“This dodge”

My friend, the human race is always trying this dodge of making everything entirely easy; but the difficulty which it shifts off one thing it shifts on to another.

— Tremendous Trifles (1909).

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Published in: on September 19, 2018 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment  

“A cosmic and philosophic humour”

The fundamental conception in the minds of the majority of our younger writers is that comedy is, ‘par excellence,’ a fragile thing. It is conceived to be a conventional world of the most absolutely delicate and gimcrack description. Such stories as Mr Max Beerbohm’s ‘Happy Hypocrite’ are conceptions which would vanish or fall into utter nonsense if viewed by one single degree too seriously.

But great comedy, the comedy of  Shakespeare or Sterne, not only can be, but must be, taken seriously. There is nothing to which a man must give himself up with more faith and self-abandonment than to genuine laughter. In such comedies one laughs with the heroes and not at them. The humour which steeps the stories of Falstaff and Uncle Toby is a cosmic and philosophic humour, a geniality which goes down to the depths. It is not superficial reading, it is not even, strictly speaking, light reading. Our sympathies are as much committed to the characters as if they were the predestined victims in a Greek tragedy.

The modern writer of comedies may be said to boast of the brittleness of his characters. He seems always on the eve of knocking his puppets to pieces. When John Oliver Hobbes wrote for the first time a comedy of serious emotions, she named it, with a thinly-disguised contempt for her own work, ‘A Sentimental Comedy.’ The ground of this conception of the artificiality of comedy is a profound pessimism. Life in the eyes of these mournful buffoons is itself an utterly tragic thing; comedy must be as hollow as a grinning mask. It is a refuge from the world, and not even, properly speaking, a part of it. Their wit is a thin sheet of shining ice over the eternal waters of bitterness.

Twelve Types (1903).

Published in: on September 12, 2018 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Slang and poetry

All slang is metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry.

 — The Defendant (1901).

Published in: on September 6, 2018 at 4:12 pm  Leave a Comment