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you cannot write your own name, you may edit a horn-book with historical engravings.
I shall now take leave of my subject for the present; but as I have not half yet exhausted myself upon it, I shall follow it up through another paper, in which I shall descend more into particulars, and develope, as far as I am able, a few of those ambushes and disguises, which false learning has borrowed from the sophistry of modern improvements, for the sake of my modest countrymen, wherever they are to be found, who sacrifice their rights to a race of bold usurpers. My intention has hitherto been only to show that learning has outgrown its strength; and, that, unless we call in to its aid the proper exercise and cultivation, we have reason to fear that its decay will forestal its maturity.
No. 34, SATURDAY, DECEMBER 29.
Humano capiti cervicem pictor equinam
HOR. ART. POET. I.
The last time our society met, it was the fashion of the evening to talk upon my paper. As each successively gave his opinion as to the spirit in which
such a work should be conducted, I could observe how the bias of their particular professions and occupations had narrowed the range of their curiosity, and how much I might have overlooked of what concerns our general nature, had I followed in the selection of my subjects the counsel of any one individual.
My excellent old friend, Mr. Allworth, whose talent of reasoning upon life, independently of his own particular concerns in it, is peculiar to himself, gave me real pleasure by his manner of considering this subject. # When I think," said he, “good Mr. Olive-Branch, upon the objects and uses of this undertaking of yours, it strikes me that it cannot well cover too extensive a portion of that variety which human life affords; while it maintains in itself a certain consistency and order, a certain regularity of construction and subserviency of parts, which will stampit a whole when it comes to its completion, place it above mere collections and magazines, and assign it a liberal rank among intellectual produce tions. It should, methinks,” continued he “ be constructed and distributed like the plan of a Roman villa, with its urbana, its rustica, and its fructuaria. Its urbana laid out in elegant apartments should admit only drawing-room company and fashionable topics ; its rustica should be dedicated to humbler life and homelier characters, and accommodated to the uses of the mechanic, the labourer, and the sant. Into the fructuaria should be thrown fragments of erudition and stores of pleasantry, hints, projects, inventions, specimens, and a rich miscellany of ready materials. It might not be amiss also, if you had your chenoboscium, or goose-pen; your nessotrophium, or place for wild fowl; your suile, for swine; cochleare, for snails; and theriotrophium,
peafor wild beasts. With this stock and establishment, you have only to place yourself in the cenatio, which was usually at the top of the tower, whence you may overlook the land that stretches itself before you, and select those objects which interest you most in the busy scene which presents itself.”
I relished this idea of my good friend's so well, that I have been induced to carry it a step or two further, and, in consequence of a very curious letter I received a few days ago from an intelligent correspondent in my neighbourhood, on the subject of sign-posts, have been induced to add to my premises an apartment for monsters.
TO MR. SIMON OLIVE-BRANCH. “ Having observed that it is the spirit of your undertaking to reject no topics from which instruction or amusement may be drawn, I have put together, with a view to their admission into your paper, some remarks on the various devices by which innkeepers and tradesmen decorate their houses, and distinguish their several occupations. I am well aware that the Spectator has pre-occupied a part of this ground, but a great deal remains yet to an attentive observer; and in this fairy world new and mysterious phenomena are continually arising, to tempt conjecture, and excite investigation.
“ As to the moral purposes to be answered by this inquiry, I cannot boast much of them, unless you will allow that it affords an useful lesson, by occasioning us to reflect what a strange sort of creation we should gather around us, if we were left to contrive for ourselves, and into what an unaccountable perplexity we should throw the whole economy
nature, if she were once to submit her work to our correction.
“ Though I am well convinced that sign-posts are no modern invention, but of considerable antiquity, yet I believe that the Bush, which still keeps its place at country wakes, and which used to be hung up at the door of almost every cottage, to signify that the owner had tapped a fresh barrel of beer, was the indication generally adopted in very early times. I have never read the Greek or Roman writings in a view to this object, but have no doubt of their existence among them. I have somewhere seen ad bubula capita, “ at the sign of the bull's head ;" and I recollect a passage in Quintilian to this purpose, Tabernæ erant circa forum, ac scutum illud signi gratiâ positum—There were shops about the market-place, and that shield was put up by way of sign. Your extensive reading may perhaps furnish
you with many more passages that bear this way. I shall engage no further in this deep part of the inquiry, but shall begin with the creation of those monstrous productions which sign-post painters have been accused of introducing, but which in reality are to be charged to the account of the heralds. The Golden Griffin, the Green Lion, the Black Swan, and the Blue Boar, are nothing more than a griffin, or; a lion, vert'; a swan, sable ; and a boar, azure; the simple heraldic distinction of the neighbouring lord paramount in the feudal times, and adopted as a sign by such of his tenants as opened houses for the reception of the public. The same system still prevails in every part of the kingdom: and an attentive traveller, who is conversant with heraldry, may know what families are the principal proprietors of the estates over which he passes, without asking the question. Thus, in North Wales, the Upright hand, and the Eagles, will inform him whether he is upon the territories of the Middletons or the Wynnes. The Eagle and Child, commonly called, in Lancashire, the Bird and Baby, serves in like manner to point out the estates of the Earl of Derby, who bears that device for his crest.
" When there is occasion to paint over again an heraldic sign, the scientific part being little attended to, it frequently happens, that only the principal component parts of the arms are retained
upon the new board; to which circumstance we owe the Three Tuns, the Three Goats, the Three Swans, the Three Pretty Pigs, and innumerable trios of the same kind. The most respectable class of signs is that of such as relate to historical subjects; some of these record minute facts which might otherwise have been lost to posterity. I remember to have seen at Sherston in Wiltshire, a sign called the Rattlebones : upon making inquiry into the signification of so obscure a name, which was not at all ex. plained by a half-obliterated painting on the signpost, I learned that it was intended to commemorate a British hero, who, in fighting against the Danes, received a dreadful wound in the abdomen, and who, in this critical situation, by holding a tile against the wound, preserved his own life till he found means to take
away that of his enemy. The classical sign of the Pick-my-toe relates to the well known story of the Roman, who would not stop to pick a thorn out of his foot before he had delivered his message. The Rose and Crown still reminds us of the badges of the houses of York and Lancaster. The William of Walworth, represented in the act of arresting Wat Tyler, is very properly chosen as a sign at the place whence he took his name. The restoration of Charles the Second introduced among us the common sign of the Royal Oak ; and to the house of Hanover we owe the troops of White Horses which