**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Of Anagrams And Echo Verses
by [?]


The anagram had too much by an L, and too little by an s; yet Daniel and reveal were in it, and that was sufficient to satisfy her inspirations. The court attempted to dispossess the spirit from the lady, while the bishops were in vain reasoning the point with her out of the scriptures, to no purpose, she poising text against text:–one of the deans of the Arches, says Heylin, “shot her thorough and thorough with an arrow borrowed from her own quiver:” he took a pen, and at last hit upon this elegant anagram:


The happy fancy put the solemn court into laughter, and Cassandra into the utmost dejection of spirit. Foiled by her own weapons, her spirit suddenly forsook her; and either she never afterwards ventured on prophesying, or the anagram perpetually reminded her hearers of her state–and we hear no more of this prophetess!

Thus much have I written in favour of Sir Symonds D’Ewes’s keen relish of a “stingie anagram;” and on the error of those literary historians, who do not enter into the spirit of the age they are writing on.

We find in the Scribleriad, the ANAGRAMS appearing in the land of false wit.

But with still more disorder’d march advance,
(Nor march it seem’d, but wild fantastic dance,)
The uncouth ANAGRAMS, distorted train,
Shifting, in double mazes, o’er the plain.
C. ii. 161.

The fine humour of Addison was never more playful than in his account of that anagrammatist, who, after shutting himself up for half a year, and having taken certain liberties with the name of his mistress, discovered, on presenting his anagram, that he had misspelt her surname; by which he was so thunderstruck with his misfortune, that in a little time after he lost his senses, which, indeed, had been very much impaired by that continual application he had given to his anagram.

One Frenzelius, a German, prided himself on perpetuating the name of every person of eminence who died by an anagram; but by the description of the bodily pain he suffered on these occasions, when he shut himself up for those rash attempts, he seems to have shared in the dying pangs of the mortals whom he so painfully celebrated. Others appear to have practised this art with more facility. A French poet, deeply in love, in one day sent his mistress, whose name was Magdelaine, three dozen of anagrams on her single name!

Even old Camden, who lived in the golden age of anagrams, notices the difficilia quae pulchra, the charming difficulty, “as a whetstone of patience to them that shall practise it. For some have been seen to bite their pen, scratch their heads, bend their brows, bite their lips, beat the board, tear their paper, when their names were fair for somewhat, and caught nothing therein.” Such was the troubled happiness of an anagrammatist: yet, adds our venerable author, notwithstanding “the sour sort of critics, good anagrams yield a delightful comfort and pleasant motion in honest minds.”[3]

When the mania of making ANAGRAMS prevailed, the little persons at court flattered the great ones at inventing anagrams for them; and when the wit of the maker proved to be as barren as the letters of the name, they dropped or changed them, raving with the alphabet, and racking their wits. Among the manuscripts of the grave Sir Julius Caesar, one cannot but smile at a bundle emphatically endorsed “Trash.” It is a collection of these court-anagrams; a remarkable evidence of that ineptitude to which mere fashionable wit can carry the frivolous.

In consigning this intellectual exercise to oblivion, we must not confound the miserable and the happy together. A man of genius would not consume an hour in extracting even a fortunate anagram from a name, although on an extraordinary person or occasion its appositeness might be worth an epigram. Much of its merit will arise from the association of ideas; a trifler can only produce what is trifling, but an elegant mind may delight by some elegant allusion, and a satirical one by its causticity. We have some recent ones, which will not easily be forgotten.