Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > British
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. VI–IX: British
 
Discoveries Upon Men and Matter
By Ben Jonson (1572–1637)
 
Waste of Time.—What a deal of cold business doth a man misspend the better part of life in! In scattering compliments, tendering visits, gathering and venting news, following feasts and plays, making a little winter-love in a dark corner  1
  Recklessness.—Many might go to heaven with half the labour they go to hell, if they would venture their industry the right way; but “The devil take all!” quoth he that was choked in the mill-dam, with his four last words in his mouth.  2
  Speed.—A cripple in the way out-travels a footman or a post out of the way.  3
  Tiresome People.—A tedious person is one a man would leap a steeple from, gallop down any steep hill to avoid him; forsake his meat, sleep, nature itself, with all her benefits, to shun him. A mere impertinent; one that touched neither heaven nor earth in his discourse. He opened an entry into a fair room, but shut it again presently. I spoke to him of garlic, he answered asparagus; consulted him of marriage, he tells me of hanging, as if they went by one and the same destiny.  4
  Loud Pedantry.—What a sight it is to see writers committed together by the ears for ceremonies, syllables, points, colons, commas, hyphens, and the like, fighting as for their fires and their altars; and angry that none are frightened at their noises and loud brayings under their asses’ skins!  5
  Affected Wit.—I do hear them say often some men are not witty, because they are not everywhere witty; than which nothing is more foolish. If an eye or a nose be an excellent part in the face, therefore be all eye or nose! I think the eyebrow, the forehead, the cheek, chin, lip, or any part else, are as necessary and natural in the place. But now nothing is good that is natural; right and natural language seems to have least of the wit in it; that which is writhed and tortured is counted the more exquisite. Cloth of bodkin or tissue must be embroidered; as if no face were fair that were not powdered or painted; no beauty to be had but in wresting and writhing our own tongue! Nothing is fashionable till it be deformed; and this is to write like a gentleman. All must be affected and preposterous as our gallants’ clothes, sweet-bags, and night-dressings, which you would think our men lay in, like ladies, it is so curious.  6
  Criticism of Poetry.—Nothing in our age, I have observed, is more preposterous than the running judgments upon poetry and poets; when we shall hear those things commended and cried up for the best writings which a man would scarce vouchsafe to wrap any wholesome drug in; he would never light his tobacco with them. And those men almost named for miracles, who yet are so vile that if a man should go about to examine and correct them, he must make all they have done but one blot.  7
  Effeminacy.—There is nothing valiant or solid to be hoped for from such as are always kempt and perfumed, and every day smell of the tailor; the exceedingly curious, that are wholly in mending such an imperfection in the face, in taking away the morphew in the neck, or bleaching their hands at midnight, gumming and bridling their beards, or making the waist small, binding it with hoops, while the mind runs at waste; too much pickedness is not manly. Not from those that will jest at their own outward imperfections, but hide their ulcers within, their pride, lust, envy, ill-nature, with all the art and authority they can. These persons are in danger, for while they think to justify their ignorance by impudence, and their persons by clothes and outward ornaments, they use but a commission to deceive themselves: where, if we will look with our understanding, and not our senses, we may behold virtue and beauty (though covered with rags) in their brightness; and vice and deformity so much the fouler, in having all the splendour of riches to gild them, or the false light of honour and power to help them. Yet this is that wherewith the world is taken, and runs mad to gaze on—clothes and titles, the birdlime of fools.  8
  Vanity.—What petty things they are we wonder at, like children that esteem every trifle, and prefer a fairing before their fathers! What difference is between us and them but that we are dearer fools, coxcombs at a higher rate? They are pleased with cockleshells, whistles, hobby-horses, and such like; we with statues, marble pillars, pictures, gilded roofs, where underneath is lath and lime, perhaps loam. Yet we take pleasure in the lie, and are glad we can cozen ourselves. Nor is it only in our walls and ceilings, but all that we call happiness is mere painting and gilt, and all for money. What a thin membrane of honour that is! And how hath all true reputation fallen, since money began to have any! Yet the great herd, the multitude, that in all other things are divided, in this alone conspire and agree—to love money. They wish for it, they embrace it, they adore it, while yet it is possessed with greater stir and torment than it is gotten.  9
  Hearsay News.—That an elephant, in 1630, came hither ambassador from the Great Mogul, who could both write and read, and was every day allowed twelve cast of bread, twenty quarts of Canary sack, besides nuts and almonds the citizens’ wives sent him; that he had a Spanish boy to his interpreter, and his chief negotiation was to confer or practise with Archy, the principal fool of state, about stealing hence Windsor Castle and carrying it away on his back if he can.  10
 
 
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