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hair-cloth, and who dwelt in solitary caverns or gloomy cells, to imagine that supreme bliss consisted in walking in parade, attired with glittering garments, through streets which shone like gold : But though this occupation may be better than quaffing Hydromel in Valhalla, to us it is scarcely so attractive as the Arabian Paradise, or the Loca læta et amana vireta of a Platonic Elysium.
Comic Romance.--Works of Rabelais.- Vita
di Bertoldo.—Don Quixote.- Gusman Alfarache.—Marcos de Obregon.-- Roman Comique, &c.— Political Romance.--Utopia.Argenis.- Sethos, &c.
All men have, more or less, a propensity to satire and ridicule. This tendency has its origin in self-love, which naturally leads us to indulge in a belief of our own superiority over the rest of our species. It is in satire and ridicule that this feeling receives its most frequent gratification ; and, spite of the objections of Beattie, nothing can, in many instances, be more just than the reflection of Addison on the well-known theory of Hobbes, that when a man laughs he is not very merry, but very proud.
But, besides the gratification they afford, works of satire and ridicule are useful, as they frequently exhibit mankind in their true light and just proportions, with all their passions and follies. They remove from their conduct that varnish with which men so ingeniously cover those actions which are frequently the offspring of pride, private views, or voluntary self-delusion.
In nothing is the superiority of the moderns over the ancients more apparent than in the higher excellence of their ludicrous compositions. Modern ridicule, as has been shown by Dr Beattie, is at once more copious, and more refined, than the ancient. Many sources of wit and humour, formerly unknown, are now open and obvious, and those which are common to all ages have been purified by improvement in courtesy and taste.
whom Sir William Temple has styled the Father of Ridicule, is certainly the first modern author who obtained much celebrity by the comic or satirical romance. At the time when he appeared, extravagant tales were in the height of their popularity. As he had determined to ridicule the most distinguished persons, and every thing that the rest of mankind regarded as venerable or important, he clothed his satire somewhat in the form of the lying stories of the age, that under this veil he might be sheltered from the resentment of those whom he intended to deride. By this means he probably conceived that his work would, at the same time, obtain a favourable reception from the vulgar, who, though they should not discover his secret meaning, might be entertained with fantastic stories which bore some resemblance to those to which they were accustomed.
With this view, Rabelais availed himself of the writings of those who had preceded him in satirical romance, and imitated in particular the True History of Lucian. His stories he borrowed chiefly from previous facetiae and novellettes: Thus the story of Hans Carvel's ring, of whichi Fontaine believed him the inventor, is one of the Facetiae of Poggio, and entitled Annulus, or Visio Francesci Philelphi. With an intention of adding to the diversion of the reader, he has given a mixture of burlesque and barbarous words from the Greek and Latin, a notion which was perhaps suggested by the Liber Macaronicorum of Teofilo Folengi, published under name of Merlinus Coccaius, about twenty years before the appearance of the work of Rabelais. An infinite number of puns and quibbles have also been introduced amongst the more ingenious conceptions of the author. In
short, his romance may be considered as a mixture, or olio, of all the merry, satirical, and comic modes of writing that had been employed previous to the age in which he wrote.
There are four things which Rabelais seems principally to have proposed to ridicule in his work: 1. The refined and crooked politics of the period in which he lived. 2. The vices of the clergy, the Romish superstitions, and the religious controversies at that time agitated. 3. The lying and extravagant tales then in vogue. 4. The pedantry and philosophical jargon of the age.
But although it be understood that these in general were the objects of the author, the appliçation of a great part of the satire is unknown. Works of wit and humour, unless they allude to permanent follies, in which case their relish may remain unimpaired, are more subject to the ravages of time, and more liable to become obscure, than any other literary compositions, because the propriety of allusion cannot be estimated when the customs and incidents referred to are forgotten : We must be acquainted with the likeness before we can relish the caricature. “ Those modifications of life,” says Dr Johnson, “and peculiarities of practice, which are the progeny of error and perverseness, or at best of some accidental influ