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As we apply the term "Periodicals to Maga and other less meritorious portions of literature appearing at regular intervals of time, the word "Alphabeticals" seems not inappropriate to a class of works, the peculiarity of which is that their parts are distributed according to the order of the alphabet. If the reader will stop for a moment to contemplate all that is meant by "the alphabeticals," he will see in his mind's eye a vast district of the world of letters, multiplied and varied, and capable of infinite multiplication and variation. He will see that, from its very characteristic of the alphabetical, it has an enormous influence on human thought, and power of usefulness for human purposes. And yet the alphabetical machinery itself is comparatively a modern invention, not perhaps yet brought to its full development. Even the form of arrangement by the sequence of letters, not only at the beginning, but throughout the words, was not so obvious as it is to those trained to it by invariable custom in the use of good dictionaries. In the older dictionaries and indexes we find continual deviations from it, owing to the warping effect of some association or assimilation of sound bringing words together out of their exact order. We will easily see the tendency to this kind of deflection in the street - directories of minor towns, and other compilations made up by uneducated people. Simple as the rule is-in fact, it is a rule of the nature of a law in an exact science-they cannot observe it.
But while the rule of sequence in virtue of this very exactness is absolutely attainable, the adjust ment of the matter to be subjected to it is a more difficult affair, as we shall presently find.
There is a puerile reason given for the Romans having no diction
aries, that every young fellow had a learned slave or two at his elbow to help him over the difficulties of languages. As well say that the reason why they had no railways was because their slaves carried them about in litters. The reason why they had no dictionaries is the same as the reason why they had no railways-they had not invented them. And there are many things in our modern social system that seem to us quite simple, and so natural that they must occur to every one from the beginning, which yet are modern inventions, and were entirely missed by the great empires and cities that have passed away. The Romans must have had a powerful repressive machinery to keep together their great city. They had, as we all know, a wonderful organisation for preserving the integrity of the empire-we still make use of fragments of it in our social institutions, and are glad to have them.
But there are many things which seem trifling in comparison, yet are the source of safety and comfort to millions, which they did not know. The mere numbering of the houses in our streets is, for instance, a great institution— we would like to know what man of genius invented it. Then comes the directory and the post-office system, the lighting of streets at night, and the various other adjuncts which give each member of a vast community access to all others without forcing him into contact with them. What a chaos London must have been in Dr Johnson's days, when it was about the quarter of its present size! No one knew what its size was, indeed, or what it contained; and there were fabulous ideas about it, as there have since been about the interior cities of China, whose inhabitants have no notion of their actual contents. There were mysterious notions then about multi
tudes of people disappearing in that great whirlpool; but with the population multiplied, and no interference with liberty of actionwhich is, in fact, much fuller than it used to be-London is, on the whole, as safe a place as any country village, and the mysterious disappearances among its three millions are probably not so numerous as those among any other equal number of people dispersed through the country. If the Romans had, as they must have had, a strong organisation, it cannot have possessed those subtle influences for the protection of the individual person among the millions which ours has; and, in fact, human life was carelessly looked after then, and left a prey to many enemies from which it is with us sedulously protected. What can appear simpler than an index to the contents of a book, or an alphabetical directory of the householders in a town?-and yet Rome could no more produce such an article than she could print it if it were made. Perhaps, indeed, this touches the secret of the long time that the world had to wait for so obvious an assistant to its operations. It may have been only after books were multiplied that human genius was stimulated to provide ready means of access to the accumulating stores of knowledge.
The Arabian school of philosophers, who had orderly minds, are supposed to have been the first to suggest an alphabetical arrangement; and the idea was a worthy companion to that powerful machine, the Arabic numeration. Our own private belief is, that the oldest actual dictionary in existence is the Greek Lexicon of Photius, the man who became so celebrated for collecting passages from blasphemous and heretical works in order that he might confute them, and who thus was the means of preserving for the delectation of the profane a large quantity of that kind of literature which otherwise would have perished. He was a
man of great power, both in literature and politics, in his own day. Whether it has been editorially rectified, or is pretty much in its native shape, his Lexicon, as published by Porson, has, so far as it goes, a very systematic look, entitling it much more to the name of a dictionary than the 'Etymologicum Magnum' in the collection attributed to Midas.
But nothing will illustrate better how difficult it was to rectify all arrangements into pure alphabetical order, than looking back at old indexes. One of the earliest ever printed, by the way-that of the Nuremberg Chronicle'-is better than one will see for centuries after it, and is one of the admirable features in that very wonderful book. It was printed close to the end of the fifteenth century, and contained opinions and elucidations, the full import of which was not understood until the Reformation had made progress. Its services in enlightening the public mind of Germany have not been sufficiently brought to light in later times; nor yet its services to art, which were of a high order. Its multitudinous woodcuts are attributed to Wohlgemath, the teacher of Albert Durer; but one cannot help thinking that Albert had a cut at them with his own hand.
But to come back to the Index. It now very nearly achieves uniformity in method, which is everything. Turn to any index of a book printed even so late as the reign of Queen Anne or George I., and ten to one but you will find that the manufacturer has not made up his mind whether he is to index by the Christian or surname, or whether he is to give titled persons their names or their titles. In some instances a battle will be found by its name in history-the name, that is, of the place where it is foughtbut in others it will be entered under the word Battle; and so on with everything.
As the index is about the most simple and obvious of all the al
phabeticals, let us offer some casual remarks on its nature as an intellectual production. The preparation of an index is a work of labour decidedly of the drier kind. There is no getting through it with an impetuous rush of thought, nor does it brighten up its own details with that self-supplying light which carries the enthusiastic investigator in nature or archæology—or his brother, the worker in the powers of the exact sciences-lightly over the ground. "There is nothing so ravishing as records," said Prynne about those piles of musty parchment which would have appalled many other people, perhaps, but had charms to beguile him of his dinner, and keep him deciphering and deciphering until nature told her wants in the dim eye and the trembling fingers. Nobody finds index-making to be a ravishing pursuit; nor does the world reward it with the honour of high intellectual achievement. Instances, it is said, there have been, of men who, on taking breath after the long toil of a heavy index, have looked round upon the public for the usual distinctions of successful authorship, but have found not only that there is no prize for them in the Temple of Fame, but they are not held even to be ticket-holders, who have a right to feel disappointed on drawing a blank. When conditions permit, an author is apt to leave this function to some other, as the coachman of old used to drop the reins when he drove up to the posting-house.
Being entirely a matter of duty, the question, What books should have indexes, and what should not? comes into the department of ethics, and, like everything else that has to be adjusted there, it admits of significant distinctions. If the book professes to deal with matter of fact, either by supplying the old stock with new things, or by making a complete digest of some group already in existence- if it is a history of the world, or of Europe, or of Little Pedlington,
then to issue it without an index is a gross dereliction of duty. You profess to endow the reading world with a storehouse of facts, and you must give them the key of the storehouse, otherwise you are utterly deceiving them. But, on the other hand, if your contribution to the world's literature be a pure work of genius, either in prose or verse, with the title of 'Moonlight Moments;' or, ' World Wanderings in the Wonderful,' supplying it with an index is equivalent to an expectation that the world will accept all its ideas as household phrases, and will want to know where to find them, so that they may recall them accurately, like passages from Shakespeare or the classics. The difficulty lies just in the quarter where there always are difficulties-the transition stratum of literature; that kind which Tennyson, by the way, says, deserves to have a special peal of bells,
"For all the past of time reveals
Essays, miscellanies, historical and biographical sketches, and the like, not intended as absolute comprehensive solid books of reference, yet containing sometimes valuable facts which people might like to go back upon, are the staple of this transition state. And it may be said that, however the author may act, he has the benefit of the doubt. If he be so generous as to supply the public with an index, especially if it adhere to facts, he is not amenable to the charge of inflated conceit. If he withhold it, on the other hand, he is not a traitor. He has promised nothing but sketchy matter, intended rather to amuse than to teach his reader. His responsibility is that of the companion, not of the schoolmaster.
But "if you have it, have it good," is applicable to the index as well as to most other things; and there is a larger scale of excellence here than one would at first think. Humbly as the place of the index
maker stands in common estimation, his function gives room for the exercise of high intellectual faculties.
The number is larger than is generally supposed of the authors who have constructed their own indexes, because they feared to intrust the task to some mere mechanic, ignorant of the tenor and spirit of the work. The first index to the Edinburgh Review' is reputed to be the work of a very eminent man indeed. A subsequent one was executed by Ralph Rylance, who came from London to Edinburgh for the purpose, and turned out to be a genial scholar and a sort of wit. He was audacious enough to let fly a shaft at Scott, then at the climax of his glory,"The corpse of many a hero slain Graced Waterloo's ensanguined plain, But none by sabre or by shot Fell half so flat as Walter Scott."
His portrait is in Kay's Collection, and we believe he is the only person who has reached the celebrity of portraiture on the sole literary claim of having made an index.
The indexer must thoroughly understand the matter he is working on. His special faculty for his task must be that of hitting on the name under which the majority of the persons who may consult the book will look for what they want in it. No rule will achieve this quality—it is the creature of sagacity and common
We remember an instance where a mechanical person had been set to compile an index with very specific and minute instructions, containing, among others, a set of rules by which he was to judge, in certain instances, whether he would index under the Subject or the Predicate. It happened that an investigator, in haste, as investigators are sometimes apt to be, desired to see what was said in that book about the Lord Chancellor's powers. He turned to C, and looked for " Chancellor," but there was nothing to guide him there. L, having charge of Lord, was equally silent. In the supposition that he
was working with one of those indexes which are distributed into groups, he vehemently turned up Constitution, Judge, Jurisdiction, and various other great dictionarywords, without success. In his desperation he tried if any collateral heads would lead him to his point-as Woolsack, Equity, Great Seal, and the like-but all was fruitless. As there seemed to be thus a defect in the index, the compiler was asked under what word he had dealt with the Lord Chancellor. He triumphantly pointed to the article The "The Lord Chancellor ;" and, in Irish phrase, no one could say black was white of his eye. Most people know the story of a judge's "great mind to commit a witness for prevarication," being indexed under his name with the quality "great mind" attached to it.
Index-makers are indeed a valuable class of men, for whose eminent services to the world of letters that world has not been sufficiently grateful. The most ambitious efforts in this style of work are, however, not always the most successful; and if the workman set out on any very complete philosophical system, he will be pretty sure to make a failure. After the use of such sagacity as he may possess for anticipating the wants of the public by selecting the heads under which they are most likely to search for what they want, the next best thing he can do is to indulge in repetition-to be profuse in cross references, and to give the same thing under as many different names as he can afford to give them within his limited space. Let him not insist upon being entirely logical, but keep rather in view that human beings are illogical, perverse, and especially liable to follow some blind and utterly indefensible and barbarous routine of thought, set by some irrational precedent. Unless in the names of persons or places, where he is not so apt to go wrong
though he may here too, by the assumption of too accurate a spell
ing the one head on which his own logic may demand that he should register the matter in hand will probably be just the last under which it will be searched for by the ordinary reader. He will take Esthetics, perhaps, leaving the poor wondering readers in search of what they want under "Taste," or "Beauty, or "Genius," or "Fine Arts;" he selects that nice scientific term Ethics, which the reader never dreams of while he is pottering away in search of "Morality, “Virtue,” 66 Vice," Goodness,' "Badness," "Honesty," "Probity," and suchlike.
Hence the indexes which ramify from the root of the matter are thoroughly inefficient for the proper purposes of the index-rapid consultation—and invade a totally different factor, if we may call it so the analysis, or table of contents. Between this practice and the adherence to the pedantries of the profession, English law-books are very torturing to those who are not aware of the secret intricacies of their ramifications. If a merchant, for instance, wants to know the legal position of a "book debt," he will look in vain for satisfaction under that name, if he indeed find a law-book which on its title-page admits to have anything to do with commerce. But if he take up Buller's 'Nisi Prius,' and follow the heading "Assumpsit" through a few of its ramifications, he may probably succeed in finding what he is in search of. Nothing can be more systematic and complete than the great old index to the riches of the Corpus Juris,' but it sends one on a complex circuitous route through a notation by the initial words of the paragraph. The facility can thus only be used by one who has acquired the practice and has kept his hand in; so that, to discover any special passage in the Pandects, or the Code, or the Novellæ, is nearly as difficult as to decipher from Bradshaw the time of arrival and departure at a station in one of the branches of the Great Western.
Among pedantries introduced lately into index-making is the breaking-up of a general index according to logical division. There is an index of persons and an index of places, with or without some further divisions. The simple-minded man who thinks only of one general master-key, looks into the wrong division, and turns away unsatisfied. There is a whole volume of index to Sismondi's History of France, but it is devoted, with one or two unexplainable exceptions, to the names of persons; and if you look for Navarre and Agincourt there, you will not find them.
To turn to the other class of indexes-those which lead us not to matters of fact, but to the thoughts and sentences of the great authors
in these the classics only are complete. There are few educated men who do not know, and have not derived use from, those magnificent indexes to the Delphine classics, which literally contain every substantive and adjective. Homer, Pindar, Horace, and Cicero are dignified by separate lexicons or concordances, among which Damm's Homeric Lexicon has made a reputation in that sort of work. In our own language one great name has been so dignified that of Shakespeare, to whom two rival concordances are dedicated. For the rest of our literature, it is somewhat barren of indexing. There is an index to Scott's Poetry, on account of the number of biographical and historical notices in it. Chaucer and some others there are glossary indexes. If, however, one wants to recall a passage the prologue to the 'Satires,' in the Essay on Man,' or anywhere in Dryden, it is not easy to find a clue to it.
Perhaps some will say, So much the better; let people fall to the book, and find what they want by honest reading; it will do them good. And we go so far with this view that one should never use a quotation unless he is familiar with it in its own garden, and the neces