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ble man makes his friends enjoy themselves, rather than him, while he is in their company. Callisthenes does this with inimitable pleasantry. He whispered a friend the other day, so as to be overheard by a young officer, who gave symptoms of cocking upon the company, That gentleman has very much the air of a general officer.' The youth immediately put on a composed behaviour, and behaved himself suitably to the conceptions he believed the company had of him. It is to be allowed that Callisthenes will make a man run into impertinent relations, to his own advantage, and express the satisfaction he has in his own dear self till he is very ridiculous; but in this case the man is made a fool by his own consent, and not exposed as such whether he will or no. I take it therefore, that, to make raillery agreeable, a man must either not know he is rallied, or think never the worse of himself if he sees he is.
Acetus is of a quite contrary genius, and is more generally admired than Callisthenes, but not with justice. Acetus has no regard to the modesty or weakness of the person he rallies; but if the quality or humility gives him any superiority to the man he would fall upon, he has no mercy on making the onset. He can be pleased to see his best friend out of countenance, while the laugh is loud in his own applause. His raillery always puts the company into little divisions and separate interests, while that of Callisthenes cements it, and makes every man not only better pleased with himself, but also with all the rest in the conversation.
To rally well, it is absolutely necessary that
kindness must run through all you say, and you must ever preserve the character of a friend to support your pretensions to be free with a man. Acetus ought to be banished human society, because he raises his mirth upon giving pain to the person upon whom he is pleasant. Nothing but the malevolence which is too general towards those who excel, could make his company tolerated; but they with whom he converses are sure to see some man sacrificed wherever he is admitted; and all the credit he has for wit, is owing to the gratification it gives to other men's ill nature.
Minutius has a wit that conciliates a man's love at the same time that it is exerted against his faults. He has an art in keeping the person he rallies in countenance, by insinuating that he himself is guilty of the same imperfection. This he does with so much address, that he seems rather to bewail himself than fall upon his friend.
It is really monstrous to see how unaccountably it prevails among men, to take the liberty of displeasing each other. One would think soinetimes that the contention is, who shall be most disagreeable. Allusions to past follies, hints which revive what a man has a mind to forget for ever, and deserves what all the rest of the world should, are commonly brought forth even in company of men of distinction. They do not thrust with the skill of fencers, but cut up with the barbarity of butchers. It is, methinks, below the character of men of humanity and good manners, to be capable of mirth while there is any one of the company in pain and disorder. They who have the true taste of conversation, enjoy themselves in a communication of each
other's excellences, and not in a triumph over their imperfections. Fortius would have been reckoned a wit, if there had never been a fool in the world: he wants not foils to be a beauty, but has that natural pleasure in observing perfection in others, that his own faults are overlooked out of gratitude by all his acquaintance.
After these several characters of men who succeed or fail in raillery, it may not be amiss to reflect a little further what one takes to be the most agreeable kind of it; and that to me appears when the satire is directed against vice, with an air of contempt of the fault, but no ill-will to the criminal. Mr. Congreve's Doris is a masterpiece in this kind. It is the character of a woman utterly abandoned; but her impudence, by the finest piece of raillery, is made only generosity.
Peculiar therefore is her way,
Whether by nature taught,
Or by experience bought;
She can next day disown,
As one she ne'er liad known:
Such artful wonder frame,
Or thinks 'twas all a dream.
Who are to bounty blind;
END OF VOL. VIII.