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TO TIMOCLE A,
July 29, 1748.
you are grown fuch an adept in the occult arts, and that you take a laudable pleasure in the antient and ingenious study of making and folving Riddles. It is a fcience, undoubtedly, of most neceffary acquirement, and deserves to make a part in the education of both fexes. Thofe of yours may by this means very innocently indulge their ufual curiofity of discovering and disclosing a secret; whilft fuch amongst ours who have a turn for deep speculations, and are fond of puzzling themselves and others, may exercife their faculties this with much private fatisfaction, and without the least disturbance to the public. It is an art indeed, which I would recommend to the encouragement of both the univerfities, as it affords the easiest and shortest method of conveying some of the most useful principles of logic, and might therefore be introduced as a very proper D.3 fub
substitute in the room of thofe dry fystems, which are at prefent in vogue in those places of education. For, as it confists in discovering truth under borrowed appearances, it might prove of wonderful advantage in every branch of learning, by habi tuating the mind to feparate all foreign ideas, and confequently preferving it from that grand fource of error, the being deceived by false connections. In fhort, Timoclea, this your favorite fcience contains the fum of all human policy; and as there is no paffing thro the world without sometimes mixing with fools and knaves; who would not choose to be master of the enig matical art, in order, on proper occafions, to be able to lead afide craft and impertinence from their aim, by the convenient artifice of a prudent difguife? It was the maxim of a very wife prince, that “ he "who knows not how to diffemble, knows "not how to reign" and I defire you would receive it as mine, that he who "knows not how to riddle, knows not how "to live."
But befides the general usefulness of this art, it will have a farther recommen
dation to all true admirers of antiquity, as being practifed by the moft confiderable perfonages of early times. It is almoft three thousand years ago fince Samfon propofed his famous riddle; tho the ad vocates for antient learning must forgive me, if in this article I attribute the fuperiority to the moderns: for if we may judge of the fkill of the former in this profound art by that remarkable fpecimen of it, the geniufes of thofe early ages were by no means equal to thofe which our times have produced. But as a friend of mine has lately finished, and intends very fhortly to publifh, a moft learned work in folio, wherein he has fully proved that important point, I will not anticipate the pleasure you will receive by perufing his curious performance. In the mean while let it be remembred to the immortal glory of this art, that the wifeft man, as well as the greateft prince that ever lived, is faid to have amused himself and a neighboring monarch in trying the ftrength of each other's talents in this way; feveral riddles, it feems, having paffed between Solomon and Hiram, upon condition that he who failed
failed in the folution fhould incur a certain penalty. It is recorded likewife of the great father of poetry, even the divine Homer himself, that he had a taste of this fort; and we are told by a Greek writer of his life, that he died with vexation for not being able to discover a riddle, which was proposed to him by fome fishermen at a certain ifland called Iö.
I AM inclined to think, indeed, that the antients in general were fuch admirers of this art, as to inscribe riddles upon their tomb-ftones, and that not fatisfied with puzzling the world in their life-time, they bequeathed enigmatical legacies to the public after their deceafe. My conjecture is founded upon an antient infcription, which I will venture to quote to you, tho it is in Latin, as your friend and neighbor the antiquarian will, I am perfuaded, be very glad of obliging you with a differtation upon it. Be pleased then to ask him, whether he does not think that the followfentiments:
ing infcription favors my
HIS. NVGIS. GRYPHIS. AMBAGIBVSQVE.
MEIS. CONDONARE: POSCIMUS.
However this may be, it is certain that it was one of the great entertainments of the paftoral life, and therefore, if for no other reason, highly deferving the attention of our modern Arcadians. You remember, I dare fay, the riddle which the fhepherd Dametas propofes to Mænalcas in Dryden's Virgil :
Say where the round of heav'n, which all contains,
To three fhort ells on earth our fight reftrains: Tell That, and rife a Phœbus for thy pains. This ænigma, which has exercised the gueffes of many a learned critic, remains yet unexplained: which I mention, not only as an inftance of the wonderful penetration which is neceffary to render a man a complete adept in this most noble science, but as an incitement to you to employ your fkill in attempting the folution.-And now, Timoclea, what will your grave friend say, who reproached you, it feems, for your riddling genius, when he fhall find you are thus able to defend your favorite study by the fublime examples of kings, commentators, and poets? I am, &c.