Saturday, March 24, 2012

Literary Blunders, by Henry Benjamin Wheatley - Full Text

LITERARY BLUNDERS

A CHAPTER IN THE
``HISTORY OF HUMAN ERROR''
BY HENRY B. WHEATLEY, F.S.A.
PREFACE.——
EVERY reader of The Caxtonswill remember the description, in that charming novel, of the gradual growth of Augustine Caxton's great work ``The History of Human Error,'' and how, in fact, the existence of that work forms the pivot round which the incidents turn. It was modestly expected to extend to five quarto volumes, but only the first seven sheets were printed by Uncle Jack's Anti-Publishers' Society, ``with sundry unfinished plates depicting the various developments of the human skull (that temple of Human Error),''<p > and the remainder has not been heard of since.
In introducing to the reader a small branch of this inexhaustible subject, I have ventured to make use of Augustine Caxton's title; but I trust that no one will allow himself to imagine that I intend, in the future, to produce the thousand or so volumes which will be required to complete the work.
A satirical friend who has seen the proofs of this little volume says it should be entitled ``Jokes Old and New''; but I find that he seldom acknowledges that a joke is new, and I hope, therefore, my readers will transpose the adjectives, and accept the old jokes for the sake of the new ones. I may claim, at least, that the series of answers to examination questions, which Prof. Oliver Lodge has so kindly supplied me with, comes within the later class.<p _>
I trust that if some parts of the book are thought to be frivolous, the chapters on lists of errata and misprints may be found to contain some useful literary information.
I have availed myself of the published communications of my friends Professors Hales and Skeat and Dr. Murray on Literary Blunders, and my best thanks are also due to several friends who have helped me with some curious instances, and I would specially mention Sir George Birdwood, K.C.I.E., C.SI.., Mr. Edward Clodd, Mr. R. B. Prosser, and Sir Henry Trueman Wood_.<p _>
CONTENTS.——CHAPTER
BLUNDERS IN GENERAL.
PAGE
Distinction between a blunder and a mistake—
Long life of a literary blunder
—Professor Skeat's ``ghost words''—
Dr. Murray's ``ghost words''—Marriage
Service—Absurd etymology—
Imaginary persons—Family pride—
Fortunate blunders—Misquotations—
Bulls from Ireland and elsewhere . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
CHAPTER II.
BLUNDERS OF AUTHORS.
Goldsmith—French memoir writers—
Historians—Napier's bones—Mr. Gladstone—
Lord Macaulay—Newspaper
writers—Critics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
<p _> CHAPTER III.
BLUNDERS OF TRANSLATORS. PAGE
``Translators are traitors''—Amusing translations—Translations of names—Cinderella—``Oh that mine adversary had written a book''—Perversions of the true meaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
CHAPTER IV.
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL BLUNDERS.
Watt's Bibliotheca Britannica—Imaginary authors—Faulty classification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
CHAPTER V.
LISTS OF ERRATA.
Early use of errata—Intentional blunders—Authors correct their books—Ineffectual attempts to be immaculate—Misprints never corrected. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
CHAPTER VI.
MISPRINTS.
Misprints not always amusing—A Dictionary of Misprints—Blades'sShakspere and Typography—Upper and lower cases—Stops—Byron—Wicked Bible—Malherbe—Coquilles—Hood's lines—Chaucer—Misplacement of type . . . . . . . . . . . . .100
<p _>
PAGE
CHAPTER VII.
SCHOOLBOYS' BLUNDERS.
Cleverness of these blunders—
Etymological guesses—English as she is
Taught
—Scriptural confusions—
Musical blunders—History and geography—
How to question—Professor
Oliver Lodge's specimens of answers to
examination papers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .157
CHAPTER VIII.
FOREIGNERS ENGLISH.
Exhibition English—French Work on the
Societies of the World—Hotel keepers'
English—Barcelona Exhibition—Paris
Exhibition of 1889—How to learn English—
Foreign Guides in so called English
—Addition to God save the King—
Shenstone. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .188
INDEX. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .215

LITERARY BLUNDERS.

CHAPTER I.
BLUNDERS IN GENERAL.
THE words ``blunder'' and ``mistake'' are often treated as synonyms; thus we usually call our own blunders mistakes, and our friends style our mistakes blunders. In truth the class of blunders is a sub-division of the genus mistakes. Many mistakes are very serious in their consequences, but there is almost always some sense of fun connected with a blunder, which is a mistake usually caused by some mental confusion. Lexicographers state that it is an error due to stupidity and carelessness, but blunders are often caused<p 1>< p 2>by a too great sharpness and quickness. Sometimes a blunder is no mistake at all, as when a man blunders on the right explanation; thus he arrives at the right goal, but by an unorthodox road. Sir Roger L'Estrange says that ``it is one thing to forget a matter of fact, and another toblunder upon the reason of it.''
Some years ago there was an article in the Saturday Review on ``the knowledge necessary to make a blunder,'' and this title gives the clue to what a blunder really is. It is caused by a confusion of two or more things, and unless something is known of these things a blunder cannot be made. A perfectly ignorant man has not sufficient knowledge to make a blunder.
An ordinary blunder may die, and do no great harm, but a literary blunder often has an extraordinary life. Of literary blunders probably the philological are the most persistent and the most difficult to kill. In this class may be mentioned (1) Ghost words, as they are called by Professor Skeat—words, that is, which have been registered, but which never really existed; (2) Real words that exist through a mis<p 3>take; and (3) Absurd etymologies, a large division crammed with delicious blunders.
1. Professor Skeat, in his presidential address to the members of the Philological Society in 1886, gave a most interesting account of some hundred ghost words, or words which have no real existence. Those who wish to follow out this subject must refer to the Philological Transactions, but four specially curious instances may be mentioned here. These four words are ``abacot,'' ``knise,'' ``morse,'' and ``polien.''Abacot is defined by Webster as ``the cap of state formerly used by English kings, wrought into the figure of two crowns''; but Dr. Murray, when he was preparing the New English Dictionary, discovered that this was an interloper, and unworthy of a place in the language. It was found to be a mistake for by-cocket, which is the correct word. In spite of this exposure of the impostor, the word was allowed to stand, with a woodcut of an abacot, in an important dictionary published subsequently, although Dr. Murray's remarks were quoted. This shows how difficult it is to kill a word which has< p 4>once found shelter in our dictionaries.Knise is a charming word which first appeared in a number of the Edinburgh Review in 1808. Fortunately for the fun of the thing, the word occurred in an article on Indian Missions, by Sydney Smith. We read, ``The Hindoos have some very strange customs, which it would be desirable to abolish. Some swing on hooks, some run knises through their hands, and widows burn themselves to death.'' The reviewer was attacked for his statement by Mr. John Styles, and he replied in an article on Methodism printed in the Edinburgh in the following year. Sydney Smith wrote: ``Mr. Styles is peculiarly severe upon us for not being more shocked at their piercing their limbs withknises . . . it is for us to explain the plan and nature of this terrible and unknown piece of mechanism. A knise, then, is neither more nor less than a false print in the Edinburgh Review for a knife; and from this blunder of the printer has Mr. Styles manufactured this D<ae>dalean instrument of torture called a knise.'' A similar instance occurs in a misprint of a passage< p 5>of one of Scott's novels, but here there is the further amusing circumstance that the etymology of the false word was settled to the satisfaction of some of the readers. In the majority of editions of The Monastery, chapter x., we read: ``Hardened wretch (said Father Eustace), art thou but this instant delivered from death, and dost thou so soon morse thoughts of slaughter?'' This word is nothing but a misprint ofnurse; but in Notes and Queries two independent correspondents accounted for the word morse etymologically. One explained it as ``to prime,'' as when one primes a musket, from O. Fr. amorce, powder for the touchhole (Cotgrave), and the other by ``to bite'' (Lat. mordere), hence ``to indulge in biting, stinging or gnawing thoughts of slaughter.'' The latter writes: ``That the word as a misprint should have been printed and read by millions for fifty years without being challenged and altered exceeds the bounds of probability.'' Yet when the original MS. of Sir Walter Scott was consulted, it was found that the word was there plainly written nurse.
The Saxon letter for th (<?p>) has long< p 6>been a sore puzzle to the uninitiated, and it came to be represented by the letter y. Most of those who think they are writing in a specially archaic manner when they spell ``ye'' for ``the'' are ignorant of this, and pronounce the article as if it were the pronoun. Dr. Skeat quotes a curious instance of the misreading of the thorn (<?p>) as p, by which a strange ghost word is evolved. Whitaker, in his edition of Piers Plowman, reads that Christ ``polede for man,'' which should be tholede, fromtholien, to suffer, as there is no such verb as polien.
Dr. J. A. H. Murray, the learned editor of the Philological Society's New English Dictionary, quotes two amusing instances of ghost words in a communication toNotes and Queries (7th S., vii. 305). He says: ``Possessors of Jamieson's Scottish Dictionary will do well to strike out the fictitious entry cietezour, cited from Bellenden'sChronicle in the plural cietezouris, which is merely a misreading of cietezanis (i.e. with Scottish z = <?z> = y), cieteyanis or citeyanis, Bellenden's regular word forcitizens. One regrets to see this absurd< p 7>mistake copied from Jamieson (unfortunately without acknowledgment) by the compilers of Cassell's Encyclop<ae>dic Dictionary.''
``Some editions of Drayton's Barons
Wars
, Bk. VI., st. xxxvii., read—
`` `And ciffy Cynthus with a thousand birds,'
which nonsense is solemnly reproduced in Campbell's Specimens of the British Poets, iii. 16. It may save some readers a needless reference to the dictionary to remember that it is a misprint for cliffy, a favourite word of Drayton's.''
2. In contrast to supposed words that never did exist, are real words that exist through a mistake, such as apron and adder, where the n, which really belongs to the word itself, has been supposed, mistakenly, to belong to the article; thus apron should be napron (Fr. naperon), and adder should be nadder (A.-S. n<ae>ddre). An amusing confusion has arisen in respect to the Ridings of Yorkshire, of which there are three. The word should be triding, but the t has got lost in the adjective, as West Triding became West Riding. The origin of< p 8>the word has thus been quite lost sight of, and at the first organisation of the Province of Upper Canada, in 1798, the county of Lincoln was divided into four ridings and the county of York into two. York was afterwards supplied with four.
Sir Henry Bennet, in the reign of
Charles II., took his title of Earl of
Arlington owing to a blunder. The proper
name of the village in Middlesex is
Harlington.
A curious misunderstanding in the Marriage Service has given us two words instead of one. We now vow to remain united till death us do part, but the original declaration, as given in the first Prayer Book of Edward VI., was: ``I, N., take thee N., to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us depart [or separate].''
It is not worth while here to register the many words which have taken their present spelling through a mistaken view of their etymology. They are too numerous, and the consideration of them would open up a< p 9>question quite distinct from the one now under consideration.
3. Absurd etymology was once the rule, because guessing without any knowledge of the historical forms of words was general; and still, in spite of the modern school of philology, which has shown us the right way, much wild guessing continues to be prevalent. It is not, however, often that we can point to such a brilliant instance of blundering etymology as that to be found in Barlow's English Dictionary (1772). The word porcelain is there said to be ``derived from pour cent annes, French for a hundred years, it having been imagined that the materials were matured underground for that term of years.''
Richardson, the novelist, suggests an etymology almost equal to this. He writes, ``What does correspondence mean? It is a word of Latin origin: a compound word; and the two elements here brought together are respondeo, I answer, and cor, the heart: i.e., I answer feelingly, I reply not so much to the head as to the heart.''
Dr. Ash's English Dictionary, published in 1775, is an exceedingly useful work, as< p 10>containing many words and forms of words nowhere else registered, but it contains some curious mistakes. The chief and best-known one is the explanation of the word curmudgeon—``from the French c<oe>ur, unknown, and mechant, a correspondent.'' The only explanation of this absurdly confused etymology is that an ignorant man was employed to copy from Johnson's Dictionary, where the authority was given as ``an unknown correspondent,'' and he, supposing these words to be a translation of the French, set them down as such. The two words esoteric andexoteric were not so frequently used in the last century as they are now; so perhaps there may be some excuse for the following entry: ``Esoteric (adj. an incorrect spelling) exoteric.'' Dr. Ash could not have been well read in Arthurian literature, or he would not have turned the noble knight Sir Gawaine into a woman, ``the sister of King Arthur.'' There is a story of a blunder in Littleton's Latin Dictionary, which further research has proved to be no mistake at all. It is said that when the Doctor was compiling his work, and< p 11>announced the word concurro to his amanuensis, the scribe, imagining from the sound that the six first letters would give the translation of the verb, said ``Concur, sir, I suppose?'' to which the Doctor peevishly replied, ``Concur—condog!'' and in the edition of 1678 ``condog'' is printed as one interpretation of concurro. Now, an answer to this story is that, however odd a word ``condog'' may appear, it will be found in Henry Cockeram'sEnglish Dictionarie, first published in 1623. The entry is as follows: ``to agree, concurre, cohere, condog, condiscend.''
Mistakes are frequently made in respect of foreign words which retain their original form, especially those which retain their Latin plurals, the feminine singular being often confused with the neuter plural. For instance, there is the word animalcule(plural animalcules), also written animalculum(plural animalcula). Now, the plural animalcula is often supposed to be the feminine singular, and a new plural is at once made—animalcul<ae>. This blunder is one constantly being made, while it is only occasionally we see a supposed plural< p 12>strat<ae> in geology from a supposed singular strata, and the supposed singular formulumfrom a supposed plural formula will probably turn up some day.
In connection with popular etymology, it seems proper to make a passing mention of the sailors' perversion of the Bellerophon into the Billy Ruffian, the Hirondelle into the Iron Devil, and La Bonne Corvette into the Bonny Cravat. Some of the supposed changes in public-house signs, such as Bull and Mouth from ``Boulogne mouth,'' and Goat and Compasses from ``God encompasseth us,'' are more than doubtful; but the Bacchanals has certainly changed into the Bag o' nails, and the George Canning into the George and Cannon. The words in the language that have been formed from a false analogy are so numerous and have so often been noted that we must not allow them to detain us here longer.
Imaginary persons have been brought into being owing to blundering misreading. For instance, there are many saints in the Roman calendar whose individuality it would not be easy to prove. All< p 13>know how St. Veronica came into being, and equally well known is the origin of St. Ursula and her eleven thousand virgins. In this case, through the misreading of her name, the unfortunate virgin martyr Undecimilla has dropped out of the calendar.
Less known is the origin of Saint Xynoris, the martyr of Antioch, who is noticed in the Martyrologie Romaine of Baronius. Her name was obtained by a misreading of Chrysostom, who, referring to two martyrs, uses the word <gr xunwr<i!>s> (couple or pair).
In the City of London there is a church dedicated to St. Vedast, which is situated in Foster Lane, and is often described as St. Vedast, alias Foster. This has puzzled many, and James Paterson, in his Pietas Londinensis (1714), hazarded the opinion that the church was dedicated to ``two conjunct saints.'' He writes: ``At the first it was called St. Foster's in memory of some founder or ancient benefactor, but afterwards it was dedicated to St. Vedast, Bishop of Arras.'' Newcourt makes a similar mistake in hisReper<p 14>torium, but Thomas Fuller knew the truth, and in his Church History refers to ``St. Vedastus, anglice St. Fosters.'' This is the fact, and the name St. Fauster or Foster is nothing more than a corruption of St. Vedast, all the steps of which we now know. My friend Mr. Danby P. Fry worked this out some years ago, but his difficulty rested with the second syllable of the name Foster; but the links in the chain of evidence have been completed by reference to Mr. H. C. Maxwell Lyte's valuable Report on the Manuscripts of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's. The first stage in the corruption took place in France, and the name must have been introduced into this country as Vast. This loss of the middle consonant is in accordance with the constant practice in early French of dropping out the consonant preceding an accented vowel, asreine from regina. The change ofAugustine to Austin is an analogous instance. Vast would here be pronouncedVaust, in the same way as the word vaseis still sometimes pronounced vause. The interchange of v and f, as in the cases of< p 15>Vane and Fane and fox and vixen, is too common to need more than a passing notice. We have now arrived at the form St. Faust, and the evidence of the old deeds of St. Paul's explains the rest, showing us that the second syllable has grown out of the possessive case. In one of 8 Edward III. we read of the ``King's highway, called Seint Fastes lane.'' Of course this was pronounced St. Faust<e'>s, and we at once have the two syllables. The next form is in a deed of May 1360, where it stands as ``Seyn Fastreslane.'' We have here, not a final r as in the latest form, but merely an intrusive trill. This follows the rule by which thesaurus becametreasure, Hebudas, Hebrides, and culpatus, culprit. After the great Fire of London, the church was re-named St. Vedast (aliasFoster)—a form of the name which it had never borne before, except in Latin deeds as Vedastus.[1] More might be said< p 16>of the corruptions of names in the cases of other saints, but these corruptions are more the cause of blunders in others than blunders in themselves. It is not often that a new saint is evolved with such an English name as Foster.
[1] See an article by the Author in The Athen<ae>um, January 3rd, 1885, p. 15; and a paper by the Rev. W. Sparrow Simpson in the Jourral of the British Arch<ae>ological Association (vol. xliii., p. 56).
The existence of the famous St. Vitus has been doubted, and his dance (Chorea Sancti Vit<ae>) is supposed to have been originally chorea invita. But the strangest of saints was S. Viar, who is thus accounted for by D'Israeli in his Curiosities of Literature:—
``Mabillon has preserved a curious literary blunder of some pious Spaniards who applied to the Pope for consecrating a day in honour of Saint Viar. His Holiness in the voluminous catalogue of his saints was ignorant of this one. The only proof brought forward for his existence was this inscription:—
S. VIAR.
An antiquary, however, hindered one more festival in the Catholic calendar by convincing them that these letters were only the remains of an inscription erected for< p 17>an ancient surveyor of the roads; and he read their saintship thus:—
[PREFECTV]S VIAR[VM].''
Foreign travellers in England have usually made sad havoc of the names of places. Hentzner spelt Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn phonetically as Grezin and Linconsin, and so puzzled his editor that he supposed these to be the names of two giants. A similar mistake to this was that of the man who boasted that ``not all the British House of Commons, not the whole bench of Bishops, not even Leviticus himself, should prevent him from marrying his deceased wife's sister.'' One of the jokes in Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn(ch. xxiii.) turns on the use of this same expression ``Leviticus himself.''
The picturesque writer who draws a well-filled-in picture from insufficient data is peculiarly liable to fall into blunders, and when he does fall it is not surprising that less imaginative writers should chuckle over his fall. A few years ago an American editor is said to have received the telegram ``Oxford Music Hall< p 18>burned to the ground.'' There was not much information here, and he was ignorant of the fact that this building was in London and in Oxford Street, but he was equal to the occasion. He elaborated a remarkable account of the destruction by fire of the principal music hall of academic Oxford. He told how it was situated in the midst of historic colleges which had miraculously escaped destruction by the flames. These flames, fanned into a fury by a favourable wind, lit up the academic spires and groves as they ran along the rich cornices, lapped the gorgeous pillars, shrivelled up the roof and grasped the mighty walls of the ancient building in their destructive embraces.
In 1882 an announcement was made in a weekly paper that some prehistoric remains had been found near the Church of San Francisco, Florence. The note was reproduced in an evening paper and in an antiquarian monthly with words in both cases implying that the locality of the find was San Francisco, California. It is a common mistake of those who< p 19>have heard of Grolier bindings to suppose that the eminent book collector was a binder; but this is nothing to that of the workman who told the writer of this that he had found out the secret of making the famous Henri II. or Oiron ware. ``In fact,'' he added, ``I could make it as well as Henry Deux himself.'' The idea of the king of France working in the potteries is exceedingly fine.
Family pride is sometimes the cause of exceedingly foolish blunders. The following amusing passage in Anderson'sGenealogical History of the House of Yvery(1742) illustrates a form of pride ridiculed by Lord Chesterfield when he set up on his walls the portraits of Adam de Stanhope and Eve de Stanhope. The having a stutterer in the family will appear to most readers to be a strange cause of pride. The author writes: ``It was usual in ancient times with the greatest families, and is by all genealogists allowed to be a mighty evidence of dignity, to use certain nicknames which the French call sobriquets . . . such as `the Lame' or `the Black.'. . . The house of Yvery, not deficient in any< p 20>mark or proof of greatness and antiquity, abounds at different periods in instances of this nature. Roger, a younger son of William Youel de Perceval, was surnamed Balbus or the Stutterer.''
Sometimes a blunder has turned out fortunate in its consequences; and a striking instance of this is recorded in the history of Prussia. Frederic I. charged his ambassador Bartholdi with the mission of procuring from the Emperor of Germany an acknowledgment of the regal dignity which he had just assumed. It is said that instructions written in cypher were sent to him, with particular directions that he should not apply on this subject to Father Wolff, the Emperor's confessor. The person who copied these instructions, however, happened to omit the word notin the copy in cypher. Bartholdi was surprised at the order, but obeyed it and made the matter known to Wolff; who, in the greatest astonishment, declared that although he had always been hostile to the measure, he could not resist this proof of the Elector's confidence, which had made a deep impression upon him.< p 21>It was thought that the mediation of the confessor had much to do with the accomplishment of the Elector's wishes.
Misquotations form a branch of literary blunders which may be mentioned here.
The text ``He may run that readeth it'' (Hab. ii. 2) is almost invariably quoted as ``He who runs may read''; and the Divine condemnation ``In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread' (Gen. iii. 19) is usually quoted as ``sweat of thy brow.''
The manner in which Dr. Johnson selected the quotations for his Dictionary is well known, and as a general rule these are tolerably accurate; but under the thirteenth heading of the verb to sit will be found a curious perversion of a text of Scripture. There we read, ``Asses are ye that sit in judgement—Judges,'' but of course there is no such passage in the Bible. The correct reading of the tenth verse of the fifth chapter is: ``Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way.''
From misquotations it is an easy step< p 22>to pass to mispronunciations. These are mostly too common to be amusing, but sometimes the blunderers manage to hit upon something which is rather comic. Thus an ignorant reader coming upon a reference to an angle of forty-five degrees was puzzled, and astonished his hearers by giving it out as angel of forty-five degrees. This blunderer, however, was outdone by the speaker who described a distinguished personage ``as a very indefat<e'm>gable young man,'' adding, ``but even he must succ<uu>mb'' (suck 'um) at last.
As has already been said, blunders are often made by those who are what we usually call ``too clever by half.'' Surely it was a blunder to change the time-honoured name of King's Bench to Queen's Bench. A queen is a female king, and she reigns as a king; the absurdity of the change of sex in the description is more clearly seen when we find in a Prayer-book published soon after the Queen's accession Her Majesty described as ``our Queen and Governess.''
Editors of classical authors are often laughed at for their emendations, but< p 23>sometimes unjustly. When we consider the crop of blunders that have gathered about the texts of celebrated books, we shall be grateful for the labours of brilliant scholars who have cleared these away and made obscure passages intelligible.
One of the most remarkable emendations ever made by an editor is that of Theobald in Mrs. Quickly's description of Falstaff's deathbed (King Henry V., act ii., sc. 4). The original is unintelligible: ``his nose was as sharp as a pen and a table of greene fields.'' A friend suggested that it should read `` 'a talked,'' and Theobald then suggested `` 'a babbled,'' a reading which has found its way into all texts, and is never likely to be ousted from its place. Collier's MS. corrector turned the sentence into ``as a pen on a table of green frieze.'' Very few who quote this passage from Shakespeare have any notion of how much they owe to Theobald.
Sometimes blunders are intentionally made—malapropisms which are understood by the speaker's intimates, but often astonish strangers—such as the expressions ``the sinecure of every eye,'' ``as white< p 24>as the drivelling snow.''[2] Of intentional mistakes, the best known are those which have been called cross readings, in which the reader is supposed to read across the page instead of down the column of a newspaper, with such results as the following:—
[2] See Spectator, December 24th, 1887, for
specimens of family lingo.
``A new Bank was lately opened at
Northampton—<?pointer> no money returned.''
``The Speaker's public dinners will commence next week—admittance, 3/- to see the animals fed.''
As blunders are a class of mistakes, so ``bulls'' are a sub-class of blunders. No satisfactory explanation of the word has been given, although it appears to be intimately connected with the word blunder. Equally the thing itself has not been very accurately defined.
The author of A New Booke of Mistakes, 1637, which treats of ``Quips, Taunts, Retorts, Flowts, Frumps, Mockes, Gibes, Jestes, etc.,'' says in his address to the Reader, ``There are moreover other simple mistakes in speech which pass< p 25>under the name of Bulls, but if any man shall demand of mee why they be so called, I must put them off with this woman's reason, they are so because they bee so.'' All the author can affirm is that they have no connection with the inns and playhouses of his time styled the Black Bulls and the Red Bulls. Coleridge's definition is the best: ``A bull consists in a mental juxtaposition of incongruous ideas with the sensation but without the sense of connection.''[3]
[3] Southey's Omniana, vol. i., p. 220.
Bulls are usually associated with the Irish, but most other nations are quite capable of making them, and Swift is said to have intended to write an essay on English bulls and blunders. Sir Thomas Trevor, a Baron of the Exchequer 1625-49, when presiding at the Bury Assizes, had a cause about wintering of cattle before him. He thought the charge immoderate, and said, ``Why, friend, this is most unreasonable; I wonder thou art not ashamed, for I myself have known a beast wintered one whole summer for a noble.'' The man at< p 26>once, with ready wit, cried, ``That was abull, my lord.'' Whereat the company was highly amused.[4]
[4] Thoms, Anecdotes and Traditions, 1839, p 79
One of the best-known bulls is that inscribed on the obelisk near Fort William in the Highlands of Scotland. In this inscription a very clumsy attempt is made to distinguish between natural tracks and made roads:—
``Had you seen these roads before they were made,
You would lift up your hands and bless General Wade.''
The bulletins of Pope Clement XIV.'s last illness, which were announced at the Vatican, culminated in a very fair bull. The notices commenced with ``His Holiness is very ill,'' and ended with ``His Infallibility is delirious.''
Negro bulls have frequently been reported, but the health once proposed by a worthy black is perhaps as good an instance as could be cited. He pledged ``De Gobernor ob our State! He come< p 27>in wid much opposition; he go out wid none at all.''
Still, in spite of the fact that all nations fall into these blunders, and that, as it has been said of some, Hibernicis ipsis Hibernior, it is to Ireland that we look for the finest examples of bulls, and we do not usually look in vain.
It is in a Belfast paper that may be read the account of a murder, the result of which is described thus: ``They fired two shots at him; the first shot killed him, but the second was not fatal.'' Connoisseurs in bulls will probably say that this is only a blunder. Perhaps the following will please them better: ``A man was run down by a passenger train and killed; he was injured in a similar way a year ago.''
Here are three good bulls, which fulfil all the conditions we expect in this branch of wit. We know what the writer means, although he does not exactly say it. This passage is from the report of an Irish Benevolent Society: ``Notwithstanding the large amount paid for medicine and medical attendance, very few deaths< p 28>occurred during the year.'' A country editor's correspondent wrote: ``Will you please to insert this obituary notice? I make bold to ask it, because I know the deceased had a great many friends who would be glad to hear of his death.'' The third is quoted in the Greville Memoirs: ``He abjured the errors of the Romish Church, and embraced those of the Protestant.''
It is said that the Irish Statute Book opens characteristically with, ``An Act that the King's officers may travel by seafrom one place to another within the landof Ireland''; but one of the main objects of the Essay on Irish Bulls, by Maria Edgeworth and her father, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, was to show that the title of their work was incorrect. They find the original of Paddy Blake's echo in Bacon's works: ``I remember well that when I went to the echo at Port Charenton, there was an old Parisian that took it to be the work of spirits, and of good spirits; `for,' said he, `call Satan, and the echo will not deliver back the devil's name, but will say, ``Va-t'en.'' ' '' Mr. Hill Burton found< p 29>the original of Sir Boyle Roche's bull of the bird which was in two places at once in a letter of a Scotsman—Robertson of Rowan. Steele said that all was the effect of climate, and that, if an Englishman were born in Ireland, he would make as many bulls. Mistakes of an equally absurd character may be found in English Acts of Parliament, such as this: ``The new gaol to be built from the materials of the old one, and the prisoners to remain in the latter till the former is ready''; or the disposition of the prisoner's punishment of transportation for seven years—``half to go to the king, and the other half to the informer.'' Peter Harrison, an annotator on the Pentateuch, observed of Moses' two tables of stone that they were made of shittim wood. This is not unlike the title said to have been used for a useful little work—``Every man his own Washer-woman.'' Horace Walpole said that the best of all bulls was that of the man who, complaining of his nurse, said, ``I hate that woman, for she changed me at nurse.'' But surely this one quoted by Mr. Hill Burton is far superior to Horace< p 30>Walpole's; in fact, one of the best ever conceived. Result of a duel—``The one party received a slight wound in the breast; the other fired in the air—and so the matter terminated.''
After this the description of the wrongs of Ireland has a somewhat artificial look: ``Her cup of misery has been overflowing, and is not yet full.''

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