[NetBehaviour] Masquerades, Curiosities

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Wed Jun 21 04:36:56 CEST 2006




Masquerades, Curiosities


Johnson on Masquerade:

... "Behold, Flirtilla, at thy feet, a man grown gray in the study of
those noble arts by which right and wrong may be confounded; by which
reason may be blinded, when we have a mind to escape from her inspection;
and caprice and appetite insated in uncontrolled command and boundless
dominion? Such a casuist may surely engage, with certainty of success, in
vindication of an entertainment, which in an instant, gives confidence to
the timorous, and kindles ardour in the cold; an entertainment where the
vigilance of jealousy has so often been eluded, and the virgin is set free
from the necessity of languishing in silence; where all the outworks of
chastity are at once demolished; where the heart is laid open without a
blush; where bashfulness may survive virtue, and no wish is crushed under
the frown of modesty." ...

And of Curiosities:

... "I have suffered nothing worthy the regard of a wise man to escape my
notice: I have ransacked the old and the new world, and been equally
attentive to past ages and the present. For the illustration of ancient
history, I can show a marble, of which the inscription, though it is not
now legible, appears from some broken remains of the letters, to have been
Tuscan, and therefore probably engraved before the foundation of Rome. I
have two pieces of porphyry found among the ruins of Ephesus, and three
letters broken off by a learned traveller from the monuments of Persep-
olis, a piece of stone which paved the Areopagus of Athens, and a plate
without figures or characters, which was found at Corinth, and which I
therefore believe to be that metal which was once valued before gold. I
have sand gathered out of the Granicus; a fragment of Trajan's bridge over
the Danube; some of the mortar which cemented the watercourse of Tarquin;
a horse-shoe broken on the Flaminian way, and a turf with five daisies dug
from the field of Pharsalia." ...

"The Persian monrachs are said to have boased the greatness of their
empire by being served at their tables with drink from the Ganges and the
Danube: I can show one vial, of which the water was formerly an icicle on
the crags of Caucasus, and another that contains what once was snow on the
top of Atlas; in a third is dew brushed from a banana in the gardens of
Ispahan; and in other, brine that has rolled in the Pacific ocean. I
flatter myself that I am writing to a man who will rejoice at the honour
which my labours have procured to my country; and therefore I shall tell
you that Britain can, by my care, boast of a snail that has crawled upon
the wall of China; a humming-bird which an American pricess wore in her
ear; the tooth of an elephant who carried the queen of Siam; the skin of
an ape that was kept in the palace of the great mogul; a riband that
adorned one of the maids of a Turkish Sultana; and a scymetar once wielded
by a soldier of Abas the great." ...

"In collecting antiquities of every country, I have been careful to choose
only by intrinsic worth, and real usefulness, without regard to party
opinions. I have therefore a lock of Cromwell's hair in a box turned from
a piece of the royal oak; and keep in the same drawers, sand scraped from
the coffin of king Richard, and a commission signed by Henry the Seventh.
I have equal veneration for the ruff of Elizabeth and the shoe of Mary of
Scotland; and should lose, with like regret, a tobacco-pipe of Raleigh,
and a stirrup of king James. I have paid the same price for a glove of
Lewis, and a thimble of queen Mary; for a fur cap of the Czar, and a boot
of Charles of Sweden." ...

>From The Rambler, numbers 10 and 82 (reissue, Philadelphia, 1827).


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