“Larger inside than out”

It has been suggested…that all laughter had its origin in a sort of cruelty, in an exultation over the pain or the ignominy of an enemy… [But] another philosophy would say, for instance, that the laughter is due not to an animal cruelty but to a purely human realization of the contrast between man’s spiritual immensity within and his littleness and restriction without, for it is itself a joke that a house should be larger inside than out. According to such a view, the very incompatibility between the sense of human dignity and the perpetual possibility of incidental indignities produces the archetypal joke of the old gentleman sitting down suddenly on the ice. We do not laugh thus when a tree or a rock tumbles down, because we do not know the sense of self-esteem or serious importance within.

— “Humour”, in On Lying in Bed.
[original source unknown (to The Hebdomadarian)]

Published in: on August 27, 2008 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. If I had to guess, it’s probably from one of his Illustrated London News articles, many of which were collected and published as books over the years. Excellent quote!

  2. I expect that you’re right, but I haven’t been able to find the exact reference. If anybody knows it, let me know.


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