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Page:Notes and Queries - Series 9 - Volume 11.djvu/332

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English - Latin Dictionary,' 1677: "The mother [disease] hysterica passio. "

MR. WILMSHURST does not tell us why he discredits the word. It would be idle to im- peach Shakespeare on sexual grounds for using it ; he cannot have been so grossly ignorant of anatomy as a literal interpreta- tion of his language in the present instance would imply. He was but likening the out- raged king's feeling to that of a woman affected with the hysterical passion or "mother."* It was one of the dramatist's contemporaries, Francis Holyoake, the lexi- cographer, born too in Shakespeare's county, who defined "the mother" as "a disease that cometh through the stopping or choking of the matrix, and causeth the mother to swoon "; and this was perhaps Shakespeare's view. The masculine heroes of ancient romance were given to swooning equally with their feminine compeers, and an inchoate neurotic manifestation of this kind may be meant in Lear's case. F. ADAMS.

There is no ground for doubt or change. "Mother" was a well-known name for the hysterica passio; see it, e.g., in Halliwell, where the same full phrase is given, with a reference to "Middleton, i. 186." Sir Kenelm Digby, in his * Cure of Wounds by Sympathy,' third ed., 1660, says that when the vines are in flower the wine in the cellar sends to its surface a white fermentation, called the " mother," which ceases when the flowers fall, p. 79 (cp. ' Eng. Dialect Diet.,' s.v. ' Mother ') ; and again he speaks of " a very melancholy woman, which was subject to the disease called the Mother " (p. 93). So in W. Simp- son's 'Hydrologia Chy mica,' 1669, p. 129, we read of " hysterical paroxysms brought on

by passions in women fits of the Mother."

A little examination will show that this is the thought in Lear's mind.

There is no similarity in the two passages quoted from 'King Lear' and 'As You Like It.' Orlando goes from one tyrant to another, out of the frying-pan into the fire, from one oppressive atmosphere to another, from clouds of smoke to clouds of dust. Such a dust-cloud is still commonly called a "smother."

W. C. B.

I perceive from a note to the lines quoted that Harsnet mentions hysterica passio as the mother. Shakspeare evidently took this expression, and much else, from Harsnet's book, which, having been published in 1603,

  • Hysteria in the female, says Sydenham ( ' Opera '

Lond., 1705, p. 355), is identical with hypochon-

driaeis in the male: " vix ovum ovo similius

quam aunt utrobique phenomena."

shows that the play could not have been written before that date. Dr. Johnson in his dictionary has said that smoke and smother are the same, and, in showing that they are so, has quoted the lines spoken by Orlando in ' As You Like It'; and the words certainly have the same signification there, for Orlando says that he is going from one tyrant to another tyrant. If such alterations as that proposed are readily accepted, I fear that we shall not retain much that Shakspeare has written. E. YARDLEY.

Oh how this Mother swels vp toward my heart ! Surely no alteration is needed here. Shake- speare is using the common phrase of his day for a fit of hysterics. It occurs hun- dreds of times in such writers as Gerard and Culpeper. Thus (to quote one instance) Culpepersays of the butter-bur (s.v.) that it "helps [that is, relieves] the rising of the mother." Salmon thus describes the com- plaint :

" Sometimes they are affected with Convulsions, that very much resemble the Epilepsie, and are commonly called Fits of the Mother, in which the Belly and Entrails rise up towards the Throat." ' The Practice of Physick,' lib. i. cap. ii.

C. C. B. [Replies also from W. R. B. PKIDEAUX and others.]

'THE WINTER'S TALE,' II. i. 39-42. While "depart" has been looked upon with sus- picion, and various emendations have been offered, the meaning of "one may drink, depart, and yet partake no venom" seems clearly to be "one may drink and go his way without harm from the draught." We may also note the particular purpose in using the word "depart," as shown by the context. To preclude the possibility of a discovery that a spider had been steeped in the cup, the one who drinks is supposed to leave the scene, which answers Collier's question, "Why, after the drinking, was the drinker neces- sarily to depart ?" E. MERTON DEY.

St. Louis, U.S.

'THE WINTER'S TALE,' II. i. 50-2. He has discpver'd my design, and I Remain a pinch'd thing ; yea, a very trick For them to play at will.

Heath explains " a pinch'd thing," &c., as being "a mere child's baby, a thing pinch'd out of clouts, a puppet (' trick ') for them to move and actuate as they please."


"Without denying Heath's interpretation, it is possible from the connexion of thought to suppose the meaning of Leontes to be that after the shape, the proportions, of his design have been ruined by discovery, as a bladder when it is pricked, he is reduced merely to a pinched and shrivelled thing,