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worked long enough, and saw fresh audiences ready to rush up the steps, he used to put his head between the canvas and call out, "Is John Audley here?" at which the curtain soon fell, and the strollers began to a new crowd of hearers. "To John Audley a play," meaning to cut it down, still survives in theatrical circles.
Australian flag. This is humorously said to be a shirt-tail,—an allusion to the fact that Australian farmers and ranchers usually wear belts instead of braces, with the inevitable result that a great fold of shirt protrudes between trousers and waistcoat.
Auto-da-fé (Port., literally, "act of faith") originally meant the sentence passed on convicted heretics by the courts of the Spanish Inquisition, but the phrase by extension grew to be applied to the public infliction of the penalties prescribed, and especially the severer ones of hanging and burning.
Why, at the last Auto-da-fé, in 1824 or '25, or somewhere there,-it's a traveller's story, but a mighty knowing traveller he is,--they had a "heretic" to use up according to the statutes provided for the crime of private opinion. They couldn't quite make up their minds to burn him, so they only hung him in a hogshead painted all over with flames!-HOLMES: The Professor at the Breakfast-Table, p. 262.
Autographs and Autograph-Hunters. "The tolerant universe," says Mr. Andrew Lang, "permits men, women, and children to be mighty autograph-hunters before the Lord." But the universe would not be so tolerant if it were mainly composed of autograph huntees instead of hunters. One of the most eminent of the former class, no less a person, indeed, than Alfred Tennyson, once told his neighbor, Mrs. Cameron, that he believed every crime and every vice in the world was connected with the passion for autographs and anecdotes and records (vide Taylor's “Autobiography"). Another, Professor Huxley, wrote in a private letter, "I look upon autograph-hunters as the progeny of Cain, and treat their letters accordingly; heaven forgive you if you are only an unusually ingenuous specimen of the same race." The letter containing this passage was recently offered for sale in London,-a bit of audacity that might have made Cain blush for his progeny.
Perhaps, in accordance with the larger charity of this age, it might be best to treat autograph-hunting as a disease rather than a vice. Once the mania has bitten a collector, he is no longer responsible. And the alarming feature about the matter is the prevalence of the complaint. Sporadic cases are, indeed, recorded at a very high antiquity; but it is only during the last two centuries that it has reached the epidemic stage.
The first case ever recorded was that of a certain Atossa. Little is known about her, save that she was not the mother of Darius. But she may have been the mother of the autograph-collector. We find her described as the first who motoλàç ovvτúžai. Shall we translate this as the first who collected or who wrote letters? On the construction of the verb depends her glory or her shame. But we really are not on solid ground until we reach the great name of Cicero. We know that he had a collection, and a fine one, for he speaks of it with gratulation. The fever, even in those early days, was contagious. It spread to his contemporaries; it raged with some violence among his immediate successors. Pliny mentions one Pompeius Secundus at whose house he had seen autographs of Cicero, Augustus, Virgil, and the Gracchi. Yet Pliny, who bows to Secundus as his superior, himself possessed a coliection valued at $15,000. Then came the irruption of the barbarians, and good-by to the collector and his collections! We do not meet him again until the beginning of the sixteenth century. Then he reappears in the person of a certain Bohemian squire, who, about the year 1507, began keeping a book which recorded his exploits of the chase, and in which, as a further refresher
of the memory, he collected the signatures of his great hunter friends. This he called his Albus Amicorum, probably in memory of the Roman Album, from albus, "white," a blank tablet for making entries. The custom soon extended all over Germany, not merely with hunters, but more especially with travellers, who on returning from the grand tour would proudly exhibit their alba in proof of the good company they had kept while on the road. By the seventeenth century it had reached France, and evidently it was just beginning to be heard of by Englishmen anxious to emulate foreign fashions in 1642, when James Howel included in his "Instructions for Forrain Travel" this item: "Some do use to have a small leger book fairly bound up table-bookwill [table-book-wise], wherein when they meet with any person of note and eminency, and journey or pension with him any time, they desire him to write his name, with some short sentence which they call the mot of remembrance the perusall whereof will fill one with no unpleasing thoughts of dangers and accidents passed." Every one remembers how the peripatetic scholar in Goethe's tragedy tells Mephistopheles, masquerading in the professional robes of the learned Doctor Faust, "I cannot leave you without presenting you with my album; deign to honor it with a souvenir from your hand." "Gladly," says the Devil, and on the virgin page he writes, "Thou shalt be like unto God, knowing the good and the evil."
Possibly the first autograph-collector in the modern sense-that is, the first person who made it a business to gather together letters and documents not for their personal but for their literary or historical associations—was Loménie de Brienne, ambassador of Henry IV., who died in 1638. His rich collection was acquired by Louis XIV., who placed it in the royal library. And to-day the names of famous collectors can be counted by the hundreds, and the value of each individual collection frequently mounts up well into the thousands. Autograph-dealers pursue a lucrative business. Their catalogues throw a curious insight upon the sliding scale by which such memorials of the living and the dead are appraised. In this list or roll-call of fame, this pricecurrent of the great, Andrew Johnson is more highly valued than Lincoln, Jefferson, or even Washington; one of the most insignificant of the signers of the Declaration is ranked above all his illustrious colleagues; and Piron lords it over kings and conquerors. The inexorable law of supply and demand steps in here as elsewhere, and regulates prices according to the scarcity which limits the supply, and the interest or eminence of the subject which incites the demand. The two rarest autographs of all are Shakespeare's and Molière's. Of course these are the most expensive. Of Molière's there are known to be five in existence. Of Shakespeare's it is claimed that there are seven, three to his will, two to conveyances of property, one in a folio edition of the plays, possessed by Mr. Gunther, of Chicago, and one in Giovanni Florio's translation of Montaigne. The will is in the British Museum, and cost $1572. But the folio signature is doubted, and two of the signatures to the will are thought to have been filled in by amanuenses. The largest of Molière's is but six lines long, and is a receipt for money, very queerly spelt. Of the plays of both authors not a fragment is known to exist.
Legitimate collectors limit their fad to the serious collection of autographs that are in the market. They look down with scorn upon the amateurs who beg signatures that may be had for the asking. It is the latter, indeed, who have brought the autograph-hunter into disrepute. They are a sore trial to the patience and the morality of statesmen and men of letters, who are apt to become ferociously and even blasphemously contemptuous. Daniel O'Con nell, for example, once took up his pen and wrote as follows:
SIR,-I'll be damned if I will send you my autograph.
Others, less hibernially hot-blooded, employ a secretary or (most exasperating of all) use a type-writer, refusing autographs to all but the most cunning applicants. Huxley and Ruskin have each been obliged to prepare a printed circular, at once a remonstrance and an apology, which they slip into an envelope and send off to their begging correspondents. Mark Twain has followed their example in this type-written message:
I hope I shall not offend you; I shall certainly say nothing with the intention to offend you. I must explain myself, however, and I will do it as kindly as I can. What you ask me to do I am asked to do as often as one-half dozen times a week. Three hundred letters a year! One's impulse is to freely consent, but one's time and necessary occupations will not permit it. There is no way but to decline in all cases, making no exceptions; and I wish to call your attention to a thing which has probably not occurred to you, and that is this: that no man takes pleasure in exercising his trade as a pastime. Writing is my trade, and I exercise it only when I am obliged to. You might make your request of a doctor, or a builder, or a sculptor, and there would be no impropriety in it, but if you asked either for a specimen of his trade, his handiwork, he would be justified in rising to a point of order. It would never be fair to ask a doctor for one of his corpses to remember him by.
A rebuff is not always accepted by its object. Danger and difficulty add zest to the sport; his persistence becomes malignant, his dodges subtle and inscrutable. The very fact that an autograph is denied to fair means will encourage foul. The hunter drops a note to his victim, asking him in what year he wrote his sweet poem of the Ancient Mariner (knowing very well that he never wrote it, but will be tickled by the ascription), or what was the middle name of his father, or explains that he is replenishing his library and wishes a full chronological list of the works of his favorite author. He knows in his heart (the sly dog) that an appeal to personal vanity will fetch an author every time.
Mr. William Black has recorded a few out of his own experience which are amusing enough to quote:
The most persistent correspondent whom the writer of books has to face is the autographhunting fiend, whose ways are dark and devious beyond description. The dodges to which he will resort in order to accomplish his diabolical purpose are as the sand of the sea-shore for multitude; and it is to be feared that many an honest letter is flung into the waste-paper basket on the mere hasty and exasperated suspicion that it hails from an autograph-hunter. The most deadly stratagem in this direction I ever heard of was the invention of a friend of mine, who now confesses to it as one of the sins of his youth. He wrote a letter to each of the persons whose autograph he coveted, describing himself as a ship-owner and asking permission to be allowed to name his next vessel after the particular celebrity he was addressing. It was a fatal trap. Nearly every one fell into it. Even poor old Carlyle had no suspicion, and, in replying to the bogus ship-owner, expressed the hope that the vessel to be named after him might sail into a happier haven than he had ever reached. I remember when I was in America receiving a very pretty and charming letter from two sisters living in one of the Southern States. They described their beautiful home on the banks of the River; they were, they informed me, living there quite alone, having neither friends nor relatives to occupy their time withal; and it had occurred to them that, as I was certain to form a perfectly false idea of American hospitality so long as I remained in the cold and callous North, would I not come down for a week or two to this sylvan retreat on the River, that they might show me what a real Southern welcome was like? It was a most innocent and idyllic invitation; and I was describing it a long time afterwards to Mr. Bret Harte, when he interrupted me. "Didn't the letter go on something like this?" He knew the rest. The idyllic invitation had been but an autograph-hunting lure.
A good story is told of the late Prince Albert Victor, eldest son of the Prince of Wales. When a small boy at school, finding himself "strapped," and knowing, perhaps, that his royal father was also in the same condition, he wrote to his grandmother for a loan of five shillings. Back came a letter full of grandmotherly reproof and advice, and illustrating precept by thrifty example in withholding the five shillings. Prince Albert promptly sold the letter to a dealer for the absurdly low figure of thirty shillings. In 1889, at a London sale of curios, it brought £16.
But it is French people who excel in this kind of finesse. In 1856 a clever
rascal, using various pseudonymes, such as Gabriel Vicaire, Soriano, Ludovic Picard, and others, wrote letters to many famous people of the day, asking for counsel, assistance, or encouragement. Sometimes he was an unhappy wife who had determined at all costs to fly from her uncongenial husband, sometimes an écuyère of the circus, sometimes a young artist, unsuccessful and tempted to suicide. The great people responded like men—and women. Some were lengthy, some curt, some eloquent, some persuasive, some sarcastic: never mind, they all wrote. Then the clever young man hied him to a noted collector, and disposed of a lot of valuable autographs from Lacordaire, Heine, George Sand, Antonelli, Taglioni, Dickens, Abd-el-Kader, and heaven knows how many others. Not until the collector recognized the limited number of themes treated in his newly-acquired treasures did the ingenuity of the scheme stand revealed.
But ingenuity has raised up ingenuity to baffle it. The schemes of the hunter are met by counter-schemes of the intended victim. A gentlemanso described, at least, in the paper (The Bookmart) from which this note is cribbed-laid a wager once that he would get an autograph out of Lord TennyHe sat down and wrote a polite note, asking the noble lord which, in his opinion, was the best dictionary of the English language,-Webster's or Ogilvie's. That will fetch him, thought the man who set the trap. Did it? By the next post came a half-sheet of note-paper, on which was carefully pasted the word "Ogilvie," cut out of the correspondent's own letter.
A certain eminent American has a second-cousin, so it is said, of the same name as his own. To this accommodating relative he turns over all requests for sentiments or signatures. The second-cousin answers the letters and signs his own name. Thus all parties to the transaction are satisfied. A refinement of authorial ingenuity makes the hunter pay for his autograph. Kate Field, approached by a fiend, wrote in his album the significant information that he could subscribe for her periodical at four dollars a year. What could he do but take the hint? Jean Ingelow, pestered to death by importunities, finally made a number of copies of her favorite poems, dated them, and placed them in the hands of her American publishers to be sold at two dollars apiece, -the money to be devoted to a charitable purpose.
Horace Greeley, in his “Recollections of a Busy Life,” records the fact that a gushing youth once wrote him to this effect:
DEAR SIR: Among your literary treasures you have doubtless several autographs of our country's late lamented poet, Edgar A. Poe. If so, and you can spare one, please enclose it to me and receive the thanks of yours truly.
Mr. Greeley promptly responded as follows:
DEAR SIR: Among my literary treasures there happens to be exactly one autograph of our country's late lamented poet, Edgar A. Poe. It is his note of hand for $50.00, with my endorsement across the back. It cost me exactly $50.75 (including protest), and you can have it for half that amount. Yours, respectfully.
Mr. Greeley feelingly adds, "That autograph, I regret to say, remains on my hands, and is for sale at the original price, despite the lapse of time and the depreciation of our currency."
It was on this incident that Bayard Taylor based the admirable parody of Poe which appears in his "Diversions of the Echo Club." Here is a speci
'Twas the random runes I wrote
At the bottom of the note
Gave to Greeley),
In the middle of the night,
When the stars were out of sight,
Ave Imperator! morituri te salutant! (L., "Hail, O Emperor! we who are about to die salute thee!") The cry with which the gladiators in the arena acknowledged the presence of the Cæsar before beginning their fights.
"O Cæsar! we who are about to die
In the arena, standing face to face
With death and with the Roman populace.
So sings Longfellow in his Morituri Salutamus," a poem recited at the Fiftieth Anniversary of the class of 1825 in Bowdoin College. Suetonius, in his life of Claudius, ch. xxi., relates how at a gladiatorial fight on the Fucine Lake, the Emperor, instead of the usual valete (" farewell"), replied, Avete vos, a customary parting greeting, which the gladiators insisted on taking in its literal sense of "Live!" or Long life to you!" and refused to fight. But Claudius urged and compelled them to proceed with the show.
Wellington and Napoleon! It is a wonderful phenomenon that the human mind can, at the same time, think of both these names. There can be no greater contrast than the two, even in their external appearance. Wellington, the dumb ghost, with an ashy gray soul in a buckram body, a wooden smile in his freezing face-and by the side of that think of the figure of Napoleon, every inch a god! That figure never disappears from my memory. I still see him, high on his steed, with eternal eyes in his marble-like, imperial face, glancing calm as destiny on the guards defiling past-he was then sending them to Russia, and the old grenadiers glanced up at him, so terribly devoted, so all-consciously serious, so proud in death,
Axe to grind, An. This phrase has frequently been attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but it really belongs to Charles Miner (1780-1865), and occurs in an essay entitled "Who'll turn the Grindstone?" originally contributed to the Wilkesbarre Gleaner, a country newspaper in the interior of Pennsylvania, in 1811. The author says that when he was a little boy he was accosted one cold winter morning by a man with an axe on his shoulder. "My pretty boy," said he, "has your father a grindstone ?” “Yes, sir,” said I. “You are a fine little fellow," said he: "will you let me grind my axe upon it?" Pleased by the compliment of "fine little fellow," the gentleman's bidding was done by the boy, water being procured for him and the grindstone kept in motion until the boy's hands were blistered, the smiling gentleman keeping up his flattery meanwhile. Before the grinding was done, the school-bell rang, and after the axe had the proper edge on it the man ungraciously exclaimed, "Now, you little rascal, you've played the truant; scud to school, or you'll rue it." The author says that he felt very much wounded and never forgot the incident, and ever afterward when he saw one person flattering another he said to himself, "That man has an axe to grind."
The essay, it will be seen, is imitated from Franklin's "Don't pay too much for your whistle." To make the analogy more complete, the series to which it belonged was gathered up into a book under the title of "Essays from the Desk of Poor Robert the Scribe," Doylestown, 1815.