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tween them, that my uncle ordered his horse, and swore he would never darken our doors again as long as he breathed. He went home, and about two months after died: but as he could not forgive the ill treatment which both he and his dog had met with at our house, he had altered his will, which before he had made entirely in our favour. I am, Sir,
Your humble servant,
No. CIV. THURSDAY, JANUARY 22.
Actum est; Ilicet: peristi.
Ruin'd and undone !
THE use of language is the ready communication of our thoughts to one another. As we cannot produce the objects, which raise ideas in our minds, we use words, which are made signs of those objects. No man could otherwise convey to another the idea of a table or chair, without pointing to those pieces of furniture; as children are taught to remember the names of things by looking at their pictures. Thus, if I wanted to mention king Charles on horseback, Í must carry my companion to Charing-Cross; and would I next tell him of the statue of Sir John Barnard, we must trudge back again, and he must wait for my meaning until we got to the Royal Exchange. We should be like the sages of Laputa, who (as Gulliver tells us) having substituted things for words, used to carry about them such things as were necessary to
express the particular business they were to discourse on. "I have often beheld (says he) two of those sages almost sinking under the weight of their packs, "like pedlars among us: who, when they met in the "streets, would lay down their loads, open their "sacks, and hold conversation for an hour together; "then put up their implements, help each other to 66 resume their burdens, and take their leave." In these circumstances a man of the fewest words could not, indeed, talk without carrying about him a much larger apparatus of conversation, than is contained in the bag of the noted Yeates, or any other slight-ofhand artist: he could not speak of a chicken or an owl, but it must be ready in his pocket to be produced. In such a case we could not say we heard, but we saw the conversation of a friend; as in the epistolary correspondence. carried on by those pretty hieroglyphic letters (as they are called,) where the picture of a deer and a woman finely dressed is made to stand for the expression of dear ludy.
But the invention of words has removed those difficulties; and we may talk not only of things we have seen, but what neither we, nor the persons to whom we speak ever saw. Thus we can convey to another the idea of a battle, without being reduced to the disagreeable necessity of learning it from the cannon's mouth: and we can talk of people in the world of the moon, without being obliged to make use of bishop Wilkin's artificial wings to fly thither. Words, therefore, in the ordinary course of life, are like the paper-money among merchants invented as a more ready conveyance, by which the largest sums can be transmitted to the most distant places with as much ease as a letter; while the same in specie would require bags and chests, and even carts or ships to transport it. But, however great these advantages are, the use of language has brought along with it several in
conveniences, as well as paper-money; for as this latter is more liable to miscarry, more easily concealed, carried off, or counterfeited than bullion, merchants have frequent causes to complain, that the convenience of this sort of cash is not without its alloy of evil; and we find, that in the use of language there is so much room for deceit and mistake, that though it does not render it useless, it is much to be wished some remedy could be contrived.
Men are so apt to use the same words in different senses, and call the same thing by different names, that oftentimes they cannot understand others, or be themselves understood. If one calls that thing black which another calls green, or that prodigality which another calls generosity, they mistake each other's meaning, and can never agree, till they explain the words. It is to this we owe so much wrangling in discourse, and so many volumes of controversy on almost every part of literature. I have known a dispute carried on with great warmth, and when the disputants have come to explain what each meant, it has been discovered they were both of a side: like the men in the play, who met and fought first, and, after each had been heartily beaten, found themselves to be friends. What should we say, if this practice of calling things by a wrong name, was to obtain among tradesmen? If you was to send to your haberdasher for an hat, you might receive a pair of stockings; or instead of a cordial julep from your apothecary, be furnished with a cathartic or a clyster.
It would be needless to insist upon the inconveniences arising from the misuse or misapprehension of terms in all verbal combats; whether they be fought on the spot by word of mouth, or (like a game of chess) maintained, even though land and seas interpose, by the assistance of the press. In our ordinary conversation, it is notorious, that no less confusion
has arisen from the wrong application or perversion of the original and most natural import of words. I remember, when I commenced author, I published a little pamphlet, which I flattered myself had some Conscimerit, though I must confess it did not sell. ous of my growing fame, I resolved to send the first fruits of it to an uncle in the country, that my relations might judge of the great honour I was likely to prove to the family: but how was I mortified, when the good man sent me word, "that he was sorry to “find I had ruined myself, and had wrote a book: "for the parson of the parish had assured him, that "authors were never worth a farthing, and always "died in a gaol." Notwithstanding this remonstrance, I have still persisted in my ruin; which at present I cannot say is quite completed, as I can make two meals a day, have yet a coat to my back, with a clean shirt for Sunday at least, and am lodged somewhat below a garret. However this prediction of my uncle has often led me to consider, in how many senses, different from its general acceptation; the word ruined is frequently made use of. When we hear this word applied to another, we should naturally imagine the person is reduced to a state worse than he was in before, and so low that it is scarce possible for him to rise again : but we shall often find, instead of his being made undone, that he has rather met with some extraordinary good fortune: and that those, who pronounce him ruined, either mean you should understand it in some other light, or else call him undone, because he differs from them in his way of life, or because they wish him to be in that situation. I need not point out the extreme cruelty, as well as injustice, in the misapplication of this term; as it may literally ruin a man, by destroying his character: according to the old English proverb, “give a dog an "ill name, and hang him."
Most people are, indeed, so entirely taken up with their own narrow views, that, like the jaundiced eye, every thing appears to them of the same colour. From this selfish prejudice they are led to make a wrong judgment of the motives and actions of others: and it is no wonder that they should see ruin staring every man in the face, who happens not to think as they do: I shall, therefore here set down a catalogue of my own acquaintance, whom the charity and good nature of the world have not scrupled to pronounce absolutely ruined.
A young clergyman of Cambridge might have had a good college-living in about thirty years time, or have been head of the house: but he chose to quit his fellowship for a small cure in town, with a view of recommending himself by his preaching ....... Ruined.
A fellow of another college in the same university refused to quit his books and his retirement, to live as chaplain with a smoking, drinking, swearing, foxhunting country squire, who would have provided for him .... Ruined.
Dr. Classic, a young physician from Oxford, might have had more practice than Radcliffe, or Mead: but having studied Aristotle's Poetics, and read the Greek tragedies, as well as Galen and Hippocrates, he was tempted to write a play, which was universally applauded, and the author was Ruined.
A student of the Temple might have made sure of a judge's robes, or the chancellor's seals; but being tired of sauntering in Westminster-hall without even getting half a guinea for a motion, he has accepted of a commission in one of the new-raised regiments, and is Ruined.
A younger brother of a good family threw himself away upon an obscure widow with a jointure of 5001. per ann. by which he is Ruined. Another, a man of fortune, fell in love with, and
.... ...... ..........