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brated. It is no wonder that men who had so much time upon their hands did not only restore all the antiquated pieces of false wit, but enriched the world with inventions of their own.
It was to this
we owe the production of anagrams, which is nothing else but a transmutation of one word into another, or the turning of the same sct of letters into different words; which may change night into day, or black into white, if Chance, who is the goddess that presides over these sorts of composition, shall so direct. I remember a witty author, in allusion to this kind of writing, calls his rival, whọ (it seems) was distorted, and had his limbs set in places that did not properly belong to thein, The anagram of a man.
When the anagrammatist takes a name to work upon, he considers it at first as a mine not broken up, which will not show the treasure it contains, till he shall have spent many hours in the scarch of it; for it is his business to find out one word that conceals itself in another, and to examine the letters in all the variety of stations in which they can possibly be ranged. I have heard of a gentleman who, when this kind of wit was in fashion, endeavoured to gain his mistress's heart by it. She was one of the finest women of her age, and known by the name of the lady Mary Boon, The lover not being able to make any thing of Mary, by certain liberties indulged to this kind of writing, converted it into Moll; and after having shut himself ịp for half a year, with indefatigable industry produeed an anagrain. Upon the presenting it to his mistress, who was a little vexed in her heart to see herself den graded into Moll Boon, she told him, to his infinite surprise, that he had inistaken her surname, for that it was not Boon, but Bohun.
-Ibi omnis Effusis labor The lover was thunderstruck with his misfortune, insomuch that in a little time after he lost his senses, which indeed had been very much impaired by that continual application he had given to his anagram.
The acrostic was probably invented about the same time with the anagram, though it is impossible to dea cide whether the inventor of the one or the other were the greater blockhead. The simple acrostic is nothing but the name or title of a person, or thing, made out of the initial letters of several verses, and by that means written, after the manner of the Chinese, in a perpendicular line. But besides these there are compound acrostics, when the principal letters stand two or three deep. I have seen some of them where the verses have not only been edged by a name at each extremity, but have had the same name running down like a seam through the middle of the poem.
There is another near relation of the anagrams and acrostics, which is commonly called a chronogram, This kind of wit appears very often on many modern medals, especially those of Germany, when they represent in the inscription the year in which they were coined. Thus we see on a medal of Gustavus Adol. phus the following words, ChristVs DUX ERGO TRIVMPHVs. If you take the pains to pick the figures out of the several words, and range them in their proper order, you will find they amount to MDCXXVII, or 1627, the year in which the medal was stamped : for, as some of the letters distinguish themselves from the rest, and overtop their fellows, they are to be considered in a double capacity, both as letters and as figures. Your laborious German wits
will turn over a whole dictionary for one of these inge. nious devices. A man would think they were searching after an apt classical term, but instead of that they are looking out a word that has an L, an M, or a D in it. When therefore we meet with any of these inscriptions, we are not so much to look in them for the thought, as for the year of the Lord.
The bouts rimez were the favourites of the French nation for a whole age together, and that at a time when it abounded in wit and learning. They were a list of words that rhyme to one another, drawn up by another hand, and given to a poet, who was to make a poem to the rhymes in the same order that they were placed upon the list : the more uncommon the rhymes were, the more extraordinary was the genius of the poet that could accommodate his verses to them. I do not know any greater instance of the decay of wit and learning among the French (which generally follows the declension of empire) than the endeavouring to restore this foolish kind of wit. If the reader will be at the trouble to see examples of it, let him look into the new Mercure Galant; where the author every month gives a list of rhymes to be filled up by the ingenious, in order to be communicated to the public in the Mercure for the succeeding month. That for the month of November last, which now lies before me, is as follows.
Lauriers Guerriers Musette
Cesars Etendars Houlette Folette
One would be amazed to see so learned a man as Me. nage talking seriously on this kind of trifle in the fol lowing passage.
“ Monsieur de la Chambre has told me that he never knew what he was going to write when he took his pen into his hand; but that one sentence always produced another. For my own part, I never knew what I should write next when I was making verses, In the first place I got all my rhymes together, and was afterwards perhaps three or four months in filling them up. I one day showed Monsieur Gombaud a composition of this nature, in which, among others, I had made use of the four following rhymes, Amaa ryllis, Phyllis, Marne, Arme, desiring him to give me his opinion of it. He told me immediately that my verses were good for nothing. And upon my asking his reason, he said, because the rhymes are too commion; and for that reason casy to be put into verse, Marry, says I, if it be so, I am very well rewarded for all the pains I have been at. But, by Monsieur Gombaud's leave, notwithstanding the severity of the criticism, the verses were good.' Vid. Menagiana. Thus far the learned Menage, whom I have translated word for word.
The first occasion of these bouls rimez made them in some manner excusablı, as they were tasks which the French ladies used to impose on their lovers. But when a grave author, like him above mentioned, tasked himself, could there be any thing more ridiculous ? Or would not one be apt to believe that the author played booty, and did not make his list of rhymes till he bad finished his pocm? .
I shall only add, that this picce of false wit has been Einely ridiculed by Mansieur Sarasin, in a poem intitled La Défaite des Bouts Rimez, The Rout of the Bouts Rimez.
I must subjoin to this last kind of wit the double rhymes, which are used in doggerel poetry, and generally applauded by ignorant readers. If the thought of the couplet in such compositions is good, the rhyme adds little to it; and if bad, it will not be in the power of the rhyme to recommend it. I am afraid that great numbers of those who adınire the incomparable Hudibras do it more on account of these doggerel rhymes than of the parts that really deserve admiration. I am sure I have heard the
Pulpit, drum ecclesiastic,
Was beat with fist, instead of a stick ; and
There was an antient sage philosopher
Who had read Alexander Ross over, more frequently quoted than the finest pieces of wit in the whole poem.
THERE is no kind of false wit which has been $0 recommended by the practice of all ages, as that which consists in a jingle of words, and is comprehenden under the general name of punning. It is indeed impossible to kill a weed, which the soil has a natural disposition to produce. The seeds of punning are in the minds of all men; and though they may be subdued by reason, reflection, and good sense, they will be very apt to shoot up in the greatest genius that is not broken and cultivated by the rules of art. Irita