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As we weep only when we are afflicted, and laugh only when we are gay, certain reasoners have pretended, that laughter springs from pride, and that we deem ourselves superior to that which we laugh at. It is true that man, who is a risible animal, is also a proud one; but it is not pride which produces laughter. A child who laughs heartily, is not merry because he regards himself as superior to those who excite his mirth; nor, laughing when he is tickled, is he to be held guilty of the mortal sin of pride. I was eleven years of age when I read to myself, for the first time, the Amphitryon of Molière, and laughed until I nearly fell backward. Was this pride? We are seldom proud when alone. Was it pride which caused the master of the golden ass to laugh when he saw the ass eat his supper? He who laughs is joyful at the moment, and is prompted by no other cause.
It is not all joy which produces laughter: the greatest enjoyments are serious. The pleasures of love, ambition, or avarice, make nobody laugh.
Laughter may sometimes extends to convulsions; it is even said that persons may die of laughter. I can scarcely believe it; but certainly there are more who die of grief.
Violent emotions, which sometimes move to tears and sometimes to the appearance of laughter, no doubt distort the muscles of the mouth; this however is not genuine laughter, but a convulsion and a pain. The tears may sometimes be genuine, because the subject is suffering, but laughter it is not. It must have another name, and be called the "risus sardonicus "—sardonic smile.
The malicious smile, the 'perfidum ridens,' is another thing; being the joy which is excited by the humiliation of another. The grin, cachinnus,' is bestowed on those who promise wonders and perform absurdities; it is nearer to hooting than to laughter. Our pride derides the vanity which would impose upon us. They hoot our friend Freron in "The Scotswoman,"* rather than laugh
In the "Ecossaisse," the character of an envious, treacherous and malignant man of letters, was avowedly sketched from Freron.-T.
at him. I love to speak of friend Freron, as in that case I laugh unequivocally.
B. What is natural law?*
A. The instinct by which we feel justice.
A. That which appears so to the whole world.
A. That is all a mere abuse of words, mere logomachy and ambiguity. Theft was impossible at Sparta, where all property was common. What you call theft was the punishment of avarice.
B. It was forbidden for a man to marry his sister at Rome. Among the Egyptians, the Athenians, and even the Jews, a man was permitted to marry his sister by the father's side. It is not without regret that I cite the small and wretched nation of the Jews, who certainly ought never to be considered as a rule for any person, and who (setting aside religion) were never anything better than an ignorant, fanatical, and plundering horde. According to their books, however, the young Tamar, before she was violated by her brother Ammon, addressed him in these words: "I pray thee, my brother, do not so foolishly, but ask me in marriage of my father: he will not refuse thee."
A. All these cases amount to mere laws of convention, arbitrary usages, transient modes. What is essential remains ever the same. Point out to me any country where it would be deemed respectable or decent to plunder me of the fruits of my labour, to break a solemn promise, to tell an injurious lie, to slander, murder, or poison, to be ungrateful to a benefactor, or to beat a father or mother presenting food to you.
This dialogue is almost taken entire from conversations beween A. B. and C.-Conversation iv.
B. Have you forgotten that Jean Jaques, one of the fathers of the modern church, has said, "The first person who dared to inclose and cultivate a piece of ground, was an enemy of the human race; that he ought to be exterminated; and that the fruits of the earth belonged to all, and the land to none?" Have we not already examined this proposition, so beautiful in itself and so conducive to the happiness of society?
A. Who is this Jean Jaques? It is certainly not John the Baptist, nor John the Evangelist, nor James the greater, nor James the less; he must inevitably be some witling of a Hun, to write such abominable impertinence, or some ill-conditioned, malicious " bufo magro," who is never more happy than when sneering at what all the rest of the world deem most valuable and sacred. For instead of damaging and spoiling the estate of a wise and industrious neighbour, he had only to imitate him, and induce every head of a family to follow his example, in order to form in a short time a most flourishing and happy village. The author of the passage quoted seems to me a thoroughly unsocial animal.
B. You are of an opinion then, that by insulting and plundering the good man, for surrounding his gardens and farm-yard with a quickset hedge, he has offended against natural law.
A. Yes, most certainly; there is, I must repeat, a natural law; and it consists in neither doing ill to another, nor rejoicing at it, when from any cause whatsoever it befals him.
B. I conceive that man neither loves ill nor does it with any other view than to his own advantage. But so many men are urged on to obtain advantage to themselves by the injury of another; revenge is a passion of such violence; there are examples of it so terrible and fatal; and ambition, more terrible and fatal still, has so drenched the world with blood; that when I survey the frightful picture, I am tempted to confess, that a man is a being truly diabolical. I may certainly possess, deeply rooted in my heart, the notion of what is just and unjust; but an Attila, whom St Leon ex
tols and pays his court to; a Phocas, whom St. Gregory flatters with the most abject meanness; an Alexander VI. polluted by so many incests, murders, and poisonings, and with whom the feeble Louis XII., commonly called "the good," enters into the most strict and base alliance; a Cromwell, whose protection cardinal Mazarin eagerly solicits, and to gratify whom he expels from France the heirs of Charles I. cousins-german of Louis XIV.;-these, and a thousand similar examples, easily to be found in the records of history, totally disturb and derange my ideas, and I no longer know what I am doing or where I am.
A. Well; but should the knowledge that storms are coming prevent our enjoying the beautiful sunshine and gentle and fragrant gales of the present day? Did the earthquake that destroyed half the city of Lisbon prevent your making a very pleasant journey from Madrid? If Attila was a bandit, and cardinal Mazarin a knave, are there not some princes and ministers respectable and amiable men? Has it not been remarked, that in the war of 1701, the council of Louis the XIV. consisted of some of the most virtuous of mankind? The duke of Beauvilliers, the marquis de Torcy, marshal Villars, and finally Chamillart, who was not indeed considered a very able but always an honourable man. Does not the idea of just and unjust still subsist? It is in fact on this that all laws are founded. The Greeks call laws, "the daughters of heaven," which means simply, the daughters of nature. Have you no laws in your country?
B. Yes; some good, and others bad.
A. Where could you have taken the idea of them, but from the notions of natural law which every wellconstructed mind has within itself? They must have been derived from these or nothing.*
* Certainly; and in proportion as particular law departs from this "common" or unwritten law-this simple "do as you would be done by" sense of justice-will it approximate to injustice, oppres sion, and chicanery, however protected by great wigs, robes, and furred gowns, which happily are beginning to lose a part of their ability to "hide all."-T,
B. You are right; there is a natural law, but it is still more natural to many people to forget or neglect it.
A. It is natural also to be one-eyed, hump-backed, lame, deformed, and sickly; but we prefer persons well-made and healthy.
B. Why are there so many one-eyed and deformed minds?
A. Hush! Consult however the article OMNIPOTENCE.
HE who says that the salic law was written with a pen from the wing of a two-headed eagle, by Pharamond's almoner, on the back of the patent containing Constantine's donation, was not perhaps very much mistaken.
It is, say the doughty lawyers, the fundamental law of the French empire. The great Jerome Bignon, in his book on "The Excellence of France," says,* that this law is derived from natural law, according to the great Aristotle, because "in families it was the father who governed, and no dower was given to daughters, as we read in relation to the father, mother, and brothers of Rebecca."
He asserts, that the kingdom of France is so excellent, that it has religiously preserved this law, recommended both by Aristotle and the Old Testament. And to prove this excellence of France, he observes also, that the emperor Julian thought the wine of Surêne admirable.
But in order to demonstrate the excellence of the Salic law, he refers to Froissart, according to whom, the twelve peers of France said, that "the kingdom of France is of such high nobility, that it never ought to pass in succession to a female.”
It must be acknowledged that this decision is not a little uncivil to Spain, England, Naples, and Hungary,