HANDBOOK OF ALLUSIONS.*
MR. WHEELER'S title scarcely describes his volume, and we think our title an improvement. If we were to take the book strictly as containing nothing more than the noted names of fiction, what would our orthodox friends say to the introduction of the devil? But Mr. Wheeler has collected such a mass of materials that it is difficult to range them under one head. His diligence and accuracy are most exemplary, and his book will prove indispensable to all writers, speakers, and readers, three classes which comprise the great majority, we wish we could say the entire bulk, of the nation. If any one wishes to know the meaning of the name Bombe, the origin of Uncle Sam and Brother Jonathan, of John O'Groat's House and Hookey Walker, we can refer him safely to Mr. Wheeler. We may be sure that many of the dominant race are so unjust to Ireland as not to know the Athens of Ireland. Many might be so ignorant of the lives of great men as not to make the proper distinction between Capability Brown and Prosperity Robin- son. Often as the term is used, who knows the exact deriva- tion of Bunkum? And even those who would object most strongly to the devil being turned into a fictitious character, may not be so learned in the Court Guide for the Infernal Regions as to tell that Belial is his master's ambassador in Turkey.
It would be strange indeed if no errors could be discovered in a book thus crammed with microscopic details. A critic who points out any of these errors is doing good service, for he enables Mr. Wheeler to correct them, and he shows that he has examined the book minutely. In general, books of reference are tested by references. No one dreams of reading them through, and Mr. Wheeler's book is particularly hard to read through. He is con- stantly sending you off at a tangent, exciting your curiosity by some analogy that seems strained (as Appollino, see "Termagant,") or by some more legitimate method. When you come to Gammer Gurton, and are told to "See Gurton-Gammer," it requires great self-denial not to turn from " ga " to " gu," and skip the inter- mediate pages. Yet if you take to skipping you are very apt to skip just what you ought to notice, and the faults which it is your duty to detect may lie just in the place which your inclination leads you to pass over. In this way we may apply to books like Mr. Wheeler's the comparison which has been made between a Univer- sity education and counting numbers in order to go to sleep. You must count en steadily, and in spite of all temptations ; the most brilliant thoughts in the world persist in occurring to you, and you must drive them away,—images, fancies, beautiful pictures, beautiful faces come before you, and you cannot heed them,—and all for what ?—that you may go to sleep. No wonder we are apt to boast of our virtue after counting up to 1,800, getting through second schools, or reading the whole of Mr. Wheeler. After all, the result of the third is to show very few errors, and those of a minor kind, but that makes it all the more creditable to have detected them. Thus Mozart's Don Juan appeared first at Prague, not at Vienna. The correction is small, but the fact is significant of the treatment Mozart received at Prague compared * A Dictionary of the Noted Names of Fiction, including also Familiar Pseudonyms, Surnames bestowed on Eminent Yen, and Analogous Popular Appellations often referred to in Literature and Conversation. By William A. Wheeler, M.A. London: Bell and Daldy
with his struggles at Vienna. Pope's lines about Budgell are slightly misquoted by Mr. Wheeler, but the change of two words entirely changes the meaning.
" Let Budgell charge low Grub street with his quill, And write whate'er he please—except my will,"
—should be, " on his quill " and " except his will." As the lines stand in Mr. Wheeler's book, we imagine Budgell charging Grub Street with his pen in rest, and that the quill and the will belong to different persons. The real meaning of the lines is, let Budgell attribute the Grub-Street Journal to his (Pope's) pen, and write whatever he pleases except his (Pope's) will ; and the reason of the third person being used is that Pope was speaking apolo- getically of himself as this man, this satirist. It is something worse when Mr. Wheeler observes that Tennyson is commonly included in the Spasmodic School. Does he say this of himself, or did others tell it him ? If the latter, we beg him to name his authority. Then, again, he says that the Attic Bee is a name used for Sophocles. Basing ourselves on Don Juan, we should say Plato, and, strange as it may seem, Byron prided himself very much on his accuracy :—
"Trampling on Plato's pride with greater pride ; . ..... . . . . but the Attic Bee Was much consoled by his own repartee."
Mr. Wheeler says the American frigate Constitution, which did so much execution on English men-of-war in 1812, is still in the service. We believe she was sold to the Brazilians about twenty years ago. Is it true that the name "fidus Achates" is proverbial from the exemplary fidelity of the original companion of )Eneas? Is it not from the less exemplary regularity with which Virgil uses the epithet? Is the forty-seventh proposition of the first book of Euclid the "pons asinorum," or is it not the fifth proposi- tion of the first book? It may seem more easy to find omissions than mistakes in a book of reference, but for omissions the author is less accountable. Here, however, are a few to be filled up in his next issue. Among the various towns which claim the title of modern Athens he has passed over Munich, nor does he give Dresden its honour as the Northern Florence, or Stockholm that
which belongs to the Venice of the North. He forgets that the Belle Jardiniere is the name of a celebrated Madonna of Raphael's in the Louvre. He does not give us the naval meaning of a Jacob's ladder, the short ladder from the deck to the shrouds. In describing the Faithful Eckart, he omits all mention of Goethe's ballad by which that legendary personage is best known. And he does not seem to know that the title Friend of Man, which he gives only to Mirabeau's father, was assigned at a public meeting by Sir James Mackintosh to William Wilberforce.
Now that we have discharged our duty we proceed to take our pleasure. And to this we are happy to say our space is our only limit. But for that we might go on quoting for ever. When Mr. Wheeler can enumerate forty men called kings of various realms, from Britain to Cotswold, forty more called fathers, beginning with the Father of Angling and ending with Father Violet, twenty- three princes, nineteen apostles, and twenty-eight doctors, we have merely to shut our mouth and open our eyes. The roll of doctors reads like the string of epithets applied to backstairs by Mr. Kingsley. There is the admirable doctor, the angelic doctor, the authentic doctor, the divine doctor, the dulcifluous doctor, the ecstatic doctor, the eloquent doctor, the evangelical or gospel doctor, the illuminated doctor, the invincible doctor, the irrefrag- able doctor, the mellifluous doctor, the most Christian doctor, the most methodical doctor, the most resolute doctor, the plain and perspicuous doctor, the profound doctor, the scholastic doctor, the seraphic doctor, the singular doctor, the solemn doctor, the solid doctor (we have no doubt of these two), the subtle doctor, the thorough doctor, the universal doctor, the venerable doctor, the well founded doctor, and the wonderful doctor. For all these see Wheeler in loc., as the commentators say. But there are things of greater interest to us than all this learned tribe. There are words in daily use to which we could not assign their real derivation, and which Mr. Wheeler makes at once clear and significant. We wish he could have traced the origin of the negro names, Sambo, Caffey, and Quashee, as he has traced the origin of Bunkum, Brother Jonathan, Uncle Sam, and Hookey Walker. The first was derived from a county on the west of North Carolina, which was represented in the sixteenth Congress by a naive old mountaineer named Felix Walter. Like some speakers in England, this representative always thought of his duty to his constituents, and seldom of his duty to his neighbours in the House ; he persisted in speaking at inconvenient times, and once, when the House was very impatient, he was asked to sit down. He refused, saying that the people of his district expected him to speak, and that he must make a speech for Buncombe. Brother Jonathan is said to have been either Jonathan Trumbull, Governor of Connecticut, in Washington's time, and a constant. referee of Washington's under that familiar name, or Jonathan. Carver, an early traveller among the Indians, who received large grants of land, and was styled in the deeds of conveyance " Our dear brother Jonathan." Uncle Sam had a still more ludicrous origin, from a provision contractor at Troy, whose name was Samuel Wilson, and who was known by that nickname. As the casks of provisions were marked " U. S.," for United States, and the initials corresponded with the contractor's nickname, they were generally transferred to it by the workmen, and so made the- round of America. Hookey Walker is supposed to have been a hook-nosed clerk who acted as spy on his fellow workmen. They were rather a bad lot, and were often found tripping, but as it was their interest to discredit the evidence against them, they generally made up their stories so well that Hockey Walker's reports never received credence.
In most of these cases the solution accepted by Mr. Wheeler is_ not the only one, though it may be the best. For the name King. Bombs there are two, almost equally good, as it is impossible to decide which attribute of that monarch was the stronger, cruelty or lying. The usual explanation of the name is that it arose from the bombardments during Ferdinand's reign, and from a happy expression of His Majesty's to his soldiers to bombardare or shoot down his subjects. One of Bomba's apologists—for even the enemy of mankind has an advocate—throws doubt on this phrase, and says the King's cry was, " Spare my misguided people! make prisoners ! do not kill ! make prisoners I " We have every reason to believe in the correctness of this statement. There is after all but a temporary satisfaction in killing. To the true. tyrant a long imprisonment is far more pleasing, as Francis of Austria knew, when he himself prescribed the treatment of Silvio. Pellico in Spielberg, and had reports addressed to him giving the minutest particulars. What confirms us in this view is that the- game called bomba in Italy is a kind of prisoner's-base. We must therefore fall back on the other solution, which Mr. Wheeler quotes from the correspondent of a Dublin paper. " In Italy, when you tell a man a thing which he knows to be false, or when he wishes to convey to you the idea of the utter worthlessness of any thing or person, be puffs out his cheek like a bagpiper's in full blow, smites it with his forefingers, and allows the pent breath to explode, with the exclamation Bomb-a!' I have witnessed the gesture and heard the sound. Hence, after 1849, when regal oaths. in the name of the Most Holy Trinity were found to be as worth- less as a beggar's in the name of Bacchus or the Madonna," Fer- dinand's subjects gave him the name which belonged to his. practice.