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威廉·麦克皮斯·萨克雷 论仁爱与幽默

2006-07-07 17:13

William Makepeace Thackeray



  Besides contributing to our stock of happiness,toour harmless laughter and amusement,to ourscorn for falsehood and pretension,to our righ-teous hatred of hypocrisy,to our education in theperception of truth,our love of honesty,our knowledge of life,and shrewd guidance through the world,have not our humorous writers,our gay and kind week-day preachers,done much insupport of that holy cause which has assembled you in this place,and which you are all abetting,—the cause of love and charity,the cause of thepoor,the weak,and the unhappy; the sweet mis-sion of love and tenderness,and peace and goodwill toward men? That same theme which is urgedupon you by the eloquence and example of good men to whom you are delighted listeners on Sab-bath days is taught in his way and acording to hispower by the humorous writer,the commentator on every-day life and manners.

  And as you are here assembled for a charitablepurpose,giving your contributions at the door tobenefit deserving people who need them,I like tohope and think that the men of our calling have done something in aid of the cause of charity,andhave helped,with kind words and kind thoughts at least,to confer happiness and to do good.If thehumorous writers claim to be week-day preachers,have they conferred any benefit by their sermons?Are people happier,better,better disposed to theirneighbors,more inclined to do works of kindness,to love,forbear,forgive,pity,after reading inAddison,in Steele,in Fielding,in Goldsmith,inHood,in Dickens? I hope and believe so,and fancythat in writing they are also acting charitably,con-tributing with the means which Heaven supplies them to forward the end which brings you,too,to-gether.

  A love of the human species is a very vague and indefinite kind of virtue,sitting very easily ona man,not confining his actions at all,shining inprint,or exploding in paragraphs,after which ef-forts of benevolence the philanthropist is some-times said to go home and be no better than his neighbors.Tartuffe and Joseph Surface, Stigginsand Chadband,who are always preaching fine sen-timents and are no more virtuous than hundreds of those whom they denounce and whom they cheat,are fair objects of mistrust and satire; but theirhypocrisy,the homage,according to the old say-ing,which vice pays to virtue,has this of good init,that its fruits are good:a man may preach goodmorals tho he may be himself but a lax practition-er;a Pharisee may put pieces of gold into the char-ity-plate out of mere hypocrisy and ostentation,but the bad man's gold feeds the widow and the fa-therless as well as the good man's.The butcherand baker must needs look,not to motives,but tomoney,in return for their wares.

  A literary man of the humoristic turn is prettysure to be of a philanthropic nature, to have agreat sensibility,to be easily moved to pain orpleasure,keenly to appreciate the varieties of tem-per of people round about him,and sympathize intheir laughter,love,amusement,tears.Such aman is philanthropic,man-loving by nature,as an-other is irascible,or red-haired,or six feet high.And so I would arrogate no particular merit to lit-erary men for the possession of this faculty of do-ing good which some of them enjoy.It costs a gen-tleman no sacrifice to be benevolent on paper;andthe luxury of indulging in the most beautiful andbrilliant sentiments never makes any man a penny poorer.A literary man is no better than another,as far as my experience goes; and a man writing abook no better or no worse than one who keeps ac-counts in a ledger or follows any other occupation.Let us,however,give him credit for the good,atleast,which he is the means of doing,as we givecredit to a man with a million for the hundred which he puts into the plate at a charity-sermon.He never misses them.He has made them in a mo- ment by a lucky speculation,and parts with themknowing that he has an almost endless balance at his bank,whence he can call for more.But in es-teeming the benefaction we are grateful to the benefactor,too,somewhat; and so of men of ge-nius,richly endowed,and lavish in parting withtheir mind's wealth,we may view them at leastkindly and favorably,and be thankful for the bounty of which providence has made them the dis-pensers.

  I have said myself somewhere,I do not knowwith what correctness(for definitions never arecomplete),that humor is wit and love; I am sure,at any rate,that the best humor is that which con-tains most humanity,that which is flavoredthroughout with tenderness and kindness.This love does not demand constant utterance or actualexpression,as a good father,in conversation withhis children or wife,is not perpetually embracingthem or making protestations of his love; as alover in the society of his mistress is not,at leastas far as I am led to believe,for ever squeezing herhand or sighing in her ear,“My soul's darling,Iadore you!” He shows his love by his conduct,byhis fidelity,by his watchful desire to make thebeloved person happy; it lightens from his eyeswhen she appears,tho he may not speak it ;it fillshis heart when she is present or absent;influencesall his words and actions; suffuses his whole be-ing; it sets the father cheerily to work through thelong day,supports him through the tedious laborof the weary absence or journey,and sends him happy home again,yearning toward the wife andchildren.

  This kind of love is not a spasm,but a life.Itfondles and caresses at due seasons,no doubt; butthe fond heart is always beating fondly and truly,tho the wife is not sitting hand-in-hand with himor the children hugging at his knee.And so with aloving humor:I think,it is a genial writer's habitof being;it is the kind,gentle spirit's way of look-ing out on the world—that sweet friendliness which fills his heart and his style.You recognizeit,even tho there may not he a single point of wit,or a single pathetic touch in the page;tho you maynot be called upon to salute his genius by a laughor a tear.That collision of ideas,which provokesthe one or the other,must be occasional.Theymust be like papa's embraces,which I spoke ofanon,who only delivers them now and again,andcan not be expected to go on kissing the childrenall night.And so the writer's jokes and sentiment,his ebullitions of feeling,his outbreaks of highspirits,must not be too frequent.One tires of apage of which every sentence sparkles with points,of a sentimentalist who is always pumping the tears from his eyes or your own.One suspects thegenuineness of the tear,the naturalness of the hu-mor;these ought to be true and manly in a man,as everything else in his life should be manly andtrue;and he loses his dignity by laughing or weep-ing out of place,or too often.










  我曾在某处说过——尽管我不知道其正确性如何(因为不论什么定义都决不会是全面的)——幽默就是风趣和爱;我确信,最好的幽默含有最大的人性,并以柔情和善意贯穿其中使之生色。这种爱并不要求不停地吐露和具体地表述,比如,一个好父亲在和子女或妻子谈话时,不会总是拥抱着他们或反复声明他对他们的爱;又如,一个男人在与情妇交往时 ——至少就我所不得不相信的而言——不会总是紧握她的手,在她耳边吟叹:“我的心肝宝贝,我真爱你!”他用他的行为、他的忠诚和他要使自己所爱的人快乐的真挚愿望表现他的爱;在她出现时,他嘴上不说,双眼却闪出爱的光芒;她在场或不在场,这种爱都充溢于他心间;这种爱影响着他的全部言语和行动,布满于他全身;这种爱使父亲整天高高兴兴地工作,支持他在外出期间或旅行途中度过沉闷乏味的时光,并在对妻子儿女的思念中欢欢喜喜地回到家中。


何百华 译

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