Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Essay: "Laughter." Max Beerbohm.

Review: Mr. Beerbohm begins his essay on laughter with the following statement: “Mr. Bergson, in his well-known essay on this theme, says…well, he says many things, but none of these, though I have just read them, do I clearly remember, nor am I sure that in the act of reading, I understood any of them.” That’s how I feel after reading Mr. Beerbohm’s rambling essay on laughter.

He makes several statements that seem to be true: “I will wager that nine-tenths of the world’s best laughter is laughter at, not with.” And, he notes that no one has ever died of laughter. Then he goes on to touch on Lord Byron, Falstaff and Sam Johnson, the latter of whom seemed to generate laughter as he did his sociability to avoid the melancholy that depressed his life. Finally, Beerbohm concludes with a man he calls Comus who was unable to laugh. Smile, yes, to show that he understood the point of a funny story, but never laugh with his body. As I said, the essay rambles.

The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present. Ed. Phillip Lopate. New York: Anchor Books. A Division of Random House, Inc. 1995.

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