+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

his leisure with composition of Greek
epigrams to Venus and Cupid. Philelphes and
Timotheus wagered beards upon a controversy;
and Timotheus being vanquished, was
most cruelly shaven, that his beard might be
carried about Europe as a trophy. Such
questions as these engaged the lives of
old grammarians: How many rowers had
Ulysses? Was the Iliad composed before the
Odyssey? Who was the mother of Hecuba?
What name did Achilles bear when wearing
woman's dress ? What was the usual subject
of the songs of the Sirens? Nicanor wrote
six volumes on a dot, the grammatical full
stop. Messala wrote a dissertation on the
letter S, and Martin Vogel wrote another on
the German B. The Sorbonne decided that
the Latin Q should be pronounced like the Q
in French, and solemnly cut off from its
body a heretic member who ridiculed such
Latin as kiskis and kamkam. " Here," said
somebody to Casaubon as they entered the
old hall of the Sorbonne, " Here is a building
in which men have disputed for four hundred
years." " And," asked Casaubon, "what has
been settled ?"

It was the common boast of a grammarian,
who wanted as much fame as he could get,
that he understood some fabulous number of
languages. Postel said he understood fifteen;
his adversaries said he did not understand so
much as one. André Thevet was thoroughly
grounded, he said, in twenty-eight, and spoke
them all fluently. Joseph Scaliger is said to
have claimed knowledge of all there were,
though thirteen is the number commonly
ascribed to him, and most likely with greater
truth. The man who professed to understand
all languages might as well have said at once
that he came down from the third heaven of
Mahomet, where every inhabitant has seventy
thousand heads, and every head has seventy
thousand mouths, in each mouth seventy
thousand tongues, all singing praises at one
time in seventy thousand idioms.

Of orators it will be enough to cite that
practice in exterior eloquence which is kept
up to this day, and which Francius first
taught his pupils to keep up before a good
Venetian mirror. Of the poets every one
has tales to tell; they are animated, like
beasts, by a blind love for their own offspring,
and are led, when they are weak-minded, into
an infinite number of odd fopperies. We
will cast anchor, finally, upon the Hæccities
and Quiddities of an extinct order of
logicians. They could be matched indeed with
the concretes, I's and not I's of the present
day; but we are not personal to any man's
opinions or practice, and retire firmly upon
the past. The logicians of old used to discuss
gravely whether it would be a greater
miracle for an elephant to be as small as a flea,
or for a flea to be as big as an elephant, and
whether the chimera humming through the
void of nature could devour second intentions.
As for the old logical technicalities,
Barbara, Celareut, Darii, Ferison, Baralipton,
they are now legends. Nobody now reads
the thick volumes of Bovellius on That
which is below (or next to) Nothing. He was
a mathematician, and his topic was not quite
so foolish as it seems. The lawyers were as
acute in those days as any of their neighbours.
Among their problems for ingenious
discussion were the questions: Could a
criminal who recovered his life after decapitation
be again subject to have his head cut
off? Who is the owner of an egg laid in a
nest frequented by the fowls of many households ?
If the wife of Lazarus had married
again after his death, could he have claimed
her on his resurrection ? In those days
(only in those days, observe), hairs were
split by lawyers; advocates, by brass,
and by bon mots, and by force of cunning,
dragged lawsuits out and prolonged them to
the ruin of both litigants even prolonged
them when there was much wealth, into a
second and third generation. In that way
the lawyers (of those days) throve, and
many became famous.

In the midst of all this foppery and
quackery, a great deal of study went to
produce small results. It is recorded of a
learned man, whose very name is forgotten,
though his reading was so deep: that in his
lectures he would quote by the page from
books-written in many languages, never opening
one, but having them all on his lecture
table with an open sword. " Here," he said,
"are the books; follow me in them when
you please, and if I misquote by so much as
a syllable, stab me; here is the sword." It is
certain that an obscure man of letters, whose
name has been handed down, read Tacitus in
this way. To so much antecedent toil, men
added so much folly and bravado for the sake
of fame.

New Tale by the Author of MARY BARTON, to be
     published weekly in HOUSEHOLD WORDS.

ON WEDNESDAY, 30th of August, will be published, in
Work of Fiction, called

                   NORTH AND SOUTH.

           By the AUTHOR OF MARY BARTON.

   The publication of this Story will be continued in HOUSEHOLD WORDS from Week to Week, and completed in Five Months.

Price of each Weekly Number of HOUSEHOLD WORDS (containing,  besides, the usual variety of matter), Twopence; or Stamped, Threepence.

is published also in Monthly Parts and in Half-yearly Volumes.

(continuing HARD TIMES), price 5s. 6d., was published on
the 16th instant.

This day is published, carefully revised and wholly


                      HARD TIMES.

              BY CHARLES DICKENS.

BRADBURY and EVANS, 11, Bouverie Street.