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Capacity, both as Letters and as Figures. Your laborious German Wils will turn over a whole Di&tionary for one of these ingenious Devices. A Man would think they were searching after an apt classical Term, but instead of that they are looking out a Word that has an L, an M, or a D in it. When therefore we meet with any of these Inscriptions, we are not so much to look in 'ém for the Thought, as for the Year of the Lord.

THE Bouts Rimez were the Favourites of the French Nation for a whole Age together, and that at a Time when it abounded in Wit and Learning. They were a List of Words that rhyme to one another, drawn up by another Hand, and given to a Poet, who was to make a Poem to the Rhymes in the same Order that they were

the Lift: The more uncommon the Rhymes were, the more extraordinary was the Genius of the Poet that could accommodate his Verses to them. I do not know any greater Instance of the Decay of Wit and Learning among the French (which generally follows the Declension of Empire) than the endeavouring to rettore this foolish kind of Wit. If the Reader will be at the Trouble to see Examples of it, let him look into the Dew Mercure Gallant; where the Author every Month gives a List of Rhymes to be filled up by the Ingenious, in order to be communicated to the Publick in the Mer. cure for the succeeding Month. That for the Month of November last, which now lies before me, is as follows.

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One would be amazed to see so learned a Man as Menage talking seriously on this kind of Trifle in the following Patlage.

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MONSIEUR

MONSIEUR de la Chambre has told me, that he never knew what he was going to write when he took his Pert into his Hand; but that one Sentence always

produced another. For my own Part, I never knew what I should write next when I was making Verses. In the first Place I got

all my Rhymes together, and was afterwards perhaps three or four Months in filling them up. I one Day shewed Monsieur Gomþaud a Composition of this Nature, in which among others I had made use of the four following Rhymes, Amaryllis, Phillis, Marne, Arne, defiring him to give me his opinion of it. He told me immediately, that my Verses were good for nothing. And upon my asking his Reafon, he said, Because the Rhymes are too common; and for that Reason easie to be put into Verse. Marry, says I, if it be so, I am very well rewarded

for all the pains I have been at. But by Monsieur Gombaud's Leave, notwithstanding the Severity of the Crie ticism, the Verses were good. Vid. MENAGIAN A. Thus far the learned Menage, whom I have translated Word for Word.

THE first Occasion of these Bouts Rimez made them in fome Manner excusable, as they were Tasks which the French Ladies used to impose on their Lovers. But when a grave Author, like him above-mentioned, tasked himself, could there be any thing more ridiculous ? Or would not one be apt to believe that the Author played booty, and did not make his List of Rhymes till he had finished his Poem ?

I shall only add, that this piece of false Wit has been finely ridiculed by Monfieur Sarafin, im a Poem entituled, La Defaite des Bouts-Rimez, The Rout of the Bouts-Rimez.

I muft subjoin to this last Kind of Wit the double Rhymes, which are used in Doggerel Poetry, and generally applauded by ignorant Readers. If the Thought of the Couplet in such Compositions is good, the Rhyme adds little to it; and if bad, it will not be in the Power of the Rhyine to recommend it. I am afraid that great Numbers of those wbo admire the incomparable Hudibras, do it more on account of these Doggerel Rhymes than of the Parts that really deserve Admiration. I am sure I have heard the

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Pulpit,

Pulpit, Drum Ecclefiaftick,

Was beat with Fist instead of a Stick. and

There was an ancient sage Philosopher

who had read Alexander Ross over. more frequently quoted, than the finest Pieces of Wit in the whole Poem.

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Non equidem ftudeo, bullatis ut mihi nugis
Pagina turgefcat, dare pondus idonea fumo.

Perr,

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HERE is no kind of false Wit which has been so

recominended by the Practice of all Ages, as that,

which consists in a Jingle of Words, and is comprehended under the general Name of Punning. It is indeed impossible to kill a Weed, which the Soil has a natural Disposition to produce. The Seeds of Punning are in the Minds of all Men, and tho' they may be subdued by Reason, Reflection, and good Sense, they will be very apt to shoot up in the greatest Genius, that is not broken and cultivated by the Rules of Art. Imitation is aatural to us, and when it does not raise the Mind to Poe. try, Painting, Musick, or other more noble Arts, it often breaks out in Punns and Quibbles.

ARISTOTLE, in the Eleventh hapter of his Book of Rhetorick, describes two or three kinds of Punns, which he calls Paragrams, among the Beauties of good Writing, and produces Instances of them out of some of the greatest Authors in the Greek Tongue. Cicero has {prinkled several of his works with Punns, and in his Book where he lays down the Rules of Oratory, quotes abundince of Sayings as Pieces of Wit, which also upon Exanination prove arrant Punns. But the Age in which the Punn chiefly flourished, was the Reign of King James

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the First. That learned Monarch was himself a tolerable Punnster, and made very few Bishops or Privy-Counsellors that had not some time or other signalized themselves by a Clinch, or a Conundrum. It was therefore in this Age that the Punn appeared with Pomp and Digni

It had before been admitted into merry Speeches and ludicrous Compositions, but was now delivered with great Gravity from the Pulpit, or pronounced in the most Tolemn manner at the Council-Table. The greatest Authors, in their most serious Works, made frequent use of Punns. The Sermons of Bishop Andrews, and the Tragedies of Shakespear, are full of them. The Sinner was punned into Repentance by the former, as in the latter nothing is more usual than to see a Hero weeping and quibbling for a dozen Lines together.

I must add to these great Authorities, which seem to have given a kind of Sanction to this Piece of false Wit, that all the Writers of Rhetorick have treated of Punning with very great Respect, and divided the several kinds of it into hard Names, that are reckoned among

the Figures of Speech, and recommended as Ornaments in Discourse. I remember a Country School-master of my Acquaintance told me once, that he had been in Company with a Gentleman whom he looked upon to be the greateft Paragrammatist among the Moderns. Upon Enquiry, I found my learned Friend had dined that Day with Mr. Swan, the famous Punnfter; and defiring him to give me some Account of Mr. Swan's Conversation, he told me that he generally talked in the Paranomafia, that he sometimes gave into the Plocè, but that in his humble Opinion he Iined moft in the Antanaclafis.

I must not here omit, that a famous University of this Land was formerly very much infested with Punns ; but whether or no this might not arise from the Fens and Marshes in which it was situated, and which are now drained, I must leave to the Determination of more skilful Naturalifts.

AFTER this laore History of Punning, one would wonder how it should be so entirely banished out of the Learned World, as it is at present, especially since it had found a Place in the Writings of the most ancient Polite Authors. To account for this we must consider,

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that the firft Race of Authors, who were the great Heroes in Writing, were destitute of all Rules and Arts of Criticism; and for that Reason, though they excellater Writers in Greatness of Genius, they fall sort of them in Accuracy and Corre&ness. The Moderns cannot reach their Beauties, but can avoid their Imperfections. When the World was furnished with these Authors of the first Eminence, there grew up another Set of Writers, who gained themselves a Reputation by the Remarks which

they made on the Works of those who preceded them. It was one of the Employments of these Secon« dary Authors, to distinguish the several kinds of Wit by Terms of Art, and to consider them as more or

less

per: fect, according as they were founded in Truth. It is no wonder therefore, that even such Authors as Ifocrates, Plato, and Cicero, should have such little Blemishes as are not to be met with in Authors of a much inferior Character, who have written fince those several Blemishes were discovered. I do not find that there was a proper Separation made between Punns and true Wit by any of the Ancient Authors, except Quintihan and Longinus. But when this Distinction was once settled, it was very natu, ral for all Men of Sense to agree in it. As for the Revival of this false Wit, it happened about the time of the Revival of Letters; but as soon as it was once detected, it immediately vanished and disappeared. At the same time there is no question, but as it has sunk in one Age and rose in another, it will again recover it self in some distant Period of Time, as-Pedantry and Ignorance shall prevail upon Wit'and Sense. And, to speak the Truth, I do very much apprehend, by fome of the taft Winter's Productions, which had their Sets of Admirers, that our Posterity will in a few Years degenerate into a Race of Punnsters : At least, a Man may be

Very
excusable for

any Apprehensions of this kind, that has seen Acrosticks handed about the Town with great Secrefie and Applause; to which I muft also add a little Epigram called the Witches Prayer, that fell into Verse when it was read either back. ward or forward, excepting only that it Cursed one way and Blessed the other. When one sees there are actually such Pains-takers among our Britifs Wits, who can tell what it may end in: If we muft Lalh one another, let it

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