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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. 151-173.



Part VII

450. What was the Ernulphus curse?

It was a form of excommunication of the church of Rome written by Ernulphus, the bishop of Rochester, who was a friend of Anselm of Canterbury, and lived in the twelfth century. The TEXTUS DE ECCLESIA ROFFENSI, PER ERNULFUM EPISCOPUM EXCOMMUNICATIO will be found in Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. Oliver, a sailor and patriot, with a merited reputation for extempore rhyming, while on a visit to his cousin, Benedict Arnold, after the war, was requested by the latter to amuse a party of English officers with 152 some extemporaneous effusion, whereupon he stood up and repeated the following terrible invective (an Ernulphus curse) that would have fully satisfied even Dr. Slop; and this is known as “Oliver’s Impromptu”: —

B orn for a curse to virtue and mankind,
E arth’s broadest realm ne’er knew so black a mind;
N ight’s sable veil your crimes can never hide:
E ach one so great, ’t would glut historic tide;
D efunct, your cursed memory will live
I n all the glare that infamy can give;
C urses of ages will attend your name;
T raitors alone will glory in your shame;

A lmighty vengeance sternly waits to roll
R ivers of sulphur on your treach’rous soul;
N ature looks shudd’ring back with conscious dread
O n such a tarnished blot as she has made.
L et hell receive you riveted in chains,
D oomed to the hottest focus of its flames.

451. What fortune did Napoleon leave?

Six million francs; which he left to his friends General Drouet, General Desnouettes, General Girard’s children, and many others. To the Count de Montholon, he willed 2,000,000 francs; to the Comte Bertrand, 500,000, and to Marchaud, his first valet-de-chambre, the munificent sum of 400,000 francs. Napoleon died on May 5, 1821, eleven days after signing his will. His last testament, for a long time in the possession of England, has been given up to the authorities in Paris, and is deposited among the archives of that capital.

452. When was the phrase “Over the left” first used?

The earliest trace of the use and peculiar significance of this phrase may be found in the Records of the Hartford 153 County courts, in the (then) Colony of Connecticut, as follows: —

September 4, 1705.

Whereas, James Steel did commence an action against Bevell Waters (both of Hartford), in this Court, upon hearing and tryall whereof the Court gave judgment against the said Waters (as in justice they think they ought); upon the declaring the said judgment, the said Waters did review to the Court in March next; that, being granted and entered, the said Waters, as he departed from the table, he said: “God bless you over the left shoulder.

The Court order a record to be made thereof forthwith.

(A true copie:   Test)


At the next court, Waters was tried for contempt, for saying the words recited, “so cursing the Court,” and on verdict fined £5. He asked a review of the Court following, which was granted; and pending trial, the Court asked counsel of the Reverend Messrs. Woodbridge and Buckingham, the ministers of Hartford churches, as to the “common acceptation” of the offensive phrase. Their reply constitutes a part of the Record, and is as follows: —

We are of opinion that those words, said on the other side to be spoken by Bevell Waters, include (1) prophaneness, by using the name of God, that is holy, with such ill words whereto it was joyned; (2) that they carry great contempt in them, arising to the degree of an imprecation or curse, the words of a curse being the most contemptible that can ordinarily be used.


March 7, 1705-6.

The former judgment was affirmed on review.

453. When were post-paid envelopes first used?

M. Piron tells us that the idea of a post-paid envelope originated early in the reign of Louis XIV., with M. de Valfyer, who, in 1653, established (with royal approbation) a private penny-post, placing boxes at the corners of the 154 streets for the reception of letters wrapped up in envelopes, which were to be bought at offices established for that purpose. M. de Valfyer also had certain forms of billets, or notes, applicable to the ordinary business among the inhabitants of great towns, with blanks, which were to be filled up by the pen with such special matter as might complete the writer’s object. One of these billets has been preserved to our times by a pleasant misapplication of it. Pélisson (Madame de Sévigné’s friend, and the object of the bon mot that “He abused the privilege which men have of being ugly”) was amused at this kind of skeleton correspondence, and under the affected name of Pisandre (according to the pedantic fashion of the day), he filled and addressed one of those forms to the celebrated Mademoiselle de Scuderie, in her pseudonyme of Sappho. This strange billet-doux has happened, from the celebrity of the parties, to be preserved, and it is still extant, — one of the oldest, it is presumed, of penny-post letters, and a curious example of a prepaying envelope, — a fresh proof of the adage that “there is nothing new under the sun.”

454. When were clocks invented?

The invention of clocks is by some ascribed to Pacificus, archdeacon of Verona, in the ninth century; and by others to Boethius, in the early part of the sixth. The Saracens are supposed to have had clocks which were moved by weights, as early as the eleventh century; and, as the term is applied by Dante to a machine which struck the hours, clocks must have been known in Italy about the end of the thirteenth century, or beginning of the fourteenth. The most ancient clock of which we have any certain account was erected in a tower of the palace of Charles V., king of France, in 1364, by Henry de Wyck, or De Vick, a German 155 artist. A clock was erected at Strasbourg in 1370, at Courtray about the same period, and at Speyer in 1395. Watches made as early as 1700 were so delicately constructed by hand, and so small, as to easily fit on the top of a lead-pencil.

Among the quaint old treasures of strong and stately Bolton Castle, there was “a very fair clock, with the motion of the sun and moon, and other conclusions.” What these last may be, is not stated. In this grand old French mansion, “painfully secluded and lonely,” Mary Stuart was, for a time, “a queenly prisoner-guest”; and “it is suggestively considered that many of the long and weary hours of her exile were counted out” upon the dial of this “odd, yet comely timepiece.” Account is given “of so brave a gift,” sent early in the thirteenth century to Frederick II. by the Sultan of Egypt; this wonderful “horologium resembled a celestial globe, in which sun, moon, and planets moved; being impelled by weights and wheels, they pointed out the hour, day and night.” A hundred years later was a timepiece, ranking, for cunning workmanship, above all others then known in Europe, “showing various astronomical phenomena.”

455. What was the stratagem of Columbus?

During the fourth voyage of Columbus, while prosecuting his discoveries among the West India Islands and along the coast of the continent, his vessels, from continual subjection to tempestuous weather, and being (to use his own expression) “bored by the worms as full of holes as a honeycomb,” were reduced to mere wrecks, unable any longer to keep the sea, and were finally stranded on the shore of Jamaica. Being beyond any possibility of repair, they were fitted up for the temporary use of Columbus, who 156 was in feeble health, and of such of his crew as were disabled by sickness, those who were well, being sent abroad for assistance and supplies. Their immediate wants were amply provided for, Diego Mendez having made arrangements with the natives for a daily exchange of knives, combs, beads, fish-hooks, etc., for cassava-bread, fish, and other provisions. In the course of a short time, however, provisions on the island became scarce, and the supplies began gradually to fall off. The arrangements for the daily delivery of certain quantities were irregularly attended to, and finally ceased entirely. The Indians no longer thronged to the harbor with provisions, and often refused them when application was made. The Spaniards were obliged to forage about the neighborhood for their daily food, but found more and more difficulty in procuring it; and now, in addition to their other causes of despondency, they began to entertain horrible apprehensions of famine.

The Admiral heard the melancholy forebodings of his men, and beheld the growing evil, but was at a loss for a remedy. To resort to force was an alternative full of danger, and of but temporary efficacy. It would require all those who were well enough to bear arms to sally forth, while he and the rest of the infirm would be left defenceless on board the wreck, exposed to the vengeance of the natives.

In the meantime, the scarcity daily increased. The Indians perceived the wants of the white men, and had learned from them the art of making bargains. They asked ten times the former quantity of European articles for a given amount of provisions, and brought their supplies in scanty quantities, to enhance the eagerness of the Spaniards.

At length, even this relief ceased, and there was an absolute distress for want of food, the natives withholding 157 all provisions, in hopes either of starving the Admiral and his people, or of driving them from the island. In this extremity, a fortunate idea suddenly presented itself to Columbus. From his knowledge of astronomy, he ascertained that within three days there would be a total eclipse of the moon, in the early part of the night. He sent, therefore, an Indian of the island of Hispaniola (Hayti), who served as his interpreter, to summon the principal caciques to a grand conference, appointing for it the day of the eclipse. When all were assembled, he told them, by his interpreter, that he and his followers were worshipers of a Deity who lived in the skies: that this Deity favored such as did well, and punished all transgressors; that, as they must have all noticed, he had protected Diego Mendez and his companions in their voyage, they having gone in obedience to the orders of their commander, but that, on the other hand, he had visited Francisco de Porras and his companions with all kinds of crosses and difficulties, in consequence of their rebellion; that this great Deity was incensed against the Indians who had refused or neglected to furnish his faithful worshipers with provisions, and intended to chastise them with pestilence and famine. Lest they should disbelieve this warning, a signal would be given that very night, in the heavens. They would behold the moon change its color, and gradually lose its light, — a token of the fearful punishment which awaited them.

Many of the Indians were alarmed at the solemnity of the prediction; others treated it with scoffing; all, however, awaited with solicitude the coming of the night, and none with more than Columbus himself, who was distracted with anxiety lest the weather should prove cloudy or rainy. Imagine his gratitude when the evening sky appeared undimmed by a cloud! At the time prophesied, the natives beheld a dark shadow stealing over the moon, and they 158 began to tremble. Their fears increased with the progress of the eclipse; and when they saw mysterious darkness covering the whole face of nature, there were no bounds to their terror. Seizing upon whatever provisions they could procure, they hurried to the ships, uttering cries and lamentations. They threw themselves at the feet of the great discoverer, implored him to intercede with his God to avert the threatened calamities, and assured him that thenceforth they would bring him whatever was required. Columbus told them that he would retire and commune with his Deity. Shutting himself up in his cabin he remained there during the increase of the eclipse, the forests and shores all the while resounding with the howlings and supplications of the savages. When the eclipse was about to diminish, he came forth and informed the natives that he had interceded for them with his God, who, on condition of their fulfilling their promises, had deigned to pardon them, in sign of which he would withdraw the darkness from the moon.

When the Indians saw that planet restored presently to its brightness and rolling in all its beauty through the firmament, they overwhelmed the Admiral with thanks for his intercession, and repaired to their homes, joyful at having escaped such great disasters. They now regarded Columbus with awe and reverence, as a man in peculiar favor and confidence of the Deity, since he knew upon earth what was passing in the heavens. They hastened to propitiate him with gifts, supplies again arrived daily at the harbor, and from that time forward there was no want of provisions.

456. What is the origin of the word “news”?

The word news is commonly supposed to be derived from the adjective new. It is asserted, however, that its origin is traceable to a custom, in former times, of placing on the 159 newspapers of the day, the initial letters of the cardinal points of the compass, thus: —









W —————————————— E









These letters were intended to indicate that the paper contained intelligence from the four quarters of the globe, but they finally came to assume the form of the word news, from which the term newspaper is derived.

457. Who became king by first seeing the sun rise?

The Tyrians having been much weakened by long wars with the Persians, their slaves rose in a body, slew their masters and their children, took possession of their property, and married their wives. The slaves, having thus obtained everything, consulted about the choice of a king, and agreed that he who should first discern the sun rise should be king. One of them being more merciful than the rest, had spared, in the general massacre, his master Straton and his son, whom he hid in a cave; and to his old master he now resorted for advice as to this competition. Straton advised his slave that when others looked to the east he should look toward the west. Accordingly, when the rebel tribe had assembled in the fields and every man’s eye was fixed upon the east, Straton’s slave, turning his back upon the rest, looked only westward. He was scoffed at by every 160 one for his absurdity, but immediately he espied the sunbeams upon the high towers and chimneys in the city, and, announcing the discovery, claimed the crown as his reward.

458. Why do alligators swallow stones?

The Indians on the banks of the Oronoko (Orinoco) assert that previously to an alligator going in search of prey it always swallows a large stone, that it may acquire additional weight to aid it in diving, and dragging its victims under water. A traveller being somewhat incredulous on this point, Bolivar, to convince him, shot several with his rifle, and in all of them were found stones varying in weight according to the size of the animal. The largest killed was about seventeen feet in length, and had within him a stone weighing about sixty or seventy pounds.

459. What was the highest price ever paid for a cat?

Montenegro presented to the elder Almagro the first cat which was brought to South America, and was rewarded for it with 600 pesos. The first couple of cats which were carried to Cuyaba sold for a pound of gold. There was a plague of rats in the settlement, and they were purchased as a speculation, which proved an excellent one. Their first kittens produced thirty oitavas each; the next generation were worth twenty; and the prices gradually fell as the inhabitants were stocked with these beautiful and useful creatures.

“Could every hailstone to a pearl be turned
  Pearls in the mart like oyster-shells were spurned!”

460. Who first ascertained the ratio of the diameter to the circumference?


The proportion of the diameter of a circle to its circumference has never yet been exactly ascertained. Nor can a square or any other right-lined figure be found that shall be equal to a given circle. This is the celebrated problem called the “squaring of the circle,” which has exercised the abilities of the greatest mathematicians for ages, and has been the occasion of so many disputes. Several persons of considerable eminence have, at different times, pretended that they had discovered the exact quadrature; but their errors have readily been detected; and it is now generally regarded as a thing impossible to be done.

But though the relation between the diameter and circumference can not be accurately expressed in known numbers, it may yet be approximated to any assigned degree of exactness. And in this manner was the problem solved, at Syracuse, 287 B. C., by the great Archimedes, who discovered the proportion to be nearly as 7 to 22. The process by which he effected this may be seen in his book De Dimensione Circuli. The same proportion was also discovered by Philo Gadarensis and Apollonius Pergeus at a still earlier period, as we are informed by Eutocius.

The proportion of Vieta and Metius is that of 113 to 355, which is a little more exact than the former. It was derived from the pretended quadrature of a M. Van Eick, which first gave rise to the discovery.

But the first who ascertained this ratio to any great degree of exactness was Van Ceulen, a Dutchman, in his book, De Circulo et Adscriptis. He found that if the diameter of a circle was 1, the circumference would be 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884 nearly, which is exactly true to 36 places of decimals; and he was so pleased with his discovery that he desired that the numbers might be engraved upon his tombstone, which was done, as may be seen at St. Peter’s Church at Leyden. He appears, however, 162 to have effected his calculation by dint of labor, rather than fertility of invention, for he used only the tedious mode of calculation long before adopted by Archimedes. Snellius, of the same country, adopted a much shorter process, by which he fully proved the accuracy of Van Ceulen’s calculation.

But since the invention of fluxions, and the summation of infinite series, several methods have been discovered for doing the same thing with more ease and expedition. Euler and other eminent mathematicians have by these means given a quadrature of the circle which is true to more than 100 places — later mathematicians have carried the decimal to 154 places — a proposition so extremely near the truth that unless the ratio could be completely obtained, we need not wish for a greater degree of accuracy.

461. What is the most curious book in the world?

The most singular bibliographic curiosity is that which belonged to the family of the Prince de Ligne, and is now in France. It is entitled Liber Passionis Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, cum Characteribus Nulla Materia Compositis (“The book of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, in characters without materials of composition”). This book is neither written nor printed! The whole letters of the text are cut out of each folio upon the finest vellum; and being interleaved with blue paper, it is read as easily as the best print. The labor and patience bestowed in its completion must have been excessive, especially when the precision and minuteness of the letters are considered. The general execution, in every respect, is indeed admirable; and the vellum is of the most delicate and costly kind. Rodolphus II. of Germany offered for it, in 1640, 11,000 ducats, which was probably equal to 60,000 at this day. The most remarkable circumstance connected with this 163 literary treasure is, that it bears the royal arms of England, but it can not be traced to have ever been in that country. — In the Library of Upsal, in Sweden, there is preserved a translation of the Four Gospels, printed with metal types upon violet-covered vellum. The letters are silver, and hence it has received the name of Codex Argenteus. The initial letters are in gold. It is supposed that the whole was printed in the same manner as bookbinders letter the titles of books on the back. It was a very near approach to the discovery of the art of printing; but it is not known how old it is. — A curious collection of books is contained in the library of Warstenstein, near Cassel, in Germany. These books appear at first sight to be logs of wood, but each volume is really a complete history of the tree it represents. The book shows the bark, in which a small place is cut to write the scientific and the common name as a title. One side shows the tree trunk in its natural state, and the other is polished and varnished. Inside are shown the leaves, fruit, fibre, and insect parasites, to which is added a full description of the tree and its products.

462. Of what were the breast-works made at the battle of New Orleans?

It seems incredible, and it certainly is singular, that so many errors in our history should continue to prevail in utter defiance of what is known to be fact. Historians, for instance, persist in writing, and people consequently persist in believing, that the breast-works of General Jackson at the battle of New Orleans (January 8, 1815) were made of cotton bales covered with earth, whilst intelligent survivors strenuously deny that there was a pound of that combustible material on the ground. General W. H. Palfrey, of the Crescent City, who served in Major Planche’s battalion, 164 which was stationed from December 23, 1814, to January 15, 1815, in the center of General Jackson’s line, makes the following statement (dated April 5, 1859), which is confirmed by Major Chotard, Jackson’s Assistant Adjutant-General: —’

“About twenty or twenty-five bales of cotton were used in forming the embrasures of five or six howitzers. There were four batteries of one piece of artillery, or howitzer, and four of two pieces, established at different points of the lines. Four bales were used at some of the batteries and six at others. None were used in any other portions of the works, which consisted of breast-works formed of earth thrown up from the inside, branches of trees, and rubbish. Each company threw up its own breast-work; and the more it was affected by the enemy’s artillery and Congreve rockets, the more industriously soldiers toiled to strengthen it.”

463. The skull of what noted writer is now to be seen in an English museum?

William Howitt states that, by one of those acts which neither science nor curiosity can excuse, the skull of Alexander Pope is now in the private collection of a phrenologist. The manner in which it was obtained is said to have been thus: On some occasion of alteration in the church at Twickenham, England, or burial of some one in the same spot, the coffin of Pope was disinterred, and opened to see the state of the remains. By a bribe to the sexton of the time, possession of the skull was obtained for the night, and another skull was returned in place of it. Fifty pounds were paid for the successful management of this transaction. Whether this account is correct or not, the fact is that the skull of Pope figures in a private museum.


464. Where is wine kept that is worth two millions of dollars a bottle?

Wine at two millions of dollars a bottle is a drink that in expense would rival the luxurious taste of barbaric splendor, when priceless pearls were thrown into the wine-cup to give a rich flavor to its contents; yet that there is such a costly beverage is a fixed fact. In the Rose apartment (so called from a bronze bas-relief) of the ancient cellar under the Hôtel de Ville, in the city of Bremen, is the famous “Rosenwein,” deposited there nearly two centuries and a half ago. There were twelve large cases, each bearing the name of one of the apostles; and the wine of Judas, despite the reprobation attached to his name, is to this day more highly esteemed than the others. One case of wine, containing five oxhoft of 204 bottles, cost 500 rix-dollars in 1624. Including the expenses of keeping up the cellar, and of the contributions, interests of the amounts, and interests upon interests, an oxhoft costs at the present time 555,657,640 rix-dollars, and consequently a bottle is worth 2,723,812 rix-dollars; a glass, or the eighth part of a bottle, is worth 340,476 rix-dollars, or $272,380; or at the rate of 340 rix-dollars, or $272, per drop. A burgomaster of Bremen is privileged to have one bottle whenever he entertains a distinguished guest who enjoys a German or European reputation. The fact illustrates the operation of interest, if it does not show the cost of luxury.

465. Where were the Pillars of Hercules?

They were named Calpë and Abyla, and were situated at Gibraltar and Céuta. They were torn asunder by Hercules that he might get to Gadês (Cadiz). Upon them was inscribed the motto Ne plus ultra — “There is nothing beyond.”


466. What is the origin of the phrase “Kicking the bucket”?

The tradition among the slangy fraternity as to the origin of this phrase, is that “One Bolsover, having hung himself to a beam while standing on the bottom of a pail or bucket, kicked the vessel away in order to pry into futurity, and is was all UP with him from that moment, — Finis”!

467. What was the reply of Leonidas to Xerxes?

The Persian monarch sent messengers to the Spartan king at Thermopylæ, saying: “Go, and tell those madmen to deliver up their arms.” Leonidas replied: “Go, and tell Xerxes to come and take them.”

468. Who said Après moi le deluge?

“After me the deluge” (“When I am dead the deluge may come for aught I care”). Generally ascribed to Prince Metternich, but he borrowed it from Madame Pompadour, who laughed off all the remonstrances of ministers at her extravagance by this famous saying.

469. What is the story of Dorigen?

She was a lady of high family who married Arviragus out of pity for his love and meekness. Greatly beloved by Aurelius, to whom she had long been known, the latter tried during the absence of the husband to win her heart; but Dorigen made answer that she would never listen to him till the rocks that beset the coast of Britain are removed “and there n’is no stone yseen.” By the aid of a magician of Orleans, Aurelius caused all the rocks to disappear, and claimed his reward. Dorigen was very sad, but her husband insisted that she should keep her word, and 167 she went to meet Aurelius, who, upon seeing her sorrow and hearing what Arviragus had counselled, declared he would rather die than injure so true a wife and noble a gentleman. She then returned to her husband happy and untainted. — Read Chaucer’s Franklines Tale

470. What is Endymion?

In Greek mythology, he is the sunset with whom the moon is in love. Endymion was condemned to endless sleep and everlasting youth, and Silene kisses him every night on the Latmian hills.

471. Who was the “sleeping philosopher”?

Epimenides, a philosopher of Crete, who fell asleep in a cave while a boy, and did not wake again for fifty-seven years, when he found himself endowed with miraculous wisdom.

472. What was the origin of a “bumper”?

When the Roman Catholic religion was in the ascendancy in England, the health of the Pope was usually drunk in a full glass immediately after dinner — au bon père: (to the good father), hence the word “Bumper.”

473. Who killed one fourth of all the people on the earth?


474. Why was Washington called “The American Fabius”?

Because he pursued the same military policy as did Fabius, the Roman general. He wearied out the English 168 troops by harassing them, without coming to a pitched battle. The same policy was pursued in France by Duguesclin, who, thereby, acting upon the advice of Charles V., retrieved all the conquests of Edward and the Black Prince.

475. What was the Web of Penelope?

A work “never ending, still beginning,” never done, but ever in hand. Penelope, according to Homer, was pestered by suitors while her husband, Ulysses, was absent at the siege of Troy. To relieve herself of their importunities, she promised to make her choice of one as soon as she had finished weaving a shroud for her father-in-law. Every night she unraveled what she had done in the day, and so deferred making any choice till Ulysses returned, when the suitors were sent away “in haste.”

476. What is meant by the expression, “the Nestor of politics”?

Nestor was the King of Pylos, in Greece; the oldest and most experienced of the chieftains who went to the siege of Troy. On his return home his kingdom was abolished and all his subjects reduced to slavery. So the expression refers to a venerable leader or authority in any profession, trade, or business. Frequently, it simply means the oldest one engaged in any particular line of life’s duty.

477. What is the meaning of the phrase “a Roland for an Oliver”?

A blow for a blow, tit for tat. These two were paladins of Charlemagne, and their exploits are so similar that it is very difficult to keep them distinct. What one did the 169 other did. Finally they met in single combat, and fought for five consecutive days on an island in the Rhine without either gaining the least advantage. One account states that Roland died of the wounds he received at Roncesvalles, and another, that escaping the general slaughter he perished of hunger and thirst in seeking to cross the Pyrenees.

478. What are the Golden Verses?

Those that always go under the name of Pythagoras and seem quite in accordance with his excellent precepts, though they are attributed by some to Epicarmos, and by others to Empedocles. They are as follows: —

“Ne’er suffer sleep thine eyes to close
     Before thy mind hath run
  O’er every act, and thought, and word,
     From dawn to set of sun;
  For wrong take shame, but grateful feel
     If just thy course hath been;
  Such effort day by day renewed
     Will ward thy soul from sin.”

They are so called because they are as “good as gold.”

479. What is the meaning of Gibraltar?

It is a contraction of Gebel al Tarik (Geb’ al’ Tar), “Mountain of Tarik.” This Tarik was an Arabian general, who, under the orders of Mousa, having landed at Calpë, in 710, utterly defeated Roderick, the Gothic King of Spain.

480. When did the cackling of geese save Rome?

According to the tradition B. C. 390, when the Gauls invaded Rome. A detachment in single file had clambered up the hill so silently that the foremost man reached the top without being challenged; but while he was striding over the rampart, some sacred geese, disturbed by the noise, 170 began to cackle and awoke the garrison. Marcus Manlius rushed to the wall and hurled the fellow over the precipice. In commemoration of this event, the Romans carried a golden goose in procession to the capitol every year.

481. Who was John O’Groat?

He was a Dutchman who settled in the most northerly point of Scotland, in the reign of James IV., and immortalized himself by the way he settled a dispute among his nine sons respecting precedency. He had nine doors to his mansion, one for each son, so that none could go out or come in before another. The distance from Land’s End to John O’Groat’s is nine hundred and ninety-four miles. His house is said to be a public inn at present.

482. Who is the author of the oft-quoted saying “What will Mrs. Grundy say”?

The phrase is from Thomas Morton’s (1764-1838) Speed the Plough. In the first scene Mrs. Ashfield shows herself very jealous of neighbor Grundy, and Farmer Ashfield says to her: “Be quiet, woolye? Aleways ding, dinging Dame Grundy into my ears. What will Mrs. Grundy zay? What will Mrs. Grundy think?”

483. Who was the “Ungrateful Guest”?

This was the brand fixed by Philip of Macedon on a Macedonian soldier, who had been kindly entertained by a villager, and, when asked by the king what he could give him, requested the farm and cottage of his entertainer.

484. What were the “Hanging gardens of Babylon”?

One of the seven wonders of the world, consisting of four acres of garden raised on a base supported by pillars, 171 and towering in terraces one above another, three hundred feet in height. This mound, which at a distance looked like a vast pyramid covered with trees, was constructed by Nebuchadnezzar to gratify his wife Amytis, who felt weary of the flat plains of Babylon, and longed for something to remind her of her native Median hills.

485. What fatal presents were received by Harmonia?

She was the daughter of Mars and Venus, and on the day of her marriage with King Cadmus she received a necklace which proved fatal to all who possessed it; and from her father (to avenge the infidelity of her mother), the present of a robe dyed in all sorts of crimes, which infused wickedness and impiety into all her offspring. Both Harmonia and Cadmus, after having suffered many misfortunes, and seen their children a sorrow and shame to them, were changed into serpents.

486. How was the Order of the Garter established?

Various accounts are given, but the generally accepted tradition is that Edward III. gave a grand court ball, and one of the ladies present was the beautiful countess of Salisbury, whose garter of blue ribbon accidentally fell to the floor. The king, seeing a significant smile upon the faces of the guests, gallantly came to the rescue by picking up the ribbon, as he said: “Honi soit qui mal y pense” (“Evil be to him who evil thinks,” or, “Shame to him who thinks shame of this accident”). Binding the ribbon round his own knee, he added: “I will bring it about that the proudest noble in the land shall think it an honor to wear this band.” This accident determined him to abandon his plan of forming an order of the Round Table, and he instituted the “Order of the Garter.”


487. How did Lord Kingsale acquire the right of wearing his hat in the royal presence?

When King John and Philippe II. of France agreed to settle a dispute respecting the duchy of Normandy by single combat, John de Courcy, earl of Ulster, was the English champion. As he rode into the field, the French champion put spurs to his horse and fled. The king asked the earl what reward should be given him, and he replied: “Titles and land I want not, of these I have enough; but in remembrance of this day, I beg the boon for myself and successors to remain covered in the presence of your highness, and all future sovereigns of the realm.”

488. Who was Acestes?

A Sicilian who, in a trial of skill, discharged his arrow with such force that it took fire. Longfellow wrote: —

“Like Acestes’ shaft of old
  The swift thought kindles as it flies.”

489. Who was the “laughing philosopher”?

Democritus of Abdera, who viewed with supreme contempt the feeble powers of man. (460-357 B. C.). Heraclitus, a native of Ephesus, who lived 500 B. C., was called the “weeping philosopher” because he grieved at the follies of mankind.

490. How many Iliads are there?

Five. (1) The tale of the siege of Troy, an epic poem by Homer. (2) The French Iliad — “The Romance of the Rose,” begun by Guillaume de Lorris in the latter half of the thirteenth century, and continued by Jean de Meung in the early part of the fourteenth. To the original poem, Meung added a sequel of eighteen thousand lines. (3) The 173 Scotch Iliad — “The Epigoniad,” a tale of the seven Grecian heroes who laid siege to Thebes, with the view of placing Polynices on the throne which his brother unlawfully held from him, by William Wilkie (1721-1772). (4) The German Iliad — “The Nibelungenlied,” put into its present form in 1210 by a wandering minstrel of Austria. It consists of twenty parts. (5) The Portuguese Iliad — “The Lusiad,” by Camoens.

491. Where is Inchcape Rock?

It is twelve miles from land in the German Sea. Full of danger for navigators, the Abbot of Aberbrothok therefore fixed a bell on a float, which gave notice to sailors of its whereabouts. Ralph the Rover, a pirate, cut the bell from the float and was wrecked on his return home on the same rock. Robert Southey (1774-1843) wrote a ballad on the subject.

492. Who was the Infant Prodigy?

Christian Henry Heinecken, of Lubeck (1721-1725), who, at the age of twelve months, knew the chief events of the Pentateuch; at thirteen months, the history of the Old Testament; and fourteen months, the history of the New Testament; at two and a half years he could answer any ordinary question of history or geography; at three years he knew well both French and Latin.


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