IRONY1, to comprehend it in a brief definition, is a misrepresentation for the worse in word and deed.
The ironical man is he who approaches his enemies and desires to have talk with them and let all hatred cease. He praises people to their faces, and behind their backs inveighs against them, but when they lose lawsuits bewails their fate with them. He has pardon ready for those who slander him and takes no account of abuse. With people who have been wronged and chafe under it he talks soothingly. Those who ask to see him at once he bids call again. Never does he admit that he is doing anything: he is always considering. He will pretend be is just this moment come, or he was late or he has been ill. To borrowers or those calling for a subscription he gives a large sum and says be is not rich. When he has something for sale be says he never sells, and when he does not wish to sell declares he will. He will hear but pretend he did not, or see and say he never saw. If he has admitted something be declares he has forgotten all about it. He will say he will see about it or sometimes has no knowledge whatever, or again is quite amazed, or perhaps he had thought so, had he not? His habit in short is to be using this sort of phrase, ' I don't believe it,' 'I can't follow,' 'I am thunderstruck,' 'You say he has changed from what he was,' 'That's not what he said to me,' 'The thing is absurd,' 'Tell that to someone else,' 'I am at a loss whether to disbelieve you or blame him,' 'Now beware of trusting too quickly.'
Such are the phrases, such the windings and turnings of which the ironical man makes use. Men so double and designing in character are more to be guarded against than serpents.
1 Dissimulation would perhaps hest represent irony. The chief ohject of the ironist seems to he the mystification of those with whom he has dealings, and little prominence is attached to the element of seIf-depreciation. . . . In the modern phrase he is one who refuses to commit himself.'-Edmonds and Austen ad icc.