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John Thompson.-" He has not had the small pox,
Thomas Jackson.—“He has not had the small pox.”
Henry Jennings.—“I have not had the small pox,” answered Henry.
Nearly allied to the stupidity arising from confusion of ideas is, the total ignorance of subjects generally known.
A woman in the country went for a pound of candles, when, to her great astonishment and mortification, she was informed they had risen a penny in the pound since her last purchase of them. “ Why,” says she, « what can be the cause of such a rise ?” “ I can't tell,” says the man,“ but I believe 'tis principally owing to the war.” « What!” said the old woman, “ do they fight by candlelight?”
A gentleman in the country reading a newspaper, his old housekeeper ventured to ask him, if there was any news ?
“ The Duke of York's troops have sat down before Valenciennes,” said he. “I am glad of it,” rejoined the good woman, “and I heartily hope it may rest them.”
An Irishman expressed a wish to go in a sedan chair. His wish was gratified, but the bottom of the chair was taken out, so that he was obliged to walk. After having walked him for some distance, his friend asked how he liked the chair. He answered, “Very well indeed; but, except for the name, it is very like walking.” A layman, nearly forty years of age, had a living offered to him if he could obtain holy orders. He was of a very kind nature, but of a most dull intellect. He entered himself at one of the colleges in Cambridge, but mathematics he could not comprehend. Allattempts to beat them into him were vain. The day of examination arrived, and there was not question proposed, to which he could give a satisfactory answer. The examiners, who knew bis motive for residing in the University, were very anxious not to reject him. “ Let us,” said Dr. Milner, in good nature, “ ask him some question which he must understand, and that will be sufficient.” Pray, sir,” said Dr. Milner, “ does the sun move round the earth, or the earth round the sun?” The old student, lost in thought, after deliberation said, “ sometimes one, and sometimes the other.”
At one of Mr. Matthews' entertainments he describes a patient who was ordered by his physician to use the shower-bath, of which he had never before heard. When first he saw it, he said, "I will not go into that machine, until I have got my umbrella.”
Another species of superiority is the sudden elevation from the depression of superiority. This species of elevation is easily understood. The distance between ourselves and any other person may obviously be diminished, either by raising ourselves or lowering our superiors. In the political world, we daily see this species of delight; there are levellers, who are ever most willing to drag down what is above them; but regard with jealousy, as the dreams of a visionary, all plans to elevate the rank of their poorer brethren.
I was at school at the Charter-House: my master, the Rev. Dr. Berdmore, was a very pompous personage. I can even now, at the age of sixty, scarcely divest myself of the awe which his presence inspired : he wore a large long gown, a powdered wig like a bishop, and a three-cornered hat like a judge. When he entered the school, the boys, about one hundred and twenty in number, instantly rose on each side of the school, up the middle of which he walked with great solemnity. The door was unexpectedly opened on a holyday, and the doctor entered; we instantly arose ; he walked with great dignity between the two ranks. When he had reached his usual place, instead of sitting down, he turned round, and stood. There was a dead silence; we saw that some offence had been committed, and that he was in search of the offender, but who the culprit was, we knew not. He began his address, when a little Spaniel-dog happened to walk in, he looked first at the boys on one side, then at the other; but having suddenly espied the doctor, he began the most violent barking I ever heard. If our lives had depended upon it, we could not have refrained from laughter.
Instances of this laughter occur occasionally in places where the audience is under any restraint, as in courts of justice and places of worship.
An Irishman being arraigned for felony, the clerk of the arraigns said, in his usual audible voice,“How will you be tried ?” “ By no one, an please your lordship,” said the prisoner.
In an assault cause the counsel for the plaintiff in stating his case to the jury, said—“The defendant, a foreigner, a powerful athletic man.” Up rose a little creature and cried out,—“Me, powerful athletic man."
Soon after I was called to the bar, I happened to be in the criminal court at Cambridge, when a prisoner was put upon his trial on a charge of having stolen from the dwelling-house in which bis master, an old officer, lodged, a box containing twelve hundred guineas. He was a nervous and interesting looking man, and during a service of twenty years, until this accusation, had borne an irreproachable character. The old general was on his road from the North to London : the box was entrusted to his care by a country banker to be delivered at the bank in London. The servant, as he was accustomed, accompanied his master in the carriage; they slept at Caxton in Cambridgeshire. The box was never seen from the time they entered the inn at Caxton. The prisoner when he was called, said " I hope your lordship will have pity on me, and protect me; I have not any money to fee counsel. My master knows how faithfully I have served him for many years." I instantly offered such services as I could render. After a long and very affecting trial he was found guilty. When the verdict was pronounced his master much agitated came forward: “I have,” he said, “ discharged what I thought to be my duty to my king and country. I hope that mercy may be extended; he has served me faithfully for nearly twenty years; the poor man has a wife and family, who live in my village.” He could not proceed. There was scarcely a person in court who was not in tears. I never saw an assembly so deeply affected. The judge said, he would deliberate. The prisoner was remanded.
The next trial was of a man who had stolen some fowls and ducks from a poor old woman who lived at Impington, a village in the neighbourhood. The woman swore to the ducks, which she produced in court. The offender was sentenced to be whipped and imprisoned.
The old servant who had been remanded was now ordered to be brought to the bar to receive his sentence. The judge said, “ after having deliberated upon the statement which has been made by your master, I am under the necessity of saying, that robbery by a servant is a crime which is never pardoned; you must not, therefore, be deceived by supposing that there are any hopes of mercy for you. The sentence of the law, which it is my duty to pronounce, must be carried into effect. The law, which you have violated, must take its course. The sentence of which law is, that you be taken from hence to the place from whence you came, and from thence to the place of execution.” There was an awful silence in the court. Every duck in the old woman's basket instantly quacked as loudly as if food had been thrown to them in the midst of a pond. The whole court burst into laughter.
Now the question is, what was the cause of this laughter? That it was occasioned by the sudden interruption of the feelings of the audience is indisputable. Of the suddenness, and of the interruption, no doubt can be entertained. The feelings of the audience alone require consideration.
The feelings of the audience, or rather their predominant feelings, were caused by the distress of the prisoner and the solemnity of the proceeding. The distress of the prisoner was, to any person of sensibility,