« AnteriorContinuar »
it implies was met and faced over two centuries ago, and by no less a person than Dryden, in an address prefixed to the first edition of Nat Lee's "The Rival Queens :"
The blast of common censure could I fear,
Before your play my name should not appear;
And yet my silence had not 'scaped their spite :
Dryden presents the alternative very clearly. If a literary friend praises his comrade's work, he is a log-roller. If he does not, he is dumb with envy.
Look before you leap, the modern form of the old proverb, which, as "Look ere thou leap," is found in Tottel's Miscellany" (1557) and in Tusser's "Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry" (1573). John Trapp, in his quaint "Commentary" (1647), traces this saying to St. Bernard. In his comment on I. Peter iii. 17 he says,
Try therefore before ye trust; look before ye leap. casurus es antequam debeas,"-i.e., "if ye look not would."(Bernard.)
"Alio qui saliens antequam videas, before ye leap, ye will fall before ye
Thou shouldst have looked before thou hadst leapt.-JONSON, Chapman, Marston: Eastward Ho, Act v., Sc. 1.
Look before you ere you leap,
BUTLER: Hudibras, Part II., ch. ii., 1. 502.
Looking glass. A number of common superstitions have entwined themselves around this article of furniture. Many of them are dim survivals of the idea found among most savage tribes at a certain stage of development that there is some mysterious connection between a man and his shadow or reflection. Universal still is the superstition that to break a looking-glass is to tempt misfortune,-in some places death, in others ill luck for seven years. It adds to the ill luck to keep the broken pieces, yet that ill luck may in various parts of England be averted by breaking two more. Hence the common saw, "When I have broken three I have finished." In America and in England there are local survivals of the old folk-belief that it is fatal to let a baby gaze at its reflection in the mirror before it is one year old. The Swedes have brought with them to many Swedish settlements, especially in Minnesota and Wisconsin, the native fancy that a girl must not look in the glass after dark by the aid of any artificial light, under pain of forfeiting all power over the other sex. In rural England it is common to remove the looking. glass from the chamber of death, or to cover it over,-obviously a recrudescence of the ghost-theory of reflections.
Loose-Constructionists, in American national politics, those who favor a liberal interpretation of the Constitution with regard to the powers delegated by that instrument to the federal government, and who are for the reading into it of large implied sovereign powers; opposed to the "strict constructionists," rigid maintainers of all the reserved powers of the individual States. Neither designation was ever a party name; but the right of secession" may,
broadly speaking, be deemed a strict-constructionist position, and the right to issue paper money an implication of liberal construction.
Looting the Treasury. Loot, or lút, is Hindustani for plunder, robbery, pillage (Wilson's "Glossary of Indian Terms"), and the whole phrase is a product of the earlier history of the East India Company, when looting royal treasuries was practised as a fine art and in a magnitude unheard of before. In the Political Magazine for 1781 will be found five pages of Indian terms, given, as there stated, in order that its readers may understand the debates in which Burke made an early attack on the Company.
Lord Burleigh Nod, a most portentous and significant nodding of the head. In his farce "The Critic, or a Tragedy Rehearsed," Sheridan had introduced Lord Burleigh as one of the characters in the rehearsed tragedy. Burleigh does not speak, doubtless because, being a minister of state, "with the whole affairs of the nation on his head," he has no time for such trivialities. He is permitted to come on the stage, however, slowly shaking his head, and as Mr. Puff, the author of the tragedy, who is present at the rehearsal, explains, "By that shake of the head he gave you to understand that, even though they had more justice in their cause and wisdom in their measures, yet, if there was not a greater spirit shown on the part of the whole people, the country would at last fall a sacrifice to the hostile ambition of the Spanish monarchy." It is this scene, and not any incident in his life or peculiar personal characteristics, which is referred to by English writers,-e.g., "The Provost answered with another sagacious shake of the head, that would have done honor to Lord Burleigh." (SIR WALTER Scott.)
Lord Lonsdale's Nine Pins. The Earl of Lonsdale was so extensive a proprietor and patron of boroughs that he returned nine members to every Parliament, who were facetiously called "Lord Lonsdale's Nine Pins." One of the members thus designated, having made a very extravagant speech in the House of Commons, was answered by Mr. Burke in a vein of the happiest sarcasm, which elicited from the House loud and repeated cheers. Mr. Fox, entering the House just as Mr. Burke was sitting down, inquired of Sheridan what the House was cheering. "Oh, nothing of consequence," replied Sheridan, "only Burke has knocked down one of Lord Lonsdale's Nine Pins." Lordly authors. In his "Essay on Criticism" Pope happily says,
What woful stuff this madrigal would be,
In some starved hackney sonneteer, or me!
Molière had previously said the same thing:
Tous les discours sont des sottises
Ce seraient paroles exquises,
Si c'était un grand qui parlât.
Johnson, speaking of a titled gentleman who had turned author, said, "My friend was of opinion that when a man of rank appeared in that character he deserved to have his merits handsomely allowed." (Usually quoted as "When a nobleman writes a book he ought to be encouraged.")
It adds a great deal to the force of an opinion to know that there is a man of force and likelihood behind it.
But Emerson is not falling into the vice which the others have condemned. He is only uttering the obvious truth that an opinion carries additional weight from the character, not the rank, of him who utters it.
Losing a ship for a hap'orth of tar. The phrase is strictly a reference to the loss, not of a ship, but of a sheep (pronounced by rustics "ship"), arising out of the custom of marking sheep with the owner's initials in hot tar. To lose a sheep through its not being marked, is to lose it for want of a ha'pennyworth of tar.
Lost Cause, in American political history, the cause of the Confederacy in the civil war.
This titular description of our late war, which has become so popular on the Southern side, originated with the present writer. Shortly after the war he prepared to write a history of it. He offered the work he designed to a New York publisher, who thought well of it, but objected to the title, "History of the War," etc. The work thus entitled might be confounded with some other inferior memoirs of the war which the writer had already composed, mere annals," First Year of the War," etc. "Could not some title be found more unique and captivating, and not quite so heavy?" The writer promised to think of such a title. The next day he presented himself to the publisher and said, "I have thought of a name for the work I design: it is The Lost Cause. You see the bulk of the people in the South were persuaded that we really contended for something that had the dignity and importance of a cause, the cause of constitutional liberty (though God only knows what the sequel might have demonstrated). I think there is something of proper dignity in the word Cause; then The Lost Cause is an advertisement of something valuable that is gone; besides, the associations of the title are tender and reverential,-there is a strain of mourning in it. How do you like it ?" .. Excellently well," replied the publisher; "it is just the thing." The title proved an instant success, and has since become monumental. The words "The Lost Cause" have been incorporated into the common popular language of the South; and the universality of their reception implies a significance that is itself interesting.-E. A. POLLARD: Appletons' Journal.
Lost treasures of literature. Nature is a spendthrift, undoubtedly, but has she ever wasted her energies in creating a mute inglorious Milton? Gray affirms that she has; Carlyle denies it. A man who can speak must speak, says the latter. Between two such authorities, who shall decide? At all events, it is idle to waste tears on what might have been. It may be equally idle, but nevertheless it is only human, to deplore the loss of what has been. The lost treasures of literature have caused a heart-ache to many a scholar and bibliomaniac. A large portion of classic literature has vanished from the sight of men. The dramatic literature of Greece was one of its greatest glories. At the time of Aristophanes it is estimated that fully two thousand dramas had been produced: only forty-two have come down to us. From Eschylus we have only seven, out of a total of seventy; seven also of Sophocles, out of a hundred or more; and nineteen of Euripides, out of a possible ninety-two. The comic writers have suffered the most, and of the greatest of them, Menander, hardly a vestige remains. Goethe said that he would gladly have given one-half of Roman poetry for a single play of that master. In the few lines that have come down to us he recognized the touch of a supreme genius.
But this is not the worst. The greatest lyric poetess of all times was Sappho. Only two odes and a few fragmentary lines are left to tantalize us with a sense of our loss. From Pindar we have some odes, indeed, but not the hymns and dirges and dithyrambs which the ancient critics considered his real masterpieces. And where are the songs of Alcæus and Ibycus,-not to mention any lesser names,-songs which once thrilled the most cultured nation of antiquity? Perished all, perished utterly from the face of the earth, with the exception of a few mutilated stanzas. In Roman literature we have fared somewhat better, but even here there are sad gaps. Ennius, the father of Roman poetry, Ennius, of whom a complete copy is said to have existed as late as the thirteenth century, survives only in a few fragments. Perished utterly, also, is that splendid ballad literature which preceded the historic age, the literature whose loss Macaulay sought to supply in his "Lays of
Ancient Rome." The poets Lucilius, Bassus, Ponticus, Valgius, Accius, and Pacuvius, the historians Cœlius Antipater and Cornelius Sisenna, the orators Calvus and Hortensius and Cassius Severus, names to conjure with in ancient days, are names and nothing more to our modern ears.
A dozen words are all that remain of the "Thyestes" of Varius, which, according to Quintilian, rivalled all the tragedies of the Greeks; and two lines represent all the vestige of Ovid's tragedy of "Medea." Livy, himself, has come down to us in a mutilated state.
Many of these treasures perished in the invasions of the Goths and Vandals, many were destroyed by the ignorant or the superstitious in the Dark Ages, many were consumed by fire in the successive incendiarisms at Alexandria. The library of four hundred thousand manuscripts collected by the Ptolemys was burned during the siege of Alexandria by Julius Cæsar. The famous library in the same city, known as the Serapeum, which had been enriched by Pergamon and given to Cleopatra by Mark Antony, was partly burned, partly dispersed, at the storming of the temple of Jupiter by the Christians during the reign of Theodosius the Great. A new library sprang up in Alexandria, and in A.D. 640 was said to have contained seven hundred thousand volumes. That was the year in which the city was captured by the Saracens under Caliph Omar. The Caliph decreed that "if these writings of the Greeks agree with the Book of God, they are useless and need not be preserved; if they disagree, they ought to be destroyed." So the building was burned to the ground, and the manuscripts were sent to heat the four thousand public baths. Six months were barely sufficient, it is said, for the consumption of the precious fuel. It is only right to add that, though Gibbon accepts this story in its entirety, other authorities reject many of the details either as fabrications or as gross exaggerations.
In Acts xix. 19, St. Luke narrates that, after the preaching of Paul, many of the Ephesians "which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver." This would be over ninety thousand dollars in our money. The books destroyed were probably little parchment scrolls, containing illustrations of early heathenism, of devil-worship, serpentworship, and sun-worship, early astrological and chemical lore, and symbols of the archaic forms of religion, derived from the Egyptians, the Persians, and the Greeks. These scrolls were used as charms against all evils, and protection especially against the "evil eye." Their manufacture, as late as the fourth century, formed an extensive trade, and it has not wholly died out yet, although now it has assumed another form. The Ephesians carried the scrolls about their persons, and when Paul's eloquence convinced them of their superstition they doubtless drew them forth from beneath their garments and cast them into the flames.
With heathens burning Christian writings and Christians retaliating upon pagan literature, books disappeared rapidly in the twilight of civilization. Twelve thousand books printed in Hebrew were burned at Cremona in 1569, and at the capture of Granada Cardinal Ximenes made a bonfire of five thousand copies of the Koran. Frightful losses were also sustained when the great monastic libraries were plundered in the time of the Reformation. The books and manuscripts were scattered to stuff broken windows, clean boots, and light fires, or were sold to grocers and soap-sellers as wrappingpaper. One merchant, for forty shillings, bought two noble libraries, which supplied him with paper stock enough to last for ten years. No doubt many of the most precious ancient manuscripts perished in this way, as well as the works, more or less valuable, of medieval writers. The great fire of London destroyed many treasures of Elizabethan literature. More of this
literature perished through the selfishness of managers who would not allow their manuscripts to be printed, and through the carelessness of subsequent collectors.
At the beginning of this century, the manuscripts of a number of famous plays which had survived all these casualties were destroyed by a servant of Warburton, who used some to light the fire and others to make into pie-crust frills. No fewer than fifteen of Massinger's plays perished in this wholesale massacre, with some fifty other plays of various authors, including Ford, Dekker, Robert Greene, George Chapman, Cyril Tournure, and Thomas Middleton. Nay, among the number were three plays attributed to Shakespeare," Duke Humphrey," "Henry I.," and "Henry II."
But one of the most lamentable of all losses is that of Heywood's "Lives of the Poets," which has unaccountably disappeared. Heywood was the familiar friend of Shakespeare and his great contemporaries, and the book would now be looked upon as a priceless storehouse of literary ana.
Of all Elizabethan poets the greatest sufferer was Spenser. The last six books of his "Faerie Queene" were said to have been lost by a servant while crossing from Ireland to England, and, although this statement has been doubted, it is quite certain that no fewer than seventeen of his compositions have entirely disappeared. The poetry of Abraham Cowley has come down to us intact. But his poetry, though it has an historical interest, is far inferior to his prose, and of his prose only his essays remain. His letters were suffered to perish by Bishop Sprat.
Of that queen of epistolary writers, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, only a comparatively few letters have come down to us. These few were preserved by accident, the jealous pride or the carelessness of her family preventing the rest from seeing the light of print. Pope was responsible for the destruction of Lord Peterborough's Memoirs, as was Tom Moore for the destruction of Byron's. In the first case we probably lost more than in the latter. Lord Peterborough was one of the most brilliant and versatile men in English history. His career was a rich and strange one. Possibly, however, the noble lord was prouder of his conquests over the fair sex than of his victories over the Spaniards, and so Pope may have been afraid of the scandals that might ensue. Still, it is hard to forgive him, and still harder to palliate the share he took in the destruction of the Memoirs of another distinguished public man, Sir George Savile, who had taken notes of the conversations of Charles II. and reported much entertaining information about his great contemporaries. Nor is it any plea in mitigation that Pope, at the advice of Lord Bolingbroke, put one of his own books into the fire, his "Treatise on the Immortality of the Soul," which must certainly have had a personal, and possibly had a literary, value.
Where are Mrs. Inchbald's Memoirs, which are said to have extended to several volumes, and for which the publishers offered her one thousand pounds? And where is John Wilkes's autobiography? We know only that he lent the manuscript to Charles Butler, and that after Wilkes's death the cover of the book was found without any leaves. Another manuscript which has unaccountably disappeared is a prose work by Matthew Prior, called "Dialogues of the Dead, in the Manner of Lucian." It has been lost sight of since 1781, when it was in the possession of the dowager Duchess of Portland. Joseph Warton and D'Israeli speak highly of the work.
Pope is not the only author who has destroyed his own works. Samuel Rogers is known to have written and made away with a drama, called "The Vintage of Burgundy," but the loss is scarcely to be deplored. Nor need any tears be shed over the prose works of George Crabbe, among them several novels and a botanical treatise, in spite of the fact that his son ad