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was dead, the man replied, “Ah, sir, I be very sorry for he, but who was he?"
A contemporary magazinist shortly afterwards dwelt at some length upon this anecdote, deducing from it that the Hampshire laborer was a true gentleman, in being above the meanness of pretending to know a thing of which he was ignorant.
There must be many true gentlemen and many true ladies in the world!
The Miss J., for example, whose letters to and from the Duke of Wel. lington were recently published, was a true lady. In the preliminary biography (page 2) we are told that she belonged to the “smaller English gentry," and was brought up at “one of the best schools in England, where many of her companions were of noble birth ;" and yet this young woman of twenty, this companion of the aristocracy, when she made her first epistolary attack in 1834, confessedly in the hope of getting the duke to marry her, "was not aware that he was the conqueror of Bonaparte, and did not even know when the battle of Waterloo took place.”
An effort has been made to prove that General Grant was a true gentleman of the same kind. In England the following story has been related as a fact :
"General Grant was once invited to dine at Apsley House by the second Duke of Wellington. A most distinguished party assembled to meet him. During a pause in the middle of the dinner the 'ex-President, it is related, addressing the duke at the head of the table, said, 'My lord, I have heard that your father was a military man. Was that the case?""
The anecdote is repeated in Sir William Fraser's book, “Words on Wel. lington." But in the very same book, one hundred pages farther on, Sir William regretfully owns that he asked the second duke what really took place, and was assured there was not a word of truth in the story
Anecdotes run in cycles. Mr. Roebuck's conversation with the Hampshire laborer bears a striking resemblance to a story that is found in many jestbooks, touching an old lady “in a retired village in the West of England," who, when it was told her that Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, was dead, exclaimed, “Is a', is a'? The King o' Prussia! And who may he be ?"
It is the fashion to speak of Shakespeare as a writer of world-wide renown. Yet it appears that there are many true gentlemen in the world who have never heard of him.
While passing through Stratford-on-Avon, Mr. Toole, the English comedian, saw a rustic sitting on a fence. “That's Shakespeare's house, isn't it?” he asked, pointing to the building. “Yes.” “Ever been there?” “No.” “How long has he been dead ?” “Don't know.” “Brought up here?” “Yes." “Did he write anything like the Family Herald, or anything of that sort ?” “Oh, yes, he writ.” “What was it?" "Well,” said the rustic, “I think he wrote for the Bible."
“Come and dine with me to-morrow,” said a T. G. to a friend the other day.
6. Afraid I must decline ; I'm going to see .Hamlet.'” “Never mind; bring him with you.” “ Have you seen the Merchant of Venice'?” asked a New Yorker. "No; what does he sell ?" queried the Chicago drummer in return. But these are jokes from the comic papers, and lack authenticity. George Moore, the English novelist, once had a play at the Odéon, in Paris. At the same time an adaptation of “Othello” was being rehearsed at the same theatre. One morning Moore called to see the manager.
“What name shall I give, monsieur ?" asked the concierge.
“Tell M. Porell that the English author whose play he has accepted desires to see him.”
The concierge went toward the manager's room.
“There is a gentleman in the hall who tells me he is the English author whose play has just been accepted,” he said to the official.
“Quite right," answered the latter. “Send him in. Monsieur Shakespeare, no doubt.”
A correspondent of the English Notes and Queries recently supplied two instances of remarkable ignorance that came under his personal notice. Although they occurred at the opposite ends of England, they are, oddly enough, both connected with the Waverley Novels. He was once concerned in the letting of a “public," as it would be called, in Cumberland, on the road to Scotland, named “The Dandie Dinmont.” Some one who called at the office to make inquiries about it said, " It's a very curious name. What does it mean?” Yet he was a Borderer, and the neighborhood of Carlisle is no great distance from Liddesdale. “I tried,” says the correspondent, "to explain to him who Dandie Dinmont was ; but how far he was the wiser for my elucidation I know not."
The other was in Devonshire. The narrator was on the outside of a coach which ran at that time through a district where there is now a railway. Passing a house called “Ivanhoe Cottage,” he heard another passenger, who was talking to the coachman, say, "I have often wondered what the name of that house means.” The “often” showed that he was of an inquiring mind; and yet he was evidently ignorant of the very existence of Scott's splendid romance.
Tennyson is fond of telling, apropos of his early residence at Haslemere, a story of a certain laboring-man. “Who lives there?" asked a visitor, pointing to the Laureate's house. “Muster Tennysun," answered the laboring-man. “What does he do ?" was the next inquiry. “Well, muster, I doan't rightly know what he does,” answered the rustic, scratching his head. “I's often been axed what his business is, but I think he's the man as maks the poets.”
An Oxonian tells the following story to show how ignorant a very learned man can manage to be of what almost everybody else knows. One of the professors was in conversation with a friend who happened to refer to the novelist Thackeray, and was much surprised to see that the professor did not understand.
“Why,” said the friend, “ don't you remember the author of. Vanity Fair'?” “Oh, ah, yes !" was the answer. “Bunyan; clever, but not orthodox."
Such ignorance, however, is not confined to English professors. Hon. Jerry Simpson, familiarly known as Sockless Jerry, was complimenting Daniel Webster in one of his speeches, and, in glowing terms, referred to his dictionary. A friend pulled Jerry's coat-tail and informed him that Noah was the man who made the dictionary. “The deuce you say !" replied the imperturbable Jerry. “Noah built the ark.”
In 1881 the principal of a public school in Pennsylvania wrote to Nathaniel Hawthorne, care of Ticknor & Fields, asking for his autograph, as it was proposed to hold a literary fair to obtain money for a school library. Evidently the library was badly needed. Similarly a letter was received in Philadelphia from the compiler of a proposed “Directory of Authors," which was addressed to Edgar Allan Poe, and requested some biographical par. ticulars.
It is a pity the directory has not yet been published. Let us trust that publication has only been suspended. "It would be a valuable work.
And this reminds one of Lady Bulwer's story of the society lady. “Who is this Dean Swift they are talking about ?" she whispered to Lady Bulwer, during a pause in the conversation. “I should like to invite him to one of my receptions."
“Alas, madame, the Dean did something that has shut him out of society." “Dear me! what was that?" “Well, about a hundred years ago he died."
The elder Dumas used to find amusement in telling a story in point concerning Victor Hugo and himself. “One fine day," he says, “Hugo and myself were chosen as witnesses of a marriage, and we went to the mairie to give our names and addresses. The author of 'Ruy Blas' was then in the meridian of his fame, and, what is more, he was an Academician and a peer of France. Your name?' asked the official at his little window. Victor Hugo.' With an i?' queried the scribe. "As you wish,' said Hugo, with admirable coolness. I was then asked my profession. Now, I had brought out at this time more than twenty pieces. My name for ten years might have been seen at the foot of the feuilletons of twenty journals read everywhere and of which I had tremendously increased the circulation, and I found myself unknown by this servant of the government,-a man who could read and write! I kept my self-possession, nevertheless, seeing that Hugo was in the same case as myself, and when the clerk, surprised at my silence, again asked my profession, I answered, propriétaire.'”
Talleyrand's wife was the reverse of brilliant, and he used to excuse his marriage on the ground that “clever women may compromise their husbands, stupid women only compromise themselves.” One day the famous traveller M. Denon was expected to dinner, and Talleyrand conjured Madame to prepare herself for sensible conversation by looking over Denon's works. Unfortunately, on her way to the library Madame forgot the name. She could only remember it ended in on. The librarian smilingly handed her a copy of “ Robinson Crusoe.” Madame easily mastered its contents, and at table astonished her guest by exclaiming, “ Mon Dieu, monsieur, what joy you must have felt in your island when you found Friday !”
Practical jokers are often fond of assuming a similar ignorance for the purpose of taking down undue self-importance. When Mr. Moody, the revi. valist, was at the height of his reputation, he entered a drug-store in Chicago to distribute temperance tracts. At the back of the store sat an elderly citizen reading a morning paper. Mr. Moody threw one of the tracts on the paper before him. The old gentleman glanced at the tract and then benignantly at Mr. Moody. “Are you a reformed drunkard ?” “No, I am not,” said Mr. Moody, indignantly. “Then why in thunder don't you reform ?” asked the old gentleman.
But the best of all these stories is told of Artemus Ward. As he was once travelling in the cars, dreading to be bored, and feeling miserable, a man approached him, sat down, and said,
* Did you hear the last thing on Horace Greeley?” “Greeley? Greeley ?” said Artemus. “Horace Greeley? Who is he?" The man was quiet about five minutes. Pretty soon he said,
“George Francis Train is kicking up a good deal of a row over in Eng. land : do you think they will put him in a bastile ?"
“ Train? Train ? George Francis Train ?” said Artemus, solemnly. “I never heard of him."
This ignorance kept the man quiet for fifteen minutes ; then he said, “What do you think about General Grant's chances for the Presidency? Do you think they will run him ?”
“Grant? Grant? Hang it, man,” said Artemus, “you appear to know more strangers than any man I ever saw."
The man was furious. He walked up the car, but at last came back and said, “ You confounded ignoramus, did you ever hear of Adam ?" Artemus looked up, and said, “What was his other name ?"
Ignorance is bliss. One of Gray's most familiar mintages occurs at the end of stanza 10 of his “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College :"
Yet ah! why should they know their fate,
Thought would destroy their paradise.
'Tis folly to be wise. Davenant has the same idea in the lines,
Since knowledge is but sorrow's spy,
The Just Italian, Act v., Sc. 1; and Prior comes still closer :
From ignorance our comfort flows :
To the Hon, Charles Montague.
A sadder and a wiser man
ColeRIDGE: The Ancient Mariner
BYRON: Manfred, Act i., Sc. 1. The thought may be traced back as far as the Bible : “ He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” (Eccles. i. 18.)
But compare the above with Socrates : “Ue said that there was only one good, namely, knowledge, and only one evil, namely, ignorance." (DIOGENES LAERTIUS: Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophe s.) Bossuet thought that “ Well-meant ignorance is a grievous calamity in high places,” and Goethe echoed Bossuet : “Nothing is more terrible than active ignorance."
Ignorance is the mother of devotion. In his “ Church IIistory of Britain" Fuiler says, “I shall here relate what happened at the convocation at Westminster (1640). A disputation is appointed by the council, nine Popish bishops and doctors on that side, eight Protestant doctors on the other side, Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord-Keeper, moderator. The first question was about service in an unknown tongue. The first day passed with the Protestants. The second day the Popish bishops and doctors fell to cavilling against the order agreed on, and the meeting dissolved. Dr. Cole stands up and declares, “I tell you that ignorance is the mother of devotion.'" This is sometimes referred to as the origin of the familiar expression. But it is far older. Luther quotes it satirically in assailing a peculiar order of Italian monks, "The Brothers of Ignorance.” Dryden says, – Your ignorance is the mother of your devotion to me.
The Maiden Queen, Act i., Sc. 2.
Ignorances, Our small. The spelling book and the dictionary are the two great forces that conserve our language in its purity; they are also the most effectual bars to progress. Indeed, that marvellous English tongue, which has proved so resonant, so flexible, so ductile, in the hands of our great masters of prose and verse, would have had no existence if Dr. Johnson and Noah Webster had come over in the train of the Conqueror. When there is a recognized standard, a recognized authority, language is no longer the fluent thing it was at first; it becomes crystallized, it resists corruption and innova. tion. The dictionary is king, whose sway it were treason to dispute. Yet it is with the dictionary as with other monarchs :
Treason doth never prosper. What's the reason?
For when it prospers, none dare call it treason. The most conservative lawyers, Littleton, Coke, Blackstone, are constrained to acknowledge the latent right of rebellion against constituted authority when it becomes tyrannical and unbearable. Success succeeds, prosperous treason justifies itself, and establishes a new code of loyalty. In the last analysis the monarch is only the expression of the will of the people. That will is always the true sovereign, and may overthrow the exponent it once set upon a ped. estal. The authority of King Dictionary rests upon common usage, sanctioned by the aristocracy of the intellect. Common usage makes the aristoc. racy subservient, and overrides the king's veto. But this result is attained only after a long and bitter fight.
Take the word reliable, for example; the dictionary has been compelled to acknowledge it. You will find it in Worcester, in Webster, in the great Eng. lish lexicons of the present. You will look for it in vain in Johnson or Walker. It is a useful word, it supplies a want; to our accustomed ears it even sounds well. It was a barbarism to our cultivated ancestors. When it first appeared in print it was greeted with contempt and ridicule by pedant and pedagogue. They adduced excellent arguments for their scorn; they showed conclusively that, as to rely is a neuter verb, it cannot precede an accusative without the intervention of the preposition on or upon. "If we must have a new word,” they urged, with nice sarcasm, “if trustworthy and cred. ible, which were good enough for our fathers, are not good enough for us, then let the new word be relionable, not reliable! We are familiar with audible, able to be heard : ponderable, able to be weighed ; desirable, worthy to be desired; we won't even reject Carlyle's doable, able to be done. But if reliable is to mean able to be relied on, why may we not have dependable, goable, runable, risable. fallable, and such jargon ?” Why, indeed? The answer is ready to hand. Because the sovereign will of the people has not so decreed.
An earlier instance of the same sort, equally defiant of analogy and philo. logical loyalty, and indeed whose triumph is a matter of some regret, is afforded by the persistent pluralizing of words that are properly and rightly singular ; as, circumstances for circumstance. The word circumstance means the surrounding environment of a central factor truth, the detail of a story, and so it was used up to a late time. Thus, Milton wrote,
Tell us the sum, the circumstance defer. If the s had not added a redundant syllable, it is not at all unlikely that later editors would have corrected “circumstance" into “circumstances," as they actually have done with prose authors. For example, South wrote (“Sermons," 1693), “So apt is the mind, even of wise persons, to be surprised with the superficies or circumstance of things ;" and in later editions (e.g., that of 1793) the word is made circumstances. Bacon and his contemporaries talked of physic and metaphysic, we of physics and metaphysics. We have added the useless final s to ethics, politics, morals, mechanics, acoustics, and a multitude of words by which we name particular arts and sciences. Rhetoric seems to be the only one that has escaped, why or wherefore is a mystery. We shudder at such a barbarism as “I am in hopes," yet who can tell when it may become classic ? In spite of the fact that physiologists speak of the brain as an individual organ, our popular speech will have it brains, as, “a man of brains," "he blew his brains out," etc. With a belated sense of the fact that political science is singular, we are beginning to say, “politics is.” Shall we ever say, “the brains is"?