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An Essay towards Fixing the True Standards of Wit, Humour, Railery, Satire, and Ridicule (1744)   By: (-1779)

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Series Two: Essays on Wit

No. 4

[Corbyn Morris] An Essay towards Fixing the True Standards of Wit, Humour, Raillery, Satire, and Ridicule (1744)

With an Introduction by James L. Clifford and a Bibliographical Note

The Augustan Reprint Society November, 1947 Price: $1.00


RICHARD C. BOYS, University of Michigan EDWARD NILES HOOKER, University of California, Los Angeles H.T. SWEDENBERG, JR., University of California, Los Angeles


EMMETT L. AVERY, State College of Washington LOUIS I. BREDVOLD, University of Michigan BENJAMIN BOYCE, University of Nebraska CLEANTH BROOKS, Yale University JAMES L. CLIFFORD, Columbia University ARTHUR FRIEDMAN, University of Chicago SAMUEL H. MONK, University of Minnesota JAMES SUTHERLAND, Queen Mary College, London


The Essay here reproduced was first advertised in the London Daily Advertiser as "this day was published" on Thursday, 17 May 1744 (The same advertisement, except for the change of price from one shilling to two, appeared in this paper intermittently until 14 June). Although on the title page the authorship is given as "By the Author of a Letter from a By stander," there was no intention of anonymity, since the Dedication is boldly signed "Corbyn Morris, Inner Temple, Feb. 1, 1743 [44]."

Not much is known of the early life of Corbyn Morris. Born 14 August 1710, he was the eldest son of Edmund Morris of Bishop's Castle, Salop. ( Alumni Cantabrigienses ). On 17 September 1727 he was admitted (pensioner) at Queen's College, Cambridge, as an exhibitioner from the famous Charterhouse School. Exactly when he left the university, or whether he took a degree, is not certain.

Morris first achieved some prominence, though anonymously, with A Letter from a By stander to a Member of Parliament; wherein is examined what necessity there is for the maintenance of a large regular land force in this island . This pamphlet, dated at the end, 26 February 1741/42, is a wholehearted eulogy of the Walpole administration and is filled with statistics and arguments for the Mercantilist theories of the day. At the time there was some suspicion that the work had been written either by Walpole himself or by his direction. When the Letter from a By stander was answered by the historian Thomas Carte, an angry pamphlet controversy ensued, with Morris writing under the pseudonym of "A Gentleman of Cambridge." Throughout, Morris showed himself a violent Whig, bitter in his attacks on Charles II and the non jurors; and it was undoubtedly this fanatical party loyalty which laid the foundation for his later government career.

The principal facts of Morris's later life may be briefly summarized. On 17 June 1743 he was admitted at the Inner Temple. Throughout the Pelham and Newcastle administrations he was employed by the government, as he once put it, "in conciliating opponents." From 1751 to 1763 be acted as Secretary of the Customs and Salt Duty in Scotland, in which post he was acknowledged to have shown decided ability as an administrator. From 1763 to 1778 he was one of the commissioners of customs. He died at Wimbledon 22 December 1779 ( Musgrave's Obituary ), described in the Gentleman's Magazine as a "gentleman well known in the literary world, and universally esteemed for his unwearied services and attachment to government."

Throughout his long years of public service he wrote numerous pamphlets, largely on economic and political questions. Merely the titles of a few may be sufficient to indicate the nature of his interests. An Essay towards Deciding the Question whether Britain be Permitted by Right Policy to Insure the Ships of Her Enemies (1747); Observations on the Past Growth and Present State of the City of London (containing a complete table of christenings and burials 1601 1750) (175l); A Letter Balancing the Causes of the Present Scarcity of Our Silver Coin (1757)... Continue reading book >>

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