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honnêteté, une discrétion la plus grande du monde ; jamais on n'en voit se plaindre du médecin qui l'a tué.
Li medecin nalgre lui.
Admirez les bontez, admirez las tendresses,
Oid Bachelor, Act II. Sc. 8.
To account for effects by such fantastical causes, being highly ludicrous, is quite improper in any serious composition. Therefore the following passage from Cowley, in his poem on the death of Sir Henry Wooton, is in a bad taste.
He did the utmost bounds of knowledge find,
Falstaff. Imbowell'd if thou imbowel me to-day, I'll give you leave to powder me, and eat me to-morrow! 'Sblood 'twas time to counterfeit, or that hot termagant Scot had paid me scot and lot too. Counterfeit! I lie, I am no counterfeit; to die is to be a counterfeit; for he is but the counterfeit of a man, who hath not the life of a man ; but to counterfeit dying, when a man thereby liveth, is to be no counterfeit, but the true and perfect image of life indeed.
First Part Henry IV. Ict. I. Sc. 10.
Clown. And the more pity that great folk should have countenance in this world to drown or hang themselves, more than their even Christian.
Hamlet, Act V. Sc. 1.
Pedro. Will you have me, Lady ?
Beatrice. No, my Lord, unless I might have another for working days. Your Grace is too costly to wear every day.
Much Ado about Nothing, Act II. Sc. 5.
Jessica. I shall be saved by my husband ; he hath made me a Christian.
Launcelot. Truly the more to blame he ; we were Christians enough before, e'en as many as could well live by one another : this making of Christians will raise the price of hogs; if we grow all to be pork-eaters, we shall not have a rasher on the the coals for money.
Merchant of Venice, Act III. Sc. 6.
In western clime there is a town,
Hudibras, Canto i.
But Hudibras gave him a twitch,
Ibid. Canto iii.
Ludicrous junction of small things with great, as of equal importance :
This day black omens threat the brightest fair
Some dire disaster, or by force, or slight;
Rape of the Lock, Canto ii. 101.
One speaks the glory of the British queen,
Ibid. Canto ii. 13.
Then flash'd the living lightning from her eyes,
Ibid. Canto iii. 155.
Not youthful kings in battle seiz'd alive,
Ibid. Canto iv. 3.
Joining things that in appearance are opposite. As for example, where Sir Roger de Coverly, in the Spectator, speaking of his widow,
That he would have given her a coal-pit to have kept her in
clean linen; and that her finger should have sparkled with one hundred of his richest acres.
Premises that promise much and perform nothing. Cicero upon that article
Sed scitis esse notissimum ridiculi genus, cum aliud expectamus, aliud dicitur : hic nobismetipsis noster error risum movet.*
Beatrice. With a good leg and a good foot, uncle, and money enough in his purse, such a man would win any woman in the world, if he could get her good-will,
Much Ado about Nothing, Act II. Sc. 1.
Beatrice. I have a good eye, uncle, I can see a church by daylight.
Le medicin que l'on m'indique
Vingt fois le jour le bon Grégoire
* De Oratore, 1. ii. cap. 63.
L'athsmatique Damon a cru que l'air des champs
Having discussed wit in the thought, we proceed to what is verbal only, commonly called a play of words. This sort of wit depends, for the most part, upon choosing a word that hath different significations: by that artifice hocus-pocus tricks are played in language, and thoughts plain and simple take on a very different appearance. Play is necessary for man, in order to refresh him after labour; and, accordingly, man loves play, even so much as to relish a play of words: and it is happy for us, that words can be employed, not only for useful purposes,
but also for our amusement. This amusement, though humble and low, unbends the mind; and is relished by some at all times, and by all at some times.
It is remarkable, that this low species of wit, has among all nations been a favourite entertainment, in a certain stage of their progress toward refinement of taste and manners, and has gradually gone into disrepute. As soon as a language is formed into a system, and the meaning of words is ascertained with tolerable accuracy, opportunity is afforded for expressions that, by the double meaning of some words, give a familiar thought the appearance of being new; and the penetration of the reader or hearer is gratified in detecting the true sense disguised under the double meaning. That this sort of wit was in England deemed a reputable amusement, during the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. is vouched by the works of Shakspeare, and even by the writings of grave divines. But