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“ person to whom they relate ; belonging
always to the same order or class of be
ing; implying sentiment 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.
CH A P. II.
Laughter seems to arise from the
view of things incongruous united in the same assemblage ; I. By Juxta-position; II. As Cause and Effect; III. By Comparison founded on Similitude ; or, IV. United so as to exhibit an opposition of Meanness and Dignity.
OWEVER imperfect these Theories may appear, there is none of them destitute of merit : and indeed the most fanciful philofopher seldom frames a theory, without consulting nature, in some of her more obvious appearances. Laughter very frequently arises from the view of dignity and meanness united in the same object ; fometimes, no doubt, from the appearance of assumed inferiority *, as well as of small faults and unimportant turpitudes; and sometimes, perhaps, though rarely, from that fort 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 ideat 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 comparison ?" According to the theory
Pope, Arbuthnot, and Swift, in some of their most humourous 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 Ci. .“ cero) quæ a prudentibus, quafi per difiimulationem “ non intelligendi, subabsurde falseque dicuntur.” De Orat. II. 68. Vol. II.
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 Hucheson'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 ; may be compared to many other things without raising laughter': but the picture defcribed 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 assemblage must be in some degree unsuitable and heterogeneous."
Moreover : Any one of the parts of the Horatian monster, a human head, a horie's neck, the tail of a fish, or the plumage of a fowl, is not ludicrous in itself; nor
- and it
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, no body would laugh, 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 incongruous parts of a laughable idea
or object must either be combined so as to “ form an assemblage, or must be supposed
to be so combined.'
ter arises from the view of two or more ” inconsistent, unsuitable, or incongruous
parts or circumstances, considered as u
nited in one complex object or assem“ blage, or as acquiring a sort of mutual re“ lation from the peculiar manner in which " the mind takes notice of them ?" The lines
from Akenside, formerly referred to, seem to point at the fame doctrine :
Where-e'er the power of Ridicule displays
And, to the fame purpose, the learned and ingenious Dr Gerard, in his Esay on Tafie: “ The fense of Ridicule is gratified by an « inconsistence and dissonance of circum"i stances in the same object, or in objects
X x 2
nearly related in the main ; or by a fimili“ tude or relation unexpected between things
on the whole opposite and unlike.”
And therefore, instead of saying with Hucheson, that the cause or object of laughter is an opposition of dignity and mean
ness;" — I would say, in more general terms, that it is, “ an opposition of fuit“ ableness and unsuitableness, or of rela
tion and the want of relation, united, or supposed to be united, in the same assem
blage.” Thus the offices ascribed to the dagger of Hudibras seem quite heterogeneous but we discover a bond of connection among them, when we are told, that the same weapon could occasionally perform them all. — Thus, even in that mimicry, which displays no opposition of dignity and meanness, we perceive the actions of one man joined to the features and body of another ; that is, a mixture of unsuitableness, or want of relation, arising from the difference of perfons, with congruity and fimilitude, arising from the fameness of the actions. Thus, at first view, the dawn of the morning, and a boiled lobster, feem utterly incongruous, unlike, and (as Biondello says of Petruchio's stirrups) “ of no kindred;" but when a change of colour from black to red is suggested, we recognize a likeness, and consequently a relation, or ground of comparison. And here let it be observed in general,