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heroic poets, who endeavour rather to fill the mind with great conceptions, than to divert it with such as are new and surprising, haye seldom any thing in them that can be called wit. Mr. Locke'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, dramatic writings, burlesque, and all the methods of allnsion. There are many other pieces of wit (how remote soever they may appear at first sight from the foregoing description) which upon examination will be found to agree with it.
As true wit generally consists in this resemblance and congruity of ideas, false wit chiefly consists in the resemblance and congruity sometimes of single letters, as in anagrams, chronograms, lipograms, and acros tics: sometimes of syllables, as in echoes and doggerel rhymes: sometimes of words, as in puns and quibbles: and sometimes of whole sentences or poems, cast 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, poɛture, 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 abounds 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. Spenser 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 re jected 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 Musæus, which by that as well as many other marks, betrays itself to be a modern composition. If we look into the Latin writers, we find none of this mixt wit in Virgil, Lucre. tius, or Catullus; very little in Horace, but a great deal of it in Ovid, and scarce any thing else in Martial.
Mixt wit is a composition of pun and true wit, and 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 admirable 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 adapted to the subject." If this be a true definition of wit, I am apt to think that Euclid was the greatest wit that ever set pen to paper. It is certain there never was a greater propriety of words and thoughts adapted to the subject, than what that author has made use 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 facetious man than either Ovid or Martial.
Bouhours, whom I look upon to be the most pene
trating of all the French critics, has taken pains to show, that it is impossible 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; and that no thought can be valuable, of which goodsense is not the groundwork. Boileau has endeavoured to inculcate the same notion in several parts of his writings, both in prose 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 nobody 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 majestic simplicity to nature, which we so much admire in the works of the ancients, are forced to hunt after foreign ornaments, and not to let any piece of wit of what kind soever escape them. I look upon these writers as Goths in poetry, who, like those in architecture, not being able to come up to the beautiful simplicity of the old Greeks and Romans, have endeavoured to supply its place with all the extravagancies of an irregular fancy. Mr. Dryden makes a very handsome observation on Ovid's writing a letter from Dido to Eneas, in the following words: "Ovid (says he, speaking of Virgil's fiction of Dido and Æneas) takes it up after him, even in the same age, and makes an ancient heroine of Virgil's newcreated Dido; dictates a letter from her just before her death to the ungrateful fugitive, and, very unluckily for himself, is for measuring a sword with a man so much superior in force to him on the same subject. I think I may be judge of this, because I have translated both. The famous author of the Art of Love has nothing of his own; he borrows all from a greater master in his own profession, and, which is worse, improves nothing which he finds. Nature fails him, and being forced to his old shift, he has recourse to witticism. This passes indeed with his soft ad.
mirers, and gives him the preference to Virgil in their esteem."
I must not dismiss this subject without observing, that as Mr. Locke, in the passage above-mentioned, has discovered the most fruitful source of wit, so there is another of a quite contrary nature to it, which does likewise branch itself out into several kinds. For not only the resemblance, but the opposition of ideas, does very often produce wit; as I could show in several little points, turns, and antitheses.
Quem præstare potest mulier galeata pudorem, Quæ fugit a sexu?
What sense of shame in woman's breast can lie,
AS I would fain contribute to make womankind,
which is the most beautiful part of the creation, entirely amiable, and wear out all those little spots and blemishes, that are apt to rise among the charms which nature has poured out upon them, I shall dedicate this paper to their service. The spot which I would here endeavour to clear them of, is that party-rage which of late years is very much crept into their conversation. This is, in its nature, a male vice, and made up of many angry and cruel passions that are altogether repugnant to the softness, the modesty, and those other endearing qualities which are natural to the fair sex. Women were formed to temper mankind, and soothe them into tenderness and compassion; not to set an edge upon their minds, and blow up in them those passions which are too apt to rise of their own accord.
When I have seen a pretty mouth uttering calumnies and invectives, what would I not have given to have stopt it? How I have been troubled to see some of the finest features in the world grow pale, and tremble with party-rage. Camilla is one of the greatest beauties in the British nation, and yet values herself more upon being the virago of one party, than upon being the toast of both. The dear creature, about a week ago, encountered the fierce and beautiful Penthesilea across a tea-table; but in the height of her anger, as her hand chanced to shake with the earnestness of the dispute, she scalded her fingers, and spilt a dish of tea upon her petticoat. Had not this accident broke off the debate, nobody knows where it would have ended. There is one consideration which I would earnestly recommend to all my female readers, and which I hope will have some weight with them. In short, it is this, that there is nothing so bad for the face as party. zeal. It gives an ill-natured cast to the eye, and a disagreeable sourness to the look; besides that it makes the lines too strong, and flushes them worse than brandy. I have seen a woman's face break out in beats, as she has been talking against a great lord whom she had never seen in her life; and indeed I never knew a party-woman that kept her beauty for a twelvemonth. I would therefore advise all my female readers, as they value their complexions, to let alone all disputes of this nature; though, at the same time, I would give free liberty to all superannuated motherly *partisans to be as violent as they please, since there will be no danger either of their spoiling their faces, or of their gaining converts.
For my own part, I think a man makes an odious and despicable figure that is violent in a party; but a woman is too sincere to mitigate the fury of her principles with temper and discretion, and to act with that temper and reservedness which are requisite in our sex. When this unnatural zeal gets into them, it throws them into ten thousand heats and extravagancies; their