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But, though we are not to look for the two species of humour, before-mentioned, in the same perfection on the simpler stages of Greece and Rome, as in our improved Theatres, yet the first of them was clearly seen and successfully practised by the ancient comic masters; and there are not wanting in them some few examples even of the last. “ The old man in * the Mother-in-Law says to his Son, Tum tu igitur nihil adtulisti huc plus und
sententia. 66 This, as an excellent person observed to me, " is true humour. For his character, which “ was that of a lover of money, drew the ob“servation naturally and forcibly from him. “ His disappointment of a rich succession made “ him speak contemptibly of a moral lesson, « which rich and covetous men, in their best “ humours, have no high reverence for. And ~ this too without design; which is important, “ and shews the distinction of what, in the “ more restrained sense of the word, we call “ humour, from other modes of pleasantry. “ For had a young friend of the son, an un“ concerned spectator of the scene, made the “observation, it had then, in another's mouth, “ been wit, or a designed banter on the father's « disappointment. As, on the other hand, “ when such characteristic qualities are exag“ gerated, and the expression of them stretched “ beyond truth, they become buffoonry, even “ in the person's own."
This is an instance of the second species of humour, under its idea of exciting ridicule. But it may, also, be employed with the utmost seriousness; as being only a method of expressing the truth of character in the most striking manner. This same old man in the Hecyra will furnish an example. Though a lover of money, he appears, in the main, of an honest and worthy nature, and to have born the truest affection to an amiable and favourite son. In the perplexity of the scene, which had arisen from the supposed misunderstanding between his son's wife and his own, he proposes, as an expedient to end all differences, to retire with his wife into the country. And to enforce this proposal, to the young man, who liad his reasons for being against it, he adds,
odiosa est haec aetas adolescentulis : E medio aequum excedere est : postremò nos
jam fabula Sumus, Pamphile, senex atque anus. ' There is nothing, I suppose in these words, which provokes a smile. Yet the humour is
strong, as before. In his solicitude to promote his son's satisfaction, he lets fall a sentiment truly characteristic, and which old men usually take great pains to conceal; I mean, his acknowledgment of that suspicious fear of contempt, which is natural to old age. So true a picture of life, in the representation of this weakness, might, in other circumstances, have created some pleasantry; but the occasion, which forced it from him, discovering, at the same time, the amiable disposition of the speaker, covers the ridicule of it, or more properly converts it into an object of our esteem.
We have here, then, a kind of intermediate species of humour betwixt the ridiculous and the grave; and may perceive how insensibly the one becomes the other, by the accidental mixture of a virtuous quality, attracting esteem. Which may serve to reconcile the reader to the application of this term even to such expression of the manners, as is perfectly serious; that is, where the quality represented is entirely, and without the least touch of attending ridicule, the object of moral approbation to the inind. As in that famous asseveration of Chremes in the Self-tormentor: Homo sum: humani nihil à me alienum puto.
This is a strong expression of character ; and, coming unaffectedly from him in answer to the cutting reproof of his friend, Chreme. tantumne ab re tuđ’st oti tibi Aliena ut cures; ea quae nihil ad te adtinent? hath the essence of true humour, that is, is a lively picture of the manners without design.
Yet in this instance, which hath not been observed, the humour, though of a serious cast, is heightened by a mixture of satire. For we are not to take this, as hạth constantly been
done, for a sentiment of pure humanity and V the natural ebullition of benevolence. We
may observe in it a designed stroke of satirical resentment. The Self-tormentor, as we saw, had ridiculed Chremes' curiosity by a severe reproof. Chremes, to be even with him, reflects upon the inhumanity of his temper. “ You, says he, seem such a foe to humanity, " that you spare it not in yourself ; I, on the or other hand, am affected, when I see it suffer « in another.”
Whence we learn, that, though all which is requisite to constitute comic humour, be a just expression of character without design, yet such expression is felt more sensibly, when it is further enlivened by ridicule, or quickened by the poignancy of satire.
From the account of comedy, here given, it may appear, that the idea of this drama is much enlarged beyond what it was in Aristotle's time; who defines it to be, an imitation of light and trivial actions, provoking ridicule. His notion was taken from the state and practice of the Athenian stage; that is, from the old or middle comedy, which answers to this description. The great revolution, which the introduction of the new comedy made in the drama, did not happen till afterwards. This proposed for its object, in general, the actions and characters of ordinary life; which are not, of necessity, ridiculous, but, as appears to every observer, of a mixt kind, serious as well as ludicrous, and within their proper sphere of influence, not unfrequently, even important. This kind of imitation therefore, now admits the serious; and its scenes, even without the least mixture of pleasantry, are entirely comic. Though the common run of laughers in our theatre are so little aware of the extension of this province, that I should scarcely have hazarded the observation, but for the authority of Terence; who hath confessedly
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