« AnteriorContinuar »
said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it."
It is rarely used in any other sense than this,—that the writing is so legible that a man can read it as he runs. But it has been objected that the Hebrew prophet from whom the quotation is taken neither said nor thought of saying anything of the kind. Habakkuk is foretelling the devastation which the Lord would permit the Chaldeans to inflict upon the land because of the ungodliness of the Jewish people, and he is directed to explain the vision so clearly that any one who reads what is written upon the tables may understand it, and run away, and escape from the coming vengeance. It is not that he may run and read, but that he may read and run. This is well and good; but, after all, there is no reason to look upon the usual reading as a misquotation from Habakkuk. The very words occur in Cowper's “Tiro. cinium :"
Shine by the side of every path we tread
With such a lustre, he that runs may read. It is possible, of course, that Cowper may have misquoted Habakkuk. But the phrase he uses is an excellent one, and one that often comes in very handy. Habakkuk was a worthy gentleman, no doubt, as well as a minor prophet. But because he (or his translators) once spoke of a man running because he read, -a phrase which might conceivably come in on a “Trespassers-will-beprosecuted" notice, but otherwise not of general application,-are we and the rest of the non-prophetic world to be debarred from mentioning things writ so large that he who runs may read ?
A very popular jest tells how two august members of Congress laid a wager on an abstruse point. One bet the other that he could not repeat the Lord's Prayer. The challenged party straightway commenced,
« Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep " “The money's yours," interrupted the challenger ; “but I really didn't think you knew it.” An equally good story is told of an English M.P., a gentleman of sporting proclivities, who knew more about race-horses than about the Bible. Out of pure mischief he was asked by one of his constitu. ents if he would vote for the abolition of the Decalogue. Not knowing what that was, but anxious to preserve his own consistency, he replied, “I won't pledge myself, but I'll give it my consideration."
An especially cruel form of misquotation is that which credits (or discredits) a man with some perversion of a sentiment that makes him odious or ridiculous to his fellow-men. Sir Robert Walpole, for example, is persistently said to have expressed the cynical opinion that " All men have their price.” What he really said is thus explained by Coxe in the “Memoirs of Walpole :" “Flowery oratory he despised. He ascribed to the interested views of them. selves or their relatives the declarations of pretended patriots, of whom he said, 'All those men have their price.'”
It was Byron who borrowed the phrase and made it universal in its appli. cation. But Byron thought he was copying from Walpole :
But all have prices,
Don Juan, Canto v., Stanza 27. Chief Justice Taney did not say, “ The negro has no rights which a white man is bound to respect," but that people formerly thought so: he expressed horror of the sentiment, instead of endorsing it. The error is so wide-spread and bas heaped so much unwarranted odium on the memory of a good man that it is worth while to quote entire the paragraph in which the words occur. Here it is : “It is difficult at this day to realize the state of public opinion in regard to that unfortunate race which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence, and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted; but the public history of every European nation displays it in a manner too plain to be mistaken. They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far unfit that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
“Racine passera comme le café” (“Racine will pass away like coffee") is an absurdity laid to the door of Madame de Sévigné, by the process of dove. tailing parts of two letters. Yet Voltaire seriously repeats the phrase in his preface to “Irene."
R, the eighteenth letter and fourteenth consonant in the English alphabet, representing a character having a like position and value in the Latin, Greek, and Phoenician alphabets. The Greeks wrote the letter P. The tag below the curve, by which the Latins and their successors differentiate the R from the P sign, was originally made by the Greeks, but abandoned when they had invented a new sign, II, for their p. Owing to what is known as the “rolling of the r's,”-i.e., a trilling and vibration of the tip of the tongue in the pronunciation of the letter, more common among the Keltic and Latin than among the distinctly Teutonic races,—the letter is sometimes known as the "litera canina," “ dog's letter."
The famous toast to "the three R's reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic”-is usually accredited to Sir William Curtis, Bart., Lord Mayor of London in 1795, and for many years one of the wardens of the Tower. He proposed it at a dinner given by the Board of Education in the days when Dr. Bell and the Quaker Lancaster were pleading for increased educational advantages for the poor. It was received with great applause and drunk amid much merri. ment. But, though recognized as a jest at the time, it was afterwards taken up in earnest by Sir William's detractors, who have handed his name down to posterity as a blundering ignoramus. A writer in Notes and Queries says that an aged member of the corporation, now deceased, assured him that Sir William Curtis, although a man of limited education, was very shrewd, and not so ignorant as to suppose his presumed orthography was correct. He chose the phrase simply as a joke.
Radicals, the sobriquet of the members of the extreme democratic wing of the Liberal party in Great Britain, first applied as a party name in 1818 to Major Cartwright, Henry Hunt, and others forming a coterie whose platform was a radical reform of the system of parliamentary representation and of the electoral franchise. Also á Southern sobriquet for Republicans much used during the carpet-bag régime, and still in vogue, though possibly with less asperity.
Rag-Baby, in American political slang, a humorous personification of the greenback currency. It was used with great effect by speakers and cari caturists in the Presidential campaign of 1876. The use of the word rags in the sense of paper money dates back to the second quarter of the century:
Oh, times are very hard, folks say,
And very well too we know it;
Is while you're young to go it.
The banks are all clean broke,
Their rags are good for naught,
So certainly we ought
Song of 1840. Ragman Roll. When Edward I. of England overran Scotland in 1296, he endeavored to carry off or destroy all records, monuments, etc., that referred to the separate existence of the nation. On his southward progress he summoned all the nobility and leading men, lay and clerical, to meet him at Berwick. He held a court there, August 28, 1296, and caused the Scots to subscribe oaths of homage and allegiance to him. The list there made up consists of thirty-five skins of parchment, and is known as the “ Ragman Roll.” It is kept in the British archives, and was printed in extenso by the Bannatyne Club in 1834. After the overthrow of the English rule in Scotland, a treaty was entered into at Northampton, May 4, 1328, between Robert Bruce and Edward III. A marriage was arranged between Edward's sister Joanna and young David Bruce. · The independence of Scotland was guaranteed, and much of the first Edward's plunder was to be restored,-among other things, the famous Stone of Scone and the Ragman Roll. The childmarriage was celebrated at Berwick, and the Roll was returned, though the Stone of Destiny was retained. The Ragman Roll is still valuable, as containing the earliest statistical facts concerning Scotland. The etymology of the word “Ragman” seems to be very obscure. Jamieson gives several possible derivations, but does not seem sure of any of them. In “Piers Plow. man's Vision" (circa 1390) the word “ Rageman" is applied to the devil. As Edward's Roll was, in the eyes of the Scots, a very work of the devil, several writers accept this as the true origin of the term prefixed to the Roll. The word "Ragman" is found in many of the old authors, and with varied spelling. It seems to be an ancient legal designation for a deed or agreement, and so was applied to the indenture which bound the Scottish nobles, bur. gesses, etc., to the service of Edward I. In the novel of “The Antiquary," Scott makes Sir Arthur Wardour assert the educational standing of his family by stating that the name of his ancestor Sir Gamelyn“is written fairly with his own hand in the earliest copy of the Ragman Roll,” to which Mr. Oldbuck retorted that it only served to show “he was one of the earliest who set the mean example of submitting to Edward I."
Rail-Splitter. Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, was frequently referred to by this name. The allusion is to an experience in his younger days, when he is said to have supported himself over one winter by splitting rails for a farmer.
Raise, To, or Make a raise,-probably an abbreviation of the older collo. quialism “to raise the wind,"—an Americanism, meaning to procure money by pawning, borrowing, or otherwise.
The verb to raise is also used as an American equivalent for the English rear. But it is not a pure Americanism, it is rather a survival, and the word may be found in the American sense in the memoirs of Lord Herbert of Cherbury.
Monsignor Capel was the subject of a talk the other evening, the spokeswoman of the party being the daughter of our ex-minister to a foreign court, and a Catholic. “I don't like the man," she said: “he is ill-mannered. It was this way. I was talking to him, and in some way referred to my youth, and said I had been raised in Kentucky. But, madam,' he said, with provoking irrelevancy, and in a tone of supercilious criticism, you should not say raised. Bred is better : we say so in England.' Do you?' I answered, with considerable warmth : 'well. I don't. In Kentucky we breed cattle and horses and mules, and raise children.' Then I turned my back on him quite as politely as he had begun the dispute, and I felt better." - Washington Post.
Ranch, a word derived from the Spanish rancho, a mess, a set of persons who eat and drink together, or a mess-room. The Spanish term also meant a cattle-station or a hunting-lodge far away from the haunts of men. Among the Mexicans the word rancho came to signify the rude hut of posts, covered with branches or thatch, in which the ranchmen or farm-laborers lived or only lodged at nights, and later embraced the small farm or peasant village. The term hacienda is used for the large and extensive plantations. In our language the word ranch is used to signify both large and small plantations, and also the buildings upon them. The proper name for buildings upon a rancho is rancheria, but the latter word has not been adopted, and so the shorter is used for both building and plantation.
Rap, Not worth a, a term derived probably from the letters forming the heading of Indian money columns in account-books, R. A. P., meaning rupees, annas, and pice. In Indian accounts these letters are used in precisely the same manner as the English £ s. d.
Rat-Rats. The first appearance of this word in an opprobrious sense was in the early part of the eighteenth century, when it was political siang for a turncoat, a traitor, a renegade. Evidently the term is borrowed from the proverb “Rats leave a sinking ship.”
It is in view of this sense of a traitor, of one who goes over to the enemy's camp, that printers apply the term rat to a compositor or pressman who does not belong to the Typographical Union, and who plays into the hands of capital by consenting to work at a rate lower than that fixed by the Union.
From the French proverb “Avoir des rats dans la tête” (see Bee IN THE BONNET) we probably get our American slang “he has rats,” or “he has rats in his garret,” sometimes intensified " and he has got them bad," meaning that he is crazy, demented, or has delirium tremens. In the latter case the phrase is cognate with “ he has the rams,” or “he sees snakes,” and may have grown up independently from the imaginary animals seen by men in that state. “Rats !" is in America an expression of contemptuous sarcasm or indifference.
Rawhead-and-bloody-bones, a former spectre of the nursery, inspiring as much awe among the nurses as among their charges.
Servants awe children, and keep them in subjection, by telling them of Rawhead-andbloody-bones.-LOCKE.
In short, he became the bugbear of every house, and was as efective in frightening little children into obedience and hysterics as the redoubtable Rawhead-and-bloody-bones himself, -W. IRVING: Spectre Bridegroom.
Real people in fiction. When the Autocrat of the Breakfast. Table was asked why he did not write a novel, he answered that, in the first place, he should tell all his secrets (and he maintained that verse is the proper medium for such revelations), and, in the second place, he was terribly afraid he should show up all his friends. “I should like to know if all story-tellers do not do this. Now, I am afraid all my friends would not bear showing up well, if they have an average share of the common weaknesses of humanity, which I am pretty certain would come out. Of all that have told stories among us, there is hardly one I can recall who has not drawn too faithfully some living portrait, which might better have been spared.”
One of the torments of authorship is that so many people are possessed with the idea that the hero or heroine of a story or poem is the author's own self, or that such and such an unpleasant character is copied from his neighbor. In Dr. Holland's “ Bitter-Sweet” one of the characters is a man of good birth and education who fell so far from grace that his wife one day
beheld him about to make a balloon-ascension with a woman a great deal worse than she should have been. He was subsequently reclaimed, but the author often wished he had allowed him to die, for some readers, who did not know Dr. Holland, imagined the author was the original of this sorry character. Thackeray was continually identified with Pendennis, who, if he resembles him at all, resembles him in his less pleasant traits. Other authors have been identified by turns with their own romantic heroes and their desperate villains. Amélie Rives, it has been persistently asserted, drew her own portrait in the morbid, hysterical heroine of “The Quick or the Dead ?" In the preface to that novel she insisted that the critics had done her a great though unconscious honor in assuming that she intended Barbara for herself, as in doing so they had attributed to her an absolute honesty and an absence of vanity such as few mortals have been credited with. Barbara is beautiful in face and form, but all her idiosyncrasies are such as no woman would care to accuse herself of.
Such experiences are unpleasant enough, but they are no more unpleasant than to be accused of having unconsciously caricatured your friends and rela. tives. In his article on “The Critic on the Hearth," James Payn probably draws upon his own experience when he makes a country cousin write as follows : “ Helen, who has just been here, is immensely delighted with your satirical sketch of her husband; he, however, as you may imagine, is wild, and says you had better withdraw your name froin the candidates' book at his club. I do not know how many black balls exclude, but he has a good many friends here."
After the publication of "The House of the Seven Gables,” Hawthorne was worried by people who insisted that they, or their families in the present or past generations, had been deeply wronged by his book. One man wrote complaining that his grandfather had been made infamous in the character of Judge Pyncheon. Now, his grandfather, Judge Pyncheon by name, was a Tory and refugee resident in Salem at the period of the Revolution, whom the correspondent described as the most exemplary old gentleman in the world. He therefore considered himself infinitely wronged and aggrieved, and thought it monstrous that the virtuous dead could not be suffered to rest quietly in their graves. “The joke of the matter is,” says Hawthorne, in a letter to Fields, " that I never heard of his grandfather, nor knew that any Pyncheons had ever lived in Salem, but took the name because it suited the tone of my book and was as much my property for fictitious purposes as that of Smith. I have pacified him by a very polite and gentlemanly letter; and if ever you publish any more of The Seven Gables' I should like to write a brief preface expressive of my anguish for this unintentional wrong, and making the best reparation possible, else these wretched old Pyncheons will have no peace in the other world nor in this.” A few weeks later he wrote again, “I have just received a letter from still another claimant of the Pyn. cheon estate. I wonder if ever, and how soon, I shall get a just estimate of how many jackasses there are in this ridiculous world. My correspondent, by the way, estimates the number of these Pyncheon jackasses at about twenty. I am doubtless to be remonstrated with by each individual. After exchanging shots with each one of them, I shall get you to publish the whole correspondence in a style to match that of my other works, and I anticipate a great run for the volume."
Thackeray drew down upon himself the indignation of the whole Irish public by taking as the heroine of his story of “Catherine" a famous murderess named Catherine Hayes, which happened to be exactly the same name as that of a famous Irish songstress. Professor Maurice was in early life the author of a novel called “Eustace Conway, or the Brother and Sister." He