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speaking of abstracted notions clothed in a visible shape, he adds that apt simile,
“Like words congealed in northern air.” 35 Not to keep my reader any longer in suspense, the relation put into modern language, is as follows:
“We were separated by a storm in the latitude of seventythree, insomuch, that only the ship which I was in, with a
Dutch and French vessel, got safe into a creek of Nova 40 Zembla. We landed, in order to refit our vessels, and store
ourselves with provisions. The crew of each vessel made themselves a cabin of turf and wood, at some distance from each other, to fence themselves against the inclemencies of
the weather, which was severe beyond imagination. We 45 soon observed, that in talking to one another we lost several
of our words, and could not hear one another at above two yards distance, and that too when we sat very near the fire. After much perplexity, I found that our words froze in the
air, before they could reach the ears of the persons to whom 50 they were spoken. I was soon confirmed in this conjecture,
when, upon the increase of the cold, the whole company grew dumb, or rather deaf; for every man was sensible, as we afterwards found, that he spoke as well as ever; but
the sounds no sooner took air than they were condensed and 55 lost. It was now a miserable spectacle to see us nodding
and gaping at one another, every man talking, and no man heard. One might observe a seaman that could hail a ship at a league's distance, beckoning with his hand, straining his lungs, and tearing his throat; but all in vain.
“We continued here three weeks in this dismal plight. At length, upon a turn of wind, the air about us began to thaw. Our cabin was immediately filled with a dry clattering sound, which I afterwards found to be the crackling of
consonants that broke above our heads, and were often mixed 65 with a gentle hissing, which I imputed to the letter s, that
occurs so frequently in the English tongue. I soon after felt a breeze of whispers rushing by my ear; for those, being of a soft and gentle substance, immediately liquefied in the warm wind that blew across our cabin. These were soon followed by syllables and short words, and at length 70 by entire sentences, that melted sooner or later, as they were more or less congealed; so that we now heard every thing that had been spoken during the whole three weeks that we had been silent, if I may use that expression. It was now very early in the morning, and yet, to my surprise, I heard 75 somebody say, 'Sir John, it is midnight, and time for the ship's crew to go to bed.' This I knew to be the pilot's voice; and, upon recollecting myself, I concluded that he had spoken these words to me some days before, though I could not hear them until the present thaw. My reader 80 will easily imagine how the whole crew was amazed to hear every man talking, and see no man opening his mouth. In the midst of this great surprise we were all in, we heard a volley of oaths and curses, lasting for a long while, and uttered in a very hoarse voice, which I knew belonged to 85 the boatswain, who was a very choleric fellow, and had taken this opportunity of cursing and swearing at me, when he thought I could not hear him; for I had several times given him the strappado on that account, as I did not fail to repeat it for these his pious soliloquies, when I got him on 90 shipboard.
“I must not omit the names of several beauties in Wapping, which were heard every now and then, in the midst of a long sigh that accompanied them; as, 'Dear Kate!''Pretty Mrs. Peggy !’ ‘When shall I see my Sue again!' This 95 betrayed several amours which had been concealed until that time, and furnished us with a great deal of mirth in our return to England.
“When this confusion of voices was pretty well over,
100 though I was afraid to offer at speaking, as fearing I should
not be heard, I proposed a visit to the Dutch cabin, which lay about a mile farther up in the country. My crew were extremely rejoiced to find they had again recovered their
hearing; though every man uttered his voice with the same 105 apprehensions that I had done.
“At about half-a mile's distance from our cabin we heard the groanings of a bear, which at first startled us; but, upon enquiry, we were informed by some of our company, that
he was dead, and now lay in salt, having been killed upon 110 that very spot about a fortnight before, in the time of the
frost. Not far from the same place, we were likewise entertained with some posthumous snarls and barkings of a fox.
"We at length arrived at the little Dutch settlement; 115 and, upon entering the room, found it filled with sighs that
smelt of brandy, and several other unsavory sounds, that were altogether inarticulate. My valet, who was an Irishman, fell into so great a rage at what he heard, that he
drew his sword; but not knowing where to lay the blame, 120 he put it up again. We were stunned with these confused
noises, but did not hear a single word until about half-anhour after; which I ascribed to the harsh and obdurate sounds of that language, which wanted more time than ours to melt and become audible.
“After having here met with a very hearty welcome, we went to the cabin of the French, who, to make amends for their three weeks' silence, were talking and disputing with greater rapidity and confusion than I ever heard in an as
sembly, even of that nation. Their language, as I found, 130 upon the first giving of the weather, fell asunder and dissolved.
I was here convinced of an error, into which I had before fallen; for I fancied, that for the freezing of the sound, it was necessary for it to be wrapped up, and, as it were, preserved
in breath: but I found my mistake when I heard the sound of a kit playing a minuet over our heads. I asked the occasion 135 of it; upon which one of the company told me that it would play there above a week longer; 'for,' says he, 'finding ourselves bereft of speech, we prevailed upon one of the company, who had his musical instrument about him, to play to us from morning to night; all which time was employed 140 in dancing in order to dissipate our chagrin, and tuer le
Here Sir John gives very good philosophical reasons, why the kit could not be heard during the frost; but, as they are something prolix, I pass them over in silence, and 145 shall only observe, that the honorable author seems, by his quotations, to have been well versed in the ancient poets, which perhaps raised his fancy above the ordinary pitch of historians, and very much contributed to the embellishment of his writings.
Mr. Spectator (The Spectator, No. I. Thursday, March 1, 1711.) I have observed that a reader seldom peruses a book with pleasure, till he knows whether the writer of it be a black or a fair man, of a mild or choleric disposition, married or a bachelor, with other particulars of the like nature, that conduce very much to the right understanding of an author. 5 To gratify this curiosity, which is so natural to a reader, I design this paper, and my next, as prefatory discourses to my following writings, and shall give some account in them of the several persons that are engaged in this work. As the chief trouble of compiling, digesting, and correcting will 10 fall to my share, I must do myself the justice to open the work with my own history.
I was born to a small hereditary estate, which, according to the tradition of the village where it lies, was bounded
15 by the same hedges and ditches in William the Conqueror's
time that it is at present, and has been delivered down from father to son whole and entire, without the loss or acquisition of a single field or meadow, during the space of six hundred
years. There runs a story in the family that my mother 20 dreamed that her son was destined to be a judge. Whether
this might proceed from a law-suit which was then depending in the family, or my father's being a justice of the peace,
I cannot determine; for I am not so vain as to think it pre
saged any dignity that I should arrive at in my future life, 25 though that was the interpretation which the neighborhood
put upon it. The gravity of my behavior at my very first appearance in the world seemed to favor
mother's dream; for, as she often told me, I threw away my rattle before I
was two months old, and would not make use of my coral 30 until they had taken away the bells from it.
As for the rest of my infancy, there being nothing in it remarkable, I shall pass it over in silence. I find that during my nonage I had the reputation of a very sullen youth, but
was always a favorite of my schoolmaster, who used to say, 35 that my parts were solid, and would wear well. I had not
been long at the university, before I distinguished myself by a most profound silence; for, during the space of eight years, excepting in the public exercises of the college, I scarce
uttered the quantity of a hundred words; and indeed do not 40 remember that I ever spoke three sentences together in my
whole life. Whilst I was in this learned body, I applied myself with so much diligence to my studies, that there are very few celebrated books, either in the learned or the
modern tongues, which I am not acquainted with. 45 Upon the death of my father, I was resolved to travel into
foreign countries, and therefore left the university, with the character of an odd unaccountable fellow, that had a great deal of learning, if I would but show it. An insatiable