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The greatest favorites of Shakespeare are made to resemble himself in this particular : Hamlet, Mercutio, Touchstone, Jaques, Richard the Third, and Falstaff, “inimitable Falstaff,” are all men of wit and humor, modified according to their different temperaments or circumstances, — some from health and spirits, others from sociality, others from a contrast with their very melancholy. Indeed melancholy itself with the profoundest intellects, will rarely be found to be any thing else than a sickly temperament, induced or otherwise, preying in its turn upon the disappointed expectation of pleasure, — upon the contradiction of hopes, which this world is not made to realize, though (let us never forget) it is made, as they themselves prove, to suggest. Some of Shakespeare's characters, as Mercutio and Benedick, are almost entirely made up of wit and animal spirits; and delightful fellows they are; and ready, from their very taste, to perform the most serious and manly offices. Most of his women, too, have an abundance of natural vivacity. Desdemona herself is so pleasant of intercourse in every way, that upon the principle of the respectable mistakes above mentioned, the Moor, when he grows jealous, is tempted to think it a proof of her want of honesty. But we must make Shakespeare speak for himself, or we shall not know how to be silent on this subject. What a description is that which he gives of a man of mirth, — of a mirth too, which he has expressly stated to be within the limit of what is becoming! It is in Love's Labor Lost.
“A merrier man,
Which his fair tongue, conceit's expositor,
So sweet and voluble is his discourse.” We have been led into these reflections, partly to introduce the conclusion of this article, — partly from being very fond of a joke ourselves, and so making our self-love as proud as possible, — and partly from having spent some most agreeable hours the other evening with a company, the members of which had all the right to be grave and disagreeable that rank and talent are supposed to confer, and yet from the very best sense or forgetfulness of both, were as lively and entertaining to each other as boys. Not one of them perhaps but had his cares,- one or two, of no ordinary description ; but what then? These are the moments, if we can take advantage of them, when sorrows are shared, even unconsciously; -moments, when melancholy intermits her fever, and hope takes a leap into enjoyment; — when the pilgrim of life, if he cannot lay aside his burden, forgets it in meeting his fellows about a fountain ; and soothes his weariness and his resolution with the sparkling sight, and the noise of the freshness.
To come to our anticlimax, for such we are afraid it must be called after all this grave sentiment and mention of authorities. The following dialogue is the substance of a joke (never meant for its present place) that was started the other day upon a late publication. The name of the book it is not necessary to mention, especially as it was pronounced to be one of the driest that had appeared for years. We cannot answer for the sentences being put to their proper speakers. The friends, whom we value most, happen to be great hunters in this way; and the reader may look upon the thing as a specimen of a joke
run down, or of the sort of nonsense above mentioned ; so that he will take due care how he professes not to relish it. We must also advertise him, that a proper quantity of giggling and laughter must be supposed to be interspersed, till towards the end it gradually becomes too great to go on with.
A. Did you ever see such a book ?
B. Ah, ha; so it is. You feel as if you were fingering a brick-bat.
A. It makes you feel dust in the eyes.
B. It is impossible to shed a tear over it. The lachrymal organs are dried up.
A. If you shut it hastily, it is like clapping together a pair of fresh-cleaned gloves.
B. Before you have got far in it, you get up to look at your tongue in a glass.
A. It absolutely makes you thirsty.
B. Yes :- If you take it up at breakfast, you drink four cups instead of two.
A. At page 30 you call for beer.
A. They have it lying on the table at inns to make you drink double. The landlord says “A new book, Sir,” and goes out to order two neguses.
B. It dries up every thing so, it has ruined the draining business.
A. There is an Act of Parliament to forbid people's passing a vintner's with it in their pockets.
B. 'The Dutch subscribed for it to serve them instead of dykes.*
* A witty correspondent of Leigh Hunt, probably Charles Lamb thus “pampers” into pleasant “exaggeration” the joke about the "dry book:”
What? and do you really mean to say that this is “a specimen of a joke run down ?” For “run down,” read “wound up.” There are limits to human wisdom, but none to folly. Hercules might come to a stand-still, but our merry friend with the bauble was never heard to exclaim ne plus ultra. After reading your pleasant article in our coterie the other evening, we took down“ the book " you allude to (it gets into most libraries of any size), and it quickly inspired us with the following dry jokes :
A. Et certamen erat, Corydon cum Thyrside, magnum, - Posthabui — seria ludo. Allons. I know an infant who, on merely seeing it, was cured of water in the head.
B. A dropsical gentlem.an, given over by his physicians, was never tapped again after he had read it.
A. Carry a copy under your arm, and you need no umbrella.
B. A number were sent over to Ireland, just at the time they had almost abandoned the idea of reclaiming bogs.
C. A friend of mine on the coast has recovered ninety acres of land from the sea, by possessing a copy. He calls it his Copyhold land.
A. Southey tells me, that Kehama had one in his pocket when he walked into the ocean, and it divided.
B. When I travel, I always take it to read in bed ; and though I never use a warming pan, I never had the rheumatism in my life.
A. It must be a very ancient work, for we owe to it the origin of the terms “ dry study,” “ dry reading,” &c.
C. It is not generally known, but the conjurer rubs himself with it, before he dips his arm in boiling water.
B. Some one swearing, kissed it in jest, which brought on the complaint of parched lips. Feeling this, he threw it down, and trampling on it, was laid up with chilblains.
C. It is an excellent substitute in bathing for an oil-skin cap.
D. It is found in most libraries, which occasions such an accumulation of dust in those places.
B. A nurse, who took it up by accident, was obliged to wean the child directly.
D. A widow that I know, after burying her husband, retired to her closet,
A RAINY DAY.
HE day that we speak of is a complete one of
its kind, beginning with a dark wet morning, and ending in a drenching night. When you come down stairs from your chamber, you
find the breakfast-room looking dark, the rainspout pouring away, and unless you live in a street of traffic, no sound out of doors but a clack of pattens and an occasional clang of milk-pails. (Do you see the rogue of a milkman ? He is leaving them open to catch the rain.)
We never see a person going to the window on such a morning, to take a melancholy look out at the washed houses and pavement, but we think of a reanimation which we once beheld of old Tate Wilkinson. But observe how sour things may run into pleasant tastes at last. We are by no means certain that the said mimetic antique, Tate Wilkinson, was not Patentee of the York Theatre, wore a melancholy hat tied the wrong way, and cast looks of
and having read a page, never shed another tear. This may be considered its greatest miracle !
C. Its author, who is said to have run mad during the dog-days, wrote it on the sands of Africa, from whence it was brought to this quarter of the globe by means of the Sirocco. “Nil dictum, quod non dictum prius,” is, as you now see, a mighty foolish maxim ; and, as a foolish bit of Latin makes a very appropriate conclusion to the English that precedes it,
“Vivas in amore jocisque -