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From Joe Miller’s Jest Book,  which is a pirated but exact version of The Jest Book,  selected and arranged by Mark Lemon, except for some Americanized spellings; New York :  Hurst & Co., no date; pp. 260-284.


T H E   J E S T   B O O K.

( Jests 1200-1299. )


BOOTH, the tragedian, had a broken nose. A lady once remarked to him, “I like your acting, Mr. Booth; but, to be frank with you, — I can’t get over your nose ! ” — “No wonder, madam,” replied he, “the bridge is gone !”


IT is remarkable that —— is of an exceedingly cheerful disposition, though the very little piece  of mind he possesses is proverbial.


A WRITER in one of the Reviews was boasting that he was in the habit of distributing literary reputation. “Yes,” replied his friend, “and you have done it so profusely that you have left none  for yourself.”


HOW monarchs die is easily explained,
    For thus upon their tombs it might be chiselled ;
As long as George the Fourth could reign, he reigned,
    And then he mizzled !



P—— had a high respect for the literary character. At a great man’s house a stranger stopped that P—— might enter the room before him. “Pass, sir,” said the master of the house, “It is only Mr. P——, the author.” — “As my rank is mentioned,” cried P., “I shall claim the preference” ; and accordingly took the lead.


DR. MEAD, calling one day on a gentleman who had been severely afflicted with the gout, found, to his surprise, the disease gone, and the patient rejoicing on his recovery over a bottle of wine. “Ah !”  said the doctor, shaking his head, “this Madeira will never do; it is the cause of all your suffering.” — “Well, then,” rejoined the gay incurable, “fill your glass, for now we have found out the cause, the sooner we get rid of it  the better.”


A LADY asked a sailor whom she met, why a ship was called “she. ”  The son of Neptune replied that it was “because the rigging  cost more than the hull.”


A LINEN-DRAPER having advertised his stock to be sold under prime cost, a neighbor observed that, “It was impossible, as he had never paid a farthing for it himself. ”


A MOTHER admonishing her son (a lad about seven years of age), told him he should never defer  till to-morrow what he could do to-day. The little urchin replied, “Then, mother, let ’s eat the remainder of the plum-pudding to-night. ”


A MERCHANT having been attacked by some thieves at five in the afternoon, said :  “Gentlemen, you open shop early  to-day.”



JAMES THE SECOND, when Duke of York, made a visit to Milton the poet, and asked him, amongst other things, if he did not think the loss of his sight a judgment  upon him for what he had written against his father, Charles the First. Milton answered, “If your Highness think my loss of sight a judgment  upon me, what do you think of your father’s losing his head ?”


IT sounds like paradox, — and yet ’t is true.
You ’re like your picture, though it ’s not like you.


IT is strange that the Church dignitaries, the further they advance in their profession, become the more incorrigible; at least, before they have gone many steps, they may be said to be past a  CURE.


A RICH upstart once asked a poor person if he had any idea of the advantages arising from riches. “I believe they give a rogue an advantage  over an honest man,” was the reply.


ONE of the best practical jokes in Theodore Hook’s clever “Gilbert Gurney,” is Daly’s hoax upon the lady who had never been at Richmond before, or, at least, knew none of the peculiarities of the place. Daly desired the waiter, after dinner, to bring some “maids of honor” — those cheesecakes for which the place has, time out of mind, been celebrated. The lady stared, then laughed, and asked, “What do you mean by ‘maids of honor?’ ” — “Dear me !” said Daly, “don’t you know that this is so courtly a place, and so completely under the influence of state etiquette, that everything in Richmond is called after the functionaries of the palace ?  What are called cheesecakes elsewhere, arE here called maids of honor; a 263 capon is called a lord chamberlain; a goose is a lord steward; a roast pig is a master of the horse; a pair of ducks, grooms of the bedchamber; a gooseberry-tart, a gentleman usher of the black rod; and so on.” The unsophisticated lady was taken in, when she actually saw the maids of honor make their appearance in the shape of cheesecakes; she convulsed the whole party by turning to the waiter, and desiring him, in a sweet but decided tone, to bring her a gentleman usher of the black rod, if they had one in the house quite cold !


LORD CHATHAM had settled a plan for some sea expedition he had in view, and sent orders to Lord Anson to see the necessary arrangements taken immediately. Mr. Cleveland was sent from the Admiralty to remonstrate on the impossibility of obeying them. He found his lordship in the most excruciating pain, from one of the most severe fits of the gout he had ever experienced. “Impossible, sir,” said he, “don’t talk to me of impossibilities” :  and then, raising himself upon his legs, while the sweat stood in large drops upon his forehead, and every fibre of his body was convulsed with agony, “Go, sir, and tell his lordship, that he has to do with a minister who actually treads  on impossibilities.”


IN the cloisters of Trinity College, beneath the library, are grated windows, through which many of the students have occasionally, after the gates were locked, taken the liberty of passing, without an exeat, in rather a novel style. A certain Cantab was in the act of drawing himself through the bars, and being more than an ordinary mortal’s bulk, he stuck fast. One of the fellows of the college passing, stepped up to the student and asked him ironically, “If he should assist him ?” — “Thank you,” was the reply, “ if I can get through ! ”  at the same instant he drew himself back on the outside.


FORMERLY, members of parliament had the privilege of 264 franking letters sent by post. When this was so, a sender on one occasion applied to the post-office to know why some of his franked letters had been charged.  He was told that the name on the letter did not appear to be in his handwriting. “It was not,” he replied, “precisely  the same; but the truth is, I happened to be a little tipsy  when I franked them.” — “Then, sir, will you be so good in future as to write drunk  when you make free? ”


WALLER, the poet, who was bred at King’s College, wrote a fine panegyric on Cromwell, when he assumed the protectorship. Upon the restoration of Charles, Waller wrote another in praise of him, and presented it to the king in person. After his majesty had read the poem, he told Waller that he wrote a better on Cromwell. “Please your majesty,” said Waller, like a true courtier, “we poets are always more happy in fiction  than in truth. ”


A PARTY of bon-vivants, having drunk an immense quantity of wine, rang for the bill. The bill was accordingly brought, but the amount appeared so enormous to one of the company (not quite so far gone as the rest) that he stammered out, it was impossible so many bottles could have been drunk by seven persons. “True, sir,” said the waiter, “but your honor forgets the three gentlemen under the table. ”


A GENTLEMAN was speaking of the kindness of his friends in visiting him. One old aunt, in particular, visited him twice  a year, and stayed six months  each time.


A MAN, praising porter, said it was so excellent a beverage, that, though taken in great quantities, it always made him fat. “I have seen the time,” said another, “when it made you lean.” — “When ?  I should be glad 265 to know,” inquired the eulogist. “Why, no longer ago that last night, — against a wall. ”


JOSEPH II., emperor of Germany, travelling in his usual way, without his retinue, attended by only a single aide-de-camp, arrived very late at the house of an Englishman, who kept an inn in the Netherlands. After eating a few slices of ham and biscuit, the emperor and the attendant retired to rest, and in the morning paid their bill, which amounted to only three shillings and sixpence, English, and rode off. A few hours afterwards, several of his suite arrived, and the publican, understanding the rank of his guest, appeared very uneasy. “Psha ! psha ! Man,” said one of the attendants, “Joseph is accustomed to such adventures, and will think no more of it.” — “But I shall, ”  replied the landlord; “and never forgive myself for having had an emperor in my house, and letting him off for three and sixpence. ”


JOHN MAGEE, formerly the printer of the Dublin Evening Post, was full of shrewdness and eccentricity. Several prosecutions were instituted against him by the government, and many “keen encounters of the tongue” took place on these occasions between him and John Scott, Lord Clonmel, who was at that period Chief Justice of the King’s Bench. In addressing the Court in his own defence, Magee had occasion to allude to some public character, who was better known by a familiar designation. The official gravity of Clonmel was disturbed; and he, with bilious asperity, reproved the printer, by saying, “Mr. Magee, we allow no nicknames in this court.” — “Very well, John Scott,” was the reply.


AFTER the death of the poet Chatterton, there was found among his papers, indorsed on a letter intended for publication, addressed to Beckford, then Lord Mayor, dated May 26, 1770, the following memorandum :  “Accepted 266 by Bingley, set for, and thrown out of, the North Briton, 21st June, on account of the Lord Mayor’s death  —

Lost by his death on this essay£   1  11   6   

Gained in elegies   2    2   0   

Gained in essays3    3   0   

Am glad he is dead by3  13   6   

Yet the evident heartlessness of this calculation has been ingeniously vindicated by Southey, in the Quarterly Review.


I WOULD not pay a coin to see
    An animal much larger ;
Surely the mammoth horse must be
    Rather an overcharger.


A CANTAB chanced to enter a strange church, and after he had been seated some little time, another person was ushered into the same pew with him. The stranger pulled out of his pocket a prayer-book, and offered to share it with the Cantab, though he perceived he had one in his hand. This courtesy proceeded from a mere ostentatious display of his learning, as it proved to be in Latin.  The Cantab immediately declined the offer by saying, “Sir, I read nothing but Hebrew. ”


WHEN Captain Grose, who was very fat, first went over to Ireland, he one evening strolled into the principal meat market of Dublin, where the butchers, as usual, set up their usual cry of “What d ’ye buy ?  What d ’ye buy ?”  Grose parried this for some time by saying he did not want anything. At last, a butcher starts from his stall, and eyeing Grose’s figure, exclaimed, “Only say  you buy your meat of me, sir, and you will make my fortune.”



AN Irish lawyer, famed for cross-examining, was, on one occasion, completely silenced by a horse-dealer. “Pray, Mr. ——, you belong to a very honest profession ?” — “I can’t say so,” replied the witness; “for, saving you lawyers, I think it the most dishonest going. ”


IT was an observation of Elwes, the noted miser, that if you keep one  servant your work will be done; it you keep two, it will be half done; and if you keep three, you will have to do it yourself.


A GENTLEMAN, praising the personal charms of a very plain woman in the presence of Foote, the latter said  “And why don’t you lay claim to such an accomplished beauty ?” — “What right have I to her ?”  exclaimed the gentleman. “Every right, by the law of nations,” replied Foote; “every right, as the first discoverer. ”


AT Plymouth there is, or was, a small green opposite the Government House, over which no one was permitted to pass. Not a creature was allowed to approach, save the General’s cow. One day old Lady D——, having called at the General’s, in order to make a short cut, bent her steps across the lawn, when she was arrested by the sentry calling out, and desiring her to return. “But,” said lady D——, with a stately air, “do you know who I am ?” — “I don’t know who you be, ma’am,” replied the immovable sentry, “but I knows you b’aint — you b’aint the General’s cow. ”  So Lady D—— wisely gave up the argument, and went the other way.


A GENTLEMAN being prevailed upon to taste a lady’s home-made wine, was asked for an opinion of what he had tasted. “I always give a candid one,” said her 268 guest, “where eating and drinking are concerned. It is admirable stuff to catch flies. ”


THE British sailors had always been accustomed to drink their allowance of brandy or rum clear, till Admiral Vernon ordered those under his command to mix it with water. The innovation gave great offence to the sailors, and for a time rendered the commander very unpopular among them. The admiral at that time wore a grogram coat, for which reason they nicknamed him “Old Grog,” &c. Hence, by degrees, the mixed liquor he constrained them to drink universally obtained among them the name of grog.


A GENTLEMAN, speaking of the happiness of the married state before his daughter, disparagingly said, “She who marries does well; but she who does not marry, does better.” — “Well then,” said the young lady, “I will do well ;  let those who choose do better. ”


DR. SOUTH, when once preaching before Charles II., observed that the monarch and his attendants began to nod, and some of them soon after snored, on which he broke off in his sermon, and said  “Lord Lauderdale, let me entreat you to rouse yourself; you snore so loud that you will awake the king ! ”


LORD BYRON notes :  “What a wreck is Sheridan !  and all from bad pilotage; for no one had ever better gales, though now and then a little squally. Poor dear Sherry !  I shall never forget the day he, and Rogers, and Moore, and I passed together, when he  talked and we listened, without one yawn, from six to one in the morning.”

One night, Sheridan was found in the street by a watchman, bereft of that “divine particle of air” called reason, and fuddled, and bewildered, and almost insensible. 269 The watchman asked, “Who are you, sir ?”  No answer. “What’s your name ?”  A hiccup. “What’s your name ?”  Answer, in a slow, deliberate, and impassive tone, “Wilberforce !”  Byron notes :  “Is not that Sherry all over? — and, to my mind, excellent. Poor fellow! his  very dregs are better than the first sprightly runnings of others.”


VILLIERS, Duke of Buckingham, in King Charles II.’s time, was saying one day to Sir Robert Viner, in a melancholy humor :  “I am afraid, Sir Robert, I shall die a beggar at last, which is the most terrible thing in the world.” — “Upon my word, my lord,” said Sir Robert, “there is another thing more terrible which you have to apprehend, and that is that you will live  a beggar, at the rate you go on.”


A WORTHY Roman Catholic clergyman, well known as “Priest Matheson,” and universally respected in the district, had charge of a mission in Aberdeenshire, and for a long time made his journeys on a piebald pony, the priest and his “Pyet Shelty” sharing an affectionate recognition wherever they came. On one occasion, however, he made his appearance on a steed of a different description, and passing near a Seceding meeting-house, he forgathered with the minister, who, after the usual kindly greetings, missing the familiar pony, said, “Ou, priest !  fat’s come o’ the auld Pyet ?” — “He ’s deid, minister.” — “Weel, he was an auld faithfu’ servant, and ye wad nae doot gie him the offices o’ the Church ?” — “Na, minister,” said his friend, not quite liking this allusion to his priestly offices, “I didna dee that, for ye see he turned Seceder afore he deed, an’ I buried him like a beast. ”  He then rode quietly away.


AMONG the witty aphorisms upon this unsafe topic, are Lord Alvanley’s description of a man who “muddled away his fortune in paying his tradesmen’s bills” ; Lord Orford’s 270 definition of timber, “an excrescence on the face of the earth, placed there by Providence for the payment of debts” ; and Pelham’s argument, that it is respectable to be arrested, because it shows that the party once had credit.


A LADY’S-MAID told her mistress that she once swallowed several pins together. “Dear me !” said the lady, “did n’t they kill you ? ”


A BON-VIVANT, brought to his death-bed by an immoderate use of wine, after having been told that he could not in all human probability survive many hours, and would die by eight o’clock next morning, exerted the small remains of his strength to call the doctor back, and said, with the true spirit of a gambler, “Doctor, I’ll bet you a bottle I live till nine ! ”


THOUGH upon great occasions Burke was one of the most eloquent of men that ever sat in the British senate, he had in ordinary matters as much as any man the faculty of tiring his auditors. During the latter years of his life the failing gained so much upon him, that he more than once dispersed the house, a circumstance which procured him the nickname of the Dinner-bell. A gentleman was one day going into the House, when he was surprised to meet a great number of people coming out in a body. “Is the House up ?”  said he :  “No,” answered one of the fugitives, “but Mr. Burke is up. ”


IT appears that there were two persons of the name of Dr. John Thomas, not easily to be distinguished; for somebody (says Bishop Newton) was speaking of Dr. Thomas, when it was asked, “which Dr. Thomas do you mean ?” — “Dr. John Thomas.” — “They are both named John.” — “Dr. Thomas who has a living in the city.” — “They have both livings in the city.” —  271 “Dr. Thomas who is chaplain to the king.” — “They are both chaplains to the king.” — “Dr. Thomas who is a very good preacher.” — “They are both good preachers.” — “Dr. Thomas who squints.” — “They both squint.” — They were afterwards both Bishops.


“MY stars !” cried a courtier, with stars and lace twirled,
“What homage we nobles command in the world !”
“True, my lord,” said a wag, “though the world has its jars,
Some people  owe much to their fortunate stars ! ”


TOWARDS the close of the administration of Sir Robert Walpole, he was talking very freely to some of his friends of the vanity and vexations of office, and, alluding to his intended retirement, quoted from Horace the following passage : —

“ Lusisti satis, edisti satis, atque bibisti 
   Tempus abire tibi est. ”

“Pray, Sir Robert,” said one of his friends, “is that good Latin ?” — “I think so,” answered Sir Robert; “what objection have you to it ?” — “Why,” said the other dryly, “I did not know but the word might be bribe-isti  in your Horace.”


FOOTE, the actor, was one day taken into White’s Club-House by a friend who wanted to write a note. Lord Carmathen approached to speak to him; but feeling rather shy, he merely said, “Mr. Foote, your handkerchief is hanging out of your pocket.” Foote, looking suspiciously round, and hurriedly thrusting the handkerchief back into his pocket, replied, “Thank you, my lord :  you know the company  better than I do.”


IN cleanliness, the Duke was negligent to so great a degree, 272 that he rarely made use of water for purposes of bodily refreshment and comfort. Nor did he change his linen more frequently than he washed himself. Complaining, one day, to Dudley North, that he was a martyr to rheumatism, and had ineffectually tried every remedy for its relief, “Pray, my lord,” said he, “did you ever try a clean shirt ? ”


AN Irish gentleman, resident in Canada, was desirous to persuade his sons to work as backwoodsmen, instead of drinking champagne at something more than a dollar a bottle. Whenever this old gentleman saw his sons so engaged he used to exclaim, “Ah, my boys !  there goes an acre of land, trees and all. ”


BISHOP ANDREWS, who was master and a great benefactor of Pembroke Hall, was one day at court with Waller the poet, and others. While King James was at dinner, attended by Andrews, Bishop of Winchester, and Neale, Bishop of Durham, his Majesty said to the prelates :  “My lords, cannot I take my subjects’ money  when I want it, without all this formality of Parliament ?”  Bishop Neale quickly replied, “God forbid, sir, but you should :  you are the breath of our nostrils.” On which the king said to the Bishop of Winchester, “Well, my lord, and what say you ?” — “Sir,” replied Andrews, “I have no skill to judge of Parliamentary cases.” — “Come, come,” answered his Majesty, “no put-offs, my lord; answer me presently.” — “Then, sir,” said Andrews, “I think it lawful for you to take my brother Neale’s money, for he offers it.”


WHEN the Duke de Choiseul, who was a remarkably meagre-looking man, came to London to negotiate a peace, Charles Townsend, being asked whether the French government had sent the preliminaries  of a treaty, answered, “he did not know, but they had sent the outline of an ambassador. ”



A WORTHY English agriculturalist visited the great dinner-table of the Astor House Hotel, in New York, and took up the bill of fare. His eye caught up the names of its — to him — unknown dishes :  “Soupe à la flamande” — “Soupe à la Creci” — “Langue de Bœuf piquée” — “Pieds de Cochon à la Ste. Ménéhould” — “Patés de sanglier” — “Patés à la gelée de volailles” — “Les canelons de crème glacée.” It was too much for his simple heart. Laying down the scarlet-bound volume in disgust, he cried to the waiter, “Here, my good man, I shall go back to first principles !  Give us some beans and bacon !”


IT is with narrow-souled people as with narrow-necked bottles, — the less they have in them, the more noise  they make in pouring it out.


AT a party in Portman Square, Brummell’s snuff-box was particularly admired :  it was handed round, and a gentleman, finding it rather difficult to open, incautiously applied a dessert-knife to the lid. Poor Brummell was on thorns; at last he could not contain himself any longer, and, addressing the host, said, with his characteristic quaintness, “Will you be good enough to tell your friend that my snuff-box is not an oyster. ”


LORD PLUNKET is said to have acutely felt his forced resignation of the Irish Chancellorship, and his supersedeas  by Lord Campbell. A violent tempest arose on the day of the latter’s expected arrival, and a friend remarking to Plunket how sick of his promotion the passage must have made the new comer; “Yes,” replied the ex-chancellor, ruefully, “but it won’t make him throw up the seals. ”


ADMIRAL DUNCAN’S address to the officers who came on board his ship for instructions previous to the engagement 274 with Admiral de Winter, was both laconic and humorous :  “Gentlemen, you see a severe winter  approaching; I have only to advise you to keep up a good fire. ”


THE late Duke of Grafton, when hunting, was thrown into a ditch; at the same time a young curate, calling out, “Lie still, your Grace” ; leaped over him, and pursued his sport. On being assisted to remount by his attendants, the duke said, “That young man shall have the first good living that falls to my disposal; had he stopped  to have taken care of me, I never would have patronized him,” being delighted with an ardor similar to his own, or with a spirit that would not stoop to flatter.


A MAN of wit being asked what pleasure he could have in the company of a pretty woman who was a loquacious simpleton, replied, “I love to see  her talk.”


A SOLDIER, who was being led to the gallows, saw a crowd of people running on before. “Don’t be in such a hurry,” said he to them. “I can assure you nothing will be done without me. ”


VILLIERS, Duke of Buckingham, was making his complaint to Sir John Cutler, a rich miser, of the disorder of his affairs, and asked him what he should do to avoid the ruin. “Live as I do, my lord,” said Sir John. “That I can do,” answered the duke, “when I am ruined. ”


LORD BYRON knew a dull man who lived on a bon mot  of Moore’s for a week; and his lordship once offered a wager of a considerable sum that the reciter was guiltless  of understanding its point; but he could get no one to accept the bet.



PROFESSOR SAUNDERSON, who occupied so distinguished a situation in the University of Cambridge as that of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, was quite blind.  Happening to make one in a large party, he remarked of a lady, who had just left the room, that she had very white teeth.  The company were anxious to learn how he had discovered this, which was very true. “I have reason,” observed the professor, “to believe that the lady is not a fool, and I can think of no other motive for her laughing incessantly, as she did for a whole hour together.”


A FARMER having bought a barn in partnership with a neighbor who neglected to make use of it, plentifully stored his own part with corn, and expostulated with his partner on having laid out his money in so useless a way, adding, “You had better do something  with it, as you see I have done.” — “As to that, neighbor,” replied the other, “every man has a right to do what he will with his own, and you  have done so; but I have made up my mind about my part of the property, — I shall set it on fire.”


TWO ladies disputed for precedency, one the daughter of a wealthy brewer, the other the daughter of a gentleman of small fortune. “You are to consider, miss,” said the brewer’s daughter, “that my papa keeps a coach.” — “Very true, miss,” said the other, “and you  are to consider that he likewise keeps a dray. ”


A HUSBAND, who only opposed his wife’s ill humor by silence, was told by a friend that he “was afraid of his wife.” — “It is not she  I am afraid of,” replied the husband, “it is the noise. ”


THELWALL and Coleridge were sitting once in a beautiful 276 recess in the Quantock Hills, when the latter said, “Citizen John, this is a fine place to talk  treason in !” — “Nay, Citizen Samuel,” replied he; “it is rather a place to make a man forget  that there is any necessity for treason !”


SYDNEY SMITH, after Macaulay’s return from the East, remarked to a friend who had been speaking of the distinguished conversationalist  “Yes, he is certainly more agreeable since his return from India. His enemies might perhaps have said before (though I never did so) that he talked rather too much; but now he has occasional flashes of silence, that make his converstation perfectly delightful ! ”


THE ferryman, whilst plying over a water which was only slightly agitated, was asked by a timid lady in his boat, whether any persons were ever lost in that river. “O no,” said he, “we always finds ’em agin  the next day.”


AN old soldier having been brought up to vote at an election at the expense of one of the candidates, voted for his opponent, and when reproached for his conduct, replied, “Always quarter  upon the enemy, my lads; always quarter  upon the enemy.”


THAT erudite Cantab, Bishop Burnett, preaching before Charles II., being much warmed with his subject, uttered some religious truth with great vehemence, and at the same time, striking his fist on the desk with great violence, cried out, “Who dare deny this ?” — “Faith,” said the king, in a tone more piano  than that of the orator, “nobody that is within the reach of that fist of yours. ”


DR. THOMAS BROWN courted a lady for many years, 277 but unsuccessfully, during which time it had been his custom to drink the lady’s health before that of any other; but being observed one evening to omit it, a gentleman reminded him of it, and said, “Come, doctor, drink the lady, your toast.” The doctor replied, “I have toasted her many years, and I cannot make her Brown,  so I’ll toast her no longer.”


A LADY the other day meeting a girl who had lately left her service, inquired, “Well, Mary, where do you live now ?” — “Please, ma’am. I don’t live nowhere  now,” rejoined the girl; “I am married ! ”


AN old sportsman, who, at the age of eighty-three, was met by a friend riding very fast, and was asked what he was in pursuit of ?  “Why, sir,” replied the other, “I am riding after my eighty-fourth year. ”


MR. TIERNEY, when alluding to the difficulty the Foxites and Pitties had in passing over to join each other in attacking the Addington Ministry (forgetting at the moment how easily he had himself overcome a like difficulty in joining the Ministry), alluded to the puzzle of the Fox and the Goose, and did not clearly expound his idea. Whereupon, Mr. Dudley North said, “It ’s himself he means, — who left the Fox  to go over to the Goose, and put the bag of oats in his pocket.”


“IF I were so unlucky,” said an officer, “as to have a stupid son, I would certainly by all means make him a parson. ”  A clergyman who was in company calmly replied, “You think differently, sir, from your father. ”


THE lair of M’N——b was writing a letter from an Edinburgh coffee-house, when a friend observed that he 278 was setting at defiance the laws of orthography and grammar. “I ken that weel eno’ !” exclaimed the Highland chieftain, “but how can a man write grammar  with a pen like this ?”


“ZOUNDS, fellow !” exclaimed a choleric old gentleman to a very phlegmatic matter-of-fact person, “I shall go out of my wits.” — “Well, you won’t have far to go, ”  said the phlegmatic man.


ADMIRAL LORD HOWE, when a captain, was once hastily awakened in the middle of the night by the lieutenant of the watch, who informed him with great agitation that the ship was on fire near the magazine. “If that be the case,” said he, rising leisurely to put on his clothes, “we shall soon know it.” The lieutenant flew back to the scene of danger, and almost instantly returning, exclaimed, “You need not, sir, be afraid, the fire is extinguished.” — “Afraid !”  exclaimed Howe, “what do you mean by that, sir ?  I never was afraid in my life” ; and looking the lieutenant full in the face, he added, “Pray, how does a man feel, sir, when he is afraid ?  I need not ask how he looks. ”


DR. JOHN WILKINS wrote a work in the reign of Charles II., to show the possibility of making a voyage to the moon. The Duchess of Newcastle, who was likewise notorious for her vagrant speculations, said to him, “Doctor, where am I to bait at in the upward  journey ?” — “My lady,” replied the doctor, “of all the people in the world, I never expected that question from you; who have built so many castles in the air  that you might lie every night at one of your own. ”


THIS monarch, after the death of Jane Seymour, had some difficulty to get another wife. His first offer was to 279 the Duchess Dowager of Milan; but her answer was, “She had but one  head; if she had two, one should have been at his service.”


BURKE’S was a complete failure, when he flung the dagger on the floor of the House of Commons, and produced nothing but a smothered laugh, and a joke from Sheridan. — “The gentleman has brought us the knife,  but where is the fork ? ”


A CLERGYMAN in the country taking his text from the fourteenth verse of the third chapter of St. Matthew  “And Peter’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever,” preached three Sundays on the same subject. Soon after, two country fellows going across a churchyard, and hearing the bell toll, one asked the other who it was for ?  “I can ’t exactly tell,” replied he; “but it may be for Peter’s wife’s mother, for she has been sick of a fever these three weeks. ”


“HOW long is this loch ?”

“It will be about twanty mile.”

“Twenty miles !  surely it cannot be so much ?”

“Maybe it will be twelve.”

“It does not really seem more than four.”

“Indeed, I ’m thinking you ’re right.”

“Really, you seem to know nothing about the matter.”

“Troth, I canna say I do. ”


SOON after Lord ——’s elevation to the peerage, he remarked that authors were often very ridiculous in the titles  they gave. “That,” said a distinguished writer present, “is an error from which even sovereigns appear not to be exempt. ”



WHO was then Archbishop of Canterbury, on King William’s complaining of the shortness of his sermon, answered, “Sire, could have bestowed more time upon it, it would not have been so long ! ”


SOME clever fellow has invented a new kind of ink, called “the love-letter ink.” It is a sure preventive against all cases of “breach of promise,” as the ink fades away, and leaves the sheet blank, in about four weeks after being written upon.


A PERSON not far from Torrington, Devon, whose face is somewhat above the ordinary dimensions, has been waited on and shaved by a certain barber every day for twenty-one years, without coming to any regular settlement; the tradesman, thinking it time to wind up the account, carried in his bill, charging one penny per day, which amounted to 31l. 9s. 2d. The gentleman, thinking this rather exorbitant, made some scruple about payment, when the tonsor proposed, if his customer thought proper, to charge by the acre, at the rate of 200l. This was readily agreed to, and on measuring the premises, 192 square inches proved to be the contents, which, traversed over 7670 times, would measure 1,472,640 inches, the charge for which would be 46l. 19s. 1d. — being 15l. 9s. 11d. in favor of chin-surveying.


BARRY the painter was with Nollekens at Rome in 1760, and they were extremely intimate. Barry took the liberty one night, when they were about to leave the English coffee-house, to exchange hats with him. Barry’s was edged with lace, and Nollekens’s was a very shabby, plain one. Upon his returning the hat the next morning, he was asked by Nollekens why he left him his gold-laced hat. “Why, to tell you the truth, by dear Joey,” answered 281 Barry, “I fully expected assassination last night; and I was to have been known by my laced hat. ”  Nollekens used to relate the story, adding, “It ’s what the Old Bailey people would call a true bill against Jem.”


DR. GOODALL, of Eton, about the same time that he was made Provost of Eton, received also a Stall at Windsor. A young lady, whilst congratulating him on his elevation, and requesting him to give a ball during the vacation, happened to touch his wig with her fan, and caused the powder to fly about; upon which the doctor exclaimed, “My dear, you see you can get the powder out of the cannon,  but not the ball. ”


DURING Pope’s last illness, a squabble happened in his chamber, between his two physicians, Dr. Burton and Dr. Thomson, they mutually charging each other with hastening the death of the patient by improper prescriptions. Pope at length silenced them by saying, “Gentlemen, I only learn by your discourse that I am in a dangerous way; therefore, all I now ask is, that the following epigram may be added after my death to the next edition of the Dunciad, by way of postscript :  —

‘ Dunces rejoice, forgive all censures past,
  The greatest dunce  has killed your foe at last. ’ ”


GENERAL SUTTON was very passionate, and calling one morning on Sir Robert Walpole, who was quite the reverse, found his servant shaving him. During the conversation, Sir Robert said, “John, you cut me” ; and continued the former subject of discourse. Presently he said again, “John, you cut me” ; but as mildly as before :  and soon after he had occasion to say it a third time; when Sutton, starting up in a rage, said, swearing a great oath, and doubling his fist at the servant, “If Sir Robert can bear it, I cannot; and if you cut him once more, John, I’ll knock you down. ”



A WOMAN having fallen into a river, her husband went to look for her, proceeding up the stream from the place where she fell in. The bystanders asked him if he was mad, — she could not have gone against the stream. The man answered, “She was obstinate  and contrary  in her life, and no doubt she was the same at her death. ”

This is a very old joke. See this version, LXII  in Poggio Bracciolini’s Facetiae  translated by Edward Storer, from the 15th century, on this site.


A POOR but clever student in the University of Glasgow was met by one of the Professors, who noticing the scantiness of his academical toga, said, “Mr. ——, your gown is very short.” — “It will be long enough, sir, before I get another,” replied the student. The answer tickled the Professor greatly, and he went on quietly chuckling to himself, when he met a brother Professor, who, noticing his hilarity, inquired what was amusing him so much. “Why, that fellow —— said such a funny thing. I asked why his gown was so short, and he said, ‘ it will be a long time before I get another. ’ ” — “There’s nothing very funny in that.” — “Well, no,” replied the other, “there is not, after all. But it was the way he said it. ”


IT chanced, one gloomy day in the month of December, that a good-humored Irishman applied to a merchant to discount a bill of exchange for him at rather a long though not an unusual date; and the merchant having casually remarked that the bill had a great many days to run, “That’s true,” replied the Irishman, “but consider how short the days are  at this time of the year.”


SOME unlucky lads in the University bearing a spite to the dean for his severity towards them, went secretly one night and daubed the rails of his staircase with tar. The dean coming down in the dark, dirtied his hands and coat very much with the tar; and, being greatly enraged, he sent for one most suspected to be the author. This the 283 lad utterly denied; but said, “Truly, I did it not; but if you please, I can tell you who had a hand in it. ”  Here they thought to have found out the truth, and asked him who. The lad answered, “Your worship, sir” ;  which caused him to be dismissed with great applause for his ingenuity.


WHEN Lord B—— died, a person met an old man who was one of his most intimate friends. He was pale, confused, awe-stricken. Every one was trying to console him, but in vain. “His loss,” he exclaimed, “does not affect me so much as his horrible ingratitude. Would you believe it ?  he died without leaving me anything in his will, — I, who have dined with him, at his own house, three times a week for thirty years ! ”


WHEN Lord Melcombe’s name was plain Bubb, he was intended by the administration to be sent ambassador to Spain. Lord Chesterfield met him, and told him he was not a fit person to be representative of the crown of England at the Scottish court, on account of the shortness of his name, as the Spaniards pride themselves on the length of their titles, “unless,” added his lordship, “you don’t mind calling yourself Silly-Bubb ! ”


AN eminent painter was once asked what he mixed his colors with in order to produce so extraordinary an effect. “I mix them with brains,  sir !” was the answer.


IN the museum at Abbotsford there is a small Roman patera, or goblet, in showing which Sir Walter Scott tells the following story  “I purchased this,” (says he) “at a nobleman’s roup near by, at the enormous sum of twenty-five guineas. I would have got it for twenty-pence if an antiquary who knew its value had not been there and opposed me. However, I was almost consoled for the bitter 284 price it cost by the amusement I derived from an old woman, who had evidently come from a distance to purchase some trifling culinary articles, and who had no taste for the antique. At every successive guinea which we bade for the patera  this good old lady’s mouth grew wider and wider with unsophisticated astonishment, until at last I heard her mutter to herself, in a tone which I shall never forget, — ‘Five-an-twenty guineas ! If the parritch-pan gangs at that, what will the kail-pan gang for !’  ”

A roup  is a public auction or sale.


HORNE TOOKE having challenged Wilkes, who was then Sheriff of London and Middlesex, received the following laconic reply :  “Sir, I do not think it my business to cut the throat of every desperado that may be tired of his life; but, as I am at present High Sheriff of the city of London, it may happen that I shall shortly have an opportunity of attending you in my official capacity, in which case I will answer for it that you shall have no ground  to complain of my endeavors to serve you.”


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