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ratio constantly increasing. In fact, a room with four
or five mirrors arranged at random, is, for all purposes
of artistic show, a room of no shape at all. If we add
to this evil the attendant glitter upon glitter, we have
a perfect farrago of discordant and displeasing effects.
The veriest bumpkin, on entering an apartment so
bedizened, would be instantly aware of something
wrong, although he might be altogether unable to
assign a cause for his dissatisfaction. But let the
same person be led into a room tastefully furnished,
and he would be startled into an exclamation of pleas
ure and surprise.

It is an evil growing out of our republican institu
tions, that here a man of large purse has usually a
very little soul which he keeps in it. The corruption
of taste is a portion or a pendant of the dollar-manu
facture. As we grow rich, our ideas grow rusty. It
is, therefore, not among our aristocracy that we must
look (if at all, in Appalachia) for the spirituality of a
British boudoir. But we have seen apartments in the
tenure of Americans of modern means, which, in nega-

Philosophy of Furniture

tive merit at least, might vie with any of the ormolu'd
cabinets of our friends across the water. Even now,
there is present to our mind's eye a small and not
ostentatious chamber with whose decorations no fault
can be found. The proprietor lies asleep on a sofa,
the weather is cool, the time is near midnight; we
will make a sketch of the room during his slumber.

It is oblong, some thirty feet in length and twenty-
five in breadth, a shape affording the best (ordinary)
opportunities for the adjustment of furniture. It has
but one door, by no means a wide one, which is at
one end of the parallelogram, and but two windows,
which are at the other. These latter are large, reach
ing down to the floor, have deep recesses, and open on
an Italian veranda. Their panes are of a crimson-
tinted glass, set in rosewood framings, more massive
than usual. They are curtained within the recess by
a thick silver tissue adapted to the shape of the window,
and hanging loosely in small volumes. Without the
recess are curtains of an exceedingly rich crimson silk,
fringed with a deep network of gold, and lined with
the silver tissue which is the material of the exterior
blind. There are no cornices; but the folds of the
whole fabric (which are sharp rather than massive,
and have an airy appearance) issue from beneath a
broad entablature of rich giltwork, which encircles the
room at the junction of the ceiling and walls. The
drapery is thrown open also, or closed, by means of a

5 1

Philosophy of Furniture

thick rope of gold loosely enveloping it, and resolving
itself readily into a knot; no pins or other such de
vices are apparent. The colors of the curtains and their
fringe, the tints of crimson and gold, appear everywhere
in profusion and determine the character of the room.
The carpet of Saxony material is quite half an inch
thick, and is of the same crimson ground, relieved
simply by the appearance of a gold cord (like that
festooning the curtains) slightly relieved above the
surface of the ground and thrown upon it in such a
manner as to form a succession of short, irregular
curves, one occasionally overlying the other. The walls
are prepared with a glossy paper of a silver-gray tint,
spotted with small Arabesque devices of a fainter hue
of the prevalent crimson. Many paintings relieve the
expanse of the paper. These are chiefly landscapes of
an imaginative cast, such as the fairy grottoes of Stan-
field, or the lake of the Dismal Swamp of Chapman.
There are, nevertheless, three or four female heads of
an ethereal beauty portraits in the manner of Sully.
The tone of each picture is warm, but dark. There
are no " brilliant effects." Repose speaks in all. Not
one is of small size. Diminutive paintings give that
spotty look to a room which is the blemish of so many
a fine work of art overtouched. The frames are
broad but not deep, and richly carved without being
dulled or filigreed. They have the whole lustre of
burnished gold. They lie flat on the walls, and do not


Philosophy of Furniture

hang off with cords. The designs themselves are often
seen to better advantage in this latter position, but the
general appearance of the chamber is injured. But
one mirror, and this is not a very large one, is visible.
In shape it is nearly circular, and it is hung so that a
reflection of the person can be obtained from it in none
of the ordinary sitting-places of the room. Two large
low sofas of rosewood and crimson silk, gold-flowered,
form the only seats, with the exception of two light
conversation chairs, also of rosewood. There is a
pianoforte (rosewood, also), without cover, and thrown
open. An octagonal table, formed altogether of the
richest gold-threaded marble, is placed near one of
the sofas. This is also without cover ; the drapery of
the curtains has been thought sufficient. Four large
and gorgeous Sevres vases, in which bloom a profusion
of sweet and vivid flowers, occupy the slightly rounded
angles of the room. A tall candelabrum, bearing a
small antique lamp with highly perfumed oil, is stand
ing near the head of my sleeping friend. Some light
and graceful hanging shelves, with golden edges and
crimson silk cords with golden tassels, sustain two or
three hundred magnificently bound books. Beyond
these things there is no furniture, if we except an
Argand lamp, with a plain crimson-tinted ground-glass
shade, which depends from the lofty vaulted ceiling by
a single slender gold chain, and throws a tranquil but
magical radiance over all.



S we can scarcely imagine a time when there
did not exist a necessity, or at least a desire,
of transmitting information from one indi
vidual to another in such a manner as to elude general
comprehension, so we may well suppose the practice
of writing in cipher to be of great antiquity. De la
Guilletiere, therefore, who, in his Lacedxmon Ancient
and Modern, maintains that the Spartans were the in
ventors of cryptography, is obviously in error. He
speaks of the scytala as being the origin of the art;
but he should only have cited it as one of its earliest
instances, so far as our records extend. The scytalae
were two wooden cylinders, precisely similar in all re
spects. The general of an army, in going upon any
expedition, received from the ephori one of these cylin
ders, while the other remained in their possession. If
either party had occasion to communicate with the
other, a narrow strip of parchment was so wrapped
around the scytala that the edges of the skin fitted



accurately each to each. The writing was then in
scribed longitudinally, and the epistle unrolled and
despatched. If, by mischance, the messenger was in
tercepted, the letter proved unintelligible to his captors.
If he reached his destination safely, however, the party
addressed had only to involve the second cylinder in
the strip to decipher the inscription. The transmission
to our own times of this mode of cryptography is due,
probably, to the historical use of the scytala rather
than to anything else. Similar means of secret inter
communication must have existed almost contem
poraneously with the invention of letters.

It may be as well to remark, in passing, that in none
of the treatises on the subject of this paper which have
fallen under our cognizance have we observed any
suggestion of a method, other than those which apply
alike to all ciphers, for the solution of the cipher by
scytala. We read of instances, indeed, in which the
intercepted parchments were deciphered; but we are
not informed that this was ever done except acciden
tally. Yet a solution might be obtained with absolute
certainty in this manner : The strip of skin being in
tercepted, let there be prepared a cone of great length
comparatively, say six feet long, and whose circum
ference at base shall at least equal the length of the
strip. Let this latter be rolled upon the cone near the
base, edge to edge, as above described ; then, still keep
ing edge to edge, and maintaining the parchment close



upon the cone, let it be gradually slipped toward the
apex. In this process, some of those words, syllables,
or letters, whose connection is intended, will be sure to
come together at that point of the cone where its di
ameter equals that of the scytala upon which the
cipher was written. And as in passing up the cone
to its apex all possible diameters are passed over, there
is no chance of a failure. The circumference of the
scytala being thus ascertained, a similar one can be
made and the cipher applied to it.

Few persons can be made to believe that it is not
quite an easy thing to invent a method of secret writ
ing which shall baffle investigation. Yet it may be
roundly asserted that human ingenuity cannot concoct
a cipher which human ingenuity cannot resolve. In
the facility with which such writing is deciphered,
however, there exist very remarkable differences in
different intellects. Often, in the case of two individ
uals of acknowledged equality as regards ordinary
mental efforts, it will be found that, while one cannot
unriddle the commonest cipher, the other will scarcely
be puzzled by the most abstruse. It may be observed
generally that in such investigations the analytic ability
is very forcibly called into action ; and, for this reason,
cryptographical solutions might, with great propriety,
be introduced into academies as the means of giving
tone to the most important of the powers of mind.

Were two individuals, totally unpractised in cryptog-


raphy, desirous of holding by letter a correspondence
which should be unintelligible to all but themselves, it
is most probable that they would at once think of a
peculiar alphabet, to which each should have a key.
At first it would, perhaps, be arranged that " a " should
stand for z," " b " for " y," c " for " x," " d " for
" w," etc., etc. ; that is to say, the order of the letters
would be reversed. Upon second thoughts, this ar
rangement appearing too obvious, a more complex
mode would be adopted. The first thirteen letters
might be written beneath the last thirteen, thus :


and, so placed, " a " might stand for " n " and " n " for
"a", "o" for "b" and "b" for "o," etc., etc. This,
again, having an air of regularity which might be
fathomed, the key alphabet might be struck absolutely
at random. Thus,

a might stand for p
b " " " x
c " " " u
d " " " o, etc.

The correspondents, unless convinced of their error by
the solution of their cipher, would, no doubt, be will
ing to rest in this latter arrangement as affording full
security. But if not, they would be likely to hit upon
the plan of arbitrary marks used in place of the usual
characters. For example,



( might be employed for a
it H tt ti |j
it g

(( U d

) " " " " e, etc.

A letter composed of such characters would have an
intricate appearance unquestionably. If still, how
ever, it did not give full satisfaction, the idea of a per
petually shifting alphabet might be conceived, and
thus effected: Let two circular pieces of pasteboard
be prepared, one about half an inch in diameter less
than the other. Let the centre of the smaller be
placed upon the centre of the larger one and secured
for a moment from slipping, while radii are drawn
from the common centre to the circumference of the
smaller circle, and thus extended to the circumference
of the greater. Let there be twenty-six of these radii,
forming on each pasteboard twenty-six spaces. In
each of these spaces on the under circle write one of
the letters of the alphabet, so that the whole alphabet
be written if at random so much the better. Do the
same with the upper circle. Now run a pin through
the common centre and let the upper circle revolve,
while the under one is held fast. Now stop the revo
lution of the upper circle, and, while both lie still, write
the epistle required, using for " a " that letter in the
smaller circle which tallies with " a " in the larger, for
" b " that letter in the smaller circle which tallies with



" b " in the larger, etc., etc. In order that an epistle
thus written may be read by the person for whom it is
intended, it is only necessary that he should have in
his possession circles constructed as those just de
scribed, and that he should know any two of the char
acters (one in the under and one in the upper circle)
which were in juxtaposition when his correspondent
wrote the cipher. Upon this latter point he is in
formed by looking at the two initial letters of the
document which serves as a key. Thus, if he sees " a
m " at the beginning, he concludes that by turning his
circles so as to put these characters in conjunction, he
will arrive at the alphabet employed.

At a cursory glance, these various modes of con
structing a cipher seem to have about them an air of
inscrutable secrecy. It appears almost an impossibil
ity to unriddle what has been put together by so com
plex a method. And to some persons the difficulty
might be great ; but to others, to those skilled in de
ciphering, such enigmas are very simple indeed. The
reader should bear in mind that the basis of the whole
art of solution, as far as regards these matters, is found
in the general principles of the formation of language
itself, and thus is altogether independent of the
particular laws which govern any cipher, or the con
struction of its key. The difficulty of reading a cryp-
tographical puzzle is by no means always in accordance
with the labor or ingenuity with which it has been



constructed. The sole use of the key, indeed, is for
those au fait to the cipher; in its perusal by a third
party, no reference is had to it at all. The lock of the
secret is picked. In the different methods of cryptog
raphy specified above, it will be observed that there is
a gradually increasing complexity. But this com
plexity is only in shadow. It has no substance what
ever. It appertains merely to the formation, and has
no bearing upon the solution of the cipher. The last
mode mentioned is not in the least degree more difficult
to be deciphered than the first, whatever may be the
diffiiculty of either.

In the discussion of an analogous subject, in one of
the weekly papers of this city about eighteen months
ago, the writer of this article had occasion to speak of
the application of a rigorous method in all forms of
thought, of its advantages, of the extension of its use
even to what is considered the operation of pure fancy,
and thus, subsequently, of the solution of cipher. He
even ventured to assert that no cipher, of the charac
ter above specified, could be sent to the address of the
paper which he would not be able to resolve. This
challenge excited, most unexpectedly, a very lively in
terest among the numerous readers of the journal.
Letters were poured in upon the editor from all parts
of the country; and many of the writers of these
epistles were so convinced of the impenetrability of
their mysteries as to be at great pains to draw him



into wagers on the subject. At the same time, they
were not always scrupulous about sticking to the
point. The cryptographs were, in numerous instances,
altogether beyond the limits defined in the beginning.
Foreign languages were employed. Words and sen
tences were run together without interval. Several
alphabets were used hi the same cipher. One gentle
man, but moderately endowed with conscientiousness,
inditing us a puzzle composed of pot-hooks and hangers
to which the wildest typography of the office could
afford nothing similar, went even so far as to jumble
together no less than seven distinct alphabets, without
intervals between the letters or between the lines.
Many of the cryptographs were dated in Philadelphia,
and several of those which urged the subject of a bet
were written by gentlemen of this city. Out of, per
haps, one hundred ciphers altogether received, there
was only one which we did not immediately succeed
in resolving. This one we demonstrated to be an im
position, that is to say, we fully proved it a jargon of
random characters, having no meaning whatever. In
respect to the epistle of the seven alphabets, we had
the pleasure of completely nonplussing its inditer by a
prompt and satisfactory translation.

The weekly paper mentioned was, for a period of
some months, greatly occupied with the hieroglyphic
and cabalistic-looking solutions of the cryptographs
sent us from all quarters. Yet, with the exception of



the writers of the ciphers, we do not believe that any
individuals could have been found among the readers
of the journal who regarded the matter in any other
light than in that of a desperate humbug. We mean
to say that no one really believed in the authenticity
of the answers. One party averred that the mysteri
ous figures were only inserted to give a queer air to
the paper for the purpose of attracting attention. An
other thought it more probable that we not only solved
the ciphers, but put them together ourselves for solu
tion. This having been the state of affairs at the
period when it was thought expedient to decline fur
ther dealings in necromancy, the writer of this article
avails himself of the present opportunity to maintain
the truth of the journal in question, to repel the
charges of rigmarole by which it was assailed, and
to declare, in his own name, that the ciphers were all
written in good faith and solved in the same spirit.

A very common and somewhat too obvious mode of
secret correspondence is the following: A card is in
terspersed, at irregular intervals with oblong spaces,
about the length of ordinary words of three syllables
in a bourgeois type. Another card is made exactly
coinciding. One is in possession of each party. When
a letter is to be written the key-card is placed upon
the paper and words conveying the true meaning in
scribed in the spaces. The card is then removed and
the blanks filled up, so as to make out a signification



different from the real one. When the person ad
dressed receives the cipher he has merely to apply to
it his own card, when the superfluous words are con
cealed, and the significant ones alone appear. The
chief objection to this cryptograph is the difficulty of
so filling the blanks as not to give a forced appearance
to the sentences. Differences also in the handwriting
between the words written in the spaces and those in
scribed upon removal of the card will always be de
tected by a close observer.

A pack of cards is sometimes made the vehicle of a
cipher in this manner: The parties determine, in the
first place, upon certain arrangements of the pack.
For example, it is agreed that, when a writing is to be
commenced, a natural sequence of the spots shall be
made, with spades at top, hearts next, diamonds next,
and clubs last. This order being obtained, the writer
proceeds to inscribe upon the top card the first letter
of his epistle, upon the next the second, upon the next
the third, and so on until the pack is exhausted, when,
of course, he will have written fifty-two letters. He
now shuffles the pack according to a preconcerted plan.
For example : He takes three cards from the bottom
and places them at top, then one from top, placing it
at bottom, and so on, for a given number of times. This
done, he again inscribes fifty-two characters as be
fore, proceeding thus until his epistle is written. The
pack being received by the correspondent, he has only



to place the cards in the order agreed upon for com
mencement to read, letter by letter, the first fifty-two
characters as intended. He has then only to shuffle
in the manner pre-arranged for the second perusal to
decipher the series of the next fifty-two letters, and so
on to the end. The objection to this cryptograph lies
in the nature of the missive. A pack of cards, sent
from one party to another, would scarcely fail to ex
cite suspicion, and it cannot be doubted that it is far
better to secure ciphers from being considered as such
than to waste time in attempts at rendering them
scrutiny-proof when intercepted. Experience shows
that the most cunningly constructed cryptograph, if
suspected, can and will be unriddled.

An unusually secure mode of secret intercommuni
cation might be thus devised: Let the parties each
furnish themselves with the copy of the same edition
of a book, the rarer the edition the better, as also the
rarer the book. In the cryptograph numbers are used
altogether, and these numbers refer to the locality of
letters in the volume. For example, a cipher is re
ceived commencing, 121-6-8. The party addressed
refers to page 121, and looks at the sixth letter from
the left of the page in the eighth line from the top.
Whatever letter he there finds is the initial letter of
the epistle, and so on. This method is very secure;
yet it is possible to decipher any cryptograph written
by its means, and it is greatly objectionable otherwise



on account of the time necessarily required for its
solution, even with the key-volume.

It is not to be supposed that cryptography, as a seri
ous thing, as the means of imparting important infor
mation, has gone out of use at the present day. It is
still commonly practised in diplomacy; and there are
individuals, even now, holding office in the eye of
various foreign governments, whose real business is
that of deciphering. We have already said that a
peculiar mental action is called into play in the solu
tion of cryptographical problems, at least in those of
the higher order. Good cryptographists are rare in
deed; and thus their services, although seldom re
quired, are necessarily well requited.

An instance of the modern employment of writing
in cipher is mentioned in a work lately published by
Messieurs Lea and Blanchard of this city, 1 Sketches of
Conspicuous Living Characters of France, In a notice
of Berryer, it is said that a letter being addressed by
the Duchess de Berri to the Legitimists of Paris, to in
form them of her arrival, it was accompanied by a
long note in cipher, the key of which she had forgotten
to give. " The penetrating mind of Berryer," says
the biographer, " soon discovered it. It was this
phrase substituted for the twenty-four letters of the
alphabet : Le gouvernement provisoire,

The assertion that Berryer " soon discovered the

1 Philadelphia. Ed.

VOL. X. 5. 6


key-phrase " merely proves that the writer of these
memoirs is entirely innocent of cryptographical know
ledge. Monsieur B. no doubt ascertained the key-
phrase ; but it was merely to satisfy his curiosity, after
the riddle had been read. He made no use of the key
in deciphering. The lock was picked.

In our notice of the book in question (published in
the April number of this magazine) 1 we alluded to this
subject thus :

" The phrase Le gouvernement provisoire is French,
and the note in cipher was addressed to Frenchmen.
The difficulty of deciphering may well be supposed
much greater had the key been in a foreign tongue ;
yet any one who will take the trouble may address us
a note, in the same manner as here proposed, and the
key-phrase may be either in French, Italian, Spanish,
German, Latin, or Greek (or in any of the dialects of
these languages), and we pledge ourselves for the
solution of the riddle."

This challenge has elicited but a single response,
which is embraced in the following letter. The only
quarrel we have with the epistle is, that its writer has
declined giving us his name in full. We beg that he
will take an early opportunity of doing this, and thus
relieve us of the chance of that suspicion which was
attached to the cryptography of the weekly journal

1 Graham's. Ed.



above mentioned the suspicion of inditing ciphers to
ourselves. The postmark of the letter is " Stonington,


S , Ct., April, 1841.

To the Editor of Graham's Magazine t

Sir In the April number of your magazine, while review
ing the translation by Mr. Walsh of Sketches of Conspicuous
Living Characters of France, you invite your readers to
address you a note in cipher, * the key-phrase to which may
be either in French, Italian, Spanish, German, Latin, or
Greek,' and pledge yourself for its solution. My attention
being called, by your remarks, to this species of cipher-writing,

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