« PreviousContinue »
noted instances, the two emotions of contempt and of laughter unite intimately in the mind, and produce externally what is termed a laugh of derision or of scorn. Hence objects that cause laughter may be distinguished into two kinds : they are either risible or ridi culous. A risible object is mirthful only a ridiculous object is both mirthful and contemptible. The first raises an emotion of laughter that is altogether pleasant: the pleasant emotion of laughter raised by the other is blended with the painful emotion of contempt; and the mixed emotion is termed the emotion of ridicule. The pain a ridiculous object gives me is resented and punished by a laugh of derision. A risible object, on the other hand, gives me no pain: it is altogether pleasant by a certain sort of titillation, which is expressed externally by mirthful laughter. Ridicule will be more fully explained afterward: the present chapter is appropriated to the other emotion.
Risible objects are so common, and so well understood, that it is unnecessary to consume paper or time upon them. Take the few following examples.
Falstaff. I do remember him at Clement's Inn, like a man made after supper of a cheese-paring. When he was naked, he was for all the world like a forked radish, with a head fantastically carved upon it with a knife- -Secona Part, Henry IV. act 3. sc. 5.
The foregoing is of disproportion. The following examples are of slight or imaginary misfortunes.
Falstaff. Go fetch me a quart of sack; put a toast in't. Have I liv'd to be carried in a basket, like a barrow of butcher's offal, and to be thrown into the Thames! Well, if I be serv'd such another trick, I'll have my brains ta'en out and butter'd, and give them to a dog for a new year's gift. The rogues slided me into the river with as little remorse as they would have drown'd a bitch's blind puppies, fifteen i'th'litter; and you may know by my size, that I have a kind of alacrity in sinking: if the bottom were as deep as hell, I should down. I had been drown'd, but that the shore was shelvy and shallow; a death that I abhor: for the water swells a man: and what a thing should I have been when I had been swell'd? I should have been a mountain of mummy.-Merry Wives of Windsor, act 3. sc. 5.
Falstaff. Nay, you shall hear, Master Brook, what I have suffer'd to bring this woman to evil for your good. Being thus cramm'din the basket, a couple of Ford's kaves, his hinds, were call'd forth by their mistress, to carry me in the name of foul cloaths to Datchet-lane. They took me on their shoulders, met the jealous knave, their master, in the door, who ask'd them once or twice what they had in their basket. I quak'd for fear, lest the lunatic knave would have search'd t; but Fate ordaining he should be a cuckold, held his hand. Well, on went he for a search, and away went I for foul cloaths. But mark the sequel, Master Brook. I suffer'd the pangs of three egregious deaths: first, an intolerable fright, to be detected by a jealous rotten bell-wether; next, to be compass'd like a good bilbo, in the circumference of a peck, hilt to point, heel to head; and then to be stopt in, like a strong distillation, with stinking cloaths that fretted in their own grease, Think of that, a man of my kidney: think of that, that am as subject to heat as butter; a man of continual dissolution and thaw: it was a miracle to scape suffocation. And in the height of this bath, when I was more than half stew'd in grease, like a Dutch dish, to be thrown into the Thames, and cool'd glowing hot, in that urge, like a horse-shoe: think of that; hissing hot; think of that, Master Brook. Merry Wives of Windsor, act 3. sc. 5,
RESEMBLANCE AND DISSIMILITUDE.
HAVING discussed those qualities and circumstances of single oùjects that seem peculiarly connected with criticism, we proceed, according to the method proposed in the chapter of beauty, to the relations of objects, beginning with the relations of resemblance and dissimilitude.
The connexion that man hath with the beings around him requires some acquaintance with their nature, their powers, and their qualities, for regulating his conduct. For acquiring a branch of knowledge so essential to our well-being, motives alone of reason and interest are not sufficient; nature hath providently superadded curiosity, a vigorous propensity, which never is at rest. This propensity attaches us to every new object;* and incites us to compare objects, in order to discover their differences and resemblances.
Resemblance among objects of the same kind, and dissimilitude among objects of different kinds, are too obvious and familiar to gratify our curiosity in any degree; its gratification lies in discovering differences among things where resemblance prevails, and resemblances where difference prevails. Thus a difference in individuals of the same kind of plants or animals, is deemed a discovery ;` while the many particulars in which they agree are neglected; and in different kinds, any resemblance is greedily remarked, without attending to the many particulars in which they differ.
A comparison, however, may be too far stretched. When differences or resemblances are carried beyond certain bounds, they appear slight and trivial; and for that reason will not be relished by a man of taste; yet such propensity is there to gratify passion, curiosity in particular, that even among good writers we find many comparisons too slight to afford satisfaction. Hence the frequent instances among logicians of distinctions without any solid difference: and hence the frequent instances among poets and orators, of similies without any just resemblance. With regard to the latter, I shall confine myself to one instance, which will probably amuse the reader, being a quotation not from a poet nor orator, but from a grave author, writing an institute of law. "Our students shall observe, that the knowledge of the law is like a deep well, out of which each man draweth according to the strength of his understanding. He that reacheth deepest seeth the amiable and admirable secrets of the law, wherein I assure you the sages of the law in former times have had the deepest reach. And, as the bucket in the depth is easily drawn to the uppermost part of the water, (for nullum elementum in suo proprio loco est grave), but take it from the water, it cannot be drawn up but with a great difficulty: so, albeit beginnings of this study seem difficult, yet, when the professor of the law can dive into the depth, it is delightful, easy, and without any
* See chap. 6.
heavy burden, so long as he keep himself in his own proper element."* Shakspeare, with uncommon humour, ridicules such disposition to simile-making, by putting in the mouth of a weak man a resemblance much of a piece with that now mentioned.
Fluellen. I think it is in Macedon where Alexander is porn: I tell you Captain, if you look in the maps of the orld, I warrant that you sall find, in the comparisons between Macedon and Monmouth, that the situations, look you, is both alike. There is a river in Macedon, there is also moreover a river in Monmouth: it is called Wye at Monmouth, but it is out of my prains what is the name of the other river; but it is all one, 'tis as like as my fingers to my fingers, and there is salmons in both. If you mark Alexander's life well, Harry of Monmouth's life is come after it indifferent well: for there is figures in all things. Alexander, God knows, and you know, in his rages, and his furies, and his wraths, and his cholers, and his moods, and his displeasures, and his indignations; and also being a little intoxicates in his prains, did, in his ales and his angers, look you, kill his pest friend Clytus.
Gower. Our King is not like him in that; he never kill'd any of his friends. Fluellen. It is not well done, mark you now, to take the tales out of my mouth, ere it is made and finished. I speak but in figures, and comparisons of it; as Alexander kill'd his friend Clytus, being in his ales and his cups; so also Harry Monmouth, being in his right wits and his good judgments, turn'd away the fat knight with great pelly-doublet; he was full of jests, and gripes, and knaveries, and mocks: I have forget his name.
Gower. Sir John Falstaff.
Fluellen. That is he: I tell you there is good men born at Monmouth.
Instruction, no doubt, is the chief end of comparison; but that it is not the only end will be evident from considering, that a comparison may be employed with success to put a subject in a strong point of view. A lively idea is formed of a man's courage, by likening it to that of a lion; and eloquence is exalted in our imagination, by comparing it to a river overflowing its banks, and involving all in its impetuous course. The same effect is produced by contrast: a man in prosperity becomes more sensible of his happiness by opposing his condition to that of a person in want of bread. Thus, comparison is subservient to poetry as well as to philosophy; and, with respect to both, the foregoing observation holds equally, that resemblance among objects of the same kind, and dissimilitude among objects of different kinds, have no effect: such a comparison neither tends to gratify our curiosity, nor to set the objects compared in a stronger light; two apartments in a palace, similar in shape, size, and furniture, make separately as good a figure as when compared: and the same observation is applicable to two similar compartments in a garden: on the other hand, oppose a regular building to a fall of water, or a good picture to a towering hill, or even a little dog to a large horse, and the contrast will produce no effect. But a resemblance between objects of different kinds, and a difference between objects of the same kind, have remarkably an enlivening effect. The poets, such of them as have a just taste, draw all their similies from things that in the main differ widely from the principal subject; and they never attempt a contrast but where the things have a common genus and a resemblance in the capital circumstances; place together a large and a small sized animal of the same species, the one will appear greater, the other less, than when viewed separately:
*Coke upon Lyttleton, p. 71.
when we oppose beauty to deformity, each makes a greater figure by the comparison. We compare the dress of different nations with curiosity, but without surprise; because they have no such resemblance in the capital parts as to please us by contrasting the smaller parts. But a new cut of a sleeve or of a pocket enchants by its novelty, and, in opposition to the former fashion raises some degree of surprise.
That resemblance and dissimilitude have an enlivening effect upon objects of sight, is made sufficiently evident: and that they have the same effect upon objects of the other senses, is also certain. Nor is that law confined to the external senses; for characters contrasted make a greater figure by the opposition: Iago, in the tragedy of Othello, says,
He hath a daily beauty in his life
The character of a fop, and of a rough warrior, are nowhere more successfully contrasted than in Shakspeare:
Hotspur. My liege, I did deny no prisoners;
And 'twixt his finger and his thumb he held
He gave his nose ;-and still he smil'd and talk'd;
He call'd them untaught knaves, unmannerly,
He question'd me: among the rest, demanded
I then all smarting with my wounds, being gall'd
Out of my grief, and my impatience,
He should, or should not; for he made me mad,
To see him shine so brisk, and smell so sweet.
And talk so like a waiting gentlewoman,
Of guns, and drums, and wounds; (God save the mark!)
Was parmacity, for an inward bruise:
This villainous saltpetre should be digg'd
He would himself have been a soldier.-First part, Henry IV. act 1. sc. 4. Passions and emotions are also inflamed by comparison. A man of high rank humbles the by-standers, even to annihilate them in their own opinion: Cæsar, beholding the statue of Alexander, was greatly mortified, that now at the age of thiry-two when Alexander died, he had not performed one memorable action.
Our opinions also are much influenced by comparison. A man whose opulence exceeds the ordinary standard, is reputed richer than he is in reality; and wisdom or weakness, if at all remarkable in an individual, is generally carried beyond the truth.
The opinion a man forms of his present distress is heightened by contrasting it with his former happiness:
Could I forget
What I have been, I might the better bear
That have been wretched: but to think how much
I have been happier.
Southern's Innocent Adultery, act 2.
The distress of a long journey makes even an indifferent inn agreeable: and, in travelling, when the road is good, and the horseman well covered, a bad day may be agreeable by making him sensible how snug he is.
The same effect is equally remarkable when a man opposes his condition to that of others. A ship tossed about in a storm, makes the spectator reflect upon his own ease and security, and puts these in the strongest light:
Suave, mari magno turbantibus æquora ventis,
Lucret. 1. 2. principio.
A man in grief cannot bear mirth: it gives him a more lively notion of his unhappiness, and of course makes him more unhappy. Satan contemplating the beauties of the terrestrial paradise, has the following exclamation:
With what delight could I have walk'd thee round,
Now land, now sea, and shores with forest crown'd,
Paradise Lost, book 9. l. 114.
Gaunt. All places that the eye of Heaven visits,
The grass whereon thou tread'st, the presence-floor: