Sponge to Squeers

Sponge. To throw up the sponge, to give up the contest and confess yourself beaten.

Finally, he went on his knees to the sponge and threw it up; at the same time pointing out—“That means you have won.”—Dickens: Great Expectations, ch. xi. (1860).

Spontaneous Combustion. There are above thirty cases on record of death by spontaneous combustion, the most famous being that of the countess Cornelia di Baudi Cesenatê, which was minutely investigated, in 1731, by Guiseppê Bianchini, a prebend of Verona.

The next most noted instance occurred at Rheims, in 1725, and is authenticated by no less an authority than Mons. Le Cat, the celebrated physician.

In 1772 Mary Cloes of Gosford Street was burnt to death by “spontaneous combustion.”—History of Coventry.

Messrs. Foderé and Mere investigated the subject of spontaneous combustion, and gave it as their fixed opinion that instances of death from such a cause cannot be doubted.

In vol. vi. of the Philosophical Transactions, and in the English Medical Jurisprudence, the subject is carefully investigated, and several examples are cited in confirmation of the fact.

Joseph Battaglia, a surgeon of Ponte Bosio, gives in detail the case of don G. Maria Bertholi, a priest of mount Valerius. While reading his breviary, the body of this priest burst into flames in several parts, as the arms, back, and head. The sleeves of his shirt, a handkerchief, and his skull-cap were all more or less consumed. He survived the injury four days. (This seems to me more like an electrical attack than an instance of spontaneous combustion.)

(See the Annual Register for 1775, p. 78.)

(Dickens, in Bleak House, ascribes the death of Krook to “spontaneous combustion.” Zola, in Dr. Pascal, ch. ix., gives another instance. Captain Marryat tells us, in Jacob Faithful, that Jacob’s mother was burnt to a cinder by the same means.)

Spontoon, the old confidential servant of colonel Talbot.—Sir W. Scott: Waverley (time, George H.).

Spoon. One needs a long spoon to eat with the devil.—Old Proverb.

Therefore behoveth him a ful long spone
That shall ete with a fend.

Chaucer: Canterbury Tales, 10, 916 (The “Squire’s Tale,” 1388).

Spoons (Gossip). It was customary at one time for sponsors at christenings to give gilt spoons as an offering to their godchild. These spoons had on the handle the figure of one of the apostles or evangelists, and hence were called “Apostle spoons.” The wealthy would give the twelve apostles, those of less opulence the four evangelists, and others again a single spoon. When Henry VIII. asks Cranmer to be godfather to “a fair young maid,” Cranmer replies, “How may I deserve such honour, that am a poor and humble subject?” The king rejoins, “Come, come, my lord, you’d spare your spoons.”—Shakespeare: Henry VIII. act v. sc. 2 (1601).

Sporus. Under this name, Pope satirized lord John Hervey (1696–1743), generally called “lord Fanny,” from his effeminate habits and appearance. He was “half wit, half fool, half man, half beau.” Lord John Hervey was vicechamberlain in 1736, and lord privy seal in 1740.

That thing of silk,
Sporus, that mere white curd of asses’ milk;
Satire or sense, alas! can Sporus feel,
Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?

   —Pope: Prologue to the Satires (1734).

  By PanEris using Melati.

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