« PreviousContinue »
GEORGE CAMPBELL, D.D., F.R.S. Edin.,
PRINCIPAL OF TUB MARISCHAL COLLEGE, ABERDEEN
A NEW EDITION,
HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS.
389 & 331 TEARL STREET,
There are several reasons which have induced the author of the following sheets to give the public some account of their origin and progress, previously to tb?ir coming under its examination. They are a series of Essays closely connected with one another, and written on a subject in the examination of which he has at intervals employed himself for a considerable part of his life. Considered separately, each may justly be termed a whole, and complete in itself; taken together, they are constituent parts of one work. The author entered on this inquiry as early as the year 1750; and it was then that the first two chapters of the first book were composed. These he intended as a sort of groundwork to the whole. And the judicious reader will perceive that, in raising the superstructure, he has entirely conformed to the plan there delineated. That first outline he showed soon after to several of his acquaintance, some of whom are still living. In the year 1757 it was read to a private literary society, of which the author had the honour to be a member. It was a difference in his situation at that time, and his connexion with the gentlemen of that society, some of whom have since honourably distinguished themselves in the republic of letters, that induced him to resume a subject which he had so long laid aside. The three following years all the other chapters of that book, except the third, the sixth, and the tenth, which have been but lately added (rather as illustrations and confirmations of some parts of the work, than as essential to it), were composed, and submitted to the judgment of the same ingenuous friends. All that follows on the subject of Elocution hath also undergone the same review. Nor has there been any material alteration made on these, or any addition to them, except in a few instances of notes, examples, and verbal corrections, since they were composed
It is also proper to observe here, that since transcribing the present work for the press, a manuscript was put into his hands by Doctor Beattie, at the very time that, in order to be favoured with the doctor's opinion of this performance, the author gave him the first book for his perusal. Doctor Beattie's tract is called An Essay on Laughter and Ludicrous Writing. While the author carefully perused that Essay, it gave him a very agreeable surprise to discover that, on a question so nice and curious, there should, without any previous communication, be so remu;-!Lable a coincidence of sentiments in everything wherein their subjects coincide. A man must have an uncommon confidence in his own faculties (I might have said in his own infallibility) who is not sensibly more satisfied of the justness of their procedure, especially in abstract matters, when he discovers such a concurrence with the ideas and reasoning of writers of discernment The subject of that piece is, indeed, Laughter in general, with an inquiry into those qualities in the object by which it is excited. The investigation is conducted with the greatest accuracy, and the theory confirmed and illustrated by such a variety of pertinent examples, as enable us to scrutinize his doctrine on every side, and view it in almost every possible light. He does not enter into the specif c characters whereby wit apd