AMBROSE BIERCE (1842-1913)
Public Domain Copyright
S | T |
- n. A weekly festival having its origin in the fact
that God made the world in six days and was arrested on
the seventh. Among the Jews observance of the day was
enforced by a Commandment of which this is the Christian
version: "Remember the seventh day to make thy
neighbor keep it wholly." To the Creator it seemed
fit and expedient that the Sabbath should be the last day
of the week, but the Early Fathers of the Church held
other views. So great is the sanctity of the day that
even where the Lord holds a doubtful and precarious
jurisdiction over those who go down to (and down into)
the sea it is reverently recognized, as is manifest in
the following deep-water version of the Fourth
Six days shalt thou labor and do all thou art able,
And on the seventh holystone the deck and scrape the cable.
Decks are no longer holystoned, but the cable still supplies the
captain with opportunity to attest a pious respect for the divine
- n. One who holds the belief that a clergyman is a
priest. Denial of this momentous doctrine is the hardest
challenge that is now flung into the teeth of the
Episcolopian church by the Neo-Dictionarians.
- n. A solemn religious ceremony to which several
degrees of authority and significance are attached. Rome
has seven sacraments, but the Protestant churches, being
less prosperous, feel that they can afford only two, and
these of inferior sanctity. Some of the smaller sects
have no sacraments at all for which mean economy
they will indubitable be damned.
- adj. Dedicated to some religious purpose; having
a divine character; inspiring solemn thoughts or
emotions; as, the Dalai Lama of Thibet; the Moogum of
M'bwango; the temple of Apes in Ceylon; the Cow in India;
the Crocodile, the Cat and the Onion of ancient Egypt;
the Mufti of Moosh; the hair of the dog that bit Noah,
All things are either sacred or profane.
The former to ecclesiasts bring gain;
The latter to the devil appertain.
- n. A vertebrate mammal holding the political views
of Denis Kearney, a notorious demagogue of San Francisco,
whose audiences gathered in the open spaces (sandlots) of
the town. True to the traditions of his species, this
leader of the proletariat was finally bought off by his
law-and-order enemies, living prosperously silent and
dying impenitently rich. But before his treason he
imposed upon California a constitution that was a
confection of sin in a diction of solecisms. The
similarity between the words "sandlotter" and
"sansculotte" is problematically significant,
but indubitably suggestive.
- n. A mechanical device acting automatically to
prevent the fall of an elevator, or cage, in case of an
accident to the hoisting apparatus.
Once I seen a human ruin
In an elevator-well,
And his members was bestrewin'
All the place where he had fell.
And I says, apostrophisin'
That uncommon woful wreck:
"Your position's so surprisin'
That I tremble for your neck!"
Then that ruin, smilin' sadly
And impressive, up and spoke:
"Well, I wouldn't tremble badly,
For it's been a fortnight broke."
Then, for further comprehension
Of his attitude, he begs
I will focus my attention
On his various arms and legs
How they all are contumacious;
Where they each, respective, lie;
How one trotter proves ungracious,
T'other one an alibi.
These particulars is mentioned
For to show his dismal state,
Which I wasn't first intentioned
To specifical relate.
None is worser to be dreaded
That I ever have heard tell
Than the gent's who there was spreaded
In that elevator-well.
Now this tale is allegoric
It is figurative all,
For the well is metaphoric
And the feller didn't fall.
I opine it isn't moral
For a writer-man to cheat,
And despise to wear a laurel
As was gotten by deceit.
For 'tis Politics intended
By the elevator, mind,
It will boost a person splendid
If his talent is the kind.
Col. Bryan had the talent
(For the busted man is him)
And it shot him up right gallant
Till his head begun to swim.
Then the rope it broke above him
And he painful come to earth
Where there's nobody to love him
For his detrimented worth.
Though he's livin' none would know him,
Or at leastwise not as such.
Moral of this woful poem:
Frequent oil your safety-clutch.
- n. A dead sinner revised and edited.
The Duchess of Orleans relates that the irreverent old
calumniator, Marshal Villeroi, who in his youth had known St. Francis
de Sales, said, on hearing him called saint: "I am delighted to hear
that Monsieur de Sales is a saint. He was fond of saying indelicate
things, and used to cheat at cards. In other respects he was a
perfect gentleman, though a fool."
- n. A certain literary quality frequently observed
in popular novels, especially in those written by women
and young girls, who give it another name and think that
in introducing it they are occupying a neglected field of
letters and reaping an overlooked harvest. If they have
the misfortune to live long enough they are tormented
with a desire to burn their sheaves.
- n. Originally a reptile inhabiting fire; later, an
anthropomorphous immortal, but still a pyrophile.
Salamanders are now believed to be extinct, the last one
of which we have an account having been seen in
Carcassonne by the Abbe Belloc, who exorcised it with a
bucket of holy water.
- n. Among the Greeks a coffin which being made of a
certain kind of carnivorous stone, had the peculiar
property of devouring the body placed in it. The
sarcophagus known to modern obsequiographers is commonly
a product of the carpenter's art.
- n. One of the Creator's lamentable mistakes,
repented in sashcloth and axes. Being instated as an
archangel, Satan made himself multifariously
objectionable and was finally expelled from Heaven.
Halfway in his descent he paused, bent his head in
thought a moment and at last went back. "There is
one favor that I should like to ask," said he.
"Man, I understand, is about to be created. He will need laws."
"What, wretch! you his appointed adversary, charged from the dawn
of eternity with hatred of his soul you ask for the right to make
"Pardon; what I have to ask is that he be permitted to make them
It was so ordered.
- n. The feeling that one has for the plate after he
has eaten its contents, madam.
- n. An obsolete kind of literary composition in
which the vices and follies of the author's enemies were
expounded with imperfect tenderness. In this country
satire never had more than a sickly and uncertain
existence, for the soul of it is wit, wherein we are
dolefully deficient, the humor that we mistake for it,
like all humor, being tolerant and sympathetic. Moreover,
although Americans are "endowed by their
Creator" with abundant vice and folly, it is not
generally known that these are reprehensible qualities,
wherefore the satirist is popularly regarded as a
soul-spirited knave, and his ever victim's outcry for
codefendants evokes a national assent.
Hail Satire! be thy praises ever sung
In the dead language of a mummy's tongue,
For thou thyself art dead, and damned as well
Thy spirit (usefully employed) in Hell.
Had it been such as consecrates the Bible
Thou hadst not perished by the law of libel.
- n. One of the few characters of the Grecian
mythology accorded recognition in the Hebrew. (Leviticus,
xvii, 7.) The satyr was at first a member of the
dissolute community acknowledging a loose allegiance with
Dionysius, but underwent many transformations and
improvements. Not infrequently he is confounded with the
faun, a later and decenter creation of the Romans, who
was less like a man and more like a goat.
- n. The one infallible sign of civilization and
enlightenment. A people with no sauces has one thousand
vices; a people with one sauce has only nine hundred and
ninety-nine. For every sauce invented and accepted a vice
is renounced and forgiven.
- n. A trite popular saying, or proverb. (Figurative
and colloquial.) So called because it makes its way into
a wooden head. Following are examples of old saws fitted
with new teeth.
A penny saved is a penny to squander.
A man is known by the company that he organizes.
A bad workman quarrels with the man who calls him that.
A bird in the hand is worth what it will bring.
Better late than before anybody has invited you.
Example is better than following it.
Half a loaf is better than a whole one if there is much else.
Think twice before you speak to a friend in need.
What is worth doing is worth the trouble of asking somebody to
Least said is soonest disavowed.
He laughs best who laughs least.
Speak of the Devil and he will hear about it.
Of two evils choose to be the least.
Strike while your employer has a big contract.
Where there's a will there's a won't.
- n. The sacred beetle of the ancient Egyptians,
allied to our familiar "tumble-bug." It was
supposed to symbolize immortality, the fact that God knew
why giving it its peculiar sanctity. Its habit of
incubating its eggs in a ball of ordure may also have
commended it to the favor of the priesthood, and may some
day assure it an equal reverence among ourselves. True,
the American beetle is an inferior beetle, but the
American priest is an inferior priest.
- n. The same as scarabæus.
He fell by his own hand
Beneath the great oak tree.
He'd traveled in a foreign land.
He tried to make her understand
The dance that's called the Saraband,
But he called it Scarabee.
He had called it so through an afternoon,
And she, the light of his harem if so might be,
Had smiled and said naught. O the body was fair to see,
All frosted there in the shine o' the moon
Dead for a Scarabee
And a recollection that came too late.
They buried him where he lay,
He sleeps awaiting the Day,
And two Possible Puns, moon-eyed and wan,
Gloom over the grave and then move on.
Dead for a Scarabee!
- n. A form of penance practiced by the mediaeval
pious. The rite was performed, sometimes with a knife,
sometimes with a hot iron, but always, says Arsenius
Asceticus, acceptably if the penitent spared himself no
pain nor harmless disfigurement. Scarification, with
other crude penances, has now been superseded by
benefaction. The founding of a library or endowment of a
university is said to yield to the penitent a sharper and
more lasting pain than is conferred by the knife or iron,
and is therefore a surer means of grace. There are,
however, two grave objections to it as a penitential
method: the good that it does and the taint of justice.
- n. A king's staff of office, the sign and symbol
of his authority. It was originally a mace with which the
sovereign admonished his jester and vetoed ministerial
measures by breaking the bones of their proponents.
- n. A curved sword of exceeding keenness, in the
conduct of which certain Orientals attain a surprising
proficiency, as the incident here related will serve to
show. The account is translated from the Japanese by
Shusi Itama, a famous writer of the thirteenth century.
When the great Gichi-Kuktai was Mikado he condemned to
decapitation Jijiji Ri, a high officer of the Court. Soon after
the hour appointed for performance of the rite what was his
Majesty's surprise to see calmly approaching the throne the man
who should have been at that time ten minutes dead!
"Seventeen hundred impossible dragons!" shouted the enraged
monarch. "Did I not sentence you to stand in the market-place and
have your head struck off by the public executioner at three
o'clock? And is it not now 3:10?"
"Son of a thousand illustrious deities," answered the
condemned minister, "all that you say is so true that the truth
is a lie in comparison. But your heavenly Majesty's sunny and
vitalizing wishes have been pestilently disregarded. With joy I
ran and placed my unworthy body in the market-place. The
executioner appeared with his bare scimetar, ostentatiously
whirled it in air, and then, tapping me lightly upon the neck,
strode away, pelted by the populace, with whom I was ever a
favorite. I am come to pray for justice upon his own dishonorable
and treasonous head."
"To what regiment of executioners does the black-boweled
caitiff belong?" asked the Mikado.
"To the gallant Ninety-eight Hundred and Thirty-seventh I
know the man. His name is Sakko-Samshi."
"Let him be brought before me," said the Mikado to an
attendant, and a half-hour later the culprit stood in the
"Thou bastard son of a three-legged hunchback without thumbs!"
roared the sovereign "why didst thou but lightly tap the neck
that it should have been thy pleasure to sever?"
"Lord of Cranes of Cherry Blooms," replied the executioner,
unmoved, "command him to blow his nose with his fingers."
Being commanded, Jijiji Ri laid hold of his nose and trumpeted
like an elephant, all expecting to see the severed head flung
violently from him. Nothing occurred: the performance prospered
peacefully to the close, without incident.
All eyes were now turned on the executioner, who had grown as
white as the snows on the summit of Fujiama. His legs trembled
and his breath came in gasps of terror.
"Several kinds of spike-tailed brass lions!" he cried; "I am
a ruined and disgraced swordsman! I struck the villain feebly
because in flourishing the scimetar I had accidentally passed it
through my own neck! Father of the Moon, I resign my office."
So saying, he gasped his top-knot, lifted off his head, and
advancing to the throne laid it humbly at the Mikado's feet.
- n. A book that is commonly edited by a fool. Many
persons of some small distinction compile scrap-books
containing whatever they happen to read about themselves
or employ others to collect. One of these egotists was
addressed in the lines following, by Agamemnon Melancthon
Dear Frank, that scrap-book where you boast
You keep a record true
Of every kind of peppered roast
That's made of you;
Wherein you paste the printed gibes
That revel round your name,
Thinking the laughter of the scribes
Attests your fame;
Where all the pictures you arrange
That comic pencils trace
Your funny figure and your strange
Pray lend it me. Wit I have not,
Nor art, but there I'll list
The daily drubbings you'd have got
Had God a fist.
- n. A professional writer whose views are
antagonistic to one's own.
- n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as
distinguished from the false and profane writings on
which all other faiths are based.
- n. A mark impressed upon certain kinds of
documents to attest their authenticity and authority.
Sometimes it is stamped upon wax, and attached to the
paper, sometimes into the paper itself. Sealing, in this
sense, is a survival of an ancient custom of inscribing
important papers with cabalistic words or signs to give
them a magical efficacy independent of the authority that
they represent. In the British museum are preserved many
ancient papers, mostly of a sacerdotal character,
validated by necromantic pentagrams and other devices,
frequently initial letters of words to conjure with; and
in many instances these are attached in the same way that
seals are appended now. As nearly every reasonless and
apparently meaningless custom, rite or observance of
modern times had origin in some remote utility, it is
pleasing to note an example of ancient nonsense evolving
in the process of ages into something really useful. Our
word "sincere" is derived from sine cero,
without wax, but the learned are not in agreement as to
whether this refers to the absence of the cabalistic
signs, or to that of the wax with which letters were
formerly closed from public scrutiny. Either view of the
matter will serve one in immediate need of an hypothesis.
The initials L. S., commonly appended to signatures of
legal documents, mean locum sigillis, the place of
the seal, although the seal is no longer used an
admirable example of conservatism distinguishing Man from
the beasts that perish. The words locum sigillis
are humbly suggested as a suitable motto for the
Pribyloff Islands whenever they shall take their place as
a sovereign State of the American Union.
- n. A kind of net for effecting an involuntary
change of environment. For fish it is made strong and
coarse, but women are more easily taken with a singularly
delicate fabric weighted with small, cut stones.
The devil casting a seine of lace,
(With precious stones 'twas weighted)
Drew it into the landing place
And its contents calculated.
All souls of women were in that sack
A draft miraculous, precious!
But ere he could throw it across his back
They'd all escaped through the meshes.
Baruch de Loppis
- n. An erroneous appraisement.
- adj. Evident to one's self and to nobody else.
- adj. Devoid of consideration for the selfishness
- n. A body of elderly gentlemen charged with high
duties and misdemeanors.
- n. A literary work, usually a story that is not
true, creeping through several issues of a newspaper or
magazine. Frequently appended to each installment is a
"synopsis of preceding chapters" for those who
have not read them, but a direr need is a synopsis of
succeeding chapters for those who do not intend to read them.
A synopsis of the entire work would be still better.
The late James F. Bowman was writing a serial tale for a weekly
paper in collaboration with a genius whose name has not come down to
us. They wrote, not jointly but alternately, Bowman supplying the
installment for one week, his friend for the next, and so on, world
without end, they hoped. Unfortunately they quarreled, and one Monday
morning when Bowman read the paper to prepare himself for his task,
he found his work cut out for him in a way to surprise and pain him.
His collaborator had embarked every character of the narrative on a
ship and sunk them all in the deepest part of the Atlantic.
- n. Separateness, as, lands in severalty, i.e.,
lands held individually, not in joint ownership. Certain
tribes of Indians are believed now to be sufficiently
civilized to have in severalty the lands that they have
hitherto held as tribal organizations, and could not sell
to the Whites for waxen beads and potato whiskey.
Lo! the poor Indian whose unsuited mind
Saw death before, hell and the grave behind;
Whom thrifty settler ne'er besought to stay
His small belongings their appointed prey;
Whom Dispossession, with alluring wile,
Persuaded elsewhere every little while!
His fire unquenched and his undying worm
By "land in severalty" (charming term!)
Are cooled and killed, respectively, at last,
And he to his new holding anchored fast!
- n. In America the chief executive office of a
country, whose most characteristic duties, in some of the
Western and Southern States, are the catching and hanging
John Elmer Pettibone Cajee
(I write of him with little glee)
Was just as bad as he could be.
'Twas frequently remarked: "I swon!
The sun has never looked upon
So bad a man as Neighbor John."
A sinner through and through, he had
This added fault: it made him mad
To know another man was bad.
In such a case he thought it right
To rise at any hour of night
And quench that wicked person's light.
Despite the town's entreaties, he
Would hale him to the nearest tree
And leave him swinging wide and free.
Or sometimes, if the humor came,
A luckless wight's reluctant frame
Was given to the cheerful flame.
While it was turning nice and brown,
All unconcerned John met the frown
Of that austere and righteous town.
"How sad," his neighbors said, "that he
So scornful of the law should be
An anar c, h, i, s, t."
(That is the way that they preferred
To utter the abhorrent word,
So strong the aversion that it stirred.)
"Resolved," they said, continuing,
"That Badman John must cease this thing
Of having his unlawful fling.
"Now, by these sacred relics" here
Each man had out a souvenir
Got at a lynching yesteryear
"By these we swear he shall forsake
His ways, nor cause our hearts to ache
By sins of rope and torch and stake.
"We'll tie his red right hand until
He'll have small freedom to fulfil
The mandates of his lawless will."
So, in convention then and there,
They named him Sheriff. The affair
Was opened, it is said, with prayer.
J. Milton Sloluck
- n. One of several musical prodigies famous for a
vain attempt to dissuade Odysseus from a life on the
ocean wave. Figuratively, any lady of splendid promise,
dissembled purpose and disappointing performance.
- n. The grunt of the human hog (Pignoramus
intolerabilis) with an audible memory. The speech of
one who utters with his tongue what he thinks with his
ear, and feels the pride of a creator in accomplishing
the feat of a parrot. A means (under Providence) of
setting up as a wit without a capital of sense.
- n. A fragment, a decomponent part, a remain. The
word is used variously, but in the following verse on a
noted female reformer who opposed bicycle-riding by women
because it "led them to the devil" it is seen
at its best:
The wheels go round without a sound
The maidens hold high revel;
In sinful mood, insanely gay,
True spinsters spin adown the way
From duty to the devil!
They laugh, they sing, and ting-a-ling!
Their bells go all the morning;
Their lanterns bright bestar the night
With lifted hands Miss Charlotte stands,
Good-Lording and O-mying,
Her rheumatism forgotten quite,
Her fat with anger frying.
She blocks the path that leads to wrath,
Jack Satan's power defying.
The wheels go round without a sound
The lights burn red and blue and green.
What's this that's found upon the ground?
Poor Charlotte Smith's a smithareen!
John William Yope
- n. The controversial method of an opponent,
distinguished from one's own by superior insincerity and
fooling. This method is that of the later Sophists, a
Grecian sect of philosophers who began by teaching
wisdom, prudence, science, art and, in brief, whatever
men ought to know, but lost themselves in a maze of
quibbles and a fog of words.
His bad opponent's "facts" he sweeps away,
And drags his sophistry to light of day;
Then swears they're pushed to madness who resort
To falsehood of so desperate a sort.
Not so; like sods upon a dead man's breast,
He lies most lightly who the least is pressed.
- n. The ancient prototype and forerunner of
political influence. It was, however, deemed less
respectable and sometimes was punished by torture and
death. Augustine Nicholas relates that a poor peasant who
had been accused of sorcery was put to the torture to
compel a confession. After enduring a few gentle agonies
the suffering simpleton admitted his guilt, but naively
asked his tormentors if it were not possible to be a
sorcerer without knowing it.
- n. A spiritual entity concerning which there hath
been brave disputation. Plato held that those souls which
in a previous state of existence (antedating Athens) had
obtained the clearest glimpses of eternal truth entered
into the bodies of persons who became philosophers. Plato
himself was a philosopher. The souls that had least
contemplated divine truth animated the bodies of usurpers
and despots. Dionysius I, who had threatened to
decapitate the broad- browed philosopher, was a usurper
and a despot. Plato, doubtless, was not the first to
construct a system of philosophy that could be quoted
against his enemies; certainly he was not the last.
- "Concerning the nature of the soul," saith the
renowned author of Diversiones Sanctorum,
"there hath been hardly more argument than that of
its place in the body. Mine own belief is that the soul
hath her seat in the abdomen in which faith we may
discern and interpret a truth hitherto unintelligible,
namely that the glutton is of all men most devout. He is
said in the Scripture to 'make a god of his belly'
why, then, should he not be pious, having ever his Deity
with him to freshen his faith? Who so well as he can know
the might and majesty that he shrines? Truly and soberly,
the soul and the stomach are one Divine Entity; and such
was the belief of Promasius, who nevertheless erred in
denying it immortality. He had observed that its visible
and material substance failed and decayed with the rest
of the body after death, but of its immaterial essence he
knew nothing. This is what we call the Appetite, and it
survives the wreck and reek of mortality, to be rewarded
or punished in another world, according to what it hath
demanded in the flesh. The Appetite whose coarse
clamoring was for the unwholesome viands of the general
market and the public refectory shall be cast into
eternal famine, whilst that which firmly through civilly
insisted on ortolans, caviare, terrapin, anchovies, pâtés
de foie gras and all such Christian comestibles shall
flesh its spiritual tooth in the souls of them forever
and ever, and wreak its divine thirst upon the immortal
parts of the rarest and richest wines ever quaffed here
below. Such is my religious faith, though I grieve to
confess that neither His Holiness the Pope nor His Grace
the Archbishop of Canterbury (whom I equally and
profoundly revere) will assent to its
- n. A writer whose imagination concerns itself with
supernatural phenomena, especially in the doings of
spooks. One of the most illustrious spookers of our time
is Mr. William D. Howells, who introduces a
well-credentialed reader to as respectable and mannerly a
company of spooks as one could wish to meet. To the
terror that invests the chairman of a district school
board, the Howells ghost adds something of the mystery
enveloping a farmer from another township.
- n. A narrative, commonly untrue. The truth of the
stories here following has, however, not been
One evening Mr. Rudolph Block, of New York, found himself seated
at dinner alongside Mr. Percival Pollard, the distinguished critic.
"Mr. Pollard," said he, "my book, The Biography of a Dead Cow,
is published anonymously, but you can hardly be ignorant of its
authorship. Yet in reviewing it you speak of it as the work of the
Idiot of the Century. Do you think that fair criticism?"
"I am very sorry, sir," replied the critic, amiably, "but it did
not occur to me that you really might not wish the public to know who
Mr. W.C. Morrow, who used to live in San Jose, California, was
addicted to writing ghost stories which made the reader feel as if a
stream of lizards, fresh from the ice, were streaking it up his back
and hiding in his hair. San Jose was at that time believed to be
haunted by the visible spirit of a noted bandit named Vasquez, who
had been hanged there. The town was not very well lighted, and it is
putting it mildly to say that San Jose was reluctant to be out o'
nights. One particularly dark night two gentlemen were abroad in the
loneliest spot within the city limits, talking loudly to keep up their
courage, when they came upon Mr. J.J. Owen, a well-known journalist.
"Why, Owen," said one, "what brings you here on such a night as
this? You told me that this is one of Vasquez' favorite haunts! And
you are a believer. Aren't you afraid to be out?"
"My dear fellow," the journalist replied with a drear autumnal
cadence in his speech, like the moan of a leaf-laden wind, "I am
afraid to be in. I have one of Will Morrow's stories in my pocket and
I don't dare to go where there is light enough to read it."
Rear-Admiral Schley and Representative Charles F. Joy were
standing near the Peace Monument, in Washington, discussing the
question, Is success a failure? Mr. Joy suddenly broke off in the
middle of an eloquent sentence, exclaiming: "Hello! I've heard that
band before. Santlemann's, I think."
"I don't hear any band," said Schley.
"Come to think, I don't either," said Joy; "but I see General
Miles coming down the avenue, and that pageant always affects me in
the same way as a brass band. One has to scrutinize one's impressions
pretty closely, or one will mistake their origin."
While the Admiral was digesting this hasty meal of philosophy
General Miles passed in review, a spectacle of impressive dignity.
When the tail of the seeming procession had passed and the two
observers had recovered from the transient blindness caused by its
"He seems to be enjoying himself," said the Admiral.
"There is nothing," assented Joy, thoughtfully, "that he enjoys
one-half so well."
The illustrious statesman, Champ Clark, once lived about a mile
from the village of Jebigue, in Missouri. One day he rode into town
on a favorite mule, and, hitching the beast on the sunny side of a
street, in front of a saloon, he went inside in his character of
teetotaler, to apprise the barkeeper that wine is a mocker. It was a
dreadfully hot day. Pretty soon a neighbor came in and seeing Clark,
"Champ, it is not right to leave that mule out there in the sun.
He'll roast, sure! he was smoking as I passed him."
"O, he's all right," said Clark, lightly; "he's an inveterate
The neighbor took a lemonade, but shook his head and repeated
that it was not right.
He was a conspirator. There had been a fire the night before: a
stable just around the corner had burned and a number of horses had
put on their immortality, among them a young colt, which was roasted
to a rich nut-brown. Some of the boys had turned Mr. Clark's mule
loose and substituted the mortal part of the colt. Presently another
man entered the saloon.
"For mercy's sake!" he said, taking it with sugar, "do remove
that mule, barkeeper: it smells."
"Yes," interposed Clark, "that animal has the best nose in
Missouri. But if he doesn't mind, you shouldn't."
In the course of human events Mr. Clark went out, and there,
apparently, lay the incinerated and shrunken remains of his charger.
The boys did not have any fun out of Mr. Clark, who looked at the
body and, with the non-committal expression to which he owes so much
of his political preferment, went away. But walking home late that
night he saw his mule standing silent and solemn by the wayside in
the misty moonlight. Mentioning the name of Helen Blazes with
uncommon emphasis, Mr. Clark took the back track as hard as ever he
could hook it, and passed the night in town.
General H.H. Wotherspoon, president of the Army War College, has
a pet rib-nosed baboon, an animal of uncommon intelligence but
imperfectly beautiful. Returning to his apartment one evening, the
General was surprised and pained to find Adam (for so the creature is
named, the general being a Darwinian) sitting up for him and wearing
his master's best uniform coat, epaulettes and all.
"You confounded remote ancestor!" thundered the great strategist,
"what do you mean by being out of bed after naps? and with my coat
Adam rose and with a reproachful look got down on all fours in
the manner of his kind and, scuffling across the room to a table,
returned with a visiting-card: General Barry had called and, judging
by an empty champagne bottle and several cigar-stumps, had been
hospitably entertained while waiting. The general apologized to his
faithful progenitor and retired. The next day he met General Barry,
"Spoon, old man, when leaving you last evening I forgot to ask
you about those excellent cigars. Where did you get them?"
General Wotherspoon did not deign to reply, but walked away.
"Pardon me, please," said Barry, moving after him; "I was joking
of course. Why, I knew it was not you before I had been in the room
- n. The one unpardonable sin against one's fellows.
In literature, and particularly in poetry, the elements
of success are exceedingly simple, and are admirably set
forth in the following lines by the reverend Father
Gassalasca Jape, entitled, for some mysterious reason,
"John A. Joyce."
The bard who would prosper must carry a book,
Do his thinking in prose and wear
A crimson cravat, a far-away look
And a head of hexameter hair.
Be thin in your thought and your body'll be fat;
If you wear your hair long you needn't your hat.
- n. Expression of opinion by means of a ballot. The
right of suffrage (which is held to be both a privilege
and a duty) means, as commonly interpreted, the right to
vote for the man of another man's choice, and is highly
prized. Refusal to do so has the bad name of
"incivism." The incivilian, however, cannot be
properly arraigned for his crime, for there is no
legitimate accuser. If the accuser is himself guilty he
has no standing in the court of opinion; if not, he
profits by the crime, for A's abstention from voting
gives greater weight to the vote of B. By female suffrage
is meant the right of a woman to vote as some man tells
her to. It is based on female responsibility, which is
somewhat limited. The woman most eager to jump out of her
petticoat to assert her rights is first to jump back into
it when threatened with a switching for misusing them.
- n. One who approaches Greatness on his belly so
that he may not be commanded to turn and be kicked. He is
sometimes an editor.
As the lean leech, its victim found, is pleased
To fix itself upon a part diseased
Till, its black hide distended with bad blood,
It drops to die of surfeit in the mud,
So the base sycophant with joy descries
His neighbor's weak spot and his mouth applies,
Gorges and prospers like the leech, although,
Unlike that reptile, he will not let go.
Gelasma, if it paid you to devote
Your talent to the service of a goat,
Showing by forceful logic that its beard
Is more than Aaron's fit to be revered;
If to the task of honoring its smell
Profit had prompted you, and love as well,
The world would benefit at last by you
And wealthy malefactors weep anew
Your favor for a moment's space denied
And to the nobler object turned aside.
Isn't not enough that thrifty millionaires
Who loot in freight and spoliate in fares,
Or, cursed with consciences that bid them fly
To safer villainies of darker dye,
Forswearing robbery and fain, instead,
To steal (they call it "cornering") our bread
May see you groveling their boots to lick
And begging for the favor of a kick?
Still must you follow to the bitter end
Your sycophantic disposition's trend,
And in your eagerness to please the rich
Hunt hungry sinners to their final ditch?
In Morgan's praise you smite the sounding wire,
And sing hosannas to great Havemeyer!
What's Satan done that him you should eschew?
He too is reeking rich deducting you.
- n. A logical formula consisting of a major and a
minor assumption and an inconsequent. (See LOGIC.)
- n. An immaterial but visible being that inhabited
the air when the air was an element and before it was
fatally polluted with factory smoke, sewer gas and
similar products of civilization. Sylphs were allied to
gnomes, nymphs and salamanders, which dwelt,
respectively, in earth, water and fire, all now
insalubrious. Sylphs, like fowls of the air, were male
and female, to no purpose, apparently, for if they had
progeny they must have nested in accessible places, none
of the chicks having ever been seen.
- n. Something that is supposed to typify or stand
for something else. Many symbols are mere
"survivals" things which having no
longer any utility continue to exist because we have
inherited the tendency to make them; as funereal urns
carved on memorial monuments. They were once real urns
holding the ashes of the dead. We cannot stop making
them, but we can give them a name that conceals our
- adj. Pertaining to symbols and the use and
interpretation of symbols.
They say 'tis conscience feels compunction;
I hold that that's the stomach's function,
For of the sinner I have noted
That when he's sinned he's somewhat bloated,
Or ill some other ghastly fashion
Within that bowel of compassion.
True, I believe the only sinner
Is he that eats a shabby dinner.
You know how Adam with good reason,
For eating apples out of season,
Was "cursed." But that is all symbolic:
The truth is, Adam had the colic.
- the twentieth letter of the English alphabet, was by the
Greeks absurdly called tau. In the alphabet whence
ours comes it had the form of the rude corkscrew of the
period, and when it stood alone (which was more than the
Phoenicians could always do) signified Tallegal,
translated by the learned Dr. Brownrigg,
- TABLE D'
- n. A caterer's thrifty concession to the universal
passion for irresponsibility.
Old Paunchinello, freshly wed,
Took Madame P. to table,
And there deliriously fed
As fast as he was able.
"I dote upon good grub," he cried,
Intent upon its throatage.
"Ah, yes," said the neglected bride,
"You're in your table d'hôtage."
- n. The part of an animal's spine that has
transcended its natural limitations to set up an
independent existence in a world of its own. Excepting in
its ftal state, Man is without a tail, a privation
of which he attests an hereditary and uneasy
consciousness by the coat-skirt of the male and the train
of the female, and by a marked tendency to ornament that
part of his attire where the tail should be, and
indubitably once was. This tendency is most observable in
the female of the species, in whom the ancestral sense is
strong and persistent. The tailed men described by Lord
Monboddo are now generally regarded as a product of an
imagination unusually susceptible to influences generated
in the golden age of our pithecan past.
- v.t. To acquire, frequently by force but
preferably by stealth.
- v.t. To commit an indiscretion without temptation,
from an impulse without purpose.
- n. A scale of taxes on imports, designed to
protect the domestic producer against the greed of his
The Enemy of Human Souls
Sat grieving at the cost of coals;
For Hell had been annexed of late,
And was a sovereign Southern State.
"It were no more than right," said he,
"That I should get my fuel free.
The duty, neither just nor wise,
Compels me to economize
Whereby my broilers, every one,
Are execrably underdone.
What would they have? although I yearn
To do them nicely to a turn,
I can't afford an honest heat.
This tariff makes even devils cheat!
I'm ruined, and my humble trade
All rascals may at will invade:
Beneath my nose the public press
Outdoes me in sulphureousness;
The bar ingeniously applies
To my undoing my own lies;
My medicines the doctors use
(Albeit vainly) to refuse
To me my fair and rightful prey
And keep their own in shape to pay;
The preachers by example teach
What, scorning to perform, I teach;
And statesmen, aping me, all make
More promises than they can break.
Against such competition I
Lift up a disregarded cry.
Since all ignore my just complaint,
By Hokey-Pokey! I'll turn saint!"
Now, the Republicans, who all
Are saints, began at once to bawl
Against his competition; so
There was a devil of a go!
They locked horns with him, tête-à-tête
In acrimonious debate,
Till Democrats, forlorn and lone,
Had hopes of coming by their own.
That evil to avert, in haste
The two belligerents embraced;
But since 'twere wicked to relax
A tittle of the Sacred Tax,
'Twas finally agreed to grant
The bold Insurgent-protestant
A bounty on each soul that fell
Into his ineffectual Hell.
- n. In an English court a man named Home was tried
for slander in having accused his neighbor of murder. His
exact words were: "Sir Thomas Holt hath taken a
cleaver and stricken his cook upon the head, so that one
side of the head fell upon one shoulder and the other
side upon the other shoulder." The defendant was
acquitted by instruction of the court, the learned judges
holding that the words did not charge murder, for they
did not affirm the death of the cook, that being only an
- n. Ennui, the state or condition of one that is
bored. Many fanciful derivations of the word have been
affirmed, but so high an authority as Father Jape says
that it comes from a very obvious source the first
words of the ancient Latin hymn Te Deum Laudamus.
In this apparently natural derivation there is something
- n. One who abstains from strong drink, sometimes
totally, sometimes tolerably totally.
- n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some
of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep
- n. A device having a relation to the eye similar
to that of the telephone to the ear, enabling distant
objects to plague us with a multitude of needless
details. Luckily it is unprovided with a bell summoning
us to the sacrifice.
- n. A certain quality of the human hand in its
relation to the coin of the realm. It attains its highest
development in the hand of authority and is considered a
serviceable equipment for a career in politics. The
following illustrative lines were written of a
Californian gentleman in high political preferment, who
has passed to his accounting:
Of such tenacity his grip
That nothing from his hand can slip.
Well-buttered eels you may o'erwhelm
In tubs of liquid slippery-elm
In vain from his detaining pinch
They cannot struggle half an inch!
'Tis lucky that he so is planned
That breath he draws not with his hand,
For if he did, so great his greed
He'd draw his last with eager speed.
Nay, that were well, you say. Not so
He'd draw but never let it go!
- n. An ancient faith having all the certitude of
religion and all the mystery of science. The modern
Theosophist holds, with the Buddhists, that we live an
incalculable number of times on this earth, in as many
several bodies, because one life is not long enough for
our complete spiritual development; that is, a single
lifetime does not suffice for us to become as wise and
good as we choose to wish to become. To be absolutely
wise and good that is perfection; and the
Theosophist is so keen-sighted as to have observed that
everything desirous of improvement eventually attains
perfection. Less competent observers are disposed to
except cats, which seem neither wiser nor better than
they were last year. The greatest and fattest of recent
Theosophists was the late Madame Blavatsky, who had no
- n. An habiliment of the stage designed to
reinforce the general acclamation of the press agent with
a particular publicity. Public attention was once
somewhat diverted from this garment to Miss Lillian
Russell's refusal to wear it, and many were the
conjectures as to her motive, the guess of Miss Pauline
Hall showing a high order of ingenuity and sustained
reflection. It was Miss Hall's belief that nature had not
endowed Miss Russell with beautiful legs. This theory was
impossible of acceptance by the male understanding, but
the conception of a faulty female leg was of so
prodigious originality as to rank among the most
brilliant feats of philosophical speculation! It is
strange that in all the controversy regarding Miss
Russell's aversion to tights no one seems to have thought
to ascribe it to what was known among the ancients as
"modesty." The nature of that sentiment is now
imperfectly understood, and possibly incapable of
exposition with the vocabulary that remains to us. The
study of lost arts has, however, been recently revived
and some of the arts themselves recovered. This is an
epoch of renaissances, and there is ground for
hope that the primitive "blush" may be dragged
from its hiding-place amongst the tombs of antiquity and
hissed on to the stage.
- n. The House of Indifference. Tombs are now by
common consent invested with a certain sanctity, but when
they have been long tenanted it is considered no sin to
break them open and rifle them, the famous Egyptologist,
Dr. Huggyns, explaining that a tomb may be innocently
"glened" as soon as its occupant is done
"smellynge," the soul being then all exhaled.
This reasonable view is now generally accepted by
archaeologists, whereby the noble science of Curiosity
has been greatly dignified.
- v. To tipple, booze, swill, soak, guzzle, lush,
bib, or swig. In the individual, toping is regarded with
disesteem, but toping nations are in the forefront of
civilization and power. When pitted against the
hard-drinking Christians the abstemious Mahometans go
down like grass before the scythe. In India one hundred
thousand beef- eating and brandy-and-soda guzzling
Britons hold in subjection two hundred and fifty million
vegetarian abstainers of the same Aryan race. With what
an easy grace the whisky-loving American pushed the
temperate Spaniard out of his possessions! From the time
when the Berserkers ravaged all the coasts of western
Europe and lay drunk in every conquered port it has been
the same way: everywhere the nations that drink too much
are observed to fight rather well and not too
righteously. Wherefore the estimable old ladies who
abolished the canteen from the American army may justly
boast of having materially augmented the nation's
- n. A creature thoughtfully created to supply
occasion for the following lines by the illustrious Ambat
TO MY PET TORTOISE
My friend, you are not graceful not at all;
Your gait's between a stagger and a sprawl.
Nor are you beautiful: your head's a snake's
To look at, and I do not doubt it aches.
As to your feet, they'd make an angel weep.
'Tis true you take them in whene'er you sleep.
No, you're not pretty, but you have, I own,
A certain firmness mostly you're backbone.
Firmness and strength (you have a giant's thews)
Are virtues that the great know how to use
I wish that they did not; yet, on the whole,
You lack excuse my mentioning it Soul.
So, to be candid, unreserved and true,
I'd rather you were I than I were you.
Perhaps, however, in a time to be,
When Man's extinct, a better world may see
Your progeny in power and control,
Due to the genesis and growth of Soul.
So I salute you as a reptile grand
Predestined to regenerate the land.
Father of Possibilities, O deign
To accept the homage of a dying reign!
In the far region of the unforeknown
I dream a tortoise upon every throne.
I see an Emperor his head withdraw
Into his carapace for fear of Law;
A King who carries something else than fat,
Howe'er acceptably he carries that;
A President not strenuously bent
On punishment of audible dissent
Who never shot (it were a vain attack)
An armed or unarmed tortoise in the back;
Subject and citizens that feel no need
To make the March of Mind a wild stampede;
All progress slow, contemplative, sedate,
And "Take your time" the word, in Church and State.
O Tortoise, 'tis a happy, happy dream,
My glorious testudinous regime!
I wish in Eden you'd brought this about
By slouching in and chasing Adam out.
- n. A tall vegetable intended by nature to serve as
a penal apparatus, though through a miscarriage of
justice most trees bear only a negligible fruit, or none
at all. When naturally fruited, the tree is a beneficent
agency of civilization and an important factor in public
morals. In the stern West and the sensitive South its
fruit (white and black respectively) though not eaten, is
agreeable to the public taste and, though not exported,
profitable to the general welfare. That the legitimate
relation of the tree to justice was no discovery of Judge
Lynch (who, indeed, conceded it no primacy over the
lamp-post and the bridge-girder) is made plain by the
following passage from Morryster, who antedated him by
While in yt londe I was carried to see ye Ghogo tree, whereof
I had hearde moch talk; but sayynge yt I saw naught remarkabyll
in it, ye hed manne of ye villayge where it grewe made answer as
"Ye tree is not nowe in fruite, but in his seasonne you shall
see dependynge fr. his braunches all soch as have affroynted ye
King his Majesty."
And I was furder tolde yt ye worde "Ghogo" sygnifyeth in yr
tong ye same as "rapscal" in our owne. Trauvells in ye Easte.
- n. A formal inquiry designed to prove and put upon
record the blameless characters of judges, advocates and
jurors. In order to effect this purpose it is necessary
to supply a contrast in the person of one who is called
the defendant, the prisoner, or the accused. If the
contrast is made sufficiently clear this person is made
to undergo such an affliction as will give the virtuous
gentlemen a comfortable sense of their immunity, added to
that of their worth. In our day the accused is usually a
human being, or a socialist, but in mediaeval times,
animals, fishes, reptiles and insects were brought to
trial. A beast that had taken human life, or practiced
sorcery, was duly arrested, tried and, if condemned, put
to death by the public executioner. Insects ravaging
grain fields, orchards or vineyards were cited to appeal
by counsel before a civil tribunal, and after testimony,
argument and condemnation, if they continued in
contumaciam the matter was taken to a high
ecclesiastical court, where they were solemnly
excommunicated and anathematized. In a street of Toledo,
some pigs that had wickedly run between the viceroy's
legs, upsetting him, were arrested on a warrant, tried
and punished. In Naples and ass was condemned to be
burned at the stake, but the sentence appears not to have
been executed. D'Addosio relates from the court records
many trials of pigs, bulls, horses, cocks, dogs, goats,
etc., greatly, it is believed, to the betterment of their
conduct and morals. In 1451 a suit was brought against
the leeches infesting some ponds about Berne, and the
Bishop of Lausanne, instructed by the faculty of
Heidelberg University, directed that some of "the
aquatic worms" be brought before the local
magistracy. This was done and the leeches, both present
and absent, were ordered to leave the places that they
had infested within three days on pain of incurring
"the malediction of God." In the voluminous
records of this cause celebre nothing is found to
show whether the offenders braved the punishment, or
departed forthwith out of that inhospitable jurisdiction.
- n. The pig's reply to proponents of porcophagy.
Moses Mendlessohn having fallen ill sent for a Christian
physician, who at once diagnosed the philosopher's disorder as
trichinosis, but tactfully gave it another name. "You need and
immediate change of diet," he said; "you must eat six ounces of pork
every other day."
"Pork?" shrieked the patient "pork? Nothing shall induce me to
"Do you mean that?" the doctor gravely asked.
"I swear it!"
"Good! then I will undertake to cure you."
- n. In the multiplex theism of certain Christian
churches, three entirely distinct deities consistent with
only one. Subordinate deities of the polytheistic faith,
such as devils and angels, are not dowered with the power
of combination, and must urge individually their claims
to adoration and propitiation. The Trinity is one of the
most sublime mysteries of our holy religion. In rejecting
it because it is incomprehensible, Unitarians betray
their inadequate sense of theological fundamentals. In
religion we believe only what we do not understand,
except in the instance of an intelligible doctrine that
contradicts an incomprehensible one. In that case we
believe the former as a part of the latter.
- n. Specifically, a cave-dweller of the paleolithic
period, after the Tree and before the Flat. A famous
community of troglodytes dwelt with David in the Cave of
Adullam. The colony consisted of "every one that was
in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every
one that was discontented" in brief, all the
Socialists of Judah.
- n. Friendship.
- n. An ingenious compound of desirability and
appearance. Discovery of truth is the sole purpose of
philosophy, which is the most ancient occupation of the
human mind and has a fair prospect of existing with
increasing activity to the end of time.
- adj. Dumb and illiterate.
- n. In American politics, a large corporation
composed in greater part of thrifty working men, widows
of small means, orphans in the care of guardians and the
courts, with many similar malefactors and public enemies.
- n. A large bird whose flesh when eaten on certain
religious anniversaries has the peculiar property of
attesting piety and gratitude. Incidentally, it is pretty
- adv. Once too often.
- n. Pestilent bits of metal suspected of destroying
civilization and enlightenment, despite their obvious
agency in this incomparable dictionary.
- n. An African insect (Glossina morsitans)
whose bite is commonly regarded as nature's most
efficacious remedy for insomnia, though some patients
prefer that of the American novelist (Mendax
- n. The gift or power of being in all places at one
time, but not in all places at all times, which is
omnipresence, an attribute of God and the luminiferous
ether only. This important distinction between ubiquity
and omnipresence was not clear to the mediaeval Church
and there was much bloodshed about it. Certain Lutherans,
who affirmed the presence everywhere of Christ's body
were known as Ubiquitarians. For this error they were
doubtless damned, for Christ's body is present only in
the eucharist, though that sacrament may be performed in
more than one place simultaneously. In recent times
ubiquity has not always been understood not even
by Sir Boyle Roche, for example, who held that a man
cannot be in two places at once unless he is a bird.
- n. A gift of the gods to certain women, entailing
virtue without humility.
- n. In diplomacy, a last demand before resorting to
Having received an ultimatum from Austria, the Turkish Ministry
met to consider it.
"O servant of the Prophet," said the Sheik of the Imperial
Chibouk to the Mamoosh of the Invincible Army, "how many
unconquerable soldiers have we in arms?"
"Upholder of the Faith," that dignitary replied after examining
his memoranda, "they are in numbers as the leaves of the forest!"
"And how many impenetrable battleships strike terror to the
hearts of all Christian swine?" he asked the Imaum of the Ever
"Uncle of the Full Moon," was the reply, "deign to know that they
are as the waves of the ocean, the sands of the desert and the stars
For eight hours the broad brow of the Sheik of the Imperial
Chibouk was corrugated with evidences of deep thought: he was
calculating the chances of war. Then, "Sons of angels," he said, "the
die is cast! I shall suggest to the Ulema of the Imperial Ear that he
advise inaction. In the name of Allah, the council is adjourned."
- adj. Wicked, intolerable, heathenish.
- n. An oiling, or greasing. The rite of extreme
unction consists in touching with oil consecrated by a
bishop several parts of the body of one engaged in dying.
Marbury relates that after the rite had been administered
to a certain wicked English nobleman it was discovered
that the oil had not been properly consecrated and no
other could be obtained. When informed of this the sick
man said in anger: "Then I'll be damned if I
"My son," said the priest, "that is what we fear."
- n. A cerebral secretion that enables one having it
to know a house from a horse by the roof on the house.
Its nature and laws have been exhaustively expounded by
Locke, who rode a house, and Kant, who lived in a horse.
His understanding was so keen
That all things which he'd felt, heard, seen,
He could interpret without fail
If he was in or out of jail.
He wrote at Inspiration's call
Deep disquisitions on them all,
Then, pent at last in an asylum,
Performed the service to compile 'em.
So great a writer, all men swore,
They never had not read before.
- n. One who denies the divinity of a Trinitarian.
- n. One who foregoes the advantage of a Hell for
persons of another faith.
- n. The kind of civility that urban observers
ascribe to dwellers in all cities but New York. Its
commonest expression is heard in the words, "I beg
your pardon," and it is not consistent with
disregard of the rights of others.
The owner of a powder mill
Was musing on a distant hill
Something his mind foreboded
When from the cloudless sky there fell
A deviled human kidney! Well,
The mans mill had exploded.
His hat he lifted from his head;
"I beg your pardon, sir," he said;
"I didnt know twas loaded."
- n. The First Person of the literary Trinity, the
Second and Third being Custom and Conventionality. Imbued
with a decent reverence for this Holy Triad an
industrious writer may hope to produce books that will
live as long as the fashion.
- n. A perverted affection that has strayed to
ones own wife.
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