From the author’s Preface.
THE present work is, I believe, the first attempt to treat on a considerable scale the whole subject of Laughter, under its various aspects, and in its connections with our serious activities and interests. As such, it will, I feel sure, lay itself open to the criticism that it lacks completeness, or at least, proportion. A further criticism to which, I feel equally sure, it will expose itself, is that it clearly reflects the peculiarities of the experience of the writer. The anticipation of this objection does not, however, disturb me. It seems to me to be not only inevitable, but desirable—at least at the present stage of our knowledge of the subject—that one who attempts to understand an impulse, of which the intensities and the forms appear to vary greatly among men, of which the Workings are often subtle, and of which the significance is by no means obvious, should, while making full use of others’ impressions, draw largely on his own experience. Portions of the volume have already appeared in Reviews. Chapter I. was published (under the title “Prolegomena to a Theory of Laughter”) in The Philosophical Review, 1900; Chapter V., in the Revue Philosophique, 1902; and Chapter VIII., in The International Monthly, 1901. The parts of Chapters III. and VI. which treat of the psychology of tickling appeared in the Compte rendu of the Fourth International Congress of Psychology (IV mes Congrès International de Psychologie), Paris, 1901. Some of the ideas in Chapter X. are outlined in an article on “The Uses of Humour,” which appeared in The National Review, 1897.