging always to the

same order or class of being; implying senti“ ment and design; and exciting no acute or « vehement emotion of the heart.” Whatever account we make of this definition, which to those who acquiesce in the foregoing reasonings may perhaps appear not quite satisfactory, there is in the poem a passage that deserves particular notice, as it seems to contain a more exact account of the ludicrous quality, than is to be found in any of the theories above mentioned. This passage will be quoted in the next chapter.


Laughter seems to arise from the View of Things

incongruous united in the same Assemblage; I. By Juxtaposition; II. As Cause and Effect; III. By Comparison founded on Similitude; or, IV. United so as to exhibit an Opposition of Meanness and Dignity.

HOWEVER imperfect these theories may appear, there is none of them destitute of merit: and indeed the most fanciful philosopher seldom frames a theory, without consulting nature, in some of her most obvious appearances. Laughter very frequently arises from the view of dignity and meanness united in the same object; sometimes no doubt, from the appearance of assumed inferiority,* as well as of small

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Pope, Arbuthnot, and Swift, in some of their most. humorous pieces, assume the character, and affect the ignorance, of Grubstreet writers; and from this circumstance part of the humour of such papers will perhaps be found to arise. “Valde hæc ridentur (says Cicern)

quæ a prudentibus, quasi per dissimulationem non

intelligendi, subabsurde falseque dicuntur." De Orat. II. 68.


faults and unimportant turpitudes; and sometimes, perhaps, though rarely, from that sort of pride, which is described in the passage quoted from Mr. Hobbes by Addison.

All these accounts agree in this, that the ? cause of laughter is something compounded; or something that disposes the mind to form a comparison, by passing from one object or idea to another. That this is in fact the case, cannot be proved a priori; but this holds in all the examples hitherto given, and will be found to hold in all that are given hereafter. May it not then be laid down as a principle, that “ laughter " arises from the view of two or more objects

or ideas, disposing the mind to form a com“ parison?" According to the theory of Hobbes, this comparison would be between the ludicrous object and ourselves; according to those writers who misapply Aristotle's definition, it would seem to be formed between the ludicrous object and other things or persons in general; and if we incline to Hutcheson's theory, which is the best of the three, we shall think that there is a comparison of the parts of the ludicrous object, first with one another, and secondly with ideas or things extraneous.

Further: Every appearance that is made up of parts, or that leads the mind of the beholder

to form a comparison, is not ludicrous. The body of a man or woman, of a horse, a fish, or a bird, is not ludicrous, though it consists of many parts; and it may be compared to many other things without raising laughter: but the picture described in the beginning of the epistle to the Pisoes, with a man's head, a horse's neck, feathers of different birds, limbs of different beasts, and the tail of a fish, would have been thought ludicrous eighteen hundred years ago, if we believe Horace, and in certain circumstances would no doubt be so at this day. It would seem then, that “the parts of a laughable assem

blage must be in some degree unsuitable and “ heterogeneous.”

Moreover: Any one of the parts of the Horatian monster, a human head, a horse's neck, the tail of a fish, or the plumage of a fowl, is not ludicrous in itself; nor would those several parts be ludicrous, if attended to in succession, without any view to their union. For to see them disposed on different shelves of a museum, or even on the same shelf, nobody would laughi, except perhaps the thought of uniting them were to occur to his fancy, or the passage of Horace to his memory. It seems to follow, “that the in

congruous parts of a laughable idea or object " must either be combined so as to form an as

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“ semblage, or must be supposed to be so com"bined.”

May we not then conclude, that “ laughter « arises from the view of two or more incon66 sistent, unsuitable, or incongruous parts or 6 circumstances, considered as united in one 6 complex object or assemblage, or as acquir

ing a sort of mutual relation from the pecu“ liar manner in which the mind takes notice “ of them?” The lines from Akenside, formerly referred to, seem to point at the same doctrine:

Where'er the power of Ridicule displays
Her quainteyed visage, some incongruous form,
Some stubborn dissonance of things combined,

Strikes on the quick observer. And, to the same purpose, the learned and ingenious Dr. Gerard, in his Essay on Taste: “ The sense of ridicule is gratified by an incon“ sistence and dissonance of circumstances in “the same object, or in objects nearly related “ in the main; or by a similitude or relation un“expected between things on the whole opposite 66 and unlike.”

And therefore, instead of saying with Hutcheson, that the cause or object of laughter is an “ opposition of dignity and meanness," I would say, in more general terms, that it is, “ an oppo

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