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more a perversion of the head than anything else, and its resistance against conviction carries with it somewhat laughable. A nobleman, for instance, employing his architect to show him the elevation of a honse he intended to build, the artist produced a drawing made with Indian ink. This is no bad form of a house, says my lord, but I don't like the color, — my house shall be white. By all means, replied the builder, this is a white house. No, this is black and white, methinks — evidently so, indeed, — and striped about somehow in a way that does not please me.* O dear! no such thing, my lord, — the house will be white enough. That I don't know, Sir; if you contradict my senses now, you may do the same then ; but my house shall not be patched about with black as this paper is, - it shall be all clean Portland stone. Doubtless, my lord ; what you see here is perfectly white, I assure you. You are an impudent fellow (answers the proprietor), and endeavor to impose upon me, because I am not conversant in these matters, by persuading me that I do not know black from white; but I do know an honest man from a rogue, — so get about your business directly, no such shall be my architect.
This was MISCONCEPTION. When the faux Martin Guerre came to France from India, and took possession of the house, lands, wife, &c. of a man whom he strongly resembled, and who, by four or five years' absence from his family, was so forgotten by them that neither brother nor sister found out the imposture
- their caresses and obedience, their rents and profits, were all intended to the person of another man, and were only paid to him by a fatal but innocent MISTAKE. But when the jury condemned a man wholly unconcerned in the business to suffer for a crime one of themselves had committed, nor ever found out that good evidence was wanting to prove his guilt, till the real perpetrator of the murder owned it himself in private to the judge they acted with too little caution and delicacy, and have been always justly censured for the ERROR. The facts are all acknowledged ones.
* This recalls the reply of a distinguished lawyer (now a peer) to the late Mr. Justice Gaselee, who remarked that Canning was not so tall as the bronze statue of him near Westminster Hall : “ No, nor so green either."
NARRATION, ACCOUNT, RECITAL.
In order to give a good ACCOUNT of the fact (say we), 't is necessary to hear a clear RECITAL of the circumstances, but if we mean to make a pleasing NARRATION, those circumstances should not be dwelt on too minutely, but rather one selected from the rest, to set in a full light. Whoever means to please in conversation, seeing no person more attended to than he who tells an agreeable story, concludes too hastily that his own fame will be firmly established by a like means; and so gives his time up to the collection and RECITAL of anecdotes. Here, however, is our adventurer likely enough to fail; for either his fact is too notorious, and he sees his audience turn even involuntarily away from a tale told them yesterday perhaps by a more pleasing narrator ; or it is too obscure, and incapable of interesting his hearers. Were we to investigate the reason why narratives please better in a mixed company, than sentiment; we might discover that he who draws from his own mind to entertain his circle will soon be tempted to dogmatize, and assume the air, with the powers, of a teacher; while the man, who is ever ready to tell one somewhat unknown before, adds an idea to the listener's stock, without forcing on us that of our own inferiority. He is in possession of a fact more than we are, that's all ; and he communicates that fact for our amusement.
NATION, COUNTRY, KINGDOM,
Are all of them collective terms well understood, and at first sight only synonymous. A moment's reflection shews us many COUNTRIES which are not kingdoms, and some KINGDOMS which include not the whole nation to which they apparently belong. The first of these words is used in some universities for the distinction of the scholars, and professors of colleges. The faculty of Paris consists of four, and when the procureur of that which is called the French nation speaks in public, his style is Honoranda Gallorum Natio. I hope they have changed their phrase now, when all KINGDOMS, COUNTRIES, NATIONS, and LANGUAGES unite in abhorrence of their late disgraceful conduct towards the good house of Bourbon, so named from Archibald Borbonius in the year 1127, whose impress was a globe, and round it this anagram of the earl's name, Orbi bonus. The times how changed in this fatal year to Frenchmen, 1793!
Strokes of national character, national humor, however, still exist: with regard to the latter, we see their bons mots still untranslatable beyond those of other kingdoms; and our authors plunder French comedies in vain ; the humor loses and evaporates : witness Farquhar's endeavor to force into his Inconstant, the gay reply made by Le prince de Guemenè, when Louis Quatorze's queen, a grave Spaniard, seriously proposed putting the famous Ninon de l'Enclos among les filles repenties. — “Madam," answered the courtier, “elle n'est ni fille, ni repentie.”* This was NATIONAL pleasantry, and will not translate for that reason. No more will that proof of John Bull's NATIONAL character, told of a fellow, who, when King Charles the First of England lay before Rochelle, was employed by that Prince as a diver, to carry papers, &c., which having done most dexterously, the goodnatured sovereign bid him name his own reward. — “ Something to drink your majesty's health, that 's all,” quoth the man. “ Blockhead !” exclaimed the Duke of Buckingham, who stood in presence and was provoked at his stupidity for asking nothing better, “why didst not drink when thou wert under water ?” — “ Why, so I did, master !” replied the man; “but the water was salt, you know, so it made me the more a-dry."
NOW, AT PRESENT, THIS INSTANT.
While metaphysicians expand their subtleties into imperceptibility upon this fatal monosyllable, one would hope that conversation might go on without dispute concerning what flies away like the witches in Macbeth, who, while we contend about the nature of their existence, make themselves air, into which they vanish. So, alas ! does now; the present moment passing away even before the word is written that explains it. We may tell foreigners, however, that 't is usual in our language, when calling in
* When an English lady appeared in a tableau vivant as a Magdalen, it was observed that she looked like a Magdalen who had not repented.
a hurry, to cry NOW, Now, as the quickest expression, I suppose, for urging another to immediate haste. “ AT PRESENT we cannot come to you ” — is a common phrase — He was here THIS INSTANT, means, 't is not an instant scarcely since he was here : but it does certainly mean time past ; for one says to a person who, looking round, misses the individual sought for, — “Why, she is here, now, cannot you see her?”.
“ I thought we were to begin upon the subject now,” says a man impatient of decision. “We will begin this INSTANT,” replies his cooler friend (meaning a future time, though near); “ AT PRESENT it would not be so proper.” These things are difficult to foreigners ; nor can I guess why both time past, and time to come, should be hourly and commonly exprest by this INSTANT, which at first view appears improper enough.
TO NULLIFY, TO ANNULL, TO DISANNULL, TO MAKE NULL AND
These verbs stand in conversation chiefly in the place of the verb to annihilate, or rather between that and the softer phrase of, to render ineffectual. Horatio's arguments, say we, were rendered NULL and void, at least in my opinion, by what our friend Cleomenes urged against them: but no man better knows than he how to NULLIFY the discourse of his competitor without annihilating the speaker either in his own eyes, or those of the auditors; as a good legislator will see the way to ANNULL a statute no longer useful or necessary, without taking away by direct annihilation all trace or remembrance of its former utility. The third verb is a favorite among the vulgar here in England, who misapply it comically enough. I asked the late Lord Halifax's gardener for a walk and summer-house I used to see at Horton : “ There was such a walk once," replies the man, “ but my Lord
In 1815, Mrs. Piozzi sent a copy of “ British Synonymy” to Sir James Fellowes with the following note and verses, which will appropriately conclude this compilation :
5 Nov., 1815. Accept, dear Sir, this second-hand copy of your poor little friend's favorite work, now completely out of print. That it should bear the name of Samuel Johnson on the title page, is so curious, that I would not erase it.
Ten years at fewest must have elapsed since the author of the “ Rambler” had breathed his last, when this book saw the light : and he to whom I have now the honor of presenting it, was struggling between the perils of fire and water in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean. Awful Retrospect! Yet a lightly volant pen traces the following lines, only to say that
In this Synonymy you 'll find
With characters too late displayed,
Far stronger light and softer shade.