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of Devonshire by saying, as she passed, wish that lady would let me light my pipe at her eyes,” nothing was meant less than to ridicule or throw contempt, yet the speech was wit and not serious flattery. The putting a wig on a stupid face and setting it on a barber's pole is wit or humour :--the fixing a pair of wings on a beautiful figure to make it look more like an angel is poetry; so that the grotesque is either serious or ludicrous, as it professes to exalt or degrade. Whenever any thing is proposed to be done in the way of wit, it must be in mockery or jest ; since if it were a probable or becoming action, there would be no drollery in suggesting it; but this does not apply to illustrations by comparison, there is here no line drawn between what is to take place and what is not to take place—they must only be extreme and unexpected. Mere nonsense, however, is not wit. For however slight the connexion, it will never do to have none at all ; and the more fine and fragile it is in some respects, the more close and deceitful it should be in the particular one insisted on. Farther, mere sense is not wit. Logical subtilty or ingenuity does not amount to wit (although it may mimic it) without an immediate play of fancy, which is a totally different thing. The comparing the phrenologist's division of the same portion of the brain into the organs of form and colour to the cutting a Yorkshire pudding into two parts, and calling the one custard and the other plum-cake may pass for wit with some, but not with me. I protest (if required) against having a grain of wit.*
* Some one compared B, a tall, awkward country lout to Adam, who came into the world full grown, but without having ever made any use of his limbs. This was wit, though true; where then is the ingredient of incongruity? In altering the idea of Adam at pleasure, or from a mere possibility to make it answer a: ludicrous purpose. Adam is generally supposed an active, graceful person : a lad grown up with large bones and muscles, with no more use of them than an infant, is a laughable subject, because it deranges or unhinges our customary associations. The threads of our ideas (so to speak) are strong and tightened by habit and will, just as we tighten the strings of a fiddle with pegs and screws; and when any of these are relaxed, snapped asunder, or unstrung by accident or folly, it is in taking up the odds and ends (like stitches let down) as they hang light and loose, and twisting them into some motley, ill-assorted pattern, so as to present a fantastic and glaring contrast to custom (which is plain sense) or the ideal, which strengthens and harmonizes (and which is poetry)—that the web of wit and humour consists. The serious is that which is closely cemented together by experience and prejudice, or by common sense : the ludicrous is the incoherent, or that which wants the cement of habit and purpose ; and wit is employed in finding out new and opposite combinations of these detached and broken fragments (or exceptions to established rules) so as to set off the distinction between absurdity and propriety in the most lively and marked manner possible. Proof is not wanted here ; illustration is enough, and the more extravagant the better; for the cause being previously condemned in our prosing judgments, we do not stand upon punctilio, but only wait for a smart, sly excuse to get rid of it; and hence tricking is fair in wit, as well as in war: where the justice of the cause is not the question, you have only to fight it out or make the best of the case you can.