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But if, on the contrary, you have the irremediable misfortune of possessing a singular name,-if your title be a terribly long one, or a niggardly short one,—if it has so direful a sound, that it grates one's teeth at every utterance,—if it is composed of some clashing consonants, or hollow gutturals that produce an unfortunate lack of melody,—if, in fine, it is the same with your barber's, or shoemaker's, or tailor's, or so common as to be held by every two or three persons you meet, and to be painted in black and white characters, on every blackguard sign, in every blackguard alley in the city,—if you possess any one of these miserable bores, to you, sweet reader, must I look for comfort and sympathy.
My name has been the preponderating consideration in every act of my life. Ever since I could walk on two legs, in all the various transformations from a dirty-faced, satchelcarrying, fun-loving schoolboy, to a star-gazing, sonnetmaking, Stewart-digging collegian, this inauspicious name has been the constant theme of all the pleasantries, puns, and jokes of my acquaintance. Did any one wish to be amused, my designation was a ready furnished laughingstock. Did any one wish to afford amusement? He had nothing to do but draw from the same superabundant source. Master, pupil-friend, enemy-parent, child—relation, stranger-big, little-long, short-one and all made my aforesaid name their butt and hobby-horse. Can there be any thing, gentles, I would fain inquire, can there be any thing so very ridiculous in four letters, can there be any thing so superlatively a provocative to risibility in one short syllable, that it is able to set the whole world against the possessor? Is it possible to assign any so very laughable character to the vowel a, the letter k, or the liquids or n, that, put together, they should bring a smile upon every one's face, and a sneer upon every one's lip? And yet I wish not to be pitied;
κρέσσων γὰρ οἰκτιρμῶν φθόνος.
I am the only son of a very rich father, and my mother's family is one of the largest in all Virginia; being composed of an abundance of cousins of every degree from first to fourteenth, and of excellent old maiden aunts and uncles
without number. Upon its being made known in the village that my mother had presented her liege and lord with a son, the little community that had sprung up in the mountains, from the extraordinary exuberance of the families of my maternal grandfather and his brothers, was put into a violent commotion, and all the old maids who could claim acquaintance with the young Lank, by kith and kin, were soon seated in the one horse dearborns, Jersey wagons and other vehicles; which were all, forthwith, jogging at a brisk trot to the great old-fashioned mansion of the Lanks, to see the sole prop and stay of his family.
"The image of his papa!" exclaims my aunt Prudence, before she finds my cradle.
"The beautiful darling!" cries my aunt Charity, ere I unclose my dull grey eyes.
"What a masculine little face!" remarks my aunt Lizzy, before she sees my snub nose. And as I squalled out most lustily, my aunt Dolly was absolutely charmed with my "melodious voice.
In short, there was not a feature in my unmeaning face that was not hunted for with assiduity; nor a limb, finger, or toe that was not in turn fondled o'er, kissed, and lauded to the blue ceiling of the chamber. There was not a perquisite I had not; a beauty I did not possess.
"The sweet little dear," and "dear little darling,' and "darling little dear," and "sweet little sugarplum, were not a moiety of the endearing little names heaped upon my devoted little head; and I do believe that unless I had bawled so loudly that one of my aunts fainted and another went into hysterics, I should have been smothered beneath their caresses, and like Othello have
"died upon a kiss."
The next great object, after a sight of the "sweet fellow," was the choosing of a name. Now most unfortunately, and yet naturally, my father and maternal grandfather had different christian names, and my good parents were divided in their choice. It was hardly to be expected that unanimity should be in the maiden conclave, that was assembled in the green parlor. Such a direful tearing to tatters of plain, honest christianlike titles, I am confident has
never been known, in the annals of the aforementioned village, since its origin, or during the century of its brief existence. One recommended "Lapper, "the name of her black tom-cat. Another peaceable sort of a blue, who had a smattering of Latin, advised that I should be christened "Pacificus," while her opponent, being a more belligerent dame, gave in her verdict for "Hero." In one corner a party were discussing the propriety of my having the name of my mother's family, though they now and then cast sly glances towards another band, which being convened in another corner were hearing arguments in favor of "Oliver," my father's name, and "Obadiah," being that of my mother's father. And I do believe I should never have had any name at all, had not the chong chong unfortunately given out, and (equally unfortunate for me) had not my father, after a severe curtain lecture, consented that the parson should bestow upon me the melodious prefixion of "Oliver Obadiah' to the family name of "Lank," to the lasting discomfiture of his unoffending son, and the chagrin of the majority of my aunts, who thought that names set the character for life, and shook their heads very mysteriously upon observing how many Ohs and Ahs were in the said lugubrious title of "Oliver Obadiah. "
I grew up the pride of my father, the pet of my mother, and the plague of the cats, dogs, turkeys, and good folks of the village. This little town was at first but the residence of my mother's progenitor, and he having a large family that settled around him, was the cause of the springing up of the village. A doctor, parson, and schoolmaster were the only professional men in the country for twenty miles around. Not even a lawyer had made his way there, and as for blacksmiths, cobblers, &c. it was strange indeed if my honest uncles could not shoe their own Dobbins, and their wives could not mend their jerkins. The neat whitewashed houses, scattered here and there along the borders of the grassy streamlet, with thick woods on every side; the chimneys of the Lank wooden mansion peeping above the tops of the evergreens, the tangled brakes of the ivy and jessamine, and the Blue Mountains environing the spot on every side, formed the features of this unsophisticated village; which, from the obscurity of its origin, hardly had a
name, nor was deemed worthy of a situation on any chart extant at that time. Here would Oliver Obadiah Lank have pursued the noiseless tenor of his way, to live unknown and die unnoticed, had not fate interposed, and with rude hands pushed him forward into the open gaze of a malicious world.
In as few words as possible. Mr Lank had bequeathed to his "son Oliver, his goods and chattels to have and to hold so long as said son retain the name of Lank; otherwise said goods and chattels to be forfeited to his eldest brotherin-law, Jacob guardian to said Oliver, and to his heir and heirs for ever." Now upon the death of my lamented mother I was taken successively by my aunts, under their especial charge and tutelage, and, for the time being, taught according to the preponderating character of my hostess. It was when I was fourteen that I took up my residence in my uncle Jacob's family. I was then the veriest scoundrel in the village; the first in the Spring to discover the leafy habitations of the feathered songsters, the best fabricator of traps, gins and snares, of bats, balls and kites, esteemed by my aunts as possessed of incomparable talents, and praised by master Simon, the pedagogue, as a boy of promising abilities. This change of residence was an era in my life. My aunt and cousin Emelina (as she was called) I never liked. The former came from Richmond, and her daughter was the belle of the village, and somewhat pretty. The hen-pecked spouse tamely submitted to what they said; Maria, the younger daughter, was neglected by all, and I was tormented from morning to night by my malicious cousin and her worthy mother. My name, odd as it may seem, in those who were accustomed to it for years, furnished the engine of torment, and so
acutely sensible had I grown to every touch upon that tender point, that with two or three companions, I went off to the mountains, whose every hollow we were familiar with, and remained there two or three days, to the terror and confusion of our friends, and the uprising of the whole village. Upon returning heartily tired with our Crusoe excursion, my luckless companions received a sound flagellation; and as I was thought to be growing unmanageable, it was considered proper that I should be sent to a boarding school.
Thus did my whole life turn on my name; for ere I was well aware of my future destination, I was whistling along the road to Richmond in a one-horse wagon, stored with the remedies and good wishes, the balsams and blessings of my aunts, and possessed of a little trunk, ornamented on the back with large brass tacks, that formed, in conspicuous characters, the letters O. O. L.
QUEEN ELIZABETH'S SOLILOQUY PREVIOUS TO HER SIGNING THE DEATH WARRANT FOR THE EXECUTION OF MARY STUART.
[Translated from Schiller's "Maria Stuart."]
SUBJECTION to my subjects! O, most vile
Why have I reigned in law and justice ever,
The stern necessity, which sways e'en princes.
Europe bands all her powers, to destroy me.