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EVERY man is supposed to be conversant in his own trade; and if this observation is not universally true, it receives great countenance from the gross errors which are committed by men who pretend to display knowledge in matters, with which they are not professionally acquainted.

I intend, by your favour, to apply this remark to Mr. William Gifford, whose edition of Massinger lately fell into my hands. I know something of his learning, and something of his ability as a critic in matters of antiquity. Few men are entitled to more implicit credit when the language or manners of an ancient Greek or Roman are in question, but with those of a modern Greek or Roman he shews himself utterly unacquainted.

The play which engaged my attention was the City Madam, being the first in the fourth volume. In the dramatis personæ is mentioned Gettall, a box-keeper, and Mr. Gifford in a note goodnaturedly explains the term thus; " or as we say now, caster to a gambling-house." Unluckily for this well-meant explanation, these terms, bor-keeper and caster are no more synonimous, than sheep and butcher, jailor and debtor, or any others, in which relation may indeed be discovered, but of a kind the very opposite to approximation. The box-keeper, or as he is often called groom-porter at a hazard-table, never plays; he is seated on an elevated chair, where he declares the game, the odds, and the success of the parties. The caster is he who throws the dice, or holds the box, which all the players do alternately. If the caster throws three mains, or wins by throwing three times successively, he pays to the boxkeeper, for the use of the house, a stipulated sum, varying, according to the dignity of the place, from eighteen pence to half a guinea. If the caster wins six times successively, he is requested, besides the usual payment to the house, to make a gratuitous donation to the box-keeper, who then, with burlesque solemnity, styles him your honour.

I trust this explanation is sufficient on this point.

But on the subject of casters the dice still run against Mr. Gifford. At p. 79, Tradewell says “I long to wear the caster;" and Mr. Gifford, after noticing a mistake into which Mr. Monk Mason, a former editor, had fallen, conjectures, that Tradewell meant to say, he wished "to tire the caster." Now, unluckily for this conjecture, a man is no longer caster than while he wins. I have

seen a great many casters in my time, but never yet saw one whe threw in till he was tired, and I believe all the treasure supposed to be in the possession of Luke Frugal in this play, might be exhausted, even were it a thousand times as much, before such an event could happen. To wear the caster, should have been spelt, ware the caster, and it is thus explained. If the caster is full of cash and spirit, it is usual for him to say, " at all in the ring,” meaning, that he will play for any sums all the company may chuse to risque against him. To this bold style of play, Gettall, the box-keeper, alludes in p. 76, when he says,

“But suddenly start up

A gamester at the height, and cry at all."

But, on the contrary, when a setter supposes himself to possess more money than the caster, it is usual for him on putting his stake into the ring to cry 66 ware caster." The caster then declares, at all under such or such a sum, ten, twenty, or fifty pounds, for instance, or else to place against the stakes of certain setters the corresponding sums, and cry ware cover'd only." Thus then, in two phrases, the city prodigal expresses his hope that the supply of money he expects will enable him to be lord-paramount of the gaming-table: as caster to be at all; and as setter 66 ware the custer."


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Still these unlucky prentices plague poor Mr. Gifford. When they are disappointed in their magnificent hopes, and going to Bridewell, one of them, called Goldwire, says,

"Dost thou cry now

Like a maudlin gamester after loss? I'll suffer

Like a Boman.”

Mr. Coxeter and Mr. Monk Mason, with whom Mr. Gifford is constantly, and often causelessly angry, are satisfied with this reading, and Mr. Mason says, "a Boman, in the language of Alsatia, means a gallant fellow." Mr. Gifford tells us, that Alsatia, which was once a part of the German empire, has no particular language; (bien obligé, monsieur) but that a place in England once called Alsatia (White Friars), being a receptacle of fraudulent debtors, gamblers, thieves, &c. they had a gipsey jargon of their own. Now if Mr. Gifford had not put Germany into my head, I should never have wandered in search of the word Boman, beyond the region mentioned by Tom Shadwell, Tom Otway, and the many other wits, who have mentioned the bullies, the rooks, and my own class, the squires of Alsatia.

But, however, being at last, after his trip to Germany, comfortably settled between the Thames and the south side of Fleetstreet, Mr. Gifford gravely tells us, that in the vocabulary of this region, no such word as Boman occurs. Universal negatives are dangerous. I know my native language pretty well, and can say that in the dialect of Alsatia no word is more common. I could give many respectable authorities, and refer to many classical dictionaries and vocabularies, but shall content myself with the first line of a song, which was written when my late friend, Sir John Fielding, received the honour of knighthood:

"Ye Bomen, prigs, and jolly-dogs, who scamp the Garden round."

I would give you the whole stanza, but perhaps some of your readers would think the poet made rather too free with his wor◄ ship's eyes.

Mr. Gifford then having proved that Boman is not German, and affirmed that it does not belong to the vocabulary of our Alsatia, gravely substitutes the word Roman.-Bravo. As well might Caius Marcius Coriolanus cite the example of sixteenstringed Jack, as the London prentice, in a gambling brothel, in the presence of bawds, strumpets, and rooks, and in custody of sheriff's officers, talk of suffering like a Roman. His real expression, with its contrast, is natural and just: "You grieve like a maudlin gamester, I'll suffer like a Boman;" and, accordingly, instead of imitating the dignified silence of a Roman, he abuses his master, like a Boman, and calls him a pander.

In mentioning these mistakes, I do not mean the least disrespect to Mr. Gifford; his want of knowledge on such subjects makes his "state more gracious;" but, perhaps, as he is not quite infallible, a little more lenity toward poor Messrs. Coxeter and Monk Mason would not have misbecome him.

I will advert to one passage more before I conclude. In the same play, P. 71, Gettall says,

"all the gamesters are

Ambitious to shake thy golden golls."

Golls, Mr. Gifford properly says, is a cant word for hands; and in proof, cites Dekker's Satiromastix. Charles Cotton would have furnished him two authorities quite as good.

"Bid her tie up her head, and wish her

To wash her hands in bran or flour,

And do you in like manner scour
Your dirty golls."

Virgil Travestie, Book IV,

"When he comes with his dirty golls,

From raking up his smutty coals," &c.

Lucan burlesqued.

I do not mean to say that these authorities are more decisive than that which Mr. Gifford has given, but I cite them for the sake of hinting to our commentators, that in the works of Charles Cotton they may often find examples, and explanations of many phrases, provincial, familiar, and peculiar to my own region, which have puzzled, and sometimes eluded, their sagacity.

I am, Sir,

Your frequent reader,




It is one of my vices (not the greatest) to be continually hunting after coincidences; and in reading, or at the representation of a play, they seldom, as far as my knowledge goes, escape me. Two occurred to me lately, on seeing Dryden's Tempest, but they re late to Shakspeare's, "Alas, how altered!”


The clouds, methought,
Ready to drop upon me;

I cry'd to dream again.

then, in dreaming,
would open, and shew riches
that, when I wuk'd,

Anacreon, sporting with virgins in his sleep, struggles to obtain a kiss from one, during which he awakes, and finds himself alone; τλημων

Παλιν ήθελον καθεύδειν

Miserable man, he exclaims, I longed to sleep again!

The next, in the mouth of Stephano, is so like a sentiment in Euripides, that we might fancy it introduced in ridicule of him, like those lines we find from the tragic writers in the comedies of Aristophanes.

Trinculo. Ay, but to lose our bottles in the pool.

Stephano. There is not only disgrace and dishonour in that, mon-ster, but an infinite loss.

Hector, in the Rhesus, says, with regard to losing the oppor tunity of fighting:

αισχρον γας ἡμιν, και προς αισχύνῃ κακον.

It is not only a disgrace, but with the disgrace a loss.

The ❝ flagitio additis damnum" of Horace may muster with these.





I'll rack thee with old cramps;

Fill all thy bones with aches, make thee roar.

Act I. Sc. 2. Good and bad humour have been freely exercised on Mr. Kemble's pronouncing aches soft, and as a dissyllable. Some have been content to laugh at it as a piece of black-letter pedantry, while ill-nature has reprobated it with more malignity than knowledge. The good humoured, who know as little as they care about it, suppose that he makes two syllables of aches, for the sake of the measure. The opposite party call it a vile affectation, and ask why he does not pronounce the word so in Othello, and say to Desdemona,

Thou weed,

Who art so lovely fair, and smell'st so sweet,

That the sense aches at you-'Would thou had'st
Act IV. Sc. 2.

Ne'er been born!

It is here a verb, but as neither the measure, nor any thing else, shews that it was differently spoken from the noun, Mr. K. ought, on his principle, to give it the same sound and quantity. If they further enquire whether it was aitch, instead of ach, when used in the singular number by Shakspeare, in " Much ado about Nothing,"-" charm ach with pain," I answer, in his time, yes; and let the proof of this affirmative meet their round assertion, that the word was never so articulated.

Beatrice. Hey ho!

Morgaret. For a hawk, a horse, or a Husband?

Beatrice. For the letter that begins them all, H."

Much ado. Act III. Sc. 4.

Then comes Johnstone on the last line. “Beatrice answers, for an H, that is for an ache, or pain." Steevens adds-" Heywood, among his epigrams published in 1566, has one on the letter H:

In thine head, or teeth, or toe, or knee;
Into what place soever H may pike him,

Wherever thou find ache thou shalt not like him."

Of ignorance Mr. Kemble, therefore, stands acquitted; but how far he is guilty of want of taste and discretion, when he runs foul of present custom, that "jus et norma loquendi," I leave it to others to determine.


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