Gryll Grange by Thomas Love Peacock

Gryll Grange

subjects: Classic Fiction

Description

Gregory Gryll, ‘though he found it difficult to trace the pedigree, that he was lineally descended from the ancient and illustrious Gryllus, who maintained against Ulysses the superior happiness of the life of other animals to that of the life of man.’ This sapient character was one of the men whom Circe had turned into pigs and resisted being changed back. His family line had now lasted some three thousand years, but the master of Gryll Grange, not having married, was without an heir to prolong the family. Though he had adopted his niece as heir instead, she had turned down innumerable suitors. The business of the novel is how she at last comes to find a man to her taste. (source: Wikipedia)

Excerpt

‘Palestine soup!’ said the Reverend Doctor Opimian, dining with his friend Squire Gryll; ‘a curiously complicated misnomer. We have an excellent old vegetable, the artichoke, of which we eat the head; we have another of subsequent introduction, of which we eat the root, and which we also call artichoke, because it resembles the first in flavour, although, me judice, a very inferior affair. This last is a species of the helianthus, or sunflower genus of the Syngenesia frustranea class of plants. It is therefore a girasol, or turn-to-the-sun. From this girasol we have made Jerusalem, and from the Jerusalem artichoke we make Palestine soup.’

Mr. Gryll. A very good thing, doctor.

The Rev. Dr. Opimian. A very good thing; but a palpable misnomer.

Mr. Gryll. I am afraid we live in a world of misnomers, and of a worse kind than this. In my little experience I have found that a gang of swindling bankers is a respectable old firm; that men who sell their votes to the highest bidder, and want only ‘the protection of the ballot’ to sell the promise of them to both parties, are a free and independent constituency; that a man who successively betrays everybody that trusts him, and abandons every principle he ever professed, is a great statesman, and a Conservative, forsooth, a nil conservando; that schemes for breeding pestilence are sanitary improvements; that the test of intellectual capacity is in swallow, and not in digestion; that the art of teaching everything, except what will be of use to the recipient, is national education; and that a change for the worse is reform. Look across the Atlantic. A Sympathiser would seem to imply a certain degree of benevolent feeling. Nothing of the kind. It signifies a ready-made accomplice in any species of political villainy. A Know-Nothing would seem to imply a liberal self-diffidence–on the scriptural principle that the beginning of knowledge is to know that thou art ignorant. No such thing. It implies furious political dogmatism, enforced by bludgeons and revolvers. A Locofoco is the only intelligible term: a fellow that would set any place on fire to roast his own eggs. A Filibuster is a pirate under national colours; but I suppose the word in its origin implies something virtuous: perhaps a friend of humanity.

The Rev. Dr. Opimian. More likely a friend of roaring-(Greek phrase)–in the sense in which roaring is used by our old dramatists; for which see Middleton’s Roaring Girl, and the commentators thereon.

Mr. Gryll. While we are on the subject of misnomers, what say you to the wisdom of Parliament?

The Rev. Dr. Opimian. Why, sir, I do not call that a misnomer. The term wisdom is used in a parliamentary sense. The wisdom of Parliament is a wisdom sui generis. It is not like any other wisdom. It is not the wisdom of Socrates, nor the wisdom of Solomon. It is the wisdom of Parliament. It is not easily analysed or defined; but it is very easily understood. It has achieved wonderful things by itself, and still more when Science has come to its aid. Between them they have poisoned the Thames, and killed the fish in the river. A little further development of the same wisdom and science will complete the poisoning of the air, and kill the dwellers on the banks. It is pleasant that the precious effluvium has been brought so efficiently under the Wisdom’s own wise nose. Thereat the nose, like Trinculo’s, has been in great indignation. The Wisdom has ordered the Science to do something. The Wisdom does not know what, nor the Science either. But the Wisdom has empowered the Science to spend some millions of money; and this, no doubt, the Science will do. When the money has been spent, it will be found that the something has been worse than nothing. The Science will want more money to do some other something, and the Wisdom will grant it. Redit labor actus in orbem.[FN^1] But you have got on moral and political ground. My remark was merely on a perversion of words, of which we have an inexhaustible catalogue.

Mr. Gryll. Whatever ground we take, doctor, there is one point common to most of these cases: the word presents an idea which does not belong to the subject, critically considered. Palestine soup is not more remote from the true Jerusalem, than many an honourable friend from public honesty and honour. However, doctor, what say you to a glass of old Madeira, which I really believe is what it is called?