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uncertain one upon record. Complimentary in every thing, the French say of a woman thus circumstanced, that she is femme d'un age raisonnable, as if she had gained, in her reasoning faculties, what she had lost in personal charms; and this, doubtless, ought to be the process with us all. To our mind, as to a preserving green-house, should we transfer, in the winter of life, the attractions of our spring and summer.
As variety is universally allowed to be pleasing, the diversity occasioned by the progress of age should, in itself, be a source of delight. Perpetual sunshine would soon be found more annoying than an alternation of the seasons; so would a continuous youth be more irksome than the gradual approach of old age. Existence may be compared to a drum, which has · only one single tone; but change of time gives it variety and cheerfulness enough.
The infirmity of falsifying our age is at least as old as Cicero, who, hearing one of his contemporaries attempting to make himself ten years younger than he really was, drily observed—“Then at the time you and I were at school together, you were not born."
ALCHEMIST—The true possessor of the philosopher's stone is the miner, whose iron, copper, and tin, are always convertible into the more prceious metals. Agriculture is the noblest of all alchemy, for it turns earth, and even manure into gold, conferring upon its cultivator the additional reward of health. Most appropriate was the rebuke of Pope Leo X., who, when a visionary pretended to have discovered the philosopher's stone, and demanded a recompense, gave him an empty purse.
ALDERMAN-A ventri-potential citizen, into whose mediterranean mouth good things are perpetually flowing, although none come out. His shoulders, like some of the civic streets, are “ widened at the expense of the corporation.” He resembles Wolsey; not in ranking himself with princes, but in being a man“ of an unbounded stomach.” A tooth is the only wise thing in his head, and he has nothing particularly good
about him except his digestion, which is an indispensable quality, since he is destined to become great by gormandizing, to masticate his way to the Mansion-house, and thus, like a inouse in a cheese, to provide for himself a large dwelling, by continually eating. His talent is in his jaws; and like a miller, the more he grinds the more he gets. From the quantity he devours, it might be supposed that he had two stomachs, like a cow, were it not manifest that he is no ruminating animal.
ALMS—To this word there is no singular, in order to teach us that a solitary act of charity scarcely deserves the name. Nothing is won by one gift. To render our bounties available, they must be in the plural number. It is always wise to be charitable, but it is almost peculiar to my friend 1—that he is often witty in his bounties. He was about to assist with a sum of money a scribbler in distress, when he was reminded that he had on more than one occasion been libelled and maligned by the intended object of his bounty. “Pooh," said I- “I have so long known all his slanders by heart, that they have quite gone out of my head.”
ALPHABET—Twenty-six symbols which represent singly, or in combination, all the sounds of all the languages upon earth. By forming letters into words, which are the signs of ideas, we are enabled to embody thought, to render it visible, audible, perpetual, and ubiquitous. Embalmed in writing, the intellect may thus enjoy a species of immortality upon earth, and every man may paint an imperishable portrait of his own mind, immeasurably more instructive and interesting to posterity than those fleeting likenesses of the face and form entrusted to canvas, or even to bronze and marble. What inyriads have passed away, body and mind, leaving not a wreck behind them, while the mental features of some contemporary writer survive in all the freshness and integrity with which they were first traced. Were I a literary painter how often should I be tempted in the pride of my heart, to exclaim with the celebrated artist, “ Ed io anche sono Pittore.”
Although the word be derived from the two first letters of the Greek, every ALPIIABET now in use may be traced with historical certainty to one original—the Phenician or Syriac. “Phenicia and Palestine,” says Gibbon, “ will forever live in the memory of mankind; since America, as well as Europe, has received letters from the one and religion from the other."
One of the earliest French princes being too indolent or too stupid to acquire his alphabet by the ordinary process, twenty-four servants were placed in attendance upon him, each with a huge letter painted upon his stomach; as he knew not their names he was obliged to call them by their letter when he wanted their services, which in due time gave him the requisite degree of literature for the exercise of the royal functions.
AMBIGUITY-A quality deemed essentially necessary to the clear understanding of diplomatic writings, acts of Congress, and law proceedings.
AMBITION—A mental dropsy, which keeps continually swelling and increasing until it kills its victim. Ambition is often overtaken by calamity, because it is not aware of its pursuer, and never looks behind. “Deeming naught done while aught remains to do,” it is necessarily restless; unable to bear any thing above it, discontent must be its inevitable portion, for even if the pinnacle of worldly power be gained, its occupant will sigh, like Alexander, for another globe to conquer. Every day that brings us some advancement or success, brings us also a day nearer to death, embittering the reflection, that the more we have gained, the more we have to relinquish. Aspiring to nothing but humility, the wise man will make it the height of his ambition to be unambitious. As he cannot effect all that he wishes, he will only wish for that which he can effect.
AMBLE_Of this indefinite and intermediate pace, which, (to adopt the Johnsonian style,)“ without the concussiveness
of the trot, or the celerity of the canter, neither contributes to the conservation of health, nor to the economy of time, nothing can be pronounced in eulogy, and little, therefore, need be said in description.” To those elderly gentlemen, nevertheless, who are willing to sacrifice the perilous reputation of a good seat for the comfort of a safe one; an ambling nag has always been an equestrian beatitude. Such was the feeling of the Sexagenarian, who took his horse to the ménage, that it might be taught the “old gentleman's pace.” As the riding-master, after several trials, could not immediately succeed in his object, the owner of the animal petulantly cried out—" Zooks, Sir, do you call this an amble ? "_"No, Sir," was the reply, “I call it a pre-amble.”
“ They who on length of ancestry enlarge,
Produce their debt instead of their discharge.”
They search in the root of the tree for those fruits which the branches ought to produce, and too often resemble potatoes, of which the best part is under ground. Pedigree is the boast of those who have nothing else to vaunt. In what respect, after all, are they superior to the humblest of their neighbors ? Every man's ancestors double at each remove in geometrical proportion, so that, after only twenty generations, he has above a million of progenitors. A duke has no more; a dustman has no less.
A river generally becomes narrower and more insignificant as we ascend to its source. The stream of ancestry, on the contrary, often vigorous, pure, and powerful at its fountaiu head, usually becomes more feeble, shallow, and corrupt as it flows downwards. Some of our ancient families, whose origin is lost in the darkness of antiquity, and into whose hungry maws the tide of patronage is forever flowing, may be compared to the Nile, which has many mouths, and no discoverable head. Nobles sometimes illustrate that name about as much as an Italian Cicerone recalls that idea of Cicero.
It is a double shame for a man to have derived distinction from his predecessors, if he bequeath disgrace to his posterity.
"Heraldic honors on the base,
Do but degrade their wearers more,
Show ten times blacker than before.”
ANCIENTS—Dead bones used for the purpose of knocking down live flesh. Every 'puny Samson thinks he may wield his ass's jaw-bone in assaulting his contemporaries, by comparing them with their predecessors. If architects attempt any thing original, they are ridiculed for their pains, and desired to stick to the five orders. This is the sixth order of the public. If artists follow the bent of their own genius, they are tauntingly referred by their new masters to the old masters, and desired not to indulge their own crude capriccios. Authors are schooled and catechized in the same way; but when either of the three conform to the instructions of their critics, they are instantly and unmercifully assailed as servile imitators, without a single grain of originality. Whether, therefore, they allow the ancients to be imitable or inimitable, it is manifest that they only exalt them in order to lower their contemporaries, and that their suffrages would be reversed, if the ancients and moderns were to change places. With a similar jealousy we give a preference to old wine, old books, and an old friend, unless the latter should appear in the form of an old joke, when he is treated with the utmost scorn and contumely. As this is equally reprehensible and inconsistent, I shall endeavor to cure my readers of any such propensity, by habituating them to encounters with some of their old Joe Miller acquaintance.
ANGER-Punishing ourselves for the faults of another ; or committing an additional error, if we are incensed at our own mistakes. In either case, wrath may aggravate, but was never known to diminish our annoyance. “I wish,” says Seneca, “that anger could always be exhausted, when its first weapon was broken, and that like the bees, who leave their stings in the wound they make, we could only inflict a single