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Title: Essays on Wit No. 2
Author: Flecknoe, Richard, 1600-1678, Warton, Joseph, 1722-1800
Language: English
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Series One:

_Essays on Wit_

No. 2

_Essay on Wit_ (1748); Richard Flecknoe's _Of one that Zany's the good
Companion and Of a bold abusive Wit_ (second edition, 1665);

Joseph Warton, _The Adventurer_, Nos. 127 and 133 (1754); _Of Wit
(Weekly Register_, 1732).

With an Introduction to the Series on Wit by Edward N. Hooker

The Augustan Reprint Society November, 1946 _Price_: 75c

Membership in the Augustan Reprint Society entitles the subscriber to
six publications issued each year. The annual membership fee is $2.50.
Address subscriptions and communications to the Augustan Reprint
Society in care of one of the General Editors.

General Editors: Richard C. Boys, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor,

Edward N. Hooker, H.I. Swedenberg, Jr., University of
California, Los Angeles 24, California.

Editorial Advisors: Louis L. Bredvold, University of Michigan; James
L. Clifford, Columbia University; Benjamin Boyce, University of
Nebraska; Cleanth Brooks, Louisiana State University; Arthur Friedman,
University of Chicago; James R. Sutherland, Queen Mary College
University of London.


The age of Dryden and Pope was an age of wit, but there were few who
could explain precisely what they meant by the term. A thing so
multiform and. Protean escaped the bonds of logic and definition. In
his sermon "Against Foolish Talking and Jesting" the learned Dr. Isaac
Barrow attempted to describe some of the forms which it took; the
forms were many, and it is difficult to discover any element which
they held in common. Nevertheless Barrow ventured a summary:

     It is, in short, a manner of speaking out of the simple and
     plain way, (such as Reason teacheth and proveth things by,)
     which by a pretty surprizing uncouthness in conceit of
     expression doth affect and amuse the fancy, stirring in it
     some wonder, and breeding some delight thereto.

And about sixty years later, despite the work of Hobbes and Locke in
calling attention to the importance of semantics, the confusion still
existed. According to John Oldmixon (_Essay on Criticism_, 1727, p.
21), "Wit and Humour, Wit and good Sense, Wit and Wisdom, Wit and
Reason, Wit and Craft; nay, Wit and Philosophy, are with us almost the
same Things." Some such confusion is apparent in the definition
presented by the _Essay on Wit_ (1748, p. 6).

In general it was recognized that there were two main kinds of wit.
Both fancy and judgment, said Hobbes (_Human Nature_, X, sect. 4), are
usually understood in the term _wit_; and wit seems to be "a tenuity
and agility of spirits," opposed to the sluggishness of spirits
assumed to be characteristic of dull people. Sometimes wit was used in
this sense to translate the words _ingenium_ or _l'esprit_. But
Hobbes's disciple Walter Charleton objected to making it the
equivalent of _ingenium_, which, he said, rather signified a man's
natural inclination--that is, genius. Instead, he described wit as
either the faculty of understanding, or an act or effect of that
faculty; and understanding is made up of both judgment and
Imagination. The Ample or Happy Wit exhibits a fine blend of the two
(_Brief Discourse concerning the Different Wits of Men_, 1669, pp. 10,
17-19). In this sense wit combines quickness and solidity of mind.

In the other, and more restricted sense, wit was made identical with
fancy (or imagination) and distinguished sharply from reason or
judgment. So Hobbes, recording a popular meaning of wit, remarked
(_Leviathan_. I, viii) that people who discover rarely observed
similitudes in objects that otherwise are much unlike, are said to
have a good wit. And judgment, directly opposed to it, was taken to be
the faculty of discerning differences in objects that are
superficially alike. (Between this idea of wit as discovering likeness
in things unlike, and the Platonic idea of discovering the One in the
Many, the Augustans made no connection.) A similar distinction between
wit and judgment was made by Charleton, Robert Boyle, John Locke, and
many others. The full implication lying in Hobbes's definition can be
seen in Walter Charleton, who said (_Brief Discourse_, pp. 20-21) that
imagination (or wit) is the faculty by which "we conceive some certain
similitude in objects really unlike, and pleasantly confound them in
discourse: Which by its unexpected Fineness and allusion, surprizing
the Hearer, renders him less curious of the truth of what is said." In
short, wit is delightful, but, because it leads away from truth,
unprofitable and, it may be, even dangerous.

The identification of wit with fancy gave it a lowly role in Augustan
thinking; and also in literary prose, which was supposed to be the
language of reason (cf. Donald F. Bond, "'Distrust' of Imagination in
English Neo-Classicism," _PQ_, XIV, 54-69). What of its
position in poetry? According to Hobbes, poetry must exhibit both
judgment and fancy, but fancy should dominate; and the work of fancy
is to adorn discourse with tropes and figures, to please by
extravagance, to disguise meaning, and to create pleasant
illusions. One of Hobbes's followers announced that fancy must have
the upper hand because all poems please chiefly by novelty. While they
made wit the most essential element in poetry, they made it trivial
and empty, and thereby helped to bring poetry itself into contempt.

Partly to oppose this low opinion of poetry, the neo-Aristotelians
among the critics began to stress the view that fable, design, and
structure were the really essential elements in poetry, and that these
were the product of reason, or judgment. And because reason was the
means by which truth was discovered, poetry by virtue of its
rational framework became capable of revealing and communicating
truth--that is, of instructing. In this conception of poetry there was
little glory left for wit. It was relegated to be used for color and
adornment in serious poetry, or to furnish the substance of the
"little" poetry which could not boast of design or structure. Thus,
the _Essay on Wit_ invites the poet, (p. 15):

     Have as much Wit as you will, or you can, in a Madrigal, in
     little light Verses, in the Scene of a Comedy, which is
     neither passionate or simple, in a Compliment, in a little
     Story, in a Letter where you would be merry yourself to make
     your Friends so.

Be witty in these playful varieties of poetry, because wit in a large
and serious work would be insufferable.

"These Sports of the Imagination, these Finesses, these Conceits,
these glittering Strokes, these Gaieties, these little cut Sentences,
these ingenious Prodigalities" in which wit is expressed might be
either sober or funny. Most of the examples in the _Essay on Wit_ are
of the sober kind, coming under the order of wit because they are
pretty and diverting fancies. But by the 1690's there had been a clear
tendency to associate wit with mirth, and often with satire. By 1726
James Arbuckle could write (_A Collection of Letters_, 1729, II, 72):
"... Satire and Ridicule, which are the main Provocatives to Laughter,
still keep their ground among us, and are reckoned the chief
Embellishments of Discourse by all who aim at the Character of Wits."

The end of wit was to surprise and delight. One may surprise by
novelty, but the easiest road to the goal is audacity; and the
subjects which lent themselves most readily to audacity were sex and
religion. The treatment of the latter proved especially troublesome to
good men like Blackmore, and the frequency of portraits and characters
of the Profance Wit shows that many people were disturbed. Shaftesbury
in _Sensus Communis_ (1709) tried to justify the use of wit in
discussing religion. For the rest of the century Shaftesbury's
position was the center of heated debate, with Akenside supporting,
and John Brown and Warburton opposing, the employment of wit in
religion; and the _Gentleman's Magazine_ is full of the arguments of
lesser men who took sides. The author of the _Essay on Wit_ places
himself firmly beside Shaftesbury when he remarks (p. 14) that "a
Subject which will not bear Raillery, is suspicious." The controversy
is reviewed in an article by A.O. Aldridge, called "Shaftesbury and
the Test of Truth" (_PMLA_, LX, 129-156).

Wit was taken to be the source, of tropes, and figures of speech, of
all the color and adornments of rhetoric; and the old tradition of
rhetoric, handed down from the Renaissance, tended to regard tropes
and figures as mere ornament, a means of decorating the surface, an
artful prettifying of a subject in order that it might please. For
this reason wit was likely to be considered out of place in serious
works which called for naturalness and passion. The objection to the
simile in the language of passion was an old note in English criticism
(cf. Dennis, _Critical Works_, I, 424); but the author of the _Essay
on Wit_ in condemning glittering strokes and ingenious prodigalities
in impassioned literature shows by his phrasing that he is following
Father Bouhours (cf. Manlere die Bien Penser, Amsterdam, 1688, pp.
8-9, 234, 296, 388).

In _Spectator_, no. 249, Addison entered the contest known as the
Battle of the Books, and lined himself up squarely on the side of the
Ancients. The ancients, he said, surpassed the moderns in poetry,
painting, oratory, history, architecture, and, in fact, all arts and
sciences which depend more on genius than on experience. It was no
lightening of the judgment when he added that the moderns surpass the
ancients in doggerel, humour burlesque, and all the trivial arts of
ridicule, the arts of the "unlucky little wits." So degraded had wit
become! In the _Adventurer_, nos. 127 and 133, Joseph Warton showed
himself to be essentially in agreement with Addison's verdict,
differing only in thinking that a few moderns might compare with the
ancients in works of genius. He appears somewhat less scornful of wit,
recognizing its part in the arts of civility and the decencies of
conversation; and yet he associates It with ridicule, laughter, and
luxury, and makes it the pleasant plaything of gentlemen.

Occasionally there were attempts to restore wit to its pristine glory,
to the position it had occupied before it was tied to mirth and
ridicule, when Atterbury could thus define it: "Wit, indeed, as it
implies, a certain uncommon Reach and Vivacity of Thought, is an
Excellent Talent; very fit to be employ'd in the Search of Truth...."
So the anonymous author of _A Satyr upon a Late Pamphlet Entitled, A
Satyr against Wit_ (1700) could rhapsodize:

  Wit is a Radiant Spark of Heav'nly Fire,
  Full of Delight, and worthy of Desire;
  Bright as the Ruler of the Realms of Day,
  Sun of the Soul, with in-born Beauties gay....

So Corbyn Morris in his _Essay towards Fixing the True Standards of
Wit, Humour, Raillery, Satire, and Ridicule_, 1744, probably the best
and clearest treatment of the subject in the first half of the
eighteenth century, wrote (p. 1): "Wit is the Lustre resulting from
the quick Elucidation of one Subject, by a just and unexpected
Arrangement of it with another Subject." And so the author of the
essay "Of Wit" in the _Weekly Register_ for July 22, 1732, ventured
his opinion (reprinted in the _Gentleman's Magazine_, II, 861-862):

     Wit is a Start of Imagination in the Speaker, that strikes
     the Imagination of the Hearer with an Idea of Beauty common
     to both; and the immediate Result of the Comparison is the
     Flash of Joy that attends it; it stands in the same Regard
     to Sense, or Wisdom, as lightning to the Sun, suddenly
     kindled and as suddenly gone....

But for the most part wit was becoming an expression of mirth or
ridicule in which fancy was primarily involved; at its best wit was
coupled with politeness and elegance in conversation, and at its worst
with silliness and extravagance, or with indecency and impiety.

The essay from the _Weekly Register_ is one of a large number of
little histories of wit, which appear through the age of Dryden and
Pope and which attempt to relate developments in wit to changes
in fashion, religion, polities, social manners, and taste. These are
rudimentary but important expressions of the idea that literature is
conditioned by changing circumstances and social customs in the lives
of the people from whom it springs.

The _Essay on Wit_, 1748, is reprinted here, by permission,
from a copy in the library of the University of Illinois. Flecknoe's
_Characters_ are reprinted from a copy of _Sixty Nine Enigmatical
Character_ owned by the library of the University of Michigan. The
essays of Joseph Warton is the _Adventurer_, and the typescript copy
of the essay

     "Of Wit" from the _Weekly Register_ (as reprinted in the
     _Gentleman's Magazine_) are also taken from copies belonging
     to the University of Michigan.

  Edward Niles Hooker
  University of California, Los Angeles

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: Title page]


[Price Six-pence.]


To which is annexed,

A DISSERTATION on Antient and Modern HISTORY.

       *       *       *       *       *

  ____ _Sapientia prima
  Stultitiâ caruisse._ HOR. Epist. I. Lib. I.

       *       *       *       *       *


Printed for _T. Lownds_, Bookseller, at the _Bible_ and _Crown_, in
_Exeter-Change_, in the _Strand_, 1748.

       *       *       *       *       *


A Gentleman who had some Knowledge in the human Heart, was consulted
about a Tragedy which was going to be acted: He answer'd that there
was so much Wit in the Piece that he doubted of its Success.--At
hearing such a Judgment, a Man will immediately cry out, What! is Wit
then a Fault, at a Time when every Body aims at having it, when nobody
writes but to shew he has it; when the Publick applauds even false
Thoughts, provided they are shining! Yes, 'twill doubtless be
applauded the first Day, and grow tiresome the next.

That which they call Wit, is sometimes a new Simile, sometimes a fine
Allusion: Here 'tis the Abuse of a Word which presents itself in one
Sense, and is understood in another; there a delicate Relation between
two uncommon Ideas: 'Tis an extraordinary Metaphor; 'tis something
which in an Object does not at first present itself, but nevertheless
is in it; 'tis the Art, to unite two Things which were far from one
another; to separate two which seem to be joined, or to set them in
Opposition; 'tis the Art, of expressing but half the Thought and
leaving the other to be found out. In short, I'd tell all the
different Ways of shewing Wit, if I knew of any more.

But all these Brightnesses (and I speak not of the false ones) agree
not, or very seldom agree with a serious Work, which ought to be
interesting. The Reason of it is, that 'tis then the Author that
appears, and the Publick will see no body but the Hero. Moreover the
Hero is always either in a Passion, or in Danger. Danger, and the
Passions seek not Expressions of Wit. _Priam_ and _Hecuba_ don't make
Epigrams, when their Children's Throats are cut and _Troy_ in
Flames:--_Dido_ does not sigh in Madrigals, when she flies to the Pile
upon which she's going to sacrifice herself:--_Demosthenes_ has no
Prettinesses, when he animates the _Athenians_ to War; if he had, he'd
be a Rhetorician indeed, instead of which he's a Statesman.

If _Pyrrhus_ was always to express himself in this Stile:

                       _'Tis true,
  My Sword has often reek'd in_ Phrygian _Blood,
  And carried Havock through your Royal Kindred:
  But you, fair Princess, amply have aveng'd
  Old_ Priam's _vanquish'd House: And all the Woes,
  I brought on them, fall short of what I suffer._

This Character wou'd not touch at all: 'Twou'd soon be perceiv'd, that
true Passion seldom makes Use of such Comparisons, and that there is
very little Proportion between the real Fires which consumed _Troy_,
and the amorous Fires of _Pyrrhus_; between the Havock he made amongst
_Andromache_'s Kindred and the Cruelty she shews him.

_Chamont_ says, in speaking of _Monimia_:

  _You took her up a little tender Flower,
  Just sprouted on a Bank, which the next Frost
  Had nipt; and, with a careful loving Hand,
  Transplanted her into your own fair Garden,
  Where the Sun always shines: There long she flourish'd,
  Grew sweet to Sense, and lovely to the Eye;
  Till at the last, a cruel Spoiler came,
  Cropt this fair Rose, and rifled all its Sweetness,
  Then cast it, like a loathsome Weed, away._

This Thought has a prodigious Eclat: There's a great deal of Wit in
it, and even an Air of Simplicity that imposes upon one. We all see,
that these Verses, pronounced with the Art and Enthusiasm of a good
Actor never fail of Applause; but I think we may also see, that the
Tragedy of the _Orphan_ wrote entirely in this Taste would never have
lived long.

In effect, why should _Chamont_ make such a long-winded Simile almost
in the Height of Rage for the Ruin of his Sister? Is that natural?
Does not the Poet here quite hide his Hero to shew himself?

This brings into my Mind the absurd Custom of finishing the Acts of
almost all our modern Tragedies with a Simile; surely in a great
Crisis of Affairs, in a Council, in a violent Passion of Love or
Wrath, in a pressing Danger, Princes, Ministers, Heroes or Lovers,
should not make Poetical Comparisons.--Even _Marcia_'s (or rather Mr.
_Addison_'s) beautiful Simile at the End of the first Act of _Cato_,
is scarcely to be forgiven.

What then would a Work be, that was filled with far-fetched and
Problematick Thoughts? How infinitely superior to all such dazling
Ideas, are these simple and natural Words of _Monimia_ to her angry

  _Look kindly on me then. I cannot bear
  Severity; it daunts, and does amaze me:_
  _My Heart's so tender, should you charge me rough,
  I should but weep, and answer you with sobbing.
  But use me gently, like a loving Brother,
  And search through all the Secrets of my Soul._

Or these of _Brutus_, when he receives the News of his Wife's Death:

  Brutus.  _Now, as you are a_ Roman, _tell me true._

  Messala. _Then like a_ Roman _bear the Truth I tell;
           For certain she is dead, and by strange manner._

  Brutus.  _Why farewel_ Portia.--_We must die,_ Messala.
           _With meditating that she must die once,
           I have the Patience to endure it now._

Or these noble ones of _Titinius_, when he stabs himself:

  _By your leave Gods--this is a_ Roman's _Part._

It is not that which is called Wit, but what is sublime and noble that
makes true Beauty.

I have purposely chose these Examples from good Authors, that they may
be the more striking; and I speak not of those Points and Quibbles,
whose Impropriety is easily perceiv'd. There is no one but laughs when
_Hotspur_ says,

  _Why, what a deal of candied Courtesie
  This fawning Greyhound then did proffer me!
  Look, when his infant Fortune came to Age,
  And gentle_ Harry Percy--_and kind Cousin_--_The
  Devil take such Cozeners_.--

_Shakespear_ found the Stage, and all the People of his Days, infected
with these Puerillities, and he very well knew how (though perhaps he
never read it in _Epictetús_) [Greek: ] to attune, or harmonize his
Mind to the Things which happen.

I now remember one of these shining Strokes, which I have seen quoted
in several Works of Taste, and even in the Treatise of Studies by the
late Mr. _Rollin_. This _Morceau_ is taken from the beautiful Funeral
Oration of the great _Turenne_: The whole Piece is very fine, but it
seems to me that the Stroke I am speaking of should not have been made
Use of by a Bishop.--This is it:

     "O Sovereigns! Enemies of _France_, ye live, and the Spirit
     of Christian Charity forbids me to wish your Deaths,
     &c.--But ye live, and I mourn in this Pulpit the Death of a
     virtuous Captain, whose Intentions were pure, &c.--"

An Apostrophe in this Taste would have been very proper at _Rome_ in
the Civil Wars, after the Assassination of _Pompey_; or at _London_
after the Death of _Charles_ the First. But is it decent, in a Pulpit,
to wish for the Death of the Emperor, the King of _Spain_, and the
Electors; to put them in Balance with the General of a King's Army,
who is their Enemy? Or ought the Intentions of a Captain, which can be
no other than to serve his Prince, to be compared with the Politick
Interests of the crown'd Heads against which he serves? What would be
said of a _Frenchman_, who had wished for the Death of the King of
_England_, because of the Loss of the Chevalier _Belleisle_, whose
Intentions were pure?

For what Reason has this Passage been always praised by the Criticks?
'Tis because the Figure is in itself beautiful and pathetick, but they
did not examine into the Congruity and Bottom of the Thought.

I return to my Paradox--That all these shining Strokes, to which they
give the Name of Wit, never ought to be introduced into great Works
made to instruct or to move; I'll even say they ought not to be found
in Odes for Musick. Musick expresses Passions, Sentiments and Images:
but what are the Concords that can be giv'n an Epigram? _Dryden_ was
sometimes negligent, but he was always natural.

In a Sermon of Doctor _South_, where he speaks of Man's Rectitude and
Freedom from Sin before the Fall, are seen these Words:

     "We were not born crooked, we learnt these Windings and
     Turnings of the Serpent."

I remember to have heard this Passage admired by several People: but
who does not see that the Motions, _viz._ the Windings and Turnings of
the Serpent's Body are here confounded with those of its Heart: and
that at best, 'tis but a mere Point and Pleasantry.

Certainly there's a great Impropriety in putting any kind of Smartness
into Pieces of such a Nature as Dr. _South_'s; but what is still
worse, we generally find these Smartnesses to be quite vague and
superficial; they don't enter, but only play upon the Surface of the

Had a certain polite Author been a Cotemporary of the
Doctor's, he'd have told him that

[Greek: Tên men Spoudhhên dichph teirein ghelôi, thyn de gelôa spoudhê.]

Humour is the only Test of Gravity; and Gravity of Humour. For a
Subject which will not bear Raillery, is suspicious; and a Jest which
will not bear a serious Examination, is certainly false Wit.

These Sports of the Imagination, these Finesses, these Conceits, these
glittering Strokes, these Gaieties, these little cut Sentences, these
ingenious Prodigalities, which are lavished away in our Times, agree
with none but little Works. The Front of St _Paul_'s Church is simple
and majestick. A Cabinet may with Propriety enough contain little
Ornaments. Have as much Wit as you will, or you can, in a Madrigal, in
little light Verses, in the Scene of a Comedy, which is neither
passionate or simple, in a Compliment, in a little Story, in a Letter
where you would be merry yourself to make your Friends so.

_Spencer_ was very well acquainted with this Art. In his Fairy Queen,
you find hardly any thing but what is sublime and full of Imagery: but
in his detached Pieces, such as the Hymn in Honour of Beauty, The Fate
of the Butterfly, _Britain_'s Ida, &c. he gave a Loose to his Wit and
Delicacy. The following Verses are Part of the Description of _Venus_
asleep, in the last mention'd Poem:

  _Her full large Eyes, in jetty-black array'd,
  Proud Beauty not confin'd to red and white,
  But oft herself in black more rich display'd;
  Both Contraries did yet themselves unite,
  To make one Beauty in different Delight:_
  _A thousand Loves, sate playing in each Eye,
  And smiling Mirth kissing fair Courtesy,
  By sweet Persuasion won a bloodless Victory._

  _Her Lips most happy each in other's Kisses,
  From their so wish'd Imbracements seldom parted,
  Yet seem'd to blush at such their wanton Blisses;
  But when sweet Words their joining Sweets disparted,
  To the Ear a dainty Musick they imparted;
  Upon them fitly sate delightful Smiling,
  A thousand Souls with pleasing Stealth beguiling:
  Ah that such shews of Joys shou'd be all Joys exiling!_

  _Lower two Breasts stand all their Beauties bearing,
  Two Breasts as smooth and soft;--but oh alas!
  Their smoothest Softness far exceeds comparing:
  More smooth and soft--but naught that ever was,
  Where they are first, deserves the second Place:
  Yet each as soft, and each as smooth as other;
  But when thou first try'st one, and then the other,
  Each softer seems than each, and each than each seems smoother._

These Lines (pretty as they are) would be unsufferable in a large and
serious Work, nay, there are some People who tax them with being too
extravagant even for the Poem where they stand; and in truth, their
warmest Admirer can say no more than this:

     _Nequeo Monstrare, & Sentio tantum._

So far am I from reproaching _Waller_ with putting too much Wit in his
Poems; that on the contrary, I have found too little, though he
continually aims at it. They say that Dancing Masters never make a
handsome Bow, because they take too much Pains. I think _Waller_ is
often in this Case; his best Verses are studied; one finds he quite
tires himself to find that which presents itself so naturally to
_Rochester_, _Congreve_, and to so many more, who with all the Ease in
the World, write these Bagatelles better than _Waller_ did with

I know it signifies very little to the Affairs of the World, whether
_Waller_ was or was not a great Genius; whether he only made a few
pretty Things, or that all his Verses may stand for Models. But we who
love the Arts, carry an attentive Eye on that which to the rest of the
World is a Matter of mere Indifference. Good Taste is for us in
Literature, what it is for Women in Dress; and provided we don't make
our Opinions an Affair of Party, I think we may boldly say, that there
are few excellent Things in _Waller_, and that _Cowley_ might be
easily reduced to a few Pages.

It is not that we would deprive them of their Reputation; 'tis only to
inquire strictly what brought them that Reputation which is so much
respected; and what are the true Beauties which made their Faults be
overlooked. It must be known what ought to be followed in their Works,
and what avoided; this is the true Fruit of a deep Study in the Belles
Lettres; it is this that _Horace_ did, when he examined _Lucilius_
critically. _Horace_ got Enemies by it, but he enlightened his Enemies

This Desire of shining, and to say in a new Manner what others have
said before, is the Foundation of new Expressions, as well as of
far-fetched Thoughts.

He that cannot shine by a Thought will distinguish himself by a Word.
This is their Reason for substituting Placid for Peaceful, Joyous for
Joyful, Meandring for Winding; and a hundred more Affectations of the
same kind. If they were to go on at this Rate, the Language of
_Shakespear, Milton, Dryden, Addison_ and _Pope_, would soon become
quite superannuated. And why avoid an Expression in use, to introduce
one which says precisely the same Thing? A new Word is never
pardonable, but when it is absolutely necessary, intelligible and
sonorous; they are forc'd to make them in Physics: A new Discovery, or
a new Machine demands a new Word. But do they make new Discoveries in
the human Heart? Is there any other Greatness than that of
_Shakespear_ and _Milton_? Are there any other Passions than those
that have been handled by _Otway_ and _Dryden_? Is there any other
Evangelic Moral than that of Dr. _Tillotson_?

Those who accuse the _English_ Language of not being copious enough,
do, in Truth, find a Sterility, but 'tis in themselves.

_Rem Verba Sequuntur_.

When one is thoroughly struck with an Idea, when a Man of Sense,
fill'd with Warmth, is in full Possession of his Thought, it comes
from him all ornamented with suitable Expressions, as _Minerva_ sprang
out, compleatly arm'd, from the Head of _Jupiter_.

In short, the Conclusion of all this is, that you must never seek for
far-fetch'd Thoughts, Conceits or Expressions; and that the Art of all
great Works, is to reason well, without making many Arguments; to
paint accurately, without Painting all; to move, without always
exciting the Passions.

[Illustration: Title page]

  Very exactly drawn to the Life.

                 { Persons,
  From several   { Humours,
                 { Dispositions.

  And full of

       *       *       *       *       *

The Second Edition by the Author R.F. Esquire.

       *       *       *       *       *

_London_, Printed for _William Crook_, at the sign of the three Bibles
on _Fleet Bridge_, 1665.

       *       *       *       *       *


_Of one that_ Zanys _the good Companion_.

He is a wit of an under Region, grosly imitating on the lower rope,
what t'other does neatly on the higher; and is only for the laughter
of the vulgar; whilst your wiser and better sort can scarcely smile at
him: He talks nothing but kennel-raked fluff, and his discourse is
rather like fruit cane up rotten from the ground, than freshly
gathered from the Tree. He is so far from a courtly wit, as his
breeding seems only to have been i' th' Suburbs; or at best, he seems
only graduated good company in a Tavern (the Bedlam of wits) where men
are mad rather than merry; here one breaking a jest on the Drawer, or
a Candlestick; there another repeating the old end of a Play, or some
bawdy song; this speaking bilk, that nonsense, whilst all with loud
houting and laughter confound the _Fidlers_ noise, who may well be
call'd a noise indeed, for no _Musick_ can be heard for them; so
whilst he utters nothing but old stories, long since laught thridbare,
or some stale jest broken twenty times before: His _mirth_ compared
with theirs, new and at first hand, is just like _Brokers_ ware in
comparison with _Mercers_, or _Long-lane_ compar'd unto _Cheap-side_:
his wit being rather the _Hogs-heads_ than his own, favouring more of
_Heidelberg_ than of _Hellicon_, and he rather a drunken than a good

       *       *       *       *       *


_Of a bold abusive Wit._

He talks madly, _dash, dash,_ without any fear at all, and never cares
how he _bespatters_ others, or defiles himself; nor ceases he till he
has quite run himself out of breath; when no wonder, if to fools he
seems to get the start of those who wisely pick out their way, and are
as fearful of abusing others as themselves: He has the _Buffoons_
priviledge, of saying or doing anything without exceptions, and he
will call a jealous man _Cuckold_, a childe of doubtful birth
_Bastard_, and a _Lady_ of suspected honor a _Whore_, and they but
laugh at it; and all _Scholars_ are _Pedants_; and _Physicians_,
_Quacks_ with him, when to be angry at it is the avowing it. Then in
_Ladies_ chambers, he will tumble beds, and towse your _Ladies_ dress
up unto the height, to the hazard of a _Bed-staff_ thrown at his head,
or rap o're the fingers with a _Busk_, and that is all; only is this
he is far worse than the _Buffoon_, since they study to _delight_,
this only to _offend_; they to make _merry_, but this onely to make
you _mad_, whence wo be t' ye of he discovers and _imperfection_ or
_fault_ in you, for he never findes a _breach_ but he makes a _hole_
of it; nor a _hole_ but he _tugs_ at it so long till he tear it quite;
giving you for reason of his _incivility_, because (forsooth) _it
troubled you_, which would make any civil man cease troubling you. So
he wears his _wit_ as _Bravo's_ do their swords, to mischief and
offend others, not as _Gentlemen_ to defend themselves: and tis
_crime_ in him, what is _ornament_ in others; he being onely a _wit_
at that, at which a good _wit_ is a _fool_. Especially he triumphs
over your modest men; and when he meets with a _simple body_, passes
for a _wit_, but a _wit_ indeed makes a _simplician_ of him; so goes
he persecuting others till some one or other at last (as _chollerick_
as he is _abusive) cudgel_ him for his pains; when he goes _grumbling_
away in a mighty _choler_, saying, _They understand not jest_, when
indeed tis rather _he_.

       *       *       *       *       *



  _--Tentanda via est; quâ me quoque possim
  Tollere humo, victorque virâm volitare per ora._ VIRG.

  On vent'rous wing in quest of praise I go,
  And leave the gazing multitude below.




       *       *       *       *       *

No. CXXVII. Tuesday, January 22. 1754.

  _--Veteres ita miratur, laudatque!--_
  The wits of old he praises and admires.

"It is very remarkable," says Addison, "that notwithstanding we fall
short at present of the ancients in poetry, painting, oratory,
history, architecture, and all the noble arts and sciences which
depend more upon genius than experience; we exceed them as much in
doggerel, humour, burlesque, and all the trivial arts of ridicule." As
this fine observation stands at present only in the form of a general
assertion, it deserves, I think, to be examined by a deduction of
particulars, and confirmed by an allegation of examples, which may
furnish an agreeable entertainment to those who have ability and
inclination to remark the revolutions of human wit.

That Tasso, Ariosto, and Camoens, the three most celebrated of modern
Epic Poets, are infinitely excelled in propriety of design, of
sentiment, and style, by Horace and Virgil, it would be serious
trifling to attempt to prove: but Milton, perhaps, will not so easily
resign his claim to equality, if not to superiority. Let it, however,
be remembered, that if Milton be enabled to dispute the prize with the
great champions of antiquity, it is entirely owing to the sublime
conceptions he has copied from the book of God. These, therefore, must
be taken away before we begin to make a just estimate of his genius;
and from what remains, it cannot, I presume, be said with candour and
impartiality, that he has excelled Homer in the sublimity and variety
of his thoughts, or the strength and majesty of his diction.

Shakespear, Corneille, and Racine, are the only modern writers of
Tragedy, that we can venture to oppose to Eschylus, Sophocles, and
Euripides. The first is an author so uncommon and eccentric, that we
can scarcely try him by dramatic rules. In strokes of nature and
character, he yields not to the Greeks: in all other circumstances
that constitute the excellence of the drama, he is vastly inferior. Of
the three moderns, the most faultless is the tender and exact Racine:
but he was ever ready to acknowledge, that his capital beauties were
borrowed from his favourite Euripides; which, indeed, cannot escape
the observation of those who read with attention his Phædra and
Andromache. The pompous and truly Roman sentiments of Corneille are
chiefly drawn from Luoan and Tacitus; the former of whom, by a strange
perversion of taste, he is known to have preferred to Virgil. His
diction is not so pure and mellifluous, his characters not so various
and just, nor his plots so regular, so interesting, and simple, as
those of his pathetic rival. It is by this simplicity of fable alone,
when every single act, and scene, and speech, and sentiment, and word,
concur to accelerate the intended event, that the Greek tragedies kept
the attention of the audience immoveably fixed upon one principal
object, which must be necessarily lessened, and the ends of the drama
defeated, by the mazes and intricacies of modern plots.

The assertion of Addison with respect to the first particular,
regarding the higher kinds of poetry, will remain unquestionably true,
till nature in some distant age, for in the present, enervated with
luxury, she seems incapable of such an effort, shall produce some
transcendent genius, of power to eclipse the Iliad and the Edipus.

The superiority of the ancient artists in Painting, is not perhaps so
clearly manifest. They were ignorant, it will be said, of light, of
shade, and perspective; and they had not the use of oil colours, which
are happily calculated to blend and unite without harshness and
discordance, to give a boldness and relief to the figures, and to form
those middle Teints which render every well-wrought piece a closer
resemblance of nature. Judges of the truest taste do, however, place
the merit of colouring far below that of justness of design, and force
of expression. In these two highest and most important excellencies,
the ancient painters were eminently skilled, if we trust the
testimonies of Pliny, Quintilian, and Lucian; and to credit them we
are obliged, if we would form to ourselves any idea of these artists
at all; for there is not one Grecian picture remaining; and the
Romans, some few of whose works have descended to this age, could
never boast of a Parrhasius or Apelles, a Zeuxis, Timanthes, or
Protogenes, of whose performances the two accomplished critics above
mentioned, speaks in terms of rapture and admiration. The statues that
have escaped the ravages of time, as the Hercules and Laocoon for
instance, are still a stronger demonstration of the power
of the Grecian artists in expressing the passions; for what was
executed in marble, we have presumptive evidence to think, might also
have been executed in colours. Carlo Marat, the last valuable painter
of Italy, after copying the head of the Venus in the Medicean
collection three hundred times, generously confessed, that he could
not arrive at half the grace and perfection of his model. But to speak
my opinion freely on a very disputable point, I must own, that if the
moderns approach the ancients in any of the arts here in question,
they approach them nearest in The Art of Painting, The human mind can
with difficulty conceive any thing more exalted, than "The Last
Judgment" of Michael Angelo, and "The Transfiguration" of Raphael.
What can be more animated than Raphael's "Paul preaching at Athens?"
What more tender and delicate than Mary holding the child Jesus, in
his famous "Holy Family?" What more graceful than "The Aurora" of
Guido? What more deeply moving than "The Massacre of the Innocents" by
Le Brun?

But no modern Orator can dare to enter the lists with Demosthenes and
Tully. We have discourses, indeed, that may be admired, for their
perspicuity, purity, and elegance; but can produce none that abound in
a sublime which whirls away the auditor like a mighty torrent, and
pierces the inmost recesses of his heart like a flash of lightning;
which irresistibly and instantaneously convinces, without leaving, him
leisure to weigh the motives of conviction. The sermons of Bourdaloue,
the funeral orations of Bossuet, particularly that on the death of
Henrietta, and the pleadings of Pelisson, for his disgraced patron
Fouquet, are the only pieces of eloquence I can recollect, that bear
any resemblance to the Greek or Roman orator; for in England we have
been particularly unfortunate in our attempts to be eloquent, whether
in parliament, in the pulpit, or at the bar. If it be urged, that the
nature of modern politics and laws excludes the pathetic and the
sublime, and confines the speaker to a cold argumentative method, and
a dull detail of proof and dry matters of fact; yet, surely, the
Religion of the moderns abounds in topics so incomparably noble and
exalted as might kindle the flames of genuine oratory in the most
frigid and barren genius much more might this success be reasonably
expected from such geniuses as Britain can enumerate; yet no piece of
this sort, worthy applause or notice, has ever yet appeared.

The few, even among professed scholars, that are able to read the
ancient Historians in their inimitable, originals, are startled at the
paradox, of Bolingbroke who boldly prefers Guicciardini to Thucydides;
that is, the most verbose and tedious to the most comprehensive and
concise of writers, and a collector of facts to one who was himself an
eye-witness and a principal actor in the important story he relates.
And, indeed, it may be well presumed, that the ancient histories
exceed the modern from this single consideration, that the latter are
commonly compiled by recluse scholars, unpractised in business, war,
and politics; whilst the former are many of them written by ministers,
commanders, and princes themselves. We have, indeed, a few flimsy
memoirs, particularly in a neighbouring nation, written by persons
deeply interested in the transactions they describe; but these I
imagine will not be compared to "The retreat of the ten thousand"
which Xenophon himself conducted and related, nor to "the Galic war"
of Cæsar, nor "The precious fragments" of Polybius, which our modern
generals and ministers would not have discredited by diligently
perusing, and making them the models of their conduct as well as of
their style. Are the reflections of Machiavel so subtle and refined as
those of Tacitus? Are the portraits of Thuanus so strong and
expressive as those of Sallust and Plutarch? Are the narrations of
Davila so lively and animated, or do his sentiments breathe such a
love of liberty and virtue, as those of Livy and Herodotus?

The supreme excellence of the ancient Architecture the last particular
to be touched, I shall not enlarge upon, because it has never once
been called in question, and because it is abundantly testified by the
awful ruins of amphitheatres, aqueducts, arches, and columns, that are
the daily objects of veneration, though not of imitation. This art, it
is observable; has never been improved in later ages in one single
instance; but every just and legitimate edifice is still formed
according to the five old established orders, to which human wit has
never been able to add a sixth of equal symmetry and strength.

Such, therefore, are the triumphs of the Ancients, especially the
Greeks, over the Moderns. They may, perhaps, be not unjustly ascribed
to a genial climate, that gave such a happy temperament of body as was
most proper to produce fine sensations; to a language most harmonious,
copious, and forcible; to the public encouragements and honours
bestowed on the cultivators of literature; to the emulation excited
among the generous youth, by exhibitions of their performances at the
solemn games; to an inattention to the arts of lucre and commerce,
which engross and debase the minds of the moderns; and above all, to
an exemption from the necessity of overloading their natural faculties
with learning and languages, with which we in these later times are
obliged to qualify ourselves, for writers, if we expect to be read.

It is said by Voltaire, with his usual liveliness, "We shall never
again behold the time, when a Duke de la Rochefoucault might go from
the conversation of a Pascal or Arnauld, to the theatre of Corneille."
This reflection may be more justly applied to the ancients, and it may
with much greater truth be said; "The age will never again return,
when a Pericles, after walking with Plato in a portico, built by
Phidias, and painted by Apelles, might repair to hear a pleading of
Demosthenes, or a tragedy of Sophocles."

I shall next examine the other part of Addison's assertion, that the
moderns excell the ancients in all the arts of Ridicule, and assign
the reasons of this supposed excellence.

No. CXXXIII. Tuesday, February 12. 1754.

  _At nostri proavi Plautinos et numeros et
  Laudeveres sales; nimium patienter utrumque,
  Ne dicam stule, mirati; si modo ego et vos
  Scimus inurbanum lepido seponere dicto_.

  "And yet our fires with joy could Plautus hear;
  Gay were his jests, his numbers charm'd their ear."
  Let me not say too lavishly they prais'd;
  But sure their judgment was full cheaply pleas'd,
  If you or I with taste are haply blest,
  To know a clownish from a courtly jest.

The fondness I have so frequently manifested for the ancients, has not
so far blinded my judgment, as to render me unable to discern, or
unwilling to acknowledge, the superiority of the moderns, in pieces of
Humour and Ridicule. I shall, therefore, confirm the general assertion
of Addison, part of which hath already been examined.

Comedy, Satire, and Burlesque, being the three chief branches of
ridicule, it is necessary for us to compare together the most admired
performances of the ancients and moderns, in these three kinds of
writing, to qualify us justly to censure or commend, as the beauties
or blemishes of each party may deserve.

As Aristophanes wrote to please the multitude, at a time when the
licentiousness of the Athenians was boundless, his pleasantries are
coarse and impolite, his characters extravagantly forced, and
distorted with unnatural deformity, like the monstrous caricaturas of
Callot. He is full of the grossest obscenity, indecency, and
inurbanity; and as the populace always delight to hear their superiors
abused and misrepresented, he scatters the rankest calumnies on the
wisest and worthiest personages of his country. His style is unequal,
occasioned by a frequent introduction of parodies on Sophocles and
Euripides. It is, however, certain, that he abounds in artful
allusions to the state of Athens at the time when he wrote; and,
perhaps, he is more valuable, considered as a political satirist than
a writer of comedy.

Plautus has adulterated a rich vein of genuine wit and humour, with a
mixture of the basest buffoonry. No writer seems to have been born
with a more forcible or more fertile genius for comedy. He has drawn
some characters with incomparable spirit: we are indebted to him for
the first good miser, and for that worn-out character among the
Romans, a boastful Thraso. But his love degenerates into lewdness; and
his jests are insupportably low and illiberal, and fit only for "the
dregs of Romulus" to use and to hear; he has furnished examples of
every species of true and false wit, even down to a quibble and a pun.
Plautus lived in an age when the Romans were but just emerging into
politeness; and I cannot forbear thinking, that if he had been
reserved for the age of Augustus, he would have produced more perfect
plays than even the elegant disciple of Menander.

Delicacy, sweetness, and correctness, are the characteristics of
Terence. His polite images are all represented in the most clear and
perspicuous expression; but his characters are too general and
uniform, nor are they marked with those discriminating peculiarities
that distinguish one man from another; there is a tedious and
disgusting sameness of incidents in his plots, which, as hath been
observed in a former paper, are too complicated and intricate. It may
be added, that he superabounds in soliloquies; and that nothing can be
more inartificial or improper, than the manner in which he hath
introduced them.

To these three celebrated ancients, I venture to oppose singly the
matchless Moliere, as the most consummate master of comedy that former
or latter ages have produced. He was not content with painting obvious
and common characters, but set himself closely to examine the
numberless varieties of human nature: he soon discovered every
difference, however minute; and by a proper management could make it
striking: his portraits, therefore, though they appear to be
new, are yet discovered to be just. The Tartuffe and the Misantrope
are the most singular, and yet, perhaps, the most proper and perfect
characters that comedy can represent; and his Miser excels that of any
other nation. He seems to have hit upon the true nature of comedy;
which is, to exhibit one singular, and unfamiliar character, by such a
series of incidents as may best contribute to shew its singularities.
All the circumstances in the Misantrope tend to manifest the peevish
and captious disgust of the hero; all the circumstances in the
Tartuffe are calculated to shew the treachery of an accomplished
hypocrite. I am sorry that no English writer of comedy can be produced
as a rival to Moliere: although it must be confessed, that Falstaff
and Morose are two admirable characters, excellently, supported and
displayed; for Shakespear has contrived all the incidents to
illustrate the gluttony, lewdness, cowardice, and boastfulness of the
fat old knight: and Jonson, has, with equal art, displayed the oddity
of a wimsical humourist, who could endure no kind of noise.

Will it be deemed a paradox, to assert, that Congreve's dramatic
persons have no striking and natural characteristic? His Fondlewife
and Foresight are but faint portraits of common characters, and Ben is
a forced and unnatural caricatura. His plays appear not to be
legitimate comedies, but strings of repartees and sallies of wit, the
most poignant and polite indeed, but unnatural and ill placed. The
trite and trivial character of a fop, hath strangely engrossed the
English stage, and given an insipid similiarity to our best comic
pieces: originals can never be wanting in such a kingdom as this,
where each man follows his natural inclinations and propensities, if
our writers would really contemplate nature, and endeavour to open
those mines of humour which have been so long and so unaccountably

If we proceed to consider the Satirists of antiquity, I shall not
scruple to prefer Boileau and Pope to Horace and Juvenal; the arrows
of whose ridicule are more sharp, in proportion as they are more
polished. That reformers should abound in obscenities, as is the case
of the two Roman poets, is surely an impropriety of the most
extraordinary kind; the courtly Horace also sometimes sinks into mean
and farcical abuse, as in the first lines of the seventh satire of the
first book; but Boileau and Pope have given to their Satire the Cestus
of Venus: their ridicule is concealed and oblique; that of the Romans
direct and open. The tenth satire of Bioleau on women is more bitter,
and more decent and elegant, than the sixth of Juvenal on the same
subject; and Pope's epistle to Mrs. Blount far excels them both, in
the artfulness and delicacy with which it touches female foibles. I
may add, that the imitations of Horace by Pope, and of Juvenal by
Johnson, are preferable to their originals in the appositeness of
their examples, and in the poignancy of their ridicule. Above all, the
Lutrin, the Rape of the Lock, the Dispensary and the Dunciad, cannot
be parallelled by any works that the wittiest of the ancients can
boast of: for, by assuming the form of the epopea, they have acquired
a dignity and gracefulness, which all satires delivered merely in the
poet's own person must want, and with which the satirists of antiquity
were wholly unacquainted; for the Batrachomuomachia of Homer cannot be
considered as the model of these admirable pieces.

Lucian is the greatest master of Burlesque among the ancients: but the
travels of Gulliver, though indeed evidently copied from his true
history, do as evidently excel it. Lucian sets out with informing his
readers, that he is in jest, and intends to ridicule some of the
incredible stories in Ctesias and Herodotus: this introduction surely
enfeebles his satire, and defeats his purpose. The true history
consists only of the most wild, monstrous, and miraculous persons and
accidents: Gulliver has a concealed meaning, and his dwarfs and giants
convey tacitly some moral or political instruction. The Charon, or the
prospect, (Greek: epischopoyntes) one of the dialogues of Lucian, has
likewise given occasion to that agreeable French Satire, entitled,
"_Le Diable Boiteux_," or "The Lame Devil;" which has highly improved
on its original by a greater variety of characters and descriptions,
lively remarks, and interesting adventures. So if a parallel be drawn
between Lucian and Cervantes, the ancient will still appear to
disadvantage: the burlesque of Lucian principally consists in making
his gods and philosophers speak and act like the meanest of the
people; that of Cervantes arises from the solemn and important air
with which the most idle and ridiculous actions are related; and is,
therefore, much more striking and forcible. In a word, Don Quixote,
and its copy Hudibras, the Splendid Shilling, the Adventures of Gil
Blas, the Tale of a Tub, and the Rehearsal, are pieces of humour which
antiquity cannot equal, much less excel.

Theophrastus must yield to La Bruyere for his intimate knowledge of
human nature; and the Athenians never produced a writer whose humour
was so exquisite as that of Addison, or who delineated and supported a
character with so much nature and true pleasantry, as that of Sir
Roger de Coverly. It ought, indeed, to be remembered, that every
species of wit written in distant times and in dead languages, appears
with many disadvantages to present readers, from their ignorance of
the manners and customs alluded to and exposed; but the grosness, the
rudeness, and indelicacy of the ancients, will, notwithstanding,
sufficiently appear, even from the sentiments of such critics as
Cicero and Quintilian, who mention corporal defects and deformities as
proper objects of raillery.

If it be now asked to what can we ascribe this superiority of the
moderns in all the species of ridicule? I answer, to the improved
state of conversation. The great geniuses of Greece and Rome were
formed during the times of a republican government: and though it be
certain, as Longinus asserts, that democracies are the nurseries of
true sublimity; yet monarchies and courts are more productive of
politeness. The arts of civility, and the decencies of conversation,
as they unite men more closely, and bring them more frequently
together, multiply opportunities of observing those incongruities and
absurdities of behaviour, on which ridicule is founded. The ancients
had more liberty and seriousness; the moderns have more luxury and

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: Title page]

THE _Gentleman's Magazine_. OR, MONTHLY INTELLIGENCER,

For the YEAR 1732.


I. An impartial _VIEW_ of the various _Weekly_ ESSAYS, _Controversial,
Humorous_, and _Satirical; Religious, Moral,_ and _Political_.

II. Debates in PARLIAMENT.

III. Select Pieces of _POETRY_.

IV. A succinct Account of the most _remarkable Transactions_ and
_Occurrences_, Domestick and Foreign.

V. _Births, Marriages, Deaths, Promotions._

VI. The Prices of Goods and Stocks; Bill of Mortality; Bankrupts
declared, &_c_.

VII. A Register of Books and Pamphlets published.

the NAMES of Persons mention'd and Things treated of throughout the


_Collected chiefly from the_ Public Papers _by_ SILVANUS URBAN.

_Prodesse & delettare._ [Illustration] _E Pluribus Unum_.

_LONDON_, Printed and Sold at ST JOHN'S GATE; by F. JEFFERIES in
_Ludgate-street,_ and by most Booksellers in Town and Country.

       *       *       *       *       *


_WIT_ in K. _Charles_ IId's Reign, seem'd to be the Fashion of the
Times; in the next Reign it gave way to Politicks and Religion; while
K. _William_ was on the Throne, it reviv'd under the Protection of
Lord _Somers_ and some other Nobleman, and then those Geniuses
received that Tincture of Elegance and Politeness which afterwards
made such a Figure in the _Tatlers_, _Spectators_, &c. thro' the
greatest Part of the Reign of Q. _Anne_: But since it has broke out
only by Fits and Starts. Few People of Distinction trouble themselves
about the Name of Wit, fewer understand it, and hardly any have
honoured it with their Example. In the next Class of People it seems
best known, most admired, and most frequently practiced; but their
Stations in Life are not eminent enough to dazzle us into Imitation.
Wit is a Start of Imagination in the Speaker, that strikes the
Imagination of the Hearer with an Idea of Beauty, common to both; and
the immediate Result of the Comparison is the Flash of Joy that
attends it; it stands in the same Regard to Sense, or Wisdom, as
Lightning to the Sun, suddenly kindled and as suddenly gone; it as
often arises from the Defect of the Mind, as from its Strength and
Capacity. This is evident in those who are _Wits_ only, without being
grave or wise, Just, solid, and lasting Wit is the Result of fine
Imagination, finished Study, and a happy Temper of Body. As no one
pleases more than the Man of Wit, none is more liable to offend;
therefore he shou'd have a Fancy quick to conceive, Knowledge, good
Humour, and Discretion to direct the whole. Wit often leads a Man into
Misfortunes, that his Prudence wou'd have avoided; as it is the Means
of raising a Reputation, so it sometimes destroys it. He who affects
to be always witty, renders himself cheap, and, perhaps, ridiculous.
The great Use and Advantage of Wit is to render the Owner agreeable,
by making him instrumental to the Happiness of others. When such a
Person appears among his Friends, an Air of Pleasure and Satisfaction
diffuses itself over every Face. _Wit_, so used, is an Instrument of
the sweetest Musick in the Hands of an Artist, commanding, soothing,
and modulating the Passions into Harmony and Peace. Neither is this
the only Use of it; 'tis a sharp Sword, as well as a musical
Instrument, and ought to be drawn against Folly and Affectation. There
is at the same time an humble Ignorance, a modest Weakness, that ought
to be spar'd; they are unhappy already in the Consciousness of their
own Defects, and 'tis fighting with the Lame and Sick to be severe
upon them. The Wit that genteely glances at a Foible, is smartly
retorted, or generously forgiven; because the Merit of the Reprover is
as well known as the Merit of the Reproved. In such delicate
Conversations, Mirth, temper'd with good Manners, is the only Point in
View, and we grow gay and polite together; perhaps there's no Moment
of our Lives so sincerely happy, certainly none so innocent. Wit is a
Quality which some possess, and all covet; Youth affects it, Folly
dreads it, Age despises it, and Dulness abhors it. Some Authors wou'd
persuade us, that Wit is owing to a double Cause; one, the Desire of
pleasing others, and one of recommending ourselves: The first is made
a Merit in the Owners, and is therefore rang'd among the Virtues; the
last is stiled Vanity, and therefore a Vice; tho' this is an erroneous
Distinction, as _Wit_ was never possess'd by any without both; for no
Man endeavours to excell without being conscious of it, and that
Consciousness will produce Vanity, let us disguise it how we please.
Upon the whole, Vanity is inseparable from the; Heart of Man; where
there is Excellency, it may be endur'd; where there is none, it may be
censur'd, but never remov'd.

(From _The Weekly Register_, July 22, 1732, No. 119, as reprinted in
_The Gentleman's 'Magazine_, II, July, 1732, pp. 861-2.)

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