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).
production called Homeric but proved by the very length of its name to belong to a later date.  It is ascribed by Plutarch to Pigres, the brother of the Halicarnassian Queen, Artemisia, contemporary with the Persian War.  This poem, which is a parody on Homer, reminds us, in its microscopic representation of human affairs, of the travels of Gulliver in Lilliput.  A frog offers to give a mouse a ride across the water on his back.  Unfortunately, a water-snake lifts up its head when they are in the middle passage, and the frog diving to avoid the danger, the mouse is drowned.  From this trifling cause there arises a mighty war between the frogs and the mice.  The contest is carried on in true Homeric style; the mice-warriors are armed with bean-pods for greaves, lamp-bosses for shields, nutshells for helmets, and long needles for spears.  The frogs have leaves of willow on their legs, cabbage leaves for shields, cockle-shells for helmets, and bulrushes for spears.  Their names are suggestive, as in a modern pantomime.  Among the mice we have Crumb-stealer, Cheese-scooper, and Lick-dish; among the frogs, Puff-cheeks, Loud-croaker, Muddyman, Lovemarsh, &c.



Birth of Humour—­Personalities—­Story of Hippocleides—­Origin of
  Comedy—­Archilochus—­Hipponax—­Democritus, the Laughing
  Philosopher—­Aristophanes—­Humour of the
  Senses—­Indelicacy—­Enfeeblement of the Drama—­Humorous
  Games—­Parasites, their Position and
  Jests—­Philoxenus—­Diogenes—­Court of Humour—­Riddles—­Silli.

There is every reason to suppose that a very considerable period elapsed before any progress was made in advance of the ludicrous, but at length by those who appreciated it strongly, and saw it in things in which it did not appear to others, humorous devices were invented from a growing desire to multiply the occasions for enjoyment.  Observation and our power of imitation provided the means, and men of humour employed themselves in reproducing some ludicrous situations; and thus, instead of things derided being as previously wholly separate from those who derided them, a man could laugh, and yet be the cause of laughter to others.  This discovery was soon improved upon, and by aid of imagination and memory, as opportunities offered, certain connections and appearances were represented under a great variety of forms.  As the mind enlarged, the exciting causes of laughter were not mainly physical or emotional, but assumed a higher and more rational character.

At the period at which we have now arrived, we find humour dawning through various channels.  We have traced approximations towards it in proverbs and fables, and, in a coarse form, in practical jokes; and as from historical evidences we are ready to admit that civilization had an Eastern origin, so we shall feel little difficulty in assigning Greece as the birthplace of humour.  A greater activity of mind now begins to prevail, reflection has gradually given distinctness to emotion, and the ludicrous is not only recognised as a source of pleasure, but intentionally represented in literature.

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