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confifting in a diftinct representation of the agreement of feveral other notions. But when Horace makes Lydia fay :
Quanquam Sidere pulchrior
Ille eft, tu levior cortice, & improbo
Tecum vivere amem, tecum obeam libens.
he in a fenfitive manner reprefents the refemblance of the beauty of Calais, with the beauty of a conftellation; that of levity, with the bark of a tree; and the resemblance of fudden anger, with the raging of the Adriatic: these are therefore representations or ideas of the fenfitive wit. All reprefentations and difcourfes, produced by the wit, whether the fenfitive or rational, are ingenious or witty reprefentations and difcourfes. But here we understand the reprefentations and discourses, produced by the fenfitive wit alone.
We have naturally a faculty to perceive the differences of things; whether differences of the quantities or qualities of them. Under differences are implied diffimilitudes, inequalities, difproportions, &c. The acumen, or penetration, is the habit to discover differences or diftinctions: and whoever can readily perceive thefe differences, is acute. Difproportions confist in the differences of the relations or habitudes of the quantities of different things, mutually compared. We divide acumen, as we did wit, into the fenfitive and rational. The fenfitive, is the habit to discover differences in a fenfitive and indiftinct manner the rational, the habit to difcover differences in a diftinct manner. Reprefentations and difcourfes therefore, produced by the acumen, are called acute. By an acute wit we mean wit combined with acumen, or the habit composed of both and is either fenfitive or rational.
The perfection of our knowledge is grounded on the perfection of the cognofcitive faculty exerted in producing it. In order properly to judge of the beauty of a jeft, we must enquire into the perfection of the acute wit, or the wit and acumen combined, as the faculty which produces jefts. The perfections of a cognofcitive faculty depend either on the number of the things which it exhibits, or on the manner in which it does fo, or in the force or vigour it exerts. The greater number of things it is capable of exhibiting, the greater the perfection, the more difficult the knowledge of them; and yet with the greater advantage and vigour the faculty can exhibit them, alfa the more perfect the faculty. And then there is in this case a greater variety in the faculty; which variety, however, confpires or tends to one end, namely that of the faculty itself, which in
this cafe is knowledge, and in this tendency or confent, perfection confifts.'
Our Profeffor goes on next to illuftrate the different principles,' on which the degrees of perfection of the fenfitive wit depend: after which he proceeds thus, I can now on fufficient grounds affirm, what I mean by a jeft. Quintillian juftly fays, nature contributes the greatest share to a good jeft, by imparting an acuteness and readiness at finding a jeft: he requires an acumen, and exprefsly defines a jeft, Sermo cum rifu aliquos inceffens, a difcourfe exciting to laughter or ridicule. Cicero agrees in this, as he afferts, that a jeft muft, in its nature, be adapted, and the defign of it be, to excite laughter. We call merry and jocofe, whatever moves our laughter. Now from the inftances adduced by Quintillian and Cicero, and on attending to their difquifitions on jefts, we may easily perceive, that the latter are produced by the fenfitive wit and acumen combined, and must be adapted to produce laughter. We muft diftinguish between a conceit, an ingenious conceit, and a jeft. A conceit is at fhort, witty, acute thought. If fine in a fupreme degree, or produced by a perfect fenfitive wit and acumen, and thus capable of caufing an unexpected pleasure, it is an ingenious conceit, bon mot: an ingenious conceit, capable of producing laughter, is a jeft. By a jocofe or merry fpeech I mean a fhort speech, expreffing a jeft: and thus a jeft must be a sensitive fine thought, be concife, and produced by a high degree of wit and acumen, and exhibit fomething ridiculous, or be adapted to cause laughter. I diftinguish jefts from jefting or jocofe fpeeches; a jest is the thought unexpreffed; and to exprefs the jeft happily, peculiar rules are requifite. Diogenes the Cynick coming once to a very small, inconfiderable town, with very large and magnificent gates, he told the inhabitants "to fhut their gates, left the town fhould run out." This jeer or banter implies a jest, ingeniously laying open the ridicule arifing from a gate too large for a town fo fmall. Lewis XIV. obferving two courtiers riding full speed one after the other; the foremoft with an uncommon long chin, the hindmoft with fcarce any at all; the King afked whither they were driving at fuch speed? M. de Clerambaut replied: "The hindmoft is in purfuit of the foremoft, to recover his ftolen chin." Here again it is evident, that the ridiculous circumftance, viz. a person with little or no chin, pursuing another with a very large one, is ingeniously reprefented by a comparison with a theft. And thus I hope I have fufficiently cleared my definition of a jest.'
The Author exemplifies next the difference between what may be called a jeft, and what merely an ingenious turn of fpeech; laying down the following capital rules, comprehendFf3
ing all other, adapted for happy jefts. 1. A jeft muft contain or excite a proper variety of ideas. 2. A jeft must be sufficiently grand, or be an important, fruitful, decent thought. 3. Muit be a juft thought. 4. A lively, fprightly thought. 5. Have a proper degree of certainty. 6. Muft be fufficiently striking. 7. Be expreffed in a fine manner. When a jeft is conformable to all these rules, it must needs be produced by a great and perfect acumen.'
In chapter the 2d, the Writer treats of the first beauty of a jeft, Variety: that is, when a jeft exhibits an allufion between feveral objects at once. This he illuftrates in the three following cafes.
< Firft, a fufficient variety of objects, exhibited in an ingenious manner, is obtained in a jeft, when made by the skilful application of a poetical quotation from a well-known Poet. If the choice of the verfe is happily made, the jeft infallibly fucceeds, if in other refpects conformable to the rules of jefting. And then we may either keep to the thoughts and words of the Poet, without alteration, or fo vary them, as the end propofed may require. Now whoever knows the Poet from whom the paffage is taken, will, by the quotation, or a few words of it, have the connection of the whole brought to his mind. It is therefore evident, that in this cafe a multiplicity of various ideas is prefented at once to the mind. A perfon of wit faw a man riding, with his wife fitting behind him on the horse; and pointing to him, repeated those words of Horace,
Poft Equitem fedet atra cura.
Gloomy care fits behind the rider. Horace in this ode describes carking cares as always purfuing a man given up to their tyranny. Now as all this is brought to the mind, and compared with a wife, there is occafion given to much reflection at one and the fame time. Bayle in his writings has often jested in this manner, and many Satirifts have availed themselves of this very turn. Nay, if we devife an emblem or fymbol, which is to contain a jeft, the device or motto is ufually taken from fome Poet. However, it is evident, that the perfons, to whom the jeft is propofed, must be well acquainted with the Poet: otherwife the jeft will be obfcure, and thereby loft.
Secondly, a jeft may exhibit many ideas at once, when grounded on fome known adage; or if a proverb is in a proper manner adduced on any occafion. Many proverbial fayings have, in virtue of their meaning, not only a reference to many things and particular cafes at the fame time, but are alfo in common life adduced in numberlefs particular circumftances.
And thus as soon as fuch a proverb is heard, the imaginative faculty directly exhibits to itfelf many fuch like cafes and circumftances at once, in which it is ufually applied. In order therefore to jeft, and to adduce for that purpofe a well-known adage, which in other refpects fuits the cafe, and fufficiently exhibits the ridicule in any thing, the jeft acquires thereby a degree of richness and variety altogether agreeable. It is a common proverb, "That there is no difputing about tafte." A wretched Critick, who commended a very mean Poem, and employed this very proverb, by way of defence or apology, was expofed by an emblematical reprefentation: viz. a fly, painted on a dung-hill in quest of food, with the above proverbial faying fet over it. It is alfo a well-known adage, "That but half of what is publickly reported, is to be believed." The Dutchess of Aiguillon, a near relation of Cardinal Richelieu, complained much of the Lady of St. Chaumont, as being up→ braided by her with having had fix children by her coufin. M. de Charoft, who was prefent, replied, "Your Grace doubtless knows, that but half of what is publickly reported, is to be credited." And thus farcaftically upbraided her with three children at least by her coufin.'
In this chapter our Author makes a very fingular observation, viz. that a man may have a great deal of wit, and yet be very incapable of a good jeft. From what we have hitherto difcuffed, fays he, there flows a remark, which refpects jefts in general, and which may also be proved from other principles befides namely, that a man of great wit and little acumen, or penetration, can never fucceed in jefting. Such a man proves always intolerable, with his facetious conceits, to judicious perfons. His jefts are mere playing on words, or puns, or allegorical, metaphorical and tropical modes of fpeech, and the like fports of wit, without applying them with any acumen or penetration and in that cafe he must fall into the infipid. Without acumen, a man cannot poffibly guard against false thoughts: and if in jefting he thinks without acumen, he overlooks the differences of objects, and in that cafe may eafily, by a falfe conceit, represent to himself a coincidence in things, which greatly differ. Now as I have hitherto fhewn, that the objects, to be mutually compared in a jeft, must be very different; but this rule not being poffible to be obferved without a degree of acumen, as being that very faculty, by which we difcover the differences of things; fo it is evident, that each witty conceit is not to be deemed a jeft; but we are, moreover, to enquire, whether the wit, in the production thereof, was duly fupported by the acumen or penetration. And hence alfo I have defined a jeft, a thought produced both by the wit and acumen combined. And we may always obferve, that perfons of no great Ff4 under
understanding are alfo devoid of the neceflary acumen; such as very young perfons, and people advanced, indeed, in years, but children in understanding; these may have a great deal of wit, and for that reafon an uncommon turn for drollery; but yet be incapable to jeft happily, only because they are without acumen. It is evident from other principles, that a perfon devoid of acumen, cannot poffibly have a good tafte: and thus alfo for the fame reafon want of acumen caufes the want of the gift to jeft.' †
Chap. 3, treats of the fecond beauty of a jeft, which is its Importance. Under this head the Author hath fome ftrictures on the propriety of time and place; cenfuring in a particular manner death-bed jefts, as extremely mal-a-propos. We have many examples, fays he, of perfons jefting at their death; there was a law fubfifting formerly in France, that a delinquent under certain circumftances fhould be pardoned, if he married a common prostitute. A native of Picardy, who was to be executed for fome capital crime, having afcended the ladder, a proftitute, who was lame, was prefented to him; and it was in his option to marry her, or to be hanged. After furveying her for a moment, he called out to the executioner, "Tuck up, tuck up! fhe limps." This jeft, indeed, is uncommonly sprightly, as exhibiting a deformed creature to be a greater evil than hanging. But yet the laft moments of our life are a period too important and folemn to admit of jefting and mirth.'
The third beauty of a jeft, treated of in the 4th chapter, is Truth. Indeed it is notorious to a proverb with us, that there is no joke like a true joke. This adage, however, is not taken always in the fense intended by our Author; who, by the truth of a jeft, means the propriety of the application or justice of the fentiment.
Chap. 5, confiders the fourth beauty, Vivacity; without which he thinks a jeft worth very little: but here we do not altogether agree with our Profeffor, who feems to have attended too much to the manners of the French, in acquiring his notions of jefting and wit; indced he appears to have little notion of the native humour and the dry joke of the English. This fpecies of jefting, nevertheless, is infinitely more refined and effectual than the common methods of joking always upon the broad grin.
In chap. 6, our Profeffor illuftrates the fifth beauty, Certainty ; In the 7th, he treats of the fixth beauty, viz. its being affecting or
+We cannot here help obferving that the tranflator feems to want a good deal of acumen, or he would certainly have given fome variety to his expreffion in this fection. He hath alfo fucceeded fo ill in the tranf lation of fome of the jets, that the whole fpirit of them is evaporated.