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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 the 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 up for half a year, with indefatigable industry produced an anagram. Upon the presenting it to his mistress, who was a little vexed in her heart to see herself degraded into Moll Boon, she told him, to his infinite surprise, that he had mistaken her surname, for that it was not Boon but Bohun.
............. Ibi omnis
The lover was thunder-struck with his misfortune, insomuch that in a little time after he lost his senses, which indeed had been 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 decide 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 compouud 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 extremi. ty, 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 Adolphus the following words: CHRISTVs DvX ERGO TRIVMPHVs. If you take the pains to pick out the figures of the several words, and range them in their proper order, you will find they amount to MDCXVVVII, 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 ingenious 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 Foleite
One would be amazed to see so learned a man as Menage talking seriously on this kind of trifle in the following passage: 1
Monsieur de la Chambre has told me, that he ne• ver 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 I was afterwards perhaps three or four months in fill• ing them up. I one day shewed Monsieur Goio baud a composition of this nature, in which, among 6 others, I had made use of the following rhymes,
Amaryllis, Phillis, Marne, Arne, desiring him to "give me his opinion of it: he told me immediately,
that my verses were good for nothing: and upon s my asking his reason, he said, because the rhymes " are too common; and for that reason easy to be put 5 in 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 se
verity 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 Bouts Rimez made them in some manner excusable, 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 had finished his poem?
I shall only add, that this piece of false wit has been finely ridiculed by Monsieur Sarasin, in a poem entitled, La defaite 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 admire 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
There was an ancient sage philosopher
more frequently quoted than the finest pieces of wit in the whole poem.
No. LXI. THURSDAY, MAY 10.
Non equidem studeo, bullatis ut mihi nugis
'Tis not indeed my talent to engage
THERE is no kind of false wit which has been so recommended by the practice of all ages, as that which consists in a jingle of words, and is comprehended 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. Imitation is natural to us, and when it does not raise the mind to poetry, painting, music, or other more noble arts, it often breaks out in puns and quibbles.
Aristotle, in the eleventh chapter of his book of rhe. toric, describes two or three kinds of puns, which he calls paragrams, among the beauties of good writing, and produces instances of them out of some of the greatest authors in the Greek tongue. Cicero has sprinkled several of his works with puns; and in his book, where he lays down the rules of oratory, quotes abundance of sayings as pieces of wit, which also upon examination prove arrant puns: but the age in which the pun chiefly flourished, was the reign of King James the First. That learned monarch was himself a tolerable punster, and made very few bishops or privy-counsellors that had not some time or other signalized themselves by a clinch, or a conundrum. It