History of English Humour, Vol. 1 (of 2) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 324 pages of information about History of English Humour, Vol. 1 (of 2).


* * * * *


[1] Of course this will scarcely apply in those cases in which, by abstraction, we overlook the creative action of the mind, and regard its humorous productions as ludicrous.  Nor does it hold good where from long exercise of ingenuity a habit has been formed and amusing fancies spring up, as it were naturally, and so involuntarily that, for the moment, we see them only as ludicrous.  This view changes almost instantaneously, and beneath it we often find the best humour.  It may be said that such cases should be placed entirely under the head of humour, but can we maintain that a man is unaware when he is humorous?  The most telling effects are produced by the ludicrous, and where the creative action of the mind is scarcely discernible.  Efforts to be humorous are seldom crowned with success; we require something that appears to be real or original, either as a close rendering of actual occurrences, or a spontaneous efflorescence of genius.  Among the latter class we may reckon some of our most exquisite and permanent sayings.

[2] A story is told of a Mr. Crispe, a merchant of London, who although deaf, when Sir Alexander Cary made a speech before his execution, followed the motion of his lips so as to be able to relate it to his friends.

[3] Mrs. Barbauld had such a perpetual smile that one of her friends said it made her jaws ache to look at her.

[4] St. Paul, who was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, gives a different account in Rom. iv. 19.  See also Heb. xi. 11.

[5] Soame Jenyns strangely imagined that a portion of the happiness of Seraphim and of just men made perfect would be derived from an exquisite perception of the ludicrous; while Addison mentions that a learned monk laid it down as a doctrine that laughter was the effect of original sin, and that Adam could not laugh before the fall.  Some of the early Christians felt so strongly the incompatibility of strong human emotions with the divine nature that they expunged the words “Jesus wept.”

[6] Perhaps Solomon was amused by them, for in the catalogue of the valuable things brought in his ships are apes and peacocks.

[7] I cannot see in Homer any of that philosophic satire on the condition of mortals, which some have found in those passages where men are represented as being deceived and tricked by the gods.  Anything so deep would be beyond humour.  He very probably conceived that the gods, whom he represented as similar to men, were sometimes not above playing severe practical jokes on them.  The so-called irony of Sophocles in like manner, is too philosophical and bitter for humour.

[8] Tom Brown, the humorist, says, Lycambes complimented the Iambics of Archilochus with the most convincing proof of their wit and goodness.

Project Gutenberg
History of English Humour, Vol. 1 (of 2) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook