Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

unless by G. P. R. James, for one of the two horsemen to fall in love with, and marry at the end of the second volume.

If I meet Smith in the street, and ask him-as I am pretty sure to do—“How he does ?” he infallibly replies, Tolerable, thank you,” which gives one no exact idea of Smith's health, for he has made the same reply to me on a hundred different occasions, on every one of which there must have been some slight shade of difference in his physical economy, and of course a corresponding change in his feelings.

To a man of a mathematical turn of mind, to a student and lover of the exact sciences, these inaccuracies of expression, this inability to understand exactly how things are, must be a constant source of annoyance; and to one who, like myself, unites this turn of mind to an ardent love of truth, for its own sake,—the reflection that the English language does not enable us to speak the truth with exactness, is peculiarly painful. For this reason I have, with some trouble, made myself thoroughly acquainted with every ancient and modern language, in the hope that I might find some one of them that would enable me to express precisely my ideas; but the same insufficiency of adjectives exist in all except that of the Flathead Indians of Puget Sound, which consists of but forty-six words, mostly nouns, but to the constant use of which exists the objection, that nobody but that tribe can understand it. And as their literary and scientific advancement is not such as to make a residence among them, for a man of my disposition, desirable, I have abandoned the use of their language, in the belief that for me it is hyas, cultus, or, as the Spaniard hath it, no me vale nada.

Despairing, therefore, of making new discoveries in foreign languages, I have set myself seriously to work to reform our own; and have, I think, made an important discovery, which, when developed into a system and universally adopted, will give a precision of expression, and a consequent clearness of idea, that will leave little to be desired, and will, I modestly hope, immortalise my humble name as the promulgator of the truth, and the benefactor of the human race.

Before entering upon my system I will give you an account of its discovery (which perhaps I might with more modesty term an adaptation and enlargement of the idea of another), which will surprise you by its simplicity, and, like the method of standing eggs on end, of Columbus, the inventions of printing, gunpowder, and the mariner's compass—prove another exemplification of the truth of Hannah More's beautifully expressed sentiment

Large streams from little fountains flow,
Large aches from little toe-corns grow.”

During the past week my attention was attracted by a large placard embellishing the corners of our streets, headed in mighty capitals with the word "PHRENOLOGY," and illustrated by a map of a man's head, closely shaven and laid off in lots, duly numbered from one to forty-seven. Beneath this edifying illustration appeared a legend, informing the inhabitants of San Diego and vicinity that Professor Dodge had arrived and taken rooms (which was inaccurate, as he had but one room) at Gyascutus House, where he would be happy to examine and furnish them with a chart of their heads, showing the moral and intellectual endowments, at the low price of three dollars each.

Always gratified with an opportunity of spending my money and making scientific researches, I immediately had my hair cut and carefully combed, and hastened to present myself and my head to the Professor's notice. I found him a tall and thin Professor, in a suit of rusty, not to say seedy black, with a closely-buttoned vest, and no perceptible shirtcollar or wristbands. His nose was red, his spectacles were blue, and he wore a brown wig, beneath which, as I subsequently ascertained, his bald head was laid off in lots, marked and numbered with Indian ink, after the manner of the diagram upon his advertisement. Upon a small table lay many little books with yellow covers, several of the placards, pen and ink, a pair of iron callipers with brass knobs, and six dollars in silver. Having explained the object of my visit, and increased the pile of silver by six half-dollars from my pocket-whereat he smiled, and I observed he wore false teeth (scientific men always do ; they love to encourage art)--the Professor placed me in a chair, and rapidly manipulating my head, after the manner of a shampooh (I am not certain as to the orthography of this expression), said that my temperament was "lymphatic, nervous, bilious."

I remarked that “I thought myself dyspeptic," but he made no reply. Then, seizing on the callipers, he embraced with them my head in various places, and made notes upon a small card that lay near him

the table. He then stated that my “hair was getting very thin on the top,” placed in my hand one of the yellow-covered books, which I found to be an almanac containing anecdotes about the virtue of Dodge's Hair Invigorator, and recommending it to my perusal, he remarked that he was agent for the sale of this wonderful fluid, and urged me to purchase a bottle-price two dollars. Stating my willingness to do so, the Professor produced from a hair trunk that stood in the corner of the room, which he stated, by the way, was originally an ordinary pine box, on which the hair had grown since "the Invigorator" had been placed in it—a singular fact)—and recommended me to be cautious in wearing gloves while rubbing it upon my head, as unhappy accidents had occurred—the hair growing freely from the ends of the fingers, if used with the bare hand. He then seated him

on

self at the table, and rapidly filling up what appeared to me a blank certificate, he soon handed over the following singular document:

“Phrenological Chart of the Head of Mr. John Phoenix, by Flatbroke B. Dodge, Professor of Phrenology, and inventor and proprietor of Dodge's celebrated Hair Invigorator, Stimulator of the Conscience, and Arouser of the Mental Faculties :

Temperament-Lymphatic, Nervous, Bilious.
Size of Head, II.

Combativeness, 2/2.
Amativeness, 1112.

Credulity, 1.
Caution, 3.

Causality, 12.
Conscientiousness, 12.

Mirth, I.
Destructiveness, 9.

Language, 12.
Hope, 10.

Firmness, 2.
Imitation, 11.

Veneration, 12.
Self-Esteem, 72.

Philoprogenitiveness, o.”
Benevolence, 12.

as

man

Having gazed on this for a few moments in mute astonishment-during which the Professor took a glass of brandy and water, and afterwards a mouthful of tobaccoI turned to him and requested an explanation.

“Why," said he, “it's very simple; the number 12 is the maximum, i the minimum; for instance, you are benevolent as a can be—therefore I mark you, Benevolence, 12. You have little or no self-esteem-hence I place you, Self-esteem, 172. You've scarcely any credulity, don't you see?”

I did see! This was my discovery. I saw at a flash how the English language was susceptible of improvement, and, fired with the glorious idea, I rushed from the room and the house; heedless of the Professor's request that I would buy more of his Invigorator; heedless of his alarmed cry that I would pay for the bottle I had got; heedless that I tripped on the last step of the Gyascutus House, and smashed there the precious fluid (the step has now a growth of four inches of hair on it, and the people use it as a door-mat); I rushed home, and never grew calm till with pen, ink, and paper before me, I commenced the development of my system.

This system–shall I say this great system?—is exceedingly simple, and easily explained in a few words. In the first place, "figures won't lie." Let us then represent by the number 100, the maximum, the ne plus ultra of every human quality-grace, beauty, courage, strength, wisdom, learning-everything. Let perfection, I say, be represented by 100, and an absolute minimum of all qualities by the number 1.

Then by applying the numbers between, to the adjectives used in conversation, we shall be able to arrive at a very close approximation to the idea we wish to convey; in other words, we shall be enabled to speak the truth. Glorious, soul-inspiring idea ! For instance, the most ordinary question asked of you is, “How do you do?” To this, instead of replying, “Pretty well,” “Very well,” “Quite well,” or the like absurdities-after running through your mind that perfection of health is 100, no health at all, 1-you say, with a graceful bow, “Thank you, I'm 52 today;” or, feeling poorly, “I'm 13, I'm obliged to you," or, “ I'm 68,” or “75," or "8772," as the case may be! Do you see how very close in this way you may approximate to the truth; and how clearly your questioner will understand what he so anxiously wishes to arrive at—your exact state of health ?

Let this system be adopted into our elements of grammar, our conversation, our literature, and we become at once an exact, precise, mathematical, truth-telling people. It will apply to everything but politics; there, truth being of no account, the system is useless. But in literature, how admirable! Take an example :

« ZurückWeiter »