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As laughter is a proof of being pleased, we see in society that persons laugh in testimony of being pleased, although they are not pleased. This in a great city is, perhaps, the most common species of laughter. Persons laugh, as evidence of their being in an agreeable state of mind, without any necessity or reality in their laughter.
This species of laughter is noticed by Dr. Johnson in the Idler, where he says,—“ My next resolution was to be a fine gentleman. I frequented the polite coffeehouses, grew acquainted with all the men of humour, and gained the right of bowing familiarly to half the nobility. In this new scene of life, my great labour was to learn to laugh. I had been used to consider laughter as the effect of merriment; but I soon learned that it is one of the arts of adulation; and from laughing only to show that I was pleased, I now began to laugh when I wished to please. This was, at first, very difficult. I sometimes heard the story with dull indifference, and not exalting myself to merriment by one
gradation, burst out suddenly into an awkward noise, which was not always favourably interpreted. Sometimes I was behind the rest of the company, and lost the grace of laughing by delay; and sometimes, when I began at the right time, I was deficient in loudness or in length. But, by diligent imitation of the best models, I attained at last such flexibility of muscles, that I was always a welcome auditor of a story, and got the reputation of a good-natured fellow.”
This arises from the union of any two, or more, of the simple causes; as the sudden feeling of superiority, and the interruption of painful feeling, &c.