Forgot your password?  

Resources for students & teachers

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 567 pages of information about The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb Volume 2.
moved our gall to see a smooth portly fellow of an adversary, that cared not a button for the merits of the question, by merely laying his hand upon the head of the stationer, and desiring him to be calm (your tall disputants have always the advantage), with a provoking sneer carry the argument clean from him in the opinion of all the bystanders, who have gone away clearly convinced that Titubus must have been in the wrong, because he was in a passion; and that Mr.——­, meaning his opponent, is one of the fairest, and at the same time one of the most dispassionate arguers breathing.

VIII.—­THAT VERBAL ALLUSIONS ARE NOT WIT, BECAUSE THEY WILL NOT BEAR A TRANSLATION

The same might be said of the wittiest local allusions.  A custom is sometimes as difficult to explain to a foreigner as a pun.  What would become of a great part of the wit of the last age, if it were tried by this test?  How would certain topics, as aldermanity, cuckoldry, have sounded to a Terentian auditory, though Terence himself had been alive to translate them? Senator urbanus, with Curruca to boot for a synonime, would but faintly have done the business.  Words, involving notions, are hard enough to render; it is too much to expect us to translate a sound, and give an elegant version to a jingle.  The Virgilian harmony is not translatable, but by substituting harmonious sounds in another language for it.  To Latinise a pun, we must seek a pun in Latin, that will answer to it; as, to give an idea of the double endings in Hudibras, we must have recourse to a similar practice in the old monkish doggrel.  Dennis, the fiercest oppugner of puns in ancient or modern times, professes himself highly tickled with the “a stick” chiming to “ecclesiastic.”  Yet what is this but a species of pun, a verbal consonance?

IX.—­THAT THE WORST PUNS ARE THE BEST

If by worst be only meant the most far-fetched and startling, we agree to it.  A pun is not bound by the laws which limit nicer wit.  It is a pistol let off at the ear; not a feather to tickle the intellect.  It is an antic which does not stand upon manners, but comes bounding into the presence, and does not show the less comic for being dragged in sometimes by the head and shoulders.  What though it limp a little, or prove defective in one leg—­all the better.  A pun may easily be too curious and artificial.  Who has not at one time or other been at a party of professors (himself perhaps an old offender in that line), where, after ringing a round of the most ingenious conceits, every man contributing his shot, and some there the most expert shooters of the day; after making a poor word run the gauntlet till it is ready to drop; after hunting and winding it through all the possible ambages of similar sounds; after squeezing, and hauling, and tugging at it, till the very milk of it will not yield a drop further,—­suddenly

Follow Us on Facebook