Literary Blunders by Henry B. Wheatley

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A bit of latin, greek, french, and olde englishe need spellchecked. this whole etext NEEDS spellchecked too!! Index needs checked! There is a on “pages” 110-111 that have LOTS of non-ascii characters. Many have the correct encode, but layout needs work!!!

Scanned by Charles Keller with
OmniPage Professional OCR software
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_EVERY reader of_ The Caxtons
_will remember the description,
in that charming novel,
of the gradual growth of Augustine
Caxton’s great work “The History
of Human Error,” and how, in fact, the existence of that work forms the
pivot round which the incidents turn. It was modestly expected to extend to
five quarto volumes, but only the first seven sheets were printed by Uncle
Jack’s Anti-Publishers’ Society, “with sundry unfinished plates depicting the
various developments of the human
skull (that temple of Human Error),”

and the remainder has not been heard of since.

In introducing to the reader a small
branch of this inexhaustible subject, I have ventured to make use of Augustine
Caxton’s title; but I trust that
no one will allow himself to imagine that I intend, in the future, to produce the thousand or so volumes which will
be required to complete the work.

A satirical friend who has seen the
proofs of this little volume says it should be entitled “Jokes Old and New”; but I find that he seldom acknowledges
that a joke is new, and I hope, therefore, my readers will transpose the
adjectives, and accept the old jokes for the sake of the new ones. I may claim,
at least, that the series of answers to examination questions, which Prof.
Oliver Lodge has so kindly supplied me with, comes within the later class.

I trust that if some parts of the
book are thought to be frivolous, the chapters on lists of errata and misprints may be found to contain some
useful literary information.

I have availed myself of the published communications of my friends
Professors Hales and Skeat and Dr.
Murray on Literary Blunders, and
my best thanks are also due to several friends who have helped me with some
curious instances, and I would specially mention Sir George Birdwood,
K.C.I.E., C.SI.., Mr. Edward Clodd, Mr. R. B. Prosser, and Sir Henry
Trueman Wood_.




Distinction between a blunder and a mistake– Long life of a literary blunder
–Professor Skeat’s “ghost words”– Dr. Murray’s “ghost words”–Marriage
Service–Absurd etymology–
Imaginary persons–Family pride–
Fortunate blunders–Misquotations– Bulls from Ireland and elsewhere . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1



Goldsmith–French memoir writers–
Historians–Napier’s bones–Mr. Gladstone– Lord Macaulay–Newspaper
writers–Critics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31



“Translators are traitors”–Amusing translations–Translations of names–
Cinderella–“Oh that mine adversary had written a book”–Perversions of the
true meaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47



Watt’s _Bibliotheca Britannica_–Imaginary authors–Faulty classification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63



Early use of errata–Intentional blunders– Authors correct their books–Ineffectual attempts to be immaculate–Misprints
never corrected. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78



Misprints not always amusing–A
Dictionary of Misprints–Blades’s
_Shakspere and Typography_–Upper and lower cases–Stops–Byron–Wicked
Bible–Malherbe–_Coquilles_–Hood’s lines–Chaucer–Misplacement of type . . . . . . . . . . . . .100



Cleverness of these blunders–
Etymological guesses–_English as she is Taught_–Scriptural confusions–
Musical blunders–History and geography– How to question–Professor
Oliver Lodge’s specimens of answers to examination papers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .157



Exhibition English–French Work on the Societies of the World–Hotel keepers’
English–Barcelona Exhibition–Paris Exhibition of 1889–How to learn English– Foreign Guides in so called English
–Addition to God save the King–
Shenstone. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .188

INDEX. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .215




THE words “blunder” and “mistake” are often treated as
synonyms; thus we usually
call our own blunders mistakes, and our friends style our mistakes blunders. In truth the class of blunders is a sub- division of the _genus_ mistakes. Many
mistakes are very serious in their
consequences, but there is almost always some sense of fun connected with a blunder,
which is a mistake usually caused by some mental confusion. Lexicographers state
that it is an error due to stupidity and carelessness, but blunders are often caused

by a too great sharpness and quickness. Sometimes a blunder is no mistake at all, as when a man blunders on the right
explanation; thus he arrives at the right goal, but by an unorthodox road. Sir Roger
L’Estrange says that “it is one thing to forget a matter of fact, and another to
_blunder_ upon the reason of it.”

Some years ago there was an article in the _Saturday Review_ on “the knowledge necessary to make a blunder,” and this
title gives the clue to what a blunder really is. It is caused by a confusion of two
or more things, and unless something is known of these things a blunder cannot
be made. A perfectly ignorant man has not sufficient knowledge to make a blunder.

An ordinary blunder may die, and do
no great harm, but a literary blunder often has an extraordinary life. Of literary
blunders probably the philological are the most persistent and the most difficult to kill. In this class may be mentioned (1) Ghost words, as they are called by Professor Skeat–words, that is, which have been
registered, but which never really existed; (2) Real words that exist through a mis

and (3) Absurd etymologies, a large division crammed with delicious blunders.

1. Professor Skeat, in his presidential address to the members of the Philological Society in 1886, gave a most interesting account of some hundred ghost words, or
words which have no real existence. Those who wish to follow out this subject must refer to the _Philological Transactions_, but four specially curious instances may be
mentioned here. These four words are “abacot,” “knise,” “morse,” and “polien.” _Abacot_ is defined by Webster as “the cap of state formerly used by English kings, wrought into the figure of two crowns”; but Dr. Murray, when he was preparing
the _New English Dictionary_, discovered that this was an interloper, and unworthy of a place in the language. It was found to be a mistake for _by-cocket_, which is the correct word. In spite of this exposure
of the impostor, the word was allowed to stand, with a woodcut of an abacot,
in an important dictionary published subsequently, although Dr. Murray’s
remarks were quoted. This shows how difficult it is to kill a word which has

once found shelter in our dictionaries. _Knise_ is a charming word which first
appeared in a number of the _Edinburgh Review_ in 1808. Fortunately for the fun of the thing, the word occurred in an
article on Indian Missions, by Sydney Smith. We read, “The Hindoos have
some very strange customs, which it would be desirable to abolish. Some swing on
hooks, some run _knises_ through their hands, and widows burn themselves to
death.” The reviewer was attacked for his statement by Mr. John Styles, and he replied in an article on Methodism printed in the _Edinburgh_ in the following year. Sydney Smith wrote: “Mr. Styles is
peculiarly severe upon us for not being more shocked at their piercing their limbs with _knises_ . . . it is for us to explain the plan and nature of this terrible and unknown
piece of mechanism. A _knise_, then, is neither more nor less than a false print in the _Edinburgh Review_ for a knife; and
from this blunder of the printer has Mr. Styles manufactured this Ddalean instrument
of torture called a _knise_.” A similar instance occurs in a misprint of a passage

of one of Scott’s novels, but here there is the further amusing circumstance that the etymology of the false word was settled to the satisfaction of some of the readers. In the majority of editions of _The Monastery_, chapter x., we read: “Hardened wretch
(said Father Eustace), art thou but this instant delivered from death, and dost thou so soon morse thoughts of slaughter?”
This word is nothing but a misprint of _nurse_; but in _Notes and Queries_ two
independent correspondents accounted for the word _morse_ etymologically. One explained it as “to prime,” as when one primes a musket, from O. Fr. _amorce_, powder for the touchhole (Cotgrave), and the other by “to bite” (Lat. _mordere_), hence “to indulge in biting, stinging or gnawing thoughts of slaughter.” The latter writes: “That the word as a misprint should have been
printed and read by millions for fifty years without being challenged and altered exceeds the bounds of probability.” Yet when the original MS. of Sir Walter Scott was consulted, it was found that the word was there plainly written _nurse_.

The Saxon letter for _th_ () has long

been a sore puzzle to the uninitiated, and it came to be represented by the letter y. Most of those who think they are writing in a specially archaic manner when they
spell “ye” for “the” are ignorant of this, and pronounce the article as if it were the pronoun. Dr. Skeat quotes a curious instance of the misreading of the thorn ()
as _p_, by which a strange ghost word is evolved. Whitaker, in his edition of Piers Plowman, reads that Christ “_polede_ for man,” which should be _tholede_, from
_tholien_, to suffer, as there is no such verb as _polien_.

Dr. J. A. H. Murray, the learned editor of the Philological Society’s _New English Dictionary_, quotes two amusing instances of ghost words in a communication to
_Notes and Queries_ (7th S., vii. 305). He says: “Possessors of Jamieson’s Scottish Dictionary will do well to strike out the fictitious entry _cietezour_, cited from Bellenden’s _Chronicle_ in the plural _cietezouris_, which is merely a misreading of cietezanis (_i.e_. with Scottish z = = y), _cieteyanis_ or
citeyanis, Bellenden’s regular word for _citizens_. One regrets to see this absurd

mistake copied from Jamieson (unfortunately without acknowledgment) by the
compilers of Cassell’s _Encyclopdic Dictionary_.”

“Some editions of Drayton’s _Barons
Wars_, Bk. VI., st. xxxvii., read–

“ `And ciffy Cynthus with a thousand birds,’

which nonsense is solemnly reproduced in Campbell’s _Specimens of the British Poets_, iii. 16. It may save some readers a needless reference to the dictionary to remember
that it is a misprint for cliffy, a favourite word of Drayton’s.”

2. In contrast to supposed words that never did exist, are real words that exist through a mistake, such as _apron_ and _adder_, where the _n_, which really belongs to the word itself, has been supposed, mistakenly, to belong to the article; thus apron should be napron (Fr. _naperon_), and adder should be nadder (A.-S. _nddre_). An amusing
confusion has arisen in respect to the Ridings of Yorkshire, of which there are three. The word should be _triding_, but the _t_ has got lost in the adjective, as West Triding became West Riding. The origin of

the word has thus been quite lost sight of, and at the first organisation of the Province of Upper Canada, in 1798, the county of
Lincoln was divided into _four_ ridings and the county of York into _two_. York was
afterwards supplied with _four_.

Sir Henry Bennet, in the reign of
Charles II., took his title of Earl of Arlington owing to a blunder. The proper name of the village in Middlesex is

A curious misunderstanding in the
Marriage Service has given us two words instead of one. We now vow to remain
united till death us _do part_, but the original declaration, as given in the first Prayer Book of Edward VI., was: “I, N., take thee N., to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for
better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to
cherish, till death us depart [or separate].”

It is not worth while here to register the many words which have taken their present spelling through a mistaken view of their etymology. They are too numerous, and
the consideration of them would open up a

question quite distinct from the one now under consideration.

3. Absurd etymology was once the rule, because guessing without any knowledge
of the historical forms of words was general; and still, in spite of the modern school of philology, which has shown us
the right way, much wild guessing continues to be prevalent. It is not, however,
often that we can point to such a brilliant instance of blundering etymology as that to be found in Barlow’s English Dictionary (1772). The word _porcelain_ is there
said to be “derived from _pour cent annes_, French for a hundred years, it having been imagined that the materials were matured underground for that term of years.”

Richardson, the novelist, suggests an etymology almost equal to this. He
writes, “What does correspondence mean? It is a word of Latin origin: a compound word; and the two elements here brought
together are _respondeo_, I answer, and _cor_, the heart: _i.e_., I answer feelingly, I reply not so much to the head as to the heart.”

Dr. Ash’s English Dictionary, published in 1775, is an exceedingly useful work, as

containing many words and forms of words nowhere else registered, but it contains some curious mistakes. The chief and
best-known one is the explanation of the word _curmudgeon_–“from the French
cur, unknown, and _mechant_, a correspondent.” The only explanation of this
absurdly confused etymology is that an ignorant man was employed to copy from
Johnson’s Dictionary, where the authority was given as “an unknown correspondent,” and he, supposing these words to be a
translation of the French, set them down as such. The two words _esoteric_ and
_exoteric_ were not so frequently used in the last century as they are now; so perhaps there may be some excuse for the following entry: “Esoteric (adj. an incorrect
spelling) exoteric.” Dr. Ash could not have been well read in Arthurian literature, or he would not have turned the noble
knight Sir Gawaine into a woman, “the sister of King Arthur.” There is a story of a blunder in Littleton’s Latin Dictionary, which further research has proved to be
no mistake at all. It is said that when the Doctor was compiling his work, and

announced the word _concurro_ to his amanuensis, the scribe, imagining from the sound that the six first letters would give the translation of the verb, said “Concur, sir, I suppose?” to which the Doctor
peevishly replied, “Concur–condog!” and in the edition of 1678 “condog” is printed as one interpretation of _concurro_. Now, an answer to this story is that, however odd a word “condog” may appear,
it will be found in Henry Cockeram’s _English Dictionarie_, first published in 1623. The entry is as follows: “to agree, concurre, cohere, condog, condiscend.”

Mistakes are frequently made in respect of foreign words which retain their original form, especially those which retain their Latin plurals, the feminine singular being often confused with the neuter plural. For instance, there is the word _animalcule_ (plural _animalcules_), also written _animalculum _(plural _animalcula_). Now, the
plural _animalcula_ is often supposed to be the feminine singular, and a new plural is at once made–_animalcul_. This blunder
is one constantly being made, while it is only occasionally we see a supposed plural

_strat_ in geology from a supposed singular strata, and the supposed singular _formulum_ from a supposed plural _formula_ will probably turn up some day.

In connection with popular etymology, it seems proper to make a passing mention of the sailors’ perversion of the Bellerophon into the Billy Ruffian, the Hirondelle
into the Iron Devil, and La Bonne
Corvette into the Bonny Cravat. Some of the supposed changes in public-house
signs, such as Bull and Mouth from
“Boulogne mouth,” and Goat and Compasses from “God encompasseth us,” are
more than doubtful; but the Bacchanals has certainly changed into the Bag o’ nails, and the George Canning into the George
and Cannon. The words in the language that have been formed from a false analogy are so numerous and have so often been
noted that we must not allow them to detain us here longer.

Imaginary persons have been brought
into being owing to blundering misreading. For instance, there are many saints
in the Roman calendar whose individuality it would not be easy to prove. All

know how St. Veronica came into being, and equally well known is the origin of
St. Ursula and her eleven thousand virgins. In this case, through the misreading of
her name, the unfortunate virgin martyr Undecimilla has dropped out of the

Less known is the origin of Saint Xynoris, the martyr of Antioch, who is noticed in the _Martyrologie Romaine_ of Baronius. Her name was obtained by a misreading
of Chrysostom, who, referring to two martyrs, uses the word s> (couple or

In the City of London there is a church dedicated to St. Vedast, which is situated in Foster Lane, and is often described as St. Vedast, _alias_ Foster. This has puzzled many, and James Paterson, in his _Pietas Londinensis_ (1714), hazarded the opinion that the church was dedicated to “two
conjunct saints.” He writes: “At the first it was called St. Foster’s in memory of some founder or ancient benefactor,
but afterwards it was dedicated to St. Vedast, Bishop of Arras.” Newcourt
makes a similar mistake in his

torium_, but Thomas Fuller knew the truth, and in his _Church History_ refers to “St. Vedastus, _anglice_ St. Fosters.” This is the fact, and the name St. Fauster or Foster is nothing more than a corruption of St. Vedast, all the steps of which we now know. My friend Mr. Danby P. Fry
worked this out some years ago, but his difficulty rested with the second syllable of the name Foster; but the links in the chain of evidence have been completed
by reference to Mr. H. C. Maxwell Lyte’s valuable Report on the Manuscripts of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s. The
first stage in the corruption took place in France, and the name must have been
introduced into this country as Vast. This loss of the middle consonant is in
accordance with the constant practice in early French of dropping out the consonant preceding an accented vowel, as
_reine_ from _regina_. The change of _Augustine_ to _Austin_ is an analogous
instance. _Vast_ would here be pronounced _Vaust_, in the same way as the word _vase_ is still sometimes pronounced _vause_. The interchange of _v_ and _f_, as in the cases of

_Vane_ and _Fane_ and _fox_ and _vixen_, is too common to need more than a passing
notice. We have now arrived at the form St. Faust, and the evidence of the old
deeds of St. Paul’s explains the rest, showing us that the second syllable has grown out of the possessive case. In one of
8 Edward III. we read of the “King’s highway, called Seint Fastes lane.” Of
course this was pronounced St. _Fausts_,
and we at once have the two syllables. The next form is in a deed of May 1360,
where it stands as “Seyn Fastreslane.” We have here, not a final _r_ as in the latest form, but merely an intrusive trill. This follows the rule by which thesaurus became _treasure, Hebudas, Hebrides_, and _culpatus, culprit_. After the great Fire of London, the church was re-named St. Vedast (_alias_ Foster)–a form of the name which it
had never borne before, except in Latin deeds as Vedastus.[1] More might be said

of the corruptions of names in the cases of other saints, but these corruptions are more the cause of blunders in others than blunders in themselves. It is not often
that a new saint is evolved with such an English name as Foster.

[1] See an article by the Author in _The Athenum_,
January 3rd, 1885, p. 15; and a paper by the Rev. W. Sparrow Simpson in the _Jourral of the British Archological Association_ (vol. xliii.,
p. 56).

The existence of the famous St. Vitus has been doubted, and his dance (_Chorea Sancti Vit_) is supposed to have been
originally _chorea invita_. But the strangest of saints was S. Viar, who is thus accounted for by D’Israeli in his _Curiosities of

“Mabillon has preserved a curious
literary blunder of some pious Spaniards who applied to the Pope for consecrating a day in honour of Saint Viar. His Holiness in the voluminous catalogue of his saints was ignorant of this one. The only proof brought forward for his existence was this inscription:–


An antiquary, however, hindered one more festival in the Catholic calendar by
convincing them that these letters were only the remains of an inscription erected for

an ancient surveyor of the roads; and he read their saintship thus:–


Foreign travellers in England have
usually made sad havoc of the names of places. Hentzner spelt Gray’s Inn and
Lincoln’s Inn phonetically as Grezin and Linconsin, and so puzzled his editor that he supposed these to be the names of two
giants. A similar mistake to this was that of the man who boasted that “not all the British House of Commons, not the whole
bench of Bishops, not even Leviticus himself, should prevent him from marrying his
deceased wife’s sister.” One of the jokes in Mark Twain’s _Huckleberry Finn_
(ch. xxiii.) turns on the use of this same expression “Leviticus himself.”

The picturesque writer who draws a
well-filled-in picture from insufficient data is peculiarly liable to fall into blunders, and when he does fall it is not surprising that less imaginative writers should
chuckle over his fall. A few years ago an American editor is said to have received the telegram “Oxford Music Hall

burned to the ground.” There was not much information here, and he was ignorant of the fact that this building was in
London and in Oxford Street, but he was equal to the occasion. He elaborated a
remarkable account of the destruction by fire of the principal music hall of
academic Oxford. He told how it was situated in the midst of historic colleges which had miraculously escaped destruction by the flames. These flames, fanned
into a fury by a favourable wind, lit up the academic spires and groves as they
ran along the rich cornices, lapped the gorgeous pillars, shrivelled up the roof and grasped the mighty walls of the
ancient building in their destructive embraces.

In 1882 an announcement was made
in a weekly paper that some prehistoric remains had been found near the Church
of San Francisco, Florence. The note was reproduced in an evening paper and
in an antiquarian monthly with words in both cases implying that the locality of the find was San Francisco, California. It is a common mistake of those who

have heard of Grolier bindings to suppose that the eminent book collector was a
binder; but this is nothing to that of the workman who told the writer of this that he had found out the secret of making
the famous Henri II. or Oiron ware. “In fact,” he added, “I could make it as well as Henry Deux himself.” The idea of the king of France working in the potteries
is exceedingly fine.

Family pride is sometimes the cause
of exceedingly foolish blunders. The following amusing passage in Anderson’s
_Genealogical History of the House of Yvery_ (1742) illustrates a form of pride ridiculed by Lord Chesterfield when he set up on
his walls the portraits of Adam de Stanhope and Eve de Stanhope. The having a
stutterer in the family will appear to most readers to be a strange cause of pride. The author writes: “It was usual in ancient times with the greatest families, and is by all genealogists allowed to be a mighty
evidence of dignity, to use certain nicknames which the French call sobriquets . . .
such as `the Lame’ or `the Black.’. . . The house of Yvery, not deficient in any

mark or proof of greatness and antiquity, abounds at different periods in instances of this nature. Roger, a younger son of
William Youel de Perceval, was surnamed Balbus or the Stutterer.”

Sometimes a blunder has turned out
fortunate in its consequences; and a striking instance of this is recorded in the history of Prussia. Frederic I. charged
his ambassador Bartholdi with the mission of procuring from the Emperor of Germany an acknowledgment of the regal
dignity which he had just assumed. It is said that instructions written in cypher were sent to him, with particular directions that he should not apply on this subject to Father Wolff, the Emperor’s confessor. The person who copied these instructions, however, happened to omit the word _not_ in the copy in cypher. Bartholdi was
surprised at the order, but obeyed it and made the matter known to Wolff; who,
in the greatest astonishment, declared that although he had always been hostile to
the measure, he could not resist this proof of the Elector’s confidence, which had made a deep impression upon him.

It was thought that the mediation of the confessor had much to do with the
accomplishment of the Elector’s wishes.

Misquotations form a branch of literary blunders which may be mentioned here.

The text “He may run that readeth
it” (Hab. ii. 2) is almost invariably quoted as “He who runs may read”;
and the Divine condemnation “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread’
(Gen. iii. 19) is usually quoted as “sweat of thy brow.”

The manner in which Dr. Johnson
selected the quotations for his Dictionary is well known, and as a general rule
these are tolerably accurate; but under the thirteenth heading of the verb to
sit will be found a curious perversion of a text of Scripture. There we read,
“Asses are ye that sit in judgement– _Judges_,” but of course there is no such passage in the Bible. The correct reading of the tenth verse of the fifth chapter is: “Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the

From misquotations it is an easy step

to pass to mispronunciations. These are mostly too common to be amusing, but
sometimes the blunderers manage to hit upon something which is rather comic.
Thus an ignorant reader coming upon a reference to an angle of forty-five degrees was puzzled, and astonished his hearers
by giving it out as _angel_ of forty-five degrees. This blunderer, however, was
outdone by the speaker who described a distinguished personage “as a very
indefatgable young man,” adding, “but even he must succmb” (suck ‘um) at last.

As has already been said, blunders are often made by those who are what we
usually call “too clever by half.” Surely it was a blunder to change the time-
honoured name of King’s Bench to
Queen’s Bench. A queen is a female
king, and she reigns as a king; the absurdity of the change of sex in the
description is more clearly seen when we find in a Prayer-book published soon
after the Queen’s accession Her Majesty described as “our Queen and _Governess_.”

Editors of classical authors are often laughed at for their emendations, but

sometimes unjustly. When we consider the crop of blunders that have gathered
about the texts of celebrated books, we shall be grateful for the labours of brilliant scholars who have cleared these away
and made obscure passages intelligible.

One of the most remarkable emendations ever made by an editor is that of
Theobald in Mrs. Quickly’s description of Falstaff’s deathbed (_King Henry V_., act ii., sc. 4). The original is unintelligible:
“his nose was as sharp as a pen and a table of greene fields.” A friend suggested that it should read “ ‘a talked,” and
Theobald then suggested “ ‘a babbled,” a reading which has found its way into all texts,
and is never likely to be ousted from its place. Collier’s MS. corrector turned the sentence into “as a pen on a table of
green frieze.” Very few who quote this passage from Shakespeare have any notion of how much they owe to Theobald.

Sometimes blunders are intentionally
made–malapropisms which are understood by the speaker’s intimates, but often
astonish strangers–such as the expressions “the sinecure of every eye,” “as white

as the drivelling snow.”[2] Of intentional mistakes, the best known are those which have been called cross readings, in which the reader is supposed to read across the page instead of down the column of a
newspaper, with such results as the following:–

[2] See _Spectator_, December 24th, 1887, for specimens of family lingo.

“A new Bank was lately opened at
Northampton– no money returned.”

“The Speaker’s public dinners will
commence next week–admittance, 3/- to see the animals fed.”

As blunders are a class of mistakes, so “bulls” are a sub-class of blunders. No satisfactory explanation of the word has been given, although it appears to be
intimately connected with the word
blunder. Equally the thing itself has not been very accurately defined.

The author of _A New Booke of Mistakes_, 1637, which treats of “Quips,
Taunts, Retorts, Flowts, Frumps, Mockes, Gibes, Jestes, etc.,” says in his address to the Reader, “There are moreover other
simple mistakes in speech which pass

under the name of Bulls, but if any man shall demand of mee why they be so
called, I must put them off with this woman’s reason, they are so because they bee so.” All the author can affirm is
that they have no connection with the inns and playhouses of his time styled
the Black Bulls and the Red Bulls. Coleridge’s definition is the best: “A
bull consists in a mental juxtaposition of incongruous ideas with the sensation but without the sense of connection.”[3]

[3] Southey’s _Omniana_, vol. i., p. 220.

Bulls are usually associated with the Irish, but most other nations are quite
capable of making them, and Swift is said to have intended to write an essay on
English bulls and blunders. Sir Thomas Trevor, a Baron of the Exchequer 1625-49, when presiding at the Bury Assizes, had a cause about wintering of cattle before him. He thought the charge immoderate, and
said, “Why, friend, this is most unreasonable; I wonder thou art not ashamed, for
I myself have known a beast wintered one whole summer for a noble.” The man at

once, with ready wit, cried, “That was a _bull_, my lord.” Whereat the company
was highly amused.[4]

[4] Thoms, _Anecdotes and Traditions_, 1839, p 79

One of the best-known bulls is that
inscribed on the obelisk near Fort William in the Highlands of Scotland. In this
inscription a very clumsy attempt is made to distinguish between natural tracks and made roads:–

“Had you seen these roads before they were made, You would lift up your hands and bless General Wade.”

The bulletins of Pope Clement XIV.’s
last illness, which were announced at the Vatican, culminated in a very fair bull. The notices commenced with “His Holiness is very ill,” and ended with “His
Infallibility is delirious.”

Negro bulls have frequently been
reported, but the health once proposed by a worthy black is perhaps as good an
instance as could be cited. He pledged “De Gobernor ob our State! He come

in wid much opposition; he go out wid none at all.”

Still, in spite of the fact that all nations fall into these blunders, and that, as it has been said of some, _Hibernicis ipsis Hibernior_, it is to Ireland that we look for the finest examples of bulls, and we do not usually look in vain.

It is in a Belfast paper that may be
read the account of a murder, the result of which is described thus: “They fired two shots at him; the first shot killed
him, but the second was not fatal.” Connoisseurs in bulls will probably say that this is only a blunder. Perhaps the
following will please them better: “A man was run down by a passenger train and
killed; he was injured in a similar way a year ago.”

Here are three good bulls, which fulfil all the conditions we expect in this branch of wit. We know what the writer means,
although he does not exactly say it. This passage is from the report of an Irish
Benevolent Society: “Notwithstanding the large amount paid for medicine and
medical attendance, very few deaths

occurred during the year.” A country editor’s correspondent wrote: “Will you please to insert this obituary notice? I make bold to ask it, because I know the
deceased had a great many friends who would be glad to hear of his death.” The third is quoted in the _Greville Memoirs_: “He abjured the errors of the Romish
Church, and embraced those of the

It is said that the Irish Statute Book opens characteristically with, “An Act
that the King’s officers may travel _by sea_ from one place to another within the _land_ of Ireland”; but one of the main objects of the _Essay on Irish Bulls_, by Maria
Edgeworth and her father, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, was to show that the title of their work was incorrect. They find the
original of Paddy Blake’s echo in Bacon’s works: “I remember well that when I
went to the echo at Port Charenton, there was an old Parisian that took it to be the work of spirits, and of good spirits; `for,’ said he, `call Satan, and the echo will not deliver back the devil’s name, but will
say, “Va-t’en.” ‘ ” Mr. Hill Burton found

the original of Sir Boyle Roche’s bull of the bird which was in two places at once in a letter of a Scotsman–Robertson of
Rowan. Steele said that all was the effect of climate, and that, if an Englishman were born in Ireland, he would make as many
bulls. Mistakes of an equally absurd character may be found in English Acts
of Parliament, such as this: “The new gaol to be built from the materials of
the old one, and the prisoners to remain in the latter till the former is ready”; or the disposition of the prisoner’s punishment of transportation for seven years–
“half to go to the king, and the other half to the informer.” Peter Harrison, an
annotator on the Pentateuch, observed of Moses’ two _tables of stone_ that they were made of _shittim wood_. This is not unlike the title said to have been used for a useful little work–“Every man his own Washer- woman.” Horace Walpole said that the
best of all bulls was that of the man who, complaining of his nurse, said, “I hate that woman, for she changed me at
nurse.” But surely this one quoted by Mr. Hill Burton is far superior to Horace

Walpole’s; in fact, one of the best ever conceived. Result of a duel–“The one
party received a slight wound in the breast; the other fired in the air–and
so the matter terminated.”

After this the description of the wrongs of Ireland has a somewhat artificial look: “Her cup of misery has been overflowing, and is not yet full.”



MACAULAY, in his life of
Goldsmith in the _Encyclopdia
Britannica_, relates that that
author, in the _History of England_, tells us that Naseby is in Yorkshire, and that the mistake was not corrected when the
book was reprinted. He further affirms that Goldsmith was nearly hoaxed into
putting into the _History of Greece_ an account of a battle between Alexander the Great and Montezuma. This, however,
is scarcely a fair charge, for the backs of most of us need to be broad enough to
bear the actual blunders we have made throughout life without having to bear
those which we almost made.

Goldsmith was a very remarkable
instance of a man who undertook to write books on subjects of which he knew

nothing. Thus, Johnson said that if he could tell a horse from a cow that was
the extent of his knowledge of zoology; and yet the _History of Animated Nature_ can still be read with pleasure from the charm of the author’s style.

Some authors are so careless in the
construction of their works as to contradict in one part what they have already stated in another. In the year 1828 an amusing
work was published on the clubs of
London, which contained a chapter on Fighting Fitzgerald, of whom the author
writes: “That Mr. Fitzgerald (unlike his countrymen generally) was totally devoid of generosity, no one who ever knew him
will doubt.” In another chapter on the same person the author flatly contradicts his own judgment: “In summing up the
catalogue of his vices, however, we ought not to shut our eyes upon his virtues; of the latter, he certainly possessed that one for which his countrymen have always
been so famous, generosity.” The scissors- and-paste compilers are peculiarly liable to such errors as these; and a writer in the _Quarterly Review_ proved the _Mmoires

de Louis XVIII_. (published in 1832) to be a mendacious compilation from the
_Mmoires de Bachaumont_ by giving examples of the compiler’s blundering. One
of these muddles is well worth quoting, and it occurs in the following passage: “Seven bishops–of _Puy_, Gallard de
Terraube; of _Langres_, La Luzerne; of _Rhodez_, Seignelay-Colbert; of _Gast_, Le Tria; of _Blois_, Laussiere Themines; of _Nancy_, Fontanges; of _Alais_, Beausset; of _Nevers_, Seguiran.” Had the compiler taken the trouble to count his own list, he would have seen that he had given
eight names instead of seven, and so have suspected that something was wrong; but
he was not paid to think. The fact is that there is no such place as Gast, and there was no such person as Le Tria. The Bishop of Rhodez was Seignelay-Colbert
de Castle Hill, a descendant of the Scotch family of Cuthbert of Castle Hill, in
Inverness-shire; and Bachaumont misled his successor by writing Gast Le Hill for Castle Hill. The introduction of a stop
and a little more misspelling resulted in the blunder as we now find it.

Authors and editors are very apt to take things for granted, and they thus fall into errors which might have been escaped if
they had made inquiries. Pope, in a note on _Measure for Measure_, informs us that the story was taken from Cinthio’s novel _Dec_. 8 _Nov_. 5, thus contracting the words decade and novel. Warburton, in his edition of
Shakespeare, was misled by these contractions, and fills them up as December 8
and November 5. Many blunders are
merely clerical errors of the authors, who are led into them by a curious association of ideas; thus, in the _Lives of the
Londonderrys_, Sir Archibald Alison, when describing the funeral of the Duke of
Wellington in St. Paul’s, speaks of one of the pall-bearers as Sir Peregrine Pickle, instead of Sir Peregrine Maitland. Dickens, in _Bleak House_, calls Harold Skimpole
Leonard throughout an entire number, but returns to the old name in a subsequent one.

Few authors require to be more on their guard against mistakes than historians,
especially as they are peculiarly liable to fall into them. What shall we think of

the authority of a school book when we find the statement that Louis Napoleon
was Consul in 1853 before he became Emperor of the French?

We must now pass from a book of small value to an important work on the history of England; but it will be necessary first to make a few explanatory remarks. Our
readers know that English kings for several centuries claimed the power of curing
scrofula, or king’s evil; but they may not be so well acquainted with the fact that the French sovereigns were believed to enjoy the same miraculous power. Such, however, was the case; and tradition reported
that a phial filled with holy oil was sent down from heaven to be used for the
anointing of the kings at their coronation. We can illustrate this by an anecdote of Napoleon. Lafayette and the first Consul had a conversation one day on the government of the United States. Bonaparte
did not agree with Lafayette’s views, and the latter told him that “he was desirous of having the little phial broke over his head.” This _sainte ampulle_, or holy
vessel, was an important object in the

ceremony, and the virtue of the oil was to confer the power of cure upon the anointed king. This the historian could not have
known, or he would not have written: “The French were confident in themselves, in their fortunes; in the special
gifts by which they held the stars.” If this were all the information that was
given us, we should be left in a perfect state of bewilderment while trying to
understand how the French could hold the stars, or, if they were able to hold them, what good it would do them; but
the historian adds a note which, although it contains some new blunders, gives the clue to an explanation of an otherwise
inexplicable passage. It is as follows: “The Cardinal of Lorraine showed Sir
William Pickering the precious ointment of St. Ampull, wherewith the King of
France was sacred, which he said was sent from heaven above a thousand years ago,
and since by miracle preserved, through whose virtue also the king held _les
estroilles_.” From this we might imagine that the holy Ampulla was a person; but
the clue to the whole confusion is to be

found in the last word of the sentence. As the French language does not contain
any such word as _estroilles_, there can be no doubt that it stands for old French
_escroilles_, or the king’s evil. The change of a few letters has here made the mighty difference between the power of curing
scrofula and the gift of holding the stars.

In some copies of John Britton’s
_Descriptive Sketches of Tunbridge Wells_ (1832) the following extraordinary passage will be found: “Judge Jefferies, a man
who has rendered his name infamous in the annals of history by the cruelty and injustice he manifested in presiding at the trial of King Charles I.” The book was
no sooner issued than the author became aware of his astonishing chronological
blunder, and he did all in his power to set the matter right; but a mistake in print can never be entirely obliterated. However much trouble may be taken to suppress
a book, some copies will be sure to escape, and, becoming valuable by the
attempted suppression, attract all the more attention.

Scott makes David Ramsay, in the

_Fortunes of Nigel_ (chapter ii.), swear “by the bones of the immortal Napier.” It
would perhaps be rank heresy to suppose that Sir Walter did not know that
“Napier’s bones” were an apparatus for purposes of calculation, but he certainly puts the expression in such an ambiguous form that many of his readers are likely to suppose that the actual bones of
Napier’s body were intended.

Some of the most curious of blunders
are those made by learned men who without thought set down something which at
another time they would recognise as a mistake. The following passage from
Mr. Gladstone’s _Gleanings of Past Years_ (vol. i., p. 26), in which the author confuses Daniel with Shadrach, Meshech, and
Abednego, has been pointed out: “The fierce light that beats upon a throne is sometimes like the heat of that furnace in which only Daniel could walk unscathed,
too fierce for those whose place it is to stand in its vicinity.” Who would expect to find Macaulay blundering on a subject he knew so well as the story of the
_Faerie Queene_! and yet this is what he

wrote in a review of Southey’s edition of the _Pilgrim’s Progress_: “Nay, even Spenser himself, though assuredly one of the greatest poets that ever lived, could not succeed in the attempt to make allegory interesting. . . . One unpardonable
fault, the fault of tediousness, pervades the whole of the _Fairy Queen_. We become sick of Cardinal Virtues and Deadly
Sins, and long for the society of plain men and women. Of the persons who read
the first Canto, not one in ten reaches the end of the first book, and not one in a
hundred perseveres to the end of the poem. Very few and very weary are
those who are in at the death of the Blatant Beast.”[5] Macaulay knew well
enough that the Blatant Beast did not die in the poem as Spenser left it.

[5] _Edinburgh Review_, vol. liv. (1831), p. 452.

The newspaper writers are great sinners, and what with the frequent ignorance and haste of the authors and the carelessness of the printers a complete farrago of
nonsense is sometimes concocted between them. A proper name is seldom given
correctly in a daily paper, and it is a

frequently heard remark that no notice of an event is published in which an error in the names or qualifications of the actors in it “is not detected by those acquainted with the circumstances.” The contributor of the following bit of information to the _Week’s News_ (Nov. 18th, 1871) must
have had a very vague notion of what a monosyllable is, or he would not have
written, “The author of _Dorothy, De Cressy_, etc., has another novel nearly
ready for the press, which, with the writer’s partiality for monosyllabic titles, is named _Thomasina_.” He is perhaps the same
person who remarked on the late Mr. Robertson’s fondness for monosyllables
as titles for his plays, and after instancing _Caste, Ours_, and _School_, ended his list with _Society_. We can, however, fly at higher game than this, for some twenty years ago a writer in the _Times_ fell into the mistake of describing the entrance of one of the German states into the Zollverein in terms that proved him to be labouring under
the misconception that the great Customs- Union was a new organisation. Another
source of error in the papers is the hurry

with which bits of news are printed before they have been authenticated. Each editor wishes to get the start of his
neighbour, and the consequence is that they are frequently deceived. In a number of
the _Literary Gazette_ for 1837 there is a paragraph headed “Sir Michael Faraday,” in which the great philosopher is
congratulated upon the title which had been conferred upon him. Another source of
blundering is the attempt to answer an opponent before his argument is thoroughly understood. A few years ago a
gentleman made d note in the _Notes and Queries_ to the effect that a certain custom was at least 1400 years old, and was probably introduced into England in the fifth
century. Soon afterwards another gentleman wrote to the same journal, “Assuredly
this custom was general before A.D. 1400”; but how he obtained that date out of the previous communication no one can tell.

The _Times_ made a strange blunder in describing a gallery of pictures: “Mr.
Robertson’s group of `Susannah and the Elders,’ with the name of Pordenone,
contains some passages of glowing colour

which must be set off against a good deal of clumsy drawing in the central figure of the chaste _maiden_.” As bad as this was the confusion in the mind of the critic of the New Gallery, who spoke of Mr Hall‘s
_Paolo and Francesca_ as that masterly study and production of the old Adam
phase of human nature which Milton
hit off so sublimely in the _Inferno_.

A writer in the _Notes and Queries_
confused Beersheba with Bathsheba, and conferred on the woman the name of the

It has often been remarked that a
thorough knowledge of the English Bible is an education of itself, and a
correspondence in the _Times_ in August 1888 shows the value of a knowledge of the
Liturgy of the Church of England. In a leading article occurred the passage, “We have no doubt whatever that Scotch
judges and juries will administer indifferent justice.” A correspondent in Glasgow,
who supposed _indifferent_ to mean _inferior_, wrote to complain at the insinuation
that a Scotch jury would not do its duty. The editor of the _Times_ had little

difficulty in answering this by referring to the prayer for the Church militant, where are the words, “Grant unto her [the
Queen’s] whole Council and to all that are put in authority under her, that they may truly and indifferently minister justice, to the punishment of wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of Thy true
religion, and virtue.”

The compiler of an Anthology made
the following remarks in his preface: “In making a selection of this kind one sails between Scylla and Charybdis–the hackneyed and the strange. I have done my
best to steer clear of both these rocks.” A leader-writer in a morning paper a
few months ago made the same blunder when he wrote: “As a matter of fact, Mr. Gladstone was bound to bump against
either Scylla or Charybdis.” It has generally been supposed that Scylla only was a rock.

A most extraordinary blunder was made in _Scientific American_ eight or ten years ago. An engraving of a handsome Chelsea
china vase was presented with the
following description: “In England no

regular hard porcelain is made, but a soft porcelain of great beauty is produced from kaolin, phosphate of lime,
and calcined silica. The principal works are situated at Chelsea. The export of
these English porcelains is considerable, and it is a curious fact that they are
largely imported into China, where they are highly esteemed. Our engraving
shows a richly ornamented vase in soft porcelain from the works at Chelsea.”
It could scarcely have been premised that any one would be so ignorant as
to suppose that Chelsea china was still manufactured, and this paragraph is a
good illustration of the evils of journalists writing on subjects about which they know nothing.

Critics who are supposed to be immaculate often blunder when sitting in judgment
on the sins of authors. They are
frequently puzzled by reprints, and led into error by the disinclination of publishers to give particulars in the preface as
to a book which was written many
years before its republication. A few years ago was issued a reprint of the

translation of the _Arabian Nights_, by Jonathan Scott, LL.D., which was first
published in 1811. A reviewer having the book before him overlooked this
important fact, and straightway proceeded to “slate” Dr. Scott for his supposed
work of supererogation in making a new translation when Lane’s held the field, the fact really being that Scott’s translation preceded Lane’s by nearly thirty years.

Another critic, having to review a
reprint of Galt’s _Lives of Players_, complained that Mr. Galt had not brought his book
down to the date of publication, being ignorant of the fact that John Galt died as long ago as 1839. The reviewer of
Lamb’s _Tales from Shakespeare_ committed the worst blunder of all when he wrote
that those persons who did not know their Shakespeare might read Mr.
Lamb’s paraphrase if they liked, but for his part he did not see the use of such
works. The man who had never heard
of Charles Lamb and his _Tales_ must have very much mistaken his vocation when he
set up as a literary critic.

These are all genuine cases, but the

story of Lord Campbell and his criticism of _Romeo and Juliet_ is almost too good to be true. It is said that when the future Lord Chancellor first came to London
he went to the editor of the _Morning Chronicle_ for some work. The editor
sent him to the theatre. “Plain John” Campbell had no idea he was witnessing
a play of Shakespeare, and he therefore set to work to sketch the plot of _Romeo and Juliet_, and to give the author a little wholesome advice. He recommended a
curtailment in parts so as to render it more suitable to the taste of a cultivated audience. We can quite understand that
if a story like this was once set into circulation it was not likely to be allowed to die by the many who were glad to have a
laugh at the rising barrister.



THE blunders of translators are so
common that they have been
made to point a moral in popular
proverbs. According to an Italian saying _translators are traitors_ (“I traduttori sono traditori”); and books are said to be _done_ into English, _traduced_ in French, and _overset_ in Dutch. Colton, the author of _Lacon_, mentions a half-starved German at Cambridge named Render, who had been long
enough in England to forget German, but not long enough to learn English. This
worthy, in spite of his deficiencies, was a voluminous translator of his native
literature, and it became a proverbial saying among his intimates respecting a bad
translation that it was _Rendered_ into English.

The Comte de Tressan translated the

words “capo basso” (low headland) in a passage from Ariosto by “Cap de Capo
Basso,” on account of which translation the wits insisted upon calling him “Comte de Capo Basso.”

Robert Hall mentions a comical stumble made by one of the translators of Plato, who construed through the Latin and not
direct from the Greek. In the Latin version _hirundo_ stood as _hirdo_, and the
translator, overlooking the mark of contraction, declared to the astonished world on the authority of Plato that the _horse- lecch_ instead of the swallow was the harbinger of spring. Hoole, the translator of
Tasso and Ariosto, was as confused in his natural history when he rendered “I
colubri Viscontei” or _Viscontian snakes_, the crest of the Visconti family, as “the Calabrian Viscounts.”

As strange as this is the Frenchman’s notion of the presence of guns in the
canons’ seats: “L’Archevque de Cantorbery
avait fait placer des _canons_ dans les stalles de la cathdrale.” He quite
overlooked the word _chanoines_, which he should have used. This use of a word

similarly spelt is a constant source of trouble to the translator: for instance, a French translator of Scott’s _Bride of Lammermuir_ left the first word of the
title untranslated, with the result that he made it the Bridle of Lammermuir, “La
Bride de Lammermuir.”

Thevenot in his travels refers to the fables of _Damn et Calilve_, meaning the
_Hitopodesa_, or Pilpay’s Fables. His translator calls them the fables of the damned Calilve. This is on a par with De
Quincey’s specimen of a French Abb‘s
Greek. Having to paraphrase the Greek words “” (Herodotus
even while Ionicizing), the Frenchman rendered them “Herodote et aussi Jazon,” thus creating a new author, one Jazon.
In the _Present State of Peru_, a compilation from the _Mercurio Peruano_, P. Geronymo Roman de la Higuera is transformed into
“Father Geronymo, a Romance of La

In Robertson’s _History of Scotland_ the following passage is quoted from Melville’s _Account of John Knox_: “He was so active and vigorous a preacher that he was like

to ding the pulpit into blads and fly out of it.” M. Campenon, the translator of
Robertson into French, turns this into the startling statement that he broke his pulpit and leaped into the midst of his auditors. A good companion to this curious “fact” may be found in the extraordinary trope
used by a translator of Busbequius, who says “his misfortunes had reduced him to the top of all miseries.”

We all know how Victor Hugo transformed the Frith of Forth into the First of
the Fourth, and then insisted that he was right; but this great novelist was in the habit of soaring far above the realm of
fact, and in a work he brought out as an offering to the memory of Shakespeare he showed that his imagination carried him
far away from historical facts. The author complains in this book that the muse of
history cares more for the rulers than for the ruled, and, telling only what is pleasant, ignores the truth when it is unpalatable to kings. After an outburst of bombast
he says that no history of England tells us that Charles II. murdered his brother the Duke of Gloucester. We should be sur

if any did do so, as that young man died of small-pox. Hugo, being totally
ignorant of English history, seems to have confused the son of Charles I. with an
earlier Duke of Gloucester (Richard III.), and turned the assassin into the victim. After these blunders Dr. Baly’s mention
of the cannibals of _Nova Scotia_ instead of _New Caledonia_ in his translation of Mller’s _Elements of Physiology_ seems tame.

One snare that translators are constantly falling into is the use of English words which are like the foreign ones, but
nevertheless are not equivalent terms, and translations that have taken their place in literature often suffer from this cause; thus Cicero’s _Offices_ should have been translated _Duties_, and Marmontel never intended to write what we understand by
_Moral Tales_, but rather tales of manners or of fashionable life. The translators of Calmet’s _Dictionary of the Bible_ render the French ancien, ancient, and write of “Mr. Huet, the ancient Bishop of Avranch.”
Theodore Parker, in translating a work by De Wette, makes the blunder of con

the German word _Wlsch_, a
foreigner (in the book an equivalent for Italian), into _Welsh_.

Some men translate works in order to
learn a language during the process, and they necessarily make blunders. It must
have been one of these ignoramuses who translated _tellurische magnetismus_
(terrestrial magnetism) as the magnetical qualities of Tellurium, and by his blunder caused
an eminent chemist to test tellurium in order to find these magnetical qualities. There was more excuse for the French
translator of one of Sir Walter Scott’s novels who rendered a welsh rabbit (or
rarebit, as it is sometimes spelt) into _un lapin du pays de Galles_. Walpole states that the Duchess of Bolton used to divert George I. by affecting to make blunders, and once when she had been to see Cibber’s play of _Love’s Last Shift_ she called it _La dernire chemise de l’amour_. A like
translation of Congreve’s _Mourning Bride_ is given in good faith in the first edition of Peignot’s _Manuel du Bibliophile_, 1800, where it is described as _L’pouse de
Matin_; and the translation which Walpole

attributes to the Duchess of Bolton the French say was made by a Frenchman
named La Place.

The title of the old farce _Hit or Miss_ was turned into _Frapp ou Mademoiselle_,
and the _Independent Whig_ into _La Perruque Indpendanfe_.

In a late number of the _Literary
World_ the editor, after alluding to the French translator of Sir Walter Scott
who turned “a sticket minister” into “le ministre assassin,” gives from the
_Bibliothque Universelle_ the extraordinary
translation of the title of Mr. Barrie’s comedy, _Walker, London_, as _Londres qui se promne_.

Old translators have played such tricks with proper names as to make them often
unintelligible; thus we find La Rochefoucauld figuring as Ruchfucove; and in an
old treatise on the mystery of Freemasonry by John Leland, Pythagoras is described
as Peter Gower the Grecian. This of course is an Anglicisation of the French Pythagore (pronounced like Peter Gore). Our versions of Eastern names are so
different from the originals that when the

two are placed together there appears to be no likeness between them, and the
different positions which they take up in the alphabet cause the bibliographer an
infinity of trouble. Thus the original of Xerxes is Khshayarsha (the revered king), and Averrhoes is Ibn Roshd (son of
Roshd). The latter’s full name is Abul Walid Mohammed ben Ahmed ben Mohammed.
Artaxerxes is in old Persian
Artakhshatra, or the Fire Protector, and Darius means the Possessor. Although
all these names–Xerxes, Artaxerxes, and Darius–have a royal significance, they
were personal names, and not titles like Pharaoh.

It is often difficult to believe that translators can have taken the trouble to read their own work, or they surely would not let pass some of the blunders we meet
with. In a translation of Lamartine’s _Girondins_ some courtly people are
described as figuring “under the vaults” of the Tuileries instead of beneath the arched galleries (_sous ses voutes_). This, however, is nothing to a blunder to be found
in the _Secret Memoirs of the Court of

Louis XIV. and of the Regency_ (1824). The following passage from the original
work, “Deux en sont morts et on dit publiquement qu’ils ont t empoisonns,” is
rendered in the English translation to the confusion of common sense as “Two of
them died with her, and said publicly that they had been poisoned.”

This is not unlike the bull of the young soldier who, writing home in praise of the Indian climate, said, “But a lot of young fellows come out here, and they drink
and they eat, and they eat and they drink, and they die; and then they write home
to their friends saying it was the climate that did it.”

Some authors have found that there is peril in too free a translation, thus Dotet was condemned on Feb. 14th, 1543, for
translating a passage in Plato’s Dialogues as “After death you will be nothing _at all_.” Surely he who translated _Dieu dfend
l’adultre_ as _God defends adultery_ more
justly deserved punishment! Guthrie, the geographical writer, who translated
a French book of travels, unfortunately mistook _neuvime_ (ninth) for _neuvelle_ or

_neuve_, and therefore made an allusion to the twenty-sixth day of the new moon.

Moore quotes in his _Diary_ (Dec.
30th, 1818) a most amusing blunder of a translator who knew nothing of the
technical name for a breakwater. He translated the line in Goldsmith’s _Deserted Village_,

“As ocean sweeps the labour’d mole away,


“Comme la mer dtruit les travaux de la taupe.”

D’Israeli records two comical translations from English into French. “Ainsi
douleur, va-t’en “for _woe begone_ is almost too good; and the man who mistook the
expression “the officer was broke” as meaning broke on a wheel and translated
it by _rou_ made a very serious matter of
what was possibly but a small fault.

In the translation of _The Conscript_ by Erckmann-Chatrian, the old botcher is
turned into the old butcher.

Sometimes in attempting to correct a
supposed blunder of another we fall into

a very real one of our own. Thus a few years ago, before we knew so much about
folk-lore as we do now, we should very probably have pointed out that Cinderella’s glass slipper owed its existence to a
misprint. Fur was formerly so rare and so highly prized that its use was restricted by sumptuary laws to kings, princes, and persons holding honourable offices. In
these laws sable is called vair, and it has been asserted that Perrault marked the
dignity conferred upon Cinderella by the fairy’s gift of a slipper of vair, a privilege confined to the highest rank of princesses. It is further stated that by an error of the printer _vair_ was changed into _verre_. Now, however, we find in the various versions which have been collected of this favourite tale that, however much the incidents may differ, the slipper is almost invariably made of some rigid material, and in the earliest forms the unkind sisters cut their feet to make them fit the slipper. This unpleasant incident was omitted by Perrault, but he kept the rigid material and made the glass slipper famous.

The Revisers of the Old Testament

translation have shown us that the famous verse in Job, “Oh that mine adversary
had written a book,” is wrong; but it will never drop out of our language
and literature. The Revised Version is certainly much more in accordance with
our ideas of the time when the book was written, a period when authors could not have been very common:–

“Oh that I had one to hear me!
(Lo, here is my signature, let the Almighty answer me;) And that I had the indictment which mine adversary hath written! Surely I would carry it upon my shoulder; I would bind it unto me as a crown.”

Silk Buckingham drew attention to the fact that some translations of the Bible had been undertaken by persons ignorant
of the idioms of the language into which they were translating, and he gave an
instance from an Arabic translation where the text “Judge not, that ye be not
judged” was rendered “Be not just to others, lest others should be just to

The French have tried ingeniously to

explain the difficulty contained in _St. Matthew_ xix. 24, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than
for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God,” by affirming that the translators mistook the supposed word milos>, a rope,
for mhlos>, a camel.

The humours of translation are numerous, but perhaps the most eccentric
example is to be found in Stanyhurst’s rendering of _Virgil_, published in 1583. It is full of cant words, and reads like the work of a madman. This is a fair
specimen of the work:–

“Theese thre were upbotching, not shapte, but partlye wel onward, A clapping fierbolt (such as oft, with rownce robel-hobble, Jove to the ground clattreth) but yeet not finished holye.”

M. Guyot, translating some Latin epigrams under the title of _Fleurs, Morales, et
pigrammatiques_, uses the singular forms Monsieur Zole and Mademoiselle Lycoris.
The same author, when translating the letters of Cicero (1666), turns Pomponius into M. de Pomponne.

Pitt’s friend, Pepper Arden, Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice of the
Common Pleas and Lord Alvanley, was rather hot-tempered, and his name was
considered somewhat appropriate, but to make it still more so his friends translated it into “Mons. Poivre Ardent.”

This reminds one of the Frenchman who toasted Dr. Johnson, not as Mr. Rambler, but as Mr. Vagabond.

Tom Moore notices some amusing mis-
translations in his _Diary_. Major
Cartwright, who was called the Father of Reform (although a wit suggested that
Mother of Reform would have been a
more appropriate title), supposed that the _Brevia Parliamentaria_ of Prynne
stood for “short parliaments.” Lord Lansdowne told Moore that he was with
Lord Holland when the letter containing this precious bit of erudition arrived. Another story of Lord Lansdowne’s is
equally good. His French servant
announced Dr. Mansell, the Master of Trinity, when he called, as “Matre des
Crmonies de la Trinit.”

Moore also relates that an account

having appeared in the London papers of a row at the Stock Exchange, where
some strangers were hustled, it appeared in the Paris papers in this form: “Mons. Stock Exchange tait chauff,” etc.

There is something to be said in favour of the humorous translation of _Magna est veritas et prevalabit_–“Great is truth, it will prevail a bit,” for it is probably truer than the original. He who construed Csar’s mode of passing into Gaul
_summa diligentia_, “on the top of the diligence,” must have been of an imaginative turn of mind. Probably the time will
soon come when this will need explanation, for a public will arise which knows
not the dilatory “diligence.”

The translator of _Inter Calicem
supremaque labra_ as Betwixt Dover and Calais gave as his reason that Dover was _Angli suprema labra_.

Although not a blunder nor apparently a joke, we may conclude this chapter with a reference to Shakespeare’s remarkable
translation of _Finis Coronat opus_. Helena remarks in _All’s well that Ends well_ (act iv., sc. 4):–

“All’s well that ends well: still _the fine’s the crown_.”

In the _Second Part of King Henry VI_. (act v., sc. 2) old Lord Clifford, just before he dies, is made to use the French translation of the proverb:–

“La fin couronne les uvres.”

In the first Folio we read:–

“La fin corrone les eumenes.”



THERE is no class that requires
to be dealt with more leniently
than do bibliographers, for pitfalls are before and behind them. It is
impossible for any one man to see all the books he describes in a general bibliography; and, in consequence of the necessity
of trusting to second-hand information, he is often led imperceptibly into gross error. Watt’s _Bibliotheca Britannica_ is a most useful and valuable work, but, as
may be expected from so comprehensive a compilation, many mistakes have crept
into it: for instance, under the head of Philip Beroaldus, we find the following
title of a work: “A short view of the Persian Monarchy, published at the end
of Daniel’s Works.” The mystery of the last part of the title is cleared up when we

find that it should properly be read, “_and of Daniel’s Weekes_,” it being a work on prophecy. The librarian of the old
Marylebone Institution, knowing as little of Latin as the monk did of Hebrew when
he described a book as having the beginning where the end should be, catalogued
an edition of sop’s Fables as “sopiarum’s
Phdri Fabulorum.”

Two blunders that a bibliographer is
very apt to fall into are the rolling of different authors of the same name into
one, and the creation of an author who never existed. The first kind we may
illustrate by mentioning the dismay of the worthy Bishop Jebb, when he found himself identified in Watt’s _Bibliotheca_ with
his uncle, the Unitarian writer. Of the second kind we might point out the
names of men whose lives have been
written and yet who never existed. In the _Zoological Biography_ of Agassiz,
published by the Ray Society, there is an imaginary author, by name J. K. Broch,
whose work, _Entomologische Briefe_, was published in 1823. This pamphlet is
really anonymous, and was written by

one who signed himself J. K. Broch, is merely an explanation in the catalogue
from which the entry was taken that it was a _brochure_. Moreri created an author, whom he styled Dorus Basilicus, out of