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Hor. Ar's Poct. ver. 361.
She immediately adjusted it, and looking a reason, I shall enter upon my present un little seriously, "Well,' says she, I will dertaking with greater cheerfulness. be hanged if you and your silent friend In this, and one or two following papers, there are not against the doctor in your I shall trace out the history of false wit, and hearts, I suspected as much by his saying distinguish the several kinds of it as they nothing.' Upon this she took her fan in her have prevailed in different ages of the hand, and upon the opening of it, again dis- world." This I think the more necessary at played to us the figure of the doctor, who present, because I observed there were was placed with great gravity among the attempts on foot last winter to revive some sticks of it. In a word, I found that the of those antiquated modes of wit that have doctor had taken possession of her thoughts, been long, exploded out of the commonher discourse, and most of her furniture; wealth of letters. There were several but finding myself pressed too close by her satires and panegyrics handed about in question, I winked upon my friend to take acrostic, by which means some of the most his leave, which he did accordingly. arrant undisputed blockheads about the
town began to entertain ambitious thoughts,
and to set up for polite authors. I shall No 58. ] Monday, May 7, 1711.
therefore describe at length those many
arts of false wit, in which a writer does not Ut pictura poesis erit
show himself a man of a beautiful genius,
but of great industry. Poems like pictures are.
The first species of false wit which I Nothing is so much admired, and so have met with is very venerable for its anlittle understood, as wit. No author that I tiquity, and has produced several pieces know of has written professedly upon it; which have lived very near as long as the and as for those who make any mention of Iliad itself: I mean those short poems it, they only treat on the subject as it has printed among the minor Greek poets, accidentally fallen in their way, and that which resemble the figure of an egg, a pair too in little short reflections, or in general of wings, an axe, a shepherd's pipe, and declamatory flourishes, without entering an altar. into the bottom of the matter. I hope
As for the first, it is a little oval poem, therefore I shall perform an acceptable and may not improperly be called a schowork to my countrymen, if I treat at large lar's egg: I would endeavour to hatch it, or upon this subject; which I shall endeavour in more intelligible language, to translate it to do in a manner suitable to it, that I may into English, did not I find the interpretaDot incur the censure which a famous critic* tion of it very difficult; for the author seems bestows upon one who had written a trea- to have been more intent upon the figure tise on the sublime' in a low grovelling of his poem than upon the sense of it. style. I intend to lay aside a whole week The pair of wings consist of twelve for this undertaking, that the scheme of verses, or rather feathers, every verse demy thoughts may not be broken and in- creasing gradually in its measure according terrupted; and I dare promise myself, if to its situation in the wing. The subject of my readers will give me a week's attention, it (as in the rest of the poems which follow) that this great city will be very much bears some remote affinity with the figure, changed for the better by next Saturday for it describes a god of love, who is always night I shall endeavour to make what I painted with wings. say intelligible to ordinary capacities, but if The axe methinks would have been a my readers meet with any paper that in good figure for a lampoon, had the edge of some parts of it may be a little out of their it consisted of the most satirical parts of reach, I would not have them discouraged, the work; but as it is in the original, I take for they may assure themselves the next it to have been nothing else but the posy of shall be much clearer.
an axe which was consecrated to Minerva, As the great and only end of these my and was thought to have been the same speculations is to banish vice and ignorance that Epeus made use of in the building of out of the territories of Great Britain, I the Trojan horse; which is a hint I shall shall endeavour as much as possible to leave to the consideration of the critics. I establish among us a taste of polite writing. am apt to think that the posy was written It is with this view that I have endeavoured originally upon the axe, like those which to set my readers right in several points our modern cutlers inscribe upon their relating to operas and tragedies; and shall knives; and that therefore the posy still retrom time to time impart my notions of mains in its ancient shape, though the axe comedy, as I think they may tend to its re- itself is lost. finement and perfection. I find by my
The shepherd's pipe may be said to be bookseller, that these papers of criticism, full of music, for it is composed of nine difwith that upon humour, have met with a ferent kinds of verses, whích by their sevemore kind reception than indeed I could ral lengths resemble the nine stops of the have hoped for from such subjects; for this old musical instrument, that is likewise the
subject of the poem. • Longinus.
The altar is inscribed with the epitaph
of Troilus the son of Hecuba; which, by ture. I would humbly propose, for the the way, makes me believe, that these false benefit of our modern smatterers in poetry, pieces of wit are much more ancient than that they would imitate their brethren the authors to whom they are generally among the ancients in those ingenious deascribed; at least I will never be persuaded, vices. I have communicated this thought that so fine a writer as Theocritus could to a young poetical lover of my acquainthave been the author of any such simple ance,' who intends to present his mistress Forks.
with a copy of verses made in the shape of It was impossible for a man to succeed in her fan: and if he tells me true, has alreathese performances who was not a kind of dy finished the three first sticks of it. He painter, or at least a designer. He was first has likewise promised me to get the meaof all to draw the outline of the subject sure of his mistress's marriage finger, with which he intended to write upon, and after- a design to make a posy in the fashion of a wards conform the description to the figure ring, which shall exactly fit it. It is so very of his subject. The poetry was to contract easy to enlarge upon a good hint, that I or dilate itself according to the mould in do not question but my ingenious readers which it was cast. In a word, the verses will apply what I have said to many other were to be cramped or extended to the particulars: and that we shall see the town dimensions of the frame that was prepared filled in a very little time with poetical tipfor them; and to undergo the fate of those pets, handkerchiefs, snuff-boxes, and the persons whom the tyrant Procustes used like female ornaments. I shall therefore to lodge in his iron bed; if they were too conclude with a word of advice to those adshort, he stretched them on a rack; and if mirable English authors who call themthey were too long, chopped off a part of selves Pindaric writers, that they would aptheir legs, till they fitted the couch which ply themselves to this kind of wit without loss he had prepared for them.
of time, as being provided better than any Mr. Dryden hints at this obsolete kind other poets with verses of all sizes and diof wit in one of the following verses in his mensions.
C. Mac Flecno; which an English reader cannot understand, who does not know that there are those little poems above-men- No. 59.] Tuesday, May 8, 1711. tioned in the shape of wings and altars: - Choose for thy command
Operose nihil agunt. Some peaceful province in acrostic land;
Busy about nothing. There may'st thou wings display, and altars raise, THERE is nothing more certain than that And torture one poor word a thousand ways.'
every man would be a wit if he could; and This fashion of false wit was revived by notwithstanding pedants of a pretended several poets of the last age, and in par- depth and solidity are apt to decry the wri ticular may be met with among Mr. Her- tings of a polite author, as flash and froth, bert's poems; and, if I am not mistaken, in they all of them show upon occasion, that the translation of Du Bartas. I do not re- they would spare no pains to arrive at the member any other kind of work among the character of those whom they seem to desmoderns which more resembles the per- pise. For this reason we often find them formances I have mentioned, than that endeavouring at works of fancy, which cost famous picture of king Charles the First, them infinite pangs in the production. The which has the whole book of Psalms writ- truth of it is, a man had better be a galley ten in the lines of the face, and the hair of slave than a wit, were one to gain that title the head. When I was last at Oxford, I by those elaborate trifles which have been perused one of the whiskers, and was read the inventions of such authors as were ing the other, but could not go so far in it as often masters of great learning, but no I would have done, by reason of the im-genius. patience of my friends and fellow-travel- In my last paper I mentioned some of Iers, who all of them pressed to see such a those false wits among the ancients, and piece of curiosity. I have since heard, that in this shall give the reader two or three there is now an eminent writing-master in other species of them, that flourished in the town, who has transcribed all the Old Tes- same early ages of the world. The first I tament in a full-bottomed periwig; and if shall produce are the lipogrammatists or the fashion should introduce the thick kind letter-droppers of antiquity, that would take of wigs, which were in vogue some years an exception, without any reason, against ago, he promises to add two or three super- some particular letter in the alphabet, so numerary locks that shall contain all the as not to admit it once into a whole poem. Apocrypha. He designed this wig origi- One Tryphiodorus was a great master in nally for king William, having disposed of this kind of writing. He composed an the two books of Kings in the two forks of Odyssey or epic poem on the adventures the foretop; but that glorious monarch dy- of Ulysses, consisting of four and twenty ing before the wig was finished, there is a books, having entirely banished the letter å space left in it for the face of any one that from his first book, which was called Alpha has a mind to purchase it.
(as lucus a non lucendo) because there was But to return to our ancient poems in pic-I not an Alpha in it. His second book was inscribed Beta for the same reason. In short, i Among innumerable instances that may be the poet excluded the whole four and twen- given of this nature, I shall produce the ty letters in their turns, and showed them, device of one Mr. Newberry, as I find it cne after another, that he could do his bus mentioned by our learned Camden in his siness without them.
Remains. Mr. Newberry, to represent his It must have been very pleasant to have name by a picture, hung up at his door the seen this poet avoiding the reprobate letter, sign of a yew-tree, that had several berries as much as another would a false quantity, upon it, and in the midst of them a great and making his escape from it through the golden N hung upon a bough of a tree, several Greek dialects, when he was press- which by the help of a little false spelling ed with it in any particular syllable. For the made up the word N-ew-berry, most apt and elegant word in the whole I shall conclude this topic with a rebus, language was rejected, like a diamond with which has been lately hewn out in freea flaw in it, if it appeared blemished with stone, and erected over two of the portals a wrong letter. I shall only observe upon of Blenheim House, being the figure of a this head, that if the work I have here monstrous lion tearing to pieces a little mentioned had now been extant, the Odys- cock. For the better understanding of sey of Typhiodorus, in all probability, which device, I must acquaint my English would have been oftener quoted by our reader, that a cock has the misfortune to learned pedants, than the Odyssey of Ho- be called in Latin by the same word that mer. What a perpetual fund would it signifies a Frenchman, as a lion is an emhave been of obsolete words and phrases, blem of the English nation. Such a device unusual barbarisms and rusticities, absurd in so noble a pile of building, looks like a spellings, and complicated dialects? I pun in an heroic poem; and I am very make no question but it would have been sorry the truly ingenious architect would looked upon as one of the most valuable suffer the statuary to blemish his exceltreasures of the Greek tongue.
| lent plan with so poor a conceit. But I I find likewise among the ancients that hope what I have said will gain quarter for ingenious kind of conceit, which the mo- the cock, and deliver him out of the lion's, derns distinguish by the name of a rebus, paw. that does not sink a letter, but a whole I find likewise in ancient times the conword, by substituting a picture in its place. ceit of making an echo talk sensibly, and When Cæsar was one of the masters of the give rational answers. If this could be exRoman mint, he placed the figure of an ele- cusable in any writer, it would be in Ovid, phant upon the reverse of the public money; where he introduces the echo as a nymph, the word Cæsar signifying an elephant in before she was worn away into nothing but the Punic language. This was artificially a voice. The learned Erasmus, though a contrived by Cæsar, because it was not man of wit and genius, has composed a lawful for a private man to stamp his own dialogue upon this silly kind of device, and figure upon the coin of the commonwealth. made use of an echo who seems to have Cicer, who was so called from the foun-been'a very extraordinary linguist, for she, der of his family, that was marked on the answers the persons she talks with in Dose with a little wen like a vetch (which Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, according as is Cicer in Latin,) instead of Marcus Tullius she found the syllables which she was to Cicero, ordered the words Marcus Tullius, repeat in any of those learned languages. with a figure of a vetch at the end of them, Hudibras, in ridicule of this false kind of to be inscribed on a public monument. wit, has described Bruin bewailing the loss This was done probably to show that he of his bear to a solitary echo, who is of was neither ashamed of his name or family, great use to the poet in several distichs, notwithstanding the envy of his competi- as she does not only repeat after him, but tors had often reproached him with both. helps out his verse, and furnishes him with In the same manner we read of a famous rhymes. building that was marked in several parts
• He rag'd, and kept as heavy a coil as of it with the figures of a frog and a lizard; Stout Hercules for loss of Hylas; those words in Greek having been the
Forcing the valleys to repeat
The accents of his sad regret;. names of the architects, who by the laws
He beat his breast, and tore his hair, of their country were never permitted to For loss of his dear crony bear, inscribe their own names upon their works.
That Ecbo from the hollow ground
His doleful wailings did resound For the same reason it is thought, that the
More wistfully by many times, forelock of the horse in the antique eques- Than in small poet's splay-foot rhymes, trian statue of Marcus Aurelius, represents
That make her, in their rueful stories,
To answer to introgatories, at a distance the shape of an owl, to inti- And most unconscionably depose mate the country of the statuary, who, in Things of which she nothing knows: all probability, was an Athenian. This
And when she has said all she can say
'Tis wrested to the lover's fancy. kind of wit was very much in vogue among
Quoth he, O whither, wicked Bruin, our own countrymen about an age or two Art thou fled to myago, who did not practise it for any oblique I thought th' hadst scorn'd to budge a step reason, as the ancients above-mentioned,
For fear. (Quoth Echo Marry guep.
Am I not here to take thy part? but purely for the sake of being witty. Then what has quell'd thy stubur heart 1
Pers. Sat, iii. 85.
Have these bones rattled, and this head
mine not broken up, which will not show So often in thy quarrel bled ? Nor did I ever winch or grudge it,
the treasure it contains, till he shall have For thy dear sake. (Quoth she) Mum budget spent many hours in the search of it; for it is Think'st thou 'twill not be laid 'i th' dish,
his business to find out one word that conThou turn'st thy back? (Quoth Echo) Pish! To run from those th' hadst overcome
ceals itself in another, and to examine the Thus cowardly? (Quoth Echo) Mum.
letters in all the variety of stations in which But what a vengeance makes thee fly
they can possibly be ranged. I have heard From me too as thine enerny ? Or if thou hast no thought of me,
of a gentleman who, when this kind of wit Nor what I have endur'd for thee,
was in fashion, endeavoured to gain his Yet shame and honour might prevail
mistress's heart by it. She was one of the To keep thee thus from turning tail: For who would grudge to spend his blood in
finest women of her age, and known by the His honour's cause ? (Quoth she) A pudding.' name of the Lady Mary Boon. The lover not
being able to make any thing of Mary, by
certain liberties indulged to this kind of No. 60.] Wednesday, May 9 1711.
writing, converted it into Moll; and after
having shut himself up for a half year, Hoc est quod palles ? Cur quis non prandeat, Hoc est. with indefatigable industry produced an
anagram. Upon the presenting it to his Is it for this you gain those meagre looks,
mistress, who was a little vexed in her And sacrifice your dinner to your books ?
heart to see herself degraded into Moll SEVERAL kinds of false wit that vanished Boon, she told him, to his infinite surprise, in the refined ages of the world, discovered that he had mistaken hersurname, for that themselves again in the time of monkish it was not Boon, but Bohun. ignorance.
As the monks were the masters of all that little learning which was then extant, The lover was thunder-struck with his and had their whole lives entirely disen- misfortune, insomuch that in a little time gaged from business, it is no wonder that after he lost his senses, which indeed had several of them, who wanted genius for been very much impaired by that continual higher performances, employed many application he had given to his anagram. hours in the composition of such tricks in The acrostic was probably invented about writing, as required much time and little the same time with the anagram, though it capacity. I have seen half the Æneid is impossible to decide whether the inventurned into Latin rhymes by one of the tor of the one or the other were the greater beaux esprits of that dark age: who says blockhead. The simple acrostic is nothing in his preface to it, that the Æneid wanted but the name or title of a person, or thing, nothing but the sweets of rhyme to make made out of the initial letters of several it the most perfect work in its kind. I have verses, and by that means written, after the likewise seen a hymn in hexameters to manner of the Chinese, in a perpendicular the Virgin Mary, which filled a whole line. But besides these there are compound book, though it consisted but of the eight acrostics, when the principal letters stand following words:
two or three deep. I have seen some of * Tot, tibi, sunt, Virgo, dotes, quot, sidera, cælo.' them where the verses have not only been “Thou hast as many virtues, O Virgin, as there are edged by a name at cach extremity, but
have had the same name running down like The poet rung the changes upon these a seam through the middle of the poem. eight several words, and by that means There is another near relation of the anamade his verses almost as numerous as grams and acrostics, which is commonly the virtues and the stars which they cele- called a chronogram. This kind of wit apbrated. It is no wonder that men who pears very often on many modern medals, had so much time upon their hand did not especially those of Germany, when they reonly restore all the antiquated pieces of present in the inscription the year in which false wit, but enriched the world with in- they were coined. Thus we see on a medal ventions of their own. It was to this age of Gustavus Adolphus the following words, that we owe the productions of anagrams, ChristVs DUX ERGO TRIVMPĦVs. If which is nothing else but a transmutation of you take the pains to pick the figures out of one word into another, or the turning of the several words, and range them in their the same set of letters into different words; proper order, you will find they amount which may change night into day, or black to MDCXXVII, or 1627, the year in which into white, if Chance, who is the goddess the medal was stamped: for as some of the that presides over these sorts of composi- letters distinguish themselves from the rest, tion, shall so direct. I remember a witty and overtop their fellows, they are to be author, in allusion to this kind of writing, considered in a double capacity, both as calls his rival, who it seems) was distort- letters and as figures. Your laborious Gered, and had his limbs set in places that did man wits will turn over a whole dictionary not properly belong to them, “the anagram for one of these ingenious devices. A man of a man.'
would think they were searching after an When the anagrammatist takes a name apt classical term, but instead of that they to work upon, he considers it at first as al are looking out a word that has an L. an
stars in heaven.'
M, or a D in it. When therefore we meetThe first occasion of these bouts-rimez with any of these inscriptions, we are not made them in some manner excusable, as so much to look in them for the thought, they were tasks which the French ladies as for the year of the Lord.
used to impose on their lovers. But when The bouts-rimez were the favourites of a grave author, like him above-mentioned, the French nation for a whole age together, tasked himself, could there be any thing and that at a time when it abounded in wit more ridiculous? Or would not one be apt and learning. They were a list of words to believe that the author played booty, that rhyme to one another, drawn up by and did not make his list of rhymes till he another hand, and given to a poet, who was had finished his poem? to make a poem to the rhymes in the same I shall only add, that this piece of false order that they were placed upon the list: wit has been finely ridiculed by Monsieur the more uncommon the rhymes were, the Sarasin, in a poem entitled, La Defaite more extraordinary was the genius of the des Bouts-Rimez, The Rout of the Boutspoet that could accommodate his verses to Rimez. them. I do not know any greater instance I must subjoin to this last kind of wit the of the decay of wit and learning among the double rhymes, which are used in doggerel French (which generally follows the de- poetry, and generally applauded by ignoclension of empire) than the endeavouring rant readers. If the thought of the couplet to restore this foolish kind of wit. If the in such compositions is good, the rhyme reader will be at the trouble to see exam- adds little to it; and if bad, it will not be ples of it, let him look into the new Mer in the power of the rhyme to recommend cure Gallant; where the author every month it. I am afraid that great numbers of those gives a list of rhymes to be filled up by the who admire the incomparable Hudibras, ingenious, in order to be communicated to do it more on account of these doggerel the public in the Mercure for the succeed- rhymes, than of the parts that really deing month. That for the month of Novem- serve admiration. I am sure I have heard ber last, which now lies before me, is as the follows:
* Pulpit, drum ecclesiastic,
Was beat with tist, instead of a stick;"
• There was an ancient sage philosopher,
Who had read Alexander Ross over;"
pieces of wit in the whole poem.
No. 61.) Thursday, May 10, 1711.
Folette One would be amazed to see so learned Non equidem hoc studeo, bullatis ut mihi nugis
Pagina turgescat, dare pondus idoneo fumo. a man as Menage talking seriously on this kind of trifle in the following passage: 'Tis not indeed my talent to engage
Monsieur de la Chambre has told me, In lofty trifles, or to swell my page that he never knew what he was going to
With wind and noise.
Dryden. write when he took his pen into his hand;
THERE is no kind of false wit which has but that one sentence always produced been so recommended by the practice of all another. For my own part I never knew ages, as that which consists in a jingle of what I should write next when I was mak- words, and is comprehended under the geing verses. In the first place, I got all my neral name of punning. It is indeed imposrhymes together, and was afterwards persible to kill a weed which the soil has a haps three or four months in filling them natural disposition to produce. The seeds up. I one day showed Monsieur Gombaud of punning are in the minds of all men; and a composition of this nature, in which, though they may be subdued by reason, among others, I had made use of the four fol- reflection, and good sense, they will be very lowing rhymes, Amaryllis, Phyllis, Marne, apt to shoot up in the greatest genius that Arne; desiring him to give me his opinion of is not broken and cultivated by the rules of it. He told me immediately, that my verses art. Imitation is natural to us, and when were good for nothing. And upon my ask- it does not raise the mind to poetry, painting his reason, he said, because the rhymes ing, music, or other more noble arts, it often are too common; and for that reason easy breaks out in puns, and quibbles. to be put into verse. “Marry," says I, " if Aristotle, in the eleventh chapter of his it be so, I am very well rewarded for all book of rhetoric, describes two or three the pains I have been at.” But by Mon- kinds of puns, which he calls paragrams, sieur Gombaud's leave, notwithstanding the among the beauties of good writing, and severity of the criticism, the verses were produces instances of them out of some of good.' Vid. Menagiana. *-Thus far the the greatest authors in the Greek tongue. learned Menage, whom I have translated Cicero has sprinkled several of his works word for word.
with puns, and in his book where he lays
down the rules of oratory, quotes abundance • Tom. I. p. 174. &c. ed. Amst. 1713. of sayings as pieces of wit, which also upon
Pers. Sat. v. 19.