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most joy and pleasure centered there. Besides all nature, according to the Pfalmift, declares this handy work of Providence, even the dull Theep, though perhaps insensibly, calls out ba, which fignifies an earthly animal.'
The judicious Reader will, from this specimen of the preface, form some idea of what he may expect from the work; a hort fpecimen of which we shall give on the word Babel.
• Babel was called so from ba-bi-el, beings calling like bas, or sheep; it does not appear clearly, whether there was a total deletion of the old language, or a temporary impediment of speech, occasioned by thunder and lightning, or other terrible appearance, wherein the Divine Majesty was
pleased to visit those doers of iniquity, who had professedly undertaken to build this tower, in order to prevent their being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth, contrary to God's express command, as in Genesis ix. ver. 7. and Gen. xi. ver. 4 and 8. wherein Moses considers the building of Babel as a violation of God's command; hence this cannot be called an indifferent act. It seems probable, that the elements, at least, of the original language were preserved, as the names and appellations of perfons and places previous to the confusion, as well as those subsequent, are defined in this Lexicon ; unless the Celtic nation had no concern in the Babylonian affair ; but it is likely that this language, as it thus defines the prediluvian as well as the postdiluvian names, and gives the etymology of languages preferable to any other, must have existed before the confusion of languages ; and if all the world then spoke in one language, this must be it;, nor can it be true that the Phænicians were first poffefled of letters, or that Cadmus carried them from the Phænicians into Greece ; but it seems most likely, that he had them from the Druids, Etrurians, or Umbri of Italy, the ancestors of the Celtes, where he had been in quest of his sister nation Europa ; hefides, it remains a doubt, what country Cadmus was of; tho supposed to be an Egyptian, from his naming the city he built in Boeotia Thebes, after the name of the Egyptian Thebais.'
On the whole, we have nothing to say to the historical part of this work, as the Author feems, in most cases, to have adhered to proper authority; nor do we entirely condemn his etymologies: the scheme, however, of reconciling the present Orthoepy, or the pronunciation of words to the original sense annexed to similar sounds, we conceive to be, for the most part, chimerical. Nay, tho' the Writer of this article hath still fome Welsh blood in his veins, he doth really think, cbat Mons. Bergier's pretensions *, in favour of the Hebrew,
• See Appendix to the last volume of the Revicw.
as an original language, are as well founded as Mr. Jones's in support of the Welsh : nay, he does not doubt, but as plausible pretenfions as those of either, may be made in favour of the Arabic, Chaldee, Syriac, Armenian, Chinese, Greek, Swedish, Coptic, or Teutonic; every one of which have had their Ad. vocates as well as the Celtic, whose cause is thus warmly espoused by Mr. Rowland Jones.
The Merry Philosopher ; or Thoughts on Fisting. Containing Rules
by which a proper Judgment of Jests may be formed; and the Criterion for distinguishing true and genuine Wit from that which is falfe and spurious : Together with In/tructions for improving the Taste of those who have a natural turn for Pleasantry and Good Humour. By George Frederick Meier, Profeffor of Philofophy at Halle, Member of the Royal Academy at Berlin, and Author of several much admired Works in the German Language. Now first translated into English from the German Original. 12mo. 35. Newbery.
Philosophical Treatise on Jefting may be supposed written
'a however, appears farther from the design of the Treatise before us; which is really a grave and judicious enquiry into the source, not indeed of the sublime and beautiful, but of the low and risible, That there is certainly as determinate a cause in nature, why we are affected by the latter with Laughter, as by the former with Admiration, is not to be doubted, but whether the causes of both are equally investigable, can only be judged of by a comparative review of the different attempts made toward their investigation.
In the jocose reign of that merry monarch king Charles the fecond, the art of jesting seems to have been in the highest repute in England. But the practice of an art, and the scientific principles on which it is founded, are very different. How many successful practitioners in physic have we, who know nothing of medicine, as a science ! How many excellent performers, and even composers, in music, who are totally ignorant of the nature of the vibrations and the mechanical proportions of the chords, productive of the several tones, of which they know how to dispose lo harmoniously! How many ingenious artists in painting and design, that know so little of the physical caules of those admirable effects their labours produce, that not one in twenty of them can divine, even to this day, what their greac master Hogarth intended by his Line of Beauty! In like manner we have numerous adepts in the art risible ; choice fpirits ! who juft when they please, as Hamlet says of Yorick, can set the table in a roar; and yet we conceive not one of our modern fons of Comus will comprehend a whit more of our Professor's Analysis of Jefting, than the generality of our Artists underftand of the Analysis of Beauty. It is indeed by time and flow degrees that an Art improves and ripens into a Science: the mechanic Arts were long practised with success, even from the days of Archimedes to those of Bishop Wilkins and the Marquis of Worcester ; but who before Dr. Wallis and Sir Isaac Newton was capable of determining the laws of Motion, and reducing Mechanics to a Science? Thus Longinus and Aristotle wrote, ages ago, on the beautiful effects of literary composition ; but it was reserved for the present philosophical age to discover the mechanism of the true sublime, the physical causes of taste, t and the general physiological principles of true fun.
It is somewhat extraordinary, however, that this discovery should fall to the lot of a German ; it being no longer ago than the time of Louis the fourteenth, when it was solemnly debated in the University of Paris, whether it was poslīble in rerum natura that a German could be a wit? We are told, it is true, in the introduction to this work, that ' an Author, tho' without any turn for jefting himself, may, as a philosopher, undertake to enquire, on solid principles, into the rules of jefting: as such a one is supposed to have refined his taste by the rules of sound and philosophical criticism, to have acquired just notions of beauty in general, and to be well instructed in the nature of wit and acumen in particular ; just as he may be a proper judge of the beauties of a picture, the noble strokes of a
+ It hath been for many ages a standing proverb, de guftibus non eft disputandum; but, if we may judge from the success of some late at tempts by Montesquieu, Voltaire, D'Alembert, Gerard, and others, we thall soon see that adage reversed. Nay we doubt not this subject will in a short time become so familiar to our casuistical critics, that the mechanical and mathematical principles of Wit, Humour, and Taste, will be canvassed at the Queen's arms and Robinhood, in the same manner as are now those of the human understanding, the principles of religion, politics, or any other science equally understood by the learned members of those flourishing societies. We would indeed recommend it to the new Literary Society, now establishing in this metropolis, under the auspices of the Rev. Dr. Trofler, and others, to offer premiums, in imitation of the Society in the Strand, not only to young Writers and Speak. ers, but also to young Jokers; unless indeed this good work be taken out of their hands, by the union of the Catch Club and Comus's Court, which we conceive would form a truly national and comical inftitution, under the denomination of the Risible Society: the motto of whose arms might be Homo eft animal rifibile,
fine poem, the energy and force of a sublime piece of oratory, tho' neither painter, poet, nor orator.
The reason is, theory and practice are not always inseparable.'
Thus, it seems the academical question above-mentioned, might have been determined in the affirmative, and yet the propriety of our Philosopher's enquiry be fully admitted. And, indeed, this was very probably the case: while the Beaux-esprits and Esprits forts of England and France were busy in pelting each other with sarcastic jelts, and making the world laugh at their witticisms, our Author was sitting, hum-drum, with his pipe in his mouth, like a true German profeffor, endeavouring to smoke the cream of the jest, and to find out what people were lo merry about.
Whether he hath really extracted the marrow of the joke or not, may be gathered from the following abstract and specimens of the work.
As to the general design of this performance, the Author speaks thus of it in his introduction, which appears to have been added in a second edition of the book :
Several exceptions were made by some formal gloomy persons to these thoughts, on their first publication : they accounted the undertaking indecent and ridiculous : they imagined I sat up for a profeflor of jesting, and publickly declared, I affected an extraordinary turn that way, and wanted to keep it in exercise. My pupils and my more intimate friends can readily acquit me in this respect. I must, however, rest contented with the judgment of the world, should it be thought a still greater indecency, that I now give an improved edition. I only want to be thought a whetstone for sharpening iron, without pretending to cut:
fungar vice cotis, acutum Reddere quæ ferrum valeat, exsors ipfa fecandi.
Some persons indiscriminately condemn all laughter and jesting, as criminal; as they make no distinction between a morole and a serious turn of mind. I can easily foresee, they will deem, as inconsistent with the principles of morality, a subject, which they, in their gloomy apprehensions, look upon as incompatible with its practice. As I admit, that several jests are inconsistent with true virtue ; so, if impartial, they, on their part, must admit, that moroseness is far from being a virtue :
Multum ringitur otiofa Virtus. · Hypocrites, with the appearance, but without the reality of virtue, condemn, from the teeth outwardly, the lauginter and jesting, which they fincerely approve in their hearts. And many fincere, virtuous persons, allo account them criminal, either
from temperament, melancholy, or erroneous principles of morality. As the censure of such persons gives me pain, so their approbation would give me great pleasure. But as long as they consider the suggestions of their temperament, deep melancholy, and erroneous principles, as so many dictates of real virtue ; lo long they must not take it amiss, if, while I revere their virtue, I despise their judgment.
• It must be allowed, great offence may be given by jefting, and that much circumspection is requisite to jest innocently. Some jests are irreligious, coarse, lewd, unseemly, &c. But I am to Thew, a happy jest must in its nature be innocent. To determine in general, whether jesting be innocent, or no, it is necessary to explain briefly the intention, subject, circumstances, and the nature of a jest, and of the laughter consequent upon it. As to the intention, a person may jest out of malignity, lewdness, impiety, rancour, &c. things no ways necessary to conftitute jefts : and therefore we cannot condemn them in the lump, because sometimes proceeding from criminal intentions. The subject of jells may be things, which ought not to be jefted on; things of a momentous nature, as religion, virtue, truth, &c. but as these are no requisites to a jeft, we cannot therefore condemn all jesting, because of such abuse and misapplication. Many circumstances may be improper for jesting, as in the house of mourning, on a death-bed, &c. but none can be reAtrained at any time, to jeft unseasonably*In the nature of a jest, which, as I shall shew, consists in an extreme fine thought, the result of a great wit and acumen, which are eminent perfections of the foul, there can be nothing criminal. And lastly, in laughter, condemned by persons, whom nature has neglected, having denied them the faculty thereof, whose aversion therefore to laughter can be no virtue ; in laughter, I say, bestowed as a prerogative on man, above the brute creation, there can as little be any thing criminal. In all this, I only attempt to set my readers in the train of judging in a rational and solid manner, on the morality of jefting : the further prosecution is foreign to my purpose. I might however, alledge, that a harsh, disagrecable truth, a reproof, can in no better manner be couched. Many failings and miscarriages deserve a slight ridicule, not a folema reprimand. A man may often make his fortune by a happy jest; or handsomely extricate himself out of some difficulty. Mr. Waller, whom Charles II. reproached with a better poem, made on Cromwell, than on himself, readily replied: “ Poets, please your majesty, are happier at fiction than truth.”
* We apprehend there is some mistake here, either of the Translator, the Printer.