תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

He that imposes ap oath makes it,
Not he that for convenience takes it;
Then how can any man be said
To break an oath he never made ?

Hudibras, Part 2. Canto 2.

The seventh satire of the first book of Horace is purposely contrived to introduce at the close a most execrable pun. Talking of some infamous wretch whose name was Rex Rupilius,

[ocr errors]

Persius exclamat, Per magnos, Brute, deos te
Oro, qui reges consueris tollere, cur non
Hunc regem jugulas? Operum hoc, mihi crede, tuo-

rum est.

Though playing with words is a mark of a mind at ease, and disposed to any sort of amuse. ment, we must not thence conclude that playing with words is always ludicrous. Words are fo intimately connected with thought, that if the subject be really grave, it will not appear ludicrous even in that fantastic dress. I am, however, far from recommending it in any serious performance : on the contrary, the discordance between the thought and expression must be disagreeable; witness the following specimen.

He hath abandoned his physicians, Madam, under whose practices he hath persecuted time with hope: and

finds

finds no other advantage in the process, but only the losing of hope by time.

All's well that ends well, AEt 1. Sc. I.

K. Henry. O my poor kingdom, fick with civil blows ! When that my care could not with-hold thy riots, What wilt thou do when riot is thy care?

Second Part, K. Henry IV.

If any one shall observe, that there is a third fpecies of wit, different from those mentioned, consisting in sounds merely, I am willing to give it place. And indeed it must be admitted, that many of Hudibras's double rhymes come under the definition of wit given in the beginning of this chapter : they are ludicrous, and their fingularity occasions some degree of surprise. Swift is no less successful than Butler in this sort of wit; witness the following instances : Goddessa Boddice. Pliny-Nicolini. Iscariots--Ghariots. Mitre-Nitre. Dragon-Suffragan,

A repartee may happen to be witty: but it cannot be considered as a species of wit ; because there are many repartees extremely smart, and yet extremely serious. I give the following example. A certain petulant Greek, objecting to Anacharsis that he was a Scythian: True, says Anacharsis, my country disgraces me, but you disgrace your country. This fine turn gives surprise; but it is far from being ludicrous.

| CHAP,

CHAP. XIV.

CUSTOM AND HABIT.

T IEWING man as under the influence of

novelty, would one suspect that custom also should influence him ? and yet our nature is equally susceptible of each ; not only in dif ferent objects, but frequently in the same. When an object is new, it is enchanting : familiarity renders it indifferent; and custom, after a longer familiarity, makes it again disagreeable. Human nature, diversified with many and various springs of action, is wonderfully, and, indulging the expression, intricately constructed.

Custom hath such influence upon many of our feelings, by warping and varying them, that we must attend to its operations if we would be acquainted with human nature. This subject, in itself obscure, has been much neglected ; and a complete analysis of it would be no easy task. I pretend only to touch it curforily ; hoping, however, that what is here laid dowrs, will dispose diligent inquirers to attempt further discoveries.

Custom respects the action, habit the agent. By custom we mean a frequent reiteration of the same act; and by babit, the effect that custom has on the agent. This effect may be either

aclive,

active, witness the dexterity produced by cuf. tom in performing certain exercises; or passive, as when a thing makes an impression on us different from what it did originally. The latter only, as relative to the fenfitive part of our nature, comes under the present undertaking.

This subject is intricate : fome pleasures are fortified by custom ; and yet custom begets familiarity, and consequently indifference *: in many instances, satiety and disgust are the consequences of reiteration : again, though custom blunts the edge of distress and of pain, yet the want of any thing to which we have been long accustomed, is a sort of torture. A clew to guide us through all the intricacies of this labyrinth, would be an acceptable present.

Whatever be the cause, it is certain that we are much influenced by custom : it hath an effect upon our pleasures, upon our actions, and even upon our thoughts and sentiments. Habit makes no figure during the vivacity of youth : in mid. dle age it gains ground; and in old age governs without controul. In that period of life, generally speaking, we eat at a certain hour, take ex. ercise at a certain hour, go to rest at a certain hour, all by the direction of habit : nay, a par

ticular

* If all the year were playing holidays, i

To sport would be as tedious as to work :
But when they seldom come, they wilh'd for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.

First part Henry IV. AC 1. Sci 3. Vol. I.

Cc

Sen

ticular seat, table, bed, comes to be effential ; and a habit in any of these cannot be controlled without uneasiness.

Any flight or moderate pleasure frequently reiterated for a long time, forms a peculiar connection between us and the thing that causes the pleasure. This connection, termed babit, has the effect to awaken our desire or appetite for that thing when it returns not as usual. During the course of enjoyment, the pleasure rises infenfibly higher and higher till a habit be established ; at which time the pleasure is at its height. It continues not however stationary : the same customary reiteration which carried it to its height, brings it down again by insensible degrees, even lower than it was at first : but of that circumstance afterward. What at present we have in view, is to prove by experiments, that those things which at first are but moderately agreeable, are the apteft to become habitual. Spiritous liquors, at first scarce agreeable, readily produce an habitual appetite : and custom prevails so far, as even to make us fond of things originally disagreeable, such as coffee, affafætida, and tobacco; which is pleasantly illuftrated by Congreve :

ues

Fainall. For a passionate lover,methinks you are a man fomewhat too discerning in the failings of your mistress.

Mirabell. And for a discerning mån, somewhat tou passionate a lover; for I like her with all her faults ; nay like her for her faults. Her follies are so natural,

« הקודםהמשך »