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when the perception of it is attended with some other emotion of greater authority.
It cannot be expected, that I should give a complete list of those emotions that do commonly, in a sound mind, bear down this ludicrous emotion. Several of them have been specified in the course of this inquiry. We have seen, from, the examples given, that moral disapprobation, pity, fear, disgust, admiration, are among the number; to which every person, who attends to what passes in his own mind, may perhaps be able to add several others.
I am well aware, that the comparative strength of our several emotions is not the same in each individual. In some the more serious affections are so prevalent, that the risible disposition operates but seldom, and with a feeble impulse: in some, the latter predominates so much that the others are scarce able to counteract its energy. It is hardly possible to arrive at principles so comprehensive as to include the peculiarities of every individual. These are sometimes so inconsistent with the general law of the species, that they may be considered as deviations from the ordinary course of nature. In tracing Sentimental Laughter to its first principles, I have examined it, only as it is found to operate, for the most part, in the generality of mankind.
An Attempt to account for the Superiority of the Moderns in Ludicrous Writing.
It seems to be generally acknowledged, that the moderns are superiour to the ancient Greeks and Romans, in every sort of ludicrous writing. If this be indeed the case, it is a fact that deserves the attention of those authors who make wit, or humour, the subject of their inquiry; since the same reasonings that account for this fact must throw light on the philosophy of laughter. But by those people who argue for argument's sake, probable reasons might be urged, to show, that we are not competent judges of the ancient humour, and therefore cannot be certain of the superiority of the modern. Were I to defend this side of the question, the following should be my arguments.
Every thing that gives variety to the thoughts, the manners, and employments of men, must also tend to diversify their conversations and compositions in general, and their wit and humour in particular. Accordingly we find, that almost every profession in life has a turn of humour, as well as of thinking and acting, peculiar in some degree to itself. The soldier, the seaman, the mechanick, the husbandman, is more amused by the conversation of people of his own trade, than by that of others: and a species of wit shall be highly relished in one club or society, which in another would be but little attended to. We need not wonder, then, that in the humour of each country there should be some peculiar character, to the forming of which, not only the language and manners, but even the climate and soil, must contribute, by giving a peculiar direction to the pursuits and thoughts of the inhabitants. Nor need we wonder, that each nation should be affected most agreeably with its own wit and humour. For, not to mention the prejudice that one naturally entertains in favour of what is one's own, a native must always understand better than foreigners can, the relations, contrarieties, and allusions, implied in what is ludicrous in the speech and writings of his countrymen.
Shakspeare's humour will never be adequately relished in France, nor that of Moliere in England: and translations of ludicrous writings are seldom popular, unless they exhibit something of the manners and habits of thinking, as well as the language, of the people to whom they are addressed. Echard's Terence, from having adopted such a multitude of our cant phrases, and proverbial allusions, is perhaps more generally relished in Great Britain, than a more literal and more elegant version would have been. Sancho Pancha diverts us more in Morteux's Don Quixote, than in Jervas's translation, or Smollet's; because he has more of the English clown, and less of the Spaniard, in the former, than in the latter. And a certain French author, to render his translation of Tom Jones more acceptable to his countrymen, and to clear it of what he foolishly calls English phlegm, has greatly abridged that incomparable performance, and, in my opinion, expunged some of the finest passages; those conversasion pieces, I mean, which tend more immediately to the elucidation of the characters, than to the progress of the story.
May there not, then, in ancient authors, be many excellent strokes of wit and humour, which we misapprehend, merely because we cannot adequately relish? The dialogues of the Socratick philosophers abound in pleasantry, which is no doubt entertaining to a modern reader, but which does not at all come up to those expectations that one would be apt to form of it from the high encomiums of Cicero, and other ancients criticks: and may hot this be partly imputed to our not sufficiently understanding the Socratick dialogues? To us nothing appears more paltry in the execution, than the ridicule with which Aristophanes persecuted Socrates: and yet we know, that it operated with wonderful energy on the Athenians, who, for refinement of taste, and for wit and humour, were distinguished among all the nations of antiquity. Does not this amount to a presumption, that we are not competent judges of the humour of that profligate comedian?
Let it be remarked, too, that the sphere most favourable to wit and humour is that which is occupied by the middle and lower ranks of mankind; persons in high stations being obliged to maintain a reserve unfriendly to risible emotion, and to reduce their behaviour to an artificial uniformity, which does indeed answer many important purposes, but which, for the most part, disqualifies them for filling any eminent place in humorous description. Now we are much in the dark in regard to the manners that prevailed among the Greeks and Romans of the lower sort: and there must have been, in their ludicrous writings, as there are in ours, many nice allu. sions to trifling customs, to the news of the day, and to characters and incidents too inconsiderable to be minded by the historian, which none but persons living at the time, and in a partial