On the Idea of Comedy and the of the Uses of the Comic Spirit by George Meredith


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The Project Gutenberg eBook, An Essay on Comedy, by George Meredith


This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
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with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net





Title: An Essay on Comedy
And the Uses of the Comic Spirit


Author: George Meredith

Release Date: May 13, 2005 [eBook #1219]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK AN ESSAY ON COMEDY***






Transcribed from the 1897 Archibald Constable and Company edition by
David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk





AN ESSAY ON COMEDY AND THE USES OF THE COMIC SPIRIT
by George Meredith


_This Essay was first published in 'The New Quarterly Magazine' for April
1877_.




ON THE IDEA OF COMEDY AND OF THE USES OF THE COMIC SPIRIT {1}


Good Comedies are such rare productions, that notwithstanding the wealth
of our literature in the Comic element, it would not occupy us long to
run over the English list. If they are brought to the test I shall
propose, very reputable Comedies will be found unworthy of their station,
like the ladies of Arthur's Court when they were reduced to the ordeal of
the mantle.

There are plain reasons why the Comic poet is not a frequent apparition;
and why the great Comic poet remains without a fellow. A society of
cultivated men and women is required, wherein ideas are current and the
perceptions quick, that he may be supplied with matter and an audience.
The semi-barbarism of merely giddy communities, and feverish emotional
periods, repel him; and also a state of marked social inequality of the
sexes; nor can he whose business is to address the mind be understood
where there is not a moderate degree of intellectual activity.

Moreover, to touch and kindle the mind through laughter, demands more
than sprightliness, a most subtle delicacy. That must be a natal gift in
the Comic poet. The substance he deals with will show him a startling
exhibition of the dyer's hand, if he is without it. People are ready to
surrender themselves to witty thumps on the back, breast, and sides; all
except the head: and it is there that he aims. He must be subtle to
penetrate. A corresponding acuteness must exist to welcome him. The
necessity for the two conditions will explain how it is that we count him
during centuries in the singular number.

'C'est une etrange entreprise que celle de faire rire les honnetes gens,'
Moliere says; and the difficulty of the undertaking cannot be
over-estimated.

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