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Turpe est difficiies habere nugas,
Et stultus labor Ineptiarum.I cannot quit the subject without remarking, that the in genious Mr. Addison has humourously ridiculed the writers of this stamp, in the 59th and 634 Nos. of his Spectator. Among others, Tryphiodorus, deservedly known to the world by a poem intitled, IAIOT AANBIE, the destruction of Troy, being a sequel to the Iliad of Homer, translated by the late learned Mr. Merrick.
I am, Sir, yours, 1776, Nov.
1. P. 1777, Feb.
LXII. Conjecture on an obscure Passage in Shakespeare.
Hamlet, Act III. Sc. 2. THE incongruity of metaphors in these well-known words has exercised the pens of many a critical admirer of Shakespeare; but there is another passage in the same play, which has not been so frequently noticed, though, according to the present reading, the images in it seem to be rather improperly blended. The lines to which I refer are in Act II. Scene 2. where Polonius, having discovered his want of sagacity in advising Ophelia to discountenance Hamlet's addresses, because he thought the Prince only trifled with his daughter, delivers himself as follows:
66 That hath made him mad.
I had not quoted him.” Dr. Warburton peremptorily pronounced quoted to be nonsense, and said it appeared, though he shewed not how, that Shakespeare wrote noted. And Dr. Johnson, not approving of this alteration, was willing to believe, that quote here signifies to reckon, to take an account of, to take the quotient or result of a computation. However, as this very learned editor, notwithstanding “his longer acquaintance with the lexicography of our language than any other writer," has not cited an instance of this use of the word quote, I may venture to conclude he had never met with one in any author.--I am, I must own, inclined to suspect that for quoted we ought to read quoited. The omission of the i in the dipthong mi might easily happen through the negligence or inattention of a transcriber, a printer, or a corrector of the press; and some reasons may be given why this emendation ought not to be deemed a whinsical surmise.--In the old quarto the word is coted; and I have a notion, that coit or quoit, in our ancient English writers, was oftener spelt indiscriminately with a c or a q, than quote. Dr. Johnson, in his Dictionary, also specifies the verb to quoit to be both of the active and neuter kind; it will be readily admitted that the words with speed and judgment are completely adapted to the diversion of coyting, so styled in the stat. of 33 of Hen. VIII. It may be further remarked, that in the same speech the same metaphor is pursued by Polonius, when he acknowledges,
“Beshrew my jealousy;
younger sort To lack discretion"Zitoited is undoubtedly a quaint expression, and therefore Shakespeare might with the greater propriety let it fall from the tongue of a conceited and pedantic old courtier.-This conjecture is, howeyer, thrown out by one who professes himself to be little skilled in the game of criticism ; but if it falls short of the mark, it may be a direction to some expert player, and enable him with better speed and judgınent to quoit the true meaning of the poet. I am, Sir, yours, &c.
W. & D.
LXIII. On the Introduction of Letters into Greece.
MR. URBAN, THE learned Dr. Chandler, in his account of his late travels, tells us, that the Greek alphabet, as imported by Cadmus from Phoenicia, consisted of sixteen etters; that Pimedes added four more, and Simonides the other four. Dr. Gre
gory Sharp, however, in his Origin and Structure of the Greek Tongue, gives a very different relation of this matter, We are informed, says the Doctor, by Diodorus, the Sicilian, that it was the opinion of some persons that letters were invented by the Syrians, from whom the Phænicians first learned their use, and then communicated them to the Greeks. Herodotus, declaring his own opinion, says, that the Phænicians, under Cadmus, brought learning into Greece, and that the Greeks had not earlier the use of letters. This is contradicted by Diodorus, Pausanias, Zenobius, and others. Diodorus 'informs us, that Linus composed a book upon the acts of the first Dionysius, in Pelasgic characters; and that the same were used by Orpheus and by Pronepides, the preceptor of Homer. Zenobius, says, that Cadinus slew Linus, for teaching characters differing from his, and Pausanias, in his Attics, assures us, that he himself saw an inscription upon the tomb of Coræbus, who lived at the time when Crotopus, who was contemporary with Deucalion, was King of the Argives. Letters, therefore, were in use long before the arrival of Cadinus. Letters were first introduced into Greece and Italy by the Pelasgi ; they were afterwards subjected to some considerable alterations by Cadmus, and further still by the Ionians. The Africans, Spaniards, Celts, and Etrurians, as well as the jnbabitants of Greece and Italy, all made use of Pelasgic or Phænician letters. The Greeks, at first, had no more than sixteen : tbese, without the names of Alpha, Beta, &c, they received from the old Pelasgi. When Cadmus entered Greece, he gave them the names, and added to the old characters three more letters, Zeta, Eta, and Chi, and as many numeral characters, Bau, Sanpi, Koppa, all which are taken from the Phoenician alphabet, as is evident from their names, their shape, and place and power. These, with the Pelasgic characters complete the Phænician alphabet. Some other changes, also, it is probable, might have been made by Cadmus in the shape of some of the letters. That any of these characters were invented by Simonides or Palamedes, or any other Greek, is a fable that doth not deserve credit; since they were all exactly in their proper place, as in the Hebrew, Syriac, or Phænician alphabet. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, added several letters to the Phænician alphabet. The presént Greek alphabet is the Jonic, having five letters added to 'the end of that which they received from the Pelasgi and Phænicians,
Yours, &c. 1776, July
LXIV. Origin of Old Nick.
MR. URBAN, NOBODY has accounted for the Devil's having the name of Old Nick, Keysler de Dea Nehaleunia, p. 33, and Antiq. Septentr. p. 261, mențions a deity of the waters worshipped by the ancient Germans and Danes under the name of Nocca or Nicken, styled in the Edda Nikur, which he derives from the German nugen, answering to the Latin necare. Wormius, Mon, Dan. p. 17, says the redness in the faces of drowned persons was ascribed to this deity's sucking their blood out at their nostrils, Wasthovius, pref. ad Vit. Sanctor, and Loccenius. Antiq. Sueo-Goth p. 17, call him Neccus, and quote, from a Belgo-Gallic Dictionary, Neccer, Spiritus Aquaticus, and Necce, necare. The Islandic Dict. in Hickes' Thes. P. III. p. 85, renders Nikur, bellu aquatica. Lastly, Rudbekius, Atlant. p. 1. c. 7. § 5. p. 192. and c. 30. p. 719. mentions a notion prevalent among his countrymen, that Neckur, who governed the sea, assumed the form of various animals, or of a horseman, or of a man in a boat, He supposes him the same with Odin; but the above authorities are sufficient to evince that he was the Northern Neptune, or some subordinate sea-god of a noxious disposition. Wormius queries whether a figure said to be seen, 1615, on the river Lan, and called Wasser Nichts, might not be of this kind. Probably it was a sea-monster of the species called Mermen, and by our Spenser, Fairy-Queen,
II. 12. 24:
The griesly Wasserman. It is not unlikely, but the name of this evil spirit might, as Christianity prevailed in these northern nations, be transferred to the father of evil,
If it would not be thought punning on names, I would hazard another conjecture. --St. Nicholas was the patron of mariners, consequently opponent to Nickur. How he came by this office does not appear. The Legend says, “Ung jour que aucuns mariniers perissoyent si le prierent ainsi a larmes, Nicolas, serviteur de Dieu, si les choses sont vrayes que nous avons ouyes, si les esprouve maintenant. Et tantot ung homme s'apparut a la semblance de luy, & leur dit,
moy, se ne m'appellez vous pas : & leur commenca a leur ayder en leur exploit : de la ne fet tantost la tempestate cessa. Et quant ils furent venus a son Eglise ilz
se cogneurent sans demonstrer, et si ne l'avoient oncques veu. Et lors rendirent graces a Dieu et a luy de leur deliyrance; et il leur dit que ilz attribuassent a la misericorde de Dieu et a leur creance, et non pas a ses merites.”—Then follow other miracles, not peculiarly appropriated to him under this character. We have afterwards, indeed, another story of his delivering from an illusion of the Devil certain pilgrims qui alloient à luy a nage, which I understand to mean only by water. · Legende d'or, fol. viii. See also Blomefield's Hist. of Norfolk, II. p. 861. 1777, March.
LXV. On the Crasis, a Grammatical Figure. CORRUPTIONS, by means of the figure we call a Crasis, have had a great effect, I believe, in all languages; it is when the prefix adheres to the following word, which it often very easily and naturally does, in pronunciation, and afterwards is written or printed in that form. Thus the modern names of the city of Athens are Satinas and Satines, from is les " Alnvas; and that of Constantinople, Stamboul, from is lny Toddv. Hence ædepol, mehercule, &c. of the Romans ; and, perhaps, our word endeavour, and rendevous, from the French en devoir, and rendez vous. Some attention, how. ever, is necessary in the case, and some distinction should be made, for the Crasis is not concerned in all words that coalesce together, as otherwise, always, &c. which ought rather to be call compounds; for I esteem it no Crasis unless there be such a mixture or coalition of letters in the word as to make the word to seem different from itself, and to be obscured or deformed by it. Thus Birlady, à forin of swearing, by the blessed Virgin, much used formerly, and sometimes now, is a manifest jumble and corruption of By our Lady
It appears, from this short account of things, that vulgar, hasty, and inaccurate pronunciation has been the principal cause of this figure; which has been more applied in our language than," I presume, is commonly thought; and therefore I am in hopes that a regard had unto it cannot fail of giving light unto the sense and etymology of very many of our English words. The figure has also operated very remarkably in some of our English sirnames,' as has been noted by our learned Camden, Remains, p. 122 ; we shall therefore insert those instances amongst the rest. I observe,