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He was examined before the sitting alderman,
And uo questions asked.

Genteel places in any of the public offices,
So much admired by the nobility and geatry.

This morning, will be married, the lord viscount,
And afterwards hung ip chains, pursuant to his sentence."*

A third set of relations of this kind, derive their ludicrousness from our consideration of the mind of the speaker, or writer, or performer of the action. When our mirth is excited at any awk. ward effort, for example, we laugh, because we are aware of that which the effort was intended to perform, and are struck with the contrast of the performance itself. We laugh, in short, at the awkward failure, not at the motion or attitude itself, considered simply, without relation to some higher end, as a mere motion or attitude ; and we laugh at the failure, because we compare, as I have said, the awkward result with the grace which was intended, or which, at least, we imagine to have been intended.

It is as might be supposed, on a similar principle, that our mirth is excited by every appearance of mental awkwardness. We laugh, for example, when we discover in a work any very visible marks of constraint and difficulty on the part of an author, as in far-fetched thoughts, or stiff and quaint phraseology,-and we laugh, not merely on account of the incongruity of the thoughts or phrases themselves, which are thus strangely brought into union, though this, perhaps, may form the chief element of the ludicrousness, but in some degree also, at the contrast of the labour which we discover, with the ease which the writer is supposed by us to assume and affect. That composition of every sort involves difficulty on the part of the composer, we know well; but we still require that the difficulty should be kept from our sight. We must not see him biting his nails, and torturing himself to give us satisfaction. His great aim accordingly is, to present to us what is excellent, but to present it, so free from any marks of the toil which it has cost, as to seem almost to have risen in the mind by the unrestrained course of spontaneous sugo

Preserved in one of the volumes of the “New Foundling Hospital fos Wit."

gestion. Any appearance of constraint, therefore, presents to us a sort of incongruity, almost as striking as when the noble and the mean are blended together. Even when we think, in reading any of the extravagant conceits that abound so much in the works of our older writers, that we are smiling merely at the images which are brought together, and which nature seems to have intended never to meet, we are, in truth, smiling in part at the very feelings of the writer, when he was so laboriously and painfully absurd. If the feelings that succeed each other, in the mind even of the sublimest poet, in the weary hour of composition, could, by any process, be made distinctly visible to us, there is no small reason to apprehend, that, with all our reverence for his noble art, and for his own individual excellence in that art, our emotions would be of the ludicrous kind, or, at least, that some portion of the ludicrous would mingle with our admiration. There can be no question, that he would seem to have performed more labour, if we could be thus conscious of his feelings, before his labour was half accomplished, than if we were only to have exhibited to us the beautiful results of the whole long continued exercise of his thought. This labour, which a skilful writer knows so well how to conceal from us, a writer, who is fond of astonishing us with extravagant conceits, forces constantly upon our view; and there is hence scarcely any image, which he presents to us, so ludicrous as that picture which he indirectly gives us of himself.

Another set of examples, in which the consideration of the mind of the speaker forms an essential part of the ludicrousness, are those which are commonly termed bulls or blunders ; in which there is no ludicrousness, unless we are able to distinguish what the speaker meant, and thus to discover some strange agreement of his real meaning, with that opposite or contradictory meaning which the words seem to convey. A bull must, therefore, be genuine, or for the moment considered to be genuine, before it can divert with its incongruity. As mere nonsense, it would be as little amusing as any other nonsense. We must have before us, in conception at least, the speaker himself, and contrast the well-meaning seriousness of his affirmation with the verbal absurdity which he utters, of which we are at the same time able to discover the unsuspected tie.

Such I conceive to be the chief varieties of mixed congruity and incongruity which operate in producing this emotion. But, though I have considered these varieties separately, you are not on that account to suppose,

that the varieties themselves are not frequently combined in different proportions; thus heightening what would be ludicrous in one respect, by ludicrousness of another species. The images themselves,--the mind of the speaker or writer who presents them,--the disappointed expectation of the hearer or reader,-may all present to us a strange mixture of discrepancy and agreement, and afford elements, therefore, that are to be jointly taken into account in explaining the one complex emotion, which is the equal result of all.

It is not, then, every newly discovered relation of objects, that excites in us emotions of the ludicrous class, but only certain relations, which present to us peculiar incongruities. In all these, however, the unexpectedness is an important element; since, when we bave become completely familiar with the relation, we cease to have the emotion which it before instantly excited. We still, however, call the objects or images ludicrous, though they excite no emotion of this sort in our mind, any more, perhaps, than the gravest reasoning; but we retain the name, because we speak of them, or think of them, in reference to other minds, in which we know that they will excite the same emotion that was originally excited by them in ourselves. In thinking of the laughter which may thus be produced in others, we are not unfrequently affected with the emotion, as before; but it is an emotion of sympatby, not of mere ludicrousness; or, if there be any thing directly ludicrous, it is in this very consideration of incongruity in the minds of others, when we think of their expectation while they read, as contrasted with the surprise that is to follow. To know the relation, in short, as far as the relation consists in the mere images themselves, is to feel that the object of which we know the relations, will be ludicrous to others,—not to feel it ludicrous to ourselves.







My last Lecture, Gentlemen, was devoted to the consideration of the phenomena of our emotions, of that species of which the objects are distinguished by the name of ludicrous,-emotions which we found to originate always in some mixture of congruity and incongruity, suddenly and unexpectedly perceived. In establishing this general law, I stated, at the same time, some apparent exceptions to the rise of the mirthful emotion in such cases, of the discovery of unsuspected agreement, and endeavoured, I hope successfully, to show that all these seeming anomalies are such as might naturally have been anticipated, as consequences of the operation of other well-known laws of the mind.

The varieties of such mixtures of congruity and incongruity, as constitute what is termed ludicrousness, were considered by us in order; first, in the mere arbitrary signs of language, and next in the relations of thoughts and existing things-whether in the discrepancy of the images themselves, as noble and mean,-in the disappointed anticipations of the hearer or reader,—or in the difference of the obvious meaning of the expression of the speaker, or writer, or performer of some action, compared with that real

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meaning which we know him, in his awkward blunder, to have in. tended.

The emotion is not a simple feeling, but the analysis of it does not seem very difficult. The necessary unexpectedness of the congruity or incongruity that is remarked, seems of itself to point out one element, in the astonishment which may naturally be supposed to arise in such a case; and the other element, which nature has made as quick to rise on the perception of the ludicrous object, as astonishment itself, is a vivid feeling of delight, one of the forms of that joy or gladness which I comprehended in my enumeration of the few primary constituents of our emotions. Astonishment, combined with this particular delight, is the mirthful emotion that has been the subject of our inquiry; and Akenside, there. fore, in giving it the name of “ gay surprise,»* seems to have expressed, with the analytic accuracy of a philosopher, the compler feelings which he was poetically describing.

In considering the delight that is combined with astonishment in the mirthful emotion, we are apt to consider it as more different from other species of gladness than it truly is, because we think of more than what is strictly mental. The laughter is a phenomenon of so particular a kind, and so impressive to our senses, that we think of it as much as of the feelings which it indicates; but the laughter, it should be remembered, is a bodily convulsion, which might or might not be combined with the internal merriment, without altering the nature of the inward emotion itself. This spasmodic muscular action, therefore, however remarkable it may be as a concomitant bodily effect, and even the oppressive feeling of fatigue to which that muscular action, when long continued, gives rise, we should leave out in our analysis of the mere emotion,--that is all with which the physiologist of mind is concerned, -and leaving out what is bodily in the external signs of merriment, we discover only the two internal elements which I have mentioned ; that may, in certain cases, be more complicated by a mixture of contempt, but to which as mere mirth, that third occasional element is far from being essential.

. See

gay cuotempt." Pleasures of Imagination, B. III. v. 260—and 2nd form of the poem, B. II. V. 524.

* The expression in the original seems to be "

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