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XXIII. SHAKING HANDS.*
THERE are few things of more common occurrence than shaking hands; and yet I do not recollect that much has been speculated upon the subject. I confess, when I consider to what unimportant and futile concerns the attention of writers and readers has been directed, I am surprised that no one has been found to handle so important a subject as this; and attempt to give the public a rational view of the doctrine and discipline of shaking hands. It is a subject, on which I have myself theorized a good deal, and I beg leave to offer you a few remarks on the origin of the practice, and the various forms in which it is exercised.
I have been unable to find in the ancient writers, any distinct mention of shaking hands. They followed the heartier practice of hugging or embracing, which has not wholly disappeared among grown persons in Europe, and children in our own country, and has unquestionably the advantage on the score of cordiality. When the ancients trusted the business of salutation to the hands alone, they joined but did not shake them; and although I find frequently such phrases as jungere dextras kospitio, I do not recollect to have met with that of agitare dextras. I am inclined to think that the practice grew up in the ages of chivalry, when the cumbrous iron mail, in which the knights were cased, prevented their embracing; and when, with fingers clothed in steel, the simple touch or joining of the hands would have been but cold welcome; so that a prolonged junction was a natural resort, to express cordiality; and as it would have been awkward to keep the hands unemployed in this position, a gentle agitation or shaking might have been naturally introduced. How long the practice may have remained in this incipient stage, it is impossible, in
*This article appeared originally in the Boston Daily Adver tiser of September 13, 1820. In the course of the year 1823, it has been published in a London paper as original, and republished in inany American papers, without notice of the fraud. ED.
the silence of history, to say; nor is there any thing in the Chronicles, in Philip de Comines, or the Byzantine historians, which enables us to trace the progress of the art, into the forms in which it now exists among us.
Without therefore availing myself of the privilege of theorists to supply by conjecture the absence of history or tradition, I shall pass immediately to the enumeration of these forms:
1. The pump-handle shake is the first, which deserves notice. It is executed by taking your friend's hand, and working it up and down, through an arc of fifty degrees, for about a minute and a half. To have its nature, force and character, this shake should be performed with a fair steady motion. No attempt should be made to give it grace, and, still less, vivacity; as the few instances, in which the latter has been tried, have uniformly resulted in dislocating the shoulder of the person, on whom it has been attempted. On the contrary, persons, who are partial to the pump-handle shake, should be at some pains to give an equable, tranquil movement to the operation, which should on no account be continued, after perspiration on the part of your friend has commenced.
2. The pendulum shake may be mentioned next, as being somewhat similar in character; but moving, as the name indicates, in a horizontal, instead of a perpendicular direction. It is executed by sweeping your hand horizontally toward your friend's, and after the junction is effected, rowing with it, from one side to the other according to the pleasure of the parties. The only caution in its use, which needs particularly to be given, is not to insist on performing it in a plane, strictly parallel to the horizon, when you meet with a person, who has been educated to the pump-handle shake. It is well known that people cling to the forms, in which they have been educated, even when the substance is sacrificed in adhering to them. I had two uncles, both estimable men, one of whom had been brought up in the pum handle shake, and another had brought home the pendulum, from a foreign voyage. They met, joined hands, and attempted to put them in motion. They were
neither of them feeble men. One endeavoured to pump, and the other to paddle; their faces reddened-the drops stood on their foreheads; and it was, at last, a pleasing illustration of the doctrine of the composition of forces, to see their hands slanting into an exact diagonal; in which line they ever after shook-but it was plain to see, there was no cordiality in it; and, as is usually the case with compromises, both parties were dis
3. The tourniquet shake is the next in importance. It derives its name from the instrument made use of by surgeons, to stop the circulation of the blood, in a limb about to be amputated. It is performed by clasping the hand of your friend, as far as you can, in your own, and then contracting the muscles of your thumb, fingers and palm, till you have induced any degree of compression you may propose, in the hand of your friend. Particular care ought to be taken, if your own hand is as hard and as big as a frying-pan, and that of your friend as small and soft as a young maiden's, not to make use of the tourniquet shake to the degree that will force the small bones of the wrist out of place. It is also seldom safe to apply it to gouty persons. A hearty young friend of mine, who had pursued the study of geology, and acquired an unusual hardness and strength of hand and wrist, by the use of the hammer, on returning from a scientific excursion, gave his gouty uncle the tourniquet shake, with such severity, as reduced the old gentleman's fingers to powder; for which my friend had the pleasure of being disinherited, as soon as his uncle's fingers got well enough to hold a pen.
4. The cordial grapple is a shake of some interest. It is a hearty, boisterous agitation of your friend's hand, accompanied with moderate pressure, and loud, cheerful exclamations of welcome. It is an excellent travelling shake, and well adapted to make friends. It is indiscriminately performed.
5. The Peter Grevious touch is opposed to the cordial grapple. It is a pensive, tranquil junction, followed by a mild subsultary motion, a cast down look, and an inarticulate inquiry after your friend's health.
6. The prude major and prude minor are nearly monopolized by ladies. They cannot be accurately described, but are constantly to be noticed in practice. They never extend beyond the fingers; and the prude major allows you to touch even them only down to the second joint. The prude minor gives you the whole of the fore-finger. Considerable skill may be shown in performing these, with nice variations, such as extending the left hand, instead of the right, or stretching a new glossy kid glove over the finger you extend.
I might go through a long list, sir, of the gripe royal, the saw-mill shake, and the shake with malice prepense; but these are only factitious combinations of the three fundamental forms already described, as the pump-han dle, the pendulum, and the tourniquet: as the loving pat, the reach romantic, and the sentimental clasp, may be reduced in their main movements to various combinations and modifications of the cordial grapple, Peter Greivous touch, and the prude major and minor. I should trouble you with a few remarks, in conclusion, on the mode of shaking hands, as an indication of characters, but I see a friend coming up the avenue, who is addicted to the pump-handle. I dare not tire my wrist by further writing.
XXIV. THE CRAB AND THE OYSTER.
"To youthful breasts where soft emotions rove,
Said her dear mama, 66 pray what did he do?
But an Oyster dandy saw the maid,
So tighter he braced his corset shell,
And he told the maid, as he twirled his seal,
So she gave him her ruby red hand to kiss,
But the Crab he cocked his hat in their faces,
The ground was marked, and they took their stand,
XXV. SAM JONES.
A PARODY ON THE KNIGHT ERRANT.
It was Sam Jones, the fisherman, was bound for Sandy-Hook, But first upon his almanack a solemn oath he took ;
And grant the tide may only serve, was still a prayer of Sam'sThat I may have good luck to night and catch a load of clams. His vow thus made, he took a spike and wrote it on the door; And off he sail'd for Sandy-Hook, along the Jersey shore ! When faithful to his promise, there he only took two drams! Be honoured sober Sammy Jones, that catched a load of clams.
They owe the luxury to his tongues, and Kitty Crammer said, "The man that work'd so hard last night, shall never want for bread
In yonder hut we both will live as innocent as lambs,
For thou art sure the greatest man that ever fished for clams." And then before the nearest 'squire, they tied the marriage noose,
Which is a thing that death has power alone to set it loose; And all the folks near Sandy-Hook, and every friend of Sam's, Cried "honoured be the greatest man that ever fish'd for clams."