NOTES AND QUERIES, [ii s. XL FEB. is, 1915.
The story was wired across to England as part of a general news cablegram. And this is how it read : " Influenza extensively prevalent Wales Victoria numerous deaths Bishop Adelaide found dead sea-serpent sixty feet Coffin Bay." The news agency, as they afterwards confessed, read the last six words as a separate sentence, and, judging that it was not suitable to The Times, omitted it. Consequently the reli- gious world was pained to hear of the death of an eminent ecclesiastic.
Dean Alford said that he saw an announce- ment of a meeting in connexion with " the Society for Promoting the Observance of the Lord's Day which was founded in 1831," conveying the meaning that the day, and not the Society, was founded in that year.
Dean Alford fancied himself as an autho- rity on punctuation. He had a duel with the late Mr. Washington Moon, in which the latter stated that the great enemy to understanding the Dean's sentences was the want of commas. The Dean had previously written :
" I have some satisfaction in reflecting that in the course of editing the Greek Text of the New Testament I believe I have destroyed more than a thousand commas, which prevented the text from being properly understood."
The omission of a comma in a letter in The Times many years ago gave a gruesome meaning to a sentence. The letter was about the American War, and the writer said :
" The loss of life will hardly fall short of a quarter of a million ; and how many more were better with the dead than doomed to crawl on the mutilated victims of this great national crime." It should have read :
" Than doomed to crawl on, the mutilated victims of this great national crime."
Bryan Waller Procter wrote, under the pseudonym of " Barry Cornwall," an im- perfect anagram upon his own name. W T hen he died in 1874 one newspaper announced his death as that of Bryan Waller Procter, of Barry, Cornwall.
When John Payne Collier died in 1883 another journal made the announcement of the death of John Payne, collier.
Your correspondent should look at the books by George Washington Moon, par- ticularly* ' The Dean's English.' He will also find some amusing instances in Walsh's ' Handbook of Literary Curiosities,' on pp. 924-8. There was a correspondence in Knowledge, vol. iv. (edited by the late R. A. Proctor), with reference to the use of the comma. A. L. HUMPHREYS.
187, Piccadilly, W.
The following is an extract from Malmes- bury's ' Memoirs of an Ex-Minister,' under date 29 Dec., 1852 (i. 379) :
" Lord Cowley relates a curious anecdote as to the origin of the numeral III in the Emperor's title. The Prefect of Bourges, where he slept the first night of his progress, had given instructions that the people were to shout ' Vive Napoleon ! ' but he wrote * Vive Napoleon ! ! ! ' The people took the three notes of interjection as a numeral. The President, on hearing it, sent the Duo de Mortemart to the Prefect to know what the cry meant. When the whole thing was explained the President, tapping the Duke on the shoulder, said : ' Je ne savais pas que j 'avais un Preset Machiavelliste. ' "
In fiction there is the Shakespearean critic in ' Nicholas Nickleby,' who achieved fame by discovering that the meaning of passages in Shakespeare could be altered by altering the punctuation ; and also the dispute in ' Le Mariage de Figaro ' as to whether or not there was a comma in the crucial, but blotted sentence of his promise to Marceline.
G. H. WHITE.
St. Cross, Harleston, Norfolk.
Was not the famous Balaklava Charge due to some misunderstanding over the dispatch ? FRANCIS P. MARCHANT.
RENTON NICHOLSON (11 S. xi. 86). I observe that MR. ALECK ABRAHAMS con- tributes a note about this worthy, but I am not quite clear what has given rise to it, as no previous reference is cited. But I fail to see how the ' Autobiography of a Fast Man,' by Renton Nicholson, " pub- lished for the proprietors " in 1843, can by any possibility be a " later issue " of ' The Lord Chief Baron Nicholson, an Auto- biography,' published by George Vickers of Angel Court, Strand. I possess a copy of the latter scarce, but humorous work ; it bears no date, but as it deals with events which occurred in 1860, the presumption is that it was published either towards the end of that year or in the early part of 1861, as the " Lord Chief Baron " died in May of the latter year. If any of your readers are interested in his remarkable career, they will find a copious note on p. 256 of the second volume of the ' Life and Reminiscences of E. L. Blanchard,' by Clement Scott and Cecil Howard ; also at p. 4 of ' Cremorne and the Later London Gardens ' (1907), by Warwick Wroth. He has also been deemed worthy of a brief notice in the ' Dictionary of National Biography.' A portrait of him by James Ward, which hung on the walls