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'Monsieur de la Chambre has told me, that he never knew what he was going to write when he took his pen into his hand; but that one sentence always produced another. For my own part, I never knew what I should write next when I was making verses. In the first place I got all my rhymes together, and was afterwards perhaps three or four months in filling them up. I one day showed Monsieur Gombaud a composition of this nature, in which, among others, I had made use of the four following rhymes, Amaryllis, Phyllis, Marne, Arne; desiring him to give me his opinion of it. He told me immediately, that my verses were good for nothing. And upon my asking his son, he said, because the rhymes are too common; and for that reason easy to be put into verse. "Marry," says I, “if it be so, I am very well rewarded for all the pains I have been at." But by Monsieur Gombaud's leave, notwithstanding the severity of the criticism, the verses were good.' Vid. Menagiana. Thus far the learned Menage,
whom I have translated word for word.
sense, they will be very apt to shoot up in the greatest genius that is not broken and cultivated by the rules of art. Imitation is natural to us, and when it does not raise the mind to poetry, painting, music, or other more noble arts, it often breaks out in puns and quibbles.
Aristotle, in the eleventh chapter of his book of rhetoric, describes two or three kinds of puns, which he calls paragrams, among the beauties of good writing, and produces instances of them out of some of the greatest authors in the Greek tongue. Cicero has sprinkled several of his works with puns, and in his book where he lays down the rules of rea-oratory, quotes abundance of savings as pieces of wit, which also upon examination prove arrant puns. But the age in which the pun chiefly flourished, was in the reign of king James the First. That learned monarch was himself a tolerable punster, and made very few bishops or privy-counsellors that had not sometime or other signalized themselves by a clinch, or a conundrum. It was therefore in this age that the pun appeared with pomp and dignity. It had before been admitted into merry speeches and ludicrous compositions, but was now delivered with great gravity from th pulpit, or pronounced in the most solemn manner at the council-table. The greatest authors, in their most serious works, made frequent use of puns. The sermons of Bishop Andrews, and the tragedies of Shakspeare, are full of them. The sinner was punned into repentance by the former, as in the latter nothing is more usual than to see a bero weeping and quibbling for a dozen lines together.
The first occasion of these bouts-rimez made them in some manner excusable, as they were tasks which the French ladies used to impose on their lovers. But when a grave author, like him above mentioned, tasked himself, could there be any thing more ridiculous? Or would not one be apt to believe that the author played booty, and did not make his list of rhymes till he had finished his poem?
I sball only add, that this piece of false wit has been finely ridiculed by Monsieur Sarasin, in a poem entitled, La Defaite des Bouts-Rimez, The Rout of the Bouts-Rimez.
I must subjoin to this last kind of wit the double rhymes, which are used in doggerel poetry, and generally applauded by ignorant readers. If the thought of the couplet in such compositions is good, the rhyme adds little to it; and if bad, it will not be in the power of the rhyme to recommend it. I am afraid that great numbers of those who admire the incomparable Hudibras, do it more on account of these doggerel rhymes than of the parts that really deserve admiration. I am sure I have heard the
Pulpit, drum ecclesiastic,
Was beat with fist, instead of a stick;"
There was an ancient sage philosopher
I must add to these great authorities, which seem to have given a kind of sanction to this piece of false wit, that all the writers of rhetoric have treated of punning with very great respect, and divided the several kinds of it into hard names. that are reckoned among the figures of speech and recommended as ornaments in discourse. I remember a country schoolmaster of my acquaintance told me once, that he had been in company with a gentleman whom he looked upon to be the greatest paragrammatist among the moderns. Upon inquiry, I found my learned friend had dined that day with Mr. Swan, the famous punster; and de siring him to give me some account of Mr. Swan' conversation, he told me that he generally talked in the Paranomasia, that he sometimes gave into the Ploce, but that in his humble opinion he shined most in the Antanaclasis.
I must not bere omit, that a famous university of
more frequently quoted, than the finest pieces of this land was formerly very much infested with wit in the whole poem.
N° 61. THURSDAY, MAY 10, 1711.
Non equidem hoc studeo, bullatis ut mihi mugis,
'Tis not indeed my talent to engage In lofty trifles, or to swell my page With wind and noise.
puns; but whether or no this might not arise from the fens and marshes in which it was situated, and which are now drained, I must leave to the deter mination of more skilful naturalists.
After this short history of punning, one woul wonder how it should be so entirely banished ou of the learned world as it is at present, especiali since it had found a place in the writings of th most ancient polite authors. To account for th we must consider, that the first race of author who were the great heroes in writing, were dest tute of all rules and arts of criticism; and for tha reason, though they excel later writers in great THERE is no kind of false wit which has been so re-ness of genius, they fall short of them in accurac commended by the practice of all ages, as that and correctness. The moderns cannot reach thei which consists in a jingle of words, and is compre-beauties, but can avoid their imperfections. Whe hended under the general name of punning. It is the world was furnished with these authors of th indeed impossible to kill a weed, which the soil has first eminence, there grew up another set of wri a natural disposition to produce. The seeds of pun-ers, who gained themselves a reputation by the re ning are in the minds of all men; and though they marks which they made on the works of thos may be subdued by reason, reflection, and good who preceded them. It was one of the employ
Scribendi recte, sapere est et principium et fons.
s are Ferior
and MR. LOCKE has an admirable reflection upon the cept difference of wit and judgment, whereby he entinc- deavours to show the reason why they are not alor all ways the talents of the same person. His words al of are as follow: And hence, perhaps, may be given f the some reason of that common observation, "That e de- men who have a great deal of wit, and prompt ared. memories, have not always the clearest judgment, as it or deepest reason." For wit lying most in the aswill semblage of ideas, and putting those together with time, quickness and variety wherein can be found any wit resemblance or congruity, thereby to make up very pleasant pictures, and agreeable visions in the pro- fancy; judgment, on the contrary, lies quite on tour the other side, in separating carefully one from to a another, ideas wherein can be found the least dify ex-ference, thereby to avoid being misled by similithat tude, and by affinity to take one thing for another. with This is a way of proceeding quite contrary to mealso taphor and allusion; wherein, for the most part, ayer, lies that entertainment and pleasantry of wit, pack- which strikes so lively on the fancy, and is thereursed fore so acceptable to all people.'
This is, I think, the best and most philosophical Our account that I have ever met with of wit, which If generally, though not always, consists in such a reanly semblance and congruity of ideas as this author e old mentions. I shall only add to it, by way of exfrom planation, that every resemblance of ideas is not from that which we call wit, unless it be such an one I do that gives delight and surprise to the reader. There These two properties seem essential to wit, more seen particularly the last of them. In order, there not fore, that the resemblance in the ideas be wit, it are is necessary that the ideas should not lie too near rams one another in the nature of things; for where the likeness is obvious, it gives no surprise. To comd the pare one man's singing to that of another, or to nfal, represent the whiteness of any object by that of from milk and snow, or the variety of its colours by , but those of the rainbow, cannot be called wit, unless, re, to besides this obvious resemblance, there be some liffer- further congruity discovered in the two ideas, that pro- is capable of giving the reader some surprise. peri- Thus when a poet tells us the bosom of his mistress pun. is as white as snow, there is no wit in the compayman rison; but when he adds, with a sigh, it is as cold præ- too, it then grows into wit. Every reader's meound.'. mory may supply him with innumerable instances by the of the same nature. For this reason, the simili a fine tudes in heroic poets, who endeavour rather to fill when the mind with great conceptions, than to divert it rcerus with such as are new and surprising, have seldom luitur, any thing in them that can be called wit. Mr. Locke's account of wit, with this short explanation, comprehends most of the species of wit, as metaphors, similitudes, allegories, enigmas, inottos, pa rables, fables, dreams, visions, dramatic writings, burlesque, and all the methods of allusion. There are many other pieces of wit (how remote soever they may appear at first sight from the foregoing description) which upon examination will be found to agree with it.
As true wit generally consists in this resemblance
Sound judgment is the ground of writing wells
and congruity of ideas, false wit chiefly consists in warm, but beget. Love in another place cooks the resemblance and congruity sometimes of single pleasure at his fire. Sometimes the poet's heart letters, as in anagrams, chronograms, lipograms, audis frozen in every breast, and sometimes scorched acrostics: sometimes of syllables, as in echoes and in every eye. Sometimes he is drowned in tears, doggrel rhymes: sometimes of words, as in puns and burnt in love, like a ship set on fire in the and quibbles; and sometimes of whole sentences or middle of the sea. poems, cast into the figures of eggs, axes, or altars: The reader may observe in every one of these nay, some carry the notion of wit so far, as to as-instances, that the poet mixes the qualities of fire cribe it even to external mimicry; and to look with those of love; and in the same sentence, upon a man as an ingenious person, that can re-speaking of it both as a passion and as real fire, semble the tone, posture, or face of another. surprises the reader with those seeming resemAs true wit consists in the resemblance of ideas, blances or contradictions, that make up all the wit and false wit in the resemblance of words, accord-in this kind of writing. Mixt wit, therefore, is a ing to the foregoing instances; there is another composition of pun and true wit, and is more or kind of wit, which consists partly in the resem-less perfect, as the resemblance lies in the ideas or blance of ideas, and partly in the resemblance in the words. Its foundations are laid partly in of words, which, for distinction-sake, I shall falsehood and partly in truth; reason puts in ber call mixt wit. This kind of wit is that which claim for one half of it, and extravagance for the abounds in Cowley more than in any author that other. The only province, therefore, for this kind of ever wrote. Mr. Walier has likewise a great deal wit is epigram, or those little occasional poems, that of it. Mr. Dryden is very sparing in it. Milton in their own nature are nothing else but a tissue of had a genius much above it. Spenser is in the epigrams. I cannot conclude this head of mixi same class with Milton. The Italians, even in their wit, without owning that the admirable poet, ou epic poetry, are full of it. Monsieur Boileau, of whom I have taken the examples of it, had a who formed himself upon the ancient poets, has much true wit as any author that ever writ; and every where rejected it with scorn. If we look indeed, all other talents of an extraordinary ge after mixt wit among the Greek writers, we shall nius. find it no where but in the epigrammatists. There are, indeed, some strokes of it in the little poem ascribed to Musæus, which by that, as well as many other marks, betrays itself to be a modern composition. If we look into the Latin writers, we find none of this mixt wit in Virgil, Lucretius, or Catullus; very little in Horace, but a great deal of it in Ovid, and scarce any thing else in Martial.
Out of the innumerable branches of mixt wit, I shall choose one instance which may be met with in all the writers of this class. The passion of love in its nature has been thought to resemble fire: for which reason the words fire and flame are made use of to signify love. The witty poets, therefore, have taken an advantage from the double meaning of the word fire, to make an infinite number of witticisms. Cowley observing the cold regard of his mistress's eves, and, at the same time, their power of producing love in him, considers them as burning-glasses made of ice; and finding himself able to live in the greatest extremities of love, concludes the torrid zone to be habitable. When bis mistress has read his letter written in juice of lemon, by holding it to the fire, he desires her to read it over a second time by Love's flames. When she weeps, he wishes it were inward heat, that distilled those drops from the limbec. When she is absent he is beyond eighty, that is, thirty degrees nearer the pole than when she is with him. His ambitious love is a fire that naturally mounts upwards; his happy love is the beams of heaven, and his unhappy love flames of hell. When it does not let him sleep, it is a flame that sends up no smoke; when it is opposed by counsel and advice, it is a fire that rages the more by the winds blowing upon it. Upon the dying of a tree, in which he had cut his loves, he observed that his written flames had burnt up and withered the tree. When he resolves to give over his passion, he tells us that one burnt like him for ever dreads the fire. His heart is an Etna that, instead of Vulcan's shop, encloses Cupid's forge in it. His endeavouring to drown his love in wine, is throwing oil upon the fire. He would insinuate to his mistress, that the fire of love, like that of the sun (which produces so many living creatures), should not only
It may be expected, since I am upon this subjec that I should take notice of Mr. Dryden's defini tion of wit; which, with all the deference that due to the judgment of so great a man, is not s properly a definition of wit as of good writing general. Wit, as he defines it, is a propriety words and thoughts adapted to the subject. this be a true definition of wit, I am apt to thin that Euclid was the greatest wit that ever set p to paper. It is certain there never was a great propriety of words and thoughts adapted to t subject, than what that author has made use of his Elements. I shall only appeal to my read if this definition agrees with any notion he has wit. If it be a true one, I am sure Mr. Dryd was not only a better poet, but a greater wit th Mr. Cowley; and Virgil a much more faceti man than either Ovid or Martial.
Bouhours, whom I look upon to be the most netrating of all the French critics, has taken pa to show, that it is impossible for any thought to beautiful which is not just, and has not its foun tion in the nature of things; that the basis of wit is truth; and that no thought can be valual of which good sense is not the ground-work. leau has endeavoured to inculcate the same not in several parts of his writings, both in prose verse. This is that natural way of writing, beautiful simplicity, which we so much admir the compositions of the ancients; and which body deviates from, but those who want strer of genius to make a thought shine in its own n ral beauties, Poets who want this strength of nius to give that majestic simplicity to nat which we so much adinire in the works of the cients, are forced to hunt after foreign orname and not to let any piece of wit of what kind so escape them. I look upon these writers as G in poetry, who, like those in architecture, not ing able to come up to the beautiful simplici the old Greeks and Romans, have endeavours supply its place with all the extravagancies o irregular fancy. Mr. Dryden makes a very h some observation on Ovid's writing a letter Dido to Eneas, in the following words: < (says he, speaking of Virgil's fiction of Dide
HOR. Ars Poet. ver. 1.
If in a picture, Piso, you should see
Or limbs of beasts, of the most different kinds,
Wou'd you not laugh, and think the painter mad?
Whose incoherent style, like sick men's dreams,
the IT is very hard for the mind to disengage itself om- from a subject on which it has been long emnot ployed. The thoughts will be rising of themselves t to from time to time, though we give them no encou ragement; as the tossings and fluctuations of the hed sea continue several hours after the winds are city laid.
ave It is to this that I impute my last night's dream ed.] or vision, which formed into one continued allecalls gory the several schemes of wit, whether false, per-mixed, or true, that have been the subject of my ing late papers.
-ble, Methought I was transported into a country that ele- was filled with prodigies and enchantments, goVir- verned by the goddess of Falsehood, and entitled now the Region of False Wit. There was nothing in they the fields, the woods, and the rivers, that appeared and natural. Several of the trees blossomed in leaf-ut a gold, some of them produced bone-lace, and some ught of them precious stones. The fountains bubbled not in an opera tune, and were filled with stags, wild and boars, and mermaids, that lived among the waters; at the same time that dolphins and several kinds of them fish played upon the banks, or took their pastime the in the meadows. The birds had many of them they golden beaks, and human voices. The flowers perpens, fumed the air with smells of incense, ambergrease,
im- and pulvillios; and were so interwoven with one ding another, that they grew up in pieces of embroin of dery. The winds were filled with sighs and messages of distant lovers, As I was walking to and serv- fro in this enchanted wilderness, I could not formen-bear breaking out into soliloquies upon the several ce of wonders which lay before me, when, to my great ature surprise, I found there were artificial echoes in into every walk, that, by repetitions of certain words , but which I spoke, agreed with me, or contradicted duce me, in every thing I said. In the midst of my turns, conversation with these invisible companions, I apon, discovered in the centre of a very dark grove a monstrous fabric, built after the Gothic manner, and covered with innumerable devices in that barbarous kind of sculpture. I immediately went up to it, and found it to be a kind of heathen temple consecrated to the god of Dulness. Upon my entrance I saw the deity of the place dressed in the habit of a monk, with a book in one hand, and a rattle in the other. Upon his right hand was Industry, with a lamp burning before her; and on his left Caprice, with a monkey sitting on her shoulder. Before his feet there stood an altar of a very odd make, which, as I afterwards found, was shaped in that manner to comply with the inscription that surrounded it. Upon the altar there
lay several offerings of axes, wings, and eggs, cut in paper, and inscribed with verses. The temple was filled with votaries, who applied themselves to different diversions, as their fancies directed them. In one part of it I saw a regiment of anagrams, who were continually in motion, turning to the right or to the left, facing about, doubling their ranks, shifting their stations, and throwing themselves into all the figures and countermarches of the most changeable and perplexed exercise.
Not far from these was the body of Acrostics, made up of very disproportioned persons. It was disposed into three columns, the officers planting themselves in a line on the left hand of each column. The officers were all of them at least six feet high, and made three rows of very proper men; but the common soldiers, who filled up the spaces between the officers, were such dwarfs, cripples, and scarecrows, that one could hardly look upon them without laughing. There were behind | the Acrostics two or three files of Chronograms, which differed only from the former, as their officers were equipped (like the figure of Time) with an hour-glass in one hand, and a scythe in the other, and took their posts promiscuously among the private men whom they commanded.
In the body of the temple, and before the very face of the deity, methought I saw the phantom of Tryphiodorus, the Lipogrammatist, engaged in a ball with four-and-twenty persons, who pursued him by turns through all the intricacies and labyrinths of a country-dance, without being able to overtake him.
Observing several to be very busy at the western end of the temple, I inquired into what they were doing, and found there was in that quarter the great magazine of Rebusses These were several things of the most different natures tied up in bundles, and thrown upon one another in heaps like faggots. You might behold an anchor, a nightrail, and a hobby-horse bound up together. One of the workmen seeing me very much surprised, told me, there was an infinite deal of wit in several of those bundles, and that he would explain them to me if I pleased; I thanked him for his civility, but told him I was in very great haste at that time. As I was going out of the temple, I observed in one corner of it a cluster of men and women laughing very heartily, and diverting themselves at a game of Crambo. I heard several Double Rhymes as I passed by them, which raised a great deal of mirth.
Not far from these was another set of merry people engaged at a diversion, in which the whole jest was to mistake one person for another. To give occasion for these ludicrous mistakes, they were divided into pairs, every pair being covered from head to foot with the same kind of dress, though perhaps there was not the least resemblance in their faces. By this means an old man was sometimes mistaken for a boy, a woman for a man, and a black-a-moor for an European, which very often produced great peals of laughter. These I guessed to be a party of Puns. But being very desirous to get out of this world of magic, which had almost turned my brain, I left the temple, and crossed over the fields that lay about it with all the speed I could make. I was not gone far, before I heard the sound of trumpets and alarms, which seemed to proclaim the march of an enemy; and, as I afterwards found, was in reality what I apprehended it. There appeared at a great distance a very shining light, and in the midst of it, a person of a most beautiful aspect; her name was Truth,
On her right hand there marched a male deity, who bore several quivers on his shoulders, and grasped several arrows in his hand. His name was Wit. The approach of these two enemies filled all the territories of False Wit with an unspeakable consternation, insomuch that the goddess of those regions appeared in person upon her frontiers, with the several inferior deities, and the different bodies of forces which I had before seen in the temple, who were now drawn up in array, and prepared to give their foes a warm reception. As the march of the enemy was very slow, it gave time to the several inhabitants who bordered upon the Regions of Falsehood to draw their forces into a body, with a design to stand upon their guard as neuters, and attend the issue of the combat.
I must here inform my reader, that the frontiers of the enchanted region, which I have before described, were inhabited by the species of Mixt Wit, who made a very odd appearance when they were mustered together in an army. There were men whose bodies were stuck full of darts, and women whose eyes were burning-glasses men that had hearts of fire, and women that had breasts of snow. It would be endless to describe several monsters of the like nature, that composed this great army; which immediately fell asunder, and divided itself into two parts, the one half throwing themselves behind the banners of Truth, and the other behind those of Falsehood.
The goddess of Falsehood was of a gigantic stature, and advanced some paces before the front of her army; but as the dazzling light which flowed from Truth began to shine upon her, she faded insensibly; insomuch that in a little space, she looked rather like an huge phantom, than a real substance. At length, as the goddess of Truth approached still nearer to her, she fell away entirely, and vanished amidst the brightness of her presence; so that there did not remain the least trace or impression of her figure in the place where she had been seen.
As at the rising of the sun the constellations grow thin, and the stars go out one after another, till the whole hemisphere is extinguished; such was the vanishing of the goddess: and not only of the goddess herself, but of the whole army that attended her, which sympathized with their leader, and shrunk into nothing, in proportion as the goddess disappeared. At the same time the whole temple sunk, the fish betook themselves to the streams, and the wild beasts to the woods, the fountains recovered their murmurs, the birds their voices, the trees their leaves, the flowers their scents, and the whole face of nature its true and genuine appearance. Though I still continued asleep, I fancied myself as it were awakened out of a dream, when I saw this region of prodigies restored to woods and rivers, fields and meadows,
Upon the removal of that wild scene of wonders, which had very much disturbed my imagination, I took a full survey of the persons of Wit and Truth; for, indeed, it was impossible to look upon the first, without seeing the other at the same time. There was behind them a strong compact body of figures. The genius of Heroic Poetry appeared with a sword in her hand, and a laurel on her head. Tragedy was crowned with cypress, and covered with robes dipped in blood. Satire had smiles in her look, and a dagger under her garment. Rhetoric was known by her thunderbolt; and Comedy by her mask. After several other figures, Epigram marched up in the rear, who had been posted there at the beginning of the expedition, that he