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History Of The Demi-john

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N. Y. Tribune. It has been a subject of muck mental torment to lovers of good whisky that he origin of the word demi John has hitherto been veiled in an awful mystery. The demi-john, us the votary of the American Bacehusof Bourbon Coun.y, Kentuckv, well-knows, is a largo ;lass botile shrouded íq a vvicker covenng. This auswers a doublé purpose. t prevenís the bottle's beiug broken by tny sudden jar and upsut such as are mavoidable in even the best regulated ishing partios, and it mitigates the ñerceuess of the solar ray, and preserves to he liquor within a reasonnble degrec ofcoolness. It has long been obvious ,bat th term demi-johu was rneaningess, sinee there nnver was a reeeptable for gooil liquor called either John or Jonathan, of which the demi-John could ie considerad the half. Moreover, had there been a John ora Johnie, it would Liave been far more in accordanee with ;he feelings of Bourbonites to have used t exelusively and uot rem rted to halfnieasures. But a demi-john may be ither large or small, and slill be a denii;ohu. So that the fond hypothesis that t means a half john or johnnie f ides avvay utterly andcaunot be maintained. Another school of philologists has asserted that the word demi-john is a corruption of the Freach word damejean which signifios precisely the same hing, but the object in queation among the less eivilized French generally contains only oil. or vinegar, or under the most favorable ciraumstances a dreadEully thin wine called piquette, made from the pomace of the pressed grapes. Cider, oi'ten found in American demijohns, is Dever placed in the French dame-jean, but is honored with confinement in pitchers of stone-ware carefully sealed. That demi-john might be a corruption of dame-jean is a plausible hypothesis, but upon investigation dame-jean is altogether as meaningless in the French language as demi-john is intheEnglish; nor are thero any reasonable grounds for believing that the use of the article is okler in one country than the other. The truth is that thb word belongs to no European languago, but has been adopted like tea, silgar, coffee, and other articles which come from Eastern sources. Demi-john dates from the Crusades, and was broughtfrom Egypt, where such arlieles vvere and are still called damagan. What is still more singular is the faet that the custom of surrounding glass bottles with wicker work dates from very early times in Egypt. Upon frescoes in tombs at 15euj Hassan there are not only representations of wine in glass receptados, but also of oil bottles almost precisely like the flasks from Lucca and liordeaux, surrounded with a similar protection made of similar materials, rushes, papyrus, and wicker-work of a line kind. No picture has been so far recorded of the actual demi-john at that early date (2,000 B. C.,) but as we have the liner variety of the article we cannot doubt that the eoarser one existcd also. Egyptian wino was stored in amphoras, and the demi-john was a convenient halfway measure between the clumsy. huge amphora and tho delicate glass vessel in which it appeared at tho tabïe. So that the beloved demi-johu is of the most respectable ancestry, and held its own in the world's earliest civilizatiou. Henry James will contribute another of his striking literaiy essays to the August Century. The subject is "Alphone Daudet," for vvhose genius Mr. James is said to express the higbest admiration. even to plaeing hini at the hoad of the clever people who, at the present time, are writing novéis As in the essay on "Anthony Trollope,' in the July Century, Mr. James in disoussing Daudet, will have mach to say about novel-writing in general, and wil! give his views reg:rdinLr the propriety of putting real persons into books. le will refer also to Charles Dudley Warner's article on the "Modern Novel," and argue agaiost Mr Warnur's propo¦iition fhat tie nKtin object of thu novel is to entertain. A portrait of Daudet, .vhose picturesque head is chara;teris¦u: of his Pibvencal birth and poeüc ¦mperament, will be the frontispice of ihe August Century. The engrayer is T. Johnson, whose portrait worlr-is atirating increasing attention.


Ann Arbor Courier
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