The main body of this book is divided into 36 chapters. The first chapter deals with the Emotional Phases of Humour and Laughter and then comes its origin, which can be traced to the Greek Humour followed by the Roman Humour, Comedy and Satire, Relapse of Civilization in the Middle Ages English Humour and Anglo-Saxon Humour: Satires Against the Church.
Afterwards modern comedy evolved through Ecclesiastical Buffoonery and great Laureates of later centuries which include Daniel Defoe, Robert Greene, Nash and Harvey; Donne, Hall and Fuller; Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher.
Eighteenth century was filled with satire, burlesque, and parody both in art and in literature. The later chapters of the book deal with the first third of the nineteenth century. These chapters deal with the middle third of the nineteenth century. During this period, Robert Browning and Matthew Arnold refined the tradition of witty and ironic poetry started by Lamb, Byron, and Shelley. This is also the period when Charles Dickens established the tradition of the "humors character" in his vernacular comic novels, and also expanded the tradition of the comic gothic. The Bronte Sisters also expanded the comic gothic tradition, as did George Eliot.
The last parts of the book are devoted to the Variation and Effects of Emotion and Unity of the Ludicrous Sense, Difficulties in Forming one Definition of Humour which make the book an incomparable asset for the student of literature.