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kinds of verfes, which by their feveral lengths refemble the nine ftops of the old mufical inftrument, that is likewife the fubject of the poem.
The altar is infcribed with the epitaph of Troilus the fon of Hecuba; which, by the way, makes me believe, that thefe falfe pieces of wit are much more ancient than the authors to whom they are generally afcribed; at least I will never be perfuaded, that fo fine a writer as Theocritus could have been the author of any fuch fimple works.
It was impoffible for a man to fucceed in thefe performances who was not a kind of painter, or at leaft a defigner: he was first of all to draw the out-line of the fubject which he intended to write upon, and afterwards conform the defcription to the figure of his fubject. The poetry was to contract or dilate itself according to the mould in which it was caft. In a word, the verfes were to be cramped or extended to the dimenfions of the frame that was prepared for them; and to undergo the fate of those persons whom the tyrant Procruftes used to lodge in his iron bed; if they were too short, he ftretched them on a rack, and if they were too long, chopped off a part of their legs, till they fitted the couch which he had prepared for them.
Mr. Dryden hints at this obfolete kind of wit in one of the following verfes in his Mac Flećno; which an English reader cannot understand, who does not know that there are thofe little poems abovementioned in the fhape of wings and al
tance, who intends to present his mistress with a copy of verfes made in the fhape of her fan; and, if he tells me true, has already finished the three first sticks of it. He has likewife promised me to get the measure of his mistress's marriage-finger, with a defign to make a pofy in the fashion of a ring, which fhall exactly fit it. It is fo very easy to enlarge upon a good hint, that I do not quertion but my ingenious reader will apply what I have faid to many other particulars; and that we fhall fee the town filled in a very little time with poetical tippets, handkerchiefs, fnuff-boxes, and the like female ornaments. I fhall therefore conclude with a word of advice to thofe admirable English authors who call themselves Pindaric writers, that they would apply themselves to this kind of wit without lofs of time, as being provided better than any other poets with verfes of all fizes and dimenfions.
This fashion of falfe wit was revived by feveral poets of the laft age, and in particular may be met with among Mr. Herbert's poems; and, if I am not mistaken, in the translation of Du Bartas. I do not remember any other kind of work among the moderns which more resembles the performances I have mentioned, than that famous pic. ture of king Charles the firft, which has the whole book of Pfalms written in the lines of the face and the hair of the head. When I was laft at Oxford I perufed one of the whiskers; and was reading the other, but could not go fo far in it as I would have done, by reafon of the impatience of my friends and fellow-travellers, who all of them preffed to fee fuch a piece of curiofity. I have fince heard, that there is now an eminent writing-maller in town, who has tranfcribed all the Old Teftament in a full-bottomed perriwig; and If the fashion fhould introduce the thick kind of wigs which were in vogue fome years ago, he promifes to add two or three fupernumerary locks that shall contain all the Apocrypha. He.defigned this wig originally for king William, having difpofed of the two books of Kings in the two forks of the foretop; but that glorious mena eh dying before the wig was finished, there is a space left in it for the face of any one that has a mind to purchase it.
But to return to our ancient poems in picture; I would humbly propcfe, for the benefit of our modern fnatterers in poetry, that they would imitate their brethren among the ancients in thofe ingenious devices. I have communicated this though to a young poetical lover of my acquain
HERE is nothing more certain than that every man would be a wit if he could; and notwithstanding pedants of a pretended depth and folidity are apt to decry the writings of a polite author, as Flash and Froth, they all of them how upon occafion that they would fpare no pains to arrive at the character of those whom they feem to defpife. For this reafon we often find them endeavouring at works of fancy, which coft them infinite pangs in the production. The truth of it is, a man had better be a galley-flave than a wit. were one to gain that title by thofe elaborate triAles which have been the inventions of fuch authors as were often mafters of great learning but no genius.
In my laft paper I mentioned fome of thofe falfe wits among the ancients, and in this fhall give the reader two or three other fpecies of them, that flourished in the fame early ages of the world. The first Ishall produce are the Lipogrammatifts or Letter-droppers of antiquity, that would take an exception, without any reafon, against some particular letter in the alphabet, fo as not to admit One Tryphiodoruş it once into a whole poem. was a great mafter in this kind of writing. He compofed an Odyssey or epic poem on the adventures of Ulyffes, confifting of four-and-twenty books, having entirely banished the letter A from his firft book, which was called Alpha, as Lucas à non Lucendo, becaufe there was not an Alpha in it. His fecond book was infcribed Beta for the fame reafon. In fhort, the poet excluded the whole four-and-twenty letters in their turns, and fhewed them one after another, that he could do his bufinefs without them.
It must have been very pleasant to have feen this poet avoiding the reprobate letter, as much as another would a falfe quantity, and making his cfcape from it through the feveral Greek dialects, when he was preffed with it in any parti cular fyllable. For the most apt and elegant word in the whole language was rejected, like a diamond with a flaw in it, if it appeared blemished with a wrong letter. 1 fhall only obferve upon this head, that if the work I have here mentioned had been now extant, the Odyffey of Tryphiodorus, in all probability, would have been oftener quoted
quoted by our learned pedants, than the Odyffey of Homer. What a perpetual fund would it have been of obfolete words and phrafes, unusual bar barifms and rufticities, abfurd fpellings, and complicated dialects? I make no question but it would have been looked upon as one of the most valuable treasuries of the Greek tongue.
find likewife among the ancients that ingenious kind of conceit, which the moderns diftinguish by the name of a Rebus, that does not fink a letter but a whole word, by fubftituting a picture in its place. When Cæfar was one of the mafters of the Roman mint, he placed the figure of an elephant upon the reverfe of the public money; the word Cæfar fignifying an elephant in the Punic language. This was artificially contrived by Cæfar, because it was not lawful for a private man to ftamp his own figure upon the coin of the commonwealth. Cicero, who was fo called from the founder of his family, that was marked on the nofe with a little wen like a vetch, which is Cicer in Latin, instead of Marcus Tullius Cicero, ordered the words Marcus Tullius with the figure of a vetch at the end of them to be infcribed on a public monument. This was done probably to thaw that he was neither afhamed of his name or family, notwithstanding the envy of his competitors had often reproached him with both. In the fame manner we read of a famous build. ing that was marked in several parts of it with the figures of a frog and a lizard: those words in Greek having been the names of the architects who by the laws of their country were never permitted to infcribe their own names upon their works. For the fame reafon it is thought, that the forelock of the horse, in the antique equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, reprefents at a distance the shape of an owl, to intimate the country of the ftatuary, who, in all probability, I was an Athenian. This kind of wit was very much in vogue among our own countrymen about an age or two ago, who did not practise it for any oblique reafon, as the ancients abovementioned, but purely for the fake of being witty. Among innumerable instances that may be given of this nature, I shall produce the device of one Mr. Newberry, as I find it mentioned by our learned Camden in his remains. Mr. Newberry, to represent his name by a picture, hung up at his door the sign of a yew-tree that had feveral berries upon it, and in the midst of them a great golden N hung upon the bough of a tree, which by the help of a little false spelling made up the word N-ew-berry.
I fhall conclude this topic with a Rebus, which has been lately hewn out of free-ftone, and erected over two of the portals of Blenheim house, being the figure of a monstrous lion tearing to pieces a little cock. For the better understanding of which device, I muft acquaint my English
reader that a cock has the misfortune to be called in Latin by the fame word that fignifies a Frenchman, as a lion is an emblem of the English nation. Such a device in fo noble a pile of building looks like a pun in an heroic poem; and am very forry the truly ingenious architect would suffer the ftatuary to blemish his excellent plan with fo poor a conceit: but I hope what I have. faid will gain quarter for the cock, and deliver him out of the lion's paw.
I find likewife in ancient times the conceit of making an echo talk fenfibly, and give rational answers. If this could be excufable in any wri
ter, it would be in Ovid, where he introduges the echo as a nymph, before the was worn away into nothing but a voice. The learned Erafmus, though a man of wit and genius, has compofed a dialogue upon this filly kind of device, and made use of an echo who feems to have been a very extraordinary linguift, for the anfwers the perfon fhe talks with in Latin, Greek, and He brew, according as the found the fyllables which he was to repeat in any of thofe learned languages. Hudibras, in ridicule of this falfe kind of wit, has defcribed Orfin bewailing the lofs of his bear to a folitary echo, who is of great ufe to the poet in feveral diftichs, as the does not only repeat after him, but helps out his verfe, and furnishes him with rhymes.
He rag'd, and kept as heavy a coil as:
More wiftfully, by many times, Than in small poets fplay-foot rhymes, "That make her, in their rueful ftories, To answer to int'rogatories, And most unconscionably depose Things of which the nothing knows : And when she has said all the can fay, 'Tis wrefted to the lover's fancy. Quoth he, O whither, wicked Bruin, 'Art thou filed to my-echo, Ruin? "I thought th' hadft fcorn'd to budge a step For fear, quoth echo, Marry guep. Am not I here to take thy part?
Then what has quell'd thy stubborn heart "Have these bones rattled, and this head So often in thy quarrel bled? Nor did I ever winch or grudge it, For thy dear fake? Quoth the, Mum budget Think'st thou 'twill not be laid i' th' difh Thou turn'ft thy back? Quoth echo, Pish To run from thofe th' hadft overcome Thus cowardly? Quoth echo, Mum, 'But what a vengeance makes thee fir "From me too as thine enemy?
Or if thou hadst not thought of me
No. 60. WEDNESDAY, MAY 9
Hoc eft quod palles? Cur quis non prandeat, hoc eft?
EVERAL kinds of falfe wit that vanished in the refined ages of the world, difcovered them felves again in the time of mopish ignorance.
As the monks were the mafters of all that little learning which was then extant, and had their whole lives difengaged from bufinefs, it is no wonder that feveral of them, who wanted genius for higher performances, employed many hours in the composition of fuch tricks in writing as re
quired much time and little capacity. I have feen half the Æneid turned into Latin rhymes by one of the Beaux-Efprits of that dark age; who fays in his preface to it, that the Æneid wanted nothing but the fweets of rhyme to make it the moft perfect work in its kind. I have likewife Teen an hymn in hexameters to the Virgin Mary, which filled a whole book, though it confifted but of the eight following words.
Tot, tibi, funt, Virgo, dotes, quot, fidera, Calo. Thou haft as many virtues, O Virgin, as there are ftars in Heaven.
The poet rung the changes upon thefe eight feveral words, and by that means made his verfes almoft as numerous as the virtues and the ftars which they celebrated. It is no wonder that men who had fo much time upon their hands, did not only restore all the antiquated, pieces of falfe wit, but enriched the world with inventions of their own. It was to this age that we owe the production of anagrams, which is nothing else but a tranfmutation of one word into another, or the turning of the fame fet of letters into different words; which may change night into day, or black into white, If chance, who is the goddess that prefides over thefe forts of compofition, shall fo direct. I're member a witty author, in allufion to this kind of writing, calls his rival, who, it feems, was diftorted and had his limbs fet in places that did not properly belong to them, The anagram of a
When the anagramift takes a name to work upon, he confiders it at firft as a mine not broken up, which will not fhew the treasure it contains till he shall have spent many hours in the search of it; for it is his business to find out one word that conceals itself in another, and to examine the let ters in all the variety of stations in which they can poffibly be ranged. I have heard of a gentleman, who, when this kind of wit was in fashion, 'endeavoured to gain his mistress's heart by it. She was one of the finest women of her age, and known by the name of the lady Mary Boon. The lover not being able to make any thing of Mary, by certain liberties indulged to this kind of writing, converted it into Moll: and after having fhut himfelf up for half a year, with indefatigable induftry produced an anagram. Upon the prefenting it to his miftrefs, who was a little vexed in her heart to fee herself degraded into Mell Boon, he told him, to his infinite furprise, that he had miftaken her furname, for that it was not Boon but Bohun.
only been edged by a name at each extremity, but have had the fame name running down like a feam through the middle of the poem.
There is another near relation of the anagrams and acroftics, which is commonly called a chronogram. This kind of wit appears very often on many modern medals, efpecially thofe of Germany, when they reprefent in the infcription the year in which they were coined. Thus we fee on a medal of Guftavus Adolphus the following words, CHRISTVS DUX ERGO TRIVMPHVS. If you take the pains to pick the figures out of the feveral words, and range them, in their proper order. you will find they amount to MDCXVVVII, or 1627, the year in which the medal was stamped ; for as fome of the letters diftinguish themfelves from the reft, and over-top their fellows, they are to be confidered in a double capacity, both as letters and as figures. Your laborious German wits will turn over a whole dictionary for one of thefe ingenious devices. A man would think they were fearching after an apt claffical term, but instead of that they are looking out a word that has an L, an M, or a D in it. When therefore we meet with any of thefe infcriptions, we are not fo much to look in 'em for the thought, as for the year of the Lord.
The lover was thunder-ftruck with his misfortune infomuch that in a little time after he lost his fenfes, which indeed had been very much impaired by that continual application he had given to his anagram.
The Bouts Rimez were the favourites of the French nation for a whole age together, and that at a time when it abounded in wit and learning. They were a lift of words that rhyme to one another, drawn up by another hand, and given to a poet, who was to make a poem to the rhymes in the fame order that they were placed upon the lift; the more uncommon the rhymes were, the more extraordinary was the genius of the poet that could accommodate his veríes to them. I do not know any greater instance of the decay of wit and learning among the French, which generally follows the decienfion of Empire, than the endeavouring to restore this foolish kind of wit. If the reader will be at the trouble to fee examples of it, let him look into the new Mercure Galant; where the author every month gives a lift of rhymes to be filled up by the ingenious, in order to be communicated to the public in the Mercure for the fucceeding month. That for the month of No vember laft, which now lies before me, is as follows.
The acroftic was probably invented about the -fame time with the anagram, though it is impoffible to decide whether the inventor of the one or the other were the greater blockhead. The fimple acroftic is nothing but the name or title of a perfon or thing made out of the initial letters of feveral verfes, and by that means written, after the manner of the Chinese, in a perpendicular line. But befides these there are Compound acrostics, when the principal letters ftand two or three deep. I have teen fome of them where the verfes have not
One would be amazed to fee fo learned a man as Menage talking, seriously on this kind of trifle in the following paffage.
Monfieur de la Chambre has told me that he never knew what he was going to write when he took his pen into his hand; but that one fen
tence always produced another. For my own part, I never knew what I fhould write next when I was making verfes. In the first place I got all my rhymes together, and was afterwards perhaps three or four months in filling them up. I one day fhewed Monfieur Gombaud a compo¬ 'fition of this nature, in which among others I ha!
Cefars - Etendars
had made use of the four following rhymes, Amaryllis, Phillis, Marne, Arne, defiring him to give me his opinion of it. He told me immediately, that my verfes were good for nothing. And upon my aiking his reafon, he faid, because the rhymes are too common; and for that reafon easy to be put into verfe. Marry, fays I, if it be fo, I am very well rewarded for all the pains I have been at. But by Monfieur Gombaud's leave, notwithstanding the severity of the criticism, the verfes were good.' Vid. MENAGIANA. Thus far the learned Menage, whom I have tranflated word for word.
The firft occafion of these Bouts Rimez made them in fome manner excufable, as they were talks which the French ladies used to impofe on their lovers. But when a grave author, like him abovementioned tasked himself, could there be any thing more ridiculous? Or would not one be apt to believe that the author played booty, and did not make his lift of rhymes till he had finished his poem?
1 fhall only add, that this piece of falfe wit has been finely ridiculed by Monfieur Sarafin, in a poem intituled, La Defaite des Bouts-Rimex, The Rout of the Bouts-Rimez.
I must fubjoin to this last kind of wit the double rhymes, which are ufed in doggrel poetry, and generally applauded by ignorant readers. If the thought of the couplet in such compofitions is good, the rhyme adds little to it; and if bad, it will not be in the power of the rhyme to recommend it. I am afraid that great numbers of thofe who admire the incomparable Hudibras, do it more on account of thefe doggrel rhymes, than of the parts that really deserve admiration. I am sure I have heard the
Pulpit, drum ecclefiaftic,
Was beat with fist instead of a stick
There was an ancient fage philofopher Who had read Alexander Rofs overmore frequently quoted, than the finest pieces of wit in the whole poem.
No 61: THURSDAY, MAY 10.
Non equidem ftudeo, bullatis ut mibi nugis
'Tis not indeed my talent to engage In lofty trifles, or to fwell my page With wind and noise.
DRYDEN. HERE is no kind of falfe wit which has been fo recommended by the practise of all ages, as that which confifts in a jingle of words, and is comprehended under the general name of Punhing. It is indeed impoffible to kill a weed, whith the foil has a natural difpofition to produce. The feeds of punning are in the minds of all men; and though they may be fubdued by reafon, refection, and good fenfe, they will be very apt to fhoot up in the greatest genius that is not broken and cultivated by the rules of art. Imitation is natural to us, and when it does not raife the mind to poetry, painting, mufic, or other more noble arts, it often breaks out in puns and quibbles. Ariftotle, in the eleventh chapter of his book of rhetoric, defcribes two or three kinds of puns, which he calls paragrams, among the beauties of good writing, and produces inftances of them out
of fome of the greatest authors in the Greek tongue. Cicero has sprinkled several of his works with puns, and in his book, where he lays down the rules of oratory, quotes abundance of fayings. as pieces of wit, which alfo upon examination prove arrant puns. But the age in which the Pun chiefly flourished, was the reign of King James the Firft. That learned monarch was himself a tolerable punfter, and made very few bishops or privy-counfellors that had not fome time or other fignalized themselves by a clinch, or a Conundrum. It was therefore in this age that the pun appeared with pomp and dignity. It had before been admitted into merry (peeches and ludicrous. compofitions, but was now delivered with great gravity from the pulpit, or pronounced in the most folemn manner at the council-table. The greatest authors, in their most serious works, made frequent ufe of puns. The fermons of Bishop. Andrews, and the tragedies, of Shakespear, are full of them. The finner was punned into re pentance by the former; as in the latter nothing is more ufual than to fee a hero weeping and quibbling for a dozen lines together.
I must add to thefe great authorities, which feem to have given a kind of fanction to this piece of falfe wit, that all the writers of rhetoric have treated of punning with very great respect, and divided the several kinds of it into hard names, that are reckoned among the figures of fpeech, and recommended as ornaments in difcourfe. I remember a country schoolmaster of my acquaintance told me once, that he had been in company with a gentleman whom he looked upon to be the greatest paragrammatift among the moderns. Upon inquiry, I found my learned friend had dined that day with Mr. Swan, the famous punster; and defiring him to give me fome account of Mr. Swan's conversation, he told me that he generally talked in the Paranomafia, that he fometimes gave into the Ploce, but that in his humble opinion he fhined moft in the Antanaclafis.
I must not here omit, that a famous University of this land was formerly very much infefted with puns; but whether or no this might not arife from the fens and marshes in which it was fituated, and which are now drained, I must leave to the determination of more skilful naturalifts,
After this fhort hiftory of punning, one would wonder how it should be fo entirely banished out PERS. Sat, v. 19. of the learned world as it is at prefent; especially fince it had found a place in the writings of the most ancient polite authors. To account for this we must confider, that the first race of authors, who were the great heroes in writing, were deftitute of all rules and arts of criticifm; and for that reafon, though they excel later writers in greatnefs of genius, they fall short of them in accuracy and correctnefs. The moderns cannot reach their beauties, but can avoid their imperfections. When the world was furnished with thefe authors of the first eminence, there grew up another fet of writers, who gained themfelves a reputation by the remarks which they made on the works of those who preceded them. It was one of the cmployments of thefe fecondary authors to diftinguish the feveral kinds of wit by terms of art, and to confider them as more or lefs perfect, according as they were founded in truth. It is no wender therefore, that even fuch authors as Ifocrates, Plato, and Cicero, fhould have fuch little blemishes as are not to be met with in authors of a much inferior character, who have written fince thefe
feveral blemishes were discovered. I do not find that there was a proper feparation made between puns and true wit by any of the ancient authors, except Quintilian and Longinus. But when this diftinction was once lettled, it was very natural for all men of fenfe to agree in it. As for the revival of this falfe wit, it happened about the time of the revival of letters; but as foon as it was once detected, it immediately vanished and difap-wherein can be found the leaft difference, there
the cleareft judgment, or deepest reafon. For wit lying moft in the affemblage of ideas, and putting thofe together with quickness and variety, wherein can be found any refemblance or congruity, thereby to make up pleasant pictures ' and agreeable vifions in the fancy; judgment, on the contrary, lies quite on the other fide, in feparating carefully one from another, ideas
peared. At the fame time there is no queftion, but as it has funk in one age and rofe in another, it will again recover itself in fome diftant period of time, as pedantry and ignorance fhall prevail upon wit and fenfe. And, to fpeak the truth, I do very much apprehend, by fome of the last winter's productions, which had their fets of admirers, that our pofterity will in a few years degenerate into a race of punfters; at least, a man may be very excufable for any apprehenfions of this kind, that has feen Acroftics handed about the town with great fecrecy and applaufe; to which I must alfo add a little epigram called the Witches Prayer, that fell into verfe when it was read either backward or forward, excepting only that it curfed one way and bleffed the other. When one fees there are actually fuch pains-takers among our British wits, who can tell what it may end in? If we must lash one another, let it be with the manly strokes of wit and fatire; for I am of the old phi lofopher's opinion, that if I muft fuffer from one or the other, I would rather it should be from the paw of a lion, than the hoof of an afs. I do not fpeak this out of any spirit of party. There is a moft crying dulnefs on both fides. I have feen Tory Acroftics and Whig Anagrams, and do not quarrel with either of them, because they are Whigs or Tories, but because they are Anagrams and Acroftics.
But to return to punning. Having purfued the hiftory of a pun, from its original to its downfal, I fhall here define it to be a conceit arifing from the ufe of two words that agree in the found, but differ in the fenfe. The only way therefore fo try a piece of wit, is to tranflate it into a different language; if it bears the test, you may pronounce it true; but if it vanishes in the experiment, you may conclude it to have been a pun. In fhort, one may say of a pun, as the countryman defcribed his nightingale, that it is vox & præterea nibil, a found, and nothing but a found, On the contrary, one may reprefent true wit by the description which Ariftenetus makes of a fine woman; when she is dressed fhe is beautiful, when he is undreffed the is beautiful; or as Mercerus has translated it more emphatically, Induitur, formofa eft; exuitur, ipfa forma eft. C
by to avoid being misled by similitude, and by affinity to take one thing for another. This is a way of proceeding quite contrary to metaphor and allufion; therein, for the most part, lies that entertainment and pleafantry of wit which ftrikes fo lively on the fancy, and is therefore fo acceptable to all people.'
This is I think the best and most philofophical account that I ever met with of wit, which generally, though not always, confifts in fuch a refemblance and congruity of ideas as this author mentions. I fhall only add to it, by way of explanation, that every refemblance of ideas is not that which we call wit, unless it be fuch an one that gives Delight and Surprize to the reader: these two properties feem effential to wit, more particularly the last of them. In order therefore that the refemblance in the ideas be wit, it is neceffary that the ideas fhould not lie too near one another in the nature of things; for where the likeness is obvious, it gives no furprise. To compare one man's finging to that of another, or to reprefent the whiteness of any object by that of milk and fnow, or the variety of its colours by thofe of the rainbow, cannot be called wit, unless, befides this obvious resemblance, there be fome further congruity difcovered in the two ideas that is capable of giving the reader fome furprise. Thus when a poet tells us, the bofom of his miftrefs is as white as fnow, there is no wit in the comparifon; but when he adds, with a figh, that it is as cold too, it then grows into wit. Every reader's memory may fupply him with innumer able inftances of the fame nature. For this rea> fon the fimilitudes in heroic poets, who endeavour rather to fill the mind with great conceptions, than to divert it with fuch as are new and furprifing, have feldom any thing in them that can be called wit. Mr. Locke's account of wit, with this fhort explanation, comprehends moft of the fpecies of wit, as metaphors, fimilitudes, allegories, ænigmas, mottos, parables, fables, dreams, vifions, dramatic writings, burlesques, and all the methods of allufion: as there are many other pie.. ces of wit, how remote foever they may appear at first fight, from the foregoing description, which upon examination will be found to agree with it.
As true wit generally confifts in this refemblance and congruity of ideas, falfe wit chiefly confifts in the refemblance and congruity fometimes of fingle letters, as in anagrams, chronograms, lipograms, and acroftics; fometimes of fyllables, as in echos and doggerel rhymes: fometimes of words, as in puns and quibbles; and fometimes of whole fentences or poems, caft into the figure of eggs, axes or altars: nay fome carry the notion of wit fo far, as to afcribe it even to external mimicry; and to look upon a man as an ingenious perfon, that can resemble the tone, pofture, or face of another..
As true wit confifts in the resemblance of ideas, and falfe wit in the resemblance of words, ac cording to the foregoing inftances; there is ano