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following example, with respect to the latter, in which the goddess of Dullness is addressed upon the subject of modern education :

Thou gav'st that ripeness, which so foon began,
And ceas'd so soon, he ne'er was boy nor man;
Through school and college, thy kind cloud o'ercast,
Safe and unseen the young Æneas past * ;
Thence bursting glorious, all at once let down,
Stunn'd with his giddy larum half the town.

Dunciad, b. iv. 287.

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The interposition of the gods in the manner of Homer and Virgil, ought to be confined to ludicrous subjects, which are much enlivened by such interposition handled in the form of a parody; witness the cave of Spleen, Rape of the Lock, canto 4.; the goddess of Discord, Lutrin, canto 1.; and the goddess of Indolence, cara

to 2.


Those who have a talent for ridicule, which is feldom united with a taste for delicate and refined beauties, are quick-lighted in improprieties ; and these they eagerly lay hold of, in order to gratify their favourite propensity. The persons galled have no other refuge but to maintain, that ridicule ought not to be applied to grave subjects. It is yielded, on the other hand, that subjects really grave and important, are by no means fit for ridicule: but then it is urged, that ridicule is the only proper telt for discovering what subjects are ridiculous, what grave and serious. This dispute has produced a celebrated question, Whether ridicule be or be not a test of truth? I give this question a place here, because it tends to illustrate the nature of ridicule.

Æn. l. I. At Venus obfcuro, &c.


The question stated in accurate terms is, Whether the fenfe of ridicule be the proper test for distinguishing ridiculous objects, from those that are not so? To answer this question with precision, I must premise, that ridicule is not a subject of reasoning, but of sense or taste * ; which being taken for granted, I proceed thus. No person doubts that our sense of beauty is the true test of what is beautiful ; and our sense of grandeur, of what is great or sublime. Is it more doubtful whether our sense of ridicule be the true test of what is ridiculous? It is not only the true test, but indeed the only test; for this is a subject that comes not, more than beauty or grandeur, under the province of reason. If any subject, by the influence of fashion or custom, have acquired a degree of veneration to which naturally it is not intitled, what are the proper means for wiping off the artificial colouring, and displaying the subject in its true light? Reasoning, as observed, cannot be applied; and

* Sec chap. 1o. compared with chap. 7.


therefore the only means is to judge by taste. The test of ridicule, which separates it from its artificial connections, exposes it naked with all its native improprieties.'10.00!

But it is urged, that the gravest and most ferious matters may be set in a ridiculous light. Hardly so; for where an object is neither risible nor improper, it lies not open in any quarter to an attack from ridicule. But supposing the fact, I foresee not any harmful consequence. By the fame sort of reasoning, a talent for wit ought to be condemned, because it may be employ'd to burlesque a great or lofty subject. Such irregular use made of a talent for wit or ridicule, cannot long impose upon mankind: it cannot stand the test of correct and delicate taste; and truth will at last prevail even with the vulgar. demn a talent for ridicule because it may be

perverted to wrong purposes, is not a little ridiculous : could one forbear to smile, if a talent for reasoning were condemned because it also may be perverted? and yet the conclusion in the latter case, would be not less just than in the former: perhaps more just; for no talent is so often perverted as that of reason.

We had best leave Nature to her own operations: the most valuable talents may be abused, and so may that of ridicule : let us bring it under proper culture if we can, without endeavouring to pull it up by the root. Were we destitute of

To con

this test of truth, I know not what might be the consequences : I see not what rule would be left us to prevent splendid trifles passing for matters of importance, show and form for substance, and superstition or enthusiasm for pure religion.


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IT is a quality of certain thoughts and expressions: the term is never ap

plied to an action nor to a passion, and as little to an external object.

However difficult it may be, in every particular instance, to distinguish a witty thought or expression from one that is not so; yet in general it may be laid down, that the term wit is

appropriated to such thoughts and expressions as are ludicrous, and also occasion some degree of surprise by their singularity. Wit also in a figurative sense expresses that talent, which some men have of inventing ludicrous thoughts or expreffions: we say commonly, a witty man, or a man of wit.

Wit in its proper sense, as explained above, is distinguishable into two kinds; wit in the thought, and wit in the words or expression. Again, wit in the thought is of two kinds; ludicrous images, and ludicrous combinations of things that have little or no natural relation.

Ludicrous images that occasion furprise by their singularity, as having little or no foundation in nature, are fabricated by the imagination :


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