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be with the manly Strokes of Wit and Satyr; for I am of the old Philosopher's Opinion, That if I must fuffer from one or the other, I would rather it should be from the Paw of a Lion, than the Hoof of an Ass. I do not fpeak this out of any Spirit of Party. There is a most crying Dulness on both Sides. I have seen Tory Acrosticks and Whig Anagrams, and do not quarrel with either of them, because they are Whigs or Tories, but because they are Anagrams and Acrosticks.
BUT to return to Punning. Having pursued the Hi. ftory of a Punn, from its original to its Downfal, I fhall here define it to be a Conceit arising from the use of two Words that agree in the Sound, but differ in the Sense. The only way therefore to try a Piece of Wit, is to tran. flate it into a different Language: If it bears the Teft you may pronounce it true; but if it yanishes in the Experi. ment you may conclude it to have been a Punn. In short, one may fay of a Punn as the Country-man defcribed his Nightingale, that it is vox® préterea nihil, a Sound, and nothing but a Sound. On the contrary, one may reprefent true Wit by the Description which Aristinetus makes of a' fine Woman, when she is dressed she is Beautiful, when she is undressed she is Beautiful: Or, as Mercerus has tranflated it more Emphatically, Induitur, formofa eft: Exuitur, ipsa forma eft.
Friday, May 11.
Scribendi rećte Sapere este principium & fons.' : Hor.
R. Lock has an admirable Reflection upon the dif-
deavours to thew the Reason why they are noi always the Talents of the same Person. His Words are as follow : And hence, perhaps, man bergiten fome Reason of that common Observation, That Men who have a great deal of Wit and prompt Memories, have not always the cleareft Judgment, or deepest Reason. For Wit lying moff in the Allemblage of Ideas, and putting those together with Quick
nefs and Variety, wherein can be found any Resemblance or Congruity, thereby to make up pleasant Pictures and agreeable Visions in the Fancy; Fudgment, on the contrary,lies quite on the other side, in separating carefully one from another, Ideas wherein can be found the least Difference, thereby to avoid being mis-led by Similitude, and by Affinity to take one thing for another. This is a way of proceeding quite contrarry to Metaphor and Allusion; wherein, for the most part, lies that Entertainment and pleasantry of Wit which strikes so lively on the Fancy, and is therefore so acceptable to all People.
THIS is, I think, the best and most Philosophical Ac. count that I have ever met with of Wit, which generally, though not always, consists in such a Resemblance and Congruity of Ideas as this Author mentions. I shall on. ly add to it, by way of Explanation, That every Resemblance of Ideas is not that which we call Wit, unless it be such an one that gives Delight and Surprize to the Reader: These two Properties seem effential to Vit, more particularly the last of them. In order therefore that the Resemblance in the Ideas be Wit, it is necessary that the Ideas should not lie too near one another in the Nature of things; for where the Likeness is obvious, it gives ng Surprize. To compare one Man's Singing to that of another, or to represent the Whiteness of any Object by that of Milk and Snow, or the Variety of its Colours by those of the Rainbow, cannot be called Wit
, unless bésides this obvious Resemblance, there be some further Congruity discovered in the two Ideas that is capable of giving the Reader some Surprize. Thus when a Poet tells us, the Bofom of his Mistress is as white as Snow, there is no Wit in the Comparison; but when he adds, with a Sigh, that it is as cold too, it then grows into Wit. Every Reader's Memory may supply him with innumerable Instances of the fame Nature. For this Reason, the si. militudes in Heroick Poets, who endeavour rather to fill the Mind with great Conceptions, than to divert it with fuch as are new and surprizing, have seldom any thing in them that can be called Wit. Mr. Lock's' Account of Wit, with this short Explanation, comprehends most of the Species of Wit, as Metaphors, Similitudes, Allegories, Enigmas, Mottos, Parables, Fables, Dreams, Visions, VOL. I.
dramatick Writings, Burlesque, and all the Methods of Allusion : As there are many other Pieces of Wit, (how remote soever they may appear at first sight from the fore. going Description) which upon Examination will be found to agree with it.
A S true Wit generally consists in this Resemblance and Congruity of Ideas, false Wit chiefly consists in the Re. semblance and Congruity sometimes of fingle Letters, as in Anagrams, Chronograms, Lipograms, and Acrosticks: Sonietimes of Syllables, as in Echos and Doggerel Rhymes: Sometimes of Words, as in Punn's and Quibbles; and sometimes of whole Sentences or Poems, caft into the Figures of Eggs, Axes or Altars: Nay, some carry the Notion of Wit so far, as to ascribe it even to external Mimickry; and to look upon a Man as an ingenious Person, that can resemble the Tone, Pofture, or Face of another,
AS true Wit consists in the Resemblance of Ideas, and false Wit in the Resemblance of Words, according to the foregoing Instances; there is another kind of Wit which consists partly in the Resemblance of Ideas, and partly in the Resemblance of Words; which for Distinction Sake I shall call mixt Wit. This kind of Wit is that which an bounds in Cowley, more than in any Author that ever wrote. Mr. Waller has likewise a great deal of it. Mr. Dryden is very sparing in it. Milton had a Genius much above it. Spencer is in the Same Class with Milton. The Italians, even in their Epic Poetry, are full of it. Monsieur Boileau, who formed himself upon the Ancient Poets, has every where rejected it with Scorn. If we look after mixt Wit among the Greek Writers, we shall find it no where but in the Epigrammatists. There are indeed some Strokes of it in the little Poem ascribed to Musaus, which by that, as well as many other Marks, betrays it self to be a modern Composition. If we look into the Latin Writers, we find none of this mixt Wit in Virgil, Lucretius or Catullus; very little in Horace, but a great deaf of it in Ovid, and scarce any thing else in Martial.
OUT of the innumerable Branches of mixt Wit, I shall chufe, one Instance which may be met with in all the Writers of this Class. The Passion of Love in its Nature has been thought to resemble Fire; for which Reason the Words Fire and Flame are made use of to
fignifie Love. The witty Poets therefore have taken an Advantage from the doubtful Meaning of the Word Fire, to make an infinite Number of Witticisms. Cowley observing the cold Regard of his Mistress's Eyes, and at the same time their Power of producing Love in him, considers thein as Burning-Glasses made of Ice; and find ing himself able to live in the greatef Extremities of Love, concludes the Torrid Zone to be habitable. When his Miftress has read his Letter written in Juice of Lemmon by holding it to the Fire, he desires her to read it over a les cond time by Love's Flames. When she weeps, he wishes it were inward Heat that distilled those Drops from the Limbeck. When she is absent he is beyond eighty, that is, thirty Degrees nearer the Pole that when the is with him. His ambitious Love is a Fire that naturally mounts upwards; his happy Love is the Beams of Heaven, and his unhappy Love Flames of Hell. When it does not let him sleep, it is a Flame that sends up no Smoak; when it is opposed by Counfel and Advice, it is a Fire that
rages the more by the Wind's blowing upon it. Upon the dying of a Tree in which he had cut his Loves, be observes that his written Flames had burnt
and win thered the Tree. When he resolves to give over his Para fion, he tells us that one burnt like him for ever dreads the Fire. His Heart is an Ætna, that inftead of Vulcan's Shop incloses Cupid's Forge in it. His endeavouring to drown his Love in Wine, is throwing Oil upon the Fire, He would insinuate to his Mistress, that the Fire of Love, like that of the Sun (which produces so many living Creatures) should not only warm but beget. Love in another Place cooks Pleasure at his Fire, Sometimes the Poet's Heart is frozen in every Breast, and sometimes scorched in every Eye. Sometimes he is drowned in Tears, and burnt in Love, like a Ship set on Fire in the Middle of the Sea.
THE Reader may observe in every one of these Intances, that the Poet mixes the Qualities of Fire with those of Love; and in the same Sentence speaking of it both as a Passion, and as real Fire, surprizes the Reader with those seeming Resemblances or Contradictions that make up all the Wit in this kind of Writing. Mix¢ Wit thereföre is a Composition of Punn and truc Wit, a'id is more
or less perfect as the Resemblance lies in the Ideas or in the Words: Its Foundations are laid partly in Falsehood and partly in Truth: Reason puts in her Claim for one Half
of it, and Extravagance for the other. The only Province therefore for this kind of Wit, is Epigram, or those little occasional Poems that in their own Nature are nothing else but a Tissue of Epigrams. I cannot conclude this Head of mixt Wit, without owning that the admi.. rable Poet out of whom I have taken the Examples of it, had as much true Wit as any Author that ever writ ; and indeed all other Talents of an extraordinary Genius.
IT may be expected, since I am upon this Subject, that I should take Notice of Mr. Dryden's Definition of Wit; which, with all the Deference that is due to the Judgment of so great a Man, is not so properly a Definition of Wit, as of good Writing in general. Wit, as he defines it, is a Propriety of Words and Thoughts adapt• ed to the Subje&t.' If this be a true Definition of Vit, I am apt to think that Euclid was the greatest Wit that ever fent-Pen to Paper : It is certain there never was a greater Propriety of Words and Thoughts adapted to the Subje&, than what that Author has made ufc of in his Elements. I shall only appeal to my Reader, if this Definition agrees with any Notion he has of Wit: If it be a true one, I am sure Mr. Dryden was not only a better Poet, but a greater Wit than Mr. Cowley; and Virgil a much more facecious Man than either Ovidor Martial.
BOUHOURS, whom I look upon to be the moft penetrating of all the French Criticks, has taken Pains to fhew, That it is impoflible for any Thought to be beautiful which is not just, and has not its Foundation in the Nature of things: That the Basis of all Wit is Truth 3 and that no Thought can be valuable, of which good Sense is not the Ground-word. Boileau has endeavoured to inculcate the same Notion in several Parts of his Wria tings, both in Profe and Verse. This is that natural Way of Writing, that beautiful Simplicity, which we so much admire in the Compositions of the Ancients; and which no Body deviates from, but those who want Strength of Genius to make a Thought shine in its own natural Beauties. Poets who want this Strength of Genius to give that Majestick Simplicity to Nature, which we