The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 2 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 567 pages of information about The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb Volume 2.

III.—­THAT A MAN MUST NOT LAUGH AT HIS OWN JEST

The severest exaction surely ever invented upon the self-denial of poor human nature!  This is to expect a gentleman to give a treat without partaking of it; to sit esurient at his own table, and commend the flavour of his venison upon the absurd strength of his never touching it himself.  On the contrary, we love to see a wag taste his own joke to his party; to watch a quirk, or a merry conceit, flickering upon the lips some seconds before the tongue is delivered of it.  If it be good, fresh, and racy—­begotten of the occasion; if he that utters it never thought it before, he is naturally the first to be tickled with it; and any suppression of such complacence we hold to be churlish and insulting.  What does it seem to imply, but that your company is weak or foolish enough to be moved by an image or a fancy, that shall stir you not at all, or but faintly?  This is exactly the humour of the fine gentleman in Mandeville, who, while he dazzles his guests with the display of some costly toy, affects himself to “see nothing considerable in it.”

IV.—­THAT SUCH A ONE SHOWS HIS BREEDING.—­THAT IT IS EASY TO PERCEIVE HE IS NO GENTLEMAN

A speech from the poorer sort of people, which always indicates that the party vituperated is a gentleman.  The very fact which they deny, is that which galls and exasperates them to use this language.  The forbearance with which it is usually received, is a proof what interpretation the bystander sets upon it.  Of a kin to this, and still less politic, are the phrases with which, in their street rhetoric, they ply one another more grossly:—­He is a poor creature.—­He has not a rag to cover—­_&c._; though this last, we confess, is more frequently applied by females to females.  They do not perceive that the satire glances upon themselves.  A poor man, of all things in the world, should not upbraid an antagonist with poverty.  Are there no other topics—­as, to tell him his father was hanged—­his sister, &c.—­, without exposing a secret, which should be kept snug between them; and doing an affront to the order to which they have the honour equally to belong?  All this while they do not see how the wealthier man stands by and laughs in his sleeve at both.

V.—­THAT THE POOR COPY THE VICES OF THE RICH

A smooth text to the latter; and, preached from the pulpit, is sure of a docile audience from the pews lined with satin.  It is twice sitting upon velvet to a foolish squire to be told, that he—­and not perverse nature, as the homilies would make us imagine, is the true cause of all the irregularities in his parish.  This is striking at the root of free-will indeed, and denying the originality of sin in any sense.  But men are not such implicit sheep

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The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 2 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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