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Royal Society, who talks of “the earthquake that had the honour to be noticed by the Royal Society.”
It will, we fear, be long before the Irish emerge so far from barbarism as to write in this style. The Irish are, however, we are happy to observe, making some little approaches to a refined and courtly style; kings, and in imitation of them, great men, and all who think themselves great—a numerous classspeak and write as much as possible in the plural number instead of the singular. Instead of I, they always say we; instead of my, our, according to the Italian idiom, which flatters this humour so far as to make it a point of indispensable politeness. It is, doubtless, in humble imitation of such illustrious examples, that an Irishman of the lowest class, when he means to express that he is a member of a committee, says, I am a committee; thus consolidating the power, wisdom, and virtue of a whole committee in his own person. Superior even to the Indian, who believes that he shall inherit the
and virtues of his enemies after he has destroyed them ;* this committee-man takes possession of the faculties of his living friends and associates. When some of the united men, as they called themselves, were examined, they frequently answered to the questions, who, or what are you? I am a com'mittēē.
However extraordinary it may at first sound, to hear one man assert that he is a whole committee, it is not more wonderful than that the whole parliament of Bordeaux should be found in a one-horse chair. *
We forbear to descant further upon Irish committee-men, lest we should call to mind, merely by the similarity of name, the times when England had her committee-men, who were not perfectly free from all tinge of absurdity. It is remarkable, that in times of popular ferment, a variety of new terms are coined to serve purposes and passions of the moment. In the days of the English committeemen this practice had risen to such a height, that it was fair game for ridicule. Accordingly, sir John Birkenhead, about that time, found it necessary to publish “ The Children's Dictionary; an exact Collection of all New Words born since Nov. 3, 1640, in Speeches, Prayers, and Sermons, as well those that signify something as nothing." We observe that it has been likewise found necessary to publish, in France, une Dictionnaire néologique, a dictionary of the new terms adopted since the revolution.
It must be supposed, that during the late disturbances in Ireland, many cant terms have been brought into use, which are not yet to be reckoned amongst the acknowledged terms of the country. However absurd these may be, they are not for our purpose proper subjects of animadversion. Some countries have their birds of passage, and some their follies of passage, which it is scarcely worth while to shoot as they fly. It has been often said, that the language of a people is a just criterion of their progress in civilization ; but we must not take a specimen of their vocabulary during the immediate prevalence of any transient passion or prejudice. It is to be hoped, that all party barbarisms in language will now be disused and forgotten ; for some time has elapsed since we read the following article of country intelligence in a Dublin paper :
* Vide Mémoires du Cardinal de Retze
- General scoured the country yesterday, but had not the good fortune to meet with a single rebel.”
The author of this paragraph seems to have been a keen sportsman; he regrets the not meeting with a single rebel, as he would the not meeting with a single hare or partridge ; and he justly considers the human biped as fair game, to be hunted down by all who are properly qualified and licensed by government. To the English, perhaps, it may seem a strange subject of lamentation, that a general could not meet with a single rebel in the county of Wicklow, when they have so lately been informed, from the high authority of a noble lord, that Ireland was so disturbed, that whenever he went out, he called as regularly for his pistols as for his hat and gloves. Possibly, however, this was only a figure of speech, like that of bishop Wilkins, who prophesied that the time would come when gentlemen, when they were to go a journey, would call for their wings as regularly as they call for their boots.-We believe that the hyperboles of the privy-counsellor and the bishop are of equal magnitude.
THE CRIMINAL LAW OF BULLS AND BLUNDERS.
MADAME de Sevigné observes, that there are few people sufficiently candid, or sufficiently enlightened, to distinguish, in their judgments of others, between those faults and mistakes which proceed from minque d'esprit, and those which arise merely from manque d'usage. We cannot appreciate the talents or character of foreigners, without making allowance for their ignorance of our manners, of the idiom of our language, and the multifarious significations of some of our words. A French gentleman, who dined in London, in company with the celebrated author of the Rambler, wishing to show him a mark of peculiar respect, drank Dr. Johnson's health in these words: “Your health, Mr. Vagabond." Assuredly no well-judging Englishman would undervalue the Frenchman's abilities, because he mistook the meaning of the words Vagabond and Rambler ; he would recollect, that in old English and modern French authors, vagabond
means wanderer : des eaux vagabondes is a phrase far from inelegant. But independently of this consideration, no well-bred gentleman would put a foreigner out of countenance by openly laughing at such a mistake : he would imitate the politeness of the Frenchman, who, when Dr. Moore said, “I am afraid the expression I have just used is not French," replied, “Non, monsieur-mais il mérite bien de l'être." It would, indeed, be a great stretch of politeness to extend this to our Irish neighbours: for no Irishism can ever deserve to be Anglicised, though so many Gallicisms have of late not only been naturalized in England, but even adopted by the most fashionable speakers and writers. The mistaking a feminine for a masculine noun, or a masculine for a feminine, must, in all probability, have happened to every Englishman that ever opened his lips in Paris ; yet without losing his reputation for common sense. But when a poor Irish haymaker, who had but just learned a few phrases of the English language by rote, mistook a feminine for a masculine noun, and began his speech in a court of justice with these words: “ My lord, I am a poor widow," instead of, “My lord, I am a poor widower ;" it was sufficient to throw a grave judge and jury into convulsions of laughter. It was formerly, in law, no murder to kill a merus Hibernicus ; and it is to this day no offence against good manners to laugh at any of this species. It is of a thousand times more consequence to have the laugh than the argument on our side, as all those know full well