Miss Mason and Logic

“Canst thou deny it? Did not goodwife Keech, the butcher’s wife, come in then, and call me Gossip Quickly? — coming in to borrow a mess of vinegar; telling me she had a good dish of prawns– whereby thou didst desire to eat some — whereby I told thee they were ill for a green wound,” &c., &c., Mrs. Quickly — peace be with her– still runs apace in drawing-room and market, from pulpit and platform. Her themes are many, but her method is one. It is at home she has been trained; in the delightful unrestrained of home talk she has acquired her facility. But Mrs. Quickly must be suppressed: we can not more of her. It is she who is the sower of faction — the propagator of error. It is her inconsequent “thought,” irrelevant speech, invincible ignorance, her utterly unconvincable attitude of mind, that rises like a huge earthwork in the path of enlightened effort. In this connection it is well worth while for parents to study at least two chapters — those on Language and Conceptions — of Archbishop Thomson’s Outline of the Laws of Thought. it is profitable to know that there are laws of thought, the infringement of which is calamitous both for the individual and the community.” Volume 1, 1890/91, pg. 75, Parents’ Review

Let’s break this down for the modern reader who has not had the benefit of an education which gives her a comfortable familiarity with Mistress Quickly and her character.

Mason is quoting her from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, part 2, act 2, scene 1.
While the title of the play is Henry IV, it’s really all about Henry the V as a prince, and how he grows up and matures and becomes the noble Henry V. During his reprobate youth he’s great friends with a rapscallion called Falstaff. Sir John Falstaff is older, wheezily fat, given to lying, cheating, womanizing. He’s careless with money, his or other people’s, and often the source of humour in the plays.
Mrs. Quickly is the owner of the Boar’s Head Tavern, where Falstaff has spent quite a bit of time.
In this particular scene she’s taken him to court for breach of promise and to recover money Falstaff has borrowed from her.
The judge has asked her what sum Falstaff owes her, and she replies that it’s more than some, and goes into a brief (for her) tirade about how Falstaff has abused her goodwill, but she never answers the question. The judge tells FAlstaff he should be ashamed and tells him to make things right, so Falstaff asks her how much he owes her. Mistress Quickly’s answer runs something like this:
“Good Gravy, if you were honest, you’d be giving yourself to me as well as the money. You promised me, swearing on a goblet gilded with gold, while sitting in the Dolphin Chamber at my tavern it was at the round table next to a fire stoked with sea-coals, on the Wednesday seven weeks after Easter, around hte time the Prince punched you in the head for comparing his father to , singing man of Windsor (people make guesses, but nobody really knows for sure why this was bad) and when I was cleaning up the blood, you promised me then to marry me, how could you deny that? Right then Goodwife Keech the butcher’s wife came and called to me “Neighbor Quickly!” because she was coming in to borrow a mix of vinegar, as she told us she had a good dish of shrimps, and when she said that you said you wanted to eat some and I told you they weren’t healthy eating for somebody with a fresh wound, and then, when she had gone back downstairs…”

And so, on, and on,and on, and yet again, she never answers the question. That’s how Miss Quickly talks. Miss Mason says the Miss Quickly types are still common, you can hear them at home, out shopping, giving sermons in the pulpit and speeches from politicians. The subjects these ‘Quicklys’ discourse on are varied, but the style is all the same. IT started at home when the Quicklys of this day were allowed to rattle on without restraint, but it’s time to supress these rambling, unrestrained, irrational tendences. This insequential, irrelevant chatter isn’t thinking. It creates divisiveness, spreads error. In the face of any efforts to enlighten, to educate, this sort of personality, this habit of thoughtlessness is like erecting sandbags walls of ignorance to prevent the leaking in of any meaningful knowledge or reason.

And so, Miss Mason says, in order to breach those walls, or rather, to prevent erecting them in the first place, parents should study some logic, specifically at least two specific chapters, one on language, on on conceptions, in the book “Outline of the Laws of Thought,” by Archbishop Thomson.

Mason reminds us that there are laws of thought, and when we ignore them it’s disastrous for the individual in possession of such an impenetrable mind, and for those around that person, the community at large.

In short, Miss Mason says don’t be an irrational flibbertygibbet.

Those two chapters are about a hundred pages. I’m skimming them now,and I have to say that once more I am struck with the high opinion Miss Mason had of parents.

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