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Taking a word in a different sense from what is meant, comes under wit, because it occasions some slight degree of surprise:
Falstaff. My honest lads, I will tell you what I am about.
Falstaff. No quips, now, Pistol: indeed I am in the waist two yards about; but I am now about no waste; I am about thrift. MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.-ACT I. Sc. 3.
Sands. -By your leave, sweet ladies,
Anne Bullen. Was he mad, sir?
Sands. O, very mad, exceeding mad, in love too;
KING HENRY VIII.-ACT I. Sc. 4.
An assertion that bears a double meaning, one right, one wrong, but so introduced as to direct us to the wrong meaning, is a species of spurious wit, which is distinguished from all others by the name pun. For example,
Chief Justice. Well! the truth is, Sir John, you live in great infamy.
Falstaff. He that buckles him in my belt cannot live in less. Chief Justice. Your means are very slender, and your waste is great.
Falstaff. I would it were otherwise: I would my means were greater, and my waist slenderer.
SECOND PART HENRY IV.-Sc. 2.
He that imposes an oath makes it,
HUDIBRAS, PART II. CANTO 2. Though playing with words is a mark of a mind at ease, and disposed to any sort of amusement, we must not thence conclude that playing with words is always ludicrous. Words are so intimately connected with thought, that if the subject be really grave, it will not appear ludicrous even in that fantastic dress. I am, however, far from recommending it in any serious performance: on the contrary, the discordance between the thought and expression must be disagreeable; witness the following specimen.
He hath abandoned his physicians, madam, under whose practices he hath persecuted time with hope; and finds no other advantage in the process, but only the losing of hope by time. ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.-ACT I. Sc. 1. K. Henry. O my poor kingdom, sick with civil blows! When that my care could not withhold thy riots, What wilt thou do when riot is thy care?
SECOND PART HENRY IV.-ACT IV. Sc. 4. There is a third species of wit, different from those mentioned, consisting in sounds merely., Many of Hudibras's double rhymes come under the definition of wit given in the beginning of this chapter: they are ludicrous, and their singularity occasions some degree of surprise. Swift is no less successful than Butler in this sort of wit: witness the following instances: Goddess-Bodice. Pliny-Nicolini. Iscariots-Chariots. Mitre-Nitre. Dragon-Suffragan.
A repartee may happen to be witty; but it cannot be considered as a species of wit, because there are many repartees extremely smart, and yet extremely
Give examples of ludicrous images.
Give an example of fanciful causes assigned that have no natural relation to the effects produced.
Give examples of fanciful reasoning.
Give examples of the ludicrous junction of small things with great, as of equal importance.
Upon what does the wit of a play of words depend?
In what period in a nation's literature, does this kind of wit become popular?
Give an example of a seeming resemblance from a double meaning-of other seeming connexions from the same causeof seeming opposition from the same cause.
Is wit of this kind suitable in a serious poem?
Give examples of taking a word in a different sense from what is meant?
Give examples of the pun.
Is this genuine wit?
Is the play upon words always ludicrous?
Is it proper in serious writing?
What is the third species of wit mentioned?,
Custom and Habit.
CUSTOM respects the action, habit the agent. By custom we mean a frequent reiteration of the same act; and by habit, the effect that custom has on the agent. This effect may be either active, witness the dexterity produced by custom in performing certain exercises; or passive, as when a thing makes an impression on us different from what it did originally. The latter only, as relative to the sensitive part of our nature, comes under the present undertaking.
This subject is intricate: some pleasures are fortified by custom; and yet custom begets familiarity, and consequently indifference; in many instances, satiety and disgust are the consequences of reiteration: again, though custom blunts the edge of distress and of pain, yet the want of any thing to which we have been long accustomed, is a sort of torture. A clew to guide us through all the intricacies of this labyrinth, would be an acceptable present.
Whatever be the cause, it is certain that we are much influenced by custom: it hath an effect upon our pleasures, upon our actions, and even upon our thoughts and sentiments. Habit makes no figure during the vivacity of youth: in middle age it gains ground; and in old age governs without control. In that period of life, generally speaking, we eat at a / certain hour, take exercise at a certain hour, go to rest at a certain hour-all by the direction of habit. A walk upon the quarter-deck, though intolerably confined, becomes however so agreeable by custom, that a sailor, in his walk on shore, confines himself commonly
within the same bounds. I knew a man who had relinquished the sea for a country life: in the corner of his garden he reared an artificial mount with a level summit, resembling most accurately a quarterdeck, not only in shape but in size; and here he generally walked. In Minorca, Governor Kane made an excellent road the whole length of the island; and yet the inhabitants adhere to the old road, though not only longer but extremely bad.* Play and gaming, at`· first an amusement, grow into a habit; but to introduce an active habit, length of time is necessary.
Affection and aversion, as distinguished from passion, and original disposition, are habits respecting particular objects, acquired in the manner above set forth. The pleasure of social intercourse, originally faint, but frequently reiterated, establishes the habit of affection. Affection thus generated, whether it be friendship or love, seldom swells into any tumultuous passion; but is the strongest cement that can bind two individuals of the human species. In like manner, a slight degree of disgust often reiterated grows into the habit of aversion, which commonly subsists for life.
Objects of taste that are delicious, far from tending to become habitual, are apt, by indulgence, to produce satiety and disgust: no man contracts a habit of sugar, honey, or sweetmeats, as he doth of tobacco. And the same observation holds with respect to all objects that being disagreeable raise violent passions. A variety in the objects of amusement prevents a habit as to any one in particular; but as the train is uniform with respect to amusement, the habit is formed accordingly: we call it generic, as opposed to the former, which is
* Custom is a second nature. Formerly, the merchants of Bristol had no place for meeting but the street, open to every variety of weather. An Exchange was erected for them with convenient piazzas: but so riveted were they to their accustomed place, that in order to dislodge them, the magistrates were forced to break up the pavement, and to render the place a heap of rough stones.
said to be specific habit. These, however, are closely blended. Satiety and disgust have no effect, except as to that thing singly which occasions them; hence it is easy to account for a generic habit in any intense pleasure.
The changes made in forming habits are curious. Moderate pleasures are augmented by reiteration, till they become habitual; and then are at their height; but they are not long stationary; for from that point they gradually decay, till they vanish altogether. The pain occasioned by want of gratification, runs a different course it increases uniformly; and at last becomes extreme, when the pleasure of gratification is reduced to nothing:
It so falls out,
That what we have we prize not to the worth,
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.-ACT IV. Sc. 1.
The effect of custom, with relation to a specific habit, is displayed through all its varieties in the use of tobacco. The taste of that plant is at first extremely unpleasant: our disgust lessens gradually, till it vanish altogether; at which period the taste is neither agreeable nor disagreeable: we continue to relish it till we arrive at perfection. When the habit is acquired in its greatest vigor, the relish is gone. We take snuff without being conscious of the operation.
The power of custom is a happy contrivance for our good; satiety checks pleasures that would disqualify us for business; and custom puts the rich and poor on a level; for all abandon to the authority of custom things that Nature hath left indifferent. Proceeding to matters of taste, where there is naturally a preference of one thing before another, it is certain that our faint and more delicate feelings are readily susceptible of a bias from custom; and it is no proof of a defective taste to find these in some measure in