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

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 248 pages of information about History of English Humour, Vol. 1 (of 2).
there is a difference between the two in our knowledge of them.  In the former, the creative mind is more marked, and, a man though he laughs much, if he be dull in words is only considered to have mirth, i.e., joyousness or a sense of the ludicrous, not humour.  The gift can only be brought prominently forward in speech or writing, and thus humour comes to be often regarded as a kind of ingredient or seasoning in a speech or book, if not actually synonymous with certain sentences or expressions.  Still we always confine the name to human productions, as, for instance, gestures, sayings, writings, pictures, and plays.

The recognition of the mental character of humour did not necessarily imply any knowledge as to the authority, instability, or constancy of the feeling—­that could only be acquired by philosophical investigation.  Nor have we yet so far ascertained its character as to be able to form humorous fancies upon any fixed principle.  We are guided by some sense of the ludicrous which we cannot analyse; or we introduce into new and similar cases relationships in things which we have observed to be amusing.  Some forms are so general that they will produce a vast number of jests, and we thus seem to have some insight into the influences that awaken humour, but we see only approximately and superficially, and can merely produce good results occasionally—­rather by an accident than with any certainty.

INTRODUCTION.

PART I.

ORIGIN OF HUMOUR.

Pleasure in Humour—­What is Laughter?—­Sympathy—­First Phases—­Gradual
  Development—­Emotional Phase—­Laughter of Pleasure—­Hostile
  Laughter—­Is there any sense of the Ludicrous in the Lower
  Animals?—­Samson—­David&mdas
h;­Solomon—­Proverbs—­Fables.

Few of the blessings we enjoy are of greater value than the gift of humour.  The pleasure attendant upon it attracts us together, forms an incentive, and gives a charm to social intercourse, and, unlike the concentrating power of love, scatters bright rays in every direction.  That humour is generally associated with enjoyment might be concluded from the fact that the genial and good-natured are generally the most mirthful, and we all have so much personal experience of the gratification it affords, that it seems superfluous to adduce any proofs upon the subject.  “Glad” is from the Greek word for laughter, and the word “jocund” comes from a Latin term signifying “pleasant.”  But we can trace the results of this connection in our daily observation.  How comes it to pass that many a man who is the life and soul of social gatherings, and keeps his friends in delighted applause, sits, when alone in his study, grave and sedate, and seldom, if ever, smiles in reading or meditation?  Is it not because humour is a source of pleasure?  We are not joyously disposed when alone, whereas in society we are ready to give and receive whatever is bright and cheering.

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