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by [?]

Bones change their value, it seems thus clearly; and anecdotes change their value; and in that proportion honesty, as regards one or the other, changes the value of its chances. But what has all this to do with ‘Old Nick’? Stop: let me consider. That title was placed at the head of this article, and I admit that it was placed there by myself. Else, whilst I was wandering from my text, and vainly endeavouring to recollect what it was that I had meant by this text, a random thought came over me (immoral, but natural), that I would charge the heading of Old Nick upon the compositor, asserting that he had placed it there in obstinate defiance of all the orders to the contrary, and supplications to the contrary, that I had addressed to him for a month; by which means I should throw upon him the responsibility of accounting for so portentous an ensign.

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EDITOR’S NOTE.–It is evident that De Quincey meditated a much longer essay on anecdotes as false, in which Niccolo Machiavelli would have come in for notice–hence the playful references in the close.


[1] ‘The passion which made Juvenal a poet.’ The scholar needs no explanation; but the reader whose scholarship is yet amongst his futurities (which I conceive to be the civilest way of describing an ignoramus) must understand that Juvenal, the Roman satirist, who was in fact a predestined poet in virtue of his ebullient heart, that boiled over once or twice a day in anger that could not be expressed upon witnessing the enormities of domestic life in Rome, was willing to forego all pretensions to natural power and inspiration for the sake of obtaining such influence as would enable him to reprove Roman vices with effect.