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ship-necessarily limited by the laws of grammar, rhetoric, and occasional common sense-are not so inexhaustible. Nevertheless, it is quite safe to say that so long as language endures it will always be possible for the man of genius to say an original thing. Yet it is strange to note how long it took the human race to discover that a score or so of orthoëpic symbols would suffice for all the needs of written speech. Nor was the discovery a sudden one, the independent inspiration of any race or period. It was the result of evolution taking place in accordance with fixed laws. All the known graphic systems originated in a picture-writing as rude as that of the American Indian or the African Bushman, and progressed by a slow and painful transition through the conventionalized hieroglyphs representing an idea or a word to the syllabary which denoted the phonetic value of syllables or portions of words, and thence to the final perfection of the alphabet, denoting the elementary sounds into which all words and syllables could in the last analysis be reduced. And from the clearest and simplest of these early alphabets, which minimized the necessary symbols to the smallest possible quota, all modern systems of writing, the Northern Runes, the Roman alphabet, which has now finally superseded its parent Greek, the square Hebrew of the Jews, the elaborate Sanscrit, the Neskhi alphabet,-vehicle of the thoughts of Turk and Persian, as well as of all the vast Arabic-speaking world,-all these have slowly diverged, in accordance with the necessities of various classes of languages. Utterly diverse as all these alphabets are in their latest form, scientific paleography has succeeded in bridging over the enormous intervals which separate them from one another, in explaining the transitions that time and space have effected, and in showing that they are all but the manifold developments of a single germ.
And what was that germ? Greek myth credited the invention of the alphabet to Cadmus the Phoenician. The myth has a certain substratum of truth. Cadmus may never have lived. Certainly neither he nor any other Phoenician "invented" the alphabet. It is not, indeed, an invention which would occur spontaneously to the mind even of the most creative genius. And the Phoenicians, though clever intermediaries, were not creative geniuses. Nevertheless, they did give the alphabet to the world. Its very name may be cited in evidence, referring us, as it does, to alpha and beta, the names of the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, and these in turn to the Phoenician aleph and beth (still the names of the first two letters in Hebrew), which signify “ox" and "house." We may, therefore, assume that the Phoenicians saw some likeness between the letters so named by them and the pictures of an ox and a house, and thence we are easily led to the conclusion that they borrowed the symbols from some foreign system of writing which was still pictorial at the time of the borrowing, or else had once been so. Now, the most highly civilized nation with whom the Phoenicians came in contact was the Egyptian. It was by a system of selection, therefore, among Egyptian symbols that they developed the broad generalization of an alphabet. No doubt the elegant scholars of the Nile, cabined and confined within the traditions of ancient learning and the prejudices of early habit, looked down with scorn upon this species of short-hand, deeming it all well enough for ignorant merchants, but clearly unfit for educated people. Still, the Phoenicians calmly pursued their way, using the borrowed alphabet in all their mercantile transactions, and carrying it as an instrument of intercourse to all the nations among whom they dealt. In the end, the universities were swept away, the hieroglyphic scribes were out of employment, and mankind was taught to write its language in the A B C of the Phoenician trader, while the hieroglyphic and syllabic writings sank into such black oblivion that it took the life-work of several generations of scholars to recover them.
It was a wise though a lazy cleric whom Luther mentions in his "TableTalk,”—the monk who, instead of reciting his breviary, used to run over the alphabet and then say, "O my God, take this alphabet, and put it together how you will." For in the diverse combinations of which those twenty-four symbols are capable lies all that the human heart and intellect have ever conceived or ever can conceive of truth and beauty and reverence,―all possible schemes of philosophy, all possible masterpieces of prose or poetry, all law and science and order and religion. In these, and these alone, lie all the records of the past and all the possibilities of the future. An alphabet, one would say, is too sacred a thing to be treated other than reverently. Yet there have always been triflers, even in this Holy of Holies. Some miscreants have taken the utmost imaginable pains to avoid a particular letter, and have composed poems, essays, and treatises without once raising the unmeaning taboo. Others have made inordinate use of some letter and insisted that it should form the initial of every word. The first called their Procrustean method lipogrammatizing; the latter, alliteration. Each is treated under its proper caption. Others, again, have found still other methods of conjuring with the alphabet,-a cunning sleight of hand played upon those magic symbols which may be made to work miracles at the beck of the true thaumaturgist.
Some ingenious trifler has discovered that there is one verse in the Bible which contains all the letters in the alphabet: "And I, even I, Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it shall be done speedily." (Ezra vii. 21.) Of course it will be seen that J is left out; but then J and I were originally the same letter. It will further be seen that the letters are duplicated and reduplicated. Prof. De Morgan, who in his lucid moments was a great mathematician, used to find an insane pleasure in relieving his severer studies by composing ingenious puzzles. He set himself to improve on Ezra. He would produce a sentence which would use all the twenty-six letters and use each only once. Here, however, his wits failed him. After many fruitless attempts, he decided on a compromise. He would not only admit the license of using i forj, but the further license of looking on u and v as the same letter. The result came out as follows:
I quartz pyx who fling muck beds.
The professor acknowledges that he did not at first grasp the full meaning and beauty of this sentence. He long thought that no human being could say it under any circumstances. "At last I happened to be reading a religious writer, as he thought himself, who threw aspersions on his opponents thick and threefold. Heyday! came into my head, this fellow flings muck beds; he must be a quartz pyx. And then I remembered that a pyx is a sacred vessel, and quartz is a hard stone, as hard as the heart of a religious foe-curser. So that the line is the motto of a ferocious sectarian who turns his religious vessels into mud-holders, for the benefit of those who will not see what he sees. Thus heartened, he published his sentence in Notes and Queries, and boldly threw down the gauntlet to all and sundry to do better if they could. The gauntlet was taken up by a number of correspondents. These were the best of the results arrived at:
Quiz my whigs export fund.
Dumpy quiz, whirl back fogs next.
The professor magnanimously awards the palm to the last one. "It is good advice," he explains, "to a young man, very well expressed under the circumstances. In more sober English, it would be, 'Marry; be cheerful;
watch your business.'" It is doubtful, however, whether the young man would understand it without the accompanying gloss.
Since that time many other people have tried their hands at the same kind of trifling. But the combined intellect of the world has produced nothing better than this:
Quiz, Jack; thy frowns vex.-G. D. PLUMB.
Now, at all events, this makes sense. But the arbitrary lugging in of a proper name made up for the occasion spoils its symmetry, and the reduplication of the letter a throws it entirely out of court. Here is an effort still more intelligible in itself:
John T. Brady gave me a black walnut box of quite small size.
Here the name is a very common one, and consequently less offensive to the finer instincts. But the continuous reduplication of letters relegates it to the class of which the Biblical specimen already quoted remains the best because unconscious exponent.
Another scholar has discovered that there are only two words in the English language which contain all the vowels in their order. They are abstemious" and "facetious." The following words each have them in irregular order: authoritative, disadvantageous, encouraging, efficacious, instantaneons, importunate, mendacious, nefarious, objectionable, precarious, pertinacious, sacrilegious, simultaneous, tenacious, unintentional, unequivocal, undiscoverable,
We all know that "A was an Archer who shot at a frog," and have had our early thirst for knowledge stimulated by the descriptive verses of which this is the first line, and the accompanying pictures that showed an archer in the earlier stages of intoxication transfixing a cheerful-nay, an hilarious-frog, followed by Butchers and Cows of so alarming an aspect that we have never been able to look at the letters B and C without conjuring up the horrors that disturbed our adolescent imaginations. These juvenile alphabets have ent themselves to numerous parodies. In that ponderous bit of semi-facetiousness, "The Doctor,”—a book that always reminds one of a light-hearted megatherium,-Southey essays his hand at what may possibly be the earliest example. Speaking of periodical literature, he declares that the Golden Age of Miagazires has passed away :
"In those days A was an Antiquary, and wrote articles upon Altars and Abbeys and Architecture. B made a blunder, which C corrected. D demonstrated that E was in error, and that F was wrong in philology, and neither Philosopher nor Physician, though he affected to be both. G was a Genealogist: H was an Herald who helped him. I was an inquisitive inquirer, who found reason for suspecting J to be a Jesuit. M was a Mathematician. N noted the weather. O observed the stars. P was a Poet who piddled in pastorals, and prayed Mr. Urban to print them. Q came in the corner of the page with his query. R arrogated to himself the right of reprehending every one who differed from him. S sighed and sued in song. T told an old tale, and when he was wrong U used to set him right. V was a VirtuosoW warred against Warburton. X excelled in algebra. Y yearned for immortality in rhyme; and Z in his zeal was always in puzzle.'
Probably the best, most consistent, and most coherent of these alphabets is by that true genius, C. S. Calverley :
A is an Angel of blushing eighteen;
B is the Ball where the Angel was seen;
C is her Chaperon, who cheated at cards;
D is the Deuxtemps with Frank of the Guards;
E is her Eye, killing slowly but surely;
F is the Fan whence it peeped so demurely;
G is the Glove of superlative kid;
I is the Ice which the fair one demanded;
J is the Juvenile that dainty who handed;
K is the Kerchief, a rare work of art;
L is the Lace which composed the chief part;
X is his exit, not rigidly straight;
Y is the Yawning fit caused by the Ball;
Z stands for Zero, or nothing at all.
In one of the early numbers of Notes and Queries, a contributor signing himself "Eighty-One" published a single-rhymed alphabet, and threw out a chailenge to the English-speaking world to produce another equally good. Here is "Eighty-One's" effort:
A was an Army to settle disputes;
B was a Bull, not the mildest of brutes;
C was a Cheque, duly drawn upon Coutts,
D was King David, with harps and with lutes;
E was an Emperor, hailed with salutes;
F was a Funeral, followed by mutes;
G was a Gallant in Wellington boots;
K was a Keeper, who commonly shoots;
V Vicious motives, which malice imputes;
Y is a Yawn; then, the last rhyme that suits,
Z is the Zuyder Zee, dwelt in by coots.
The challenge was taken up by a number of readers, insomuch that the office was flooded (evidently the paper circulates among people of unbounded leisure), and only a small proportion of the answers could be published. As good as any was the following by Mortimer Collins :
A is my Amy, so slender of waist:
B's little Bet, who my button replaced;
C is good Charlotte, good maker of paste:
D is Diana, the forest who traced;
E is plump Ellen, by Edward embraced;
F is poor Fanny, by freckles defaced;
G is Griselda, unfairly disgraced;
I is fair Ida, that princess strait-laced;
N is gay Norah, o'er hills who has raced;
some fair Querist, in blue stockings placed;
Alps. Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise. The concluding line of a famous simile in Pope's "Essay on Criticism," II., 1. 32, which aims to illustrate the growing labors of science and learning. Dr. Johnson has praised this simile as the most apt, the most proper, the most sublime of any in the English language. "The comparison," he says, "of a student's progress in the sciences with the journey of a traveller in the Alps is perhaps the best that English poetry can show. It has no useless parts, yet affords a striking picture by itself; it makes the foregoing position better understood, and enables it to take faster hold on the attention; it assists the apprehension and elevates the fancy." But Warton points out that the simile and consequently the panegyric belong to Drummond :
All as a pilgrim who the Alps doth pass,
When he some heaps of hills hath overwent,
Whether Pope's or Drummond's, the "Essay" was hardly published before we find the Spectator making use of it: "We are complaining of the shortness of life, and are yet perpetually hurrying over the parts of it, to arrive at certain imaginary points of rest. Our case is like that of a traveller upon the Alps, who should fancy that the top of the next hill must end his journey, because it terminates his prospect; but he no sooner arrives at it than he sees new ground and other hills beyond it, and continues to travel on as before." No doubt the simile had passed through many more hands before it finally reached Rousseau, who, in the fourth book of "Émile," likens successful conquerors to "those inexperienced travellers who, finding themselves for the first time in the Alps, imagine that they can clear them with every mountain, and, when they have reached the summit, are discouraged to see higher mountains in front of them." Few could hope to vie with Jean Jacques in turning an affiliated idea to honor and advantage. Among these few Sir Walter Scott cannot be numbered. In his "Life of Napoleon" he compares the great Emperor to "the adventurous climber on the Alps, to whom the surmounting the most dangerous precipices and ascending to the most towering peaks only shows yet dizzier heights and higher points of elevation." What with indifferent English, and the notion misapplied, really the poet of the Pelicans is not materially worse:
Ocean breaking from his black supineness
Quite in another spirit is the use made by Sir John Herschel of the same comparison: