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THE Russo-TURKISH WAR.
THE FALL OF EVE.
THE APPROACH OF EVENING.
The same subject continued.
But full cups, hurtful, spur up unjust thumps. Litera scripta manet, verbum imbelle perit (L., “ The written letter remains, the weak (spoken) word perishes”), a mediæval Latin phrase, which Fournier explains as a mnemonic versification of the earlier "Verba volant, scripta manent” (“ Words fly, written things remain"). It was with a pre. historic consciousness of the truth thus emphasized that Job exclaimed, “Oh that my words were now written ! oh that they were printed in a book !" (xix. 23.)
And what is writ is writ,-
Childe Harold, Canto iv., Stanza 185. Literal sense, In a. Taking things too literally is a fertile source of blunders that are sometimes amusing, sometimes provoking, and sometimes deplorable. We all remember Colman's poeria about Dr. Bolus and the patient to whom he had prescribed a medicine with the injunction, "When
taken to be well shaken.” The solicitous family shook the sick man instead of the medicine, and when the doctor called around again his patient was dead. A similar story in actual life is related of a member of the County Board at Crookston, Mississippi, a hale and hearty farmer, who, for the first time in his life, feeling unaccountably under the weather, visited the local doctor and obtained a prescription. Arriving home, he found his wife had gone out, so he concluded to take the first dose during her absence. When the good old lady returned she was surprised to find her husband stark naked and standing up to his chin in a rain-barrel filled with water, a bottle of med. icine in one hand and a teaspoon in the other. “For goodness' sake, father," she cried, " what are you about?” “Why, I'm following the doctor's orders,” said Tim. And he pointed to the directions : "A teaspoonful in water, every three hours."
Another medical story is more tragic. A doctor, called in for the second time just soon enough to save the life of a man who during his fits of intoxication was given to dosing himself with laudanum, felt called upon to administer a round rebuke, and wound up by saying, “ If you really intend to kill yourself, cut your throat and have done with it.” One night the doctor's bell was pulled. Thrusting his head out of the window, he saw the self-poisoner's wife. “He has done it, doctor,” she cried. “Done what?” “John has taken your advice. He has cut his throat and will save you further trouble !"
Two English costermongers claiming proprietorship in one donkey appeared before the Westminster County Court to settle their dispute. After hearing a part of the evidence, the judge said they had better settle the case out of court during the adjournment for luncheon. When the court reopened the defendant told his Honor it was all right; the donkey was his. The judge noticed that the plaintiff's personal appearance was considerably damaged, but before he could put a question the defendant continued: “We found a quiet place to settle it in, your Honor. I 'ad to be rather rough on the plaintiff, but couldn't 'elp it; we 'ad honly an arf-hour to pull it off in, and he were a much tougher customer than I expected.” The explanation was conclusive, if not entirely what the court had bargained for, and the donkey became the prize of the victor in the fight.
That was a very literal Scotch subaltern whom Colonel Stuart tells of in his “Reminiscences of a Soldier.” The Scotchman was one day on guard at Gibraltar with another officer, who, falling down a precipice, was killed. He made no mention of the accident in his guard-report, leaving the addendum, “Nothing extraordinary since guard-mounting," standing without qualification. Some hours after, the brigade-general came to demand explanation : “You say, sir, in your report, 'Nothing extraordinary since guard-mounting, when your brother-officer fell down a precipice four hundred feet and was killed.” “Well, sir,” replied Sandy, “I'dinna think there's anything extraordinary in that. If he had faun doon a precipice four hundred feet high and no ben killed, I should ha thocht it extraordinary, and put it doon in my repoort.”
These blunders should be genuine in order to reach the higher levels of humor : yet a pretence at a literal understanding—or misunderstanding-is a favorite form of jesting. Charles Lamb's serious reply to a gushing mother who asked him, “And now, Mr. Lamb, how do you like children ?” “Bbboiled, madam,” is a classic instance. Jokes repeat themselves, like history, and it was only the other day, according to one of our comic papers, that Mr. Staggers, learning from his loving spouse that “we are to have dear mother for dinner," quickly replied, “ All right. See that she is thoroughly cooked."
Sheridan, reproving his promising son Tom on the irregular life he was leading, ended by saying, "My dear Tom, really it is time for you to take a wife.” “With all my heart,” replied the dutiful son; "whose wise shall I take ?” Sydney Smith's jest when advised by his doctor to take a walk upon an empty stomach belongs to the same class : “Upon whose ?” he asked. And very similar, too, is Leigh Hunt's. A lady at dessert asked if he would not venture on an orange. “Madam," he replied, “I should be happy to do so, but I am afraid I should tumble off.”
"How does your horse answer ?" inquired the Duke of Cumberland of George Selwyn. “I really don't know,” George replied: “I have never asked him a question."
A council of ministers having met on some important questions, a nobleman inquired of Talleyrand, “What has passed at the council ?” “Three hours," was the answer.
“I heard an anecdote at Oxford," says W. H. Harrison in his “Reminiscences,” “of a proctor encountering on his rounds two undergraduates who were without their gowns, or out of bounds, or out of hours. He challenged one : 'Your name and college ?' They were given. Turning to the other, * And pray, sir ! what might your name be?' Julius Cæsar," was the reply. * What, sir, do you mean to say your name is Julius Cæsar ? “Sir, you did not ask me what it is, but what it might be.' ”
A young barrister, intending to be very eloquent, observed, “Such principles as these, my lord, are written in the book of Nature.” “What page, sir ?” said Lord Chief Justice Ellenborough ; and the orator was silenced for that occasion at least.
A well-known chestnut is that of the judge who threatened to fine a lawyer for contempt of court. “I have expressed no contempt for the court,” said the lawyer; "on the contrary, I have carefully concealed it.”
One of a party of friends, referring to an exquisite musical composition, said, “That song always carries me away when I hear it.” “Can anybody here whistle it ?" asked Jerrold appealingly.
A police officer met an organ-grinder on the street and said, “Have you a license to play? If not, you must accompany me." “With pleasure," answered the street-musician. “What will you sing?”
Gronow, in his “ Recollections," tells a good story. The Bishop of Exeter, in the course of conversation at a dinner-party, mentioned that many years since, while trout-fishing, he lost his watch and chain, which he supposed had been pulled from his pocket by the bough of a tree. Some time afterwards, when staying in the same neighborhood, he took a stroll by the side of the river, and came to the secluded spot where he supposed he had lost his valuables, and there, to his surprise and delight, he found them under a bush. The anecdote, vouched for by the word of a bishop, astonished the company; but this was changed to amusement by his son's inquiring whether the watch, when found, was going. "No," replied the bishop: "the wonder was that it was not gone."
Gazzam (looking up from the newspaper). That's the longest sentence I ever heard of.
Mrs. Gaszam. What?
Mrs. Gazzam (who was once a school-teacher). It isn't a sentence at all. It has no verb.
Taking things literally is a frequent method among the unregenerate of sliding out of a difficulty.
"Don't you see that sign?” cries an irate property-owner to an amateur angler, pointing to the legend, “No fishing on the grounds."
" I'm not fishing on the grounds," is the quiet reply: "I'm fishing in the A minister, meeting a boy with a long pole one Sur.day morning, stopped him and inquired, “I hope you are not going fishing in the creek on this beautiful Sabbath morning ?" To which the boy answered emphatically, “No, I'm not.” So the minister gave him a nickel, patted him on the head, and passed on. “Well," said the boy, thoughtfully, “if he'd asked me was I goin' fishin' in the mill-pond, he'd 'a' had me sure.” Which is only another avatar, however, of the perennial chestnut, which may be thrown into this dialogue form : "Stolen any chickens lately, 'Lijah ?" "No, sah ! I's converted, I is.” “Any turkeys ?” “Golly, sah! doesn't I tell you I's been converted?” “Any geese ? “Lawd, no! I's all done regenerate, I is.” And then, when his questioner had departed, the converted darky scratches his head and remarks, “Golly! ef he'd said ducks he'd 'a' had me.”
What a time there would be if the compliments and invitations of polite society were taken literally! Yet Vivier, the artist, once undertook to do this, in a spirit of reproof, however, and not of ingenuous faith. He used to spend his winters in Paris. One day he was invited to dine with M. Xthe capitalist and musical amateur. As he was taking his leave, the master and mistress of the house said to their agreeable guest,
“We hope that we shall have you often to dine with us : your plate will always be ready."
"Always ?" queried Vivier. “In the fashionable sense of the word, of course."
“Not at all. We are not persons of such hollow politeness. Our home is yours. Come and dine with us as often as possible. We should be glad if it were every day."
“ In earnest?"
“Ah, well, since you are so cordial I promise you I will do my best to be agreeable."
Next day at six o'clock Vivier presented himself. “You see,” said he, “I have taken your invitation literally. I have come to dine.'
“Ah, it is very kind of you. It is very charming," said his hosts.
The dinner was very gay; and the artist, on taking leave, received many compliments.
The next day, as they were about to sit down to the table, Vivier again appeared.
"Here I am, exact, punctual, and faithful to my promise. But it is singular," he continued, fixing a penetrating and quizzical look upon the faces of his hosts,-"it is singular, -you appear surprised. Did you not expect me ?"
“Oh, certainly; you give us much pleasure," said the Amphitryon.
Vivier sat down in his happiest vein, and seemed quite unconscious that he had all the burden of the entertaining, and that practically the conversation was mere monologue.
On the fourth day, at six o'clock precisely, the obstinate guest once more presented himself. This time coldness and constraint were very perceptible, and Vivier spoke of it.
The mistress of the house replied,
" It is only because we feared you would not fare well. We have so poor a dinner to-day.”
"I thought you expected me; but it is of no consequence. I am not dainty. I wish only the pleasure of your society."
He seated himself with perfect composure, and ate heartily, then, turning to madame with a complimentary air, he said,
“What could you mean? This dinner is splendid. I could desire nothing better.”
The next day—it was the fifth-Vivier arrived as usual. The porter met him at the door.
“Mr. X- is not at home. He dines out to-day.”
“Ah, very well; but I forgot my great-coat yesterday. I must ask the servant for it.” And, darting up the staircase, he knocked.
The door was opened. Unexpected apparition. “Your porter is a simpleton !" said Vivier, gayly. “He pretended that you had gone out. I knew that he was mistaken. But what long faces! What a sombre and melancholy air ! Has anything happened? Tell me, that I may offer my sympathies.”
All dinner-time the witty artist continued and redoubled his entreaties that the supposed misfortune might be confided to him. He complained of their reserve and indulged himself in all sorts of conjectures and questions.
“Have you lost money in speculations? Missed an inheritance? Have you been wounded in your fortune-in your ambition ?”.
Then, at the dessert, bursting into a fit of laughter,
“I know what is the matter, and what troubles you. It is your invitation, so cordially made and so literally accepted. I thought that I would inake the trial, suspecting that you would not endure me long. To-day you shut the door against me, and to-morrow, if I should return, you would throw me out of the window! I wish you good-evening."
And, no doubt, M. Vivier Aung himself out of the house with the idea that he had done something very fine. But, on the whole, we far prefer the thoughtful courtesy of the American beggar whose tale of woe so touched a fashionable lady that she gave him her card with her address and bade him call for some clothes. The beggar did not appear, and some days after she met him again. “Why haven't you come for those clothes ?” she asked. Taking the card out with a deprecatory smile, he answered, “ Because, madam, I note you have on your card ‘Thursdays.'
Literary Leather Dresser, Thomas Dowse, a famous book-bunter of Cambridgeport, Massachusetts (1772-1856). He was a currier by trade, and when he received from Harvard the degree of LL.D. the title was facetiously translated by Edward Everett Hale into “ Literary Leather-Dresser."
Literati. This word offers a curious instance of change of meaning. The original literati were very different characters from the men of letters of to. day, and the word, which now confers honor, was once a stigma of disgrace. Among the Romans it was usual to affix some branding or ignominious letter on the criminal when the crime was more than ordinarily infamous. The culprits so branded were called inscripti or stigmatici, or by the more equiv. ocal term literati. The same expression is likewise adopted in one of the statutes of Henry VIII., which recites "that diverse persons, lettered, had been more bold to commit mischievous deeds,” etc.
Little church around the corner, the Church of the Transfiguration (Protestant Episcopal), in Twenty-Ninth Street, New York. The occurrence which gave rise to the nickname is related by Dr. Houghton, the rector, thus. George Holland, a popular comedian, died December 20, 1870, and the clergyman to whom Holland's family first applied declined to bury him be. cause the deceased was an actor. He directed the applicant to "the little church around the corner.” Dr. Houghton readily consented, and the fune. ral services were conducted in his church on December 22. Touching the incident Dr. Houghton continued :
“It drew towards the church, to which my life had been given, a world of kindly tender feelings, and it opened wide for personal ministration and use.