Anagram - History - Early Modern Period

Early Modern Period

When it comes to the 17th century and anagrams in English or other languages, there is a great deal of documented evidence of learned interest. The lawyer Thomas Egerton was praised through the anagram gestat honorem; the physician George Ent took the anagrammatic motto genio surget, which requires his first name as "Georgius". James I's courtiers discovered in "James Stuart" "a just master", and converted "Charles James Stuart" into "Claims Arthur's seat" (even at that point in time, the letters I and J were more-or-less interchangeable). Walter Quin, tutor to the future Charles I, worked hard on multilingual anagrams on the name of father James. A notorious murder scandal, the Overbury case, threw up two imperfect anagrams that were aided by typically loose spelling and were recorded by Simonds D'Ewes: 'Francis Howard' (for Frances Carr, Countess of Somerset, her maiden name spelled in a variant) became Car findes a whore, with the letters E hardly counted, and the victim Thomas Overbury, as 'Thomas Overburie', was written as O! O! a busie murther, with a V counted as U.

William Drummond of Hawthornden, in an essay On the Character of a Perfect Anagram, tried to lay down permissible rules (such as S standing for Z), and possible letter omissions. William Camden provided a definition of "Anagrammatisme" as "a dissolution of a name truly written into his letters, as his elements, and a new connection of it by artificial transposition, without addition, subtraction or change of any letter, into different words, making some perfect sense applyable (i.e., applicable) to the person named." Dryden in MacFlecknoe disdainfully called the pastime the "torturing of one poor word ten thousand ways".

"Eleanor Audeley", wife of Sir John Davies, is said to have been brought before the High Commission in 1634 for extravagances, stimulated by the discovery that her name could be transposed to "Reveale, O Daniel", and to have been laughed out of court by another anagram submitted by Sir John Lambe, the dean of the Arches, "Dame Eleanor Davies", "Never soe mad a ladie".

An example from France was a flattering anagram for Cardinal Richelieu, comparing him to Hercules or at least one of his hands (Hercules being a kingly symbol), where "Armand de Richelieu" became "Ardue main d'Hercule".

Read more about this topic:  Anagram, History

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