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by comparison with another's man's infirmity or absurdity ? For when a jest is broken upon ourselves, or friends, of whose dishonour we participate, we never laugh thereat.
I may therefore conclude, that the passion of laughter is nothing else but sudden glory arising from a sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmity of others, or with our own formerly; for men laugh at the follies of themselves past, when they come suddenly to remembrance, except they bring with them any present dishonour. It is no wonder, therefore, that men take heinously to be laughed at, or derided ; that is, triumphed over. Laughing without offence, must be at absurdities and infirmities abstracted from persons, and when all the company may laugh together; for laughing to one's self putteth all the rest into jealousy, and examination of themselves. Besides, it is vain glory, and an argument of little worth, to think the infirmity of another sufficient matter for triumph.
(Died in 1656.)
[BISHOP Hall excelled in portraying characters, a kind of writing then much cultivated. Some of his characters are not inferior to those of Theophrastus. From the pithy and sententious quality of his style, he has been called “the English Seneca ;" many parts of his prose writings have the thought, feeling, and melody of the finest poetry. The most popular of his works is that entitled Occasional Meditations. Two extracts are given, one from his Meditations, and one from his Characters.]
Upon the Sight of a Great Library. What a world of wit is here packed up together! I know not whether this sight doth more dismay or comfort me; it dismays me to think, that here is so much that I cannot know; it comforts me to think that this variety yields so good helps to know what I should. There is no truer word than that of Solomon —there is no end of making many books; this sight verifies it--there is no end ; indeed, it were pity there should; God hath given to man a busy soul, the agitation whereof cannot but through time and experience work out many hidden truths; to suppress these would be no other than injurious to mankind, whose minds, like unto so many candles, should be kindled by each other: the thoughts of our deliberation are most accurate; these we vent into our papers; what a happiness is it, that, without all offence of necromancy, I may here call up any of the ancient worthies of learning, whether human or divine, and confer with them
of all my doubts !-that I can at pleasure summon whole synods of reverend fathers, and acute doctors, from all the coasts of the earth, to give their wellstudied judgments in all points of question which I propose! Neither can I cast my eye casually upon any of these silent masters, but I must learn somewhat: it is a wantonness to complain of choice.
No law binds me to read all; but the more we can take in and digest, the better liking must the mind's needs be: blessed be God that hath set up so many clear lamps in his church.
Now, none but the wilfully blind can plead darkness; and blessed be the memory of those his faithful servants, that have left their blood, their spirits, their lives, in these precious papers, and have willingly wasted themselves into these during monuments, to give light unto others.
His estate is too narrow for his mind; and, therefore, he is fain to make himself room in others' affairs, yet ever in pretence of love. No news can stir but by his door; neither can he know that which he must not tell. No post can pass him without a question ; and, rather than he will lose the news, he rides back with him to question him of tidings; and then to the next man he meets he supplies the wants of his hasty intelligence, and makes up a perfect tale; wherewith he so haunteth the patient auditor, that, after many excuses, he is fain to endure rather the censures of his manners in running away, than the tediousness of an impertinent discourse.
His speech is oft broken off with a succession of long parentheses, which he ever vows to fill up ere the conclusion; and perhaps would effect it, if the other's ear were as unweariable as his tongue. If he see but two men talk, and read a letter in the street, he runs to them, and asks if he may not be partner of that secret relation; and if they deny it, he offers to tell, since he may not hear, wonders; and, after many thanks and dismissions, is hardly entreated silence.
He undertakes as much as he performs little. This man will thrust himself forward to be the guide of the way he knows not; and calls at his neighbour's window, and asks why his servants are not at work. The market hath no commodity which he prizeth not, and which the next table shall not hear recited. His tongue, like the tail of Sampson's foxes, carries firebrands, and is enough to set the whole field of the world on a flame. Himself begins table-talk of 'is neighbour at another's board, to whom he bears the first news, and adjures him to conceal the reporter : whose choleric answer he returns to his first host, enlarged with a second edition : so, as it uses to be done in the fight of unwilling mastiffs, he claps each on the side apart, and provokes them to an eager conflict.
There can no act pass without his comment ; which is ever far-fetched, rash, suspicious, dilatory. His ears are long, and his eyes quick, but most of all to imperfections; which, as he easily sees, so he increases with intermeddling. He harbours another man's servant; and, amidst his entertainment, asks what fare is usual at home, what hours are kept, what talk passeth at their meals, what his master's disposition is, what his government, what his guests: and when he hath, by curious inquiries, extracted all the juice and spirit of hoped intelligence, turns him off whence he came, and works on a new.
He hates constancy, as an earthen dulness, unfit for men of spirit; and loves to change his work and his place; neither yet can he be so soon weary of any place, as every place is weary of him ; for as he sets himself on work, so others pay him with hatred; and look how many masters he hath, so many enemies; neither is it possible, that any should not hate him, but who know him not. So, then, he labours without thanks, talks without credit, lives without love, dies without tears, without pity-save that some say, “ It is pity he died no sooner.”
[John Earle, Bishop of Worcester, and afterwards of Salisbury, was another successful writer of characters. His principal work is entitled Microcosmography, or a Piece of the World Discovered, in Essays and Characters, published about 1628, and is a valuable storehouse of particulars illustrative of the manners of the times. Among the characters drawn are those of an Antiquary, a Carrier, a Player, a Pot-poet, a University Dun, and a Clown.]
The Clown. The plain country fellow is one that manures his ground well, but lets himself lie fallow and untilled.