Imatges de pÓgina
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jurisdiction of any of our established courts ; such, for instance, as the question whether the rustic was guilty of perjury, for swearing that at a certain hour a man on horseback stopped at his house, when it was clearly proved to have been a tailor upon a mare ; whether the common dictum, that the best side of a plum-pudding is the left side, (i. e. that which is left,) can be logically said of a piece cut from the centre ; whether you may legally object to paying for candles, as of a bad quality, because when they are half burnt they will burn no longer, but, on the contrary, burn shorter: all these are most important considerations, which ought not to be left in their present state of cavil and uncertainty. Perhaps it might be advisable to offer prizes for the best essays upon subjects of general interest and clear unquestionable utility ; such as the still unsolved problem-“ An chimera rimbombans in vacuo poterit edere primas intentiones?” for a solution of the old metaphysical crux of the jackass between the two bundles of hay; for an inquiry into the much disputed point, whether the philosopher Bias really invented the game of bowls, and Eusebius spectacles; whether Posthumous Leonatus actually born again of a lion after his burial; and whether the surgical essay of Taliacotius, entitled “De Curtis Membris," may be fairly considered a prophecy that a well known city baronet and his son should both become members of parliament. Moch good may be effected in this way, but the questions selected should be of an importance as nianifest as those which I have ventured to suggest.

The preservation of our language in all its purity being one of the main objects of the institution, its attention cannot too earnestly be directed to an abuse of terms, which is of much more serious importance than its mere philogical inaccuracy, since it is calculated to injure morality and confound all our notions of right and wrong, by substituting cer

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tain silken phrases and taffeta terms precise for the most grave offences. Thus, killing an innocent man in a duel is called-an affair of honour; violating the rights of wedlock-an affair of gallantry; adultery-a faux-pas; defrauding honest tradesmen-outrunning the constable ; reducing a family to beggary by gaming--shaking the elbows; a drunkard, that worst of all livers--is a bon vivant; disturbing a whole street, and breaking a watchman's head—a midnight frolic ; exposing some harmless personage to insults, annoyances, and losses--a good hoax ; uttering deliberate falsehoods-shooting the long bow: and various other polite epithets will occur to the society, which, affecting to be used as synonymous for vice, not un frequently assume the language of virtue. It is not beneficial to the monarchical principle that a female of bad character should be termed a courtesan; nor to morality, that she should be described as a woman of pleasure. Such lenient periphrases are of most injurious tendency; and if the Society for the Suppression of Vice have failed to interfere for their discontinuance, I am confident that the institution which I have the honour to address will not shrink from the full performance of its duty.

Perhaps I may be subjecting myself to the imputation of a hysteron-proteron, if, after noticing the abuses and perversions of words, I proceed to those of individual letters ; but the importance of the conclusions to which it leads induced me to reserve this subject for my own conclusion, and so end where most people begin-with the alphabet. So obscure and incomprehensible is the origin of letters, that many authors have been glad to solve the difficulty of their invention by referring it to divine inspiration. In that case, however, there would have been some conformity of character, number and sequence; whereas there is a marked difference in all these constituents among the various nations of the earth. The learned author of Hermes informs us, that to

VOL. II.

P

about twenty plain elementary sounds we owe that variety of articulate voices which have been sufficient to explain the sentiments of such an innumerable multitude as all the past and present generations of men ; and of course our alphabet, assuming this hypothesis to be true, might be much contracted. Yet there are others still more numerous, embracing all numbers up to the Chinese, which reckons by thousands, and assuming every variety of collocation, without any one people being able to assign reasons for deviating from the order of its neighbours. An elucidation of this curious subject is well worth the most serious attention of the society.

The scholiasts upon that ode of Anacreon which describes Cupid's being stung by a bee, state hiin to have been at that moment learning his letters; and that in perpetual remembrance of the pain inflicted by his winged assailant, he decreed that the alphabet should ever after commence with A B. Others suppose the whole ode to be allegorical, expressing how much Cupid felt stung and nettled at being compelled to undergo the drudgery of learning those letters. The precedence of B to C has been explained upon the principle that a man must be before he can see; but these, I apprehend, are plausible and ingenious conjectures, unsupported by any great philological or lexicographical authorities. Many curious discoveries have already been made in the hidden properties of letters, and the number might be indefinitely increased by the stimulating patronage and ingenious researches of the society. But for the ingenuity of recent investigators, we should never have known that the letter S was of essential service at the siege of Gibraltar by making hot shot ; that the letter N is like a little pig, because it makes a sty nasty ; that the letters U V can never go out to dinner because they always come after T ; that the letters o a s t are like

toast without (T); and that a barber may be said to fetter the alphabet, because he ties up queues and puts toupees in irons. These most important additions to our philological science are a happy foretaste of what may be accomplished by a chartered company expressly instituted for the encouragement of letters.

My limits not allowing me to enter at length into the subject of our hawkers' and pedlars' literature, vulgarly denominated the London Cries, I shall content myself with hinting that much of it is so alarmingly dissonant and cacophonous, as to need a thorough emendation. The wretches who yell“ Hi-aw-Marakrel !” and “ Owld Clew !” should be compelled to articulate in a sweet and gracious voice-" Here are mackarel”-and " Old clothes." Our murderous dustmen's bells have converted many invalids, by depriving them of rest, into fit materials for their cart; and as their cry is at least as discordant as their clapper, I would have all these noisy nuisances converted into euphonous melodists by an immediate decree of the society: The postman, as a man of letters, will of course receive a licence to bear the bell wherever he goes ; and the muffin-man's tinkle is too inoffensive to require regulation. The great majority of our cries demand revision ; but I would have no innovation upon the milkwoman's—’mi-eau ! (probably handed down to us from the Norman times,) which is not only valuable as an antiquity, but as a frank confession that one half of the commodity she vends is water.

From words, which are the signs of ideas, the Society may turn their attention to the signs of our public houses, in which a very barbarous taste and a Gothic predilection for gorgons and monsters, and chimæras dire, is still but too visible. Since the recent discoveries in the interior of Asia, we are warranted in retaining the unicorn for our national

arıns; but the good taste of the Society will induce them to visit our public houses, and procure the suppression of all such preposterous symbols as the Phenix, the Griffin, the Green Dragon, the Blue Boar, the Red, Silver, and Golden Lions, with a hundred others; nor will they allow the continuance of such anomalous conjunctions as the Green Man and Still, which a recent French traveller has very excusably translated, “L'homme vert et tranquille.”

A LAMENTATION UPON THE DECLINE

OF BARBERS.

When they who lived to puff, by fortune cross'd,

Must puff to live; when they whose fame was spread
From pole to pole are in oblivion lost,

And having others pinch'd, are. pinch'd for bread;
When by more sad reverse they're environ'd
Than

any told of Emperor or Caliph,
And they, who once toupees and queues have iron'd,

Must mind their P's and Q's to 'scape the bailiffWell may they cry~" The age that treats us thus,

When most unbarber'd is most barberous."

In tracing the changes produced by the alteration of human habits in the different ages and nations of the world, nothing is more affecting than to contemplate the reverses to which whole classes of our fel. low creatures are exposed by sudden fluctuations of fashion; and in all the sad records of prostration from eminence and favour to obscurity and neglect, we doubt whether any can offer a more melancholy contrast than the past and present situation of our Barbers. With the embalmers of the dead, and forgers of armour for the living, whose " occupation's gone,” we sympathise no more than we shall with the keepers of lottery offices, who will shortly be in the same predicament : their pursuits are associated with death, blood and rapine ; but the

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