« PreviousContinue »
LINES ON A SPOT WHERE IT IS INTENDED TO BUILD A
On this sequester'd peaceful glade, .
Where nodding wild flowers deck the green,
And chequer'd twilights dance between,
'Midst crystal streamlets murmuring,
And ope of life the living spring;
And moonlight-loving nightingale,
At morn and eve their plaintive tale,
Browse, scatter'd o'er the tufted heath,
When sinners shall be saved from death,
Illumes each cottage, cliff, and tower,
When winds are hush'd at evening hour,
And lay his load of sorrow down,
Shall pray for him a heavenly crown,
In decent garb, and modest mien,
Shall on the Sabbath-day be seen,
Upon the actions, and the mind,
Her mild persuasion still shall bind
Bright, unembodied, pure and free,
Souls chastened for eternity,
PHILOSOPHY OF HUMBUG.
BY PROFESSOR WOLFGANG VON BIBUNDTUCKER.
Various are the roads to immortality ; but, however various, they admit of this classification, — the legitimate and the illegitimate ; the former being applied to those cases where a man works out his own claim, and the latter, where it is worked out for him by others, or by accidental circumstances. Sophroniscus would have never been heard of had he not accidentally begotten a son, Socrates ; but Socrates wanted no accidental circumstance for his fame, except, perhaps, the trilling one of being born. However repugnant to my feelings illegitimacy may be, still, better that than nothing at all. Firmly impressed with this conviction, I hasten to achieve my immortality by communicating to the world the labours of my deceased friend, Professor Wolfgang von Bibundtücker, who, after a life of folio-study, came over to England, made himself imperfectly acquainted with the language, and made every arrangement for the completion of the grand object of his life, the delivery of a “Course of Lectures on the Philosophy of Humbug." He chose England as the most fitting scene. Professor Bibundtücker had a most cosmopolitan spirit, and, justly considering himself a denizen of the universe, intended to have spoken to the world at large through the medium of the “enlightened and liberal British public.” But, alas ! for the fate of Genius! Professor Wolfgang von Bibundtücker, like the horse of the experimentalist, who died just as he had been taught to live without food, as soon as he had completed every arrangement for making his fortune and his fame, died of starvation in a remote corner of the universe known as St. Giles-in-theFields! Many a time has the Professor laid down bis meerschaum, and shaking his head with a Burleigh significance, said, “ Ah! my dear sir, philosophy is a great thing, but want is a greater Philosophy triumpbs over the Past and the Future; but the Present—the Present, my dear sir, triumphs over it.” It proved so, unfortunately for him.
Death is often a contrelems it was so with the professor. He is gathered to the region where his progenitors awaited him; the living and rising generation suffer by his loss. The Professor was just the man to lecture on so important a subject. Earnest was he, and eloquent; subtle, yet profound; and, when warmed, not even Lord Brougham could have competed with him for invective. But he is gone from us, and all that remains of his life-devotedness is the Prospectus of his Lectures, and some few stray notes found amongst his pipelights ! When my friend first announced to me his intention, I was more inclined to laugh than to enter into his views, but he checked all levity with a profound glance of his single eye, and then in a grave, but earnest manner, slowly unfolded his views.
“ Humbug, sir," said he, “is the most universal of passions. It is the element by which we are supported in this breathing world. He that is most filled with it rises to the top, while the less fortunate sink to the bottom. Love, sir, was called by the Grecian sages — (a profound nation the Greeks, and great Humbugs !)—the first of the gods, —meaning thereby to exclude Humbug from the highest rank. But they were wrong, sir, they were wrong. Humbug is more elemental than Love; for is not Love full of Humbug? I would ask of you, sir, is it not ?"
“ Without doubt," I replied.
“ Of course it is, sir, of course it is. Once, sir, when I was a young man, with a great deal of philosophy, and great ignorance, for I had little of that highest wisdom, Humbug,- I used to suppose that philosophy was the greatest thing in life; I used to suppose so, sir."
“And is it not ?" I inquired, hurt at my ideas being thus outraged, “ is it not?"
Professor Wolfgang von Bibundtücker smoked away furiously without uttering a syllable. I sat “ breathless like a nun,” expecting his reply.
“ You think it is,” he at last replied. “You are young, sir, and will grow older, when you will learn, sir, that it is not. You will learn, sir, that so far from philosophy being the greatest thing in life, the greatest part of philosophy is Humbug, sir, — is Humbug.” And he continued smoking with increasing vehemence.
“ Then, Professor, why do you lecture on the ‘Philosophy of Humbug?'” I asked.
* Sir, I show my art in so doing — there is Humbug in the very amusement. The prevailing Humbug of the day amongst the millstone-visioned everythingarians, is philosophy ; nothing goes down but philosophy. Teems not the press with it? Issue not works daily bearing the fine titles of Philosophy of Gardening, Philosophy of Health, Philosophy of Happiness, Philosophy of Travel, Philosophy of Fiction, Philosophy of Hair-cutting, &c. Surely the scientific barber, deeply versed in all erudition and logical acumen of the curl-oblique, the curl-ringlet, or the curl-sausage, or the metaphysics of wig and whisker, is entitled to the name of copos, and his art philosophy? May not the great pupils of the still greater Cocker call their labours in the addition and subtraction of figures the Philosophy of Arithmetic? The age of dull and plodding common sense' has passed away, and what a grand successor has sprung up! How the mind expands with delight and wonderment, as it reflects on that refinement of intellect now pervading all classes ! Have not women an intense craving for the name of Sophia? We have now sucking philosophers and lisping logicians,-matter and motion in the cradle, space and time (wasted) in the school-room,—women theologians, and atheism at 'sweet seventeen.' Has not the Society' published an analysis of Bacon's Novum Organon, whereby the intellectual chimney-sweep (whom we may in organomic phraseology term one of the idola species, or 'idols of the den') will be enabled to philosophise and sweep chimneys on that grand' method,' and the tailor to cabbage cloth by induction ? This, sir, is the age of philosophy, consequently of Humbug; therefore, to give my lectures a title suited to the public taste, I call them the · Philosophy of Humbug. O si sic omnia !”
Such were the nature of his confidential outpourings on this subject. On me they made a deep impression ; and nothing can exceed my regret at his not living to publicly enlighten us on this subject. The Prospectus, which I have still in my possession, written with his own dirty fingers, I here subjoin for the satisfaction of the world.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF HUMBUG,
TO BE DELIVERED AT THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LITERATURE,
“ HUMBUG is as universal as light — all recognise it, all practise it to a greater or less extent - none understand it. To understand it, it must be considered as a science. Formula are required, as also dataof these mankind are ignorant. Professor Wolfgang von Bibundtücker has made it a study, it has been the study of his life, — he has the formula and data, which these lectures are to be the medium of spread ing over the civilised world.
“ A clever writer has said, “Deceit is the strong but subtle chain which runs through all the members of a society, and links them together; trick or be tricked is the alternative; 'tis the way of the world, and without it intercourse would drop.' Deceit is the daughter of Humbug-need more be said ?
“ Humbug has fallen into disrepute because many ignorant pretenders (odi profanum vulgus!) have taken to the practice without previously qualifying themselves. Why have they not succeeded ? Because the Philosophy of it was to them a sealed book! A sickle may be a very convenient instrument to clean hedges with ; but it requires a steady hand and a razor for a chin.
“What is the fruit of all experience (that expensive schoolmaster), of all the boasted knowledge of the world, but to learn how to rule mankind ?-and how can you rule mankind but by Humbug?
“ Humbug is knowledge, and knowledge is Humbug; an antithesis worthy note. The science of fattery is one branch of the Philosophy of Humbug, and will be fully explained. : “In the course of twelve lectures every point of the Philosophy of Humbug will be developed, and rules laid down for the judicious practice of it, such as cannot fail to contribute towards the welfare of the individual in particular, and that of the world in general. Tickets for the course, Ten Guineas.
“Vivat Regina !”
Such is this extraordinary specimen,- a fresh indication of the “ march of mind.” To add a comment would be superfluous. The best I can do is to give what“ notes” of these intended lectures I may have. Here they are.
« Humbug in emergencies -- how useful.- Domitius Afer, the celebrated orator, a genius and a Humbug, on being publicly contradicted by Caligula, was silent, affecting to be overwhelmed by the tyrant's eloquence. Why, gentlemen, did he not try his accustomed rhetoric in defence ? Because he was a Humbug. 'Had he replied, he would have lost his head.”
I can fancy the Professor eloquently expanding on this illustration.
« On the expression of opinion.—Always ascertain people's opinions, that you may regulate the expression of your own. Do not always assent to the opinions of others, or in time your assent will not be worth having; but differ with science."
In another place I find a note on
“ The science of differing in opinion.-Before you argue with a man, ascertain whether the opinion he is advocating is a rooted one, or merely struck off in the heat of the moment. If the former, you can scientifically humbug him. An ignoramus would under such circumstances agree with this rooted opinion. Short-sighted folly! You, instructed in the science of flattery, would boldly differ with him ; for what do yu gain by acquiescence? The subject drops, but you differ. This drats him out to establish and defend his position. This is all you can desire. You continue the attack ; but, after a vigorous resistance, you gradually yield. You see the perspicacity of his reasoning, the applicability of his analogies, the depth and acuteness of his analysis, the beauty of his synthesis, the severity of his induction, and the irresistibility of his conclusion !
“ Do this with science, and you have conquered nobly. His amour propre how exquisitely gratified !- he has convinced you !
• The scientific Humbug will make himself acquainted with the characteristics of those with whom he mingles. To those proud of ancestry, in what a lofty and sublime strain of panegyric can he soar! -and so on with the rest.”
Another is headed
“ The Humbug of Poetry.- People admire the deep feeling, the exquisite pathos, the sublimity, and fanciful touches of poetry. All Humbug, I assure you, gentlemen! A man sitting down writing feelings which he does not feel,-labouring sentiment and sublimity in ten feet, -drawing upon Walker's · Dictionary of Rhymes' for assistance, blotting, and blotting, and altering,—this they call poetry. I say, gentlemen, it is Humbug!”
Another has merely these fragmentary expressions!
“What a profound Humbug is a patriot, and a physician, and a lawyer, and a lecturer !"
The last I cannot understand. Query-Did he intend, in his zeal for the exposition of Humbug, to expose himself?
Of deep significance, no doubt, are these fragments of a great mind, could we but fairly penetrate them; but if they have important significance, what must have been the value of the “ Lectures, had he lived to deliver them! My arithmetic will not carry me far enough to calculate it. My task is ended—I have shown the world what manner of man it had, and what it has lost! A marble tablet ought to be erected to his memory in every Royal Society in Europe, and no doubt will soon be.