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weakness in another gave us a sensible pang, it would be hard indeed: but as long as the disagreeableness of the consequences of a sudden disaster is kept out of sight by the immediate oddity of the circumstances, and the absurdity or unaccountableness of a foolish action is the most striking thing in it, the ludicrous prevails over the pathetic, and we receive pleasure instead of pain from the farce c life which is played before us, and which discomposes our gravity as often as it fails to move our anger or our pity!
Tears may be considered as the natural and in voluntary resource of the mind overcome by some sudden and violent emotion, before it has had time to reconcile its feelings to the change of circumstances: while laughter may be defined to be the same sort of convulsive and involuntary movement, occasioned by mere surprise or contrast (in the absence of any more serious emotion.) before it has time to reconcile its belief to contradicto ry appearances. If we hold a mask before our face, and an proach a child with this disguise on, it will at first, from the oddity and incongruity of the apprarance, be inclined to lau h; if we go nearer to it, stralily, and without saying a word, it will begin to be alarmed, and be hali inclined to cry if we suddenly take off the mask, it will recover from its frars, and burst out a-laughing; but if, instead of privating the old well known countenance, we have coneraled a styr's head or some frightfal caricature behind the first ma-k, the suddenne of the change will not in this case be a source of merriment to it, but will convert its surpris into an agony of cofreteration, and will make it serram out for help, even though it may be convinerd that the whole is a trik at bottom
The alternatjon of tour and laughter, in the lieele epende in common life, de gunos alınımt entirely on the greater or les de gree of interest attached to the different chanzas of appearan'e
The merr sudienness of the transition, the more baulling our reptations, and turning them alumptly into an the chan. mrl, sems for grabe aldonal liveliness and guy to the animal sj-uriin but the in-tand the chan” 14 not only suiden, but threatens nutiuus cunni, or calls up the shape of lant, terror superander our dipwition to mirt, ...! laures place to tears. It is usual to play with infants, and make them laugh by clapping your hands suddenly before them; but if you clapped your hands too loud, or too near their sight, their countenances immediately change, and they hide them in the nurse's arms. Or suppose the same child, grown up a little older, comes to a place, expecting to meet a person it is particularly fond of, and does not find that person there, its countenance suddenly falls, its lips begin to quiver, its cheek turns pale, its eye glistens, and it vents its little sorrow (grown too big to be concealed) in a flood of tears. Again, if the child meets the same person unexpectedly after a long absence, the same effect will be produced by an excess of joy, with different accompaniments; that is, the surprise and the emotion excited will make the blood come into his face, his eyes sparkle, his tongue falter or be mute, but in either case the tears will gush to his relief, and lighten the pressure about his heart. On the other hand, if a child is playing at hide-and-seek, or blind-man's-buff, with persons it is ever so fond of, and either misses them where it had made sure of finding them, or suddenly runs up against them where it had least expected it, the shock or additional impetus given to the imagination by the disappointment or the discovery, in a matter of this indifference, will only vent itself in a fit of laughter.* The transition here is not from one thing of importance to another, or from a state of indifference to a state of strong excitement; but merely from one impression to another that we did not at all expect, and when we had expected just the contrary. The mind having been led to form a certain conclusion, and the result producing an immediate solution of continuity in the chain of our ideas, this alternate excitement and relaxation of the imagination, the object also striking upon the mind more vividly in its loose unsettled state, and be: fore it has had time to recover and collect itself, causes that alternate excitement and relaxation, or irregular convulsive movement of the muscular and nervous system, which consti:
* A child that has hid itself out of the way in sport, is under a great temptation to laugh at the unconsciousness of others as to its situation. A person concealed from assassins, is in no danger of betraying his situation by laughing
tutes physical laughter. The discontinuous in our sensations produces a correspondent jar and disex rd in the frame. The steadiness of our faith and of our features begins to give way at the sime time. We turn with an incredulous smile from a story that staggers our belief: and we are ready to split our sides with laughing at an extravagance that sets all common sense and serious concern at defiance.
To understand or define the ludicrous, we must first know what the serious is. Now the serious is the habitual stress which the mind lays upon the expectation of a given order of events, following one another with a certain regularity and weight of interest attached to them. When this stress is inereasd beyond its usual pitch of intensity, so as to overstrain the feelings by the violent opposition of good to bal, or of ob jects to our desires, it becomes the pathetic or tragical The ludicrous, or comic, is the unexpected loosening or relaxing this stress below its usual pitch of intensity, by such an abrupt transposition of the order of our ideas, as taking the mind unawares, throws it off its guard, startles it into a lively sense of pleasure, and leaves no time nor inclination for painful reflections
The essence of the laughable then is the incongruotis, the disconnecting one idea from another, or the jostling of one feel ing against another The first and most obvious cause of laugh. ter is to be found in the simple successiva of events, as in the sud len shifting of a disguise, or rime unkoked-fur accident, without any absurdity of character or situation. The accidental contradiction between our expectations and the event can hardly be said, however, to amount to the ludicrous; it is merely laughable The ludicrous is where there is the same contradiction between the object and our expectations, heightened by sme defrmity or in un venienie, that is by its being contrary to wh! is custary or desimall; as the railrulous, which is the highest deg me of the laughable, is that which is contrary nut only to custun but to sens and reason, or is a voluntary departure fr. m what we hair a ruht to exfet from the wlu are conra 118 of al surdy and pretty in words, lewks, and actautis.
Of these diferent huds or degrees of the laughable, the first is the most shallow and short-lived; for the instant the imme
diate surprise of a thing's merely happening one way or another is over, there is nothing to throw us back upon our former expectation, and renew our wonder at the event a second time. The second sort, that is, the ludicrous arising out of the improbable or distressing, is more deep and lasting, either because the painful catastrophe excites a greater curiosity, or because the old impression, from its habitual hold on the imagination, still recurs mechanically, so that it is longer before we can seriously make up our minds to the unaccountable deviation from it. The third sort, or the ridiculous arising out of absurdity as well as improbability, that is, where the defect or weakness is of a man's own seeking, is the most refined of all, but not always so pleasant as the last, because the same contempt and disapprobation which sharpens and subtilises our sense of the impropriety, adds a severity to it inconsistent with perfect ease and enjoyment. This last species is properly the province of satire. The principle of contrast is, however, the same in all the stages, in the simply laughable, the ludicrous, the ridiculous; and the effect is only the more complete, the more durably and pointedly this principle operates
To give some examples in these different kinds. We laugh, when children, at the sudden removing of a paste-board mask: we laugh, when grown up, more gravely at the tearing off the mask of deceit. We laugh at absurdity; we laugh at deformity. We laugh at a bottle-nose in a caricature; at a stuffed figure of an alderman in a pantomime, and at the tale of Slaukenbergius. A dwarf standing by a giant makes a contemptible figure enough. Rosinante and Dapple are laughable from contrast, as their masters from the same principle make two for a pair. We laugh at the dress of foreigners, and they at ours. Three chimney-sweepers meeting three Chinese in Lincoln's Inn Fields, they laughed at one another till they were ready to drop down. Country people laugh at a person because they never saw him before. Any one dressed in the height of the fashion, or quite out of it, is equally an object of ridicule. One rich source of the ludicrous is distress with which we cannot sympathise from its absurdity or insignificance. Women laugh at their lovers. We laugh at a damned author, in spite of our teeth, and though he may be our friend. “ There is something in the misfortunes of our best friends that pleases us." We laugh at people on the top of a stage-coach, or in it, if they seem in great extremity. It is hard to hinder children from laughing at a stammerer, at a negro, at a drunken man, or even at a madman. We laugh at mischief. We laugh at what we do not believe. We say that an argument or an assertion that is very absurd, is quite ludicrous. We laugh to show our satisfaction with ourselves, or our contempt for those about us, or to conceal our envy or our ignorance. We laugh at fools, and at those who pretend to be wise-t extreme simplicity, awkwardness, hypocrisy, and affectation." They were talking of me," says Scrub, " for they laughed consumedly." Lord Foppington's insensibility to ridicule, and airs of ineffable self-conceit, are no less admirable; and Joseph Surface's cant maxims of morality, when once disarmed of their power to do hurt, become sufficiently ludicrous. We laugh at that in others which is a se rious matter to ourselves; because our self-love is stronger than our sympathy, sooner takes the alarm, and instantly turns our heedless mirth into gravity, which only enhances the jest to others. Some one is generally sure to be the sufferer by a joke. What is sport to one is death to another. It is only very sensi ble or very honest people who laugh as freely at their own ab surdities as at those of their neighbours. In general the contrary rule holds, and we only laugh at those misfortunes in which we are spectators, not sharers. The injury, the disappointment, shame, and vexation that we feel put a stop to our mirth; while the disasters that come home to tas, and excite our repugnance and disznay, are an amusing spectacle to others. The greater resistance we make, and the greater the perplexity into which we are thrown, the more lively and piquant is the intellectual display of cross-purposes to the by-standers. Our humiliation is their triumph We are occupied with the disagreeable ness of the result instead of its oddity or unexpectedness Others see only the contiæt of motives and the sudden alteration of events - we feel the pain as well, which more than counterbalances the speculative entertainment we might receive from the contemplation of our abstract situation.