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I told him, although it were the custom of our learned in Europe to steal inventions from each other, who had thereby at least this advantage, that it became a controversy which was the right owner, yet I would take such caution that he should have the honour entire, without a rival.
We next went to the school of languages, where three professors sat in consultation upon improving that of their own country. The first project was to shorten discourse by cutting polysyllables into one, and leaving out verbs and participles; because, in reality, all things imaginable are but nouns. The other was a scheme for entirely abolishing all words whatsoever; and this was urged as a great advantage in point of health, as well as brevity; for it is plain that every word we speak is, in some degree, a diminution of our lungs by corrosion, and consequently contributes to the shortening of our lives. An expedient was therefore offered, that since words are only names for things, it would be more convenient for all men to carry about them such things as were necessary to express the particular business they are to discourse on. And this invention would certainly have taken place, to the great ease as well as health of the subject, if the women, in conjunction with the vulgar and illiterate, had not threatened to raise a rebellion, unless they might be allowed the liberty to speak with their tongues, after the manner of their forefathers; such constant, irreconcilable enemies to science are the common people. However, many of the most learned and wise adhere to the new scheme of expressing themselves by things; which hath only this inconvenience attending it, that if a man's business be very great, and of various kinds, he must be obliged in proportion to carry a greater bundle of things upon his back, unless he can afford one or two strong servants to attend him.
I have often beheld two of those sages almost sinking under the weight of their packs, like pedlars among us, who, when they met in the streets, would lay down their loads, open their sacks, and hold conversation for an hour together; then put up their implements, help each other to resume their burdens, and take their leave. But, for short conversations, a man may carry implements in his pockets, and under his arms, enough to supply him, and in his house he cannot be at a loss; therefore, the room where company meet to practise this art is full of all things ready at hand, requisite to furnish matter for this kind of artificial converse.
Another great advantage proposed by this invention was, that it would serve as a universal language to be understood in all civilized nations, whose goods and utensils are generally of the same kind, or nearly resembling, so that their uses might easily be comprehended. And thus ambassadors would be qualified to treat with foreign princes or ministers of state, to whose tongues they were utter strangers.
In the school of political projectors I was but ill entertained, the professors appearing, in my judgment, wholly out of their senses, which is a scene that never fails to make me melancholy. These
unhappy people were proposing schemes for persuading monarchs to choose favourites upon the score of their wisdom, capacity, and virtue; of teaching ministers to consult the public good; of rewarding merit, great abilities, and eminent services; of instructing princes to know their true interest, by placing it on the same foundation with that of their people; of choosing for employments persons qualified to exercise them; with many other wild, impossible chimeras, that never entered before into the heart of man to conceive, and confirmed me in the old observation, that there is nothing so extravagant and irrational which some philosophers have not maintained for truth.
But, however, I shall so far do justice to this part of the academy as to acknowledge that all of them were not so visionary. There was a most ingenious doctor, who seemed to be perfectly versed in the whole nature and system of government. This illustrious person had very usefully employed his studies in finding out effectual remedies for all diseases and corruptions to which the several kinds of public administration are subject by the vices or infirmities of those who govern, as well as by the licentiousness of those who are to obey. For instance, whereas all writers and reasoners have agreed that there is a strict universal resemblance between the natural and political body, can there be anything more evident than that the health of both must be preserved, and the diseases cured, by the same prescriptions?
It is allowed that senates and great councils are often troubled with redundant, ebullient,†, and other peccant‡ humours; with many diseases of the head, and more of the heart; with strong convulsions; with grievous contractions of the nerves and sinews in both hands, but especially the right; with spleen,§ flatus,|| vertigoes, and deliriums;* *** with scrofulous tumours, full of fetid prurulent§§ matter; with canine|||| appetites, and crude. ness of digestion; besides many others needless to mention.
This doctor therefore proposed, that upon the meeting of a senate, certain physicians should attend at the three first days of their sitting, and at the close of each day's debate feel the pulses of every senator; after which, having maturely considered and consulted upon the nature of the several maladies, and the methods of cure, they should, on the fourth day, return to the senatehouse, attended by their apothecaries, stored with proper medicines; and, before the members sat, administer to each of them remedies according as their several cases should require; and,
*Redundant, superfluous, or excessive.
+ Ebullient, boiling over.
§ Spleen, ill-humour.
Flatus, wind in the stomach, or other cavities of the body.
tt Fetid, having an offensive smell. §§ Purulent, filled with offensive matter.
according as these medicines should operate, repeat, alter, or omit them, at the next meeting.
This project could not be of any great expense to the public, and might, in my poor opinion, be of much use for the dispatch of business in those countries where senates have any share in the legislative power; beget unanimity, shorten debates, open a few mouths which are now closed, and close many more which are now open; curb the petulancy of the young, and correct the positiveness of the old; rouse the stupid, and damp the pert.
Again, because it is a general complaint that the favourites of princes are troubled with short and weak memories, the same doctor proposed that whoever attended a first minister, after having told his business with the utmost brevity, and in the plainest words, should, at his departure, give the said minister a tweak by the nose, or tread on his corns, or pull him thrice by both ears, or run a pin into his body, or pinch his arms black and blue, to prevent forgetfulness; and at every levee day repeat the same operation, until the business were done, or absolutely refused.
He likewise directed that every senator in the great council of a nation, after he had delivered his opinion, and argued in the defence of it, should be obliged to give his vote directly contrary; because, if that were done, the result would infallibly terminate in the good of the public.
When parties in a state are violent, he offered a wonderful contrivance to reconcile them. The method is this: You take a hundred leaders of each party; you dispose them into couples of such whose heads are nearest of a size; then let two nice operators saw off the occiput of each couple at the same time, in such manner that the brain may be equally divided. Let the occiputs thus cut off be interchanged, applying each to the head of his opposite party-man.
It seems, indeed, to be a work that requireth some exactness; but the professor assured us, that, if it were dexterously performed, the cure would be infallible. For he argued thus: that the two half-brains being left to debate the matter between themselves within the space of one skull, would soon come to a good understanding, and produce that moderation, as well as regularity of thinking, so much to be wished for in the heads of those who imagine they came into the world only to watch and govern its motions and as to the difference of brains in quantity or quality, among those who are directors in faction, the doctor assured us, from his own knowledge, that it was a perfect trifle.
SWEET Country life to such unknown
To bring from thence the scorched clove;
Is the wise master's feet and hands:
There at the plough thou find'st thy team,
And as thou look'st the wanton steer,
For sports, for pageantry and plays,
On which the young men and maids meet
Tripping the homely country round,