From Quizzism and Its Key. Quirks and Quibbles from Queer Quarters. A Mélange of Questions in Literature, Science, History, Biography, Mythology, Philology, Geography, etc. etc. With Their Answers, by Albert P. Southwick, A. M.; New England Publishing Company, Boston; 1886; pp. 195-212.
Boehmer, the court jeweler of France, offered the queen, Marie Antoinette, in 1785, a diamond necklace for £64,000. The queen desired the necklace, but dreaded the expense. The Countess de la Motte (of the ancient house of Valois) forged the queen’s signature, and by pretending that the queen had an attachment for him, persuaded the Cardinal de Rohan, the queen’s almoner, to conclude a bargain with the jeweler for the necklace for £56,000. De la Motte thus obtained the necklace and made away with it, and for this she was tried in 1786, and sentenced to be branded on the shoulders and imprisoned for life. She accused, in vain, the celebrated Italian adventurer, Cagliostro, of complicity in 195 the affair, he being then intimate with the cardinal. Making her escape, she went to London, where she was killed by falling from a window-sill in attempting to escape an arrest for debt. De Rohan was tried and acquitted, April 14, 1786. The public in France at that time suspected the queen of being a party to the fraud, and Talleyrand wrote in reference to it: “I shall not be surprised if this miserable affair overturn the throne.”
The word means the “Gilded Man.” When the Spaniards had conquered Mexico and Peru, they began to look for new sources of wealth, and, having heard of a golden city ruled by a king or priest, smeared in oil and rolled in gold dust (which report was founded on an annual custom of the Indians), they organized various expeditions into the interior of South America, about 1560, which were accompanied with disasters and crimes. Raleigh’s expeditions in search of gold, in 1596 and 1617, led to his downfall, and subsequent death on the scaffold.
A noble and powerful family at Rome, who derived their name from faba, a bean, because some of their ancestors cultivated this pulse; they were said to be descended from Fabius, a supposed son of Hercules, and were once so numerous that they took upon themselves to wage war against the Veientes. They came to a general engagement near the Cremera, in which all the family, consisting of three hundred and six men, were slain in a sudden attack, 447 B. C. There only remained one, whose tender age had detained him at Rome, and from him arose the noble Fabii in the following ages. Fabius Cunctator (The Delayer) kept 196 Hannibal in check for some time without coming to an engagement. 217-216 B. C.
Joseph Addison (1672-1719) wrote: “Jotham’s fable of the trees (Judges ix., about 1209 B. C.) is the oldest extant, and as beautiful as any made since.” Nathan’s fable of the poor man (2 Sam. xii., about 1034 B. C.) is next in antiquity. The earliest collection of fables extant is of Eastern origin, and is preserved in the Sanscrit. The fables of Vishnoo Sarma, called Pilpay, are the most beautiful, if not the most ancient, in the world. (Sir William Jones.) The well-known Æsop’s Fables, which are doubtless a compilation from various sources, supposed to have been written about 565 or 620 B. C., were versified by Babrius, a Greek poet, about 130 B. C., and turned into prose by Maximus Planudes, a Greek monk, about 1320, who added other fables, and appended a worthless life of Æsop. The fables of La Fontaine (1700) and Gay (1727) are also highly celebrated.
The Hon. George Ferrars, a member of Parliament, being in attendance on the House, was taken in execution by a sheriff’s officer for debt, and committed to the Compter prison, in March, 1542. The House dispatched their sergeant to require his release, which was resisted, and an affray taking place, his mace was broken. The House in a body repaired to the Lords to complain, when the contempt was adjudged to be very great, and the punishment of the offenders was referred to the Lower House. On another messenger being sent to the sheriffs by the Commons, they 197 delivered up the senator, and the civil magistrates and the creditor were committed to the Tower, the inferior officers to Newgate, and an act was passed releasing Mr. Ferrars from liability from debt. The king, Henry VIII., highly approved of all these proceedings, and the transaction became the basis of that rule of Parliament which exempts members from arrest. —Holinshed.
It was known to the ancients, for Terence in his Enunchus, B. C. 166, wrote: “Cape hoc flabellum, et ventulum huic sic facito” (“Take this fan and give her thus a little air”). Fans, together with muffs, masks, and false hair, were first devised by the harlots in Italy, and were brought to England from France. Pardon states that the fan was used by females to hide their faces at church. In the British Museum are fan-handles and other articles of Egyptian manufacture, used anciently by women.
The Romans pronounced harangues over their dead, when eminent for rank, great deeds, and virtues. Reference has already been made to Theopompus obtaining a prize for the best Funeral Oration in praise of Mausolus. Popilia was the first Roman lady who had an oration pronounced at her funeral, which was done by her son, Crassus; and it is observed by Cicero that Julius Cæsar performed a similar service for his aunt, Julia, and his wife, Cornelia. In Greece, Solon was the first who pronounced a funeral oration, according to Herodotus, 580 B. C. David lamented over Saul and Jonathan, 1056 B. C., and over Abner, 1048 B. C. (2 Sam. i. and iii.). Funeral Games, which among the Greeks were chiefly horse-races, and among the Romans 198 processions and mortal combats of gladiators around the funeral pile, were abolished by the Emperor Claudius, A. D. 47.
Titus Oates, who at one time served as a chaplain of a ship-of-war, was dismissed for immoral conduct, and became a lecturer in London. In conjunction with Dr. Tongue he invented a plot against the Roman Catholics, who, he asserted, had conspired to assassinate Charles II., and extirpate the Protestant religion. He made it known August 12, 1678, and, in consequence, about eighteen Roman Catholics were accused and upon false testimony convicted and executed: among them the aged Viscount Stafford, December 29, 1680. Oates was afterward tried for perjury (in the reign of James II.), and being found guilty, was fined, put in the pillory, publicly whipped from Newgate to Tyburn, and sentenced to imprisonment for life, May, 1685. On the accession of William and Mary he was pardoned, and a pension of £3 a week granted him in 1689.
An English clergyman of some talents and great eccentricity who obtained this name by opening what he called his “Oratory,” in London (1726). He had a kind of Chapel in Newport Market, where he gave lectures on theological topics on Sundays, and on other subjects on Wednesdays of every week. Novelty procured him a number of hearers; but he was too imprudent to gain any permanent advantage from his project. After having served as a butt for the satirical wits, poets, and painters of his time, he removed his oratory to Clare Market, and sank into comparative obscurity and contempt prior to his death in 1756.199
Alfonso, count or duke of Portugal, who, at Ourique (Portugal), on the twenty-fifth of July, 1139, encountered five Saracen kings and a prodigious army of Moors, and signally defeated them. He was hailed King upon the spot. Lisbon, the capital, was then taken, and soon after he was crowned there as their first king, the Moorish dominion being overthrown.
He fell a victim to the sudden resentment of the natives of Owhyhee, or Hawaii, on February 14, 1779; having discovered the island the previous year. A boat having been stolen by one of the islanders, the captain went on shore to seize the king, and keep him as a hostage till the boat was restored. The people would not submit to this insult, and their resistance brought on hostilities, during which Captain Cook and some of his companions were killed.
A temple built at Rome by Augustus Cæsar, or his son-in-law, 27 B. C. It was in a round form, having niches in the wall, where the image or representation of a particular god was set up; the gates were of brass, the beams covered with gilt brass, and the roof covered with silver plate. Pope Boniface III. dedicated it to the Virgin Mary, and all the saints, by the name of S. Maria della Rotonda, or “ad Martyres,” A. D. 608. The Pantheon in London was erected by subscription, and opened January 25, 1772. It was formed into an opera house; burnt down January 14, 1792; was rebuilt in 1795 and 1812; and made a bazaar in 1834.200
A popular actress and favorite of Charles II. In his History of the Stage, Curll states that Nell first captivated the king by her manner of delivering the epilogue to Dryden’s Tyrannic Love; or, The Royal Martyr. The tragedy was founded upon the story of the martyrdom of St. Catherine, by way of compliment to Catherine of Braganza. She personated Valeria, the daughter of Maximin, tyrant of Rome. The “last words” of the Merry Monarch were: “Don’t let poor Nelly starve.” She died poor and neglected.
[Elf.Ed. See a letter by Nell Gwynn onsite here.]
Ostius, who, having killed his father about 172 B. C., was first scourged by the Romans, then sewed up in a leathern sack made air-tight, with a live dog, a cock, a viper, and an ape, and thus cast into the sea. Before this there had been no law against it in Athens or Rome, as such a crime was not supposed possible.
The river Raisin is remarkable in history as the place of a foul massacre on the twenty-third of January, 1813. The Americans had been attacked and routed by General Proctor, half of whose force consisted of Indians. The American general and his second in command were captured, and their troops surrendered on Proctor’s promise of protection and safety. The British general marched off leaving no guard for the Americans. The Indians returned and burnt the sick and wounded in the houses; threw others into the flames; tomahawked and scalped many more. Only thirty-three 201 escaped out of a thousand. The victorious American army under General Harrison afterward fired their hearts to deeds of valor and bravery by sounding this war-cry.
Small satirical poems obtained this name about 1533. They originated in the sixteenth century at the stall of a cobbler named Pasquin, at Rome, where a number of idle persons used to assemble to listen to his pleasant sallies, and to related little anecdotes in their turn, and indulge themselves in raillery at the expense of the passers-by. After the cobbler’s death the statue of a gladiator was found near his stall, to which the people gave his name, and on which the wits of the time, secretly at night, affixed their lampoons upon the State and their neighbors.
Perekop, which is five miles broad. It was called by the Tartars, Orkapou, “Gate of the Isthmus,” which the Russians changed to its present name, signifying a barren ditch. The Tartar fortress was taken and destroyed by the Russian Marshal Münich in 1736, by assault, although it was defended by one thousand Janissaries and one hundred thousand Tartars. It was again fortified by the khan, but was again taken by the Russians in 1771, who have since retained it.
Picquet, which was invented, it is said, by Joquemin, for the amusement of Charles VI. of France, then in feeble health, in the year 1390.202
He was the one who, according to Ovid, announced to his father his victory at the Olympic games by sending to him at Ægina a pigeon stained with purple. Relative to carrier-pigeons it is said that Hirtius and Brutus corresponded by means of them at the siege of Modena. In modern times, the most noted were the pigeons of Aleppo, which served as couriers at Alexandretta and Bagdad. Thirty-two pigeons sent to Antwerp were liberated from London at seven o’clock in the morning, and on the same day, at noon, one of them arrived at Antwerp; a quarter of an hour afterward a second arrived; the remainder on the following day, November 23, 1819.
The kings were from Henry II. to Richard III., killed at the battle of Bosworth. The name originated with Fulke Martel, earl of Anjou, who contrived the death of his nephew, the Earl of Brittany, in order to succeed to the earldom. His confessor sent him, in atonement for the murder, to Jerusalem, attended by only two servants, one of whom was to lead him by a halter to the Holy Sepulcher, the other to strip and whip him there, like a common malefactor. Broom, in French genet, in Latin genista, being the only tough, pliant shrub in Palestine, the noble criminal was smartly scourged with it, and from this instrument of his chastisement he was called Planta-genista, or Plantagenet.
A deadly poison freely administered by Italians in the seventeenth century, and so called from the name of the woman Tofania, who made and sold it in small flat phials. 203 She carried on this traffic for half a century, and eluded the police; but, on being taken, confessed that she had been a party in poisoning six hundred people. Numerous persons were implicated by her, and many of them were publicly executed. All Italy was thrown into a ferment, and many fled, and some persons of distinction, on conviction, were strangled in prison. It had been used chiefly by married women who were tired of their husbands. Four or six drops were a fatal dose; but the effect was not sudden, and therefore not suspected. It was as clear as water, but the chemists have not agreed about its real composition. A proclamation of the pope described it as aquafortis distilled into arsenic, but others considered it as a solution of crystallized arsenic. Between 1666 and 1676 the Marchioness de Brinvilliers poisoned her father and two brothers and many others. She was executed July 16, 1676.
A town in the clouds built by the cuckoos. It was built to cut off from the gods the incense offered by man, so as to compel them to come to terms. — Arisophanes, born about 444 B. C. — The Birds.
This city, first demolished by an earthquake in A. D. 63, was buried from human view by the awful eruption of Vesuvius on the night of August 24, 79. After a lapse of fifteen centuries, a countryman, as he was turning up the ground, accidentally found a bronze figure; and this discovery attracting the attention of the learned, farther search brought numerous objects to light, and at length the city was once more shone on by the sun. The part first cleared in 1750 was supposed to be the main street. 204 The kings of Naples have greatly aided in uncovering Pompeii, and the present Italian government resumed the work in 1863.
Sappho, the lyric poetess of Mitylene, who invented the Sapphic Verse. She was equally celebrated for her poetry, beauty, and a hopeless passion for Phaon, a youth of her native country, on which last account, it is said, she threw herself into the sea from Mount Leucas, and was drowned. The Lesbians, after her death, 594 B. C., paid her divine honors, and called her the tenth muse. The story is considered generally to be fabulous. This term has also been applied to Mrs. Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672), the daughter of one Governor of Massachusetts, and wife of another. In 1640, she published a volume of poems which excited great admiration in England.
The imperial guard of Russia, established by Ivan IV. in 1568. Becoming frequently seditious, it was suppressed by Peter the Great; great numbers were put to death, many by the czar’s own hand in the years 1697-1704.
An ancient Latin people who were frequently at war with the Romans. From their capital, Corioli, Caius Martius (who defeated them about 490 B. C.) derived his name Coriolanus. The story of his banishment by his ungrateful countrymen; of his revenge on them by bringing the Volsci to the gates of Rome, yet afterward sparing the city at the entreaties of his mother, Volumnia (487 B. C.), is considered by many as a poetical legend. The Volsci were finally 205 subdued and incorporated into the Roman people about 338 B. C..
During a contest with the invading Marcomanni, the prayers of some Christians in a Roman legion are said to have been followed by a storm of thunder, lightning, and rain, which tended greatly to discomfit the enemy. Hence the legion received the above name in the year A. D. 174.
Henry VII. at the battle of Bosworth Field, which was the thirteenth and last battle between the houses of York and Lancaster, fought on August 22, 1485. It is said that Henry was crowned on the spot with the crown of Richard III., which was found in a hawthorn bush near the field.
A poor old paralyzed Frenchman who thus suffered death at Castle Hedingham, Essex, England, on September 4, 1863.
William Congreve (1670-1729). It is found in The Mourning Bride, act i. sc. i. In the same is to be found the well-known quotation: —
and in The Old Bachelor, by the same writer, are the lines: —
Historically he was the hetman of the Cossacks (1640-1709). He was born of a noble Polish family in Podolia, and became a page at the court of Jan Casimir, king of Poland. While in this capacity he intrigued with Theresia, the young wife of a Podolian count, who discovered the amour, and had the young page lashed to a wild horse and turned adrift. The horse rushed in mad fury and dropped down dead in the Ukraine, where Mazeppa was released by a Cossack family, who nursed him carefully in their own hut. In time he became secretary to the hetman, and at the death of the prince was appointed his successor. Peter I. much admired his energy of character, and created him prince of the Ukraine, but in the wars with Sweden, Mazeppa deserted to Charles XII., and fought against Russia at the battle of Pultowa. After the loss of this battle, Mazeppa fled to Valentia, and then to Bender. Some say he died a natural death, and others that he was put to death by the czar for treason. Lord Myron makes Mazeppa tell his tale to Charles after the battle of Pultowa.
Its origin is from Numbers xv., 32-36. Some say it is a man leaning on a fork, on which he is carrying a bundle of sticks picked up on a Sunday. Some add a dog also, and thus the prologue in Midsummer Night’s Dream says, “This man with lantern, dog, and bush of thorns, presenteth 207 moonshine.” Chaucer writes, “He stole the bush.” (Test. of Creseide.) Another tradition states that the man is Cain, with the dog and thorn bush; the thorn bush being emblematical of the thorns and briers of the fall, and the dog being the “foul fiend.” Some poets make out the “man” to be the youth Endymion, taken thither by Diana.
According to the Koran they were Israfil, Gabriel, and Michael. The first is the angel of music, who possessed the most melodious voice of all God’s creatures. He is to sound the Resurrection Trump, and will ravish the ears of the saints in paradise.
The beggar of gigantic stature who kept watch over the suitors of Penelope. His real name was Arneos, but the suitors nicknamed him Iros because he carried the messages for them. Ulysses, on his return, felled him to the ground with a single blow, and flung him out of doors.
The Hyena was worshipped by the ancient Egyptians. Pliny states that a certain stone, called the “hyænia,” found in the eye of the creature, when placed under the tongue, imparted this gift.
In French history they were an assembly of notable men, selected by the king, of the house of Valois, to form 208 a parliament. They were convened in 1626 by Richelieu, and not again till 1787, when Louis XVI. called them together with the view of relieving the nation from some of its pecuniary embarrassments. The last time they ever assembled was November 6, 1788.
The hero and heroine of a drama, so called, by George Colman. The story is from the Spectator, No. 11. Inkle is a young Englishman who is lost in the Spanish Main; he falls in love with Yarico, an Indian maiden, whom he lives with as his wife; but no sooner does he find a vessel to take him to Barbadoes, than he sells her for a slave.
Because of a fancied resemblance in different parts of the flower to various articles connected with the “passion” or crucifixion of our Lord. The five anthers symbolize the five wounds; the three styles, the three nails; the column on which the ovary is elevated, the pillar of the cross; the fleshy threads within the flower, the crown of thorns; and the calyx, the nimbus.
From that relating to the Pygmies, a nation of dwarfs on the banks of the Upper Nile. Every spring the cranes made war upon them, and devoured them. They cut down every corn-ear with an axe. When Hercules went to the country they climbed up his goblet by ladders to drink from it; and while he was asleep two whole armies of them fell upon his right hand, and two upon his left; but Hercules rolled them all in his lion’s skin.209
Pliny. Shakespeare, in Much Ado About Nothing (iii. 1), makes Beatrice say to Ursula and Hero, who had been talking of her, “What fire is mine ears?” Sir Thomas Browne ascribes this conceit to the superstition of guardian angels, who touch the right ear if the talk is favorable, and the left if otherwise. This is done to cheer or warn.
Relative to the phrase, “Walls have ears,” Chaucer (1328-1400) wrote in the Canterbury Tales (v. 1524): “That field hath eyen, and the wood hath ears.” There is a beautiful superstition among the Irish peasantry that when a sleeping infant smiles, angels are whispering to it.
Generally ascribed to the Earl of Sandwich, a man so fond of gambling that he passed whole days in the amusement, bidding the waiter bring him for refreshment a piece of meat between two pieces of bread, which he ate, without stopping from play. But this contrivance was not first used by the earl in the reign of George III., as the Romans were very fond of “sandwiches,” called by them offula.
It owes its existence to an incident which actually occurred to the author. When Goldsmith was sixteen years old, a wag residing at Ardagh directed him, when passing through that village, to Squire Featherstone’s house as the 210 village inn. The mistake was not discovered by the poet until he demanded his bill at the conclusion of the morning meal, and then no one enjoyed it more heartily than Oliver himself.
The squire, having an acquaintance with Goldsmith’s father, had resolved to carry out the joke, having readily discovered the hoax that had been perpetrated. The pompous young student ordered a good supper and invited the landlord (?) with his wife and family to share it with him. He treated them each with a bottle of wine, and upon retiring ordered a hot cake to be prepared for his breakfast.
On November 11, 1630, when Marie de Médicis and Gaston, duc d’Orleans, extorted from Louis XIII. a promise that he would dismiss his minister, the Cardinal Richelieu. The cardinal went in all speed to Versailles, the king repented, and Richelieu became more powerful than ever. Marie de Médicis and Gaston were the dupes who had to pay dearly for their short triumph.
The excess of the solar above the lunar year, the former consisting of three hundred and sixty-five days and the latter three hundred and fifty-four, or eleven days fewer. The epact of any year is the number of days from the last new moon of the old year to the first of the following January.
It is said to live five hundred years, when it makes, in Arabia, a nest of spices, burns itself to ashes, and comes forth with renewed life for another five hundred 211 years. Richardson states that it is said to have fifty orifices in his bill, continued to his tail. After living one thousand years, he builds for himself a funeral pile, sings a melodious air through his fifty organ-pipes, flaps his wings with a velocity which sets fire to the pile, and consumes himself.
The one who carried the sacred banner of “the Prophet” (Mohammed) at the battle of Muta. One hand being lopped off, he held it with the other; the other being struck off, he embraced it with his two stumps; his head being cleft in twain, he flung himself on the banner staff, and the banner was detained thus till Abdallah seized it and handed it to Khaled. A similar tale is told of Cynæferos (the brother of Æschylus, the poet), at the battle of Marathon.
The Danes thought it cowardly to attack an enemy by night, but on one occasion deviated from their rule. On they crept, barefooted, noiselessly, and unobserved, when one of the men set his foot on a thistle, which made him cry out. The alarm was given, the Scotch fell upon the night-party, and defeated them with terrible slaughter. Ever since, the thistle has been adopted as Scotland’s emblem with the motto, Nemo me impune lacessit (“No one wounds me with impunity.”) This “thistle date” is unknown. The Order of the Thistle, also called the Order of St. Andrew, is reputed on very insufficient grounds to be of great antiquity. The thistle is mentioned as the national emblem of Scotland in the inventory of the effects of James III., who is thought to have adopted it. It appears on coins of James IV., James V., Mary, and James VI.; having on 212 those of the last-named sovereign the motto above given. A collar of thistles appears on the gold bonnet pieces of James V., of 1539, and with the royal ensign depicted in Sir David Lindsay’s armorial register of 1542.
Tithonus, a beautiful Trojan, beloved by Aurora, in response to his request; but as he had forgotten to ask for youth and vigor, he soon grew old, infirm, and ugly. When life became insupportable he prayed Aurora to remove him from the world; this, however, she could not do, but she changed him into a grasshopper.
“The Morn arose from rich Tithonus’ bed.”
According to tradition, St. Patrick freed Ireland of its vermin; one old serpent resisted, but St. Patrick overcame it by cunning. He made a box and invited the serpent to enter it, but the reptile objected, saying it was too small. St. Patrick insisted it was quite large enough to be comfortable, and, after a long contention, the serpent entered it to prove its case, when the saint slammed down the lid, and threw the box into the sea. To complete this wonderful tale, the legend states that the waves of the sea are made by the writhings of this serpent, and the noise of the sea is that of the serpent imploring the saint to release it.
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