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ing to be actuated by human passions, and exhibiting in their looks, gestures, activity, and earnestness, such manifold tokens of mutual comprehension and intelligence, that were it not for the ridiculous actions they are made to perform, one might almost swear they were rational beings. Punch and Judy, even with the assistance of the Devil and the Monk, must be totally superseded by this more numerous and complete exhibition ; and yet the puppets of which I am speaking were nothing more than a little modified earth, of so brittle and fragile a nature, that they were constantly frittering away into dust in the very midst of their dancing and struggling, when others instantly started up into their places, capering or fighting with as much eagerness as their predecessors,—so that the whole pageant was constantly renewing its actors without the smallest change or intermission in the incessant bustle of the performance. Here and there, upon elevated stools, I saw a few figures with glittering baubles upon their heads, who seemed not only miserable, but giddy and intoxicated by the height from which they looked, and took their revenge by instigating the whole rabble beneath them to worry and beat one another to pieces, which the senseless figures seemed to enact with a most preposterous alacrity. On the lower benches I beheld grave and reverend-looking seigniors in robes, whose heads were enveloped in the hair of some animal, most ludicrously curled and greased, and who were solemnly pronouncing sentence of destruction upon others, while they themselves were perpetually exploding into similar nothingness. Here strutted a gay figure in scarlet, who had not only sold himself as a slave for the honour of wearing a little gold ornament upon his shoulder, but suffered his head to be shot at as a target, and his body to be used as a sheath for bayonets, for the amiable privilege of inflicting the same treatment upon others. There I beheld a portly personage in sable robes, who took money from his companions for pointing out to them the way to the skies, while he himself kept constantly walking in a contrary direction ;-and in various quarters I contemplated certain old puppets, whom I took to be miners, as they laboured so hard at piling up heaps of shining ore that it seemed to shorten their existence; when younger ones ran joyfully up, and began kicking about the masses which had been so painfully accumulating. I cannot attempt a description of all the fantastical freaks which were exhibited; but I repeat that, with the exception of their actions, these ingenious puppets conducted themselves so exactly like rational creatures, that the absurdity of the whole scene, together with the contrast of their stupendous efforts and bubble-like existence, occasioned me to burst into an immoderate fit of laughter.
It was probably some such meditation upon the . weakness, vanity, and inconsistency, the gigantic projects and pigmy powers of man, that kept Democritus in continual laughter, and enabled him to convert both kings and peasants into materials of risibility. Being once at the Court of Darius, when that monarch lost his favourite wife, he promised to restore her to life, provided they would give him the names of three
men who had never known adversity, that he might inscribe them upon her tombstone; and upon the prince acknowledging the impossibility of complying with his request, he asked him, with his usual laugh, why he should expect to escape affliction, when not one, among so many millions, was exempt from calamity? Here was philosophy as well as laughter; and indeed I doubt whether there be wisdom more profound than that which developes itself by our risible faculties. This convulsion, as well as reason, is peculiar to man, and one may, therefore, fairly assume that they illustrate and sympathize with one another. Animals were meant to cry, for they have no other mode of expression; and infants, who are in the same predicament, are provided with a similar resource; but when we arrive at man's estate (the only one to which I ever succeeded), both the sound and physio gnomy of weeping must be admitted altogether brutal and irrational. The former is positively unscriptible, and we should never utter any thing that cannot be committed to writing ; and as to a lachrymose visage, I appeal to the reader whether it be not contemptible and fish-like, beyond all the fascinations of Niobe herself to redeem. All associations connected with this degrading process are hateful. Perhaps I may be deemed fastidiously sensitive upon this point, but I confess that I feel an antipathy towards a whale, because it has a tendency to blubber; I abominate the common crier, simply on account of his name; I would rather get wet through than seek shelter under a weeping willow, and I instinctively avoid a birch on account of certain juvenile recollections.
“But hail, thou goddess fair and free,
In Heaven yclept Euphrosyne;"
and before I go any farther, let me observe how abundantly the Pagan heaven was provided with hearteasing mirth; for besides the damsel we have mentioned, Venus is expressly termed by Homer the laughter-loving Queen; the whole Court of the immortals was often thrown into fits by the awkwardness of Vulcan; Jove himself was so fond of the recreation that he even laughed at lovers' perjuries; and Momus the jester, whose province it was to excite their risible faculties, was instructively represented as the son of Sleep and Night, whereby we are taught to go to bed betimes if we wish to have cheerful and hilarious days. But in this our sombre and antirisible age, it has rather become the fashion to attack laughter, notwithstanding the cowardice of assaulting a personage who is obliged to be constantly holding both his sides, and is therefore incapable of other self-defence than that of sniggering at his assailants. I am too old for laughing, they tell me; but it is by laughing that I have lived to grow old, and they may as well take my life itself as that whereby I live. “ Laugh and grow fat” may be a questionable maxim, but “ laugh and grow old” is an indisputable one; for so long as we can laugh at all, we shall never die unless it be of laughing. As to
performing this operation in one's sleeve, it is a base compromise ; no more comparable to the original, than is a teeth-displaying simper to that hilarious roar which shakes the wrinkles out of the heart, and frightens old Time from advancing towards us. Fortune, love, and justice, are all painted blind : they can neither see our smiles nor frowns. Fate is deaf to the most pathetic sorrows: we cannot mend our destined road of life with a paviour's sigh, nor drown care in tears. Let us, then, leave growling to wild beasts, and croaking to the ravens, indulging freely in the rationality of laughter: which, in the first place, is reducible to writing-Ha! Ha! Ha! and should always be printed with three capital letters, and a prop of admiration between each to prevent its bursting its sides. (The very hieroglyphic makes one snigger, so festive, social, and joyous is its character.) And secondly, its delicious alchymy not only converts a tear into the quintessence of merriment, and makes wrinkles themselves expressive of youth and frolic, but lights up the dullest eye with a twinkle, and throws a flash of sunshine over the cloudiest visage, while it irradiates and embellishes the most beautiful. Including thine, reader, in the latter class, I counsel thee to give the experiment a frequent trial.
It just occurs to me, that I ought to have begun my essay with a definition of laughter, and an argute inquiry into its causes; but it will come in as well at the end, and perhaps a hysteronproteron, in itself a common provocative to risibility, is more appropriate