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several of their streets what they call the sign of the Gaper; that is, the head of an idiot dressed in a cap and bells, and gaping in a most immoderate manner: this is a standing jest at Amsterdam.
Thus every one diverts himself with some person or other that is below him in point of understanding, and triumphs in the superiority of his genius, whilst he has such objects of derision before his eyes. Mr. Dennis has very well expressed this in a couple of humorous lines, which are part of a translation of a satire in Monsieur Boileau:
Thus one fool lolls his tongue out at another,
Mr. Hobbes's reflection gives us the reason why the insignificant people abovementioned are stirrers-up of laughter among men of a gross taste; but as the more understanding part of mankind do not find their risi. bility affected by such ordinary subjects, it may be worth the while to examine into the several provocatives of laughter in men of superior sense and knowledge.
In the first place, I must observe, that there is a set of merry drolls, whom the common people of all countries admire, and seem to love so well, that they could eat them,' according to the old proverb; I mean those circumforaneous wits whom every nation calls by the name of that dish of meat which it loves best. In Holland they are termed Pickled Herrings; in France, Jean Pottages; in Italy, Maccaronies; and in Great Britain, Jack Puddings. These merry wags, from whatsoever food they receive their titles, that they may make their audiences laugh, always appear in a fool's coat, and commit such blunders and mistakes in every step they take, and every word they utter, as those who listen to them would be ashamed of.
But this little triumph of the understanding, under the disguise of laughter, is no where more visible than in that custom which prevails every where among us on the first day of the present month, when every body takes it in his head to make as many fools as he can. In proportion as there are more follies discovered, so there is more laughter raised on this day than on any other in the whole year. A neighbour of mine, who is a haberdasher by trade, and a very shallow conceito ed fellow, makes his boasts that for these ten years sliccessively he has not made less than a hundred do pril Fools. My lancilady had a falling out with him about a fortnight ago, for sending every one of her children upon some sleeveless errand, as she terms it. Her eldest son went to buy an halfpenny worth of incle at a shoemaker's; the eldest daugliter was dispatched half a mile to see a monster; and, in short, the whole family of innocent children made Aprilfools : nay, my landlady herself did not escape him. This empty fellow has laughed upon these conceits ever since.
This art of wit is well enough when conäned to one day in a twelvemonth ; but there is an ingenious tribe of men sprung up of late years, who are for making April-fools every day in the year. These gentlemen are commonly distinguished by the name of Biters : a race of men that are perpetually employed in lauşhing at those mistakes which are of their own produc
Thus we see, in proportion as one man is more refined than another, he chooses his fool out of a lower or higher class of mankind; or, to speak in a more philosophical language, that secret elation and pride of heart, which is generally called laughter, arises in bim, from his comparing himself with an object below him, whether it so happens that it be a natural or an artificial fool. It is indeed very possible, that the persons we laugh at, may, in the main of their characters, be much wiser men than ourselves, but if they would have us laugh at them, they must fall short of us in those respects which stir up this passion.
I am afraid I shall appear too abstracted in my spe. culations, if I shew that when a man of wit makes us laugh, it is by betraying some oddness or infirmity in his own character, or in the representation which he makes of others; and that when we laugh at a brute, or even at an inanimate thing, it is at some action or incident that bears a remote analogy to any blunder or absurdity in reasonable creatures.
But to coine into common life, I shall pass by the consideration of those stage-coxcombs that are able to shake a whole audience, and take notice of a particular sort of men, who are such provokers of mirth in conversation, that it is impossible for a club or merry-meeting to subsist without them; I mean those honest gentlemen that are always exposed to the wit and rail lery of their well-wishers and companions; that are pelted by men, women, and children, friends and foes; and, in a word, stand as Butts in conversation, for every one to shoot at that pleases. I know several of these Butts who are men of wit and sense, though by some odd turn of humour, some unlucky cast in their person or behaviour, they have always the misfortune to make the company merry. The truth of it is, a man is not qualified for a Butt who has not a good deal of wit and vivacity, even on the ridiculous side of his character. A stupid Butt is only fit for the conversation of ordinary people ; men of wit require one that will give them play, and bestir himself in the ab- : surd part of his behaviour: a Butt with these accom. plishments frequently gets the laugh on his side, and turns the ridicule upon him that attacks him. Sir
John Falstaff was an hero of his species, and gives a good description of himself in his capacity of a Butt, after the following manner: “ Men of all sorts,” says that merry knight; “ take a pride to gird at me. The “ brain of man is not able to invent any thing that « tends to laughter more than I invent, or is invented
on me. I am not only witty in myself, but the cause that wit is in other men.”
No. XLVIII. WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25.
.......... Per multas aditum sibi sæpe figuras
Thro' various shapes he often finds access.
MY correspondents take it ill if I do not, from time to time, let them know I have received their letters. The most effectual way will be to publish some of them that are upon important subjects; which I shall introduce with a letter of my own, that I writ a fortnight ago, to a fraternity who thought fit to make me an honorary member.
To the President and Fellows of the Ugly Club.
"May it please your Deformities, "I HAVE received the notification of the honour t you have done me in admitting me into your Socie"ty. I acknowledge my want of merit, and for that I reason shall endeavour at all times to make up my ( own failures, by introducing and recommending to • the club, persons of more undoubted qualifications " than I can pretend to. I shall next week come down ( in the stage-coach, in order to take my seat at the
board; and shall bring with me a candidate of each
sex. The persons I shall present to you are, an old • Beau and a modern Pict. If they are not so emi
nently gifted by nature as our assembly expects, " give me leave to say, their acquired ugliness is « greater than any that has ever appeared before you. "The Beau has varied his dress every day of his life • for these thirty years last past, and still added to the
deformity he was born with. The Pict has still « greater merit toward us, and has, ever since she 6 came to years of discretion, deserted the handsome - party, and taken all possible pains to acquire the
face in which I shall present her to your consideraotion and favour.
"I am, gentlemen,
• THE SPECTATOR.'
P. S. I desire to know whether you admit people of quality'
April 17. I TO shew you there are among us of the vain " weak sex, some that have honesty and fortitude 6 enough to dare to be ugly, and willing to be thought ( so, I apply myself to you, to beg your interest and I recommendation to the Ugly Club. If my own r word will not be taken, though in this case a wo( man's may, I can bring credible witness of my qua"lifications for their company, whether they insist • upon hair, forehead, eyes, cheeks, or chin; to which " I must add, that I find it easier to lean to my left