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his life. More commonly, however, they betook themselves to a positive pun, the double construction of which enabled them to be always right: sometimes playing upon a single word, and sometimes upon the whole clause of a sentence. When Crosus, about to make war upon Cyrus, consulted the Delphian priestess, he was told that in crossing the river Halys he would overturn a great empire--which could hardly fail to be true; for, if he succeeded, he would subvert the Assyrian kingdom ; if he failed, his own would be overwhelmed. Pyrrhus received a similar response as to the fate of his expedition against the Romans. “ Credo equidem Æacidas Romanos vincere posse;' which might import either that the Æacides, from whom Pyrrhus was descended, would conquer the Romans, or precisely the reverse: such are the advantages of a double accusative.
Christianity, by superseding these Oracles, did not, most fortunately, extinguish quibbling, for which we have the authority of one of the earliest Popes. Some Pagan English youths of extraordinary beauty being presented to him, he exclaimed, “ Non Angli, sed Angeli forent, si essent Christiani.”
Heraldic bearings are supposed to have been invented to distinguish the different nations, armies, and clans, that were congregated together in the Crusades ; and the mottoes assumed upon this occasion, if we may judge by those of England, bore almost universally some punning allusion to the name or device of the chief. The similar epigraphs still retained by the Vernon, Fortescue, and Cavendish
families, as well as by numerous others, may be viewed as so many venerable testimonies to the antiquity of punning in this our happy island.
There is not one of our sterling old English writers from whom we might not glean some specimen of this noble art; which seems to have attained its golden age in that Augustan æra of our literature-the reign of our renowned Queen Elizabeth, when clergymen punned in the pulpit, judges upon the bench, and criminals in their last dying speeches. Then was it that the deer-stealing attorney's clerk fled from Stratford, and introducing whole scenes of punning into his immortal plays, eliciting quibbles not less affluently from the mouths of fools and porters, than from the dread lips of the weird sisters, “who palter with us in a double sense,” established upon an imperishable basis the glory of his favourite science of Parono masia ;-a glory irradiating and reflected by the whole galaxy of dramatic talent with which he was surrounded.
Succeeding writers, though they have equalled this splendour of quibble, have not failed to deposit occasional offerings upon the altar of Janus, the god of puns. Dryden pretended to be angry, when, being in a coffee-house with his back towards Rowe, one of his friends said to him, “ You are like a waterman; you look one way, and Rowe another ;" but, though unwilling to be the object of a pun, he had no compunction in being the author of many, for the support of which assertion the reader may consult his dramatic works. Addison's opinion of this laugh
provoking practice may be collected from the 440th Number of the Spectator, wherein he describes a society, who had established among themselves an infirmary for the cure of all defects of temper and infractions of good manners.
" After dinner a very honest fellow chancing to let a pun fall from him, his neighbour cried out, "To the infirmary! at the same time pretending to be sick at it, as having the same natural antipathy to a pun which some have to a cat. This produced a long debate. Upon the whole, the punster was acquitted and his neighbour sent off.”—Pope's authority we have already cited. Gay was probably the author of the play upon his own name, when he observed that the great success of his Beggar's Opera, whilst Rich was proprietor of the theatre, had made Gay rich, and Rich gay. But what shall we say of Swift, the punster's Vademecum, the Hierarch, the Pontifex, the Magnus Apollo of the tribe; the Alpha and Omega, the first and last of the professors of equivocation; whose mind was an ever-springing fountain of quiddets, and the thread of whose life was an unbroken string of puns from his first to his second childhood ? Impossible as it is to do justice to the memory of so great a man, I feel the eulogomania swelling within me; and that I may effectually check its yearnings, I leap athwart a measureless hiatus, and revert to that lugubrious, somnolent, single-sensed, and nowitted Anti-punster, whom I apostrophised in the outset.
And now, thou word-measurer, thou line-and-rule
mechanic, thou reasoning but not ruminating animal, now that I have produced these authorities, limited to a narrow list from the want of room, not of materials, wilt thou have the ridiculous arrogance to affect contempt for a pun? That genuine wit which thou pretendest to worship, (as the Athenians built an altar to the unknown Deity,) has been defined to be an assimilation of distant ideas; and what is a pun but an eliciter of remote meanings ? which, though they may not always amount to a definite idea, are at all events the materials of one, and therefore ingredients in the composition of real wit. These Protean combinations are the stimulants of fancy, the titillators of the imagination, the awakeners of the risible faculties; and to condemn them because the same happy results may be produced by a more rare and difficult process, is either an exemplification of the fox and the sour grapes, or the pride of mental luxury, which would quarrel with all gratifications that are cheap and accessible. The sterling commodity is scarce let us prize it the more when we encounter it; but in the mean time let us not reject a good substitute when it is presented. Gooseberry wine is no very lofty succedaneum for sparkling Champagne, but it is better than fasting. Some may not like the flavour of the beverage, but none would think of abusing the caterer who puts upon the table the best liquor that his cellar affords. These sullen stupidities are reserved for an Anti-punster.
Blindman's Buff: Three Wags (whom some fastidious carpers Might rather designate three Sharpers)
Enter'd at York the Cat and Fiddle, And finding that the host was out
On business for two hours or more,
While Sam the rustic waiter wore The visage of a simple lout,
Whom they might safely try to diddle, They order'd dinner in a canter
Cold or hot, it matter'd not, Provided it was served instanter ; And as the heat had made them very
Dry and dusty in the throttles,
They bade the waiter bring three bottles
Then to the kitchen,
With sausages embellish’d, which in
Half a pig's head.
Custards and jellies,
To their insatiable bellies;
To stuff into their monstrous craws
Enough to satisfy their maws Until their pilgrimage was ended.