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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

ON CHARITY AND HUMOR

1852

  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.

威廉·麦克皮斯·萨克雷

论仁爱与幽默

1852年

  我们的幽默作家们,这些不在安息日也照样诲人不倦的布道者,除了帮助我们在生活中获取乐趣,进行无害于人的嘻笑逗乐,摒斥虚假和矫饰,正义地鄙弃伪善,启发我们认识真理,热爱诚实,懂得生活,并且机敏地处世外,还一贯大力支持这个使你们聚集在此并为你们所拥护的神圣事业——爱心和仁慈的事业;穷人、弱者和不幸者的事业;一项出于爱心、和善、使人彼此和睦相处、善意相待的可爱的使命。

  那些可敬的人在安息日以流利的口才和生动的事例向你们宣讲的主题,幽默作家则以他自己的方式和魅力向你们讲述,他们是日常生活和行为举止的评论家。

  你们抱着行善的目的聚集在这里,在门口为帮助那些应该得到帮助的人捐款,因而我希望并相信,干我们这一行的人对慈善事业有所贡献,至少是以友好的话语和思想,在予人幸福和做好事方面有所助益。幽默作家若以不在安息日也照样布道的人自许,那么他们的布道是否已给人带来好处?人们在读过艾迪生、斯梯尔、菲尔丁、哥尔德斯密斯、胡德和狄更斯的作品后,与以前相比,是否更快乐些,为人更好些,与邻居相处更和睦些,更愿做出于善心的工作,更愿待人宽厚,更有宽容精神和同情心?我希望如此,也相信确是如此,而且认为这些作家是以慈悲为怀而写作的,是在以上帝赐予他们的本领来推动实现这个使你们聚集在一起的目标。

  对人的爱是一种十分空洞、模糊的品德,取得这种美名并不费事,而且一己行事之际完全不必因担了这种名声而收敛检点,据说慈善家在外施恩行善,回家之后就一点也不比邻居强。达尔杜弗之流不断谈论高尚情操,而其品德却不比他们所指斥、所欺骗的人高尚,这类人物自然不配受到人们信任,而应加以讥刺;可是,他们的伪善固然是一种市恩讨好的行径,却又如一句老话所说,邪恶也会化为善举,带来好的结果。一个人可能孜孜然劝人为善而自己全不实行;一个法利赛人可能出于伪善和炫耀的目的而在施舍盘里放上几块金子,但是坏人的金子和好人的金子一样都能养活孤儿寡妇。肉店老板和糕饼店店主关心的是主顾们的钱,而不是他们买肉买饼的动机。

  一个具有幽默特性的文人必定具有慈善心肠,所以感情丰富,易受感动而苦恼、而欣喜,能敏锐地体察周围人们种种不同的性情脾气,与他们共享悲喜爱恨。比如,这一种人心地善良,生来能爱别人,而另一种人满头红发,或者身材高大,难免暴躁易怒。

  所以我不会硬说文人之具有行善的能力是什么特别的优点,他们中有些人就是喜爱那样做。一位绅士表面上摆出一副慈眉善目时完全不必作出任何牺牲,而沉溺于最美丽、最辉煌的豪情壮志虽是一种奢侈行为,但决不会使人损失一个便士。我从自己的经验得知,文人一点也不比别人强;写过一本书的人不比一个管一本分户帐或一个从事任何其他职业的人好或坏。不过,我们还是要称赞他,至少他做了好事,就像我们称赞一个百万富翁在慈善布道会上向施舍盘放上一百英镑一样。他从来不放过赚钱的机会。通过一次顺利的投机买卖,他转手之间即可赚进一大笔钱,而在花钱时,他心里明白他在银行里的存款余额几乎用不完,而且付出这笔钱还可赚进更多。但是,在评价这项善举时,我们对于行善者还是多少有点感激的;对于那些天才人物同样如此,他们得天独厚,在付出他们思想上的财富时十分大方,至少我们可以友好地、赞许地看待他们,并且感谢上帝的恩赐,他们不过是这种赐予物的分配者。

  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。

  这种爱不是突发一阵子,而是持续一辈子。毫无疑问,它使人在合适的时候亲吻爱抚;但是真情的心总是深情地、忠实地跳动着,尽管妻子不是手拉着手坐在他身旁,或孩子们紧挨在他膝边。出于爱心的幽默也正是这样:我认为,这就是一个真诚的作家的生存习惯,就是这个仁慈的、温和的灵魂观察世界的方法——洋溢于他心中和表现于他风格中的甜甜的友情。尽管在某一页上也许看不出什么风趣或激起情感的机智,尽管并不要求你以哭或笑来赞扬他的天才,你还是认出了它。引起这个人或那个人激动的那种观念的撞击必定是偶然的。它们必然像我刚才说过的爸爸的拥抱那样,只能是间或为之的,不能指望他整夜亲吻着子女。作家的笑话和情趣,他的感情奔放,他的灵气勃发,必然不会过于频繁。对于每一个句子都闪射出思想火花的一页,对于经常从他的眼睛里或你的眼睛里像使用水泵那样抽出眼泪来的感伤主义者,人们会感到厌烦的。人们会怀疑这种眼泪的真假,这种幽默是否自然;一个人的眼泪和幽默都应该是真实的、诚恳的,就像他生活中的每一件事都应该是真实的、诚恳的一样;无论哭笑,如果不在其时或过于频繁,都会令人失去尊严。

何百华 译

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