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16. Sends him bis Apollonius, and Perspec. tive Lectures. Oct. 11, 1570.
First it may be demanded what the thing we speak of is, or what this facetiousness doth import? To which question I might reply as Deinocritus did to him that asked the definition of a man; “'Tis that which we all see and know.” Any one better apprehends what it is by acquaintance than I can inform him by description. It is indeed a thing so versatile and multiform, appearing in so many shapes, so many postures, so many garbs, so variously appréhended by several eyes and judgments, that it seems eth no less hard to settle a clear and certain notion thereof, than to make a portrait of Proteus, or to define the figure of the fleeting air. Sometimes it lieth in pat allusion to a known story, or able application of a trivial saying, or in forging an apposite tale: sometimes it playeth in words and phrases, taking advantage from the ambiguity of their sense, or the affinity of their sound. Sometimes it is wrapped in a dress of humorous expression; sometimes it lurketh under an odd similitude; sometimes it is lodged in a sly question, in a smart answer, in a quirkish reason, in a shrewd intimation,
in cuññingly diverting, or cleverly. retorting an obfection: sometimes it is couched in a bold scheme of speech; in a tart irony; in a lusty hyperbole; in a startling metaphor; in a plausible reconciling of contradictions, or in acute nonsense : sometimes a scenical representation of persons or things; a counterfeit speech; a inimical look or gesturė passeth for it : sometimes an affected simplicity, sometimes a presumptuous bluntness giveth it being: sometimes it riseth only from a lucky hitting upon what is strange; sometimes from a crafty wrestling obvious matter to the purpose : often it consists in one knows not what, and springeth up one can hardly tell how. Its ways are unaccountable and inexplicable, being answerable to the numberless rovings of fancy and windings of language. It is, in short, a manner of speaking out of the simple and plain way (such as reason teacheth and proveth things by) which by a pretty surprizing uncouthness in conceit or expression doth affect and amuse the fancy, stirring in it some wonder, and breeding some delight thereto. It raiseth admiration, as signifying a nimble sagacity of apprehension, a special felicity of invention, a vivacity of spirit, and reach of wit more than vulgar. It seemeth to argue a rare quickness of parts, that one can fetch in remote conceits applicable; a notable skill, that he can dexterously accommodate them to the purpose before him, together with a lively brisk
ness of bumour, not apt to damp those sportfut flashes of imagination. Wience in Aristotle such persons are termed snode bob, dexterous men; and EVT portob, men of facile or versatile manners, who can easily turn themselves to all things, or turn all things to themselves. It also procureth delight, by gratifying curiosity with its rareness or semblance of difficulty; as monsters, not for their beauty, but their rarity; as juggling tricks, not for their use, but their' abstruseness, are beheld with pleasure; by diverting the mind from its road of serious thoughts ; by instilling gaiety and airiness of spirit; by provoking to such dispositions of spirit in way of emulation or complaisance ; and by seasoning matters, otherwise distasteful or insipid, with an unusual, and thence grateful tang.
The sermons of Dr. Barrow were of an unusual length, even for the time in which he lived. He seldom employed less than an hour and a half in delivering a discourse ; and on one occasion in particular, he preached a charity sermon at the Spital, before the lord mayor and alderınen, which lasted three hours and a half. Being asked, on descending from the pulpit, whether he was not tired,
he replied; “Yes indeed, I began to be weary with standing so long."
Being chaplain to Charles II. his majesty was accustomed facetiously to style him an unfair preacher; because he exhausted every subject, and left nothing to be said by others. He does indeed view his subject in a great yariety of lights. There is always an abundance of thoughts, and thoughts, to the justness of which, tåken separately, we in general feel little difficulty in assenting ; but we are hurried from flower to flower too rapidly to have time to imbibe the honey to be derived from each; the multitude of objects which are crowded upon us distracts the attention, and having surveyed the whole, we can settle upon none. I do not mean to say, there are not many admirable passages in Barrow. The above definition of wit is probably the most wonderful passage to be met with in any language. A certain portion of fancy, perhaps, it would be unjust to deny him ; but it is by no means the general characteristic of his writings; and he has not a particle of that higher degree of it, which we usually denominate imagination. Barrow was undoubtedly a man of a powerful understanding. In the mathematical sciences he was only inferior to Newton; but his mind was too early preoccupied, not to say absorbed, by mathematical studies, for him afterwards to acquire that peculiar delicacy of tact, essential to the successful contemplation of moral phenomena.