S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
As for jest, there be certain things which ought to be privileged from it: namely, religion, matters of state, great persons, and mans present business of importance, and any case that deserveth pity: yet there be some that think their wits have been asleep, except they dart out somewhat that is piquant, and to the quick: that is a vein which would be bridled:
And, generally, men ought to find the difference between saltness and bitterness. Certainly, he that hath a satirical vein, as he maketh others afraid of his wit, so he had need be afraid of others memory.
Some men are of a very cheerful disposition, and God forbid that all such should be condemned for lightness. O let not any envious eye disinherit men of that which is their portion in this life, comfortably to enjoy the blessings thereof! Harmless mirth is the best cordial against the consumption of the spirit; wherefore, jesting is not unlawful, if it trespasseth not in quantity, quality, or season.
He who never relaxes into sportiveness is a wearisome companion; but beware of him who jests at everything! Such men disparage, by some ludicrous association, all objects which are presented to their thoughts, and thereby render themselves incapable of any emotion which can either elevate or soften them: they bring upon their moral being an influence more withering than the blasts of the deserts.
I now take leave to address you in your character of Censor, and complain to you, that among the various errors in conversation which you have corrected, there is one which, though it has not escaped a general reproof, yet seems to deserve a more particular severity. It is a humour of jesting on disagreeable subjects, and insisting on the jest, the more it creates uneasiness; and this some men think they have a title to do as friends. Is the design of jesting to provoke? or does friendship give a privilege to say things with a design to shock? How can that be called a jest which has nothing in it but bitterness?
If in company you offer something for a jest, and nobody seconds you on your own laughter, you may condemn their taste, and appeal to better judgments; but in the meantime you make a very indifferent figure.