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The Organ Nuisance And Its Remedy
by [?]

There is scarcely any better measure of the amount of comfort a man enjoys than in the sort of things of which he makes grievances. When the princess in the Eastern story passed a restless night on account of the rumpled rose-leaf she lay on, the inference is, that she was not, like another character of fiction, accustomed to “lie upon straw.”

Thus thinking, I was led to speculate on what a happy people must inhabit the British Islands, seeing the amount of indignation and newspaper wrath bestowed upon what is called the Organ Nuisance. Now, granting that it is not always agreeable to have a nasal version of the march in ‘William Tell,’ ‘Home, sweet Home,’ or ‘La Donna e mobile,’ under one’s window at meal-times, in the hours of work, or the darker hours of headache, surely the nation which cries aloud over this as a national calamity must enjoy no common share of Fortune’s favour, and have what the Yankees call a “fine time” here below.

Scarcely a week, however, goes over without one of these persecutors of British ears being brought up to justice, and some dreary penny-a-liner appears to prosecute in the person of a gentleman of literary pursuits, whose labours, like those of Mr Babbage, may be lost to the world, if the law will not hunt down the organs, and cry “Tally high-ho” to the “grinders.”

It might be grave matter of inquiry whether the passing annoyance of ‘Cherry ripe’ was not a smaller infliction than some of the tiresome lucubrations it has helped to muddle; and I half fancy I’d as soon listen to the thunder as drink the small beer it has soured into vinegar.

However, as the British Public is resolved on making it a grievance, and as some distinguished statesman has deemed it worth his while to devise a bill for its suppression, it is in vain to deny that the evil is one of magnitude. England has declared she will not be ground down by the Savoyard, and there is no more to be said of it.

A great authority in matters of evasion once protested that he would engage to drive a coach-and-six through any Act of Parliament that ever was framed, and I believe him. So certain is language to be too wide or too narrow–to embrace too much, and consequently fail in distinctness, or to include too little, and so defeat the attempt to particularise–that it does not call for more than an ordinary amount of acuteness to detect the flaws of such legislation. Then, when it comes to a discussion, and amendments are moved, and some honourable gentleman suggests that after the word “Whereas” in section 93 the clause should run “in no case, save in those to be hereafter specified,” etc., there comes a degree of confusion and obscurity that invariably renders the original parent of the measure unable to know his offspring, and probably intently determined to destroy it. That in their eagerness for law-making the context of these bills is occasionally overlooked, one may learn from the case of an Irish measure where a fine was awarded as the punishment of a particular misdemeanour, and the Act declared that one-half of the sum should go to the county, one-half to the informer. Parliament, however, altered the law, but overlooked the context. Imprisonment with hard labour was decreed as the penalty of the offence, and the clause remained–“one-half to the county, one-half to the informer.”

A Judge of no mean acuteness, the Chief Baron O’Grady, once declared, with respect to an Act against sheep-stealing, that after two careful readings he could not decide whether the penalties applied to the owner, of the sheep, the thief, or the sheep itself, for that each interpretation might be argumentatively sustained.

How will you suppress the organ-grinder after this? What are the limits of a man’s domicile? How much of the coast does he own beyond his area-railings? Is No. 48 to be deprived of the ‘Hat-catcher’s Daughter’ because 47 is dyspeptic? Are the maids in 32 not to be cheered by ‘Sich a gettin’ up stairs’ because there is a nervous invalid in 33? How long may an organ-man linger in front of a residence to tune or adjust his barrels–the dreariest of all discords? Can legislation determine how long or how loud the grand chorus in ‘Nabucco’ should be performed? What endless litigation will be instituted by any attempt to provide for all these and a score more of similar casualties, not to speak of the insolent persecution that may be practised by the performance of tunes of a party character. Fancy Dr Wiseman composing a pastoral to the air of ‘Croppies, lie down,’ or the Danish Minister writing a despatch to the inspiriting strains of ‘Schleswig-Holstein meer-umschlungen.’ There might come a time, too, when ‘Sie sollen ihm nicht haben’ might grate on a French ambassador’s ears. Can your Act take cognisance of all these?