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No cipher can be practically useful, unless the two following conditions are complied with, viz. :—
That it should not be laborious to read or to write.'
In order to prove clearly how far the first-mentioned condition is now really complied with, it would be necessary that I should disclose the system, according to which the false letter employed is substituted for the letter which it represents; and that I should likewise explain the peculiar facility afforded to that substitution, by a mode of arrangement which is entirely new. I must therefore confine myself to stating, in support of any claim to merit which the cipher may have on this score, that in using it, no effort of memory is required, nor any tedious reference to what is usually termed a key: all that is necessary to the use of it may be learned in a few minutes, and cannot be forgotten. There is no positive necessity that the matter should be previously written down, in order to its being put into cipher; no characters are used but the common letters of the alphabet, and the signs (+) (−) and (=); so that the difficulty, loss of time, and liability to error, necessarily attendant on the writing of unusual characters, (requiring the greatest nicety of shape and position,) are entirely avoided. The fulfilment of this condition must therefore rest upon these assertions alone.
The question as to the other condition may, however, be more satisfactorily determined, by adopting the plan pursued by Mr. Chenevix, in the paper* published by him. With this view, I do not hesitate to offer a reward of Fifty Pounds to the first person who shall, within three months from this date, decipher the annexed page.
The following are, however, the only aids which I propose to give to the person who may undertake to decipher it. The information will probably be of less value than that offered to him under the same circumstances by Mr. Chenevix+; but it must be admitted, that it is such as to expose the security of
*Journal of Science, vol. x. p. 89.
the plan to as severe a test as could ever, in common practice, be applied to it.
"The matter is in English: it is a despatch from a general officer, commanding an army in the field; it is full of the phrases in common use on such occasions. The page does not contain more letters and signs than there are letters in the words represented; and all the smallest particles are inserted."
Every degree of fair play and encouragement is thus given to those who have maintained that any large quantity of matter ciphered on the principle of literal substitution, is not capable of concealing the process employed by the cipherer.
In the case of more complicated (but less practically useful) ciphers, a much greater degree of assistance might, perhaps, without fear of detection, be given to the decipherer; but it should be remembered, that the great facility of use possessed by this cipher, will more than compensate for the want of any further appearance of security which might be falsely given to it by more inviting explanations; and it cannot in fairness be expected, that the system should be submitted to experiment under disadvantages not properly belonging to it, but added merely in order to afford a further clue towards the attainment of that object which it is the very purpose of the cipher to defeat,
An experiment, nearly similar to the present, was made on a smaller scale with this cipher in the year 1823; and it has lately been employed in a private correspondence. The practical experience thus gained, has led to much improvement in the facility of using it, so that the condition of its not being "laborious to read or to write" is completely fulfilled.
Whether or not it will also be found "very difficult to be deciphered," remains to be proved by the severity of the test to which that condition is now submitted. If it should really possess that internal principle of security which is supposed to belong to it, it may be stated in addition, that the mischief attending the loss or seizure of one cipher would extend only to the particular correspondence in which it had been used; the principle on which it is founded being capable of such endless variety, that a correspondence might be carried on with almost any number of persons, each of whom would
possess no more power than any stranger to decipher that which was intended for another correspondent.
The complicated and laborious methods hitherto used, almost indispensably require the assistance of some patient secretary, who must necessarily become acquainted with the matter to be communicated. The intervention of no such third person is with this cipher required. Any man, however valuable his time may be, can find leisure to use it, and by its means to dictate a series of letters to an amanuensis, who, whilst he is ignorant of the meaning which they convey, transcribes them for the eye of the correspondent, for whose information alone they are intended, and who is furnished with the means of readily understanding them.
Great George Street, March 2, 1829.
Observations on the Organ of Scent.
"Non cuicunque datum est habere nasum."-MARTIAL.
It has often struck me as a defect in our anatomical teachers, that in describing that prominent feature of the human face, the organ of scent, they generalize too much, and have but one term for the symmetrical arch, rising majestically, or the tiny atom, scarce equal to the weight of a barnacle-a very dot of flesh! Nor is the dissimilarity between the invisible functions of the organ, and the visible varieties of its external structure, less worthy of remark. With some, the sense of smelling is so dull, as not to distinguish hyacinths from assafœtida; they would even pass the Small-Pox Hospital, and Maiden Lane, without noticing the knackers; whilst others, detecting instantly the slightest particle of offensive matter, hurry past the apothecaries, and get into an agony of sternutation, at fifty yards from Fribourg's.
Shakspeare, who was a minute observer of the anatomical and physiological varieties of the human frame, did not allow this dissimilarity to pass unnoticed; and, moreover, he starts
a query that has never been satisfactorily answered, from his time to the present; viz. "Canst thou tell why one's nose stands i' the middle of one's face?" And his nice discrimination about noses extends also to shape and colour,-from the "Red-nosed innkeeper of Dav'ntry †," and the "Malmsynosed knave, Bardolph," to him in Henry V., "whose nose was sharp as a pen!"
This celebrated "Malmsy-nose" possessed properties unknown to the same feature now-a-days. It was adapted to practical utility, in its application to domestic purposes, and moral instruction, by that great admirer and competent judge of its virtues, Sir John Falstaff, to whose sheets it did "the office of a warming-pan §;" and who made as good use of it as some men do of a death's head, or a memento mori: "I never see it," said he, " but I think upon hell fire." It stands almost unrivalled in history, and ranks at least with that which gave a cognomen to Ovid ||, and the one to which the celebrated violoncello player, Cervetto, owed the sobriquet of Nosey. This epithet reminds me of another nose of theatrical notoriety, whose rubicund tint, when it interfered with the costume of a sober character which its owner was enacting, was moderated by his wife, who with laudable anxiety to keep down its " rosy hue," was constantly behind the scenes with a powder puff, which she was accustomed to apply, ejaculating, "'Od rot it, George! how you do rub your poor nose! Come here, and let me powder it. Do you think Alexander the Great had such a nose?"
Nor would I omit to mention one, contemporary almost with the above, by which the public peace was said to be endangered, as recorded by a poet of the day, who states,
"Amongst the crowds, not one in ten
Ere saw a thing so rare;
1 Henry IV. iv. 2. § Henry V. ii. 1.
* Lear. 2 Henry IV. ii. 1. "Ovidius Naso was the man: and why, indeed, Naso; but for smelling out the odoriferous flowers of fancy?" says Holofernes, the schoolmaster, in Love's Labour Lost.
'Tis wonderful to see the folk,
The children, whom the sight doth please,
Much more is said by the poet in its praise: at last he falls into a moral strain :—
"For many, as you may suppose,
That one man should have such a nose,
And then concludes with some excellent sentiments:
"Tho' ev'ry man's a nat'ral right
To spoil the world's repose.
'Tis wrong t' exhibit such a show,
What quarrels have from hence begun!
What blows have pass'd 'tween man and man!
What kicks 'tween man and wife!
No longer, then, thyself disgrace,
Take it away, if thou art wise,
Of ancient Greece and Rome."
Shakspeare would have thought it high treason; for he says,
'Down with the nose, take the bridge quite away
Of him, that his particular to forefend
There may have been many other such noses that have escaped observation,-" born to blush unseen:" enough, however, I have here stated of those my recollection furnishes me with at the moment, to establish the fact of variety; and to lead curious physiologists to a scientific classification of this prominent and well-deserving feature of the human face. I