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THAT THE POOR COPY THE VICES OF THE RICH
A smooth text to the letter ; and, preached from the pulpit, is sure of a docile audience from the pews lined with satin. It is twice sitting upon velvet to a foolish squire to be told, that he, and not perverse nature, as the homilies would make us imagine, is the true cause of all the irregularities in his parish. This is striking at the root of free-will indeed, and denying the originality of sin in any sense. But men are not quite such implicit sheep as this comes to. If the abstinence from evil on the part of the upper classes is to derive itself from no higher principle than the apprehension of setting ill patterns to the lower, we beg leave to discharge them from all squeam ishness on that score; they may even take their fill of pleasures, where they can find them. The genius of poverty, hampered and straitened as it is, is not so barren of invention but it can trade upon the staple of its own vice, without drawing upon their capital.' The poor are not quite such servile imitators as they take them for. Some of them are very clever artists in their way. Here and there we find an original. Who taught the poor to steal, to pilfer? They did not go to the great for schoolmasters in these faculties surely. It is well if in some vices they allow us to be—10 copyists. In no other sense is it true that the poor copy them, than as servants may be said to take after their masters and mistresses, when they succeed to their reversionary cold meats. If the master, from indisposition or some other cause, neglect his food, the servant dines notwithstanding.
“Oh, but (some will say) the force of example is great.” We knew a lady who was so scrupulous on this head, that she would put up with the calls of the most impertinent visiter, rather than let her servant say she was not at home, for fear of teaching her maid to tell an untruth; and this in the very face of the fact, which she knew well enough, that the wench: was one of the greatest liars upon the earth without teaching so much so, that her mistress possibly never heard two words of consecutive truth from her in her life. But nature must go for nothing: example must be everything. This liar in grain, who never opened hur mouth without a lie, must be guarded against a remote inference, which she (pretty casuist!) might possibly draw from a form of words---literally false, but essentially deceiving no one—that under some circumstances a fib might not be so exceedingly sinful—a fiction, too, not at all in her own way, or one that she could be suspected of adopting, for few servant-wenches care to be denied in visiters.
This word example reminds us of another fine word which is in use upon these occasions-encouragement. * People in our sphere must not be thought to give encouragement to such proceedings.” To such a frantic height is this principle capable of being carried, that we have known individuals who have thought it within the scope of their influence to sanction despair, and give eclat to-suicide. A domestic in the family of a county member lately deceased, for love, or some unknown cause, cut his throat, but not successfully. The poor 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 without some substantial sponsors to promise for him, that the like should never happen again. His master was inclinable to keep him, but his mistress thought otherwise; and John in the end was dismissed, her ladyship declaring that she could not think of encouraging any such doings in the county."
THAT ENOUGH IS AS GOOD AS A FEAST.
Not a man, woman, or child in ten miles round Guildhall, who really believes this saying. The inventor of it did not believe it himself. It was made in revenge by somebody who was disappointed of a regale. It is a vile cold-scrag-ofmutton sophism; a lie palmed upon the palate, which knows better things. If nothing else could be said for a feast, this is sufficient, that from the superflux there is usually something left for the next day. Morally interpreted, it belongs to a class of proverbs which have a tendency to make us under
of this cast are those notable observations, that money is not health ; riches cannot purchase everything; the metaphor which makes gold to be mere muck, with the
m a wet season.
morality which traces fine clothing to the sheep's back, and denounces pearl as the unhandsome excretion of an oyster. Hence, too, the phrase which imputes dirt to acres—a sophistry so barefaced, that even the literal sense of it is true only
This, and abundance of similar sage saws assuming to inculcate content, we verily believe to have been the invention of some cunning borrower, who had designs upon the purse of his wealthier neighbour, which he could only hope to carry by force of these verbal jugglings. Translate any one of these sayings out of the artfr metonyme which envelops it, and the trick is apparent. Goodly legs and shoulders of mutton, exhilarating cordials, books, pictures, the opportunities of seeing foreign countries, independence, heart's ease, a man's own time to himself, are not muck -however we may be pleased to scandalize with that appellation the faithful metal that provides them for us.
OF TWO DISPUTANTS, THE WARMEST IS GENERALLY IN
Our experience would lead us to quite an opposite conclușion. Temper, indeed, is no test of truth; but warmth and earnestness are a proof at least of a man's own conviction of the rectitude of that which he maintains. Coolness is as often the result of an unprincipled indifference to truth or falsehood, as of a sober confidence in a man's own side in a dispute. Nothing is more insulting sometimes than the appearance of this philosophic temper. There is little Titubus, the stammering law-stationer in Lincoln's Inn—we have sel dom known this shrewd little fellow engaged in an argument where we were not convinced he had the best of it, if his tongue would but fairly have seconded him. When he has been spluttering excellent broken sense for an hour together, writhing and labouring to be delivered of the point of dispute -the very gist of the controversy knocking at his teeth, which, like some obstinate iron-grating, still obstructed its deliverance—his puny frame convulsed, and face reddening all nver at an unfairness in the logic which he wanted articulation to expose, it has moved our gall to see a smooth, portly fellow of an adversary, that cared not a button for the merita of the question, by merely laying his hand upon the head of the stationer, and desiring him to be calm, (your tall disputants have always the advantage,) with a provoking sneer carry the argument clean from him in the opinion of all the by-standers, who have gone away clearly convinced that Titubus must have been in the wrong, because he was in a passion; and that Mr.
, meaning his opponent, is one of the fairest, and at the same time one of the most dispassionate arguers breathing.
THAT VERBAL ALLUSIONS ARE NOT WIT, BECAUSE THEY
WILL NOT BEAR A TRANSLATION.
The same might be said of the wittiest local allusions. A custom is sometimes as difficult to explain to a foreigner as a pun.
What wouid become of a great part of the wit of the last age, if it were tried by this test? How would certain topics, as aldermanity, cuckoldry, have sounded to a
Terentian auditory, though Terence himself had been alive to translate them? Senator urbanus, with Curruca to boot for a synonyme, would but faintly have done the business. Words, involving notions, are hard enough to render; it is too much to expect us to translate a sound, and give an elegant version to a jingle. The Virgilian harmony is not translatable, but by substituting harmonious sounds in another language for it. To Latinize a pun, we must seek a pun in Latin that will answer to it; as, to give an idea of the double endings in Hudibras, we must have recourse to a similar practice in the old monkish doggerel. Dennis, the fiercest oppugner of puns in ancient or modern times, professes himself highly tickled with the “a stick” chiming to “ecclesiastic." Yet what is this but a species of pun, a verbal consonance ?
THAT THE WORST PUNS ARE THE BEST.
Ir by worst be only meant the most far-fetched and startling, we agree to it. A
pun is not bound by the laws which limit picer wit. It is a pistol let off at the ear; not a feather to tickle the intellect. It is an antic which does not stand upon manners, but comes bounding into the presence, and does not show the less comic for being dragged in sometimes by the head and shoulders. What though it limp a little, or prove defective in one leg—all the better. A pun may easily be too curious and artificial. Who has not at one time or other been at a party of professors, (himself perhaps an old offender in that line,) where, after ringing a round of the most ingenious conceits, every man contributing his shot, and some there the most expert shooters of the day; after making a poor word run the gantlet till it is ready to drop; after hunting and winding it through all the possible ambages of similar sounds ; after squeezing, and hauling, and rugging at it, till the very milk of it will not yield a drop further-suddenly some obscure, unthought-of fellow in a corner, who was never 'prentice to the trade, whom the company for very pity passed over, as we do by a known poor man when a money-subscription is going round, no one calling upon him for his quotahas all at once come out with something so whimsical, yet so pertinent; so brazen in its pretensions, yet so impossible to be denied; so exquisitely good and so deplorably bad at the same time-that it has proved a Robin Hood's shot; anything ulterior to that is despaired of; and the party breaks up, unanimously voting it to be the very worst (that is, best) pun of the evening. This species of wit is the better for not being perfect in all its parts. What it gains in completeness, it loses in naturalness. The more exactly it satisfies the critical, the less hold it has upon some other faculties. The puns which are most entertaining are those which will least bear an analysis. Of this kind is the following, recorded, with a sort of stigma, in one of Swift's miscellanies.
An Oxford scholar, meeting a porter who was carrying a hare through the streets, accosts him with this extraordinary question : “Prithee, friend, is that thy own hare, or a wig?”
There is no excusing this, and no resisting it.