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many), spiced his biting farewell letter, of masked good will but full of subtle and penetrating irony. It has bearing clearly on the part which Coleridge was thought to have played in casting ridicule on the “ewe lambs" of his friend (in the “burlesque sonnets" printed in 1797). Among Lamb's mocktheses are these : “Whether pure intelligence can love?” “ Whether the higher order of Seraphim illuminati ever sneer ?” The sonnets had been signed “Nehemiah Higginbotham.” Is it possible that Coleridge, when charged with their authorship, seemed to equivocate? Here are two other theses : “ Whether God loves a lying angel better than a true man?" “Whether the archangel Uriel could affirman untruth, and if he could, whether he would ?".
In puerile amplifications and quibbling interpretations of Holy Writ the Talmudic doctors are not far behind their Christian brethren. Here is one example which for absurdity is a match for any of those of the schoolmen. The subject under discussion is the verse, “ The Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great." It is explained that ihe Hebrew word for “great” means “girl," and the girl was one who hid a slice of bread in her pitcher to give it to a poor man, which being discovered, her body was smeared with honey, and she was exposed on a wall to be stung to death by the bees. This incident, it is evident, must be subjected to the Talmudic secret interpretation, and the bread spoken of may be the “bread of life,”-the doctrine not to be dispensed to the uninitiated. The secret sense, however, may hardly be applied to the case of Eleazar, the servant of Sarah. Interfering when a stranger had been defrauded, one of the people struck Eleazar on the forehead with a stone. He brought blood, whereon the man seized Eleazar and demanded his fee as a leech. “I have freed thee of this impure blood : pay me quickly ; such is our law." Eleazar refused to pay for his wound and the blood' he had lost, and was brought into court. The judge decreed that Eleazar must pay the fee. “The man has let thy blood: pay him ; such is our law.” Eleazar must have brought the blood-stained stone as evidence of the assault, inasmuch as on hearing the decision he hurled the stone at the judge, and it again brought forth blood. “There,” cried Eleazar, " follow thy law, and pay my fee to this man," and he left the courthouse.
From among the great number of ridiculous legends of the Talmudists concerning Adam and Eve one only is selected here, on account of its similar. ity to the intentionally absurd idea of Aristophanes in Plato's “ Symposium.”
According to a large number of rabbis, Adam was created possessing both sexes. They say that the body of Adam was created double, male on the one side and female on the other, the two bodies being joined at the shoulders, and that God, in order to create Eve, had no more to do than to separate the two bodies. This is proved by much ingenious quotation of texts.
In the “Symposium" or "Banquet" of Plato, that most dramatic of his dialogues, a party of Athenians are assembled at supper in the house of Agathon, the young tragic poet. The subject under discussion is love. Each of those present, among whom are orators, physicians, and poets, and, of course, Socrates, gives his idea of the nature and origin of love from his own peculiar stand-point. As might have been expected of that master of comedy, the discourse of Aristophanes is full of grotesque elements. After a poetic prelude he continues,
You ought first to know the nature of man, and the adventures he has gone through : for bis nature was anciently far different from that which it is at present. First, then, human beings were formerly not divided into two sexes, male and female. ... At the period to which I refer, the form of every human being was round, the back and sides being circularly joined; and each had four arms, and as many legs, two faces, fixed upon a round neck, exactly like each other, one head between the two faces, four ears, and everything else as from
such proportion it is easy to conjecture. Man walked upright as now, in whatever direction he pleased: but when he wished to go fast he made use of all his eight limbs, and proceeded in a rapid motion by rolling circularly round, like tumblers, who, with their legs in the air, tumble round and round. ... They were strong, also, and had aspiring thoughts. They it was who levied war against the gods. ... Jupiter and the other gods debated what was to be done in this emergency. ... Jupiter, with some difficulty having obtained silence in Olympus, at length spoke. “I think," said he, “I have contrived a method by which we may, by rendering the human race more feeble, quell their insolence without proceeding to their utter destruction. I will cut each of them in half, and so they will at once be weaker and more useful on account of their numbers. They shall walk upright on two legs. If they show any more insolence, and will not keep quiet, I will cut them up in half again, so they shall go about hopping on one leg." So saying, he cut them in half, as people cut medlars before they pickle them, or as I have seen eggs cut with hairs.
From this period mutual love has naturally existed between human beings,-that reconciler and bond of their original union, which seeks to make two one, and to heal the divided nature of man. Every one of us is thus the half of what may be properly termed a man, and, like a psetta cut in two, is the imperfect portion of an entire whole, perpetually necessitated to seek the half belonging to him.
Such fancies, however, as remarked above, are not confined to any time or race or conditions of men. While it is true that the sacred books have been peculiarly subjected to this sort of interpretation, good old Homer has not escaped. Aulus Gellius, in “Noctes Atticæ," tells how he was presented with a book of commentaries on the Iliad which, for puerility, would compare with anything ever attempted either by scholastic or by rabbi ; indeed, the commentator and glossator of all times, and particularly of our own age of annotations, is a true quodlibetarian. But in the direct line the scholastics have left worthy descendants in our own time.
The following bit of logic would do credit to the fourteenth century, yet it is from a modern treatise :
Grog consists of a mixture of water and whiskey. I expect, therefore, to find three sets of qualities in grog: one set due to the water, another to the whiskey, and another to the mixture of the two. Owing to the presence of whiskey, I should expect to find the color darker
the flavor stronger than water; owing to the water, I should expect to find the color lighter and the flavor weaker than whiskey; and owing to the whiskey and water being mixed, I should expect to be able to drink a certain quantity of it,-more than I could of pure whiskey. but less than I could of pure water. - Dr. VENN: Empirical Logic. And for oddity some rococo notions of our own day hold their own against the scholasticism at which we now smile. It was gravely proposed a few years ago to submit to a pair of scales the question whether or not man has a soul. The idea was to place in a delicate balance a man about to expire, and watch for any possible change in his weight at the moment of death. It was urged that if there be such a thing as a human soul, capable of existing apart from the body, that soul must weigh something, however little, and that if no change in weight were perceptible the fact would furnish a strong argument in favor of some theory which need not be discussed here. The suggestion did not lead up to any practical result, still less to a solution of the riddle as stated.
A gentleman connected with the South Boston Institution for the Blind is reported to have had another idea. He took it for granted that the human body is animated by a soul, and proposed to test it for innate religious sentiment. He wished to discover whether, unaided by any extraneous sugges. tion, a child that is blind, deaf, and dumb will manifest an instinctive impulse towards religion or develop an innate idea of a Supreme Being. He aimed to avoid anything that should in any way bias the convictions of the child, so that she might be allowed to reach gradually the beliefs that her own conscience and growing knowledge would naturally attain. He had no wish to suppress knowledge that led to religious ideas, nor to prevent the child's inquiries from going in that direction. But she must not be indoctrinated. She was to be left free to develop in her own way.
Many of us, too, will remember the proposition made not so long ago by
Prof. Huxley,-sardonically, as we imagine,-to test the efficacy of prayer by setting a time for universal and simultaneous praying. Another modern instance is the calculation sometimes ascribed to one Captain J. B. Sharkley, of Boston, sometimes to other claimants, which went the rounds of the daily press several years ago. It has reference to the text “ In my Father's house are many mansions," and is based upon the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation xxi. 16: “And he measured the city (the New Jerusalem with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal."
The result is thus figured out: Twelve thousand furlongs = 7,920,000 feet, which, being cubed, is 943,088,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 cubic feet, and half of which we will reserve for the throne of God and the court of heaven, half of the balance streets, and the remainder divided by 4096, the number of cubical feet in a room sixteen feet square and sixteen feet high, will give 30,843,750,000,000 rooms.
We will now suppose that the world always did and always will contain 900,000,000 of inhabitants, and that a generation will last thirty-three and one. third years—2,700,000,000,000 persons.
Then suppose there were one hundred worlds, equal to this in number of inhabitants and duration of years according to the received chronology : there would be one hundred and twelve rooms sixteen feet long, sixteen feet wide, and sixteen feet high for each person, and rooms to spare.
These deductions are of course majestic in their volume, but are liable to create a ridiculously wrong impression as to the comparative magnitude of the space described, in proportion to spaces within common knowledge.
To begin with, the diameter of the suggested heaven is but fifteen hundred miles, which, cubed, is three thousand three hundred and seventy-five millions of miles. Now, our little, insignificant, paltry earth has a diameter of, roundly, eight thousand miles, or sixty-four thousand furlongs; but, being a globe, its capacity is, of course, less than that of a cube of the like diameter, and allowing, roughly, one-third as the difference between the globe and the cube form, we have the earth's dimensions as considerably over three hundred and forty thousand millions of cubic miles, or one hundred times the dimensions of the suggested heaven.
If we carry the calculation a little farther, we find that Jupiter, with his ninety thousand miles of diameter, is more than sixteen thousand times larger than the supposed heaven; whilst the sun, though one of the least in size of the great stars, seeing that his bulk is about a million times that of the earth, would have space within his borders for more than one hundred millions of the heavens here described.
Such is the calculation. It has many discrepancies, mathematical and logical. Such as it is, we give it in all its simple and beautiful integrity. The figures are Captain Sharkley's, not ours.
Quot linguæ tot homines (L., “ So many languages so many times a man"). The idea that a man multiplies himself whenever he acquires a new language is a very ancient one. Ennius, in the third century B.C., was wont to claim that he had three souls, because he was skilled in three languages : “Tria corda habere sese quod loqui Græce et Osce et Latine sciret" (AULUS GELLIUS, xvii. 17). Vambéry in his “ Travels in Central Asia," p. 259, after recording the princely treatment he received from the Emir of Bokhara, owing to his command of the German tongue, continues, “ I had every reason to appreciate the truth of the Latin proverb, Quot linguas calles, tot homines vales.” The phrase is obviously formed on the basis of the line in Terence, "Quot homines tot sententiæ" (" As many men, so many opinions") (Phormio, II., iy, 14),
Quotation and Misquotation. Byron has a fling at the gentlemen“ with just enough of learning to misquote.” These gentlemen are, unfortunately, very cominon. It would indeed be advisable, if it were possible, to prevent the corruption of our popular quotations. Shakespeare is well enough as he stands : don't let us go on talking of "the sere and yellow leaf,” or of “the bourne from which no traveller returns," but remember that what Macbeth really said was.
My May of life is fall'n into the sear, the yellow leat, and that Hamlet speaks of
The undiscovered country from whose bourne
No traveller returns. The Declaration of Independence does not hold it to be self-evident that all men are born free and equal, but that all men are created equal. Berkeley does not speak of the star of empire, but of the course of empire, taking its westward way:
Westward the course of empire takes its way. “When Greeks joined Greeks,” says Nat Lee, “then was the tug of war," which means the exact opposite of our current corruption, “When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war." It was only Nat Lee's early. English way of saying that united they stood, divided they fell. Prior's line
Fine by degrees and beautifully less is never quoted right. If you are a betting man it is not at all unlikely that you may win money by laying odds that
Water, water everywhere,
And not a drop to drink, is incorrect, as indeed it is. The second line should be
Nor any drop to drink. You might even make money by giving your friend the following passage to read : “And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men” (Judges xv. i6). Nine men out of ten inadvertently repeat the word jawbone in the second clause of the sentence, not noticing that jaw simply has been substituted.
The Bible, indeed, is a fertile field for misquotation. People, and among these people even clergymen themselves, persist in alluding to the time when the lion shall lie down with the lamb, despite the fact that the prophet's words are, “ The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb," etc. Perhaps the apt alliteration of lion and lamb has something to do with this common error.
Another favorite misquotation is the following: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” This may be an improve. ment on Paul's words, but as a matter of fact there is no such verse in the Bible. The Authorized Version says, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man," etc. Yet the verse, though introduced into half the sermons that are preached, is rarely by any chance rendered by the preacher as it actually stands. Congreve wrote,
Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast,
The Mourning Bride, Act i., Sc. 1.
phrase, and man as well as beast comes rightly within its scope. In the very speech of Lorenzo referred to there are several lines which just as pointedly prove that the breast is the sphere of music's charms. “It is curious, however," says a correspondent of Notes and Queries (seventh series, iv. 175), “how wide-spread the belief in the unorthodox reading seems to be. I remember hearing how, when once upon a time the line was misquoted at a civic banquet, a well-known poet and critic who was present was heard to interpolate,
'Tis therefore welcome at a Lord Mayor's feast. But whether this was in resentment at the misquotation, or for other reasons, I cannot say." Gray's line in the famous Elegy,
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way, is constantly misquoted
They kept the even tenor of their way. Pope said,
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
As to be hated needs but to be seen. He is usually made to say, —
Vice is a monster of such hideous mien, etc.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave
· Marmion, Canto vi., Stanza 4, are usually misread with the substitution of "venture” for “practise." Shake. speare, by the way, says,
I will not practise to deceive.
King John, Act i., Sc. 1.
Waller was smooth, but Dryden taught to join
Imitations of Horace, Bk. II., Ep. i., l. 267. Gray evidently had Pope in mind when, after eulogizing Milton, he went on,
Behold where Dryden's less presumptuous car
Progress of Poetry.
The long resounding march and energy divine. Another common error is the miscrediting of quotations. The champion instance is “God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb." Out of a hundred people ninety will say that this line is from the Book of Proverbs, nine will credit it to some portion of the New Testament, only one, perhaps, will know that it is not in the Bible at all, but in Sterne's “ Sentimental Journey." On the other hand, how many people know that such colloquialisms as "escaped with the skin of my teeth,” “at their wits' end," "fat as grease," are from the Bible (Job xix. 20; Ps. cvii. 27; Ps. cxix. 70), and that “picking and stealing" is in the catechism of the Book of Common Prayer ?
To take the other side of the case, the phrase "he who runs may read" is usually referred to Habakkuk ïi. 2: “And the Lord answered me, and