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reversing every thing, consequently, as an engraver does, when he works without the assistance of a mirror, and unable, but in imagination to trace the progress of their work; they sometimes rise, indeed, and go round the frame to observe the resemblance to the original, and occasionally undo a part of what they had completed. The workmen are in the employment of government, and receive less wages than a negro man does for sawing wood ini America. They are, as you may suppose, with such wages, rather meanly dressed, and have a squalid unwholesome appearance, from being so continually confined to a sitting posture. To approach one of these persons at work, and to behold what rises under his forming hands, is to have an idea of some. thing like creation-Zeuxis, selecting from the assembled beauty of Greece those traits which might best become the goddess of love; the bold approach of some, the reluctance of others, the bashfulness which hides itself behind a companion, and the perfection of the human form in every limb and feature are, I might almost say, divinely expressed; other copies of a great variety of the best pictures are to be seen here ; but I was principally struck with that of Zeuxis painting Venus, and that of admiral Coligni, who meets his murderer at the door, and seems to say to him Young man, respect these grey hairs.
THE SCRIBBLER, NO. III. FOR THE PORT FOLIO. RIDICULE, says some one, is the test of truth. If we judge by the ordinary practice of mankind, this opinion seems to be generally adopted, for nothing is more common than to use this weapon against those whose conduct or opinions, we disapprove; yet, why this opinion has been sanctioned by the approbation of all, and the practice of as many as are qualified for the undertaking, I am quite at a loss to conceive. The purpose which ridicule designs to effect is laughter, and the means adopted for this end are universally, an aggravation, distortion, or concealment of the truth. It is absolutely necessary to heighten the natural colours of most objects, to enlarge their proper lineaments and features, or to show some of them disconnected with others, which are their genuine attendants, in order to render them ridiculous.
If we examine any instance of ridicule, either in books, or conversation, we shall not fail to find it such as I have mentioned. If we are acquainted with the original of which the ludicrous portrait is presented to us, we fail not to perceive the monstrous interval between them: nor, indeed, is it easy to find any natural or possible features whatever, in any picture designedly ridiculous. The scene very seldom bears any resemblance not only to the particular object designed to be exhibited, but to any thing within the bounds of possibility.
It cannot, however, be denied that objects sometimes occur which, in order to excite ridicule, need be only truly and faithfully portrayed. Such objects are very few. In painting them, the dealers in ridicule, are never satisfied with adhering to the truth, though their purpose would be sufficiently answered by adhering to it. They have an invincible propensity to be unjust, and to trick out the victim of their cruelty, with some preposterous feature which does not belong to him.
Since, then, the most venerable and lovely person; the most pure and enlightened conduct; the most generous and irreproachable opinion can be made, by the sons of wit and of malice, ridiculous, by taking away somewhat that really belongs to it, and giving it somewhat that it has no title to; since objects ridiculous in some degree are never formally exposed to the ridicule, they merely deserve; but always, by the addition of fictitious circumstances, to more than they deserve, how comes it that ridicule has ever been considered as the test of truth?
Another and more important error lurks in the common practice and opinions on this head. No conduct or opinion of any kind deserves to be ridiculed. Laughter is not the effect which any conduct or opinion ought to produce. If there be a fault or error in it, it cannot fail to produce mischief, or unhappiness somewhere; but of what texture must be that mind to which guilt and misery are objects of laughter! It is true that we daily see crimes and misery treated with laughter and derision, by many persons of intelligence and probity, but this arises from their ignorance of the true nature of the object of their mirth, or their casual inattention to it. They view it, not in its true light, and with its inseparable circumstances. Their mirth, is, itself, the offspring of lamentable folly; their laughter is the child of disgraceful ignorance.
There are few objects that excite the ridicule and laughter of the vulgar, more than the freaks of drunkenness. The drunken wretch of either sex in the streets, is pursued by a troop of joyous laughing souls of all ages. The drunken man has even been thought worthy of being brought upon the stage, not for the detestation or the pity, but the amusement of the audience, and the delighted shouts of the ragged vulgar in the gallery, are not seldom re-echoed by the applauding
clappings of the well-dressed mob in the boxes : Yet no fastidious refinement, surely, is evinced by those who derive nothing but horror and compassion from such a spectacle. No singular sagacity, may we be allowed to think, is required to comprehend the dismal and terrific consequences of this vice to the victim himself, as well as to the unfor. tunate beings who own him for a kinsman, or a friend. I have often thought, indeed, that nothing more strongly evinced the selfishness and cruelty of human nature, than the ridicule which drunkenness commonly excites. Those to whom such a spectacle, exhibited by their own parent, wife, or child, would be the greatest of imaginable woes, find it infinitely entertaining in those who happen to be strangers to them. They make not the case of the kindred of this reprobate their own. Though this suggestion of sympathy should seem to be extremely obvious, how few are they, whose hearts it finds accessible?
I remember, in times that are, happily, long past, when the hospital for maniacs in this city, used to be a favourite resort of the disso lute and idle, on sundays and holydays. The thrifty system that then prevailed allowed every one to enter who paid his doit, and every one was suffered to go where he pleased. The visitants generally repaired to the vaulted gallery, which separates the cells of the lunatics : there, little wickets being open in the cell-doors, they had opportunities of looking in, and making themselves merry with the incoherent exclamations and unmeaning gesticulations of the tenant. To heighten the amusement, it was common to provoke the maniac by insulting gestures or speeches. The threats and execrations of the madman, and the ineffectual efforts at revenge which he made, with his face, or his arm through the wicket, made this dismal vault resound with peals of laughter. To strike, with a club, the hand extended through the opening, to catch the weapon, was accounted excellent sport, and I have seen some of the unhappy victims tormented in this way for many hours. *
These may be considered as rare and violent examples of the folly and cruelty of ridicule; but, in truth, the most harmless and allowable ridicule, differs from this only in the degree of its absurdity and wickedness, while that ridicule, which brings ignominy or contempt on objects by decking them with false colours and distorted features, is still more criminal: nothing is more piercing than contempt, sharper than the serpent's tooth is the sting of derision. Hence virtue and wisdom, both as to their effects on the fate of the possessor, and their
: * This incident is a simple fact, of which the writer, when very young, was more than once a witness io the Pennsylvania Hospital.
influence in general happiness, lie at the mercy of unfeeling, or unprincipled wit. It is unfortunate for human happiness, that the most deadly of all weapons is, at the same time, managed with most ease, that very few can examine impartially or deeply, or reason coolly, or accurately, while millions can laugh, and raise a laugh with the utmost success against an adversary.
There are some, who may think him, who employed his days in laughing at the miseries and vices of mankind, more worthy of imitation, than the rueful sage, who found, in the survey of human life, perpetual occasion for weeping. The first may not have been very compassionate or considerate, but was certainly the happier of the two. If laughter, in such cases be absurd, or cruel, yet the philosopher himself was happy in the occupation. Weeping, in the other case, is misery in him who weeps, and is a still more egregious folly, since it is injurious to the mourner, without being of any use to the object of his commiseration. But this is not altogether true. Relief and amendment can only be expected from him, who pities. The more he is agonized with his compassion, the stronger is his inclination to heal the orror, or remove the distress, which occasions it. The laugher, on the contrary, finds joy in his mirth, and would be very sorry to be deprived of the occasion, which excites it. If ridicule amend the object of it, it is without any such design in him, who deals in ridicule. We often hear ridicule defended on this score, but this plea is remarkably fallacious, since ridicule, will certainly instil a passion much more hurtful, than most of the faults against which it is levelled, and, so far from certainly curing the original defect, it may render it more inveterate and radical. If I lay down a darling habit in order to avoid your ridieule, I shall take up instead a deadly enmity against you, and the last I shall certainly do, whether I do the first or not. He will appear to me entitled to nothing less than unextinguishable vengeance, who derives joy from my misfortune, and hastens to blazon it abroad to the world, instead of warning me against it in private. My reformation, by depriving him of occasions of satire, will mortify and disappoint his vain and selfish heart, and though I may rejoice in the ultimate consequence, it will be impossible to abhor the author of it. The potion he administered for poison, has, after a painful struggle, restored me to better health than ever, but is he not a poisoner and assassin still? In order to judge rightly of the wisdom, discretion, and benevolence of ridicule and satire, nothing is necessary, but to imagine ourselves to be its object.
Almost every work, famous for satirical wit, affords an example of the injustice of ridicule, and a long chain of memorable cases might be mentioned, beginning as high as Socrates, in which ridicule has done irreparable mischief. The trophies of her salutary conquests
are few, while those of her flagitious murders cannot be reckoned for number. For one unquestionable malefactor, whom she has chastised into remorse and reformation, she has brought innocent and meritorious thousands to ignominy, ruin, and death.
FOR THE PORT FOLIO.
THE LITERARY WORLD.
The employment of what the booksellers quaintly, but expressively, call a taking title, is become a sort of fashion, among the novelists of England. The popularity of Mr. Surr's “ Winter in London,” has diffused winter all over the kingdom, and has generated a Winter in Bathi, and a Winter in Kent, and Winter every where. Miss Sidney Owenson has lately written the history of a “Wild Irish Girl," and, as we expected, one Mr. Dennis Jasper Murphy, who we suppose is a mere man of buckram, and whose tremendous name is what the French call his nomme de guerre, has followed his fair countrywoman with the “ W’ild Irish Boy." The adventures of this Hibernian lad have just been reprinted in New-York, and are by no means ill written, or barren of entertainment and instruction. The style often rises to elegance, and the concealed author is certainly a man of genius and observation. He has already distinguished himself by a work of imagination, entitled the Fatal Revenge, or the family of Montorio, a novel of much celebrity, which has likewise been reprinted here, and which will be read with rapture by those, who relish Mrs. Radcliffe, or who are fond of an inside view of the cells of the Inquisition. The Wild Irish Boy is dedicated, with great address, to that munificent nobleman the Earl of Moira. From this elegant dedication we will transcribe a single paragraph, which, we think, is at once evincive of the author's powers of language, and of modesty associated with the spirit of an aspiring adventurer. “ I am an Irishman, unnoticed and unknown, a professional man without preferment, and an author without celebrity. No man covets obscurity, yet I would not willingly emerge from mine, till I am called forth, and feel that I deserve to be called forth; that Society owes me something, and is solicitous to repay me; that I have a place and a name on earth. “ Ex fumo dare lucem," I think an excellent motto for a man, not indignant of concealment, but not “formed for concealment."