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Literary Blunders by Henry B. Wheatley

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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
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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

``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

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