by one single lecture upon Crackenthorp or Burgersdicius or any Dutch logician or commentator;—he knew not so much as in what the difference of an argument ad ignorantiam, and an argument ad hominem consisted; so that I well remember, when he went up along with me to enter my name at Jesus College in. . .,—it was a matter of just wonder with my worthy tutor, and two or three fellows of that learned society,— that a man who knew not so much as the names of his tools, should be able to work after that fashion with them.

To work with them in the best manner he could, was what my father was, however, perpetually forced upon;—for he had a thousand little sceptical notions of the comick kind to defend—most of which notions, I verily believe, at first entered upon the footing of mere whims, and of a vive la bagatelle; and as such he would make merry with them for half an hour or so, and having sharpened his wit upon them, dismiss them till another day.

I mention this, not only as matter of hypothesis or conjecture upon the progress and establishment of my father’s many odd opinions,—but as a warning to the learned reader against the indiscreet reception of such guests, who, after a free and undisturbed entrance, for some years, into our brains,—at length claim a kind of settlement there,—working sometimes like yeast;—but more generally after the manner of the gentle passion, beginning in jest,—but ending in downright earnest.

Whether this was the case of the singularity of my father’s notions—or that his judgment, at length, became the dupe of his wit;—or how far, in many of his notions, he might, though odd, be absolutely right;—the reader, as he comes at them, shall decide. All that I maintain here, is, that in this one, of the influence of christian names, however it gained footing, he was serious;—he was all uniformity;—he was systematical, and, like all systematic reasoners, he would move both heaven and earth, and twist and torture every thing in nature to support his hypothesis. In a word I repeat it over again;—he was serious;—and, in consequence of it, he would lose all kind of patience whenever he saw people, especially of condition, who should have known better,—as careless and as indifferent about the name they imposed upon their child,—or more so, than in the choice of Ponto or Cupid for their puppy-dog.

This, he would say, look’d ill;—and had, moreover, this particular aggravation in it, viz. That when once a vile name was wrongfully or injudiciously given, ’twas not like the case of a man’s character, which, when wrong’d, might hereafter be cleared;—and, possibly, some time or other, if not in the man’s life, at least after his death,—be, somehow or other, set to rights with the world: But the injury of this, he would say, could never be undone;—nay, he doubted even whether an act of parliament could reach it:—He knew as well as you, that the legislature assumed a power over surnames;—but for very strong reasons, which he could give, it had never yet adventured, he would say, to go a step farther.

It was observable, that tho’ my father, in consequence of this opinion, had, as I have told you, the strongest likings and dislikings towards certain names;—that there were still numbers of names which hung so equally in the balance before him, that they were absolutely indifferent to him. Jack, Dick, and Tom were of this class: These my father called neutral names;—affirming of them, without a satire, That there had been as many knaves and fools, at least, as wise and good men, since the world began, who had indifferently borne them;—so that, like equal forces acting against each other in contrary directions, he thought they mutually destroyed each other’s effects; for which reason, he would often declare, He would not give a cherry-stone to choose amongst them. Bob, which was my brother’s name, was another of these neutral kinds of christian names, which operated very little either way; and as my father happen’d to be at Epsom, when it was given him,—he would oft-times thank Heaven it was no worse. Andrew was something like a negative quantity in Algebra with him;- -’twas worse, he said, than nothing.—William stood pretty high:—Numps again was low with him:—and Nick, he said, was the Devil.

But of all names in the universe he had the most unconquerable aversion for Tristram;—he had the lowest and most contemptible opinion of it of any thing in the world,—thinking it could possibly produce nothing in rerum natura, but what was extremely mean and pitiful: So that in the midst of a dispute on the subject, in which, by the bye, he was frequently involved,— he would sometimes break off in a sudden

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.