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The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Raven Edition Volume 4
page 1 of 5 | Table of Contents
CONSIDERED AS ONE OF THE EXACT SCIENCES.
Hey, diddle diddle
SINCE the world began there have been two Jeremys. The one wrote a Jeremiad about usury, and was called Jeremy Bentham. He has been much admired by Mr. John Neal, and was a great man in a small way. The other gave name to the most important of the Exact Sciences, and was a great man in a great way -- I may say, indeed, in the very greatest of ways.
Diddling -- or the abstract idea conveyed by the verb to diddle -- is sufficiently well understood. Yet the fact, the deed, the thing diddling, is somewhat difficult to define. We may get, however, at a tolerably distinct conception of the matter in hand, by defining- not the thing, diddling, in itself -- but man, as an animal that diddles. Had Plato but hit upon this, he would have been spared the affront of the picked chicken.
Very pertinently it was demanded of Plato, why a picked chicken, which was clearly "a biped without feathers," was not, according to his own definition, a man? But I am not to be bothered by any similar query. Man is an animal that diddles, and there is no animal that diddles but man. It will take an entire hen-coop of picked chickens to get over that.
What constitutes the essence, the nare, the principle of diddling is, in fact, peculiar to the class of creatures that wear coats and pantaloons. A crow thieves; a fox cheats; a weasel outwits; a man diddles. To diddle is his destiny. "Man was made to mourn," says the poet. But not so: -- he was made to diddle. This is his aim -- his object- his end. And for this reason when a man's diddled we say he's "done."
Diddling, rightly considered, is a compound, of which the ingredients are minuteness, interest, perseverance, ingenuity, audacity, nonchalance, originality, impertinence, and grin.
Minuteness: -- Your diddler is minute. His operations are upon a small scale. His business is retail, for cash, or approved paper at sight. Should he ever be tempted into magnificent speculation, he then, at once, loses his distinctive features, and becomes what we term "financier." This latter word conveys the diddling idea in every respect except that of magnitude. A diddler may thus be regarded as a banker in petto -- a "financial operation," as a diddle at Brobdignag. The one is to the other, as Homer to "Flaccus" -- as a Mastodon to a mouse -- as the tail of a comet to that of a pig.
Interest: -- Your diddler is guided by self-interest. He scorns to diddle for the mere sake of the diddle. He has an object in view- his pocket -- and yours. He regards always the main chance. He looks to Number One. You are Number Two, and must look to yourself.
Perseverance: -- Your diddler perseveres. He is not readily discouraged. Should even the banks break, he cares nothing about it. He steadily pursues his end, and
Ut canis a corio nunquam absterrebitur uncto. so he never lets go of his game.
Ingenuity: -- Your diddler is ingenious. He has constructiveness large. He understands plot. He invents and circumvents. Were he not Alexander he would be Diogenes. Were he not a diddler, he would be a maker of patent rat-traps or an angler for trout.
Audacity: -- Your diddler is audacious. -- He is a bold man. He carries the war into Africa. He conquers all by assault. He would not fear the daggers of Frey Herren. With a little more prudence Dick Turpin would have made a good diddler; with a trifle less blarney, Daniel O'Connell; with a pound or two more brains Charles the Twelfth.
Nonchalance: -- Your diddler is nonchalant. He is not at all nervous. He never had any nerves. He is never seduced into a flurry. He is never put out -- unless put out of doors. He is cool -- cool as a cucumber. He is calm -- "calm as a smile from Lady Bury." He is easy- easy as an old glove, or the damsels of ancient Baiae.
Originality: -- Your diddler is original -- conscientiously so. His thoughts are his own. He would scorn to employ those of another. A stale trick is his aversion. He would return a purse, I am sure, upon discovering that he had obtained it by an unoriginal diddle.
Impertinence. -- Your diddler is impertinent. He swaggers. He sets his arms a-kimbo. He thrusts his hands in his trowsers' pockets. He sneers in your face. He treads on your corns. He eats your dinner, he drinks your wine, he borrows your money, he pulls your nose, he kicks your poodle, and he kisses your wife.