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STU. Yes; into possible, probable, and positive.
STU. A possible salt-box is a salt-box yet unsold in the hands of the joiner.
PROF. Why SO?
STU. Because it hath never yet become a salt-box in fact, having never had any salt in it; and it may possibly be applied to some other use.
PROF. Very true; for a salt-box which never had, hath not now, and perhaps never may have, any salt in it, can only be termed a possible salt-box. What is a probable salt-box?
STU. It is a salt-box in the hand of one going to a shop to buy salt, and who hath sixpence in his pocket to pay the grocer; and a positive salt-box is one which hath actually and bona fide got
salt in it.
PROF. Very good:-but is there no instance of a positive saltbox, which hath no salt in it?
STU. I know of none.
PROF. Yes there is one mentioned by some authors: it is where a box hath by long use been so impregnated with salt, that, although all the salt hath been long since emptied out, it may yet be called a salt-box, with the same propriety that we say a saltherring, salt beef, &c. And in this sense, any box that may have accidentally, or otherwise, been long steeped in brine, may be termed positively a salt-box, although never designed for the purpose of keeping salt. But tell me, what other division of saltboxes do you recollect?
STU. They are further divided into substantive and pendant : a substantive salt-box is that which stands by itself on the table or dresser; and a pendant is that which hangs upon a nail against the wall.
PROF. What is the idea of a salt-box?
STU. It is that image which the mind conceives of a salt-box when no salt-box is present.
PROF. What is the abstract idea of a salt-box?
STU. It is the idea of a salt-box abstracted from the idea of a box, or of salt, or of a salt-box, or of a box of salt.
PROF. Very right; and by these means you acquire a most perfect knowledge of a salt-box; but tell me, is the idea of a salt-box a salt idea?
STU. Not unless the ideal box hath ideal salt in it.
PROF. True; and therefore an abstract idea cannot be either salt or fresh, round or square, long or short; for a true abstract idea must be entirely free of all adjuncts. And this shows the difference between a salt idea and an idea of salt. Is an aptitude to hold salt an essential or an accidental property of a salt-box?
STU. It is essential; but if there should be a crack in the bottom of the box, the aptitude to spill salt would be termed an accidental property of that salt-box.
PROF. Very well! very well indeed!-What is the salt called with respect to the box?
STU. It is called its contents.
PROF. And why so?
STU. Because the cook is content quo ad hoc to find plenty of salt in the box.
PROF. You are very right—I see you have not misspent your time but let us now proceed to
PROF. How many parts are there in a salt-box?
STU. Three. Bottom, top, and sides.
PROF. How many modes are there in salt-boxes?
STU. Four. The formal, the substantial, the accidental, and the topsy-turvy.
PROF. Define these several modes.
STU. The formal respects the figure or shape of the box, such as round, square, oblong, and so forth; the substantial respects the work of the joiner; and the accidental depends upon the string by which the box is hung against the wall.
PROF. Very well; and what are the consequences of the accidental mode?
STU. If the string should break the box would fall, the salt be spilt, the salt-box broken, and the cook in a bitter passion; and this is the accidental mode with its consequences.
PROF. How do you distinguish between the top and bottom of a salt-box?
STU. The top of a box is that part which is uppermost, and the bottom that part which is lowest in all positions.
PROF. You should rather say the lowest part is the bottom and the uppermost part is the top. How is it, then, if the bottom should be the uppermost?
STU. The top would then be the lowermost; and so the bottom would become the top, and the top would become the bottom; and this is called the topsy-turvy mode, which is nearly allied to the accidental, and frequently arises from it.
PROF. Very good; but are not salt-boxes sometimes single, and sometimes double?
PROF. Well, then, mention the several combinations of saltboxes with respect to their having salt or not.
STU. They are divided into single salt-boxes having salt; single salt-boxes having no salt; double salt-boxes having salt; double
salt-boxes having no salt; and single double salt-boxes having salt and no salt.
PROF. Hold! hold! you are going too far.
DEAR SIR-The peculiar customs of every country appear to strangers awkward and absurd; but the inhabitants consider them as very proper and even necessary. Long habit imposes on the understanding, and reconciles it to any thing that is not manifestly pernicious or immediately destructive.
I have read somewhere of a nation (in Africa, I think,) which is governed by twelve counsellors. When these counsellors are to meet on public business, twelve large earthen jars are set in two rows, and filled with water. The counsellors enter the apartment one after another, stark naked, and each leaps into a jar, where he sits up to the chin in water. When the jars are all filled with counsellors, they proceed to deliberate on the great concerns of the nation. This, to be sure, forms a very grotesque scene; but the object is to transact the public business: they have been accustomed to do it in this way, and therefore it appears to them the most rational and convenient way. Indeed, if we consider it impartially, there seems to be no reason why a counsellor may not be as wise in an earthen jar as in an elbow-chair; or why the good of the people may not be as maturely considered in the one as in the other.
The established manners of every country are the standards of propriety with the people who have adopted them; and every nation assumes the right of considering all deviations therefrom as barbarisms and absurdities.
I have discovered but few national singularities amongst the people of these new States. Their customs and manners are nearly the same with those of England, which they have long been used to copy. I have, however, observed one custom which, for aught I know, is peculiar to this country. An account of it will serve to fill up the remainder of this sheet, and may afford
you some amusement.
When a young couple are about to enter on the matrimonial state, a never-failing article in the marriage treaty is, that the lady shall have and enjoy the free and unmolested exercise of the rights of WHITE-WASHING, with all its ceremonials, privileges, and appurtenances. You will wonder what this privilege of whitewashing is. I will endeavor to give you an idea of the ceremony as I have seen it performed.
1 A letter from a gentleman in America to his friend in Europe.
There is no season of the year in which the lady may not, if she pleases, claim her privilege; but the latter end of May is generally fixed upon for the purpose. The attentive husband may judge, by certain prognostics, when the storm is nigh at hand. If the lady grows uncommonly fretful, finds fault with the servants, is discontented with the children, and complains much of the nastiness of every thing about her; these are symptoms which ought not to be neglected, yet they sometimes go off without any further effect. But if, when the husband rises in the morning, he should observe in the yard a wheelbarrow with a quantity of lime in it, or should see certain buckets filled with a solution of lime in water, there is no time for hesitation. He immediately locks up the apartment or closet where his papers and private property are kept, and, putting the key in his pocket, betakes himself to flight. A husband, however beloved, becomes a perfect nuisance during this season of female rage. His authority is superseded, his commission suspended, and the very scullion who cleans the brasses in the kitchen becomes of more importance than he. He has nothing for it but to abdicate for a time, and run from an evil which he can neither prevent nor mollify.
The husband gone, the ceremony begins. The walls are stripped of their furniture; paintings, prints, and looking-glasses lie in huddled heaps about the floors; the curtains are torn from their testers, the beds crammed into windows; chairs and tables, bedsteads and cradles crowd the yard; and the garden-fence bends beneath the weight of carpets, blankets, cloth cloaks, old coats, under-petticoats, and ragged breeches. Here may be seen the lumber of the kitchen, forming a dark and confused mass for the foreground of the picture; gridirons and frying-pans, rusty shovels and broken tongs, joint-stools, and the fractured remains of rushbottomed chairs. There, a closet has disgorged its bowels,riveted plates and dishes, halves of china bowls, cracked tumblers, broken wineglasses, phials of forgotten physic, papers of unknown powders, seeds and dried herbs, tops of teapots, and stoppers of departed decanters; from the rag-hole in the garret to the rathole in the cellar, no place escapes unrummaged. It would seem as if the day of general doom was come, and the utensils of the house were dragged forth to judgment.
This ceremony completed, and the house thoroughly evacuated, the next operation is to smear the walls and ceilings with brushes, dipped in a solution of lime, called WHITE-WASH; to pour buckets of water over every floor, and scratch all the partitions and wainscots with hard brushes, charged with soft soap and stone-cutter's sand.
The windows by no means escape the general deluge. A servant scrambles out upon the pent-house, at the risk of her neck,
and, with a mug in her hand and a bucket within reach, dashes innumerable gallons of water against the glass panes, to the great annoyance of passengers in the street.
I have been told that an action at law was once brought against one of these water-nymphs by a person who had a new suit of clothes spoiled by this operation: but, after long argument, it was determined that no damages could be awarded, inasmuch as the defendant was in the exercise of a legal right, and not answerable for the consequences. And so the poor gentleman was doubly non-suited; for he lost both his suit of clothes and his suit at law.
I know a gentleman here who is fond of accounting for every thing in a philosophical way. He considers this, which I call a custom, as a real, periodical disease, peculiar to the climate. His train of reasoning is whimsical and ingenious; but I am not at leisure to give you the detail. The result was, that he found the distemper to be incurable; but, after much study, he thought he had discovered a method to divert the evil he could not subdue. For this purpose, he caused a small building, about twelve feet square, to be erected in his garden, and furnished with some ordinary chairs and tables, and a few prints of the cheapest sort. His hope was that, when the white-washing frenzy seized the females of his family, they might repair to this apartment, and scrub, and scour, smear to their hearts' content, and so spend the violence of the disease in this outpost, whilst he enjoyed himself in quiet at head-quarters. But the experiment did not answer his expectation. It was impossible it should, since a principal part of the gratification consists in the lady's having an uncontrolled right to torment her husband, at least once in every year; to turn him out of doors, and take the reins of government into her own hands.
MISTAKE VERSUS BLUNDER.1
This was an action on the statute of Patrick 4, chap. 16, called THE STATUTE OF NAILS, which prohibits all subjects within the realm from cutting or paring their nails on a Friday, under the penalty of twenty shillings for every offence, to be recovered by the overseers of the poor, for the use of the poor of the county in which the offence should be committed. Mistake and others were overseers of the poor for the county of Antrim, and brought their action under the statute against the defendant. And it was in proof that the defendant had pared his thumb-nails and his great toe-nails on Friday, to wit, on Friday, the
at twelve o'clock in the night of the same day.
This is a case cited in the most humorous paper, entitled "Specimen of a Modern Lawsuit."