Controlled Revelation #6: Words Matter

“The Ancient Mariner would not have taken so well if it had been called The Old Sailor.”
Samuel Butler

I confess that I love words.  Every word choice is fraught with possibilities. Whenever I teach a literature class—or, for that matter, whenever I teach any English class—I encourage my students to pay attention to a writer’s word choice.  I encourage my students to ask themselves, “Why did the writer choose that word instead of another one?  What are the consequences of that particular word choice?  What impact does that word choice have on the meaning?  What words does the writer use frequently?   Why?”

I think that you get my point:  words matter.  Pay close attention to them.

Samuel Butler makes the point ever so poignantly in the headnote to today’s post.  Can you imagine Samuel Taylor Coleridge giving his “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” the title “The Old Sailor”?  Of course, not!  It would be preposterous!  It would be a different poem entirely. (So, we have Ancient instead of Old, and we have Mariner instead of Sailor.  And, while we’re pondering over the poem’s title, we also have Rime instead of Rhyme.  Selecting Rime goes far, far beyond mere metrics.)

But I digress.  What led me to ruminate so was my close reading of The Humourist’s essay of January 15, 1754.  As  I read and read and re-read that essay—just as I read and read and re-read—each of his essays, I had an epiphany of sorts.  I realized that I was mulling over—savoring, if you will—each and every word.

Some of those words captured my fancy more than others.  The single, solitary word from that essay that gained possession of me with greatest satisfaction was the word Records.   In context, the word appears “Records of Drama.”

Records.  “Anything preserving information and constituting a piece of evidence about past events; esp. an account kept in writing or some other permanent form; (also) a document, monument, etc., on which such an account is inscribed” (Oxford English Dictionary, the 4th definition of the noun).

I’m not sure why, but the phrase Records of Drama struck me as unusual, and it still does.  I started asking myself the same questions that I advise my students to ask:   “Why did the writer choose that word instead of another one?  What are the consequences of that particular word choice?  What impact does that word choice have on the meaning?  What words does the writer use frequently?   Why?”

It was in the answering of those questions that my minor epiphany came:  The Humourist uses the word Records (as a noun) with some frequency.  I could recall—though I knew not where—that he had used it in several of his essays.

So, I set about the task of re-reading—well, actually, skimming and scanning—all of the essays to see if my recollection served me well.

Indeed it did.

In his December 10, 1753, essay The Humourist comments:  “Search the records of old time.”  (Note, too, that he follows that with “and look into the annals of the present.”  RecordsAnnals.  How similar,  I need to ferret out Annals as well.)

Then in his January 1, 1754, essay we find, “These Gifts create a most happy Emulation amongst the juvenile part of Mankind, and are so many Records of Friendship for the Fathers and the Grandfathers to transmit to Posterity.”

And, as we have seen already, he uses the phrase “Records of drama”  in the essay that we are exploring today.

While I am reluctant to ascribe too great a significance to one mere word, it strikes me that The Humourist’s use of the noun Records strengthens the appellation that I gave him in my Controlled Revelation # 1.  The Humourist is a Historian.

My goodness!  One word has led me—and you—all over the place.  Note, however, that it is exactly this kind of close reading that fosters and enables greater understanding and greater appreciation of any passage.

What else did I discover as I gave The Humourist’s January 15, 1754, essay a close reading?  Aside from confirming my notion that The Humourist is a historian, it confirms as well that The Humourist is well versed in drama.   Indeed this essay stands as perhaps the earliest essay in American Literature to exalt positive impact that tragedy has on mankind.

Thus we have still another confirmation of an earlier claim:  The Humourist is a lover of literature with a preference for drama.

Finally, this essay confirms The Humourist’s interest in and knowledge of painting:  “nothing discovering that close Connexion between Poets and Painters more graphically, than the different Peinture they excel in, the one in the outward Lineaments of the Face and Body, the other in the inward Temperament of the Mind.”

Now, I going to take up the task of perusing The Humourist’s essays for the word Annals!  (As I searched for Records, I discovered something that I had not quite noticed before:  nearly every essay touches upon poetry and drama.)

I’ll share my results with you next week.  In the meantime, remember:  words matter. Pay attention to them.

Controlled Revelation #5: A Man Who Knows Humor, Who Lives Near a Church, and Who Knows Children’s Books

“Happiness makes up in height what it lacks in length.”
——Robert Frost

The magic and serendipity that I witnessed last week on my research trip to Charleston, South Carolina, was of such joyful intensity that I am reminded of a Robert Frost poem, “Happiness Makes Up in Height What It Lacks in Length”:

O stormy, stormy world,
The days you were not swirled
Around with mist and cloud,
Or wrapped as in a shroud,
And the sun’s brilliant ball
Was not in part or all
Obscured from mortal view—
Were days so very few
I can but wonder whence
I get the lasting sense
Of so much warmth and light.
If my mistrust is right
It may be altogether
From one day’s perfect weather,
When starting clear at dawn
The day swept clearly on
To finish clear at eve.
I verily believe
My fair impression may
Be all from that one day
No shadow crossed but ours
As through its blazing flowers
We went from house to wood
For change of solitude.

I daresay that the intensity will not come my way again for some while, and, perhaps that’s a good thing:  I’m wired enough already!

This week we’ll apply our close-reading strategy to The Humourist’s essay of January 8, 1754.   You might want to click on the link and take a moment to revisit the essay.

Actually, this is one of my favorite “essays” from the collection, if, indeed you can call letters to yourself essays.  Yet, for the first time, The Humourist shows that he can be humorous.  Consider, if you will, the fact that he has disguised his identity under the pseudonym “The Humourist.”  And then he dares come forth with a letter beginning, “The HUMOURIST to himself, Greeting:”, followed by two more letters written to himself, though signed as “TOM SPRIGHTLY” and “IGNOTUS.”

To say that he’s stretching pseudonymity is an understatement, yet I find it amusing.

I find equally entertaining—albeit rather dated for us moderns—the story that he shares about his grandfather who was “reading the Latin Motto of a Book the other Day, and with great Vehemence and Extasy cried out, Oh! ’tis a noble Thing to be well versed in Greek!”

He’s clever as well in wordplay, as one of his correspondents writes about some Trials at the Old Bailey and notes “Yesterday the above Malefactors were hang’d at ‘Tyburn.'” The Humourist then questions, “Whether the Prisoners being made up of Men and Women, the latter can, by any reasonable Arguments, be proved to be Male-factors.”

To be certain, the humor in this essay is subtle, but it’s there, nonetheless, and we have not seen it before.

I am intrigued as well by the statement at the beginning of the essay that “you are a Man of Penetration, and can, with surprising Discernment, see a Church by Day-Light.”  Until last week’s research trip, I didn’t know what to do with that comment.  Now, however, having had access to the Last Will and Testament of the person I have identified as the Humourist, I understand.  He owned property and had a home on what is now Meeting Street, and, indeed, he would have been able to see St. Michael’s Church at the corner of Meeting Street and Broad Street.

St. Michael's Church

St. Michael’s Church, Charleston, S.C.
(Image from

This strikes me as a rather significant clue.

Finally, a new Humourist dimension emerges in this essay.  I noted in an earlier Controlled Revelation that The Humourist was a bibliophile.  I find it interesting in this essay that he shows his knowledge of children’s literature.  He mentions “Jack the Giant-Killer,” an English fairy tale from the early eighteenth century.  Also, he mentions The Circle of the Sciences, a series of “instructional books for young boys and girls. The books were edited/published between 1744-1748 by John Newbery, considered to be the “Father of Children’s Literature.”  He was so important to the creation and marketing of children’s books that the American Library Association awards the Newbery Medal annually for the most important children’s book published in the previous year.

This week, then, we can see that The Humourist does have a sense of humor.  We can see that he lives close enough to St. Michael’s that he can see it by daylight.  And we can see that he has some knowledge of children books, including contemporary ones.

Week by week, The Humourist.’s profile (like his Aerial Mansion) is becoming “fitted up,” and before the end of summer it will be complete!

Celebrating Scholars and Poets and Librarians!

“Scholars and artists thrown together are often annoyed at the puzzle of where they differ. Both work from knowledge; but I suspect they differ most importantly in the way their knowledge is come by. Scholars get theirs with conscientious thoroughness along projected lines of logic; poets theirs cavalierly and as it happens in and out of books. They stick to nothing deliberately, but let what will stick to them like burrs where they walk in the fields.”

from Robert Frost’s “The Figure a Poem Makes” 

I love Robert Frost, and I especially love his essay “The Figure a Poem Makes.”  I’ve been thinking about that essay a lot today, because I am here in Charleston, South Carolina, on a scholarly research trip.  And I have conducted my work, as Frost said scholars conduct their work, “with conscientious thoroughness along projected lines of logic”.

Projected lines of logic.  Ah!  Yes!  As those of you who have been following my blog know, I have maintained for some time that I am 99% confident that I know the identity of The Humourist.  Trust me:  I do!  And, as you also know, I have been giving The Humourist essays a close reading, noting the clues that allow me to explore my authorial speculations along projected lines of logic.  Indeed those projected lines of logic have guided me throughout this research trip:  projected lines of logic

My hope was that if I could find the Last Will and Testament of the person whom I believe to be The Humourist it might contain specific bequests that would in one way or another connect to the esoteric content of The Humourist essays.  I have reviewed the Last Will and Testament, and, indeed, it contains bequests that parallel certain specifics mentioned in the essays:  specifics dealing with art and with history.  It is not possible that two people living in Charleston, South Carolina, during this same timeframe could have had the very same, identical, specialized interests. I realize that “art” and “history” are not specialized.  Yet, for both of these fields, The Humourist has identified specialized angles.  I have revealed some of them to you already.

I will reveal no more, at this point, except to say that I now have the clincher that I’ve been looking for!  Mind you:  I will continue giving The Humourist essays the close reading that they warrant.  And when I am done with the deed, I will reveal all. For now, I have enough to move me from 99% to 100% certainty.

More, I have found clinchers others than those in his Last Will and Testament.  Today, as I read issues of The South Carolina Gazette housed in the South Carolina Library Society, I found notices of property for sale—property owned by The Humourist.  The location of the property aligns perfectly with references that he makes in two of his essays! Yes!  Yes!

So, as this day ends, I believe that I meet with Frost’s approbation in terms of my scholarly work:  I like to think so, at least.  I know that I have followed with “conscientious thoroughness […] projected lines of logic.”  

And, though I am no poet, I like to think that I would have met with Frost’s approval of my “poetic” way of seeking knowledge, too.  Whenever I am doing research, I approach what I am doing rather “cavalierly.” I approach “nothing deliberately.”  I let what knowledge will “stick” to me “like burrs where [I] walk in the fields.”  The discoveries are remarkable.

Thus—and as is my custom—when I finished my formal scholarly research today, I was reluctant to put aside The South Carolina Gazette without taking a purely “just for fun” walk through its fields.

For some reason, I did as I often saw my mother do when I was a child and she was in search of a “special  message” of some sort:  she closed her eyes, opened the Bible, and let her finger drop to a line of Scripture. (Now that I reflect upon it, I know the reason fully well why I used my mother’s “special message” technique:  had she lived, my mother would have been one hundred and one years old today!  Today is her birthday! Subconsciously, I must have had her birthday on my mind, leading me—her way—to my way of knowledge.)

So, without then knowing why—yet, now, with full understanding, and in like fashion—today I closed my eyes, opened The South Carolina Gazette, and let my finger drop wherever it might drop.

To my great joy, my finger fell on a poetic tribute to Alexander Pope (21 May 1688 – 30 May 1744).  The poem appeared in The South Carolina Gazette, on June 17, 1745, as follows:

Mr. Timothy, —- Sir,

I’ve sent you a Copy of VERSES, written extemporare by a Native of this Place, on the Death of the great and celebrated ALEXANDER POPE, Esq; Please to favour them with a Place in your next Gazette, and you’ll oblige, Sir,

Your most humble Servant,


AND is POPE gone? – Then mourn ye Britons! Mourn —
Your Pride and Boast!  Apollo’s darling Son.
The Muses weep for Thee, immortal Bard!
Thou’rt gone! And with Thee all their Glory’s fled.

His Soul in Rapture mounts th’ ewtherial Road ——
Enraptur’d Seraphs win him to his God;
Pleas’d, the Angelick Bands with Speed give Way,
And hail him onward to eternal Day;
The Bard begins divine Seraphick Lays,
And glads all Heaven, with his rapt’rous Praise!

Now weep, ye chosen Few! Who Pleasure take
In harmonious Numbers, sublimely great;
Now mourn for him, who had the Art to fire
The Soul to Virtue!  and the Heart inspire:
Who writ, for future Blessings to Mankind,
To mend the Heart, and to inform the Mind.
Who dar’d defend the righteous Laws of God,
And boldly in the bright Paths of Virtue trod.
His dreadful Satyr! That strange piercing Dart,
Well levell’d slew, —— and slung the guilty Heart.

Who next in Genius! able to sustain
The Poetick Fire? The heavenly Flame!
Like POPE! unfold great Nature’s moral Laws,
Like him, in flaming Zeal, and pious Rage,
Scourge the base Follies of a guilty Age?
A sacred Flame! Does thro’ thy Numbers flow,
Informs the Mind, and makes the Heart to glow.
Tho; thou art gone, —— thy Works shall brightest shine,
With Men of Genius, to the End of Time.
Thy Ethics shine, with much superior Rays, ——
Like thy bright Soul! ne more immortal Blaze!

But stay my Muse! Thy languid Flame’s too faint
The dazzling Beauties of great POPE to paint!
And O great Shade! Forgive my humble Lays,
Who only shew my Weakness, when I’d praise!
No Pen, so well, can speak thy rising Fame ——
As thy own Works:  That brighten into Flame.

Who can, O POPE! Thy Sacred Laurel wear?
Who can, alas, the dazzling Lustre bear!
Who can, like Thee! Lift up the Sacred Rod?
The Power’s not of Man —— ‘tis the Gift of GOD.
THIS is thy Praise, due from every Pen,

Is this not incredibly wonderful?  Just think:  someone in Colonial America—someone in Charleston, South Carolina—penned such a poetic tribute to Alexander Pope on the occasion of his death! 

How wonderful that the poetic tribute still exists in a newspaper that has survived against all odds for all these years.  Now that’s life everlasting not only for Pope but also for Philagathus!  It’s also life everlasting for librarians—the unsung keepers of our vast storehouses of treasured knowledge, whether scholarly or poetic.

Discoveries.  Joys.  Research.

It doesn’t get any better than this!

Serendipity on Sullivan’s Island

My Humourist post for today noted my location:  Sullivan’s Island.  It noted as well that Edgar Allan Poe was at Fort Moultrie on the western end of Sullivan’s Island for thirteen months and while there gained the inspiration for his story “The Gold Bug”—a story about a beetle that leads to a buried treasure!

Great!  So, that’s how I started my day.  Afterwards I went to the Charleston County Public Library to research wills and plats.  More on my findings tomorrow or the next day.  Let me tell you, though, that I have but one word to describe what I found:  PHENOM!  Stay tuned.  You will be as stunned as I was/am!

After my research, I returned to Sullivan’s Island.  Allen and I thought that it would be fun to bike around the island.  We’re staying at a marvelous historic home, located on Station 28.  So, off we went, biking.  We had nowhere special in mind, mind you.  We just wanted to bike, mindlessly.  We just wanted to explore, mindlessly.

And so we did.  We biked.  Mindless.  Mindlessly.

Toward the end of our trip, and, indeed, just a stone’s throw from our “home away from home,”  we spotted the most spectacular tree that either of us had ever seen in our lives.  We nearly fell off our bikes at the same time!  We stopped, drop dead.  And, just as we were gawking, a woman walked down the driveway that led to the house behind the tree.

“What a spectacular tree,” I exclaimed.  (Of course:  she knew that already!)

“Yes.  It’s on the Historical Register.”

“Yes, yes.  Of course. As well it should be.  It’s phenomenal.”

“It’s the Gold Bug tree, you know.”

I didn’t know. To me, it was just a drop-dead, spectacular tree.

“The Gold Bug Tree?”  I questioned.  “The Gold Bug Tree?  You mean Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Gold Bug’ tree?”

“Yes,” she said.  “This is the Gold Bug Tree.  But It wasn’t quite this big when Poe wrote his story.  It’s grown a lot.”  She smiled—a big wide Southern smile, full of pride. The Gold Bug Tree, right there in her yard. Right there, in front of her home. Right there, in front of me.  Right there in front of me—a tree that I had read about but not a tree that I had ever in my wildest imaginations expected to see!  I had no idea that such a tree ever, ever, ever existed!  And here I stood, drop dead in front of it, admiring it without even knowing its literary significance.

“Oh, my!” I stammered, stuttered.  “How strange.”  I continued stammering, stuttering. “I write a blog, and my post for today mentioned that I was staying here on Sullivan’s Island where Poe gained his inspiration for writing ‘The Gold Bug.’  Wow! I’m so glad that you were here as we biked by!  The Gold Bug Tree.  I’m stunned. Just stunned! The Gold Bug tree!  If you hadn’t been here, I woudn’t have known.  I would have just thought that this was such a spectacular tree.”

“Yes.  This is the tree!  The Gold Bug Tree.  Enjoy the rest of your day.” 

She walked back up the driveway leading to her home behind the famous tree.  

We biked back to our less famous rental home on Station 28, and then we returned to The Gold Bug Tree at Station 27.  Without a doubt:  we had to take pictures. 

Two photos follow: one of the tree; the other, the corner marker where the tree reigns with commanding magnificence!  



I have but one word:  Serendipity!


And, of course, let me tease you with the passage from Poe’s “The Gold Bug”:

“Jupiter, by direction of his master, proceeded to clear for us a path to the foot of an enormously tall tulip-tree, which stood, with some eight or ten oaks, upon the level, and far surpassed them all, and all other trees which I had then ever seen, in the beauty of its foliage and form, in the wide spread of its branches, and in the general majesty of its appearance.”

Now, go:  read the story and find the tree!  “The Gold Bug.”

Share with me my serendipitous day! 



Controlled Revelation #4: Live from Charleston, South Carolina

This week I’m here in Charleston, South Carolina, where I am continuing my research work on The Humourist.  For this trip, however, I decided to stay off the beaten path:  I’m out on Sullivan’s Island, at the entrance to Charleston Harbor.  Edgar Allan Poe spent thirteen months here at Fort Moultrie, beginning November 18, 1827, and it was here on Sullivan’s Island that he wrote his famous short story, “The Gold Bug.”

Later this morning, I’ll be visiting the South Carolina History Room, Charleston County Public Library. I want to examine some land plats from the 1750s when the Humourist was publishing his essays in the South Carolina Gazette, and I want to examine some wills from the period.  Obviously, I’m looking for the will of the person I believe to be The Humourist.  I want to see whether the will contains any information that might confirm that he is actually the writer!

I realize, of course, that it’s a long shot, but who knows!  Last week, I was chatting with one of my colleague’s about my research, and I mentioned to him that I was 99% certain who wrote the essays, but I still hoped to find a direct statement somewhere that “Mr. X” was The Humourist.  My colleague looked at me and wisely replied, “You’ll never find it because it probably doesn’t exist.”  He’s probably right, and I know that I won’t find such a statement in The Humourist’s will.  However, I might find such a statement in someone’s diary, someone’s journal, or someone’s letters.  And who knows:  I might just find it on this research trip.

I keep reminding myself, however, that identifying the author of these essays is only part of my project.  The larger and more important part is making the Humourist essays available to students, scholars, and the world at large.  I am well on my way to doing just that by making the essays available here in this blog.

You will recall that last week’s Controlled Revelation #3 left me reeling because I discovered multiple passages in the Humourist essays that were identical to passages that had appeared in a series of “Castle Building” essays that had been published in The Student under the name of Chimaericus Cantabrigiensis.  I offered up two possibilities, as follows:

“The Humourist is a plagiarist, and I have just unwittingly disclosed what may well be the first documented case of academic dishonesty in Colonial America.

“Or, shifting to a more optimistic possibility, is it possible that Chimaericus Cantabrigiensis and The Humourist are one and the same?  If that’s the case, the parallel passages are all fine and well because a writer may certainly borrow from his own work and use it in multiple publications!  More, though, if that’s the case—if Chimaericus Cantabrigiensis and The Humourist are one and the same—I have just expanded significantly what I believed to be The Humourist’s literary canon.”

Since last week, I have discovered that Chimaericus Cantabrigiensis was a pseudonym used by English poet Christopher Smart (1722-1771).  Smart, not The Humourist, is the author of the “Castle Building” essays that appeared in The Student.

Therefore, I must report that Continue reading

Controlled Revelation #3: Numerous Confirmations and a New Research Discovery/Challenge that Has Me Reeling!

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;”

 Thus far we have seen the Humourist playing many parts:

  • Classicist
  • Bibliophile
  • Historian
  • Lover of Literature
  • Painter
  • Science Aficionado

This week, as we give his essay of December 24, 1753, a close reading, we will discover numerous confirmations that he played those parts well, but we will also discover a new research challenge that, quite frankly, has me reeling on my own research stage!

Let’s start with the confirmations that I have discovered this week.  We’ll save the new discovery/challenge for the end of this post, thereby allowing it to become the grand finale.

We have major confirmations, of course, that the Humourist is a lover of literature.  Interestingly enough, however, his literary selections and references begin to show a genre preference:  drama.  This week, for example, we find him quoting from Shakespeare’s “Prologue” to Henry the V: “Into a thousand parts divide one man, / And make imaginary puissance.”  Further, he makes reference to the “Abel Drugger”—a character in Ben Jonson’s comedy The Alchemist, first performed in 1610.

Equally important, notice his theatrical language:  “no man considers himself as ordained to act a part only; we are all universal players”.   It continues—with some significance that may point us in the direction of the Humourist’s general age—when he writes:  “after having run thro’ the several stages of life, am happy enough to find my finances in tolerable order.”

“Having run thro’ the several stages of life.” Candidly I have read this essay many, many times, and it was not until yesterday when I re-read it once more that those words caught my attention.  Several stages of life.  Of course!  Coming as it does in an essay with a Shakespearean quote as the headnote, the Humourist is referring to Shakespeare’s seven stages of life proclaimed by Jacques in As You Like It (2. 7. 139-167):

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the canon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Again, what we have is a confirmation that the Humourist is knowledgeable of drama.  More, though, we have a means of determining, with some accuracy, the Humourist’s age.  He says that he has run through the several stages of life and that he is happy to find his finances in tolerable order.  Clearly, he is past the fourth stage of life—the soldier stage—focused on seeking the “bubble reputation.”  The Humourist has achieved that already.  He seems to be in the fifth stage of life—the justice stage—focused on comfort and wise sayings and playing the part well.  This is the stage of life generally achieved in our fifties.  I feel fairly confident in saying that the Humourist is in his mid- to late fifties.

As might be expected, this week’s essay confirms that the Humourist was a lover of poetry:  “The pleasure is as great / In being cheated, as to cheat.” The quote is from Hudibras, Part II, Canto III by English satirical poet Samuel Butler (1612-1680). The full quotation reads: “Doubtless the pleasure is as great / Of being cheated as to cheat; / As lookers-on feel most delight, / That least perceive a jugler’s slight; / And still the less they understand, / The more th’ admire his slight of hand.”

Also, the essay establishes the Humourist to be a Poet, as evidenced by his “Song,” the first of several original poetic flights that he would take.

The Humourist continues to bring the art of Painting and Drawing into his essays:  “If a sign-painter can imagine himself possessed of the finger of a Raphael, that his portraits are surprising, his pencil bold and animating, and that his figures swell on the canvas and quicken into life, permit him to hug the blest idea.”

Further, in his “Advertisement” promising to publish the anatomy of human heads, he indicates that the work will be “illustrated with near a million of worthy personages, as engrav’d by the best masters.”  This new angle—engraving—intrigues me and will be set aside for further rumination.

Thus have I shared “gleanings” from my close reading of the Humourist’s December 24, 1753, essay—gleanings that confirm that which we knew already and at the same time sharpen the focus of what we know about the Humourist:  he’s a lover of literature, yes, but he is knowledgeable of the theater, and he is a poet.  He’s a painter, perhaps, but he knows how to draw and he may be familiar with engraving.  Finally, he shares with us the fact that he has run through the several stages of life and has his finances in order, thereby establishing (with some accuracy, I believe) that the Humourist is in his mid- to late fifties.

I have yet to share, however, the new research discovery/challenge that has me reeling! Continue reading