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shortenings of the limbs of Hercules, “what have I in this wide world but these four bones ? ”f
No provocation could have worked up a phlegmatic English countryman to this pitch of eloquence. He never suffers his anger to evaporate in idle figures of speech : it is always concentrated in a few words, which he repeats in reply to every argument, persuasive or invective, that can be employed to irritate or to assuage his wrath. We recollect having once been present at a scene between an English gentleman and a churchwarden, whose feelings were grievously hurt by the disturbance that had been given to certain bones in levelling a wall which separated the churchyard from the pleasure ground of the lord of the manor.
The bones belonged, as the churchwarden believed or averred, to his great great grandmother, though how they were identified it might be difficult to explain to an indifferent judge ; yet we are to suppose that the confirmation of the suspicion was strong and satisfactory to the party concerned. The pious great great grandson's feelings were all in arms, but indignation did not inspire him with a single poetic idea or expression. In his eloquence, indeed, there was the principal requisite, action : in reply to all that could be said, he repeatedly struck his long oak stick perpendicularly upon the floor, and reiterated these words
“ It's death, sir ! death by the law! It's sacrilege,
+ This was written down a few minutes after it had been spoken.
sir ! sacrilege by act of parliament! It's death, sir !
of his ideas, even when the passions had tumbled them all out of their dormitories.
Innumerable fresh instances of Irish eloquence and wit crowd upon our recollection, but we forbear. The examples we have cited are taken from real life, and given without alteration or embellishment.
HAVING proved by a perfect syllogism that the Irish must blunder, we might rest satisfied with our labours; but there are minds of so perverse a sort, that they will not yield their understandings to the torturing power of syllogism.
It may be waste of time to address ourselves to persons of such a cast; we shall therefore change our ground, and adapt our arguments to the level of vulgar capacities. Much of the comic effect of Irish bulls, or of such speeches as are mistaken for bulls, has depended upon the tone, or brogue, as it is called, with which they are uttered. The first Irish blun
ders that we hear are made or repeated in this peculiar tone, and afterward, from the power of association, whenever we hear the tone we expect the blunder. Now there is little danger that the Irish should be cured of their brogue ; and consequently there is no great reason to apprehend that we should cease to think or call them blunderers.
Of the powerful effect of any peculiarity of pronunciation to prepossess the mind against the speaker, nay even to excite dislike amounting to antipathy, we have an instance attested by an eye-witness, or rather an ear-witness.
“ In the year 1755,” says the Rev. James Adams, “ I attended a public disputation in a foreign university, when at least 400 Frenchmen literally hissed a grave and learned English doctor, not by way of insult, but irresistibly provoked by the quaintness of the repetition of sh. The thesis was, the concurrence of God in actionibus viciosis: the whole hall resounded with the hissing cry of sh, and its continual occurrence in actio, actione, viciosa, &c.
It is curious that Shiboleth should so long continue a criterion among nations !
What must have been the degree of irritation that could so far get the better of the politeness of 400 Frenchmen as to make them hiss in the days of l'ancien regime! The dread of being the object of that species of antipathy or ridicule which is excited by unfashionable peculiarity of accent has induced many of the misguided natives of Ireland to affect what they imagine to be the English pronunciation.
They are seldom successful in this attempt, for they generally overdo the business. We are told by Theophrastus, that a barbarian, who had taken some pains to attain the true attic dialect, was discovered to be a foreigner by his speaking the attic dialect with a greater degree of precision and purity than was usual amongst the Athenians themselves. To avoid the imputation of committing barbarisms, people sometimes run into solecisms, which are yet more ridiculous. Affectation is always more ridiculous than ignorance.
There are Irish ladies, who, ashamed of their country, betray themselves by mineing out their abjuration, by calling tables teebles, and chairs cheers! To such renegadoes we prefer the honest quixotism of a modern champion * for the Scottish accent, who, boldly asserting that “the broad dialect rises above reproach, scorn, and laughter," enters the lists, as he says of himself, in Tartan dress and armour, and throws down the gauntlet to the most prejudiced antagonist. “How weak is prejudice !” pursues this patriotic enthusiast. “The sight of the Highland kelt, the flowing plaid, the buskined leg, provokes my antagonist to laugh! Is this dress ridiculous in the eyes of reason and common sense ?
• James Adams, S. R. E. S., author of a book entitled, “The Pronunciation of the English Language vindicated from imputed Anomaly and Caprice ; with an Appendix on the Dialects of Human Speech in all Countries, and an analytical Discus. sion and Vindication of the Dialect of Scotland.”
No: nor is the dialect of speech : both are characteristic and national distinctions.
“ The arguments of general vindication, continues he, “rise powerful before my sight, like the Highland bands in full array. A louder strain of apologetic speech swells
words. What if it should rise high as the unconquered summits of Scotia's hills, and call back, with voice sweet as Caledonian song, the days of ancient Scottish heroes; or attempt the powerful speech of the Latian orator, or his of Greece! The subject, methinks, would well accord with the attempt : Cupidum, Scotia optima, vires deficiunt. I leave this to the king of songs. Dunbar and Dunkeld, Douglas in Virgilian strains, and later poets, Ramsay, Ferguson, and Burns, awake from your graves ; you have already immortalized the Scotch dialect in raptured melody! Lend me your golden target and wellpointed spear, that I may victoriously pursue, to the extremity of South Britain, reproachful ignorance and scorn still lurking there :-let impartial candour seize their usurped throne. Great then is the birth of this national dialect," &c.
So far so good. We have some sympathy with the rhapsodist, whose enthusiasm kindles at the names of Allan Ramsay and of Burns: nay, we are willing to hear (with a grain of allowance) that “the manly eloquence of the Scotch bar affords a singular pleasure to the candid English hearer, and gives merit and dignity to the noble speakers, who retain so much of their own dialect and tempered propriety of English sounds, that they may be emphatically termed British