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I am a poor nameless egotist, who have no mend them to the reader's attention, if he vanity to consult by these Confessions. I find his own case any way touched. I have know not whether I shall be laughed at, or told him what I am come to. Let him stop heard seriously. Such as they are, I com-l in time.
1.-THAT A BULLY IS ALWAYS A COWARD. eminence :—“Bully Dawson kicked by half
This axiom contains a principle of com- the town, and half the town kicked by pensation, which disposes us to admit the Bully Dawson.” This was true distributive truth of it. But there is no safe trusting to justice. dictionaries and definitions. We should more willingly fall in with this popular
II.—THAT ILL-GOTTEN GAIN NEVER PROSPERS, language, if we did not find brutality sometimes awkwardly coupled with valour in the The weakest part of mankind have this same vocabulary. The comic writers, with saying commonest in their mouth. It is the their poetical justice, have contributed not a trite consolation administered to the easy little to mislead us upon this point. To see dupe, when he has been tricked out of his a hectoring fellow exposed and beaten upon money or estate, that the acquisition of it the stage, has something in it wonderfully will do the owner no good. But the rogues diverting. Some people's share of animal of this world—the prudenter part of them, spirits is notoriously low and defective. It at least,-know better; and if the obserhas not strength to raise a vapour, or furnish vation had been as true as it is old, would out the wind of a tolerable bluster. These not have failed by this time to have love to be told that huffing is no part of discovered it. They have pretty sharp valour. The truest courage with them is distinctions of the fluctuating and the that which is the least noisy and obtrusive. permanent. “Lightly come, lightly go,” is But confront one of these silent heroes with a proverb, which they can very well afford the swaggerer of real life, and his confidence to leave, when they leave little else, to the in the theory quickly vanishes. Pretensions losers. They do not always find manors, got do not uniformly bespeak non-performance. by rapine or chicanery, insensibly to melt A modest, inoffensive deportment does not away, as the poets will have it; or that all necessarily imply valour ; neither does the gold glides, like thawing snow, from the absence of it justify us in denying that thief's hand that grasps it. Church land, quality. Hickman wanted modesty-we do alienated to lay uses, was formerly denounced not mean him of Clarissa—but who ever to have this slippery quality. But some doubted his courage ? Even the poets- portions of it somehow always stuck so fast, upon whom this equitable distribution of that the denunciators have been fain to qualities should be most binding-have postpone the prophecy of refundment to a thought it agreeable to nature to depart late posterity. from the rule upon occasion. Harapha, in the “ Agonistes,” is indeed a bully upon the III.-THAT A MAN MUST NOT LAUGH AT HIS received notions. Milton has made him at once a blusterer, a giant, and a dastard. But THE severest exaction surely ever invented Almanzor, in Dryden, talks of driving armies upon the self-denial of poor human nature ! singly before him—and does it. Tom Brown This is to expect a gentleman to give a treat had a shrewder insight into this kind of without partaking of it ; to sit esurient at character than either of his predecessors. his own table, and commend the flavour of He divides the palm more equably, and his venison upon the absurd strength of his allows his hero a sort of dimidiate pre- never touching it himself. On the contrary,
we love to see a wag taste his own joke to from the pews lined with satin. It is twice his party; to watch a quirk or a merry sitting upon velvet to a foolish squire to be conceit flickering upon the lips some seconds told, that he—and not perverse nature, as the before the tongue is delivered of it. If it be homilies would make us imagine, is the true good, fresh, and racy—begotten of the cause of all the irregularities in his parish. occasion ; if he that utters it never thought This is striking at the root of free-will indeed, it before, he is naturally the first to be and denying the originality of sin in any tickled with it; and any suppression of such sense. But men are not such implicit sheep complacence we hold to be churlish and as this comes to. If the abstinence from evil insulting. What does it seem to imply but on the part of the upper classes is to derive that your company is weak or foolish enough itself from no higher principle than the to be moved by an image or a fancy, that apprehension of setting ill patterns to the shall stir you not at all, or but faintly ? lower, we beg leave to discharge them from This is exactly the humour of the fine all squeamishness on that score : they may gentleman in Mandeville, who, while he even take their fill of pleasures, where they dazzles his guests with the display of some can find them. The Genius of Poverty, costly toy, affects himself to “see nothing hampered and straitened as it is, is not so considerable in it."
barren of invention, but it can trade upon the staple of its own vice, without drawing
upon their capital. The poor are not quite 1V.—THAT SUCH A ONE SHOWS HIS BREEDING. such servile imitators as they take them for.
—THAT IT IS EASY TO PERCEIVE HE IS Some of them are very clever artists in their NO GENTLEMAN.
way. Here and there we find an original. A SPEECH from the poorest sort of people, who taught the poor to steal, to pilfer? which always indicates that the party They did not go to the great for schoolmasvituperated is a gentleman. The very fact ters in these faculties surely. It is well if in which they deny is that which galls and some vices they allow us to be—no copyists. exasperates them to use this language. The In no other sense is it true that the poor forbearance with which it is usually received copy them, than as servants may be said to is a proof what interpretation the by-stander take after their masters and mistresses, when sets upon it. Of a kin to this, and still less they succeed to their reversionary cold meats. politic, are the phrases with which, in their If the master, from indisposition or some street rhetoric, they ply one another more other cause, neglect his food, the servant grossly ;-He is a poor creature. He has not dines notwithstanding. a rag to cover
ugh this last, we “0, but (some will say) the force of confess, is more frequently applied by females example is great.” We knew a lady who to females. They do not perceive that the was so scrupulous on this head, that she satire glances upon themselves. A poor would put up with the calls of the most man, of all things in the world, should not impertinent visitor, rather than let her serupbraid an antagonist with poverty. Are vant say she was not at home, for fear of there no other topics—as, to tell him his teaching her maid to tell an untruth ; and father was hanged-his sister, &c. - this in the very face of the fact, which she without exposing a secret which should be knew well enough, that the wench was one kept snug between them ; and doing an of the greatest liars upon the earth without affront to the order to which they have the teaching ; so much so, that her mistress honour equally to belong? All this while possibly never heard two words of consecuthey do not see how the wealthier man tive truth from her in her life. But nature stands by and laughs in his sleeve at both. must go for nothing : example must be every
thing. This liar in grain, who never opened
her mouth without a lie, must be guarded V.—THAT
against a remote inference, which she (pretty
casuist :) might possibly draw from a form A SMOOTH text to the letter ; and, preached of words — literally false, but essentially from the pulpit, is sure of a docile audience deceiving no one-that under some circum
THE VICES OF
THE POOR COPY
VII.-OF TWO DISPUTANTS THE WARMEST IS
GENERALLY IN THE WRONG.
stances a fib might not be so exceedingly true only in a wet season. This, and abundsinful—a fiction, too, not at all in her own ance of similar sage saws assuming to inculway, or one that she could be suspected of cate content, we verily believe to have been adopting, for few servant-wenches care to be the invention of some cunning borrower, who denied to visitors.
had designs upon the purse of his wealthier This word example reminds us of another neighbour, which he could only hope to carry fine word which is in use upon these occa- by force of these verbal jugglings. Translate sions—encouragement. “People in our sphere any one of these sayings out of the artful must not be thought to give encouragement metonymy which envelopes it, and the trick to such proceedings.” To such a frantic is apparent. Goodly legs and shoulders of height is this principle capable of being mutton, exhilarating cordials, books, pictures, carried, that we have known individuals who the opportunities of seeing foreign countries, have thought it within the scope of their independence, heart's ease, a man's own time influence to sanction despair, and give éclat to himself, are not muck—however we may to-suicide. A domestic in the family of a be pleased to scandalise with that appellacounty member lately deceased, from love, or tion the faithful metal that provides them some unknown cause, cut his throat, but not for us. successfully. The
fellow was otherwise much loved and respected; and great interest was used in his behalf, upon his recovery, that he might be permitted to retain his place ; his word being first pledged, not
Our experience would lead us to quite an without some substantial sponsors to promise opposite conclusion. Temper, indeed, is no for him, that the like should never happen test of truth ; but warmth and earnestness again. His master was inclinable to keep are a proof at least of a man's own conviction hin, but his mistress thought otherwise ; of the rectitude of that which he maintains. and John in the end was dismissed, her lady- Coolness is as often the result of an unprinship declaring that she could not think of cipled indifference to truth or falsehood, as encouraging any such doings in the county.” of a sober confidence in a man's own side in
a dispute. Nothing is more insulting sometimes than the appearance of this philoso
phic temper. There is little Titubus, the Not a man, woman, or child, in ten miles stammering law-stationer in Lincoln's-innround Guildhall, who really believes this we have seldom known this shrewd little saying. The inventor of it did not believe it fellow engaged in an argument where we himself. It was made in revenge by some
were not convinced he had the best of it, if body, who was disappointed of a regale. It his tongue would but fairly have seconded is a vile cold-scrag-of-mutton sophism ; a lie him. When he has been spluttering excelpalmed upon the palate, which knows better lent broken sense for an hour together, things. If nothing else could be said for a writhing and labouring to be delivered of feast, this is sufficient, that from the super- the point of dispute—the very gist of the flux there is usually something left for the controversy knocking at his teeth, which like next day. Morally interpreted, it belongs to some obstinate iron-grating still obstructed a class of proverbs which have a tendency to its deliverance—his puny frame convulsed, make us undervalue money. Of this cast and face reddening all over at an unfairness are those notable observations, that money is in the logic which he wanted articulation to not health ; riches cannot purchase every- expose, it bas moved our gall to see a smooth thing : the metaphor which makes gold to portly fellow of an adversary, that cared be mere muck, with the morality which not a button for the merits of the question, traces fine clothing to the sheep's back, and by merely laying his hand upon the head of denounces pearl as the unhandsome excre- the stationer, and desiring him to be calm tion of an oyster. Hence, too, the phrase (your tall disputants have always the advanwhich imputes dirt to acres—a sophistry so tage), with a provoking sneer carry the tarefaced, that even the literal sense of it is argument clean from him in the opinion of
VI.--THAT ENOUGH IS AS GOOD AS A FEAST.
BECAUSE THEY WILL NOT BEAR A TRANS-
all the by-standers, who have gone away Who has not at one time or other been at a clearly convinced that Titubus must have party of professors (himself perhaps an old been in the wrong, because he was in a offender in that line), where, after ringing a passion; and that Mr. meaning his round of the most ingenious conceits, every opponent, is one of the fairest and at the man contributing his shot, and some there same time one of the most dispassionate the most expert shooters of the day; after arguers breathing.
making a poor word run the gauntlet till it is ready to drop ; after hunting and winding
it through all the possible ambages of similar VIII.—THAT VERBAL ALLUSIONS ARE NOT WIT, sounds; after squeezing, and hauling, and
tugging at it, till the very milk of it will not
yield a drop further,-suddenly some obscure, The same might be said of the wittiest unthought-of fellow in a corner, who was local allusions. A custom is sometimes as never 'prentice to the trade, whom the comdifficult to explain to a foreigner as a pun. pany for very pity passed over, as we do by & What would become of a great part of the known poor man when a money-subscription wit of the last age, if it were tried by this is going round, no one calling upon him for test? How would certain topics, as alder- his quota-has all at once come out with manity, cuckoldry, have sounded to a Teren- something so whimsical, yet so pertinent ; so tian auditory, though Terence himself had brazen in its pretensions, yet so impossible been alive to translate them ? Senator to be denied ; so exquisitely good, and so urbanus with Curruca to boot for a synonyme, deplorably bad, at the same time,-that it would but faintly have done the business. has proved a Robin Hood's shot; anything Words, involving notions, are hard enough ulterior to that is despaired of; and the to render; it is too much to expect us to party breaks up, unanimously voting it to be translate a sound, and give an elegant version the very worst (that is, best) pun of the to a jingle. The Virgilian harmony is not evening. This species of wit is the better translatable, but by substituting harmonious for not being perfect in all its parts. What sounds in another language for it. To Latin- it gains in completeness, it loses in naturalise a pun, we must seek a pun in Latin, that ness. The more exactly it satisfies the will answer to it; as, to give an idea of the critical, the less hold it has upon some other double endings in Hudibras, we must have faculties. The puns which are most enterrecourse to a similar practice in the old taining are those which will least bear an monkish doggrel. Dennis, the fiercest op- analysis. Of this kind is the following, repugner of puns in ancient or modern times, corded with a sort of stigma, in one of Swift's professes himself highly tickled with the Miscellanies. “a stick,” chiming to “ecclesiastic.” Yet An Oxford scholar, meeting a porter who what is this but a species of pun, a verbal was carrying a hare through the streets, consonance ?
accosts him with this extraordinary question : “Prithee, friend, is that thy own hare, or a
IX.-THAT THE WORST PUNS ARE THE BEST.
There is no excusing this, and no resisting If by worst be only meant the most far- it. A man might blur ten sides of paper fetched and startling, we agree to it. A pun in attempting a defence of it against a critic is not bound by the laws which limit nicer who should be laughter-proof. The quibble wit. It is a pistol let off at the ear; not a in itself is not considerable. It is only a feather to tickle the intellect. It is an antic new turn given by a little false pronunciation, which does not stand upon manners, but to a very common, though not very courteous comes bounding into the presence, and does inquiry. Put by one gentleman to another at not show the less comic for being dragged a dinner-party, it would have been vapid; to in sometimes by the head and shoulders. the mistress of the house it would have What though it limp a little, or prove de- shown much less wit than rudeness. We fective in one leg -all the better. A pun must take in the totality of time, place, and may easily be too curious and artificial. person ; the pert look of the inquiring
scholar, the desponding looks of the puzzled impression, to be forcible, must be simultaporter : the one stopping at leisure, the other neous and undivided. hurrying on with his burden; the innocent though rather abrupt tendency of the first
X.-THAT HANDSOME IS THAT HANDSOME DOES. member of the question, with the utter and inextricable irrelevancy of the second ; the THOSE who use this proverb can never place-a public street, not favourable to frivo- have seen Mrs. Conrady. lous investigations ; the affrontive quality of The soul, if we may believe Plotinus, is a the primitive inquiry (the common question) ray from the celestial beauty. As she parinvidiously transferred to the derivative (the takes more or less of this heavenly light, she new turn given to it) in the implied satire ; informs, with corresponding characters
, the namely, that few of that tribe are expected fleshly tenement which she chooses, and to eat of the good things which they carry, frames to herself a suitable mansion. they being in most countries considered All which only proves that the soul of Mrs. rather as the temporary trustees than owners Conrady, in her pre-existent state, was no of such dainties, which the fellow was great judge of architecture. beginning to understand ; but then the wig To the same effect, in a Hymn in honour again comes in, and he can make nothing of of Beauty, divine Spenser platonising, it; all put together constitute a picture : sings :Hogarth could have made it intelligible on
Every spirit as it is more pure, canvass.
And hath in it the more of heavenly light, Yet nine out of ten critics will pronounce So it the fairer body doth procure this a very bad pun, because of the defective To habit in, and it more fairly dight
With cheerful grace and amiable sight. ness in the concluding member, which is its
For of :he soul the body form doth take : very beauty, and constitutes the surprise. For soul is form and doth the body make. The same person shall cry up for admirable the cold quibble from Virgil about the But Spenser, it is clear, never saw Mrs. broken Cremona ;* because it is made out
Conrady. in all its parts, and leaves nothing to the
These poets, we find, are no safe guides in imagination. We venture to call it cold; philosophy ; for here, in his very next stanza because, of thousands who have admired it,
but one, is a saving clause, which throws us it would be difficult to find one who has all out again, and leaves us as much to seek heartily chuckled at it. As appealing to the judgment merely (setting the risible faculty Yet oft it falls, that many a gentle mind aside), we must pronounce it a monument of
Dwells in deformed tabernacle drown'd,
Either by chance, against the course of kind, curious felicity. But as some stories are said
Or through unaptness in the substance found, to be too good to be true, it may with equal
Which it assumed of some stubborn ground,
That will not yield unto her form's direction, truth be asserted of this biverbal allusion,
But is performed with some foul imperfection, that it is too good to be natural. One cannot help suspecting that the incident was in- From which it would follow, that Spenser vented to fit the line. It would have been had seen somebody like Mrs. Conrady. better had it been less perfect. Like some The spirit of this good lady-her previous Virgilian hemistichs, it has suffered by filling anima—must have stumbled upon 'one of up. . The nimium Vicina was enough in these untoward tabernacles which he speaks conscience; the Cremonce afterwards loads it. of. A more rebellious commodity of clay for It is, in fact, a double pun; and we have a ground, as the poet calls it, no gentle mind always observed that a superfætation in this and sure hers is one of the gentlest-ever sort of wit is dangerous. When a man has had to deal with said a good thing, it is seldom politic to follow Pondering upon her inexplicable visagem it up. We do not care to be cheated a inexplicable, we mean, but by this modificasecond time ; or, perhaps the mind of man tion of the theory-we have come to a con(with reverence be it spoken) is not capacious clusion that, if one must be plain, it is better enough to lodge two puns at a time. The to be plain all over, than anidst a tolerable
residue of features to hang out one that shall