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“Ex ambiguà dicta vel argutissima putantur; sed non semper in joco, saepe etiam in gravitate versantur –Ingeniosi enim videtur, vim verbi in aliud atque caeteri accipiant, posse ducere.”
- Cicero, de Oratore, lib. ii. § 61, 2.
“The seeds of Punning are in the minds of all men.” - Addison, Spect, No. 61.
*...* This Treatise, first published at Dublin in 1719, was immediately reprinted at London; where it passed through five editions * at least, and was then pretty generally ascribed to Dr. Swift; and is called his in the Catalogue of the Library of Anthony Collins, esq. f. It appears, however, that, in this instance, the Dean was only an assistant. The piece was written by Dr. Sheridan; and received several corrections and improvements from Dr. Swift 4, Dr. Delany, and Mr. Rochfort. See the second Preface to this Tract. N.
** * In the fifth edition, the examples (xxxv-xxxvii) first appeared. They were added by Anthony Hammond, esq., a commissioner of the navy; a good speaker in parliament, and well known by the name of “ silver-tongued Hammond,” given to him by lord Bolingbroke. He was a man of wit ; but wanted conduct; and had, if we may credit lord Chesterfield, “all the senses but common sense.” He was the father of that elegant writer, whose “Love Plegies” breathe the true spirit of Tibullus. + This library was sold by auction, by T. Ballard, in 1730-31. Mr. Collins was particularly curious, in adding the name of the author to every anonymous book in his collection: and when we add, that the catalogue of his library was drawn up by Dr. Sykes, whose skill and accuracy in those matters are well known, it will he deemed, in most cases, no inconsiderable voucher. N. 1 The whole treatise is written, it must be acknowledged, in the strain of humour peculiar to Swift; yet, without being too 6astidious, we cannot but lament such a misapplication of literary
ro the RIGHT Honour ABLE siR John scrub, BART. AND MERCHANT, THIS DEDICATION Is HUMBLY PRESENTED BY THE AUTHOR.
Your Honours character is too well known in the world to stand in need of a dedication; but I can tell you, that my fortune is not so well settled but I stand in need of a patron. And therefore, since I am to write a dedication, I must, for decency, proceed in the usual method. First, I then proclaim to the world your high and illustrious birth: that you are, by the father's side, descended from the most ancient and celebrated family of Rome, the Cascas; by the mother's, from earl Percy. Some indeed have been so malicious as to say, your grandmother kill"d-her-kin: But, I think, if the authors of the report were found out, they ought to be hampered. I will allow that the world exclaims deservedly against your mother, because she is no friend to the bottle; otherwise they would deserve a firkin, as having no grounds for what they say. However, I do not think it can sully your fine and bright reputation: for the credit you gained at the battle of Hogshed, against the duke of Burgundy, who felt no sham-pain, when you forced him to sink beneath your power, and gave his whole army a brush, may in time turn to your account; for, to my knowledge, it put his highness much upon the fret. This indeed was no less racking to the king his master, who found himself gross-lee mistaken, in catching a tartar. For the whole world allowed, that you brought him a peg lower, by giving him the partingblow, and making all his rogues in buckram to run. Not to mention your great a-gillity, though you are past your prim-age; and may you never lack-age, with a sparkling wit, and brisk imagination 1 May your honour also wear long, beyond the common scant-ling of human life, and constantly proceed in your musical diversions of pipe and sack-but, hunting with tarriers, &c. and may your good humour in saying, “I am-phor-a-bottle," never be lost, to the joy of all them that drink your wine for nothing, and especially of,
Her nos, ab imis Pun-icorum annalibus
I've rak'd the ashes of the dead, to show
The great and singular advantages of PUNNING, and the lustre it gives to conversation, are commonly so little known in the world, that scarce one man of learning in fifty, to their shame be it spoken, appears to have the least tincture of it in his discourse. This I can impute to nothing, but that it has not been reduced to a science; and indeed Cicero seemed long ago to wish for it, as we may gather from his second book De Oratore *, where he has this remarkable passage: “Suavis autem est et vehementer saepe utilis jocus et facetiae cum ambiguitate—in quibus tu longè aliis meå sententiá, Caesar, excellis: quo magis mihi etiam testis esse potes, aut nullam esse artem salis, aut, si qua est, eam nos tu potissimum docebis.” “Punning is extremely delightful, and oftentimes very profitable; in which, as far as I can judge, Caesar, you excel all mankind; for which reason you may inform me, whether there be any Art of Punning; or, if there be, I beseech you, above
* Lib. ii. § liv.