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I find likewise among the Ancients that ingenious kind of Conceit, which the Moderns distinguish by the Name of a Rebus, that does not sink a Letter but a whole Word, by subftituting a Pieture in its place. When Cæfar was one of the Masters of the Roman Mint, he placed the Figure of an Elephant upon the Reverse of the Publick Money: the Word Cafar signifying an Elephant in the Punick Language. This was artificially contrived by Cafar, because it was not lawful for a private Man'to ftamp his own Figure upon the Coin of the Common-wealth." Cia cero, who was so called from the Founder of his family, that was marked on the Nose with a little Wenn like a Vetch (which is Cicer in Latin) instead of Marcus Tullius Cicero, ordered the Words Marcus Tullius with the Figure of a Vetch at the end of 'em to be inscribed on a Publick Monument. This was done probably to shew
that he was neither ashamed of his Name or Family, not-withstanding the Envy of his Competitors had often re
proached him with both. In the same manner we read of a famous Building that was marked in several Parts of it with the Figures of a Frog and a Lizard : Those Words in Greek having been the Names of the Architects, who by the Laws of their Country were never permitted to inscribe their own Names upon their works. For the fame Realon it is thought, that the Forelock of the Horse in the Antique-Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, represents at a distance the Shape of an Owl, to intimate the Country of the Statuary, who, in all probability, was an Athenian. This kind of Wit was very much in Vogue among our own Countrymen about an Age or two ago, who did not practise it for any oblique Reason, as the Ancients above mentioned, but purely for the sake of being Witty. Among innumerable Instances that may be given of this Nature, I shall produce the Device of one Mr. Newberry, as I find it mentioned by our learned Camden in his Remains. Mr. Newberry, to represent his Name by a Pi&ure, hung up at his Door the Sign of a Yewtree, that had several Berries upon it, and in the midst of them a great golden N hung upon a Bough of the Tree, which by the help of a little false Spelling made up the Word N-ew-berry,
I shall conclude this Topick with a Rebus, which has been lately hewn out in Free-stone, and erected over two of the Portals of Blexheim House, being the Figure of a monstrous Lion tearing to Pieces a little Cock. For the better understanding of which Device, I must acquaint my English Reader that a Cock has the Misfortune to be called in Latin by the same Word that signifies a Frenchman, as a Lion is the Emblem of the English Nation. Such a Device in so noble a Pile of Building looks like a Punn in an Heroick Poem; and I am very sorry the truly ingenious Architect would suffer the Statuary to blemish his excellent Plan with so poor a Conceit: But I hope what I have said will gain Quarter for the Cock, and deliver him out of the Lion's Paw.
I find likewise in ancient Times the Conceit of mak. ing an Eccho talk sensibly, and give rational Answers. If this could be excusable in any Writer it would be in O. vid, where he introduces the Eccho as a Nymph, before she was worn away into nothing but a Voice. The learned Erasmus, tho’a Man of Wit and Genius, has composed a Dialogue upon this filly kind of Device, and made use of an Eccho who seems to have been a very extraordinary Linguist, for she answers the Person she talks with in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, according as the found the Syllables which she was to repeat in any of those learned Languages. Hudibras, in Ridicule of this false kind of Wit, has described Bruin bewailing the Loss of his Bear to a solitary Eccho, who is of great use to the Poet in several Disticks, as she does not only repeat after him, but helps out his Verse, and furnishes him with Rhymes.
He rag'd, and kept as heavy a Coil as
That make her, in their rueful Stories,
Wednesday, May 9.
Hoc eft quod palles? Cur quis non prandeas, Hoc est ?
Per. Stat. 3o EVERAL kinds of false Wit that vanished in the refined Ages of the World, discovered themselves
again in the Times of Monkish Ignorance. AS the Monks were the Masters of all that little Learning which was then extant, and had their whole Lives
entirely disengaged from Business, it is no wonder that several of them, who wanted Genius for higher Performances, employed many Hours in the Composition of such Tricks in Writing as required much Time and little Capacity. I have seen half the Æneid turned into Latin Rhymes by one of the Beaux Esprits of that dark Age ; who says in his Preface to it, that the Æneid wanted nothing but the Sweets of Rhyme to make it the most perfect Work in its kind. I have likewife seen an Hymn in Hexameters to the Virgin Mary, which filled a whole Book, tho' it consisted but of the eight following Words ;
Tot, tibi, sunt, Virgo, dotes, quot, fidera, Cælo.
Thou hast as many Virtues, o Virgin, as there are Stars in Heaven. The Poet rung the Changes upon these eight several Words, and by that Means made his Verses almost as numerous as the Virtues and the Stars which they celebrated. It is no Wonder that Men who had fo much Time upon their Hands, did not only restore all the antiquated Pieces of false Wit, but enriched the World with Inventions of their own. It was to this Age that we owe the Production of Anagrams, which is nothing else but a Transmutation of one Word into another, or the turning of the fame Set of Letters into different Words; which may change Night into Day, or Black into White, if Chance, who is the Goddess that presides over these Sorts of Composition, shall fo direct. I remember a witty Author, in Allusion to this kind of Writing, calls his Rival, who (it seems) was distorted, and had his Limbs set in Places that did not properly belong to them, The Anagram of & Man.
WHEN the Anagrammatist takes a Name to work upon, he considers it at first as a Mine not broken up, which will not shew the Treasure it contains till he shall have spent many Hours in the Search of it: For it is his Business to find out one Word that conceals it self in another, and to examine the Letters in all the Variety of Sta. tions in which they can possibly be ranged. I have heard of a Gentleman who, when this kind of Wit was in fashion, endeavoured to gain his Mistress's Heart by it. She was one of the finest Women of her Age, and known
by the 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 Writing converted it into Moll; and after having shut himself up for half a Year, with indefatigable Industry produced an Anagram. Upon the presenting it to his Mistress, who was a little vexed in her Heart to see her self degraded into Moll Boon, she told him, to his infinite Surprize, that he had mistaken her Sirname, for that it was not Boon but Bohun.
Ibi omnis Effufus labor The Lover was thunder-struck with his Misfortune, info. much that in a little Time after he lost his Senses, which indeed had been very much impaired by that continual Application he had given to his Anagram.
THE Acrostick was probably invented about the same time with the Anagram, tho’ it is impossible to decide wheiher the Inventor of the one or the other were the greater Blockead. The Simple Acrostick is nothing but the Name or Title of a Person or Thing made out of the initial Letters of several Verses, and by that Means written, after the Manner of the Chinese, in a perpendicular Line. But besides these there are compound Acrosticks, when the principal Letters ftand two or three deep. I have seen some of them where the Verses have not only been edged by a Name at each Extremity, but have had the same Name running down like a Seam through the Middle of the Poem.
THERE is another near Relation of the Anagrams and Acrosticks, which is commonly called a Chronogram. This kind of Wit appears very often on many modern Medals, especially those of Germany, when they represent in the Inscription the Year in which they were coined. Thus we see on a Medal of Gustaphus Adolphus the following Words, CHRIS TVs Du X ERGO TRIVMPHVs. If
you take the Pains to pick the Figures out of the several Words, and range them in their proper
Order, you will find they amount to MDCXVVVII, or 1627, the Year in which the Medal was stamped: For as some of the Letters distinguish themselves from the rest, and overtop their Fellows, they are to be considered in a double