Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
By Maria Edgeworth (17681849)
From Thoughts on Bores
A BORE is a biped, but not always unplumed. There be of both kinds;the female frequently plumed, the male-military, plumed, helmed, or crested, and whisker-faced, hairy, Dandy bore, ditto, ditto, ditto. There are bores unplumed, capped, or hatted, curled, or uncurled, bearded and beardless.
The bore is not a ruminating animal,carnivorous, not sagacious, prosing, long-winded, tenacious of life, though not vivacious. The bore is good for promoting sleep; but though he causeth sleep in others it is uncertain whether he ever sleeps himself; as few can keep awake in his company long enough to see. It is supposed that when he sleeps it is with his mouth open.
The bore is usually considered a harmless creature, or of that class of irrational bipeds who hurt only themselves. To such, however, I would not advise trusting too much. The bore is harmless, no doubt, as long as you listen to him; but disregarded, or stopped in mid career, he will turn upon you. It is a fatal, if not a vulgar error, to presume that the bore belongs to that class of animals that have no gall; of which Pliny gives a list (much disputed by Sir Thomas Browne and others). That bores have gall, many have proved to their cost, as some now living, peradventure, can attest. The milk of human kindness is said to abound naturally in certain of the gentler bore kind; but it is apt to grow sour if the animal be crossed, not in love, but in talk. Though I cannot admit to a certainty that all bores have not gall, yet assuredly they have no tact, and they are one and all deficient in sympathy.
A bore is a heavy animal, and his weight has this peculiarity, that it increases every moment he stays near you. The French describe this property in one word, which, though French, I may be permitted to quote, because untranslatable, il sappesantit. Touch and go, it is not in the nature of a bore to dowhatever he touches turns to lead.
Much learning might be displayed, and much time wasted, on an inquiry into the derivation, descent, and etymology of the animal under consideration. Suffice it to say, that for my own part, diligence hath not been wanting in the research. Johnsons Dictionary and old Bailey have been ransacked; but neither the learned Johnson nor the recondite Bailey, throw much light upon this matter. The Slang Dictionary, to which I should in the first place have directed my attention, was unfortunately not within my reach. The result of all my inquiries amounts to thisthat bore, boor, and boar, are all three spelt indifferently, and consequently are derived from one common stock,what stock remains to be determined. I could give a string of far-fetched derivations, each of them less to the purpose than the other; but I prefer, according to the practice of our great lexicographer, taking refuge at once in the Coptic.
Of one point there can be little doubt,that bores existed in ancient as well as modern times, though the Deluge has unluckily swept away all traces of the antediluvian boresa creature which analogy leads us to believe must have been of formidable power.
We find them for certain in the days of Horace. That plague, worse as he describes, than asthma or rheumatism, that prating, praising thing which caught him in the street, stuck to him wherever he wentof which, stopping or running, civil or rude, shirking or cutting, he could never rid himselfwhat was he but a bore?
In Pope I read the first description in English poetry of the animalwhether imitated from Horace, or a drawing from life, may be questioned. But what could that creature be but a bore, from whom he says no walls could guard him, and no shades could hide; who pierced his thickets; glided into his grotto; stopped his chariot; boarded his barge; from whom no place was sacrednot the church free; and against whom John was ordered to tie up the knocker.
Through the indexes to Milton and Shakespeare, I have not neglected to hunt; but unfortunately, I have found nothing to my purpose in Milton, and in all Shakespeare no trace of a bore: except it be that thing, that popinjay, who so pestered Hotspur, that day when he, faint with toil and dry with rage, was leaning on his sword after the battleall that bald, disjointed talk, to which Hotspur, past his patience, answered neglectingly, he knew not what, and that sticking to him with questions, even when his wounds were cold. It must have been a bore of foreign breed, not the good downright English bore.