« AnteriorContinuar »
Wit of this kind is unsuitable in a serious poem; witness the following line in Pope's Elegy to the memory of an unfortunate lady:
Cold is that breast which warm'd the world before.
Her hands the softest ever felt,
Strephon and Chloe. Taking a word in a different sense from what is meant, com > under wit, because it occasions some slight degree of surprise:
Beatrice. I may sit in a corner, and cry Heigh ho! for a husband.
Beatrice. I would rather have one of your father's getting Hath your grace ne'er a brother like you? Your father got excellent hus! hurts, if a maid could come by them.
Much Ado about Iisung, Act II. Sc. I. Falstaff. My honest lads, I will tell you what I am al ud. Pistol. Two yards and more.
Falsinff. No quips, now, Pistol : indeed I am in the waist two yırds about ; but I am now about no waste; I am about thrift.
Merry Wives of Windsor, Act I. Sc. 3.
Anne Bullen. Was he mad, sir !
Sands. O, very mad, exceeding mad, in love too;
K. Henry VIII. An assertion that bears a double meaning, one right, one wrong, but so introduced as to direct us to the wrong meaning, is a species of bastard wit, which is distinguished from all others by the name pun For example,
Paris, -Sweet Helen, I must woo you,
Troilus and Cressida, Act III. Sc. 1. The pun is in the close. The word disarm has a double meaning; it signifies to take off a man's armor, and also to subdue him in fight. We are directed to the latter sense by the context; but, with regard to Helen, the word holds only true in the former sense. I go on with other examples:
Esse nihil dicis quicquid petis, improbe Cinna:
Sanazarius. Sequana, Jocondus placed a double bridge over thee-Well mayst thou cri. Lim a bridge-maker. (Pontifex, a priest.)
N. B. Jocondus was a monk.
. He that buckles him in my belt cannot live in less.
Falstaff. I would it were otherwise; I would my means were greater, ang my waist slenderer.
Second Part, Henry IV. Act I. Sc. 2.
Celia. I pray you bear with me, I can go no further.
Clown. For my part, I had rather bear with you than bear you: yet I should ocar no cross if I did bear you; for I think you have no money in your purse.
As you like it, Act II. Sc. 4.
To break an oath he never made ? Hudibras, Part 2. Canto 2 The seventh satire of the first book of Horace is purposely contrived o introduce at the close a most execrable pun. Talking of some intamous wretch, whose name was Rex Rupilius,
Persius exclamat, Per magnos, Brute, deos te
By all the immortal gods, O Brute,
Of him that bears both ax and mask. Though playing with words is a mark of a mind at ease, and disposed to any sort of amusement, we must not thence conclude that playing with words is always ludicrous. Words are so intimately connected with thought, that if the subject be really grave, it will not appear ludicrous even in that fantastic dress. I am, however, far from recommending it in any serious performance: on the contrary, the discordance between the thought and expression must be disagreeable; witness the following specimen.
He hath abandoned his physicians, madam, under whose practices he hath persecuted time with hope: and finds no other advantage in the process, but only the losing of hope by time.
All's Well that Ends Well, Act I, Sc. 1.
Second Part, K. Henry IV. If any one shall observe that there is a third species of wit, differ. ent from those mentioned, consisting in sounds merely, I am willing to give it place. And indeed it must be admitted, that many of Hudibras's double rhymes come under the definition of wit given in the beginning of this chapter: they are ludicrous, and their singularity occasions some degree of surprise. Swift is no less successful than Butler in this sort of wit; witness the following instances : God. dess-Boddice. Pliny-Nicolini. Iscariots—Chariots. MitreNitre. Dragon-Suffragan.
A repartee may happen to be witty: but it cannot be considered as a species of wit; because there are many repartees extremely smart, and yet extremely serious. I give the following example. Á certain petulant Greek, objecting to Anacharsis that he was a Scy. thian: True, says Anacharsis, my country disgraces ine, but you disgrace your country. This fine turn gives surprise; but it is far from being ludicrous.
CUSTOM AND HABIT. Custom and habit distinguished-Effects of habit either active or passive
The influence of habit in youth, in middle age, and in old age-Habits rise and decline gradually-Things moderately agreeable become habitual sooner than those highly agreeable; the same is applicable to pleasures of the inferior senses - Length of time as well as frequency of acts, necessary to introduce an active habit-Agreeable objects of taste are not made habitual, but produce satiety and disgust—The same true with respect to objects extremely agreeable Violent passions not strengthened by repetition-Difference between natural appetites and habit-The pain of habit less under our power, than that which arises from a want of gratification, and the delight not greater-Difference between generic and specific habits, Moderate pleasures produce a generic habit-Good effects of misery-Good effects of society-Final cause of custom or painful business -Custom softens pain-As another final cause, it puts the rich and the poor on a level-Illustrated-Our native sensibility biassed by custom.
Viewing man as under the influence of novelty, would one suspect that custom also should influence him ? and yet our nature is equally susceptible of each: not only in different objects, but frequently in the same. When an object is new, it is enchanting : familiarity renders it indifferent; and custom, after a longer familiarily, makes it again disagreeable. Human nature, diversified with many and various springs of action, is wonderfully, and, indulging the expression, intricately constructed.
Custom has such influence upon many of our feelings, by warping and varying them, that we must attend to its operations if we would be acquainted with human nature. This subject, in itself obscure, has been much neglected; and a complete analysis of it would be no easy task. I pretend only to touch it cursorily; hoping, however, that what is here laid down, will dispose diligent inquirers to attempt farther discoveries.
Custom respects the action, habit the agent. By custom we mean a frequent reiteration of the same act; and by habit, the effect that custom has on the agent. This effect may be either active, witness the dexterity produced by custom in performing certain exercises ; or passive, as when a thing makes an impression on us different from what it did originally. The latter only, as relative to the sensitive part of our nature, comes under the present undertaking.
This subject is intricate: some pleasures are fortified by custom; and yet custom begets familiarity, and consequently indifference: in many instances, satiety and disgust are the consequences of reiteration: again, though custom blunts the edge of distress and of pain, yet the want of any thing to which we have been long accustomed, is a sort of torture. A clue to guide us through all the intricacies of this labyrinth, would be an acceptable present. Whatever be the cause, it is certain that we are much influenced
• If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work:
First Part Henry IV. Act I, Sc 2.
by custom: it has an effect upon our pleasures, upon our actions, and even upon our thoughts and sentiments. Habit inakes no figure during the vivacity of youth: in middle age it gains ground; and in old age governs without control. In that period of life, generally speaking, we eat at a certain hour, take exercise at a certain hour, ! go to rest at a certain hour, all by the direction of habit: nay, a particular seat, table, bed, comes to be essential: and a habit in any of ihese cannot be controlled without uneasiness.
Any slight or moderate pleasure frequently reiterated for a long iime, forms a peculiar connection between us and the thing that causes the pleasure. This connection, termed habit, has the effect to awaken our desire or appetite for that thing when it returns not as usual. During the course of enjoyment, the pleasure rises insenstbly higher and higher till a habit be established; at which time the pleasure is at its height. It continues not however stationary: the same customary reiteration which carried it to its height, brings it down again by insensible degrees, even lower than it was at first: but of that circumstance I shall treat afterward. What at present we have in view, is to prove by experiments, that those things wbich at first are but moderately agreeable, are the aptest to become habitual
. Spiritous liquors, at first scarcely agreeable, readily produce an habitual appetite: and custom prevails so far, as even to make us fond of things originally disagreeable, such as coffee, assafætida, and tobacco : which is pleasantly illustrated by Congreve :
Fainall. For a passionate lover, methinks you are a man somewhat too discerning in the failings of your mistress.
Mirubell. And for a discerning man, somewhat too passionate a lover; for! like her with all her faults; nay, like her for her faults. Her follies are so natural, or so artful, that they become her; and those affectations which in another woman would be odious, serve but to make her more agreeable. I'll tell thee, Fainall, she once us'd me with that insolence, that in revenge I took her to pieces, si fini her, and separated her failings; I study'd 'em, and got 'em by rote. The cald logue was so large, that I was not without hopes, one day or other, to hate her heartily: to which end I so us'd myself to think of 'em, that at length, contrary to iny design and expectation, they gave me every hour less and less disturbani; till in a few days, it became habitual to me to remember 'em without being displeased. They are now grown as familiar to me as my own frailties; and in all probability, in a little time longer, I shall like 'em as well.
The Way of the World, Act I. Sc. 3. A walk upon the quarter-deck, though intolerably confined, becomes, however, so agreeable by custom, that a sailor in his walk on shore, confines himself commonly within the same bounds. I knew a man who had relinquished the sea for a country life: in the corner of his carilen he reared an artificial mount with a level summit, resembling most accurately a quarter-deck, not only in shape but in size; and here he generally walked. In Minorca, Governor Kane made an excellent road the whole length of the island; and yet the inhabitants adhere to the old road, though not only longer but extremely bado
* Custom is a second nature. Formerly, the merchants of Bristol had no :lace for meeting but the street, open to every variety of weather. An exchange was erected for them with convenient piazzas. But so rivetted were they to their arcustomed place, that in order to dislodge them, the magistrates were forced to break up the pavement, and to render the place a heap of rough stones.
Play, or gaming, at first barely amusing by the occupation it affords, becomes in time extremely agreeable, and is frequently prosecuted with avidity, as if it were the chief business of life. The same observation is applicable to the pleasures of the internal senses, those of knowledge and virtue in particular: children have scarcely any sense of these pleasures; and men very little who are in the state of nature without culture: our taste for virtue and knowledge improves slowly; but is capable of growing stronger than any other appetite in human nature.
To introduce an active habit, frequency of acis is not sufficient without length of time: the quickest succession of acts in a short time, is not sufficient; nor a slow succession in the longest time. The effect must be produced by a moderate soft action, and a long series of easy touches, removed from each other by short intervals. Nor are these sufficient without regularily in the time, place, and other circumstances of the action: the more uniform any operation is, the sooner it becomes habitual. And this holds equally in a passive habit; variety in any remarkable degree, prevents the effect: ihus any particular food will scarcely erer become habitual, where the manner of dressing it is varied. The circumstances then requi. site 10 augment a moderate pleasure, and at the long run to form a habit, are weak uniform acıs, reiterated during a long course of time without any considerable interruption: every agreeable cause that operates in this manner, will grow habitual.
Affection and aversion, as distinguished from passion on the one hand, and on the other from original disposition, are in reality habits respecting particular objects, acquired in the manner above set forth. The pleasure of social intercourse with any person, must originally be faint, and frequently reiterated, in order to establish the habit of affection. Affection thus generated, whether it be friendship or love, seldom swells into any tumultuous or vigorous passion ; but is however the strongest cement that can bind together two individuals of the human species. In like manner, a slight degree of disgust often reiterated with regularity, grows into the habit of aversion, which commonly snbsists for life.
Objects of taste that are delicious, far from tending to become habitual, are apt, by indulgence, to produce satiety and disgust: no man contracts a habit of sugar, honey, or sweetmeats, as he does of tobacco: Dulcia non ferimus; succo renovamur amaro.
Ovid. Art. Amand. I. 3
Romeo and Juliet, Act II. Sc. 6. The same observation holds with respect to all objects that being extremnely agreeable raise violent passions: such passions are in