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John Bartlett (1820–1905). Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. 1919.

5975 Thomas Carlyle 1795-1881 John Bartlett

AUTHOR:Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881)
QUOTATION:We have oftener than once endeavoured to attach some meaning to that aphorism, vulgarly imputed to Shaftesbury, which however we can find nowhere in his works, that “ridicule is the test of truth.” 1 
ATTRIBUTION:Voltaire. Foreign Review, 1829.
Note 1.
How comes it to pass, then, that we appear such cowards in reasoning, and are so afraid to stand the test of ridicule?—Shaftesbury: Characteristics. A Letter concerning Enthusiasm, sect. 2.
  Truth, ’t is supposed, may bear all lights; and one of those principal lights or natural mediums by which things are to be viewed in order to a thorough recognition is ridicule itself.—Shaftesbury: Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour, sect. 1.
  ’T was the saying of an ancient sage (Gorgias Leontinus, apud Aristotle’s “Rhetoric,” lib. iii. c. 18), that humour was the only test of gravity, and gravity of humour. For a subject which would not bear raillery was suspicious; and a jest which would not bear a serious examination was certainly false wit.—Ibid. sect. 5. [back]