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slightest errand to the Antipodes, that you can devise to send me on; I will fetch you a toothpicker now from the farthest inch of Asia; bring you the length of Prester John's foot; fetch you a hair of the great Cham's beard; do you any embassage to the Pigmies, rather than hold three words conference with this harpy:" he yet swallows the bait and blunders to perfection. "This can be no trick. If I do not take pity of her, I am a villain; if I do not love her, I am a Jew. I will go get her picture." Poor Benedick! Poor blundering Benedick!
Again we should look on Beatrice but as an unfeminine shrew, with more wit than sense, and more words than either (for it has been remarked that her words, more than her ideas, dwell upon the mind) if we were not suddenly surprised and charmed by the display of a deep, rich, but hitherto concealed fund of womanly affection and truth. When all, even her own father, shrink from Hero, she alone, the shrew, the termagant, judges from her own feelings that conduct, such as that ascribed to her cousin, is impossible-and she is willing to pledge her faith, to stake her life, on Hero's purity. And to what are we indebted both for the exceeding interest which the play at this point assumes, and also for this fine development of all that is noble in the character of an hitherto but "so-so" appearing woman? To a blunder—of Claudio and his friends.
"I do begin to perceive that I am made an ass," says Sir John Falstaff, after a series of blunders, that in their consequences leave him at last so crestfallen, that he, even he—the magniloquent Sir John ejaculates, "I am dejected; I am not able to answer the Welch flannel: ignorance itself is a plummet o'er me: use me as you will." And Slender, whose hard-wrung recognizance to marry" sweet Anne Page," is worthy of a first-rate blunderer-"I will marry her, sir, at your request; but if there be no great love in the beginning, yet Heaven may decrease it upon better acquaintance when we are married, and have more occasion to know one another. I hope, upon familiarity, will grow more contempt: but if you say marry her, I will marry her, that I am freely dissolved and dissolutely." His blundering (interesting fellow that he is) was not confined to words.
"Whoo, ho! ho! father Page!"
"Son! how now? How now, son? Have you despatched?"
"I came yonder at Eton, to marry Mistress Anne Page, and she's a great lubberly boy! I went to her in white, and cry'd mum, and she cry'd budget, as Anne and I had appointed, and yet it was not Anne, but a postmaster's boy." O! rare blunderer!
In the "Merchant of Venice," we all show an innate propensity to blunder by the sympathy we feel in the princely Morocco's fate, whose mind was too lofty and magnificent-and we feel with him-to suppose that his love could be enshrined in any thing less precious than gold; but his blunder, and a corresponding blunder (we love to reiterate the word) in the Prince of Arragon, are necessary to open the way to the development of the most generous, most noble, and elevated sentiments contrasted with, and finally triumphing over passions worthy of a fiend. And for the full and complete exposition of these, we are indebted to a slight blunder of the Jew, in forgetting to enter in the bond the drops of blood that would ensue from the excision of the flesh.
Nor is this propensity to blunder confined to mortals. A good deal
of the excitement of the "Midsummer Night's Dream," is caused by a circumstance for which Oberon is inclined to chide his attendant sprite; but Puck contritely acknowledges his blunder in the words of
"Believe me, king of shadows, I mistook."
Turn we elsewhere.
The four estates of the realm, the king, lords, commons, and public press, have all practically illustrated their approbation of blunders. For royalty let one example suffice.
When George II. was on a sea-excursion, there appeared signs of an approaching storm. The noise occasioned on deck by the preparations to meet it, called his majesty from below to inquire into the cause. On being informed that they were "preparing for a storm;" his majesty's instant commands were, "Double my guards."
Lord Orford instances an amusing blunder of one of those" in high places," at the coronation of George III.
"The hall was glorious. The blaze of lights, the richness and variety of habits, the ceremonial, the benches of peers and peeresses, frequent and full, was as awful as a pageant can be; and yet, for the king's sake and my own, I never wish to see another; nor am impatient to have my Lord Effingham's promise fulfilled. The king complained that so few precedents were found for their proceedings. Lord Effingham owned the earl marshal's office had been strangely neglected; but he had taken such care for the future, that the next coronation would be regulated in the most exact manner imaginable."
It is not a hundred years since a member of the lower house, grandiloquently inquired whether certain persons would still submit to be covered with dust from the chariot-wheels of those who were always standing still.
In their collective capacity, the estates of Parliament have sanctioned blundering, for the act 54 Geo. III., c. 26, for repealing the duties of customs on madder, and granting other duties in lieu thereof, enacted, "that from and after the passing of this act, the several duties and customs shall cease and determine." A complete repeal of all the duties on customs. Three days afterwards another bill was brought in to rectify this blunder.
The Parish Registry act (56 Geo. III., c. 146) provides, that any person or persons wilfully making, or causing to be made, false returns in the books of baptisms, burials, or marriages, "being thereof lawfully convicted, shall be deemed and adjudged to be guilty of felony, and shall be transported for the term of fourteen years.' And the succeeding clause enacts "that one half of all fines or penalties to be levied in pursuance of this act shall go to the person who shall inform or sue for the same; and the remainder of such fines as shall be imposed on any churchwarden shall go to the poor of the parish." So the only penalty imposed by this act is transportation for fourteen years, and that is to be equally divided between the informer and the poor of the parish.
We attempt not any thing like individual reference to the blunders of the "fourth estate ;" and likewise we shall make no particular allusion to those of the law; blunders being, in fact, the very life and essence of that "noble engine." The sister professions, divinity and physic, have both been indebted to blunders.
A rector of a parish going to law with his parishioners about paving
the church, quoted the authority from St. Peter: "Paveant illi, non paveat ego." Which he construed, "They are to pave the church, not I." This was allowed to be good law by the judge, and the rector gained his cause.
When Pope Sixtus V. secretly aspired to the popedom, he counterfeited illness and old age for several years. During the conclave, which was assembled to create a pope, he continually leaned on his crutch; and very frequently interrupted the sage deliberations of the conclave by a hollow cough and violent spitting. The cardinals fell into the trap, blundered egregiously, elected him unanimously, and after the election, the new pope recovered by a miracle.
How much is science indebted to blunders! To what else do we owe the telescope, and some of the most effective improvements in that mightiest of inventions, the steam-engine? How much have blunders contributed to the luxuries and the comforts of private life! To the former, let the widely-spread votaries of Lundy Foot's manufacture testify, who are indebted to the careless blunder of a boy, for one of the most gratifying compounds that ever irritated nasal organs. The attendant whose duty it was to watch the kiln neglected it, the snuff was burnt irrecoverably, and supposed to be spoiled; but was tried accidentally, pronounced excellent, and christened "Irish blackguard." For the value of a blunder in contributing to domestic satisfaction, one instance may suffice.
A respectable gentleman of Oxford was so fascinated with "Robinson Crusoe" that he read it through every year, considering every part to be as true as holy writ. Unfortunately a friend at last told him that it was little more than a fiction, the plain story of the sailor's shipwreck having been thus worked up by Daniel Defoe.
"Your information," said the gentleman, 66 may be very correct, but I wish you had withheld it; as in correcting my blunder you have deprived me of one of the greatest pleasures of my old age."
We cannot refrain from transcribing these following exquisite blunders of painters:
Tintoret, in a picture which represents the "Israelites gathering manna in the desert," has armed the Hebrews with guns; and a modern Neapolitan artist, has represented the "Holy Family during their journey to Egypt," as passing the Nile in a barge, as richly ornamented as that of Cleopatra.
Brengheli, a Dutch painter, in a picture of the "Eastern Magi," has drawn the Indian king in a large white surplice, with boots and spurs, and bearing in his hand, as a present to the Holy Child, the model of a Dutch seventy-four.
Lanfranc has thrown churchmen in their robes at the feet of our Saviour, when an infant and Paul Veronese introduced several Benedictines among the guests at the feast of Cana.
A painter of the "Crucifixion," represented a confessor holding out a crucifix to the good thief who was crucified with our Saviour. It is no slight token in favour of blunders that they not unfrequently throw bright, though it may be transient, gleams of hilarity on the dull routine of daily life. What zest do they give to conversation! What
From the Percy Anecdotes; or, D'Israeli's Curiosities of Literature. Oct.-VOL. LVII. NO. CCXXVI.
life and animation do they impart to circumstances utterly uninteresting in their plain propriety of detail!
The story of Frederick the Great's recruit is well known. It was the custom of this monarch to ask a new soldier appearing in his guards three questions. "How old are you?-How long have you been in my service?-Are you satisfied with your pay and treatment?" In anticipation of this usual catechism, a young Frenchman totally ignorant of the German language, was taught by rote proper answers. The monarch appeared, but happened to transpose the questions. "How long have you been in my service?"
As his appearance indicated that he was scarcely past that age, the king much astonished, said, "How old are you?"
"One year, an't please your majesty."
"What, sirrah!" said the king, enraged at the fellow's answers; "do vou take me for a fool or a madman?"
"Both, an't please your majesty."
The mystery was at length explained, and the king laughed heartily -a happy thing for a monarch."
When the deaf gentleman was asked how his wife was, and replied, "Damp, dirty, and disagreeable," his blunder caused an exhilaration of spirits in his inquiring friend, which for aught we know (for it was in the hangdog, dreary month of November), might drive away incipient thoughts of suicide. Did not the kind-hearted Scotch lady join heartily in the merriment she excited when describing to her friends the troubles of a beggar she had been relieving, and who had been deaf and dumb so many years?
"How do you know that?" asked a friend.
"Why, he told me so himself," she replied.
We know a gentleman, who, travelling in an unfrequented part of Ireland, had had the precaution to learn in native Irish, "Which is the way?" but utterly forgot, until the moment the answer was given, that it was necessary to understand the reply too. He felt himself con
strained to laugh at his blunder, bewildered and lonely as he was; and certainly the inconvenience it entailed on him, however great, would not be so lasting as that caused by the blunder of a late eccentric clergyman in Lancashire.
"Please sir," said a poor bewildered Benedick, on a certain busy Whit-monday" Please sir, you're marrying me to a wrong woman." "Never mind that," replied the minister;" you can settle that after
We might swell our list interminably; but we have perhaps quoted blunders sufficient to show the truth of our assertion that BLUNDERERS have been really the greatest, the wisest, and most amiable of mankind; and have included the ermined monarch, the lofty noble, the learned divine, the subtle lawyer, the heaven-taught poet, the legislator, the artist, and the physician; the gentle and innocent girl, and the high-souled and haughty woman. It were needless further to expatiate on the subject, convinced as we now must be that
"It is the sole prerogative of Heaven,
Not to be tainted with the smallest error;
SIR GEOFFREY lay in his cushion'd chair
Was mixing his Colchicum tea;
And Beatrice, with her soft blue eyes,
Was teaching her poodle to jump at flies!
Sir Geoffrey mutter'd-Sir Geoffrey moan'd
Aunt Dorothy grumbled-aunt Dorothy groaned,
That poor old knight !—when it twinged him worst, To the hatchet had willingly yielded "my first!"
She smooth'd his pillows-she mix'd his draft,
He swallow'd the pill, and the dose he quaff'd,
Oh! a maiden lady of sixty-three,
Makes "my second," but ill for a gouty knee!
But Beatrice came with her tiny hand,
To where the old knight lay,
And a single touch, like a fairy's wand,
And Sir Geoffrey uttered nor cry nor call,
I've read of Sir Benjamin's far-famed skill
I've swallow'd Sir Antony's marvellous pill,
But I never could hear,-among rich or poor,
For all your doctors, with all their brains,
Might write till their pens ran dry;
But they ne'er could have banish'd Sir Geoffrey's pains,
Shall I tell you the reason why?—
Old Galen's pages have quite left out
A young maid's cure for an old man's gout!