Page images
PDF
EPUB

resented by its victims. For two centuries, at least, the French presented the anomaly of a polished, intellectual, enslaved people. Nay, they could record their degradation, and seem to glory in it. The terror of Europe, named, par excellence, the Grand Monarque, was the puppet of an old woman, the widow of Scarron, the buffoon, whom he had clandestinely married. “The State is myself,” said Louis XIV.; an ebullition of despotism imitated in our own times by Napoleon; so besotting is the cup of unlimited power. In its self-punishing operation, it generally weakens the mind, until the enslaver becomes a slave, either to a mistress or a favorite, if not to both.

There is a natural connection between despotic governments and depraved manners,-free governments and comparative purity. Free institutions not only open to the rich higher and more worthy objects of ambition than the gratification of the senses, but operate as a wholesome restraint upon the upper ranks, by making thein dependent, in some degree, on the good opinion of the lower classes. Where character is power, we have the best security for general morality.

Perhaps the worst thing ever uttered by Madame de Staël, was her speech to the Emperor of Russia :-“Sir, your character is a constitution for your country, and your conscience its guarantee;" nor is there a better kingly speech upon record than his reply,—“Even if it were so, I should never be any thing more than a lucky accident."

DESTINY—The scapegoat which we make responsible for all our crimes and follies; a necessity which we set down for invincible, when we have no wish to strive against it.

DESTINY – MANIFEST — A political fallacy, by which second-rate statesmen endeavor to prove the righteousness of national Fillibusterism. They should remember that God, not Tammany, shapes the destiny of a great nation; and that the self-elected interpreters of His will are madly “rushing in where angels fear to tread.” That God, for his all-wise purposes, permitted a Napoleon to ravage Europe, does not make Napoleon less & wholesale murderer ; nor justify the silly

bravadoes of pot-house-destiny men. Man proposes and God disposes. As with individuals, so with nations, “the coursers of Time hurry on the light car of our destiny, and all we can do is in cool self-possession to hold the reins with a firm hand, and to guide the wheels, now to the left, now to the right, avoiding a stone here or a precipice there."

DIET—The edibles and potables that we turn into blood and bone—the matter that we metamorphose into mind. “Sir,” said Bentley to one of his pupils, who had a predilection for malt liquor, “ if you drink ale you will think ale; " and there was more truth in the averment than might at first sight be imagined, for body and mind must assimilate, to a certain extent, with that which sustains them. Look at the difference of disposition between the carnivorous and graminivorous animals : the latter, who seem to be nature's unweaned favorites, are peaceful as the boson upon which they browse ; the former, doomed to be constantly tearing one another, and to live by blood and slaughter, are constitutionally savage and ferocious. Varieties of temperament in animals will often be found to have reference to the different food in which each race delights, and it is by no means improbable that the national character of human societies may be modified by their favorite diet. The taste of each, taking that word in its most extended acceptation, may be traceable to the palate. The suppleness and levity of the Italian may be derived from macaroni and vermicelli; Dutch phlegm and obstinacy, from flat-fish, waterzootje, and schiedam ; German acerbity, mysticism, and melancholy, from sour-krout, sausages, and vin de grave; the insubordination of the Irish peelers and repealers, from potatoes ; French levity and vivacity, from ragouts and champagne; and the solid but somewhat crude and uncivilized character of John Bull, from his feeding upon huge joints of underdone beef.

DILEMMA-for the doctors.—Complaint having lately been made in a Yorkshire hospital, that an old Hibernian would not submit to the prescribed remedies, one of the committee proceeded to expostulate with him, when he defended himself by exclaiming—“Sure, your honor, wasn't it a blister they wanted to put upon my back? and I only tould’em it was althegither impossible, for I've such a mighty dislike to them blisters, that put 'em where you will, they are sure to go agin my stomach."

DILEMMA_LOGICAL — à verbal checkmate. Aristotle wishing to refute the opinion of Protagoras, who maintained that there was nothing true in the world, argued thus:-"Your proposition is either true or false : if it is false, we are not, of course, bound to believe it; if it is true, there is such a thing as truth in the world, and consequently your proposition is false.” These clinches were once in great favor with the sophists and logicians, but they were never worth the pains bestowed upon them, and have deservedly fallen into oblivion. The puzzling instance given in Johnson's Dictionary under the word Dilemma, is recorded by Apuleius, as well as by Aulus Gellius in his Attic Nights. Our special pleading is the last remnant of these verbal quibbles, and the sooner it is exploded the better. The age of words is passing away, as well as the impostures and delusions to which they gave a species of sanction.

In exploding these verbal frauds it should be well understood that they may be still practised, if we can reduce the great enemy of mankind to a non plus, in imitation of the wily friar, who sold his soul to him upon condition that all his debts should be paid. Money was supplied in abundance, until he was extricated from his difficulties; but when Satan came to claim the soul that was due to him, the friar answered, “Begone, thou swindler! If I owe thee any thing, I am not yet out of debt, and if I do not owe thee any thing, why dost thou trouble me?"

Shrewd and quickwitted was the reply of the miser, who on being requested by a dervish to grant him a favor, said, “On one condition I will do whatever you require.”—“ What is that?”—“Never to ask me for any thing.”

DINNER-A meal taken at supper time; formerly considered a means of enjoying society, and therefore moderate in

[ocr errors]

expense, and frequent in occurrence; now given to display yourself, not to gratify your friends; and inhospitably rare, because it is foolishly extravagant.

John Bulwer, a quaint writer of the seventeenth century, especially recommends the following three dinner rules : Stridor dentium-Altum silentium-Rumor gentium; which has been humorously translated, “Work for the jaws-A silent pause–Frequent Ha-has!"

Properly understood and used, an excellent and wellarranged dinner is the culminating point of all civilization.' It is not only the descending morsel, and the enveloping saucebut the rank, wealth, wit, and beauty which surround the meats—the learned management of light and heat--the silent and rapid services of the attendants—the smiling and sedulous host, proffering guests and relishes—the exotic bottles the embossed plate—the pleasant remarks—the handsome dresses —the cunning artifices in fruit and farina! The hour of dinner, in short, includes every thing of sensual and intellectual gratification which a great nation glories in producing.

DISCIPLINE-MILITARY—That subordination which is maintained upon the continent by the hope of distinction, in England by the fear of the cat-o’-nine-tails. Nothing is so reluctantly abandoned by despots, whether kings, pedagogues, officers, or magistrates, as any oppressive cruelty which they imagine to be connected with the maintenance of their authority. A tyrant not only gratifies his malignity, but saves all trouble of argument or proper management, by the use of the whip, which may account for the disgraceful floggings still so prevalent in our schools, army, and navy. This remnant of a barbarous age must soon pass away, and if our flogging disciplinarians would pass away at the same time, we should all be gainers by their loss. The cat-o’-nine-tails must have as many lives as tails, or it never could have lasted so long.

DISCONTENT–Being unhappy at the non-possession of that, of which the possession would not make us happy. Whence comes it that most men are satisfied with their country, to

whatever sufferings its climate may 'expose them, while few or none are satisfied with their lot? In the former instance, a man is on a par with his neighbors; in the latter, the mass being necessarily inferior to the few, pride makes them imagine that they are all too low, because they are not all at the top.

To those who repine at the humbleness of their lot, without knowing to what eventual distinctions they may be destined, we recommend a perusal of the apologue with which Addison concludes, one of his moral essays. A drop of water falling from the clouds into the ocean, became discontented with its insignificance, and complained that in the loss of its identity, it was in fact annihilated. In the midst of these murmurs, it was swallowed by an oyster, became converted, in process of time, into a gem, and finally constituted that celebrated pearl which adorns the top of the Persian diadem.

DISCOVERER—That man is not the discoverer of any art who first says the thing ; but he who first says it so long, and so loud, and so clearly, that he compels mankind to hear himthe man who is so deeply impressed with the importance of the discovery that he will take no denial, but at the risk of fortune and fame, pushes through all opposition, and is determined that what he thinks he has discovered shall not perish for want of a fair trial. Other persons had noticed the effect of coal gas in producing light; but Winsor worried the town with bad English for three winters before he could attract any serious attention to his views. Many persons broke stone before Macadam, but Macadam felt the discovery more strongly, stated it more clearly, persevered in it with greater tenacity, wielded his hammer, in short, with greater force than other men, and finally succeeded in bringing his plan into general use.

DISCOVERY—differs from invention. The former may be accidental, and only makes known that which had previously existed; the latter implies creation, or, at least, a new combination of old materials.

To surrender the fair honor of any discovery, by naming it after the reigning monarch, is an absurd act of sycophancy,

« PreviousContinue »