« PreviousContinue »
PICTORIAL HUMOR.—New READINGS FROM OLD AUTHORS.
“Poor Tom's acold."
“Lamentings heard i' the air."
a Shrovetide cock, tethered to the earth, it can but partially raise itself, when it again sinks down, amid the sticks and stones of its cruel persecutors.
NAMES—The character of different eras may, to a certain extent, be discovered by the various ways in which our ambitious nobility, and others, have endeavored to achieve an enduring celebrity. When chivalry was the rage, they gave their names to new inventions in arms and armor : now-a-days, they court notoriety by standing godfathers to some new fashions in clothes and cookery, and eclipsing all competitors in their coats, cabs, and castors. A ducal Campbell, whose ancestors were always spilling hot blood, endeavors to win celebrity in another way, by inventing an Argyle for preserving hot gravy; a Sandwich embalms his name between two slices of bread and ham; a Pembroke immortalizes himself in a table; a Skelmersdale goes down to future ages, like an Egyptian divinity, in a chair ; a Standish, surpassing the bottle conjuror, creeps into an inkstand, by which means " he still keeps his memory BLACK in our souls ; " a Stanhope expects to be wheeled down to posterity, by harnessing his name to a gig of a peculiar construction; a Petersham, hitting upon the easiest device by which he could prove to after ages that he wore a head, gives his title to a hat. Another nobleman, clarum et venerabile nomen, one who was said to have driven all the tailors into the suburbs, by compelling them to live on the skirts of the town, wraps up his name in the mummy-cloth of a Spencer, and secures a long-enduring fame by inventing a short coat.
It is not generally known, that names may be affected, and even completely changed, by the state of the weather. Such, however, is unquestionably the case. The late Mr. Suet, the actor, going once to dine about twenty miles from London, and being only able to get an outside place on the coach, arrived in such a bedraggled state from an incessant rain, and so muffled up in greatcoats and pocket-handkerchiefs, that his friend inquired, doubtingly — “ Are you Sueto”“No!” replied the wag—“I'm dripping !”
Contracting a name sometimes lengthens the idea. Kean mentions an actor of the name of Lancaster, whom his comrades usually called Lanky, for shortness.
NOBLEMAN-One who is indebted to his ancestors for a name and an estate, and sometimes to himself for being unworthy of both. It was said of an accomplished and amiable earl, who was weak enough to be always boasting his title and his birth—“ What a pity he is a nobleman; he really deserves to have been born a commoner.”
NONSENSE-Sense that happens to differ from our own, supposing that we have any. If matter and mind, blending together in two incoherent substances, form the connecting link that separates physics from metaphysics, the real from the imaginary, and the visible from the unapparent, it follows as a precursive corollary, that the learned comments of the scholiasts, the dogmas of theologians, and the elaborate treatises of the Byzantine historians, can never be recognized as evidences of a foregone conclusion. Statistics and algebra, as well as logic and analogy, equally rebut the inference that in a case of so complicated a nature, the deposition of a mere functionary can be received as the spontaneous evidence of a compulsory principal. Cases may doubtless arise, where legal deductions, drawn from federal rather than from feudal institutes, will vary the superstructure upon which the whole theory was based; but in the present instance, such objections must be deemed rather captious than analytical. On the whole it is presumed that the reader who has carefully perused and reconsidered our arguments, will be at little loss to understand the nature of the word, of which we have written this clear and explanatory definition. Should he, however, not be satisfied, he is referred to Voltaire's Galimathias, beginning “ Un jour qu'il faisoit nuit,” &c.
NON SEQUITUR—A grammatical Adam, being a relative without an ante-cedent:-something that is apropos to nothing, and comes after without following from. Of this figure there are various sorts; but the most common form is putting the
cart before the horse, or taking the effect for the cause. The industrious, prudent, and enlightened people of this country have thriven and grown great and rich, not always in consequence of good, but in spite of bad government. Their native shrewdness and energy have enabled them to triumph over impediments, political, fiscal, and commercial, which would have completely crushed à less active and enterprising nation. When, therefore, they are desired to reverence the misgoverned and the unreformed institutions, to which alone they are told to consider themselves indebted for all the advantages they enjoy, one cannot help recalling the non sequitur of the Carmelite friar, who instanced as a striking proof of the superintendence and goodness of Providence, that it almost invariably made a river run completely through the middle of every large city. Somewhat akin to this instance of naïveté was the reply of the Birmingham boy, who being asked whether some shillings, which he tendered at a shop, were good, answered with great simplicity, " Ay, that they be, for I seed father make 'em all this morning.”
NOVELIST-An autocrat of tremendous power. If four or five men are in a room, and show a disposition to break the peace, no human magistrate (not even Mr. Justice Bayley) could do more than bind them over to keep the peace, and commit them if they refused. But the writer of the novel stands with a pen in his hand, and can run any of them through the body, -can knock down any one individual, and keep the others upon their legs; or, like the last scene in the first. tragedy written by a young man of genius, can put them all to death. Now, an author possessing such extraordinary privileges, should not suffer his hero to have a black eye, or to be pulled by the nose. The Iliad would never have come down to these times if Agamemnon had given Achilles a box on the ear. We should have trembled for the Æneid, if any Tyrian nobleman had kicked the pious Æneas in the 4th book. Æneas may have deserved it; but he could not have founded the Roman Empire after so distressing an accident.
NOVELTY-What we recover from oblivion. We can fish little out of the river Lethe that has not first been thrown into it. The world of discovery goes round without advancing, like a squirrel in its cage, and the revolution of one century differs but little from that of its predecessors. New performers mount the stage, but the piece and its accompaniments remain pretty much the same. Trumpets and taxes are the characteristics of the present era. No security without immense standing armies, no army without pay, no pay without taxes. It is a grievance which we cannot avoid, and of which, therefore, it were as well to say nothing; but if Tacitus is not silent on the subject, who can be ? “ Neque quies gentium,” says that historian, “sine armis, neque arma sine stipendiis, neque stipendia sine tributis haberi queunt.”
In the two extremes of life we have the most acute sense of novelty. To the boy all is new: to the old man, when this world no longer offers variety or change, is presented the most stimulating of all novelties—the contemplation of a new existence.
Shakspeare “exhausted worlds, and then imagined new ;” but this is a privilege conceded to none but the chosen sons of genius. Common writers can only become original, when they have exhausted nature, by becoming unnatural. Like a mountebank at a fair, they surprise our attention by their extravagance, but they cannot keep it. We shrug our shoulders, and forget them. Many are the writers, nevertheless, who prefer a momentary fool's cap to a distant laurel. :
NOVEMBER—The period at which most Englishmen take leave of the sun for nine months, and not a few of them for ever. A demure Scottish lady having been introduced to the Persian ambassador when in London, exclaimed with an incredulous air, “Is it possible that ye are such idolaters in Persia as to worship the sun?” “Yes, madam,” was the reply," and so you would in England, if you ever saw him.”
OATH_LEGALMaking the awful and infinite Deity a party to all the trivial and vulgar impertinences of human life: an act of profanation equally required from a church-warden and an