Text: Edgar Allan Poe (???), Omniana (part 05), Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. VII, no. 2, August 1840, 104-105


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[page 104:]

OMNIANA.

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Every thing by starts, but nothing long.

Dryden.

Various; that the mind

Of desultory man, studious of change,

And pleased with novelty, may be indulged.

Cowper.

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PUNNING.

CHIEF JUSTICE TILGHMAN having sold and removed from his mansion house in Chestnut street, the site now occupied by the Arcade, workmen were busily employed in taking down this venerable building, and some of them were in the act of removing the windows when Judge Peters was passing by in company with a friend, who was lamenting the demolition of so interesting and conspicuous a monument of olden times.

“Aye! aye!” replied the witty judge — sic transit gloria mundi — the liver is gone, and look! they are now tearing out the lights!

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PHILOPŒNA.*

This word is derived from the Greek language, and signifies “friendship’s forfeit.” The game is thus played: — A lady, and gentleman, either having an almond with two kernels, give one kernel to the party played with, when both kernels are severally eaten by the parties. Whichever of these two persons at their next meeting salutes the other with “good evening (or morning, as the time may be) Philopœna,” wins a forfeit from the other. The kind of forfeit is at the discretion, and of course will be in accordance with the taste of the loser.

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PURE WATER.

Water drinkers are, in general, longer livers, are less subject to decay of their faculties, have ‘better teeth, more regular appetites, and less acrid evacuations than those who indulge in a more stimulating diluent as their common drink. This liquid is, undoubtedly, not only the most fitted for quenching the thirst and promoting true and healthy digestion, but the best adjutant to a long and comfortable life. Its properties are thus summed up by the celebrated Hoffman: — “Pure water is the fittest drink for all ages and temperaments; and of all. the productions of nature and art, comes the nearest to that universal remedy so much sought after by mankind, and never hitherto discovered.” This opinion is supported by most scientific and intelligent men.

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MUTABILITY OF FORTUNE.

f A young lady, native of Martinique and a Creole, was on a voyage to France, with the design of being educated there, when the merchant vessel on hoard of which she was passenger, was captured by an Algerine cruiser, and carried into Algiers. The fair captive was at first overwhelmed with affliction at the prospect of captivity before her; but as passion gave way to meditation, it came to her recollection that an old negress had predicted that she would one day become one of the greatest princesses in the world. “Ah!” exclaimed she, for superstition was in this instance but the handmaid of inclination, “ it is doubtless so, I am to be a princess. Well, I must not quarrel with fortune — who knows what may come out of this?” So strong did this prepossession grow upon the young lady, that ere she reached the Barbary shore she was as much a fatalist in point of resignation as any devotee of Islamism could possibly be. The French consul at Algiers immediately offered to ransom his countrywoman; but no — the fair creole would not be ransomed, for fear of offending fortune by resorting to so vulgar a way of recovering her liberty. So to the seraglio of the Dey of Algiers the lady went; and strange indeed to tell, from his highness’ seraglio she was cent as a present to the Grand Seignior, who was so struck with her beauty and manners, (for in both she was excelling,) that he elevated her to the dignity of his favorite sultana! Such was the singular rise of the Sultana Valide, who died in the year 1818, and was the mother of the late Grand Seignior. [page 105:]

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THE TAYLOR BIRD.

This singular bird is a native of Hindostan, and is so called from its instinctive ingenuity in forming its nest. It first selects a plant with large leaves, and then gathers cotton from the shrub, spins it into a thread by means of its long bill and slender feet, and then, as with a needle, sews the leaves neatly together to conceal its nest. How applicable are the following lines in the Musæ Seatonianæ to this ingenious bird:

Behold a bird’s nest!

Mark it well within, without!

No tool had he that wrought, no knife to cut,

No nail to fix, no bodkin to insert,

No glue to join: his little beak was all,

And yet how neatly finished! What nice hand,

With every implement and means of art,

Could compass such another?

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BOERHAAVE.

This celebrated physician and scholar ordered in his will that all his books and manuscripts should be burnt, one large volume with gilt leaves and silver clasps alone excepted. The physical people flocked to Leyden, entreated his executors to disobey his will. The effects were sold. A German count, convinced that the great gilt book contained the whole arcanum of physic, bought it for ten thousand guilders. It was all blank but the first page, on which was written: — Keep the HEAD cool, the FEET warm, and the BODY open, and bid defiance to the physician.

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THE FIDDLER.

A fiddler is like an echo — a retail dealer in sounds. As Diana is the goddess of the silver bow, so is he the lord of the wooden one; he has an hundred strings to his bow. Other people are bowlegged, but he is bow armed, and though armed with a long bow, he has no skill in archery. His fingers and arms run a constant race — the former would run away from him, did not a bridge interpose and oblige him to pay toll. He can distinguish sounds as other men distinguish colors. His companions are crotchets and quavers; Time will never be a match for him, for he beats it most unmercifully; his most admired domestics are Soprano, Siciliano, Andantino, and all the anos and inos that constitute the musical science. He can scrape, scratch, shake, diminish, increase, swell, flourish, etc.; and as a dog shakes a pig, so he shakes a note by the ear, and never lets it go till he makes it squeak. He tears his audience in many ways; as I wear away my pen, so does he wear away the strings of his violin. There is no medium in him; he is either sharp or flat, though both are natural to him. He deals in third minors and major thirds, proves a turn-coat, and is often in the majority and minority in the course of a few minutes; he runs over the flats as often as a race horse; both meet the same fate as they meet in a cadence; the difference is, one is driven by the whip-hand, and the other by the bow-arm: one deals in stickado, the other in staccato.

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EXERCISE.

Sir William Davenant says: —

Toil does keep

Obstructions from the mind and quench the blood;

Ease but belongs to us like sleep, and sleep

Like opium is our medicine, not our food.

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AUTHORS.

The author of a good work should beware of three things — title, dedication, and preface. Others should take care of a fourth, which is — writing at all.


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 104:]

* Philopœna is a Greek and Latin compound, and literally signifies “I love the penalty.”



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Notes:

The authorship of this series is not certain, but has often been attributed to Poe, as it is by Heartman and Canny (1943).


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[S:0 - BGM, 1840] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Misc - Omniana [part 05]