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Besides, you must be very careful that the jest [p. 240] should seem to be extempore, taken from some present question or merry humor; not far fetched, as if premeditate and designed. For as men are not much concerned at the anger and debates among themselves at table while they are in the midst of their cups, but if any stranger should come in and offer abuse to any of the guests, they would hate and look upon him as an enemy; so they will easily pardon and indulge a jest if undesignedly taken from any present circumstance; but if it is nothing to the matter in hand but fetched from another thing, it must look like a design and be resented as an affront. Such was that of Timagenes to the husband of a woman that often vomited,—‘Thou beginnest thy troubles when thou bringest home this vomiting woman,’ 1—saying τίς δ᾽ ἐμοῦσαν (this vomiting woman), when the poet had written τίς δε Μοῦσαν (this Muse); and also his question to Athenodorus the philosopher,—Is the affection to our children natural For when the raillery is not founded on some present circumstance. it is an argument of ill-nature and a mischievous temper; and such as delight in jests like these do often for a mere word, the lightest thing in the world (as Plato says), suffer the heaviest punishment. But those that know how to time and apply a jest confirm Plato's opinion, that to rally pleasantly and facetiously is the business of a scholar and a wit.
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