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Our Catholic religion's grave and prudent,-
Engl. Um! Some fine day,
Steph. In good time.
Engl. Yet,-after all,
Ital. What dost thou mean?
Steph. A fool, for instance-if he lie, and strain
Ital. Why, that is well. Wouldst have him pamper'd for 't? He sins and starves: that's well. 'Tis a good world.
Step. Treason is in 't-rebellion-slander-rape-
Engl. You've dipp'd your brush
2.- The Nymph Egeriu.
To Numa ? Didst thou teach unholy themes,
Wrought till the God came down, as story tells,"
3.- The Sea.
A SHORT PLEA FOR “A JOE.” “ Imagination, in its fullest enjoyments, becomes suspicious of its offspring, and doubts whether it has created, or adopted."-SHERIDAN.
“Repair thy wit, good youth, or it will fall to cureless ruin."-SHAKSPEARE.
“ Accursed,” said somebody, “ be they who have uttered our good things before us ;" and most ungrateful was somebody when he said any such thing. There are few, if any, professed wits, who have not owed their reputation as much to the good things which have been said before them, as to those which they have bona-fide broached for the first time. He who prides himself too much on the originality of his wit, and disdains to vent a joke which is not whoily of his own manufacture, will very soon find himself at the end of his tether, and must either be content to forego all claim to pleasantry, or be very careful of venturing twice into the same company. Mercury, the god of wit, was also the god of thieving; and Shakspeare has wisely represented the merry and facetious Falstaff, as not too scrupulously accurate in his distinctions between meum and tuum. Wit is evidently one of the last proceeds of civilization ; it belongs to polished society, and is only called into being by the mutual co-operation of many minds. It has been asserted by certain writers, (who, as they were not by at the time, are most likely to have known the truth of the matter, that Adam came into the world in possession of every species of knowledge, infused (as they term it) into his understanding by his creator ;* but none of them have pretended that he was a heaven-born wit. Neither Scripture nor tradition attribute to him a single dictum approaching to the nature of a bon-mot; not an epigram remains of him, even against his wife ; and the devil, with all his malice, seems to have been unable to provoke him into the perpetration of a pun. These good things belong to a happier epoch: the necessary must, in the course of nature, precede the superfluous; and Adam must indeed have rejoiced in a disposition singularly given to mirth, to have indulged in a joke, when his best nether integuments were of no warmer material than a fig-leaf. When one looks into an Encyclopædia, or thinks of all the patent inventions for cork-screws, lead pencils, adscititious mustachios, and false teeth, one cannot but acknowledge the value of that inheritance, to which every child of civilization is born, (not to speak of the ineffable advantage of ready-made systems of theology and politics, with ready-made reviews to comment on them, all destined to spare him the trouble of thinking on such matters once even in a long life :) but what are all these things to the beatitude of which every true-born Englishman is heir, in the legacy bequeathed him by his ancestors of that repertorium of infinite and endless fun, that comprehensive volume, which passes under the style and title of Joe Miller. That singular compilation, " above all Greek, above all Roman fame,” the result of long generations of labour, owes its origin, like our glorious constitution, to no certain epoch. Like the universe of Democritus, they are both alike the result of a fortuitous concurrence of atoms, in which chance has served mankind infinitely better than the happiest forethought and contrivance. No joke, in the one, and no legal quibble, which is no joke, in the other, can be traced to its proper inventor. No one piece, in either, has any relation of harmony and coincidence with the rest ; but the entire assemblage, in each, forms one resplendent and miraculous whole, than which nothing, in its own way, is more grand, nothing more perfect, nothing more admirable. To judge of the value of Joe Miller, which, like the Koran, contains all things necessary for man, it is only requisite to mark how largely it enters into all the effusions of Thalia, how it predominates in the productions of the daily press, and how frequently it is pressed into the service of our public orators. Many a time have a ministry been saved, many a time bas a great national question been carried by a serviceable quotation from its pages; and so influential is its authority in matters of public concernment, that we never read—“the house convulsed with laughter," without anticipating some strong measure, a game law, a corn law, or a good round increase of taxation. But the great utility of Joe Miller, perhaps, lies in its adaptation to the necessities of the unfledged wit.
* “ On prononce que l'entendement spéculatif du premier homme etait imbu de toutes les connaissances philosophiques et mathématiques, dont le genre humaia est naturellement capable ; et que son entendement pratique possédait une prudence consommée à l'égard de tout ce que l'homme doit faire, soit en particulier, soit en public; et outre cela, toutes les sciences morales, et tous les arts liberaux, la rhetorique, la poesie, la peinture, la sculpture, l'agriculture, l'écriture, &c.”—(Bayle Dict. art. Adam.) Not forgetting, of course, animal magnetism, phrenology, and stock-jobbing. This method, by infusion, is very convenient, and would have saved a world of study; it is a great pity the privilege was not hereditary.
ling, in its service as an elementary work of instruction for all candidates for the honour of the bon-mot. As corks are necessary to support the incipient swimmer, during the first stages of his probation; and as men practise with a foil before they venture to handle a sword; so is it necessary for the jester to try his “ 'prentice hand" upon a readymade joke, and to train himself to the happy invention and graceful utterance of his own conceptions, by first playing off on his neighbours the witticisms of others. The influence of example in this matter is very great; and most professed wits might, if they were candid, trace the developement of their propensity to an early association with some individual whose influence first led them to embark into the brilliant, but somewhat troublesome career. I am aware of the odium urder which the “servile herd of imitators” lie; and that, in all the fine arts, originality is nine points out of ten in every game. The finest painters, it is true, have reached to excellence rather by studying Nature than by copying the great masters; while the greatest poets are (though in a certain degree falsely) thought to owe the least to the labour of their predecessors. But notwithstanding all this, Rome was not built in a day; and the mechanical part, at least, of all arts is necessarily the slow product of the experience of ages. Providence has bestowed nothing on man without labour, and may rather be said to have bargained for, than given, its blessings to him. The jester must earn his bread in the sweat of his brow, like a graver character; and the wit must learn and labour in that state of life into which it has pleased heaven to call him, if he means to get on in his vocation. What Horace has said of poetry is no less true of joking: although study is nothing without a rich vein of humour, yet an uncultivated wit is out of all chance of success; and although I would not go the length of advising the student to abstain from wine and Venus, * yet he will do well " to sweat” away at the perusal of his Joe. Vain, therefore, and most inconsiderate is it in the would-be wit to confide in the strength of his own genius, and to regard as his rivals and enemies the jokers of preceding generations. What sort of a statesman would he prove who should confine his knowledge of human nature to the teachings of his own experience, and who should deem the lights of history of no use but to withdraw the attention of the world from his own actions? If a mouse possessed of but one hole is justly considered “a mouse of very little soul," a wit who confines himself to the efforts of one mind is not deserving of a better reputation. The truth of these general propositions might be backed by numerous examples above all exception; but such is the genus irritabile of jokers, that to quote names might give serious offence to many worthy persons, with whom I would much rather crack a bottle than a pistol. It is sufficient to remark, that the greatest diners-out, the most celebrated men of wit and pleasure about town, the jokers for “ The Bull” newspaper, the facetious author of “Broad Grins," with many others (as the quack doctors say) “ too tedious to mention," who have the greatest personal resources at their own disposition, are the last persons in the world to rely upon them, and borrow the most liberally from their friend Joe. Set it down, therefore, as an indisputable truth, that
* " Multa tulit, fecitque puer; sudavit et alsit,
Abstinuit Venere et Vino."
memory has more to do with wit than imagination, (which, by the by, is the only good reason that suggests itself why actors should be sich desperate jokers ;) and that, without its aid, the world might be deluged with single-speech jesters, but would want those ready-penny beaur esprits, upon whom the brilliancy of a dinner, or the success of a comedy, so mainly depend. Of all men, I detest the matter-of-fact personage, who inquires too deeply into the pedigree of a bon-mot; who, reversing the rule of the Royal Exchange, refuses currency to the joke that has its endorsement, and who checks you in the career of your humour, with eternal references to that hateful monosyllable “ a Joe.” If good poetry will bear repetition, why not a good joke? I fancy these fastidious critics would be sorry to regulate their appetites by the standard by which they judge the wits; and to deny their stomachs bread and small-beer, because these creature comforts have been daily served up to table beyond the memory of man. In this matter, as in most others, the people are the best judges; and it cannot be doubted, that the frequenters of theatres laugh as heartily at a stale joke, as at one of recent formation. The practice of the stage would justify one in concluding that wit, like gold, requires a hall-mark; so universal is the preference of the playwright for those good things that have been regularly assayed, and found to possess the requisite carats. If every man is to be trusted in the matter he especially professes, the question is decided at once by an appeal to fact; since your wits, who are ever the idlest fellows on town, would not go through a daily course of reading to prepare for their evening's exhibition, if they were not thoroughly satisfied of the necessity for such an exercise. In some respects, a “ regular Joe” has advantages over the primest original. Spontaneous wit, depending upon unforeseen antecedents, must be blurted out in its first rude concoction," some dregs of ancient night not yet purged off;"—whereas the antecedents of " a Joe" are under command; the joke may be conned and perfected; and the moment may be chosen for bringing it on the tapis most favourable to its success. A joke that is thrust on the world out of time and place, produces as villainous an effect as a ghost at mid-day: rarely, however, can the spontaneous jester resist the temptation of letting fly, the moment he conceives, however unseasonable his wit may be ; wbile the retailer of Joes, conscious of his power to choose his own time, is patient and prudent. But, above all things, a Joe admits of confederacy, a point of the last importance to a great reputation. Wits who hunt in couples have advantages out of number over the solitary sportsman; and provided “the table be set in a roar,” it matters little by what agency so desirable an end is effected. The point is so evident, that I should be ashamed to dwell on it longer. A good cause loses by an overstrained argument; so, without another word, I leave the matter to the “belles entendoires”* of the intelligent public, and the rest of the sheet to matters of greater and more immediate concernment.