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leader of the Antiburghers) seconded—for there had been a coalition against ‘Antichrist,’ as they called poor Brown—the bishop's candidate. They said little about their man, and not a word against his rivals; but Councillor Sawnie, who nominated Jones, was less reticent. ‘The people of Knox and of Geddes had a duty to discharge. They were the last resting-place of the truth. The sword of the Lord and of Gideon had been committed to their keeping.” (The Doctor could not help expressing his surprise at the assistance provided by the Almighty.) Sawnie was not indeed prepared to say that Brown was an unbeliever; but when he looked abroad—and then Sawnie proceeded with no inconsiderable skill in that eulogy of depreciation, which is more fatal than direct invective, to demolish our unfortunate friend. Treasurer Yellowfin having seconded Sawnie, the Doctor rose to propose Brown. He is never a fluent speaker, and he was now too angry to say much; but he got out a few sharp words, to the effect that he thought they should have the candidates in, and put them through their paces. A competitive examination of the beadles in theology would be entertaining, and might promote the conviviality of the council. He advised Sawnie to keep his eyes open. That learned councillor might employ a tailor, who confounded the persons and divided the substance; or a barber, who had shaved the new Dean of Westminster; or a devil, who didn't believe in future punishments. That would be a direct encouragement of damnable error; and if Sawnie encouraged damnable error, where did he expect his immortal soul to go 7 Brown was of course nowhere. There was a close run between Jones and Robinson; but the authority of the episcopate prevailed. “There's one comfort,” said the Doctor to me, as we left, “the next fit of del, trem. must carry him off. By that time we'll have a reformed council.’ Such is the history of our election. It is the history of elections more important than that of beadle. There are many bad features about it: on some of them it is needless to dwell; the odium theologicum will never abate while there are ‘holy idiots' (to borrow a phrase from Marlowe) in the world; but it is abundantly clear that the whole system of “testimonials’ is rotten, and requires to be revised. It is, in the first place, a grievous tax upon those who testify. I should fancy that one-third of the time of a popular Oxford professor or of an eminent public writer is occupied in composing testimonials. Were the work done honestly, this would involve a vast amount of mental labour; for severe and accurate criticism of men requires brainwork of the best kind; but the work is not done honestly. It is impossible for a friend, even for an acquaintance, to refuse you a certificate, if you have the assurance to ask him for one; and it is scarcely to be expected that on such occasions he should speak the plain truth. How could he 7 How could he tell you to your face that you were an arrant impostor, who knew as much about conic sections as about the moon,
and never got quite up to the mark till after your fifth tumbler 7 The phraseology of the testimonial has thus become highly conventional. It has as little life in it as a Queen's Speech. It is as dismal as a prize poem. Then the system is degrading as well as dishonest. Were it not that it has been in use among us for so long, no man who valued his self-respect could possibly resort to it. For consider what it involves. The moment that an office is vacant the intending candidate despatches begging letters all over the country. “Mr. Brown presents his compliments to Professor Zumpterzeid, and requests Mr. Zumpterzeid to certify that he is eminently qualified for the Chair of Sanscrit.” The answers are printed as they arrive, are bound together, and the candidate modestly introduces himself and his pretensions to the electors. ‘Here I am, and here are my testimonials. They may not be so numerous as those which the proprietors of Morison's pills or Holloway's ointment or the Revelenta Arabica, or the starch used in the Royal Laundry, have obtained; but I flatter myself that, on reading them, you will find that you are in the presence of a very remarkable man. Here is a certificate signed by the venerable Lord Aldborough, who declares that after fifty years of constant agony—pardon me—that is Professor Holloway—but Professor Zumpterzeid, you see— Now is it decent to oblige scholars and gentlemen to pass through such an ordeal? Testimonials, by their very nature, are the provender of quacks, and the diet D
is one that honest men ought not to be required to fatten upon. I dare say that great satirist — that greatest of satirists—Swift, meant to ridicule this system (as well as Bentley) in what is after all the finest, if the slightest, of his pleasantries. It is thus that Isaak Bickerstaff vindicates himself ‘against what is objected to him by Mr. Partridge, in his Almanack for the present year 1709:’— ‘I wish Mr. Partridge knew the thoughts which foreign universities have conceived of his ungenerous proceedings with me; but I am too tender of his reputation to publish them to the world. That spirit of envy and pride which blasts so many rising geniuses in our nation is yet unknown among professors abroad. The necessity of justifying myself will excuse my vanity when I tell the reader that I have near a hundred honorary letters from several parts of Europe (some as far as Muscovy) in praise of my performance; besides several others, which, as I have been credibly informed, were opened in the post-office, and never sent me. If I had leave to print the Latin letters transmitted to me from foreign parts, they would fill a volume, and be a full defence against all that Mr. Partridge or his accomplices of the Portugal inquisition will be ever able to object; who, by the way, are the only enemies my predictions have ever met with at home or abroad. But I hope I know better what is due to the honour of a learned correspondence in so tender a point. Yet some of these illustrious persons will, perhaps, excuse me for transcribing a passage or
two in my vindication. The most learned Monsieur Leibnitz thus addresses to me his third letter—Illustrissimo Bickerstaffo astrologiae instauratori, &c. Monsieur le Clerc, quoting my predictions in a treatise he published last year, is pleased to say—Ita nupperime Bickerstaffius magnum illud Angliae sidus. Another great professor, writing of me, has these words—Bickerstaffius, nobilis Anglus, astrologorum hujusce saeculi facile princeps. Signor Magliabecchi, the great Duke's famous library keeper, spends almost his whole letter in compliments and praise. It is true the renowned professor of astronomy at Utrecht seems to differ from me in one article, but it is after the modest manner that becomes a philosopher; as, pace tanti viri dicerim; and page 55 he seems to lay the error on the printer (as, indeed, it ought), and says—Vel forsan error typographi, cum alloquin Bickerstaffius vir doctissimus, &c.’ Here, therefore, in the enjoyment of his office leave we the beadle. I am sure that, after the worry of the last three weeks, it is my fervent prayer that the fatal attack which the Doctor anticipates may be postponed till I have quitted the council.