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was therefore in this age that the pun appeared with pomp and dignity. It had before been admitted into merry speeches and ludicrous compositions, but was now delivered with great gravity from the pulpit, or pronounced in the most solemn manner at a counciltable. The greatest author's, in their most serious works, made frequent use of puns. The sermons of Bishop Andrews, and the tragedies of Shakspeare, are full of them. The sinner was punned into repentance by the former; as in the latter nothing is more usual than to see a hero weeping and quibbling for a dozen lines together.
I must add to these great authorities, which seem to have given a kind of sanction to this piece of false wit, that all the writers of rhetoric have treated of punning with very great respect, and divided the several kinds of it into hard names, that are reckoned among the figures of speech, and recommended as ornaments in discourse. I remember a country schoolmaster of my acquaintance told me once, that he had been in company with a gentleman whom he looked upon to be the greatest Paragrammatist among the moderns. Upon enquiry, I found my learned friend had dined that day with Mr. Swan, the fanious punster ; and desiring him to give some account of Mr. Swan's conversation, he told me that he generally talked in the Paranomasia. that he sometimes gave into the Ploce, but that in his humble opinion he shined most in the Antanaclasis.
I must not here omit, that a famous University of this land was formerly very much infested with puns; but whether or no this might not arise from the fens and marshes in which it was situated, and which are now drained, I must leave to the determination of more skilful natura/ists.
After this short history of punning, one would won. der how it should be so entirely banished out of the
learned world as it is at present; especially since it had found a place in the writings of the most ancient polite authors. To account for this we must consider, that the first race of authors, who were the great heroes in writing, were destitute of all rules and arts of criticism; and for that reason, though they excel later writers in greatness of genius, they fall short of them in accuracy and correctness. The mcderns cannot reach their beauties, but can avoid their imperfections. When the world was furnished with these authors of the first eminence, there grew up another set of writers, who gained themselves a reputation by the remarks which they made on the works of those who preceded them. It was one of the employments of these secondary authors to distinguish the several kinds of wit by terms of art, and to consider them as more or less perfect, according as they were founded in truth. It is no wonder, therefore, that even such authors as Isocratea, Plato, and Cicero, should have such little blemishes as are not to be met with in authors of a much inferior character, who have written since those several blemishes were discovered. I do not find that there was a proper separation made between puns and true wit by any of the ancient authors, except Quintilian and Longinus. But when this distinction was once settled, it was very natural for all men of sense to agree in it. As for the revival of this false wit, it happened about the revival f leto ters; but as soon as it was once detected, it immedi-. ately vanished and disappeared. At the same time there is no question, but as it has sunk in one age and rose in another, it will again recover itself in some distant period of time, as pedantry and ignorance shall prevail upon wit and sense. And, to speak the truth, I do very much apprehend, by some of the last winter's productions, which had their set of admirers, that our posterity will in a few years degenerate into
a race of punsters; at least, a man may be very excusable for any apprehensions of this kind, that has seen Acrostics handed about the town with great secrecy and applause; to which I must also add a little epigram called the Witches Prayer, that fell into verse when it was read either backward or forward, excepting one only that is cursed one way, and blessed the other. When one sees there are actually such pains-takers among our British wits, who can tell what it may end in? If we must lash one another, let it be with the manly strokes of wit and satire; for I am of the old philosopher's opinion, that if I must sufier from one or the other, I would rather it should be from the paw of a lion, than the hoof of an ass.
I do not speak this out of any spirit of party. There is a most crying dulness on both sides. I have seen Tory Acrostics and Whig Anagrams, and do rot quarrel witli cither of them, because they are Whigs or Tories, but because they are Anagrams and Acrostics.
Bat to return to punning. Having perused the history of a pun, from its original to its downfall, I shall here define it to be a conceit arising from the use of iwo words to agree in the sound, but differ in the sense. The only way therefore to try a piece of it, is to translate it into a diffent language; if it bears the test, you may pronounce it true; bul if it vanishes . in the experiment, you may conclude it to have been a pun. In short, one may say of a pun, as the country man described his nightingale, that it is vox & preterea nihil, a sound and nothing but a sound. On the contrary, one may represent true wit by the description which Aristenetus makes of a fine woman ; when she is dressed she is beautiful, when she is undresser she is beautiful; or as Mercerus has translated it more emphatically, Induitur, formosa est ;exuitur, ijsa for ma est.
No. LXII. FRIDAY, MAY 11.
Scribendi recte sapere est et principium et fons.
Sound judgment is the ground of writing well. ROSCOMMON.
MR LOCKE has an admirable reflection upon the difference of wit and judgment, whereby he endeavours to shew the reason why they are not always the talents of the same person. His words are as follow: " And • hence, perhaps, may be given some reason of that
common observation, that men who have a great
deal of wit and prompt memories, have not always. " the clearest judgment, or deepest reason.
For wit lying most in the assemblage of ideas, and putting • those together with quickness and variety, where'in can be found any resernblance or congruity, there
by to make up pleasant pictures and agreeable vi. •sions in the fancy; judgment, on the contrary, lies
quite on the other side, in separating carefully one ' from another, ideas wherein can be found the least
difference, thereby to avoid being misled by simili'tude, and by affinity to take one thing for another,
This is a way of proceeding quite contrary to meta• phor and allusion; therein, for the most part, lies that entertainment and pleasantry of wit which strikes so lively on the fancy, and is therefore so acceptable to all people.'
This is, I think, the best and most philosophical account that I ever met with of wit, which generally though not always, consists in such a resemblance and congruity of ideas as this author mentions. I shall only add to it, by way of explanation, that every resemblance of ideas is not that which we call wit, unless it be such an one that gives Delight and Sur: prise to the reader: these two properties seem es.
sential to wit, more particularly the last of them. In order therefore that the resemblance in the ideas be. wit, it is necessary that the ideas should not lie too near one another in the nature of things; for where the likeness is obvious, it gives no surprise. To compare one man's singing to that of another, or to represent. the whiteness of any object by that of milk and snow, or the variety of its colours by those of the rainbow, cannot be called wit, unless, besides this obvious re. semblance, there be some further congruity discover. ed in the two ideas that is capable of giving the reader some surprise. Thus when a poet tells us, the bosom of his mistress is as white as snow, there is no wit in, the comparison : but when he adds, with a sigh, that, it is as cold too, it then grows into wit. Every reader's, memory may supply him with innumerable instances of the same nature. For this reason the similitudes in heroic poets, who endeavour rather to fill the mind with great conceptions, than to divert it with such as. are new and surprising, have seldom any thing in them. that can be called wit. Mr. Locke's account of wit, with this short explanation, comprehends most of the species of wit, as metaphors, similitudes, allegories, enigmas, mottos, parables, fables, dreams, visions, dramatic writings, burlesques, and all the methods of allusion : as there are many other pieces of wit, how remote soever they may appear at first sight, from the foregoing description, which upon examination will be found to agree with it.
As true wit generally consists in this resemblance and congruity of ideas, false wit generally consists in the resemblance and congruity sometimes of single letters, as in anagrams, chronograms, lipograms, and. acrostics; sometimes of syllables, as in echos and doggerel rhymes: sometimes of words, as in puns and quibbles; and soinetimes of whole sentences or poems, cast into the figure of eggs, axes or altars :.