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a new flying ogle fit for the Ring; which I teach in • the dusk of the evening, or in any hour of the day, by
darkening one of my windows. I have a manuscript
by me, called The Complete Ogler, which I shall be ' ready to fhew you upon any occasion. In the mean
time I beg you will publish the substance of this letter ' in an advertisement, and you
No. XLVII. TUESDAY, APRIL 24.
Ride, fi fapis
MART. Laugh, if you're wise. MR. Hobbes, in his discourse of human nature, which
my humble opinion, is much the best of all his works, after some very curious observations upon laughter, concludes thus: "The passion of laughter is nothing • else but sudden glory arising from fome sudden concep
tion of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with
the infirmity of others, or with our own formerly; for o men laugh at the follies of themselves past when they • come suddenly to remembrance, except they bring with • them any present dishonour.'
According to this author therefore, when we hear a man laugh excessively, instead of saying he is very merry, we ought to tell him he is very proud. And indeed, if we look into the bottom of this matter, we shall meet with many obfervations to confirm us in his opinion. Every one laughs at somebody that is in an inferior Itate of folly to himself. It was formerly the custom for every great house in England to keep a tame fool dressed in petticoats, that the heir of the family might have an opportunity of joking upon him, and diverting himself with his ábsurdities. For the same reason idiots are still in request in most of the courts of Germany, where there is not a prince of any great magnificence who has not two or three dressed, distinguished, undisputed fools in his re
tinue, whom the rest of the courtiers are always breaking their jests upon.
The Dutch, who are more famous for their industry and application than for wit and humour, hang up in feveral of their streets what they call the sign of the Gaper; that is, the head of an idiot dressed in a cap and bells, and gaping in a most immoderate manner: this is a standing jelt at Amsterdain.
Thus every one diverts himself with some person or other that is below him in point of understanding, and triumphs in the superiority of his genius, whilst he has such objects of derision before his eyes. Mr. Dennis has very well expressed this in a couple of humorous lines, which are part of a translation of a satire in Monfieur Boileau :
Thus one fool lolls his tongue out at another,
Mr. Hobbes's reflection gives us the reason why the insignificant people abovementioned are stirrers-up of laughter among men of a gross tatte; but as the more understanding part of mankind do not find their risibility affected by such ordinary objects, it inay be worth the while to examine into the several provocatives of laughter in men of superior sense and knowledge.
In the first place I must observe, that there is a set of merry drolls, whom the common people of all countries admire, and seem to love so well, that they could eat • them,' according to the old proverb; I mean those circumforaneous wits whom every nation calls by the name of that difh of meat which it loves best. In Holland they are termed Pickled Herrings; in France, Jean Pottages; in Italy, Maccaronies; and in Great Britain, Jack Puddings. These merry wags, from whatsoever food they receive their titles, that they may make their audiences laugh, always appear in a fool's coat, and commit such blunders and mistakes in every step they take and every word they utter, as those who listen to them would be ashamed of.
But this little triumph of the understanding, under the disguise of laughter, is nowhere more visible than in that custom which prevails everywhere among us on the first day.of the present month, when every body takes it in his head to make as many fools as he can. In proportion as there are more follies discovered, so there is more laughter raised on this day than on any other in the whole year. A neighbour of mine, who is a haberdasher by trade, and a very shallow conceited fellow, makes his boasts that for these ten years fucceflively he has not made less than a hundred April fools. My landlady had a falling out with him about a fortnight ago, for fending every one of her children upon some sleeveless errand, as she terms it. Her eldest son went to buy an halfpenny worth of incle at a shoemaker's; the eldest daughter was dispatched half a mile to see a monster; and in short, the whole family of innocent children made April-fools : nay, my landlady herself did not escape him. This empty fellow haslaughed upon these conceits ever since.
This art of wit is well enough when confined to one day in a twelvemonth; but there is an ingenious tribe of men fprung up of late years, who are for making Aprilfools every day in the year. These gentlemen are commonly distinguished by the name of Biters: a race of men that are perpetually employed in laughing at those mistakes which are of their own production.
Thus we see, in proportion as one man is more refined than another, he chooses his fool out of a lower or higher class of mankind; or, to speak in a more philosophical language, that secret elation and pride of heart which is generally called laughter, arises in him, from his comparing himself with an object below him, whether it so happens that it be a natural or an artificial fool. It is indeed very possible, that the persons we laugh at may, in the main of their characters, be much wiser men than ourselves; but if they would have us laugh at them, they must fall short of us in those respects which ftir up this patsion.
I am afraid I jhall appear too abstracted in my speculations if I fnew that when a man of wit makes us laugh,
it is by betraying some oddness or infirmity in his own character, or in the representation which he makes of others; and that when we laugh at a brute, or even at an inanimate thing, it is at some action or incident that bears a remote analogy to any blunder or absurdity in reasonable creatures.
But to come into common life, I shall by the consideration of those stage-coxcombs that are able to shake a whole audience, and take notice of a particular fort of men, who are such provokers of mirth in conversation that it is impossible for a club or merry-meeting to subfist without them; I mean those honest gentlemen that are always exposed to the wit and raillery of their wellwishers and companions; that are pelted by men, women, and children, friends and foes; and, in a word, stand as Butts in conversation, for every one to shoot at that pleases. I know several of these Butts who are nien of wit and sense, though by some odd turn of humour, some unlucky cast in their person or behaviour, they have always the misfortune to make the
company merry. The truth of it is, a man is not qualified for a Butt who has not a good deal of wit and vivacity, even on the ridiculous side of his character. A stupid Butt is only fit for the conversation of ordinary people; men of wit require one that will give them play, and beftir himfelf in the abfurd part of his behaviour: a Butt with these accomplishments frequently gets the laugh on his fide, and turns the ridicule upon him that attacks him. Sir John Falstaff was an hero of this species, and gives a good description of himself in his capacity of a Butt, after the following manner: “ Men of all sorts,” says that merry knight, “take a pride to gird at me. The brain
man is not able to invent any thing that tends to “ laughter more than I invent, or is invented on me. I
am not only witty in myself, but the cause that wit is 66 in other men.”
No. XLVIII. TUESDAY, APRIL 25.
Per multas aditum fibi fæpe figuras
Thro various shapes he often finds access.
MY correspondents take it ill if I do not, from time to
time, let them know I have received their letters. The most effectual way will be to publish some of them that are upon important subjects; which I fall introduce with a letter of my own, that I writ a fortnight ago, to a fraternity who thought fit to make me an honorary member.
To the President and Fellows of the Ugly Club.
May it please your Deformities, " I Have received the notification of the honour you
have done me in admitting me into your Society. I • acknowledge my want of 'merit, and for that reason • shall endeavour at all times to make up my own failures, • by introducing and recommending to the club, persons • of more undoubted qualifications than I can pretend
to. I shall next week come down in the stage-coach, ' in order to take my seat at the board; and thall bring • with me a candidate of each sex. The persons I shall • present to you are, an old Beau and a modern Pict. If • they are not foeminently gifted by nature as our afsemo bly expects, give me leave to say, their acquired ugli• ness is greater than any that has ever appeared before you.
The Beau has varied his dress every day of his • life for these thirty years last past, and still added to • the deformity he was born with. The Pict has still
greater merit toward us, and has, ever since she came
to years of discretion, deserted the handsome party, ' and taken all possible pains to acquire the face in which