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LATEST EXHIBITS, deeds and chores:

(not including endless work on Froissart, proofreading, misunderstanding tech stuff, vexatiae [sic], and including some odd bits of humor and pith from authors much older than me that strike my fancy and often make me smile — so you may, too.)

October 27, 2020: My only sports prediction: In Game 6 of the World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays will win. Why? If they don't, the series ends. No player or advertiser wants that to happen. Every game played makes a lot of people a lot of money.. It's a good day to be a Tampa Bay pitcher! OOPS! I was wrong! Dodgers won!

December 25, 2019 (semi-final draft posted December 30, 2019): James always cooks the Christmas Feast, and you can guess what their traditional main dish is below:

A Late Year Boost.
(An imaginary gazetteer entry for my buddy Bill)

The road through 2019,

Led down the darkest chasms.

So deep these depths, the path, I feared,

Might end with awful spasms.

But, instead of fits, thanks to James,

There has been a late year boost,

And now parts of me rise higher!

For on Christmas I’ve been goosed.


Holiday Season, 2019.

This one is an oldy but a goody I put up for Christmas several years ago, but you would have to go to the older New Stuff pages, and why should you have to go to the trouble when I can just repost it? You shouldn't have to! Here is is:

November 22, 2019. Happy Thanksgiving! Here's a treat without any calories:

June 18, 2018. Housecleaning this website a bit. Peter the Cruel, by Edward Storer, has had its spring-cleaning. I updated the coding, since things have changed code-wise since I first put it up in 2007 !!!.

I moved the pages around, so for anyone who linked to one of the chapters before this week, that link will be broken. All of the book is still online (except the index), but with new page titles. Here’s the link to the Table of Contents, if you need would like to update any links to the page.

In between then and now, I learned a bit about Edward Storer. When a young man, he lived in Rome in the early years of the 20th century and created, edited, and contributed to a literary journal, called Atys, translating many contemporary Italian authors into English for the first time. No online versions of any issue of this magazine are available and none can be bought. I have a modern Italian biography of him, but don't speak Italian, but there seems to be some hints that he worked for the Italian resistance in both world wars. He left Rome at the outbreak of WWII. and went back to England and lived with his sister, but died in 1944 from a cerebral hemorrhage (brain bleed). , likely at the age of 64.

The lack of decent antibiotics carried off two more authors of I admire a lot. Oscar Wilde probably died from mastoiditis (a serious ear infection) that led to meningitis. Naturally though, the intolerant, self-righteous, moralistic types liked to blamed his death on syphilis, and so his fatal suffering was just what he deserved (in their disgusting view). Queed, (another of the early books on elfinspell), died in his early 30�s on a trip to Europe from appendicitis. Very sad. So many intolerant, or uncreative, or just plain mean people live to ripe old ages and these three didn�t. What could they have done if they lived even another decade? Too sad.

Here’s a little-known bit of folklore related to Peter the Cruel, King of Castile and Leon, whose infamy is solely due to the fact that he lost his war in the late 1300�s. Funny how the losers are always bad guys, ain�t it? Well, Spain does not remember him in quite the same way as the medieval winners portrayed him. I met a legal and medical translator who was from Spain, upper middle class background. She married an American and they lived in Massachusetts. It was just after I finished putting Storer’s biography of him online. Of course, I talked to her briefly about Peter the Cruel, who had a lisp. She said that in honor of his memory, the Spanish added that distinctive Castilian lisp to their language, the mother tongue of Spanish. The lisp (a 'th' sound)is used with the letters 'C' and 'Z', not 'S', as Bill Thayer kindly clarified for me. The lisp vanished in Spanish-speaking countries over time (drat those colonials!) but still persists in Rey Pedro’s homeland. Whether this is just a romantic bit of folklore or not, I have no idea, but it is certainly a cute story.

For the winner’s version, Froissart is an important authority, and happens to be on this site. Read this account from his Chronicle: the death of Don Pedro, translated by T. Johnes.

Chandos Herald was an eye-witness of the dealings of Edward of England, The Black Prince, with Don Pedro, which he describes in his biography on this site, beginning on p. 150, Life of the Black Prince, translated by Mildred Pope. These pages need spring-cleaning, but you will get the idea. For this page see these Notes. This text needs “spring-cleaning” to link the notes. Maybe next spring, if �the Lord’s willin’, and the creek don’t rise.�

May 22, 2018. From Among the Humorists and After-Dinner Speakers, A New Collection of Humorous Stories and Anecdotes, Selected and Arranged by William Patten, Vol. I, P. F. Collier & Son, New York, 1909; p. 237:

Sentimental Young Lady — “Ah, Professor! what would this oak say if it could talk?”

Professor — “It would say, ‘I am an elm. ’ ”

May 21, 2018. At long last, I have completed An Introduction to the History of History, by James T. Shotwell, Ph.D. It is s thoroughly enlightening study of the origins and rise of History as a whole from its beginnings through the Roman period. Even the footnotes are good in this book, so don't fluff them off.

January 21, 2018. Did not change webhosts, but will soon, since they have even worse support now, and their site search engine is not secure. So if you see some weird page in the list when you do a site search, please ignore it! I have a new webhost in mind, but I'll keep investigating them before switching.

I do have a new offering for you! The History of the Langobards. by Paul the Deacon, translated and annotated by William Dudley Foulke, LL.D. It is an account of the rise of the Lombards in Italy by a Benedictine monk, who was one of them.

When I first typed this text from my old hard copy, it was not google-scanned, but I had not proofed it. Now both events have occurred. My online book has been proofed, and some emendations have been made, usually typos and smoothing out inconsistent punctuation in the citations and index. Naturally, since I hand-typed it, I may have added my own typos (!!!). But on the whole, with typos corrected and with links to other works mentioned, this version is best (and more accurate), in my view.

I have also linked the popes mentioned to their “Lives,” by Platina, linked to the The Germania, by Tacitus, and linked to Paul’s quotes or ideas taken from Virgil’s Aeneid and Georgics, all works here on elfinspell. Much helpful supporting material can be found in Charles the Great, by Thomas Hodgkin, also on this site.

Bill Thayer also spotted some goofs, and his site yielded multiple links to his supporting online works by Tacitus and Strabo. James Eason’s Pliny, Englished by Philemon Holland, is also linked, where his text has been used by Paul.

Here’s a great “Climate Change” sort of joke that I did not get the first time I skimmed through this book, but now I do and like it much better! From Sparks of Laughter, Fifth Annual Compilation, Newark: Stewart Anderson, 1924, p. 291:

That California Climate

An Englishman was showing an American around London. They went to Covent Garden, the great fruit and vegetable market: “Look at those peaches, ” said the Englishman with some pride.

“Call those peaches?” said the American, “why in California we have them in size of cabbages.”

“How do you account for it?” asked the Englishman.

“Oh, climate,” responded the American.

Then they wandered to the flower stalls. The English rose is famous. “There,” said the Englishman, “there’s a rose for you! Smell it.”

The American did as he was told. “Yes, not so bad,” he remarked; “but you can smell an American Beauty rose a mile away.”

“How do you account for it?” again asked the Englishman.

“Oh, climate, just California climate,” said the American.

From the Covent Garden they wandered to look at the town. Near by a new building was almost completed. “There’s a unique building,” said the Englishman, “twelve stories high and no elevator.”

“How do the people get up?” asked the unsuspecting American.

“Oh, climb it; just climb it,” came the reply.

— Philadelphia Public Ledger.

Since being immersed in early history, with lots of hints of classic Rome, another joke in this same book struck me, from p. 290:

Horatio Wore a Helmet

JIM  (just back from a trip) — “That stuff ‘When in Rome ———— ’ is all bunk.”

TIM — “Yeh?”

JIM — “Yes. When I was there I tried to swim the Tiber like Horatius and they arrested me for being drunk.”

— New York Sun and Globe.

Horatius was an iconic figure in early Roman history, saving the city of Rome against invaders, near single-handedly, in 508 B.C. See a brief extract by Livy relating his swim across the Tiber, in How Horatius Held the Bridge, on this site.

Inspired, Lord Macauley retold the stirring episode in verse, in Horatius at the Bridge, here on this site, too. This became fodder for recital in many a schoolroom and stage, as you can see, since it is included in Choice Readings for Public and Private Entertainments and for the Use of Schools, Colleges, and Public Readers, with Elocutionary Advice, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Edited by Robert McLean Cumnock, Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co., 1898; pp. 379-386.

A lot of people since have been named Horatio from this Classical hero’s actions.

August 9, 2016. Here I be! After a break, I have not been inspired to do anything other than what I have been doing on this website for the last several years. My current webhosting service has undergone a change in ownership and this has been one of my concerns, because I don’t want to have to change webhosting services, if these folks are not as good as the prior one. I just tried support for the site. It is now overseas, which is not necessarily a red flag, but the hold times certainly are! The result? Tech support only referred me to the site help pages and had nothing more to offer. How discouraging!

I have typed up several books, but proofreading has been the sticking point. Now this will wait until I change to another webhosting service. So how about a few choice tidbits? Here’s one from The Cynic’s Breviary, Maxims and Anecdotes by Nicolas de Chamfort, Selected and Translated for the First Time by William G. Hutchison, London: Elkin Mathews, 1902; pp. 53-4:

LA GABRIELLI, a celebrated singer, having asked 5,000 ducats from the Empress of Russia as her fee for singing at St. Petersburg for two months, the latter replied: “I pay none of my field marshalls on that scale.” “In that case,” said La Gabrielli, “Your Majesty has only to make your field marshalls sing.” The Empress paid the 5,000 ducats without further demur.

I first heard about Nicolas de Chamfort from the rascal William Mathews, academic plagiarist that he was, in this essay on Chamfort: A Forgotten Wit. No big surprise to find that he stole at least one of the translations done by Hutchinson.

I think this Fable is funny now, but did not think so last year, and may not think so next year! It's by Ambrose Bierce, from Fantastic Fables, 1899:


A Chief of Police who had seen an Officer beating a Thug was very indignant, and said he must not do so any more on pain of dismissal.

“Don’t be too hard on me,” said the Officer, smiling; “I was beating him with a stuffed club.”

“Nevertheless,” persisted the Chief of Police, “it was a liberty that must have been very disagreeable, though it may not have hurt. Please do not repeat it.”

“But,” said the Officer, still smiling, “it was a stuffed Thug.”

In attempting to express his gratification the Chief of Police thrust out his right hand with such violence that his skin was ruptured at the arm-pit and a stream of sawdust poured from the wound. He was a stuffed Chief of Police.

September 8, 2014. I had a birthday last month, totally depressing. I realized when I was listening to the radio that I am too old for the oldies! Barf.

Another book is ready for you and online. It’s about old singers, most of whom did not live long enough to rue their lost youth, and whose songs have not made it into any Oldies collection. It is Trails of the Troubadours, by Raimon de Loi (Raymond Deloy Jameson), illustrated by Giovanni Petrina.

This is a catchy history of the troubadors of 13th century France, accompanied by some novel, if extreme, views of the leading lights of those days and the whole cult of courtly love. The sketches are great, too. “Troubadours,” “troubadors,” and “trobadors” are all spellings that have had their day of primacy.

Now for a cute poem included in an obscure old magazine called Ingall’s Home Magazine, Lynn, Massachusetts: J. F, Ingalls, Publisher, October, 1889, p. 522. They got it from another magazine:

Whenever baby lifts her voice

In accents far from mellow,

Her face and lungs suggest a sym-

Phony in red and yell-oh!

— Home Art Decorator

August 15, 2014. Here’s a book that I have had ready to announce for a long time: Hours with Men and Books, by William Mathews.

It is a collection of his essays from the late 1800’s. A famous popular writer, a lawyer, and a college professor at the University of Chicago, Mathews did not scruple to take advantage of other people's ideas and fail to credit them when he rewrote them years later. Because there was no google, and because libraries were still few and far between back then, nobody found him out. Any good in the essays is largely attributable to the fact that the good material used is not original, not that he admits it. He had the sense to seek and adopt the ideas, quotes, and often the very sentences of the best essays from earlier Review journals and papers, written decades earlier. He picked timeless topics and fascinating details that would still be interesting in their new disguise when he brought them back to light.

My disgust at his ethics and the sheer tedium of some of them, albeit some interesting tidbits, has slowed down the completion and announcement of the book. I will add footnotes on all the quotes and sources at some distant point.

An interesting little fact of American history, gathered from New England, Old and New, 1620-1920, [anon.] Published by the Old Colony Trust Company of Boston commemorating the Tercentenary of the First Landing at Plymouth in 1620, Cambridge: The University Press, 1920; p. 45:

Pine tree shillings were the first silver coins minted in the colonies. Their making brought such affluence to the mint master, John Hall, that he was able to give his daughter her weight in shining coin as her dowry. Their fineness and value were never questioned.

Once again, a redeeming anecdote about Queen Elizabeth, printed in Musicians' Wit, Humour, and Anecdote, by Frederick J. Crowest, London: Walter Scott Publishing Co., Ltd., 1902; p. 230:

Queen and Musician. — Dr. Christopher Tye was a peevish and humorsome man, especially in his latter days; and sometimes playing on the organ in the chapel of Queen Elizabeth, which contained much music, but little delight to the ear, she would send the verger to tell him that he played out of tune, whereupon he would send word that her Majesty’s ears were out of tune. This reply her Majesty tolerated, which shows that in all things she was not the imperious virago she is sometimes thought to have been.

July 13, 2014. Oliver Oldschool, Esq. was the nom de plume of Joseph Dennie (1768-1812), an author, editor and publisher in early 19th century America. One of his most popular productions was The Port Folio, a newspaper/journal published at Philadelphia. From the edition for Saturday, March 19, 1808, comes this gem. Note that pluck means courage. Look up the words you don’t know, (metatarsus is a bone in the foot), and you will have a mini-anatomy/pharmacy course:


There is a paper printed (occasionally) in Salem, called “The Fool,“ from which the following is taken:

Dr. Botherum Smokum, having quitted his former profession of chimney-sweeping, now carries on the business of inventing and preparing his much-approved mineral, vegetable, and animal go-to-bed-ical, get-up-ical, go-to-sea-ical, and stay-at-home-ical Medicines.

His patent cut-and-thrust phlebotomizing emetick, cathartick, and diuretick double distilled and double barrelled fire and brimstone cordials. — An amiable, interesting, pleasing and agreeably innocent, unmedicinal sudorifick, nephritick, antihelmintick, narcotick, tonick, stimulant, alterant, astringent, stomachick, bellyachick, diaphoretick, aperient, emollient, carminative, sedative, rubefacient, antispasmodick, pectoral, crural, and femoral emmenagogue. It is a sovereign, specifick, and instantaneous remedy for distempers; acute, chronick, nervous, general, local, real and imaginary, and epidemick disorders; for gunshot wounds, simple and compound fractures, casualties of all kinds and sudden death. It operates equally on the body, mind, estate real and personal, and place of residence of the patient. It is an efficacious and safe cosmetick, removing the pernicious periosteum from the cuticle, and rendering it clear and smooth to a fault. It clears the bile and gastrick juice from the brain, and induces a calm train of ideas. It removes obstructions in the capillary tubes, viz. the thoracick duct, æsophagus, cæcum, &c. &c. It extirpates the spinal marrow, which is the cause of such frequent and fatal complaints. It dissipates adipose tumours and premature births, and is an effectual preventive against old age. It assists Nature in her attempts at amputation in disorders of the head and pluck. From its styptick qualities it is eminently useful in promoting excessive hemorrhages, by which surgical operations of all kinds become quite unnecessary. By rinsing the mouth daily with this cordial, the epiglottis becomes firmly fixed in its socket, and carious teeth adhere closely to the metatarsus, by which means deglutition and chylification progress regularly. The muscles which become flaccid by use are restored to an ossified state, as well as the arterial system. Applied to the eyes it removes the three humours and eradicates the optick nerve; and in disorders of the ears it is useful in perforating the tympanum. In extreme watchfulness and nervous irritability, it induces a permanent and uninterrupted sleep. In sudden attacks from the enemy’s cavalry, it brings on an instantaneous coma which may save the patient’s life. — From its drying qualities it is useful in cases of drowning; and hanging yields to its elevating stimulus.

Price ten dollars per bottelum.

To prevent counterfeits, every bottle is wrapped in a twenty dollar bill of Detroit bank. By this means a great saving is made by those who purchase by the dozen.

July 12, 2014. Online now is a very rare little translation of some 16th century notices about England and its military preparedness, as viewed by foreigners: Edited and Translated by William Gunn, Extracts, Describing the Ancient Manner of Placing the Kingdom in Military Array; The Various Modes of Defence Adopted for its Safety in Periods of Danger; and The Evidence of Foreigners as to the National Character and Personal Bravery of the English. Taken from Original State Papers of the Sixteenth Century Collected on the Continent, and hitherto Inedited.

This book was written in 1803, at the start of the Napoleonic Wars when England feared a French invasion. It is a very short book, with 9 extracts. Most interesting of all is the last Extract, which takes place when Britain learns of the imminent arrival of the Spanish Armada. A copy of the speech Queen Elizabeth made to the troops is included in the notes to that extract. If it doesn't choke you up, I don't know what will! I was not a fan of Queen Elizabeth before, but this has surely given me cause to rethink my opinion of her.

May 17, 2014. Online now: The Lives of the Popes from the Time of our Saviour Jesus Christ to the Accession of Gregory VII., by B. Platina, translated into English, Volume I,

There is nothing more likely to make you laugh after reading Platina, Charles the Great, and Eusebius, than this joke from the same book last sampled, The American Joe Miller: A collection of Yankee Wit and Humour, compiled by Robert Kempt, London: Adams and Francis, 69, Fleet Street, 1865. Here is joke #492, on p. 157:

A JEW D’ ESPRIT. — 492.

MR. NOAH, a Jew, was a candidate for the office of sheriff of the city of New York, and it was objected to his election that a Jew would thus come to have the hanging of Christians. “Pretty Christians, indeed,” remarked Noah, “to need hanging!”

May 16, 2014. After a long delay, I have finally put online the Latin text of The “Historia Brittonum” Commonly Attributed to Nennius; From a Manuscript Lately Discovered in the Library of the Vatican Palace at Rome: edited in the Tenth Century by Mark the Hermit, with an English Version, Fac Simile of the Original, Notes and Illustrations, by the Rev. W. Gunn, 1819.

The reasons for the long delay are at least three:

1. Typing a text in a language you do not speak is not so fun.

2. Gunn made a seriously admirable attempt to reproduce the Vatican manuscript exactly in print, and he wanted to show all the mis-spellings and oddities of punctuation and abbreviation that were contained it. This led to some apparently insoluble coding dilemmas, if I wanted to make the online text do justice to his meticulous printed text. Without this the online text would not be as valuable a contribution and be sub-par, to boot. So I waited and waited for somebody smarter than me to figure out how to code these abbreviations. Alas! no luck! Feeling brave after I had finally typed the Latin, I then tackled the problem. It took a month, but I did it! For more, see the <Black and white face formed by a punctus elevatus with its mirror image.

“PunctE Man!”

He is made by using the inexplicable scribal punctuation mark called the punctus elevatus. There is no other way to reproduce this mark, at present, except as a small image in the text. But it is in the online Latin text wherever it appeared in the print version.

3. The frontispiece is a ‘Fac-Simile’ of one of the pages of the MS., and it is in terrible shape. I had hoped I would be better at photo-editing some day, well that day has not come. Instead, you will find a picture of it, with all its original foxing.

And that, sirs and madams, is why it took so long to complete the online text. But it is done at last.

I have introduced Robert Kempt to you before, as the author of Convivial Caledonia, Inns and Taverns of Scotland, and Some Famous People Who Have Frequented Them. To offer a companion to the famous British joke collection of ‘Joe Miller,’ he decided to create a New World sister to it, and called it The American Joe Miller: A collection of Yankee Wit and Humour, compiled by Robert Kempt, London: Adams and Francis, 69, Fleet Street, 1865. Here is joke #269, on p. 97:


A CLERGYMAN travelling in California encountered a panther, of which he subsequently wrote as follows; “I looked at him long enough to note his brown and glossy coat, his big, glaring eyes, his broad and well-developed muzzle, and his capacious jaws, when both of us left the spot, and, I am pleased to add, in opposite directions.”

May 5, 2014. After toiling like Sisyphus for a way to make genealogical tables web friendly, I arrived at an imperfect but readable solution. Therefore you may now read a great biography online here: Charles the Great, by Thomas Hodgkin. The Elf. Intro discusses the American version, another example of Yankee criminal ingenuity.

Another of my favorite anecdotes from The Treasury of Wit. With Comic Engravings, 1836, pp. 35-36:


Mr. Curran, the late celebrated Irish advocate, was walking one day with a friend, who was extremely punctilious in his conversation, hearing a person near him say curo sity, for curio sity, he exclaimed, “How that man murders the English language!” “Not so bad,” replied Curran, “he has only knocked an I out.

I also discovered a great trivia book! It is not wholly online, but here is one entry from Why, When and Where: A Dictionary of Rare and Curious Information, edited by Robert Thorne, M.A., New York: A. L. Burt, Publisher, 1889; p. 14:

Amen is a Hebrew word signifying “Yes,” “Truly.” In Jewish synagogues the amen is pronounced by the congregation at the conclusion of the benediction. Among the early Christians the prayer offered by the presbyter was concluded by the word amen, uttered by the congregation. Justin Martyr is the earliest of the fathers who alludes to the use of the response. According to Tertullian, none but the faithful were permitted to join in the response. A somewhat noisy and irreverent practice prevailed in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper until the sixth century, after which it was discontinued. “Upon the reception both of the bread and of the wine, each person uttered a loud ‘amen;’ and at the close of the consecration by the priest, all joined in shouting a loud ‘amen.’ ” The same custom was observed at baptism, when the sponsors and witnesses responded vehemently. In the Greek Church the amen was pronounced after the name of each person of the Trinity; and at the close of the baptismal formula the people responded. At the conclusion of prayer it signifies (according to the English Church Catechism) so be it; after the repetition of the Creed, so it is.

April 16, 2014. After several years, I have finally, finally fixed the formatting and re-proofed The Annals of Roger de Hoveden, Comprising the History of England and of Other Countries of Europe from A.D. 732 to A.D. 1201, Translated from the Latin with Notes and Illustrations by Henry T. Riley, Esq., Volume I.

April 14, 2014. By the way, I have finally, finally, added the frontispiece: of a portrait of Mark Twain, sketched by John Cecil Clay, completing Volume III of The Wit and Humor of America, edited by Marshal P. Wilder. My beloved scanner bit the dust and it took me ages to replace it and brave new software.

April 12, 2014. Long time no post! As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’ve made other plans!”

Best to start with the announcement that the unique-to-the-web old joke book, The Treasury of Wit. With Comic Engravings, 1836, is online.

My very favorite joke (there are several) is:

Two gentleman were walking in the High street, Southampton, last week, about that hour which the industrious damsels of the mop and brush usually devote to cleansing the pavement before the door. It happened that the bucket used upon such occasions was upon the stones, and one of the gentlemen stumbled against it. “My dear friend,” exclaimed the other, “I lament your death exceedingly!” “My death!” “Yes, you have just kicked the bucket.” “Not so,” rejoined his friend, “I have only turned a little pale (pail).”

Also online is an interesting look at old Italy: Town Life In Ancient Italy by Professor Friedländer, translated by William E. Waters. This is a fascinating look at life outside of Rome in the last years of the Roman Empire. The translator states that much of it applies to medieval Italy as well. It is a most interesting book, changing my conceptions of the period and adding a lot of material that I had never read before.

Here’s a joke by Lodovico Domenichi that I just re-read and think is hilarious. I did not appreciate it at the time I put it online, because one of the hardest things about typing joke books is that the sheer number of them read at one time dulls appreciation:

Two men were boasting of the wonderful things they had seen, and one of them said that in a certain part of the country there was a cabbage so large that fifteen hundred men could stand beneath it.

Then said the other: “And I have seen a cauldron so big that five hundred men engaged in making it were spread over so much ground that when they spoke they could not hear one another.”

“What the devil were they going to do with such a cauldron?”

“Cook that cabbage.”

March 20, 2013. The rest of A Gallery of Eccentrics, by Morris Bishop is online. Great reading!

The other illustriously odd personages depicted are:

Sir Jeffery Hudson,
François-Timoleon de Choisy,
Duke Mazarin,
Captain Bartholomew Roberts,
Bampfylde-Moore Carew,
Edward Wortley Montagu, jun.,
Lorenzo da Ponte, and
Richard Porson.

March 5, 2013. I have added the expurgated parts of the Octavius by Minucius in the Notes, by Brodribb, from the Loeb Edition of Minucius Felix, translated by Gerald H. Rendall, based on the unfinished version by W. C. A. Kerr.

A pamphlet is now online: The Genealogy of the Kings of England from Brutus to Alfred, by Peter of Ickham.

That was the title In the book description, and was supposed to be scarce, it fromed one of the pamphlets in A Collection of Eighteen Rare and Curious Historical Tracts and Pamphlets. Of course, that was not quite enough information. Once I typed up the text, I found out that it was the first part of a book previously translated (and online) called Le Livere de Reis de Brittaine, translated by John Glover. And the identity of Peter of Ickham is not definite but merely a good guess.

It is still interesting, and only 10 small pages, and it includes the story of “King Leir.”

Also online are four chapters from A Gallery of Eccentrics, by Morris Bishop, 1934. The interesting biographies include these odd ducks:

Elagabalus, by Morris Bishop
Brusquet, by Morris Bishop
Jan Baptista van Helmont, by Morris Bishop, and
Sir Thomas Urquhart, by Morris Bishop

The first mentioned character, Elagabulus, had his reputation ruined by some nasty gossip and the history that exists is pretty unreliable. Bishop uses several sources, some of whom disagree with some of the more sordid statements of antiquity.

And the last character, Sir Thomas Urquhart, was one of the people who spread the fame of another guy, and his reputation became famous as a prodigal: see The Admiral Crichton, from Caledonian Magazine, Perth, Feb. 6th, 1784, cited in Entertaining Literary Curiosities, Consisting of Wonders of Nature and Art; Remarkable Characters; Fragments, Anecdotes, Letters, &c. &c. &c., by William Jefferson. 1808.

And you may have thought that throwing underwear and room-keys started with Tom Jones in Hullaballoo, an old, old TV show, which was when I first heard of it so very long ago, (and making me ashamed of my gender), but Al Thayer has this to say on the subject IN 1894 (!!!) This is from his Pickings from Lobby Chatter in the Cincinnati Enquirer, by “Ah There!” (Al Thayer), 1894 (no publisher noted), p. 225:

When an actor makes a hit in Japan they throw on the stage some article of wearing apparel. It is said that a handsome young Japanese actor recently made a tremendous hit with the ladies, and they expressed their admiraton so forcibly that many of them went home in thier artless Japanese ways, clad in smiles and rouge.

He also tosses in this item on p. 202:

When the glass-eater was at our museum, Manager Avery tells me that he would not eat hot biscuits, they gave him dyspepsia.

And Al Thayer has on p. 19:

A new play is called “Antigone.” Poker players who miss filling a bobtail flush know what this is.

March 1, 2013. Two books for you!

Pagan and Pilgrim, The “Octavius” of Minucius, translated by Arthur Aiken Brodribb. This is one of the earliest defense of Christianity that has come down to us, according to the Introduction. It is excellent! The best bit, was this statement about Christian values in the first purer stages:

“But as for us, we have no part in the slaughter of men either as spectators or auditors . . . ” Minucius, p. 62.

The Octavius was written by the author of A Roman Reporter, also online, and he was a full-time political editor of the London Times, who translated Latin and wrote books and poetry in his spare time. He was the fifth to translate Minucius. This is a stand-alone translation though in a small book. There is ongoing controversy over whether Tertullian was the first to write a defense of Chrisitanity or if it was Minucius. Roger Pearse has a page summarizing the arguments: Did Tertullian use Minucius Felix’ Octavius?

Also online, Highlights of Foreign Travel, A Memorable Journey to Palestine, Egypt, Italy, and the Battle Front of France, by Henry Howard Harper, a funny, often sarcastic book about the unique portions of a cruise to the Mediterranean, by another of the founding members of the Bibliophile Society of Boston, like Nathan Haskell Doyle, in the entry below.

February 24, 2013. And another book is complete and online! A Teacher of Dante and Other Studies in Italian Literature, by Nathan Haskell Dole. The rest of the chapters are:

IV. Boccaccio and the Novella, by Nathan Haskell Dole, from A Teacher of Dante and Other Studies in Italian Literature.

V. The Rise of the Italian Drama, by Nathan Haskell Dole, from A Teacher of Dante and Other Studies in Italian Literature.

VI. Goldoni and Italian Comedy, by Nathan Haskell Dole, from A Teacher of Dante and Other Studies in Italian Literature.

VII. Alfieri and Tragedy, by Nathan Haskell Dole, from A Teacher of Dante and Other Studies in Italian Literature.

The whole book is pretty darned good. Nathan Haskell Dole was one of the founders of the Bibliophile Society of Boston, 1901, and its President for many years. He loved and collected books, not just for the pictures, but read them too, and he spoke Italian.

Dole did very thorough research. There is information in this book that you will not find elsewhere on line. As an example he reports details of Boccaccio's last will that I confirmed were true with Dr. Michael Papio, the President of the American Boccaccio Society. You can read moore about that, and the other choice morsels of information he provided, on the Online Introduction page, in brief, as well as on Chapter IV, in more detail in the notes at the end.

Hocus Pocus I've got crocus! Some gorgeous giant dark purple croci have popped up in the last 3 days and two daffy-down-dillys have bloomed. Still little purple and white and purple crocus happily bloom. Plus more snowdrops and beautiful blue mini iris along with more purple ones. The deep red Lenten Rose bloomed, with its two blossoms. It's still a baby! But the cream ones (Lenten Roses) with white faces are still blooming fine. One like it is stunted with raggedy leaves, so I don't know if snails (!) got it already or that its new leaves and first blossoms came up and then were promptly buried in snow. The other one had bloomed first and the leaves had been on it longer, plus it is bigger. Who knows?

I heard a week ago that somebody has Easter Lilies blooming already and there are a few daffodils that bloomed last week somewhere around here.

Still no pictures online, but they are safe in the camera and I will garner my courage and rustle up my sleeves soon, soon, soon, to figure out how to get them from there to here.

I have found out more information on the English translation of Giovanni Verga: Rustic Chivalry, from the Italian Cavalleria Rusticana, (heartily depressing story), from Volume II: “Stories of Heroism and Romance,” in the series Tales from the Italian and Spanish by The Review of Reviews Company, 1920.

Although it states in the beginning that this story was translated by Frederic Taber Cooper, it ain't so! His translation is online and they are quite different.

This publishing firm was run by a bunch of rascals. In volumes II and III there are multiple examples of recycled material without crediting the sources. In Volume III, anything before 1800 was taken from The Italian Novelists, translated from the originals with Critical and Biographical Notices by Thomas Roscoe, which is on this site. And several at least in Volume II, so far, are taken from him and some from an 1804 translaton of the Decameron, by Edward Dubois, who revised an anonymous translation of 1741. I have not checked all of the stories yet, so maybe some were commissioned by them. We'll see!

Some items from Up-To-Date Conundrums, Boston: The Mutual Book Company, 1903, various pages. The first one is selected in Dole's honor (the Dante afficionado above).

What are the two best books for wedding presents? Dante's Inferno and Paradise Lost.

What is the difference between this world and the next? For some people there's a H—l of a difference.

What is the superlative of temper? Tempest.

What is the difference between a glass of water and a glass of gin? Ten cents.

What would a picture of a four-toed cat look like? Like any ordinary four-toe-graph.

Oh, speaking of Pictures! This goes to show how advanced "Photoshopping" of Picture was fairly soon after after the invention of cameras. This picture is from The Pall-Mall Magazine, Volume X. 1896. The scan was the best I could do, drat!

Black and white photograph of two babies each sleeping in half an eggshell suspended in mid-air. Early example of tricks and illusions of photography.

February 24, 2013. I found a very short and mildly interesting book and it is now online: A Roman Reporter, by A. A. Brodribb.

The book is probably meant for adolescents, and it is fiction set in Italy in the third century A. D. See the Online Introduction for more details about why I think it is worth the small amount of time it will take you to read it.

Also online: Religious Revivals in Medieval Italy, by John A. Symonds, from The Cornhill Magazine.

February 17, 2013. After reading the Georgics (Bucolics), by Virgil, translated by J. P. Mackail, where he sings of the ideal Roman pastoral paradise, here are my own imponderable bucolical questions: three of them at any rate:

As I dig on my hellish shale slope (say that 10 times fast), I find that earthworms don't hibernate! They are busy year round. Apparently on warmer days they move up near the surface (and my shovel  sob!), but burrow deeper on colder days. Then they are out of shovel range, but then it's too cold for me and my shovel to be out there digging!

That is not the imponderable question, though, just an observation à la Gilbert White.

The actual question is: While I dig, besides welcome worms, I also find dormant grubs and grublettes (aka proto-caterpillars). Yuck. Bad. Plant-killers in suspended animation.

So why would anybody want to plant a 'butterfly garden' and attract more of them, just so they'll lay all their little eggs nearby?

A little plant-eating caterpillar factory/incubator in action! That's what a butterfly garden is. It doesn't make a lick of sense to me.

The second metaphysical agrarian question is a sluggish one.

Did you know that Snails live year-round too? Gross.

Question 2: How come snails never go away?

Snail bait (non-toxic to anything but snails) has to be re-applied every two weeks for forever. They never die out or go on sabbatical or move into somebody else's yard to escape.

By the way, lilies are snails' very favorite food. And they eat them down to the nubbin, killing them off forever. You can't get rid of snails, which cost you nothing.

Oh! If I could only figure out how to run a snail farm for fun and profit, I would be soooo rich, and without laying out a dime.

The last question: What time length do people mean by 'naturalize'? (Channel Wordsworth here and think of fields of wild daffodils.)

In the hope of such a vista, I began planting purty things, all scattered up and down the infernal slope. I left room for the chosen ones to not only spread out to their stated maximum size (hah!) but also to allow their offspring to "Go forth and propagate!" Freely, copiously, in all directions: vertically and horizontally . . . Please!

That was the hope, that the plan.

Thus there are a lot of bulbs on the Hill from Hell that are touted to be 'the best for naturalizing.'

After three years of trying, I don't believe that there more of the original crop than when I started if that. Maybe some of them had a baby or two (one small crocus only reproduced like a bunny on the grass path I have to walk on, but nowhere else!) but the death by other causes (snails, bad karma, etc.) outnumbered any birthing. It means that there are less plants on that hill than I started with, much less.

Naturalizing must take generations!

I had some hint of that after the first year. I bought daylilies that I was promised would grow to a three to five foot clump. So I planted them three to five feet apart. That meant that I only needed about 30, with a few bulbs for early color. Not bad. Only 30 holes to excavate whilst seated on my fanny — before I knew that the chiggers came out at 70 degrees, just at at the same time I do.

Naturally I discovered a lot of weeds in the spare 2¾ to 4¾ feet of ground the next year, and the year after and the year after. Then I realized they meant 'someday' they will spread to that size, but not when that day will be.

It does not look like it will happen for the next half decade. Now I merely hope it may come while I have eyes to see and limbs to ambulate (i.e., become too decrepit and/or senile to see them).

I learned this when it was also too late to reconsider my plan to replace crabgrass and dandelions with blooming things that don't need weed-eating.

So now because of that first investment in labor and money, I didn't want to give up my plan. So I have been filling in the places between ever since. So much for my initial cheap and easy landscaping vision.

That also means now I can't weed-eat my own peculiar variety of monster crabgrass and giant dandelions — who are ever eager to smother those struggling day lilies  and they're darn good at it, too.

Trust me, you cannot weed-eat on a 60 degree slope and hope to dodge the good plants. So down the hill I go again, and again — on my behind — to weed, and not just to dig.

The other tip I picked up, based on my own experience after the second year, when a panorama of mostly spring weeds greeted my eyes (again!). Then I found out that most tulips don't come back!


And if it took you an hour to dig the one 8 inch by 8 inch by 8 inch hole required for just a few of those stupid bulbs (allowing for a kill ratio of 3:1), whilst hanging by your claws to the slope with one hand, and excavating clay and rocks with the other, and learning what poison ivy is . . . and then to find out that you have to do it all again (!!!!) . . .
 . . . well . . .
 . . . sans the cussing and Bluebeardish (Bluebeardian?) fantasies? . . .
 . . . finally and painfully discovering that bit of horticultural lore is not the sort of thing that gives you faith in your ex-favorite plant and bulb retailer. And there are now some gardening books in my house now suitable for propping up wonky chair legs and filling in cracks as draft-stoppers (since I spent my spare time and money on gardening to replace the lush weed orchard for some curb appeal, instead of on home maintenance).

I had never heard the unperennial tulip truth before, in all my years. Nobody says it on the packages of all those pretty fancy striped, scalloped, spotted tulips either. Fortunately, because now the web has so much information available to anyone, tulip bulb growers had to 'fess up and admit it, because the word is getting out. There are a few (a very few) kinds that do come back but you have to check carefully before you choose, so you, too, don't waste your shovelling and pick-axing and repelling to 'transform your slope.' (Don't say I never tell you anything useful!)

Think of all the people who thought that they were horrid gardeners because they 'killed' all their tulips! They took the blame upon themselves instead of on the people who promise easy flowers but forget to say that they are only gonna be there one year. Grrrr.

Lonnie, a friend once, suggested just paving the semi-cliff with asphalt (the slope varies from 50 to 80 degrees). I laughed and laughed. Now it warrants very serious thought at least twice a week — more in August.

The next expert advice/myth I heard after the fact that I 'liked' as well as the not-perennial-tulip tip was, that "sometimes 'they' (little rock iris) come back and sometimes they don't, it depends on if they like your microclimate!"

Oh great. Now they tell me. That was after I planted 100's of mini iris. The hill looked really, really good for one year. What a nice reward! Then none showed up the next year. I thought it was my fault. So I did it again. Then I heard this bit of wisdom from the expert — at last!

Now I am down to one thin strip which appears to be the 'zone' on the slope that those precious-little things like. So I have 6 now, out of 100's. It is early yet. Being optimistic, I am hoping for at least 8 more over spring, since I planted another 200 before I learned how picky they really are.

All of the above torture I have now dealt with, since I discovered most of it before the latest bulb planting season. I console myself (pseudo-socratically, with pseudo-serenity) as I replant likelier bulbs with the fact that if I am digging, at least it's exercise.

But learning never stops, does it? Good or bad.

For this last fall's and early winter digging, I found some light-weight dirt to haul down the slope to fill in the gaps between daylilies: some Miracle-Gro expandable stuff. It holds water for the bad times of drought (these always occur when you are gone for two weeks and so the whole hill croaks permanently).

This was a great invention! Yessiree. The bag had a ziplock at the top, so if the bag tumbled over on the hill (a very real possibility) I would not lose my dirt and have to belay down the hill and go up and get some more.

I read the directions, first (I believe in self-education): just mix it with your dirt half and half it says.

So 8 more big bags of dirt were tossed into the hill-holes to replace the coal shale and thin the chunks of clay as I planted the latest guesses for come-back bulbs.

I dug 50 new holes easy. (At 1 hour per hole dug, when it was 45 degrees or higher and not pouring, sleeting, or snowing, and I was not at work: that took 3 months!)

Then it rained.

For two days straight.

My slope looks like it has Grade VIII 'cystic' acne (most severe form, Cook's grading scale). Or as if I have a trans-slope giant wart epidemic. Or as if my hill has a mole colony.

Now there's 50 little hills on the big hill. It's enough to make you sea-sick.

The bag did not say to allow room for expansion and only fill the hole 3/4 full!

So now I have knots popping up like buboes over the whole ding-dang hill. They haven't gone completely down again yet. Sometimes after the cataclysmic swelling erupts anew, after a freshet, a few of the small bulbs pop out!


The State of the Slope Message for today: The crocus and snowdrops got rained and snowed on. They didn't like it. As the snow melts some heroic, bellissima, budding crocuses (croci?) made it, and at least one darling and herculean little iris did not mind the drenching a bit.

I did take some pictures with my camera the other day before the storm, instead of using my phone, but I don't know how to get those on the computer either. That will be my learning lesson for the week.

Where was I?

Another quite fascinating chapter is up: II. Dante and the Picturesque, by Nathan Haskell Dole, from A Teacher of Dante and Other Studies in Italian Literature.

Also online: a very interesting series of 3 articles, by my buddy Shotwell: The Discovery of Time, by James T. Shotwell, The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, 1915:

Part 1: I. The Appreciation of Time, and II. The Natural Calendar The Discovery of Time, by J. T. Shotwell,

Part 2: III. The Supernatural Calendar, and IV. From Luck to Mathematics, by J. T. Shotwell, and

Part 3: V. The Egyptian Calendar, and VI. The Babylonian Calender, by J. T. Shotwell.

Shotwell was supposed to continue the series, but he didn't. Instead he was called away to help with the peace negotiations after World War I. The man is more than just a great history teacher, for sure. On Colombia University’s website, read all about him: James T. Shotwell: A Life Devoted to Organizing Peace, by Lisa Anderson.

My admiration for him began with a book of his I have. The first 12 chapters are online: Introduction to the History of History, by James T. Shotwell, Columbia University Press; New York; 1922.

February 14, 2013. Happy Valentine’s Day!

First the backlog from January:

Roger Pearse, tertullian.org, sent me an e-mail on January 1, and in it he said:

Happy new year to you! Everyone over here has flu, including me, so we are all gasping our last (and, in the faint intervals of consciousness, shopping on Amazon).

That was so funny! He said I could share it with you all.

I was excited to see a cardinal mid-month and a blue-jay the next week! Easy to see those bursts of color in the tree, when there is not a leaf around to get in the way.

In another great e-mail, Andrew Smith, attalus.org commented on some of the stuff I put up. He, too, said I could quote it for you:

The Georgics remind me very much of my schooldays, we had to learn book 1 for an exam, and although it may look good enough in translation, trying to remember (for instance) the Latin word for vetch, when I had no idea what vetch was or looked like, was a bit of a trial. It’s probably put me off it for life - that’s what school does for you!
     Looking further down through your “new stuff” was educational. I never knew there was a Samuel Wesley, or that he was the father of John and Charles Wesley (though I guessed they did have one). And the Samuel Butler he writes about was born at Strensham! Strensham is now a service station on the M5 motorway. I suppose it looked a bit different in his day. I have also made a careful note of what Lambeth Palace looks like, in case I happen to be in London and an American tourist asks me what it is.

Speaking of the Georgics, as well as of MacKail’s translations of the Eclogues and the The Aeneid, the reason I have been tardy about posting is that I have been checking the calibration of my moral compass. Wallowing around in the murky morass of my psyche was as unedifying as it sounds, but it did have two nice rewards!

What has been bothering me is that U. S. copyright laws ignore the copyright laws of authors in other countries everywhere but in the 9th Circuit. You understand that we are demons when other countries mess with Americans’ copyrighted material, but the same does not apply to "furriners." That burns my biscuits! (A great expression I heard on a Houston radio station 13 years ago).

Anyway while I was irritated at this, I realized that two books I had just put online were in the public domain here but the authors’ copyrights were still in place in their own country. In these cases, though, the publishers did not file the works properly for publication in the U. S. so the copyright laws of the U. S. applied. But I also now know that the publishers promise authors, (or some lawyer does, or some agent,) that they will take care of business for popular writers so they can concentrate on their art! (literary and otherwise). We know what that means! These people, who got a huge chunk of the earnings of the sweat of the author’s brow, didn’t bother to keep their word.

So I decided to check and see if I could find any heirs to make sure nobody would be steamed about another damn Yankee taking advantage of what other damn Yankees did before. The quest for heirs is interesting much of the time and January’s efforts proved it!

Serena Thirkell, the grand-daughter of John Mackail is a sculptor and a fantastic one too, in England. She said that she didn’t mind if I put up J. W.’s translation one bit. She is also the great-granddaughter of Sir Edward Burne-Jones, and the daughter of Angela Thirkell. Ms. Thirkell trained in the classics before becoming a sculptor, and it shows! When I went to her site and looked at her work, I was immediately struck by a bronzy Homeresque looking horse (naturally). Sure enough, it is called “Trojan Horse.” Ms. Thirkell said I could use her picture of it here so you can see and enjoy it. (There are lots of wonderful pictures of her work on her page, wander through the slide shows.) I will also put the Trojan steed on the Mackail pages. Here it is, that gorgeous, glittery pony!

Color photograph of a statue of a Trojan Horse made out of Brass and other metal by Serena Thirkell, great granddaughter of J. W. Mackail, used with permission.

Trojan Horse
Mixed Metal Sculpture by Serena Thirkell
© Serena Thirkell

The second dilemma I had was somebody’s failure to adequately protect the copyright of Raymond W. Postgate’s Pervigilium Veneris, the Eve of Venus, in Latin and in English.

While it is technically legal, it may have been the result of blundering by the overpaid people that were supposed to ensure his copyright status. Off I went a-googling and Lo! another family tree pops up burgeoning with creativity and talent. The person with the easiest e-mail address to find was Dan Postgate, author of the Nottingham’s Children’s Book Award winning Smelly Bill. His website is great, full of his cartoons and other illustrations, including that goofy odoriferous mutt, lots of piggies, and Engelbert Sneem, to name a few.

Better yet, he answered my e-mail and said that his uncle John R. Postgate was R. W.’s son and literary executor and forwarded my request to him, although he didn’t mind for himself.

A day or too later, Dr. Postgate wrote let me know that the copyright was misfiled and so I could use it, legally, but he also did not have any problems with me using it at all!

Dr. Postgate is a noted microbiologist, retired and in his 90’s now, and also the author of a book on his dad’s life, and what a man he was! The book is called A Stomach for Dissent: the Life of Raymond Postgate. Dr. Postgate co-wrote with his wife, Mary. By the way, he says that any writing talent that he has is due to his wife, who had a degree in English, who taught him to write well. Well enough that was on the Board and later Editor in Chief of a scientific journal, Journal of General Microbiology. She certainly did a good job of it!

Dr. Postgate also sent me the pertinent bits from his book about his dad’s relationship with his cantankerous father, John Percival Postgate, (a very famous classicist in his own right) and what his father thought of his translation. Read all about it in the excerpt on the updated introducton to Raymond’s translaton of Pervigilium.

Two weeks ago I saw some snowdrops in my yard, and a clump of ‘Christmas Roses’ had bloomed, a hellobore with cream petals and burgundy faces. Sweet!

A week later: Aha! my first mini-Iris bloomed, with dark purple falls and blue, white and yellow spotted centers, and some crocuses, and more snowdrops. Double sweet!

I used my camera phone to snag pictures but then couldn’t figure out how to get them from the phone to anywhere else, let alone to post them here. I’ll try to find my camera instructions and the lost memory card and/or my phone instructions, so I can document the results of my herculean labors planting bulbs on my steep, hardscrabble slope.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot: A surprisingly interesting chapter by the surprisingly interesting editor of several large anthologies of literature is online: III. Lyric Poetry and Petrarca, by Nathan Haskell Dole, from A Teacher of Dante and Other Studies in Italian Literature.

This semi-bitter, semi-sweet month warrants this poem by Ambrose Bierce, from Fantastic Fables, 1899:


A Cat was looking at a King, as permitted by the proverb.

“Well,” said the monarch, observing her inspection of the royal person, “how do you like me?”

“I can imagine a King,” said the Cat, “whom I should like better.”

“For example?”

“The King of Mice.”

The sovereign was so pleased with the wit of the reply that he gave her permission to scratch his Prime Minister’s eyes out.

The month of January was clouded by my mortification about how bad poetry looks on this site in a lot of browser window sizes, as it does on most sites. I think I have fixed my problem, but the simplest way took me weeks and weeks to figure out. This page looks way better as a result. It ain’t perfect, but it’s better. The thought of fixing all the other poetry on this site makes me want to seek hibernation again.

With a great deal of aggravation (triply vexing cubed!), I have finally done Part II of The Matibo Affair, about the maple (acero) Tree-house in Savigliano, Italy. (See the winsome pic far, far below, back in the good old days, March, 2012.)

I found the tree last March, and didn’t get around to writing it up til over the holidays. Although that tree is good-lookin’ it is CURSED! It’s the Tree of Doom.

I don’t want to talk about it! (shudder, shudder) You can read the severely restrained draft (which still needs a whole lotta work) — if you dare — I don’t know if the curse is contagious.

That tree knocked all the jokes out of me, but here’s a Valentine poem written by Bob Adams, the author of Rude Rural Rhymes, pp. 176-177, which is already on this site:


The rose is red, the violet blue,

This valentine is meant for you.

The February days are classy,

Our good resolves are not yet brassy.

The rose is red, the lily white,

Some couples fall in love at sight;

To bring some others into line

Requires a saint like Valentine,

And not another month, I wot,

A spiffy saint like him has got.

The second month with him alone

Can well for lack of length atone.

This is the month when lovers kiss

And lie a little too, I wis;

For each will swear, then swear some more

That neither ever loved before.

The rose is red, the chestnut green,

They spring some chestnuts too, I ween.

But though their vows be trite and old,

No whiter lies are ever told,

For she tells him and he tells her,

Not what they are but wish they were.

So let them wander hand in hand

And heart to heart in fairyland.

I too will rise and thumb my lyre,

I too will share their youthful fire.

Yea, though my bald dome shiny is,

And though you creak with rheumatiz,

The rose is red, the violet blue,

Love still has sweets for me and you.

January 1, 2013. Happy New Year!

Gary, here’s something to last you for the next 365 days, it might come in handy!


Job. chap. i. ver. 21. Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither. In discoursing from these words, I shall observe the three following things: First, man’s ingress into the world; secondly, his progress through the world; and, thirdly, his egress out of the world. To return, first, man’s ingress into the word is naked and bare; secondly, his progress through the world is trouble and care; and thirdly, his egress out of the world is nobody knows where. To conclude, if we do well here, we shall be well there; and I could tell you no more were I to preach a year.

That was from an obscure little book, called The Treasury of Wit, London: Printed for T. Allman, 1836; p. 3.

I also forgot to mention that I put online a very interesting chapter that makes you rethink what you think you know about the ancient world: Chapter XI, The Varying Movement of the Ancient Trade in Wheat by Sir William M. Ramsay, from “Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation,” The Gifford Lectures in the University of Edinburgh, 1915-1916.

What I like about Ramsay best is that he credits people with their ideas, always. He mentions in this chapter facts that his daughter offered that he was unaware of to illustrate his views, and he acknowledges the ideas of people that have changed his own views or made him re-examine his own thinking. He also adds his personal experiences in traveling into Asia Minor to illustrate the subject being discussed. All of which makes his lectures more enjoyable. This chapter is also one of his more interesting and thought-provoking ones.

Also now online is Book First, of the Aeneid by Virgil, translated by Mackail, from Virgil’s Works: The Aeneid, Eclogues, Georgics, translated by J. W. Mackail; New York: The Modern Library, 1934.

Also from The Treasury of Wit, quoted above, and even better, from p. 116:


When Sir Elijah Impey, the India judge, was on his passage home, as he was one day walking the deck, it having blowed pretty hard the preceding day, a shark was playing by the side of the ship. Having never seen such an object before, he called to one of the sailors to tell him what it was. “Why,” replied the tar, “I don’t know, indeed, what name they know them by ashore, but here we call them sea-lawyers.”

December 31, 2012. To R. V. R.: an anonymous plaint which first appeared in 1576 in a collection of songs called “The Paradise of Dainty Devices,” which I found in Rare Poems of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, A Supplement to the Anthologies, collected and edited with notes, by W. J. Linton, Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1883; pp. 166-167:


Why should I longer long to live

In this disease of fantasy?

Since Fortune doth not cease to give

Things to my mind most contrary;

And at my joys doth lour and frown,

Till she hath turn’d them upside down.

A friend I had, to me most dear,

And of long time, faithful and just, —

There was no one my heart so near,

Nor one in whom I had more trust, —

Whom now of late, without cause why,

Fortune hath made my enemy.

The grass, methinks, should grow in sky,

The stars unto the earth cleave fast,

The water-stream should pass awry,

The winds should leave their strength of blast,

The sun and moon by one assent

Should both forsake the firmament,

The fish in air should fly with fin,

The fowls in flood should bring forth fry,

All things, methinks, should first begin

To take their course unnaturally,

Afore my friend should alter so,

Without a cause to be my foe.

But such is Fortune’s hate, I say,

Such is her will on me to wreak,

Such spite she hath at me alway,

And ceaseth not my heart to break:

With such despite of cruelty,

Wherefore then longer live should I?

Black and white pen and ink drawing of an angel, from Rare Poems of the 16th and 17th Century, collected and edited by Linton.

This has been a very sad year for me and mine, in too many ways. I won’t bore you with it, except to say that I am going to try out two superstitions at the stroke of midnight on, in desperation: One is to make “Hoppin’ John:” black-eyed peas and rice, which my mom always made on the first day of the year for luck. My dad put catsup on his! Neither one of them was superstitious, but they weren’t taking any chances either.

The next thing, I am going to first-foot it over to see my fantastic landlady Carol at the stroke of midnight with some fruit. If it doesn’t unjinx us it will at least be nutritious.

What is “First-Footing?” I am so glad you asked!

Here you go, from Convivial Caledonia, Inns and Taverns of Scotland, and Some Famous People Who Have Frequented Them, by Robert Kempt, London: Chapman and Hall, LD., 1893; pp. 136-142.


In that entertaining work, Chambers’s “Book of Days,” we have a graphic description of New Year’s Day festivities in Scotland and England. The custom of the wassail-bowl and first-footing, if no longer observed in the effusive and demonstrative manner that it was say a half a century ago, is still remembered in a quieter way in many parts of the country. The above sagacious chronicler reminds us that as New Year’s Day, the 1st of January bears a prominent place in the popular calendar. It has ever been a custom among northern nations to see the old year out and the new one in, with the highest demonstrations of merriment and conviviality. To but a few does it seem to occur that the day is a memorandum of the subtraction of another year from the little sum of life; with the multitude, the top feeling is a desire to express good wishes for the next twelvemonths’ experience of their friends, and be the subject of similar benevolence on the part of others, and to see this interchange of cordial feeling take place, as far as possible, in festive circumstances. It is seldom that an English family fails to sit up on the last night of the year till twelve o’clock, along with a few friends, to drink a happy New Year to each other over a cheerful glass. Very frequently, too, persons nearly related but living apart, dine with each other on this day, to keep alive and cultivate mutual good felling. It cannot be doubted that a custom of this kind must tend to obliterate any shades of dissatisfaction or jealous anger that may have arisen during the previous year, and send the kindred onward through the next with renewed esteem and regard.

Till very few years ago in Scotland, the custom of the wassail-bowl at the passing away of the old year might be said to be still in comparative vigour. On the approach of twelve o’clock, a hot-pint was prepared — that is, a kettle or flagon full of warm, spiced, and sweetened ale, with an infusion of spirits. When the clock had struck the knell of the departed year, each member of the family drank of this mixture “A good health and a happy New Year, and many of them,” to all the rest, with a general hand-shaking, and perhaps a dance round the table, with the addition of a song to the tune of Hey tuttie taitie :

“Weel may we a’ be,

  Ill may we never see,

  Here’s to the king

  And the gude companie!” etc.

The elders of the family would then most probably sally out, with the hot kettle, and bearing also a competent provision of buns and short bread, or bread and cheese, with the design of visiting their neighbours, and interchanging with them the same cordial greetings. If they met by the way another party similarly bent, whom they knew, they would stop and give and take sips from their respective kettles. Reaching the friend’s house, they would enter with vociferous good wishes, and soon send the kettle a-circulating. If they were the first to enter the house since twelve o’clock, they were deemed as the first-foot; and, as such, it was most important, for luck to the family in the coming year, that they should make their entry, not empty-handed, but with their hands full of cakes and bread and cheese; of which, on the other hand, civility demanded that each individual in the house should partake.

To such an extent did this custom prevail in Edinburgh in the recollection of persons still living, that, according to their account, the principal streets were more thronged between twelve and one in the morning than they usually were at midday. Much innocent mirth prevailed, and mutual good feelings were largely promoted. An unlucky circumstance, which took place on the 1st January of 1812, proved the means of nearly extinguishing the custom. A small party of reckless boys formed a design of turning the innocent festivities of first-footing to account for purposes of plunder. They kept their counsel well. No sooner had the people come abroad on the principal thoroughfares of the Old Town, than these youths sallied out in small bands, and commenced the business which they had undertaken. Their previous agreement was, to look out for the white neckcloths, — such being the best mark by which they could distinguish in the dark individuals likely to carry any property worthy of being taken. A great number of gentlemen were thus spoiled of their watches and other valuables. The least resistance was resented by the most brutal maltreatment. A policeman, and a young man of the rank of a clerk in Leith, died of the injuries they had received. An affair so singular, so uncharacteristic of the people among whom it happened, produced a widespread and lasting feeling of surprise. The outrage was expiated by the execution of three of the youthful rioters on the chief scene of their wickedness; but from that time it was observed that the old custom of going about with the hot-pint — the ancient wassail — fell off.

There was in Scotland a first-footing independent of the hot-pint. It was a time for some youthful friend of the family to steal to the door, in the hope of meeting there the young maiden of his fancy, and obtaining the privilege of a kiss, as her first-foot. Great was the disappointment on his part, and great the joking among the family, if through accident or plan, some half-withered aunt or ancient grand-dame came to receive him instead of the blooming Jenny.

It may safely be said that New Year’s Day has hitherto been observed in Scotland with a heartiness nowhere surpassed. It almost appears as if, by a sort of antagonism to the general gravity of the people, they were impelled to break out in a half-mad merriment on this day. Every face was bright with smiles; every hand ready with the grasp of friendship. All stiffness arising from age, profession, and rank, gave way. The soberest felt entitled to take a licence on that special day. Reunions of relatives very generally took place over the festive board, and thus many little family differences were obliterated. At the present time, the ancient practices are somewhat decayed; yet the 1st of January is far from being reduced to the level of other days.

The whole rest of this very readable book is now online, too! Convivial Caledonia, Inns and Taverns of Scotland, and Some Famous People Who Have Frequented Them, by Robert Kempt.

To leave this year remembering that despite frowns, tears, sighs, groans, and cussing, there were also some smiles to be had:

A poem I had not found before, for my filly-al mariner:

A Tragedy of the Deep
DON MARQUIS (1878-1937)

Thought may, at times, be a very dangerous thing  .  .  .

It is better never to use conscious thought

Until instinct has flivvered.

There was once an Octopus

Who was very proud of his eight legs  .  .  .

They were long and slithery and beautiful,

And he would sit on his ear

And wave them in front of his face in the water

And admire them by the hour.

A Shark, who had no legs or tentacles at all,

Used to watch the Octopus,

And he grew weary of the Octopus’s self-content  .  .

One day, with a most malicious intention,

The Shark said to the Octopus:

“Your tentacles, or legs, or whatever you call them,

Are very pretty indeed:

And it pleases me to observe your continuing enthu-

siasm with regard to them  .  .  .

I have never seen you swim  .  .  .

May I ask you, when you swim, which leg do you

wiggle first? —

The right-hand leg in front?

The right-hand leg behind?

The right-hand leg in front of the right-hand leg


Or the right-hand leg behind the front right-hand leg?

Or do you begin with one of the left-hand legs?”

The Octopus said: “Why, I start with  .  .  .   ”

And then he stopped  .  .  .

He had always swum before without thinking  .  .  .

He had always swum by instinct  .  .  .

How did he start?

With the front leg on the left-hand side?

Or the front leg on the right-hand side?

For the life of him he couldn’t remember  .  .  .

He tried one set of legs, and it didn’t seem the proper


And he tried another set, and they weren’t the right

ones  .  .  .

And he stopped trying and thought and thought and

thought  .  .  .

And the more he thought the less able he was to swim at all.

To draw this painful story to a conclusion at once,

The Octopus sat in the midst of his legs

Looking wanly at the subaqueous world

Until he starved to death

Through his inability to catch food.

The moral is, Never think as long as you can dodge


And if some picky people don't like that one, there's this:

The Dinosaur

Behold the mighty Dinosaur,

Famous in prehistoric lore,

Not only for his weight and strength

But for his intellectual length.

You will observe by these remains

The creature had two sets of brains —

One in his head (the usual place),

The other at his spinal base.

Thus he could reason a priori

As well as a posteriori.

No problem bothered him a bit:

He made both head and tail of it.

So wise he was, so wise and solemn,

Each thought filled just a spinal column.

If one brain found the pressure strong

It passed a few ideas along;

If something slipped his forward mind

’Twas rescued by the one behind;

And if in error he was caught

He had a saving afterthought.

As he thought twice before he spoke

He had no judgments to revoke;

For he could think, without congestion,

Upon both sides of every question.

Oh, gaze upon this model beast,

Defunct ten million years at least.

And this one is because I like it.


A Decanter of Madeira, Aged 86,
to George Bancroft, Aged 86,

Good Master, you and I were born

In “Teacup days” of hoop and hood,

And when the silver cue hung down,

And toasts were drunk, and wine was good;

When kin of mine (a jolly brood)

From sideboards looked, and knew full well

What courage they had given the beau,

How generous made the blushing belle.

Ah me! what gossip could I prate

Of days when doors were locked at dinners!

Believe me, I have kissed the lips

Of many pretty saints — or sinners.

Lip service have I done, alack!

I don’t repent, but come what may,

What ready lips, sir, I have kissed,

Be sure at least I shall not say.

Two honest gentlemen are we, —

I Demi John, whole George are you;

When Nature grew us one in years

She meant to make a generous brew.

She bade me store for festal hours

The sun our south-side vineyard knew;

To sterner tasks she set your life,

As statesman, writer, scholar, grew.

Years eight-six have come and gone;

At last we meet. Your health to-night.

Take from this board of friendly hearts

The memory of a proud delight.

The days that went have made you wise,

There’s wisdom in my rare bouquet.

I’m rather paler than I was;

And, on my soul, you’re growing gray.

I like to think, when Toper Time

Has drained the last of me and you,

Some here shall say, They both were good, —

The wine we drank, the man we knew.

For All: Happy Old Year gone!
See you on bright New Year's dawn!  elf.ed.

December 27, 2012. For Roger Pearse: two poems for his holiday cheer. The first is in several anthologies, this time from A Little Book of American Humorous Verse, compiled by T. A. Daly, Philadelphia: David McKay Company, 1926; pp. 90-91:

The Prayer of Cyrus Brown
SAM WALTER FOSS (1858-1911)

“The proper way for a man to pray,”

Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,

“And the only proper attitude

Is down upon his knees.”

“No, I should say the way to pray,”

Said Rev. Doctor Wise,

“Is standing straight with outstretched arms

And rapt and upturned eyes.”

“Oh, no; no, no,” said Elder Slow,

“Such posture is too proud:

A man should pray with eyes fast closed

And head contritely bowed.”

“It seems to me his hands should be

Austerely clasped in front,

With both thumbs pointing toward the ground,”

Said Rev. Doctor Blount.

“Las’ year I fell in Hodgkin’s well

Head first,” said Cyrus Brown,

“With both my heels a-stickin’ up,

My head a-pinting down;

“An’ I made a prayer right then an’ there —

Best prayer I ever said,

The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,

A-standing on my head.”

The next one I have only come across in the above collection by Daly; pp. 104-105:

The Irreverent Brahmin

A Hindu Tract

A Brahmin, fat and debonair,

Denied the Potency of Prayer!

“Absurd!” he scoffed, “to say that Gods

At ease on high would stoop to Clods

“And heed our million warring Prayers

To regulate our small Affairs!”

This Dogmatist of early days

Was lost within a jungle’s maze.

Where, wildly ranging wide about

To find a pathway leading out,

Upon a Forest Godling’s Shrine

He chanced, o’erhung with leaf and vine,

And — wonder! horror! — crouching there

A mighty Tiger, bowed in prayer!

(Tail curled, as may be well supposed,

Paws folded, eyes devoutly closed.)

“Strong God,” he heard the Tiger say,

“I pray thee, send to me a Prey!”

The trustful Tiger closed his Prayer. —

Behold! a Brahmin trembling there!

The Brahmin never scoffed a whit.

The Prayer had Answer — He  was It.

I looked and looked and looked, Andrew and David, and I cannot find another funny poem by or about ancient Greeks, your favorite. It was fun looking though. So Rome, again, but two of them by Eugene Field to make up for being the second best choice. This will have to do for now as your Christmas thought. They are also from T. A. Daly’s book again, pp. 76-77:

The Truth About Horace
EUGENE FIELD (1850-1895)

It is very aggravating

To hear the solemn prating

Of the fossils who are stating

That old Horace was a prude;

When we know that with the ladies

He was always raising Hades,

And with many an escapade his

Best productions are imbued.

There’s really not much harm in a

Large number of his carmina,

But these people find alarm in a

Few records of his acts;

So they’d squelch the muse caloric,

And to students sophomoric

They’d present as metaphoric

What old Horace meant for facts.

We have always thought ’em lazy;

Now we adjudge ’em crazy!

Why, Horace was a daisy

That was very much alive!

And the wisest of us know him

As his Lydia verses show him, —

Go, read that virile poem, —

It is No. 25.

He was a very owl, sir,

And starting out to prowl, sir,

You bet he made Rome howl, sir,

Until he filled his date;

With a music-laden ditty

And a classic maiden pretty

He painted up the city,

And Mæcenas paid the freight!

The second one is a very tolerable translation (however freely done) of Horace, by Eugene Field, same book, p. 80.

Horace to Pyrrha
EUGENE FIELD (1850-1895)

What perfumed, posie-dizened sirrah,

With smiles for diet,

Clasps you, O fair but faithless Pyrrha,

On the quiet?

For whom do you bind up your tresses,

As spun-gold yellow, —

Meshes that go, with your caresses,

To snare a fellow?

How will he rail at fate capricious,

And curse you duly!

Yet now he deems your wiles delicious,

You perfect, truly!

Pyrrha, your love’s a treacherous ocean;

He’ll soon fall in there!

Then shall I gloat on his commotion,

For I  have been there!

The Field version is a lot better than John Milton’s translation, (and both are more intelligible to me than the Latin following it) which I found in The poetical works of John Milton, with Introductions by David Masson, London: Macmillan and Co.,1917; pp. 554-555:

(Translated by JOHN MILTON)(1608-1674)

What slender youth, bedew’d with liquid odors,

Courts thee on roses in some pleasant cave,

Pyrrha? For whom bind’st thou

In wreaths thy golden hair,

Plain in thy neatness? O how oft shall he

Of faith and changed gods complain, and seas

Rough with black winds, and storms

Unwonted shall admire!

Who now enjoys thee credulous, all gold,

Who, always vacant, always amiable

Hopes thee, of flattering gales

Unmindful. Hapless they

To whom thou untried seem’st fair. Me, in my vow’d

Picture, the sacred wall declares to have hung

My dank and dropping weeds

To the stern god of sea.

Carmina V.

Quis multâ gracilis te puer in rosâ

Perfusus liquidis urget odoribus,

Grato, Pyrrha, sub antro?

Cui flavam religas comam?

Simplex munditie? Heu, quoties fidem

Mutatosque Deos flebit, et aspera

Nigris æquora ventis

Emirabitur insolens,

Qui nunc te fruitur credulus aureâ ;

Qui semper vacuam, semper amabilem,

Sperat, nescius auræ

Faliacis! Miseri quibus

Intentata nites. Me tabulâ sacer

Votivâ paries indicat uvida

Suspendisse potenti

Vestimenta maris Deo.

Stuff for anybody else — no translation necessary! We can rest our teenier brains, (even though “hic” is also a Latin word). Same book, p. 88:

An Old Bachelor
TUDOR JENKS (1857-1922)

’Twas raw and chill, and cold outside,

With a boisterous wind untamed,

But I was sitting snug within,

Where my good log-fire flamed.

As my clock ticked,

My cat purred,

And my kettle sang.

I read me a tale of war and love,

Brave knights and their ladies fair;

And I brewed a brew of stiff hot-scotch

To drive away dull care.

As my clock ticked,

My cat purred,

And my kettle sang.

At last the candles sputtered out,

But the embers still were bright,

When I turned my tumbler upside down,

An’ bade m’self g’ night!

As th’ ket’l  t-hic-ked,

The clock purred,

And the cat (hic) sang.

Okay! No more red and green. Today was the day my mother, Catharine, was born. She is no longer around to read this page, though. She had a fantastic knowledge of odd information: a veritable store-house of trivia, she was. Cathy read voraciously. She shared this passion with her father, my grandfather. Through him, Cathy discovered Irwin S. Cobb, long ago. Also, just before she died, Cathy mentioned that Ben Franklin had written an essay on Farting. Well, I have since tracked down a copy that was published in 1926 and reprinted in 1937 and maybe one of those volumes is how she heard about it. I don’t know for sure if she and her dad ever read it, but it wouldn’t surprise me. They would read darn near anything.

So here it is, from Benjamin Franklin On Marriage, Privately printed for the Members of the Frankliniana Society, 1929. In my volume, it is unpaginated and bound in with another book, with the cover around both entitled “Facetiæ Frankliniana.” The preface is by the unnamed editor.

The Publisher

THIS Letter was written by Franklin after his scientific Discoveries had been adversely criticized by the Academy to whom it is addressed; but it was never sent, and no doubt sufficiently served its author’s purpose in giving “vent to his Griefs.” It has been owned by the United States nation since 1881, but, available only to Scholars, has until now escaped the eyes of Publishers. Dark Hints by Franklin’s biographers have tainted the air behind its Back, but the Maiden Modesty of even the most contemporary of them, has blushed & halted on the brink of its Release. It was issued privately, in the last century, once in England and once in America; but so far as we can discover, these were its only appearances, were not for sale, and are today practically unobtainable. It therefore remains to the Research, Sympathy and initiative of the AAPE, to give to the Epistle its first Publication, and thus possibly to save it from an undeserved and untimely Fate.

A word of Warning, against any Misinterpretation of our Motives, must be issued. It may be thought by the Ignorant, that the letter was never published because it is Obscene; & by the Curious, that they ware about to read something Lewd. Nothing is farther from the Desire or Intention of the APE, than to print any work of which reasonable People may derive such an opinion; and the Reader is forewarned, that he will find in the following pages no Immorality, Lewdness, or anything else but an innocent and pleasing Vulgarity.


I have perused your late mathematical Prize Question, proposed in lieu of one in Natural Philosophy for the ensuing Year, viz.: “Une Figure quelconque donée, on demande d’y inscrire le plus grand nombre de fois possible une autre figure plus petite quelconque, qui est aussi donnée.”

I was glad to find by these following words, “L’Académie a jugé que cette découverte, en étendant les bornes de nos connoissances, ne seroit pas sans utilité,” that you esteem Utility an essential point in your Enquiries, which has not always been the case with all academies; & I conclude therefore that you have given this Question instead of a philosophical, or, as the learned express it a physical one, because you could not at the time think of a physical one that promised greater Utility.

Permit me then humbly to propose one of that sort for your Consideration, and thro’ you, if you approve it, for the serious Enquiry of learned Physicians, Chemists, etc., of this enlightened Age.

It is universally well known, that in digesting our common food, there is created or produced in the Bowels of human Creatures, a great quantity of Wind.

That the permitting this Air to escape and mix with the Atmosphere, is usually offensive to the Company, from the fetid smell that accompanyes it.

That all well bred People therefore, to avoid giving such offence, forcibly restrain the Efforts of Nature to discharge the Wind.

That so retained contrary to Nature, it not only gives frequently great present pain, but occasions future Diseases such as habitual Cholics, Ruptures, Tympanies, &c., often destructive of the Constitution, and sometimes of Life itself.

Were it not for the odiously offensive smell accompanying such escapes, polite People would probably be under no more Restraint in discharging such Wind in Company, than they are in spitting or in blowing their Noses.

My Prize Question therefore should be:

To discover some Drug, wholesome and not disagreeable, to be mixed with our common food, or sauces, that shall render the natural discharges of Wind from our Bodies not only inoffensive, but agreeable as Perfumes.

That this is not a Chimerical Project & altogether impossible, may appear from these considerations. That we already have some knowledge of means capable of varying that smell. He that dines on stale Flesh, especially with much Addition of Onions, shall be able to afford a Stink that no Company can tolerate; while he that has lived for some time on Vegetables only, shall have the Breath so pure as to be insensible to the most delicate Noses; and if he can manage so as to avoid the Report, he may any where give vent to his Griefs, unnoticed. But as there are many to whom an entire Vegetable Diet would be inconvenient, & as a little quick Lime thrown into a Jakes will correct the amazing quantity of fetid Air arising from the vast Mass of putrid Matter contained in such Places, and render it rather pleasing to the Smell, who knows but that a little Powder of Lime (or some other thing equivalent) taken in our Food, or perhaps a Glass of Lime Water drank at Dinner, may have the same Effect on the Air produced in and issuing from our Bowels? This is worth the experiment. Certain it is also that we have the Power of Changing by slight means the Smell of another Discharge, that of our Water. A few Stems of Asparagus eaten, shall give our Urine a disagreeable Odour; and a Pill of Turpentine no bigger than a Pea shall bestow on it the pleasing smell of Violets. And why should it be thought more impossible in Nature, to find means of making a Perfume of our Wind than of our Water?

For the encouragement of this Enquiry (from the immortal Honour to be reasonably expected by the Inventor) let it be considered of how small importance to Mankind, or to how small a Part of Mankind have been useful those Discoveries in Science that have heretofore made Philosophers famous. Are there twenty Men in Europe this day the happier, or even the easier for any knowledge they have pick’d out of Aristotle? What Comfort can the Vortices of Descartes give to a man who has Whirlwinds in his Bowels! The knowledge of Newton’s mutual Attraction of the Particles of matter, can it afford ease to him who is racked by their mutual Repulsion, and the cruel distentions it occasions? The Pleasure arising to a few Philosophers, from seeing, a few times in their lives, the threads of light untwisted, and separated by the Newtonian Prism into seven colours, can it be compared with the ease and comfort every man living might feel seven times a day, by discharging freely the wind from his Bowels? Especially if it be converted into a Perfume; for the pleasures of one Sense being little inferior to those of another, instead of pleasing the Sight, he might delight the Smell of those about him, and make numbers happy, which to a benevolent mind must afford infinite satisfaction. The generous Soul, who now endeavours to find out whether the friends he entertains like best Claret or Burgundy, Champagne or Madeira, would then enquire also whether they chose Musk or Lilly, Rose or Bergamont, and provide accordingly. And surely such a Liberty of ex-pressing one’s Scenti-iments, & pleasing one another, is of infinitely more importance to human happiness than that Liberty of the Press or of abusing one another, which the English are so ready to fight & die for.

In short, this Invention, if completed, would be, as Bacon expresses it, Bringing Philosophy home to Men’s Business and Bosoms. And I cannot but conclude, that in comparison therewith for universal and continual Utility, the Science of the Philosophers abovementioned, even with the addition, Gentlemen, of your “figure quelconque,” and the figures inscribed in it, are, all together, scarcely worth a


December 25, 2012. Merry Christmas everybody! Here’s a short and sweet Christmas story: Little Piccola, adapted from a story by Cecilia Thaxter.

As far as humor goes, it is impossible to top the dog video from last year (thanks, Tory!), but I was first startled, then amused, to find an early 19th century poem that can still raise a chuckle today in some of us. It is by George Colman, the Younger, a comedian and playwright in England at the turn of the 19th century. From Broad Grins, My Nightgown and Slippers, and Other Humorous Works Prose and Poetical, of George Colman the Younger. Now first Collected. With Life and Anecdotes of the Author, Edited by George B. Buckstone. London: John Camden Hotten, (undated); pp. 327-329.

(George Colman, the Younger)

THREE physicians of London for Yorkshire set out,

Where an earl’s noble stomach was stormed by

the gout;

And to guard the good peer from all future assault

They physicked him into his family vault.

Derry down, &c.

Well paid by his heir, they departed for town,

Saying, “We’ll travel up since my lord travels down;

But at Newark we’ll sup, where let each down his


Pour a large dose of port without shaking the bottle.”

At their inn three roast fowls Doctor Calomel chose,

Which fat Doctor Fingerfee didn’t oppose;

And cried Doctor Isaacs (though he was a Jew),

“Pray garnish dem fowls mid a sausage or two.”

Though the wine was as thick as the three doctors’


They had three pints apiece, and then called for their


Molly chambermaid stared when, with looks mighty


Doctor Calomel bid her pull off his right hand.

When Calomel’s hand was pulled off to put by,

Doctor Fingerfee growled, “Hussy, take out my eye!”

Doctor Isaacs, more mild, said, “Wrap dese up in towels,

And mind you don’t lose dem, my love — dey’re my


In the pantry the chambermaid stowed all these articles

Of the three learned doctors profound in catharticals;

But a hound while they slept, and ne’er dreamed of the


Swallowed up all their property out of the platter.

Cried the maid the next morning, “I’ve lost through


A hand and an eye of two Christian physicians;

Then the wizen Jew doctor, as thin as a lizard,

How he’ll grumble in all he has left — that’s his gizzard!”

But Invention arrived in the midst of her crosses

And bade her repair, not lament o’er her losses;

“A blind thief hangs,” says she, “on the gibbet hard

by; —

I’ll go cut off his hand — but then how get an eye?”

By chance a tom-cat had expired in the night;

And his eye served for Fingerfee’s lost orb of sight;

Then a hog had been butchered — a porker well-grown —

Whose chitterlins Jews might mistake for their own.

Doctor Calomel rose — in this farce the first actor —

And put on the hand of the blind malefactor;

Doctor Fingerfee next drew his purse from his pocket,

Tipped Molly, and popped the cat’s eye in his socket.

Isaacs stowed the intestines; all three left the inn.

“I’ve cheated two Christians,” said Moll, with a grin;

“And how mad the Jew doctor would be should he know

That half his insides is hog’s liver and crow!”

Soon a dame, grown with plethora red in the face,

Called the three doctors to consider her case;

They withdrew to consult; first they talked of the


And next of their supping at Newark together.

Doctor Calomel muttered, “I can’t understand

Since we came from the north, what can ail my right


Not content with its fees, as I walk through the street,

It dives into all the folks’ pockets I meet.

“My disorder,” said Fingerfee, “claims more remark —

I never can close my left eye in the dark;

So wakeful I’ve grown, that this morning at four

I sprang out of bed at a mouse on the floor.”

Doctor Isaacs exclaimed in a pitiful note,

“Dear broders, you see how I’ve dirtied my coat;

’Tis a wonderful ting, but I can’t pass a slough,

Till I roll myshelf in it, just like an old sow.

Now success to the LEARNED of famed WARWICK LANE!

Their profession far be it from me to profane!

I shall hurt no physician, I trust, in the nation

By a laugh at such methods of INOCULATION.

For the day’s finale, how about some odd Noelly facts? Here are some international Christmas customs from When All The World is Kin by Ellen Geyer, on p. 16-17:

The legend of Santa Lucia is reminiscent of the Flight into Egypt. On Christmas Eve Italian children hang wisps of grain and hay upon their doors for St. Lucy who rides through villages on an ass Christmas Eve leaving gifts for good children.

Children who make doubly sure of receiving gifts in Italy also leave their shoes conspicuously near the hearth. In the convents the girls leave stockings at the door of the abbess. These children evidently expect Santa Claus.

The custom of strewing straw or grain or concealing gifts in straw is most common. In Holland the festival Eve is called Strooeinvand (strewing evening); in southern France the custom is connected with the feast of Saint Barbara, December fourth. At this time grain is strewn upon a dish partially filled with water and placed near the hearth. If the grain sprouts heavily by Christmas the coming harvest will be good; if not, the farmers may expect hard times.

The Russian children look for Babousha (Barbara) on Christmas Eve; or rather they do not look for her, for like St. Lucky, St. Nicholas and Kris Kringle, she leaves gifts at the houses of boys and girls who go to bed early on Christmas Eve and keep their eyes shut.

The stories, as has been said, have wound themselves into each other, but there is no need to untangle them. They all tell of the simple faith of little children in the goodness of folk and the beauty of giving with no thought of receiving.

December 24, 2012. For R. V. R., a poem more rueful than funny, though discovered in A Little Book of American Humorous Verse, compiled by T. A. Daly, Philadelphia: David McKay Company, 1926; p. 58:

“Forever and a Day”

I little know or care

If the blackbird on the bough

Is filling all the air

With his soft crescendo now;

For she is gone away,

And when she went she took

The springtime in her look,

The peachblow on her cheek,

The laughter from the brook,

The blue from out the May —

And what she calls a week

Is forever and a day!

It’s little that I mind

How the blossoms, pink or white,

At every touch of wind

Fall a-trembing with delight;

For in the leafy lane,

Beneath the garden-boughs,

And through the silent house

One thing alone I seek.

Until she come again

The May is not the May,

And what she calls a week

Is forever and a day!

For the San Diego branch of the clan, from Sparks of Laughter, Eighth Annual Compilation, Newark: Stewart Anderson, 1928, p. 30:

The Pigeon Won

A pigeon fancier of Los Angeles who brags continually about his homers, finally drove a San Diego friend to desperation.

“Jack,” said he, “I’ll bet you $10 I can take one of your homing piegos to San Diego, that’s only 125 miles from here, turn the pigeon loose, and it won’t be back in three days.” The pigeon man laughed uproariously and accepted the bet readily.

His friend left at once with a homing pigeon in a cage. Arrived in San Diego on Saturday, he carefully clipped all the bird’s wing feathers, took him to a friend’s suburban estate where the bird would come to no harm, and turned him loose. Then he drove back to Los Angeles to collect his bet.

Sunday afternoon he called the pigeon man. No bird. Monday he called again. No bird. This time the pigeon man was plainly worried. Tuesday the San Diego man went around to collect his money.

“So your bird hasn’t come in yet, has he?” jeered the clever one.

“Yes, he has, too,” was the reply. “He came in this noon, but his feet are pretty darn sore.”

— Everybodys Magazine.

For Bill Thayer, from the the above-mentioned book by Daly, p. 129:

Lay of Ancient Rome

Oh, the Roman was a rogue,

He erat was, you bettum;

He ran his automobilis

And smoked his cigarettum;

He wore a diamond studibus

And elegant cravattum,

A maxima cum laude shirt,

And such a stylish hattum!

He loved the luscious hic-hæc-hoc,

And bet on games and equi;

At times he won; at others, though,

He got it in the nequi;

He winked (quo usque tandem?)

At puellas on the Forum,

And sometimes even made

Those goo-goo oculorum!

He frequently was seen

At combats gladiatorial,

And ate enough to feed

Ten boarders at Memorial;

He often went on sprees

And said, on starting homus,

“Hic labor — opus est,

Oh, where’s my hic — hic — domus?”

Although he lived in Rome —

Of all the arts the middle —

He was (excuse the phrase)

A horrid individ᾿l;

Ah! what a different thing

Was the homo (dative, hominy)

Of far away B. C.

From us of Anno Domini.

And for both James Eason and Bill Thayer, in multiple joke books between 1910 or so and 1928 or so:

Aviator’s Companion: “What city are we over now?”

Aviator: “Look down and tell me what you see?”

Aviator’s Companion: “Two holdups.”

Aviator: “Chicago.”

December 21, 2012. As a Christmas present for my Dutch buddy, Jona Lendering, I offer three oblations — can you tell I am typing old Roman poetry? Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!

1. From the 17th century, in The Birds of the Latin Poets, by Ernest Whitney Martin, Stanford University, California, published by the University, 1914; p. 191.

The first poetic list of American birds:

Of Birds, there is a knavish robbing crew,

Which constantly the smaller tribes pursue;

The hawk and eagle swoop the azure blue,

With sharp eyes prying.

The chicken saker-hawk, with talons fell;

The sparrow-hawk; the vigilant castrel

Watching his enemy, till he may reel

And faint in flying.

The duck, the goose, the turkey, the proud swan,

The diver and the heron and the crane,

The snipe, the curlew, merlin and moorhen,

The foremost vieing;

The dove and pheasant, thievish blackbird, quail;

The widgeon, which an epicure may hail;

The teal and bob-o’-lincoln, all avail

For man’s enjoyment.

But names are wanting wholly to explain

The numerous species of the feathered train;

And surely the recital were a vain

Misspent employment. — JACOB STEENDAM.

(’Tlof VAN Niuv-Nederland, 1661.

  Translated by Henry C. Murphy, 1861.)

2. A poem from the 18th century, from Broad Grins, My Nightgown and Slippers, and Other Humorous Works Prose and Poetical, of George Colman the Younger. Now first Collected. With Life and Anecdotes of the Author, Edited by George B. Buckstone. London: John Camden Hotten, (undated); p. 360.

(George Colman, the Younger)

Mynheer Vandunck, though he never was drunk,

Sipped brandy and water gaily;

And he quenched his thirst with two quarts of the first,

To a pint of the latter daily;

Singing, “Oh, that a Dutchman’s draught could be

As deep as the rolling Zuyder-Zee!”

Water well mingled with spirit good store

No Hollander dreams of scorning;

But of water alone he drinks no more

Than a rose supplies

When a dew-droop lies

On its bloom in a summer morning;

For a Dutchman’s draught should potent be,

Though deep as the rolling Zuyder-Zee.

3. A 19th or very early 20th century American offering, from Masterpieces of Wit and Humor, by L. G. Stahl, 1903, p. 293:


A most valuable exterminator was a Dutch peddler’s bed-bug medicine. Having sold a box of it for half a dollar, the purchaser, a green Dutchman, made inquiry as to how it should be used.

“Vell, Jake, how you use dot bug poison?”

“You catch te pug, opens his mout und drops it in.”

“Ish dot te vay?”


“Vell, I yoost cotch dem, tramp dem mit my foot, und kill dem dot vay.”

“Oh, yah, dat’s a goot vay, too.”

And for antiquarian chefs, some more Christmas dishes, besides frumenty (see below) to try this season, from Faiths and Folk-Lore, A Dictionary of National Beliefs, Superstitions and popular Customs, Past and Current, with their Classical and Foreign Analogues, Described and Illustrated, by W. Carew Hazlitt:

Pepper Cakes. — In Yorkshire (Cleveland) the children eat, at the Christmas season, according to Mr. Atkinson, “a kind of gingerbread baked in large and thick cakes, or flat loaves,” called pepper-cakes. They are also usual at the birth of a child. “One of these cakes,” says Mr. A., “is provided and a cheese; the latter is on a large platter, or dish, and the pepper-cake upon it. The cutting of the Christmas cheese is done by the master of the house on Christmas Eve, and is a ceremony not to be lightly omitted. All comers to the house are invited to partake of the pepper-cake and Christmas cheese.” Cleveland Glosssary, 1868, in v.

Pudding, Christmas. — It is thought to be lucky to stir one’s neighbours’ puddings, and some women even now will go some distance to do so. I have understood that the Irish set their Christmas pudding on the fire at midnight on Christmas-Eve, and let it boil till the following mid-day.

December 18, 2012. Barring a few potential problems with viewing the online coding of obscure punctuation marks in epigraphy, another chapter is online: Chapter IX, The Phrygian Dirge by Sir William M. Ramsay, from “Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation,” The Gifford Lectures in the University of Edinburgh, 1915-1916.

Much of this chapter was of little interest to me. Of course I did like the bit about the Doctor he knew, who was murdered, but who Ramsay believed was also the author of some notebooks of inscriptions that had never been attributed to him.

Ramsay also confirms a long-held belief of mine. He talks about the near hysteria of the excitable people from Anatolia (Turkey, and surroundings) when mourning. This is a characteristic he often observed over the decades he spent living among them. I, too, have seen some of that, personally — women in labor have different cultural approaches to that process, and childbirth is often not accompanied by a stoical silence in people of Mediterranean origin (and there is a lot of variation in different groups as a whole in diffferent regions in America). Anybody else can compare it with the propensity to riot in the streets which can be seen on the news (including the sports pages) in all of the lands bordering the Mediterranean, including Italy, Greece, and Turkey. This tendency has persisted over centuries. Read Villani (on this site) and see how the Italians communes would frequently riot and massacre, en masse at the drop of the hat, for no apparent reason whatsoever.

This all leads me to suspect that to native Greeks Homer in his own tongue reveals a whole different range of emotions than the ones the English translations have led us to believe. The tone of the translations by the British (imitated by American translators) reflects all the ‘manly’ self restraint and noble view of suffering in silence — stiff upper lip included — that is so prized by the Anglos of the last 200 years or so as a heroic role model.

However, by picking a meaning that European translators think is admirable, and which is at the other end of the emotional spectrum of the possible ways of translating key words of the original Greek, a whole different story is then told. When if, say, a more emotionally fraught adjective, adverb or verb was chosen to translate the original — it may in fact be the preferred choice in the view of the native speakers of the language as a reflection of the true meaning or feeling expressed. Then a more dramatic word may be the more correct choice. Wailing instead of weeping, screaming instead of shouting, raping maidens instead of merely capturing them, cringing not wincing, slobbering not salivating — you get the idea.

Because those low-key, less emotive, choices were made, I think our picture of the Iliad and Odyssey, while worthy, may not reflect the true characters and actions of the original heroes, in light of the reality of their culture. The proper emotional coloring given to translations, in light of the regional behavioral norms would more accurately portray the events, as well as feelings.

As Ramsay also says, generally, the sorts of reactions or behaviors of a nation in stress do not change rapidly, or in the case of those surrounding the bereavement process in the Middle East, have not changed for a milennia.

Anyway, I studied Homeric Greek for a short while, planning on a new translation: Homer with Affect! But I got side-tracked. But I did enough to see that a whole new story could be told with a change in the choice of possible English words, equally permissible but stronger, for almost every Greek one and would more accurately reflect the characteristic heights and depths of expression that characterize people that are not from the frozen North (inside and out).

After reading this chapter I think Ramsay might agree with me that it should be done. Maybe I’ll go back to it some day. It has to be more fun than proofreading or trying to approach decent print typographical standards on web pages whose typographical designers are people who only communicate on a 3x5 inch screen.

Now for positive emotional impact. A week early, but you may want to memorize them in anticipation of putting them to joyful use in the next weeks. I hope you have the chance! From Good Toasts and Funny Stories, compiled and edited by Arthur LeRoy Kaser, Minneapolis: T. S. Denison & Company, 1923, pp. 91-92:


Come guard this night the Christmas pie

That the thief, though ne’er so sly,

With his flesh-hooks, don’t come nigh

To catch it.

Robert Herrick.


I with you a Merry Christmas

And a Happy New Year,

A pocket full of money,

And a cellar full of beer!


Apple pie and Simon Beer,

Christmas comes but once a year.

Old Southern saying.


To the stout sirloin

And the rich spiced wine,

And the boar’s head grimly staring,

To the frumenty,

And the hot mince pie

Which all the folks were for sharing.

Naturally, one wonders what in the heck is frumenty? In one of those weird coincidences, I just read about it two days ago, in When All The World is Kin by Ellen Geyer, on p. 24-25, I find this:

It is true that fish and fowl found a large part of early English diet, but an ancient recipe book yields what was evidently a favorite pudding:


“Take clean wheat, and bray it in a mortar that the hulls be all gone off, and seeth it till it burst, and take it up and let it cool, and take clean fresh broth and sweet milk of almonds, or sweet milk of kine, and temper it all and take the yolks of eggs. Boil it a little, and set it down and mess it forth with fat venison or fresh mutton.”

After that break, skipping to an easier to code chapter, about the days when women ruled in the Middle East. Online from “Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation,” The Gifford Lectures in the University of Edinburgh, 1915-1916: Chapter XVIII, Anatolian Women by Sir William M. Ramsay.

Also easy and online by Ramsay: Chapter XIII, The Wagon (Benna).

And the last selection in the last volume is online: The Two Brothers, from Volume XXX, of The International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Editor-in-Chief: Harry Thurston Peck; The International Bibliophile Society, New York; 1901.

It is the expanded version of the existing remnants of the original Egyptian story on papyrus, which can be found translated in its fragmentary form on this site, too, (along with an interesting story about the history of the discovery of the papyrus): The Oldest Story in the World. Now, this one happens to be in another series by the same Bibliophile Society, but was printed a couple of years later !!! In this, the earlier series, the story has been demoted, although the editors mention that it too has been called the “The Oldest Story in the World,” but that the The Ship-wrecked Sailor below (the story before this one in this volume), is more properly called “The Oldest Story in the World”, as it was written 1000 years before The Two Brothers.

Oh, and while I may do the Contents page for this volume shortly, it will only be after the other 29 volumes that I complete this Vol. XXX in its entirety, when I transcribe its final pages. Those consist of a 72 pages compassing a pronouncing dictionary, and several indexes by authors, time periods, and types!

And four of Stewart Anderson’s selection of the best airplane jokes of 1925, included in Sparks of Laugher, Sixth Annual Compilation of 1925, (p. 19); the first one being the worst but they get better:

Preserver Indeed

When flying, a pilot fell into a canal. A man on the towing path promptly dove in and brought him safely to land.
     “Ah, my preserver, you’ve saved my life,” gasped the pilot. “How can I repay you, my preserver”
     “Nah, then, guv-nor, that’s all right, but don’t kid a bloke ’cos ’e works at a jam factory.”

Would Play Safe

George had taken his country cousin to look over the airdrome. When he had seen all there was to see, George said to his companion, “Now, we’ll go for a joy ride in one of the machines.”
     “I may be old-fashioned, but I don’t care very much for going on a trip in one of these new-fangled things,” replied Jim.
     “Oh, don’t be a fool!” laughed the other. “Why you may live to see airplanes running like omnibus service!”
     “Yes, I may, if I keep out of them,” was the cautious reply.

— Atlanta Journal.

The Law of Gravity

The airman was explaining the use of the parachute to a group of listeners.
     “And what would happen if the parachute failed to open after you jumped off?” asked the listener.
     “Oh, that wouldn’t stop me” repied the airman. “I’d come down just the same.”

— Everybody’s Magazine.

Apparently Not

     “And then, thousands of feet above the cruel ledges,” said the talkative balloonist, “I pulled the string that released me, knowing well that should my parachute fail to open I would dash my poor brains out on the rocks beneath.”
     “And did it?” inquired the interested girl.

December 13, 2012. I have been working on difficult things, like proofreading, typing Indexes, and re-formatting poetry so that it will look purtier on smaller screens, but only on some of the pages. It is a big deal to change and so if you find some poetry on older pages that you want to read on a smaller screen that I have not fixed yet, let me know and I will change it on demand! Going forward, it will not be a problem, hopefully. There is a lot of poetry on this site and it is a torturously boring thing to fix. In the meantime, if you do not want to ask, just make your browser window wider and it will look pretty good.

Online and proofed, from The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, by Venerable Bede, first translated by John Stevens, revised and corrected by John A. Giles:

Book IV, Chapters I-XV,
Book IV, Chapters XVI-XXXII,
Book V, Chapters I-XI,
Book V, Chapters XII-XXIV.

November 28, 2012. Some jokes, like I promised: From Up-To-Date Stage Conundrums, compiled by E. C. Lewis, Boston: The Mutual Book Company, 1903. The book is unpaginated, so I have picked out some of the better ones:

Why did the fly fly? Because the spider spider.

What does a man learn in college? To express his ignorance in scientific terms.

What is the difference between a summer dress in winter and an extracted tooth? One is too thin, the other tooth out.

What is the difference between a pastrycook and a billsticker? One puffs up paste, the other pastes up puffs.

If a hen laid an orange what would her chickens say? See the orange marmalade.

Why is a retired carpenter like a lecturer? Because he is an ex-planer.

What was the name of Washington’s valet? Valley-Forge.

November 27, 2012. After some research, I have found out some interesting stuff about Jay Elmer House (aka ‘Dodd Gaston’), and I have included it in the Online Introduction to At the Grass Roots, by Elmer House, which is his collection of editorials.

The book is now complete, including the Title, Foreward by House, and Table of Contents!

Also up, from The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, by Venerable Bede, first translated by John Stevens, revised and corrected by John A. Giles:

Book III, Chapters I-XIV,
Book III, Chapters XV-XXX,

And that is not all! Now online from Volume XXX, of The International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Editor-in-Chief: Harry Thurston Peck; The International Bibliophile Society, New York; 1901, including:

Tragedy, French style, with a photograph of the author: The Attack on the Mill, by Émile Zola (1840-1902).

From ancient, ancient Egypt, The Oldest Story in the World — “The Ship-wrecked Sailor,” “written by the scribe of cunning fingers, Ameniamenaa,” adapted by W. M. Flinders Petrie in his “Egyptian Tales.”

Whew! I have several jokes, too, but I will save them until tomorrow. Stay tuned!

November 22, 2012. Happy Thanksgiving, all!

A little Thanksgiving story, circa 1905, is online: “The Girl In ‘Googly-Goo,’ ” from At The Grass Roots, by Elmer House (‘Dodd Gaston’).

A better Thanksgiving story is the editorial by C. D. Strode, put up last year: “Thoughts On Thanksgiving,” from Cornfield Philosophy.

The rest of Elmer House’s book is online, except the title pages, Forward and Table of Contents. Although generally unexciting, after reading these editorials of his, you have a pretty good idea of life in a small frontier town in a farming community in the 1880’s, and you also get a good feeling for the character of Jay Elmer, and will conclude, like me, that he was a good guy. He does not use nearly enough commas though! The other pieces in the book are:

“The Christmas Of 1883,”
“Society At Rowden’s Ford,”
“A Passing Glance At ’Squire Harmon,”
“The Uplift At Doane,”
“The Neighborhood Fiddler,”
“The Neighborhood’s Gayer Side,”
“The Princess Enters,”
“The Lure Of The Circus,” (this is my favorite, because of the mental pictures it evokes),
“When Flora Died,”
“The Ghost At Scott’s Church,”
“Back At Grigsby’s Station,”
“Going Back To Grandmother’s,”
“The Passing Of Muskogee Red,”
“An Apostrophe To The Rabbit,”
“The Smartest Boy In School,”
“The Old District Judge,”
“The Opolis Daily Sun,”
“Brother Bill,”
“Her First Real Tragedy,”
“The Prince Business,”
“My Friend The Boy,”
“A Pilgrimage Into The Past,”
“The Taking Down Of Heston,”
“When A Man Is Worthless,” and
“On Licking Nick Hartley,”

From Anecdota Americana, Five Hundred Stories for the Amusement of the Five Hundred Nations That Comprise America, (anonymous), New York: Nesor Publishing Company, 1934:


Walter Winchell tells about an editor who, wanting to insult a contributor, and yet not daring to do so openly, said to him as he was leaving the office: “Good by, old boy, and when you get home throw your mother a bone.”


They tell some sweet ones about President Hoover, particularly one about a visit to ex-President Coolidge’s farm. They discussed matters of state policy for hours, without coming to any agreement. Finally they walked out of the house together, and Hoover stopped to count the cows in one of the fenced off fields. “Forty-four,” he announced, “and I suppose if you got a bull amongst them tonight you’d pretty soon have forty-four more.” “I don’t know,” drawled Coolidge, “but I would have forty-four contented cows.”


Eugene O’Neill was cruising the Mediterranean recently when he caught sight of a powerful glass on the captain’s deck. He immediately made his way to it, and began to look out over the rim of the ocean. suddenly he felt an arm on his shoulder. “Sorry, sir,” said a voice. “This is the captain’s bridge. No one is allowed here.” O’Neill looked up. “Do you know whom you’re talking to sir?” The captain shook his head. “You’re talking to the greatest living playwright, sir,” declared O’Neill. “Sorry,” said the captain, “but you’ll have to get off anyway, Mr. Shaw.”


“The triangle,” says Benjamin de Casseres, “was invented by Euclid, tested by Don Juan, and brought to perfection by scenario writers.”


The stories now began to come swiftly and steadily. It will be useless to even try to remember who told which story. The next one was of the new Irish maid, from the wilds of Ireland, who had found in bed one of the contrivances of the race towards its own curtailment, and held it up questioningly to her mistress. “Don’t you do those things in Ireland,” asked the mistress, blushing. “Yes,” replied the maid, “we do, ma’am. But we don’t skin them.”

November 20, 2012. In honor of Sammy Sue, Pliny, Pibba and Murphy, by an editorial writer from Topeka, Kansas: “In Memory of an Ornery Pup,” from At The Grass Roots, by Elmer House (‘Dodd Gaston’).

The full name of the author is Jay Elmer House, and he appears to have remained a life-long bachelor, references being made to collections and/or archives of his work being handled by his sister. From this collection, he appears to have been a ladies-man, and a dandy. He happily left the farm for the big city, but these are some of his editorials about his early days on a farm on the Kansas frontier.

Back to the Early Middle Ages (aka The Dark Ages). Now online, from The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, by Venerable Bede, first translated by John Stevens, revised and corrected by John A. Giles:

Book I, Chapters I-XVII,
Book I, Chapters XVIII-XXXIV,
Book II, Chapters I-IX, and
Book II, Chapters X-XX.

This is the Everyman’s Library Edition, with an introduction by Scudder. The true authors of the original translation, Stevens and Giles are not credited at all — anywhere in the book or by its reviewers. This book was re-released in multiple editions, with several different people doing the Introduction, each of whom got the credit for the translation!!!! Scummy, slimy, and sleazy, don’t you think? And this is regular practice amongst many so-called academic and other ‘reputable’ publishing houses. Not only that, nobody bothered to correct any of the typos from the very first edition 60 years previously! Incredible, and pitiful, too.

This sort of behavior would never have surprised Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914 [?]), who had an acerbic wit, often harsh, who vanished in 1914 and his disappearance remains a great mystery. A sample of his work, from Fantastic Fables, 1899:


Two Dogs who had been fighting for a bone, without advantage to either, referred their dispute to a Sheep. The Sheep patiently heard their statements, then flung the bone into a pond.

“Why did you do that?” said the Dogs.

“Because,” replied the Sheep, “I am a vegetarian.”


A Man in a Hurry, whose watch was at his lawyer’s, asked a Grave Person the time of day.

“I heard you ask that Party Over There the same question,” said the Grave Person. “What answer did he give you?”

“He said it was about three o’clock,” replied the Man in a Hurry; “but he did not look at his watch, and as the sun is nearly down I think it is later.”

“The fact that the sun is nearly down,” the Grave Person said, “is immaterial, but the fact that he did not consult his timepiece and make answer after due deliberation and consideration is fatal. The answer given,” continued the Grave person, consulting his own timepiece, “is of no effect, invalid, and void.”

“What, then” said the Man in a Hurry, eagerly, “is the time of day?”

“The question is remanded to the Party Over There for a new answer,” replied the Grave Person, returning his watch to his pocket and moving away with great dignity.

He was a Judge of an Appellate Court.


A Married Woman, whose lover was about to reform by running away, procured a pistol and shot him dead.

“Why did you do that, Madam?” inquired a policeman, sauntering by.

“Because,” replied the Married Woman, “he was a wicked man, and had purchased a ticket to Chicago.”

“My sister,” said an adjacent Man of God, solemnly, “you cannot stop the wicked from going to Chicago by killing them.”

November 18, 2012. I found a funny guy, from the Civil War era (United States). He illustrates that inefficiency, profligacy and idiocy in government procurement has a hallowed and venerable past. Read The Latest Improvements In Artillery, by Orpheus C. Kerr, the pen name of Robert Henry Newell (1836-1901).

November 13, 2012. More is online from Volume XXX, of The International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Editor-in-Chief: Harry Thurston Peck; The International Bibliophile Society, New York; 1901, including:

A tearjerking excerpt — how the Victorians loved ‘pathetic’ writing, (as in full of pathos), “Death of Guy Morville,” from The Heir of Redclyffe, by Charlotte Mary Yonge (1823-1901).

In between stoically suppressed sniffling as I typed this selection, I was curious to read about “death damp”: sweat on the forehead of a person in his last moments. All my reading on terminal events hasn’t mentioned it. I’ll check more deeply. [Part of my job is to read medical literature — a lot of it, too.]

Some poems are next in Volume 30, by an 18th century English poet and diplomat: “Procrastination,” “The Death of Friends,” “Aspiration,”and “Silence and Darkness,” from Night Thoughts, by Edward Young (1681-1765).

I don’t care for Edward Young’s stuff, too abstract and doleful, but in the first poem, “Procrastination,” there are these lines which I do like: “All pay themselves the compliment to think they one day shall not drivel.” Drivel, as in drool. People would eat better to avoid the more likely consequence of a bad diet, which is not death but strokes, and dementia, and other disabling, humiliating conditions. Most just believe that they’ll die a sudden quick death, sparing themselves this, but the odds are against it.

The last lines of “Procrastination,” are the best reason to have suffered the rest:

All promise is poor dilatory man,
And that through every stage: when young indeed,
In full content we sometimes nobly rest,
Unanxious for ourselves; and only wish,
As duteous sons, our fathers were more wise.
At thirty man suspects himself a fool,
Knows it at forty and reforms his plan;
At fifty chides his infamous delay,
Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve;
In all the magnanimity of thought
Resolves, and re-resolves, — then dies the same.

The last poem here, “Silence and Darkness,” has the oft-quoted “Night, sable goddess!”

A short prose excerpt follows these poems, by a fellow Britisher a century later. It is worth reading to the end just for relief, despite, the first few pages, (the humor is easier to find, but still sly): An excerpt, “A New Matrimonial Relation” by Israel Zangwill, (18-19).

I was interested to see that the phrase “oopsi-daisey” was being used back then (1891).

Although the last extract was amusing, more humor is in order! Here is one that seems to be a natural segue from Zangwill’s story, from Masterpieces of Wit and Humor, with Stories and an Introduction by Robert J. Burdette, Copyright 1908 by L. Stahl (no publisher noted), p. 453:


“Well, Sam, I’ll tell you how it is. You see, I married a widow, and this widow had a daughter. Then my father, being a widower, married our daughter, so you see my father is my own son-in-law.”
     “Yes, I see.”“Then again my step-daughter is my step-mother, ain’t she? Well, then, her mother is my grandmother, ain’t she? I am married to her, ain’t I? So that makes me my own grandfather, doesn’t it?”

That wasn’t all the funny, but sort of apt after the story above. Here are some better ones from this book. On p. 168:


A Chicago man was invited to speak at a local gathering, and being nobody in particular, was placed last on the list of speakers. Moreover, the chairman introduced several speakers whose names were not on the list, and the audience was tired out when he said, introducing the final speaker, “Mr. Brown will now give us his address.”
     “My address,” said Mr. Brown, rising, “is 551 Lafayette avenue, and I wish you all good night.”

From p. 236:


“What did you have at the first saloon you stopped?"” asked a lawyer of a witness in an assault and battery case.
     “What did we have? Four glasses of ale, sir.”
     “What next?”
     “Two glasses of whisky.”
     “One glass of brandy.”
     “A fight.”

Last for today, from p. 170:


Mr. D. C. French, the sculptor, tells with much relish the story of his experiences when he was commissioned to make the bust of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the philosopher and poet, which is now in Memorial Hall of Harvard University.
     At one of the sittings, says Mr. French, Mr. Emerson rose suddenly and walked over to where the artist was working. He looked long and earnestly at the bust, and then, with an inimitably droll expression, he said:
     “The trouble is the more it resembles me the worse it looks.”

November 12, 2012. Now online, the very first story in the 10 volume collection that Tor(e)y gave me (and more depressing than funny!): Melons, by Bret Harte, from The Wit and Humor of America, edited by Marshall P. Wilder, Volume I, New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

I have also reproofed most, fixed the coding and style, and moved the existing 14 chapters from the long incomplete (but fascinating) Introduction to the History of History, by James T. Shotwell, Columbia University Press; New York; 1922.

Professor Shotwell had a long, worthy career which included working on the post-war peace plans after World Wars I and II, advocating for social justice. He helped to found the International Labor Organization.

November 5, 2012. Complete! Huzzah! Including Index, and Dobson’s Preface: The Greek Orators, by John F. Dobson.

Also some more from Volume XXX, of The International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Editor-in-Chief: Harry Thurston Peck; The International Bibliophile Society, New York; 1901, including:

Several poems, a few I like, especially amazing for their time (Regency England), by a good friend of Coleridge, “Lines Composed a few Miles above Tintern Abbey,” “She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways,” “Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower,” “She was a Phantom of Delight,” “The Solitary Reaper,” “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” “The World is too much with Us,” “Ode to Duty,” “Intimations of Immortality,” “To the Small Celandine,” “We are Seven,” and “The Pet Lamb,” by William Wordsworth (1770-1850).

Included in these, is that extra good reason to plant my spring bulbs on time this year, and pray for some naturalization!

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.
By William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
     That floats on high o’er vales and hills:
When all at once I saw a crowd,
     A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
     And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
     Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
     Outdid the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay
     In such a jocund company.
I gazed — and gazed — but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
     In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
     Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Also from the same volume, two more good poems, by a British diplomat, from 200 years earlier, too: “To His Mistress, Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia,” and “Character of a Happy Life,” by Sir Henry Wotton (1568-1639).

And two tantalizing excerpts of a book I have never read (now regrettably), despite its Disney fame, by a British diplomat, from 100 years earlier, too: “The Shipwreck,” and “A Permanent Home,” from The Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann Rudolf Wyss (1781-1830).

November 2, 2012. Online today, and less opaque, with some personal reminiscences of Ramsay’s experiences in Turkey: Chapter VIII, The Village Right by Sir William M. Ramsay, from “Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation,” The Gifford Lectures in the University of Edinburgh, 1915-1916.

From Pickings from Lobby Chatter in the Cincinnati Enquirer, by “Ah There!” (Al Thayer), 1894 (no publisher noted), p. 25:

The following conversation was heard the other evening in the dressing room of one of our theaters:

“By the way, Susie, how old are you”

“I’m as old as I look.”

“I thought you were younger than that.”

November 1, 2012. The power waited to go out until the day after the storm with no precipitation at all in the area of the outage. Go figure! At least it was only out for 4 hours.

Online today, short but oddly opaque: Chapter V, Nemesis and Justice by Sir William M. Ramsay, from “Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation,” The Gifford Lectures in the University of Edinburgh, 1915-1916.

Is it too soon for something funny? No! Here’s a story about Joseph Joachim, a famous Hungarian musician, from Musicians’ Wit, Humour & Anecdote, by Frederick J. Crowest, London and Newcastle-on-Tyne: Walter Scott Publishing Co., Ltd., and New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1902; p. 346-347:

Cut Him! — During one of his visits to London, Joachim, the great violinist, entered a barber’s shop for a shave, and finding himself unknown, he preserved his incognito. “Hair cut, sir?” questioned the assistant, eyeing Joachim’s flowing locks with an air of proprietorship. The musician, however, expressed himself quite satisfied with the length of his hair; but the barber persisted. “Trifle long at the back, sir,” he volunteered. Joachim said it was the way he liked it, and thus silenced the barber for a few minutes. “Rather thin on the top, sir,” he ventured presently, but the musician only glared at him and tossed his abundance of hair. Presently the man began the attack again with, “Just trim the edges for you, sir? Half-an-inch all round, sir?” Joachim remained obdurate, and the barber, losing patience, remarked, “Well, of course, if you want to look like a German musician it’s no good talking.”

Also up, from Volume XXX, of The International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Editor-in-Chief: Harry Thurston Peck; The International Bibliophile Society, New York; 1901:

A depressing little excerpt, “Peter the Parson,” from Castle Nowhere, by Constance Fenimore Woolson (1838-1894).

From “Grin, Groan, and Grunt, A compilation of the best jokes that have appeared in our magazine, Typo Graphic, over a period of twenty-five years,” Pittsburgh: Edwin H. Stuart, Inc.; p. 36:

“Where d’ya get the black, eye, corporal?”
“In the war!”
“What war?”
“The boudoir!”

Plugging along at this book, from The Mediaeval Mind, by Henry Osborn Taylor:

Part I: Irish Activities; Columbanus of Luxeuil, from Chapter IX: The Bringing of Christianity and Antique Knowledge to the Northern Peoples.

October 30, 2012. I am sitting in a snowstorm! Who knows if the power will go out? So I will add a little at a time today.

Online: Chapter IV, The Law of Land-Ownership in Western Asia by Sir William M. Ramsay, from “Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation,” The Gifford Lectures in the University of Edinburgh, 1915-1916.

From A Batch of Smiles, Selected from Many Sources, by Carleton B. Case, 1917, p. 148:


At a certain college in the north of England the male students were not permitted to visit the resident lady boarders. One day a male student was caught in the act of doing so and was court-martialed.

The head master, addressing him, said: “Well, Mr. Blank, the penalty for the first offense is 50 cents, for the second $2.50, for the third $5, and so on, up to $15.”

In solemn tones the trespasser said; “How much would a season ticket cost?”

Now online from Volume XXX, of The International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Editor-in-Chief: Harry Thurston Peck; The International Bibliophile Society, New York; 1901:

Another (mildly) funny excerpt, by the American novelist, Owen Wister, from a book written before The Virginian, which has a funny excerpt online here, “Miss Elaine Loses her Heart,” from The Dragon of Wantley, by Owen Wister (1860-1938).

But this is much, much more amusing, from Oldham's Amusing and Instructive Reader, New York: Ivison & Phinney, 1854; p. 99-100:


1.  No plate had John and Joan to hoard,
           Plain folk in humble plight;
      One only tankard crowned their board,
             And that was fill’d each night:

2.  Along whose inner bottom sketched,
           In pride of chubby grace,
      Some rude engraver’s hand had etched
           A baby’s angel-face.

3.  John swallowed first a moderate sup;
           But Joan was not like John;
      For when her lips once touched the cup,
           She drank till all was gone.

4.  John often urged her to drink fair,
           But she ne’er changed a jot;
      She loved to see the angel  there,
           And therefore drained the pot.

5.  When John found all remonstrance vain,
           Another card he played;
      And where the angel stood so plain,
           Had Satan’s  form portrayed.

6.  Joan saw the horns, Joan saw the tail,
           Yet Joan as stoutly quaffed;
      And ever as she seiz’d her ale,
           She clear’d it at a draught.

7.  John stared, with wonder petrified,
           His hair stood on his pate;
      And “Why dost guzzle now,” he cried,
           “At this enormous rate?”

8.  “Oh, John,” she said, “am I to blame?
           I can’t, in conscience, stop:
      For sure ’twould be a burning shame
           To leave the devil a drop! ”


    Thus Pleasure, in angelic  form,
           Oft lures to drink and revel:
      Well knowing, when the taste you form,
           You’ll drink despite the devil.

October 28, 2012. More odd folktales are online from Tales from the Fjeld, A Series of Popular Tales from the Norse of P. Ch. Asbjörnsen, by Sir George Dasent, illustrated by Moyr Smith:

The Companion,

The Shopboy and his Cheese,

Peik, replete with cross-dressing,

Death and the Doctor,

The Way of the World,

The Pancake (now it finally has its pictures), and the last for now:

Pork and Honey.

Sturm und Giggles, from Anecdota Americana, Five Hundred Stories for the Amusement of the Five Hundred Nations That Comprise America, (anonymous), New York: Nesor Publishing Company, 1934; p. 18:


A young Dutchman called for jury duty, and wanting to get out of it, listened to the excuses given by those called before him, and noticed that men pleading that their wives were about to be confined, got away the easiest. When his turn came, he said: “Please, your honor, my wife is about to get in a family way any minute, and I want to be there when it happens.”

Also on the same page:


Somebody remembered a limerick:

There was a young lady named Wilde
Who kept herself quite undefiled
     By thinking of Jesus
     Venereal diseases
And the bother of having a child.

Now one from p. 67:


The neighboring woods were being invaded by wolves and the mother skunk and her family fled for shelter. But as the howling of the wolves came closer she finally decided to make a last stand. “Let us form a circle, dear children,” she called out, “and spray.”

October 25, 2012. Now online from Volume XXX, of The International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Editor-in-Chief: Harry Thurston Peck; The International Bibliophile Society, New York; 1901:

An excerpt from the speech for the prosecution of Aaron Burr, “Burr and Blennerhasset,” from Speech in Kennedy’s Memoirs of Wirt, by William Wirt (1772-1834),

Two poems, “The Old Oaken Bucket” and “We Are One,” by Samuel Woodworth (1785-1842),

Some poems, “Song: The Lover’s Lute Cannot be Blamed,” “How the Lover Perisheth in his Delight as the Fly in the Fire,” “A Renouncing of Love,” “The Lover Prayeth not to be Disdained, Refused, Mistrusted, nor Forsaken” by Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542).

An excerpt, “Fort of the Taochi Stormed,” from the Anabasis, by Xenophon (431-341 B. C.),

October 24, 2012. A poem to memorize to payback all those trick-or-treaters next week. Make ’em have to listen to it before you fork over the candy:its got its own page too: Nine Little Goblins, by James Whitcomb Riley. It is included in Volume IX, of The Wit and Humor of America.


They all climbed up on a high board-fence —
     Nine little Goblins with green-glass eyes —
Nine little Goblins that had no sense,
     And couldn’t tell coppers from cold mince pies;
          And they all climbed up on the fence, and sat —
          And I asked them what they were staring at.

And the first one said, as he scratched his head
     With a queer little arm that reached out of his ear
And rasped its claws in his hair so red —
     “This is what this little arm is fer!”
          And he scratched and stared, and the next one said
          “How on earth do you scratch your head?”

And he laughed like the screech of a rusty hinge —
     Laughed and laughed till his face grew black;
And when he choked, with a final twinge
     Of his stifling laughter, he thumped his back
          With a fist that grew on the end of his tail
          Till the breath came back to his lips so pale.

And the third little Goblin leered round at me —
     And there were no lids on his eyes at all —
And he clucked one eye, and he says, says he,
     “What is the style of your socks this fall?”
          And he clapped his heels — and I sighed to see
          That he had hands where his feet should be.

Then a bald-faced Goblin, gray and grim,
     Bowed his head, and I saw him slip
His eyebrows off, as I looked at him,
     And paste them over his upper lip;
          And then he moaned in remorseful pain —
          “Would — Ah, would I’d me brows again!”

And then the whole of the Goblin band
     Rocked on the fence-top to and fro,
And clung, in a long row, hand in hand,
     Singing the songs that they used to know —
          Singing the songs that their grandsires sung
          In the goo-goo days of the Goblin-tongue.

And ever they kept their green-glass eyes
     Fixed on me with a stony stare —
Till my own grew glazed with a dread surmise,
     And my hat whooped up on my lifted hair,
          And I felt the heart in my breast snap-to
          As you’ve heard the lid of a snuff-box do.

And they sang, “You’re asleep! There is no board-
     And never a Goblin with green-glass eyes! —
’Tis only a vision the mind invents
     After a supper of cold mince-pies, —
And you’re doomed to dream this way,” they said, —
“And you sha’ n’t wake up till you ’re clean plum dead!”

All the rest of the Chapters are online from The Greek Orators, by Dobson:

Chapter VI: Isocrates,

Chapter VII: The Minor Rhetoricians,

Chapter VIII: Aeschines,

Chapter IX: Demosthenes,

Chapter X: Phocion, Demades, Pytheas,

Chapter XI: Lycurgus, Hyperides, Dinarchus, and

Chapter XII: The Decline of Oratory.

Now Jokes! Most in this book range from slightly off-color to fairly bawdy, so here are a few tamer ones, from Anecdota Americana, Five Hundred Stories for the Amusement of the Five Hundred Nations That Comprise America, (anonymous), New York: Nesor Publishing Company, 1934; p. 162:


There came to the Island, last summer, a woman reputed to have been born in Switzerland. Coney is never so crowded that it cannot afford a little contest or so, and in one of these the Swiss woman outswam the four strongest swimmers on the beach. As everyone was wondering where she could have learned to swim so well she graciously offered the explanation that she had been for two years a streetwalker in Venice.

And a limerick on p. 61:


There was a young girl named Anheuser
Who said that no man could surprise her.
       But Pabst took a chance
       Found the girl at her aunt’s
And now she is sadder Budweiser.

Finally, one from p. 72:


A chap was rowing down the Thames on Sunday when he lost one of his oars and drifted out to midstream. He tried to paddle with the other but found it difficult. Just then, coming downstream he noticed a boat with a man and two women in it, all rowing. “I say,” he shouted across the water, “lend me one of your oars.” The other man looked up indignantly. “They’re not ’ores,” he protested. “They’re me mother and sister.”

October 23, 2012. Except for two pictures (pending), Volume IV of the The Wit and Humor of America, edited by Marshall P. Wilder, Volume IV, New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, is online. The rest includes:

The Family Horse, by Frederick S. Cozzens, (my hero!) which is from The Sparrowgrass Papers, and complete on this site. This one is not the funniest extract either, along with

Sonnet of the Lovable Lass and the Plethoric Dad, by J. W. Foley,

The Love Sonnets of a Husband, by Maurice Smiley,

How We Bought a Sewin’ Machine and Organ, by Josiah Allen’s Wife (Marietta Holley),

Cheer for the Consumer, by Nixon Waterman,

A Desperate Race, by J. F. Kelley, which is hysterical,

“As Good as a Play”, by Horace E. Scudder,

The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, by Oliver Wendell Holmes,

Caesar’s Quiet Lunch with Cicero, by James T. Fields, a cute poem,

Comin’ Home Thanksgivin’, by James Ball Naylor,

Praise-God Barebones, by Ellen Mackay Hutchinson Cortissoz,

The Loafer and the Squire, by Porte Crayon, this is worth a couple of smiles. Porte Crayon is the pen name of David Hunter Strother, an author, artist, and politician from West virginia,

De Stove Pipe Hole, by William Henry Drummond, also good,

The Girl from Mercury, An Interplanetary Love Story, by Herman Knickerbocker Vielé, which has some funny bits, and lastly,

The Title Page and Table of Contents, Volume IV.

October 21, 2012. Here's some more from the The Wit and Humor of America, edited by Marshall P. Wilder, Volume IV, New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company:

A Modern Eclogue, by Bliss Carman,

A Cable-Car Preacher, by Sam Walter Foss,

I Remember, I Remember, by Phoebe Cary,

The Coupon Bonds, by J. T. Trowbridge,

The Shooting-Match, by A. B. Longstreet, with a detailed description of how to load a rifle with shot, powder, patch, and grease, as part of another of his funny Georgia stories.

Desolation, by Tom Masson,

Crankidoxology, by Wallace Irwin,

My Honey, My Love, by Joel Chandler Harris,

The Grand Opera , by Billy Baxter,

In a State of Sin, by Owen Wister, an excerpt from his novel, The Virginian, which later became a TV series,

An April Aria, by R. K. Munkittrick,

Meditations of a Mariner, by Wallace Irwin, and

Victory, by Tom Masson.

A study on Brunetto Latini is online: I. A Teacher of Dante, by Nathan Haskell Dole, from A Teacher of Dante and Other Studies in Italian Literature.

October 13, 2012. Now up, from the The Wit and Humor of America, edited by Marshall P. Wilder, Volume IV, New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company:

Ponchus Pilut, by James Whitcomb Riley,

This is slap-stick in dialect, it would be better visualizing it than reading it: The Wolf at Susan’s Door, by Anne Warner,

The Two Prisoners, by Carolyn Wells,

Despising Henry James, I liked this: A Modern Advantage, by Charlotte Becker, and

The Raggedy Man, by James Whitcomb Riley.

October 11, 2012. Online: Chapter III, Epimenides by Sir William M. Ramsay, from “Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation,” The Gifford Lectures in the University of Edinburgh, 1915-1916.

Also online from Volume XXX, of The International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Editor-in-Chief: Harry Thurston Peck; The International Bibliophile Society, New York; 1901:

Two excerpts from the memoirs of an eighteenth century Prussian princess: “Visit of Peter the Great to Frederick William the First,” and “Picture of Court Life,” from the Memoirs, Denkw�rdigkeiten, by Wilhelmine von Bayreuth (1709-1758).

An excerpt by an nineteenth century American authoress, “Two Old Lovers,” from A Humble Romance, by Mary Eleanor Wilkins (1862-1930).

The nineteenth century American poem (Hymn), “Rocked in the in the Cradle of the Deep,” by Emma (Hart) Willard (1787-1870).

An excerpt by an nineteenth century American writer of poems, articles and books, “When Tom Moore Sang,” from Pencillings by the Way, the poems “David and Absalom,” “Dedication Hymn,” “André's Request to Washington,” “The Belfry Pigeon,” and the funny “Love in a Cottage,” by Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806-1867).

An excerpt by an nineteenth century Scottish journalist of Blackwood’s Magazine, “Moss-side,” from Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life, by John Wilson (1785-1854).

An excerpt that creates a powerful thirst, from a Western adventure novel, by a young Union officer, lawyer and novelist, killed early in the Civil War “A Gallop of Three,” from John Brent, by Theodore Winthrop (1828-1861).

I already put up an excerpt written by Woodrow Wilson, before he was President, from this volume, and here is an anecdote told about him, after he became President, from A Batch of Smiles, Selected from Many Sources, by Carleton B. Case, 1917, p. 147:


President Wilson, thanks to his training at Princeton, but in greater part to his tact, is said to receive and dismiss visitors more adroitly than any former occupant of the White House.

Sometimes, however, a stupid visitor turns up and then President Wilson’s tact is unappreciated and the visitor overstays his time. Apropos of such visitors, the president at a luncheon in Washington told a story.

“There was an old fellow,” he said, “who was praising the rising young lawyer of the town.

“ ‘George, for a busy man,’ said the old fellow, ‘is one of the pleasantest chaps I ever met. Why, I dropped in on him for a social call this morning and I hadn’t been chattin’ with him more than fifteen minutes before he’d told me three times to come and see him again.’ ”

October 9, 2012. Online from The Greek Orators by J. F. Dobson:

Chapter IV: Lysias, and

Chapter V: Isaeus.

A few more strange stories are also online from Tales from the Fjeld, A Series of Popular Tales from the Norse of P. Ch. Asbjörnsen, by Sir George Dasent, illustrated by Moyr Smith:

The Greedy Cat,


Father Bruin in the Corner, and

Reynard and Chanticleer.

A good one from Good Toasts and Funny Stories, compiled and edited by Arthur LeRoy Kaser, Minneapolis: T. S. Denison & Company, 1923. From p. 117:


A big Swede from up in northern Minnesota drifted into a small town after spending several months in a lumber camp. His search finally proved successful and he discovered a place where he could buy something better than was usually sold nearer the camp.

“Ay want some squirrel whiskey,” said the Swede to the bartender.

“We ain’t got no squirrel whiskey,” said the bartender, “but we’re lucky enough to have a little Old Crow.”

“Oh, Yudas Priest!” exclaimed the Swede. “Ay no want to fly; Ay yust want to hop ’round a little.”

October 4, 2012. The third chapter is online: Chapter III: Thrasymachus-Andocides, from The Greek Orators by J. F. Dobson.

Also online, from The Historical Magazine, Volume II, April, 1858: The “Riband of Blue,” — The Baldrick of Washington, anonymous.

Another story from Tales from the Fjeld, A Series of Popular Tales from the Norse of P. Ch. Asbjörnsen, by Sir George Dasent, illustrated by Moyr Smith: The Death of Chanticleer.

And a few jokes from Wit and Humor for Public Speakers, by Will H. Brown, 6th Edition, Cincinnati: The Standard Publishing Company, 1916; p. 229:


Several years ago, a rivalry in the raising of hogs sprang up among the farmers of Kansas. A sign in front of one farm, that seldom failed to attract the attention of passersby, read:

“Any one wishing to see the biggest hog in Kansas, stop here and see me. — Silas Lowe.”

Same book, p. 225:


It is said the late King Edward once came upon one of his grandsons with a book in his hand, and asked what he was doing.

“Studying about Perkin Warbeck,” was the reply.

“And who was he?” continued His Majesty, desiring to test the boy’s knowledge.

“Oh,” answered the young prince, “he pretended he was the son of a king, but he wasn’t. He was the son of respectable parents.”

Again, from the same book, p. 205:


“Congressman Fording, your constituents can not understand your speech on the Federal reserve banking system.”

“Good! It took me seven hours to write it that way.”

October 1, 2012. The second chapter is online: Chapter II: Antiphon, from The Greek Orators by J. F. Dobson.

From Volume XXX, of The International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Editor-in-Chief: Harry Thurston Peck; The International Bibliophile Society, New York; 1901:

An excerpt by a mid-nineteenth century male sensational novelist, exploring the Roman world of gladiators, before Spartacus was written: “The Arena,” from The Gladiators, by George John Whyte-Melville (1821-1878).

It includes this picture:

A black and white photograph of a painting, by J. L. Gérôme, of surviving gladiators in the amphitheater befoe Caesar.

“Ave! Cæsar Imperator”

From a Painting by J. L. Gérôme

Also from the same collection:

A surprising short story, one you wouldn’t expect from a kindergarten teacher! “Tom O’ The Blueb’ry Plains,” from The Village Watch Tower, by Kate Douglas Wiggin (1857-1923).

An excerpt by a sarcastic, opinionated, focused, early agricultural writer, writing about his trip to the 18th century French countryside, parts are funny!: “Aspects of France Before the Revolution,” from Travels in France, by Arthur Young (1741-1820).

A break now, from Good Toasts and Funny Stories, compiled and edited by Arthur LeRoy Kaser, Minneapolis: T. S. Denison & Company, 1923. From p. 90:


Here’s to Adam: The first man to have a suit in the apple-ate court.

In the same book, some of these really cracked me up, my favorite is in a different color, and it is funniest after wading through the others first, pp. 145-146:


Magna Charta said that the king had no right to bring soldiers into a lady’s house, and tell her to mind them.

Panama is a town in Colombo where they are trying to make an isthmus.

Bigamy is when a man tries to serve two masters.

The plural of spouse is spice.

The law allowing only one wife is called monotony.

Becket put on a camel air shirt and his life at once became dangerous.

Skeletons are what you have left when you take a man’s insides out and his outsides off.

The liver is an infernal organ of the body.

General Braddock was killed in the Revolutionary war. He had three horses shot under him and a fourth went through his clothes.

A circle is a line which meets its other end without ending.

A schoolmaster is called a pedigree.

The Greeks were too thickly populated to be comfortable.

The heart is located on the west side of the body.

Richard II is said to have been murdered by some historians. His real fate is uncertain.

Subjects have a right to partition the king.

The kaiser is a stream of hot water springin’ up and disturbin’ the earth.

A mosquito is a child of black and white parents.

Nicotine is so deadly a poison that one drop on the end of a dog’s tail will kill a man.

An equinox is a man who lives near the North pole.

The population of New England is too dry for farming.

Anatomy is the human body which consists of three parts, the head, the chist, and the stummick. The head contains the eyes and brains when any. The chist contains the lungs and a piece of the liver. The stummick is devoted to the bowels of which there are five a. e. i. o. u. and sometimes w. and y.

Arabia has many syphoons and very bad ones. It gets into your hair even with your mouth closed.

Louis XIV was gelatined during the French Revolution.

A vacuum is a large empty space where the Pope lives.

Gender shows whether a man is masculine feminine or neuter.

September 30, 2012. Online, complete, Famous Castles and Palaces of Italy, Illustrated in Colour from Paintings, by Edmund d’Auvergne.

Along with the coloured plates of paintings, it has some photographs, and I included a couple of others from elsewhere on the site, and will add any more I find. The chapters included are:

The Online Introduction with a picture of the pretty book cover,

The Title Pages, Preface, Table of Contents, and List of Illustrations,

Introduction: The Castles of Italy,

Chapter I: The Castle of Sant’ Angelo and the Vatican,

Chapter II: Bracciano and Spoleto,

Chapter III: The Castles of Naples,

Chapter IV: IV-Some Swabian and Norman Castles,

Chapter V: Canossa,

Chapter VI: The Castles Of The Valley Of Aosta,

Chapter VII: Three Castles Near Florence,

Chapter VIII: Three Famous Communal Palaces,

Chapter IX: Pavia and Milan,

Chapter X: Ferrara and Este,

Chapter XI: The Strongholds of the Malatestas,

Chapter XII: Mantua,

Chapter XIII: The Palaces of Urbino and Pesaro, and the

Index, with several errors, corrected.

From Parton’s Humorous Poetry, 1884, an epigram by Thomas Erskine and famous English lawyer, p. 559:



The French have taste in all they do,
      Which we are quite without;
For Nature, that to them gave goût,
      To us gave only gout.

Often the collections of humor that I have contain few really humorous things, most are a trial to patience, tolerance, and temper, so grins are a long way off. They are good only in comparison to Methodist tracts, I reckon. Fortunately the following are all funny, from the The Wit and Humor of America, edited by Marshall P. Wilder, Volume IV, New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company):

The Briefless Barrister, by John G. Saxe,

The Two Husbands, by Carolyn Wells,

The Story Of The Two Friars, by Eugene Field,

The Greco-Trojan Game, by Charles F. Johnson, which I have had online for a while, but it is still funny.

The Economical Pair, by Carolyn Wells,

The Two Pedestrians, by Carolyn Wells, and

A Complaint Of Friends, by Gail Hamilton. This is very funny at first, and then I got tired and couldn’t finish. Later I could enjoy the last half as much, after a break. It was amazing to me that a Victorian-era women writer could write so well and sound so modern.

And now with its own page: How To Know The Wild Animals, by Carolyn Wells.

Changing topics and millennia, the first chapter of another text is online: Chapter I: The Beginnings of Oratory, from The Greek Orators by J. F. Dobson.

As always, I now make my curtsy to Bill Thayer for proofing and correcting the Greek!

September 29, 2012. From Prenticeana; or Wit and Humor in Paragraphs, by George D. Prentice, editor of the Louisville Journal,” by G. W. Griffin, Third Edition, Philadelphia: Claxton & Company, 1882, p. 106:

An ex-officeholder, who performed his functions badly, boasts in a publication that he “at least understood the four ground rules of arithmetic.” No doubt of it. He multiplied his speculations, subtracted from the public money till nothing remained, divided the whole between himself and an accomplice — and, unquestionably, proved himself, in various ways, the greatest adder in the land.

September 13, 2012. Several pleasant poems are online by the American poet, a Quaker and abolitionist, John Greenleaf Whittier: “The Norsemen,” “The Exiles,” “The Yankee Girl,” “The Pine-tree,” “Randolph of Roanoke,” “Hampton Beach,” and “Ichabod,” along with a photograph of him, and a picture by H. Hendrick of The Norsemen.

I swan, I am going to start the Fairy-Tales-With-Warts Files! There are several fables, legends and tales from the folklore of different countries and ages on this site that are of unDisney-like caliber. These are less-than-lofty toned, with borderline moral lessons, and scandalous or rascally heroes and heroines. Obviously enough, the stories had enough interest to pass from oral tradition into written collections. They are more realistic in showing our imperfect character, so multifaceted we humans be.

(N.B. "swan" means "swear," a bit of American frontier-ish dialect from the era of Huckleberry Finn.)

Illustriously illustrating this genre of the picaresque, here are some very, very short stories, in all their bizarre Teutonic charm, from Tales from the Fjeld, A Series of Popular Tales from the Norse of P. Ch. Asbjörnsen, by Sir George Dasent, illustrated by Moyr Smith:

Osborn’s Pipe,

The Haunted Mill,

Another Haunted Mill,

The Honest Penny, and

The Pancake (without its illustrations).

September 4, 2012. Having already confessed to having "Intention Deficit Disorder" (I thought procrastination should have a more medically-correct sort of name, so I made this up!), here are a few dribs and drabs while I postpone proofreading three complete texts:

Online: Chapter II, The Mount of God by Sir William M. Ramsay, from “Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation,” The Gifford Lectures in the University of Edinburgh, 1915-1916.

From Volume XXX, of The International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Editor-in-Chief: Harry Thurston Peck; The International Bibliophile Society, New York; 1901:

A sincerely and piously florid excerpt, but with some redeeming qualities, by a popular 19th century American authoress: “Marmaduke Wharne,” from A Summer in Leslie Goldthwaite’s Life, by Adeline Dutton Train Whitney (1824-1906).

Some poems by Walt Whitman, who was actually a nurse in the Civil War! “Dirge for Two Veterans,” “When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloomed,” “O Captain! My Captain!” “Hushed be the Camps To-day,” “Darest Thou Now, O Soul,” “A Noiseless Patient Spider,” “Whispers of Heavenly Death,” “I Hear America Singing,” and “Old Ireland,” by Walt Whitman (1819-1892), including a photographic portrait with his autograph.

Some of these poems are already on this site, with others, are in The Bibelot, Volume X, Chapter VIII: “Memories of Abraham Lincoln,” by Walt Whitman. The punctuation varies between the version because that is common in the various editions and collections of prolific poets, either the poet revised them or the editors added their own touches. Many of these selected here were done after President Lincoln was assassinated as a memorial. This includes one of the most wrenching poems I have ever read, especially knowing its subject:


O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                  But O heart! heart! heart!
                       O the bleeding drops of red,
                          Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                              Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up! — for you the flag is flung — for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths — for you the shores
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning.
                  Here Captain! dear father!
                       This arm beneath your head!
                          It is some dream that on the deck,
                              You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won:
                  Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                       But I with mournful tread,
                          Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                              Fallen cold and dead.

Whew! After reading that again, I pulled out Good Toasts and Funny Stories, compiled and edited by Arthur LeRoy Kaser, Minneapolis: T. S. Denison & Company, 1923. From p. 66:


Let us drink to Jack! Let us drink to Jill!
     The regrettable incident on the hill
         May serve to point a moral still
              To every son and daughter,
         Don’t seek by thrills to gain renown.
     Don’t climb up hills, and don’t fall down.
Don’t flirt with Jills, nor break your crown,
              And never fool with water.

Larry E. Johnson.

Same book, p. 117:


The dapper young man lost his footing on the long and slippery hill and was tobogganing toward the bottom when he collided with a stout lady, tripped her, and proceeded on his way, with the lady seated on his back.

As they came to a halt at the foot of the hill, the lady seemed slightly dazed by events, and he remarked gently:

“Beg your pardon, madam, but you’ll have to get off here; this is as far as I go.”

Ladies’ Home Journal.

Last one from the same book, p. 72, a fairly famous quote fit enough for a toast, by my friend Andrew’s favorite poet:


A thing of beauty is a joy forever
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet


August 28, 2012. Another two chapters are online from The Mediaeval Mind, by Henry Osborn Taylor:

Chapter VII: The Celtic Strain in Gaul and Ireland, and

Chapter VII: Teuton Qualities: Anglo-Saxon, German, Norse.

I found this sweet story, which I have not come across before about the dear, the Venerable, Bede. It is from Old England, by James M. Hoppin, 13th ed., Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1897, ch. xiii, p. 225. The author has visited Durham Cathedral and goes on to say:

.   . Here is the monument of the “Venerable Bede,” in which all of his bones that were not scattered as relics through the world were deposited. Manuscripts in his handwriting are to be seen in the library. It is told of him in the old chronicles, that in his later days, when he was blind, he was led by the fraud of his guide to a great heap of stones, and was told that a large assembly of men and women were awaiting him to hear him preach the word of God. He, thinking it to be true, commenced a homily, and when he came to the end, the stones, by divine power, like a great multitude of people, said “Amen,” or, as the Latin version is, “Deo gracias.” It were better to make the stones cry out by preaching like living men, than to petrify living men into stones!

In the next paragraph, on the same page, he adds a bit about St. Cuthbert:

But the peculiar genius of this cathedral was St. Cuthbert, whose shrine did an immense “sheep shearing” business in the early centuries; especially as the Saint was reported to lie in an incorruptible state, “entire, flexible, and succulent.” In 1827 the coffin of St. Cuthbert was opened and the tricks of the monks exposed. Balls were found in the eyes, gold wire for the hair, and swathings over the bones.

August 27, 2012. My goodness! I forgot to post two weeks ago that I finished the Georgics by Virgil, translated by Mackail. Easier to read than the Eclogues (already online), these books have some interesting information: the discussion about grafting, a plague devastating animals of multiple genera, both wild and domestic, and a very touching version of the Orpheus legend, with its relationship to bees and their ‘spontaneous generation.’

Georgics , Book I,

Georgics , Book II,

Georgics , Book III, and

Georgics, Book IV.

Rummaging around and grabbing some material that interests me, here are two more lectures by Ramsay:

Chapter I, The Old-Ionians by Sir William M. Ramsay, from “Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation,” The Gifford Lectures in the University of Edinburgh, 1915-1916.

After the years he spent in Turkey, Ramsay also has a new take on Homer and his translations about white vultures (with black and yellow touches), along with a charming story about a nice British tourist to India: Chapter VI, The The Two Vultures at The Gate of Troy.

Okey-dokey, time for a little humor, which has been absent for months on this blog, which is inexcusable I know!

Thinking of all the bad poetry translations I have inflicted both you and me with, from Parton’s Humorous Poetry, 1884, an epigram by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, p. 558:



Swans sing before they die — ’t were no bad thing,
Did certain persons die before they sing.

Since it is clear from this site, that I am a fan of classical Greece, including its mythology, here is what another more famous (and excellent) poet and Grecophile had to say about his experience on visiting that storied land in modern times. By Lord Byron, from Parton’s Humorous Poetry, p. 33-34:



If, in the month of dark December,
     Leander, who was nightly wont
(What maid will not the tale remember?)
     To cross thy stream broad Hellespont!

If, when the wint’ry tempest roar’d,
     He sped to Hero nothing loth,
And thus of old thy current pour’d,
     Fair Venus! how I pity both!

For me, degenerate, modern wretch,
     Though in the genial month of May,
My dripping limbs I faintly stretch,
     And think I ’ve done a feat to-day.

But since he crossed the rapid tide,
     According to the doubtful story,
To woo — and — Lord knows what beside,
     And swam for Love, as I for Glory;

’T were hard to say who fared the best:
     Sad mortals! thus the gods still plague you!
He lost his labor, I my jest;
     For he was drowned, and I ’ve the ague.

Because I put up some samples of the hymns of both John Wesley, and his brother Charles Wesley, how about a sarcastic epigram by his father, Reverend Samuel Wesley? It refers to the miserable death by poverty of the acclaimed poet Samuel Butler. It, too, is from Parton's Humorous Poetry, p. 566:



While Butler, needy wretch, was yet alive,
No generous patron would a dinner give.
See him, when starved to death and turn’d to dust,
Presented with a monumental bust.
The poet’s fate in emblem shown —
He ask’d for bread, and he received a stone.

August 26, 2012. More online, from Volume XXX, of The International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Editor-in-Chief: Harry Thurston Peck; The International Bibliophile Society, New York; 1901:

An excerpt, by a Victorian-era American tourist (with strong touches of “The Ugly American”): “A Sunday on the Thames,” from England Without and Within, by Richard Grant White (1821-1885).

The few but strong snotty tourist comments are counterbalanced by some appreciative and interesting words. There’s not enough to judge the guy’s overall worth, but because of the bigoted comments, I am not tempted to run off and read more of his stuff anytime soon.

Before you read it, if you do, here’s a photograph of the Thames and Lambeth Palace, from about the same period, both of which are mentioned in this sampling. It is from a book already on this site: “Lambeth Palace,” by John Richard Green, from Romantic Castles and Palaces, As Seen and Described by Famous Writers, edited and translated by Esther Singleton, 1901:

Black and white photograph of Lambeth Castle, England, with the Thames river before it, on which is a old-style boat, taken in the late 19th century.


Also online, an excerpt, selected and published in his pre-presidential days: “Structure of Southern Society (1829-1841),” from Epochs of American Society, by Woodrow Wilson (1856-[1924].

Two poems, the first is a favorite poem of mine — practical romance at its best — and the second is a very nice bit of practical bucolia, by a famous, and practical, Puritan soldier under Cromwell: “The Author’s Resolution in a Sonnet,” from The Mistress of Philarète, and “For Summer-Time,” by George Wither (1588-1667).

The second poem is accompanied by this picture: “Summer Time,” by L. P. Lamy, an artist nobody has apparently ever heard of on an online search, although the work was considered important enough to be included in this collection.

A black and white photograph of a painting, by L. P. Lamy, of two women, in Victorian dress  in a rowboat.


From a Painting by L. P. Lamy

And last from this collection, for today:

The wildly popular poem (then) by a British author from the Regency era about a hero of the Napoleonic war, “The Burial of Sir John Moore,” by Charles Wolfe (1791-1823).

August 8, 2012. All done! including a horribly long Bibliography for the history of medieval preaching, preachers and preachees: No Uncertain Sound, Sermons that Shaped the Pulpit Tradition edited, with an introduction, by Ray C. Petry, 1948.

One of the best quotes is by St. Augustine:

“ . . . take heed to yourselves, do not imitate evil Christians. Say not I will do this, for many of the faithful do it. This is not to procure a defence for the soul; but to look out for companions unto hell.”

August 8, 2012. Online now, is one of the most interesting and useful prologues to a book that I have seen. This is the Introduction by Ray C. Petry, to No Uncertain Sound, Sermons that Shaped the Pulpit Tradition.

Petry summarizes the history of preaching before the Reformation, and it is very readable.

Here also is the welcome information that the sermons which are in the book may not have been the ones actually preached, but were transcribed and edited by others when they recorded them: thus explaining how icky some of them were.

He also adds, interestingly, that he has further edited the selected translations, stating “crudities and banalities serving no obviously good end have been arbitrarily exscinded,” — which is very sad, as well as frustrating and mildly infuriating.

Also up, another case of bad translations failing to preserve fame: The Eclogues, by Virgil, translated by Mackail.

Born and raised in Mantua, Italy, Publius Vergilius Maro, aka Virgil, aka Vergil, aka the Mantuan Bard, aka The Vergilian, etc., one of the most famous of the ancient classical Roman poets, was idolized in the following ages. This prose translation of these ‘Bucolics’ will not perpetuate his glory.

MacKail was a famous scholar, and although this translation of the poems might have been admired 100 years ago, it leaves a lot to be desired today. But it does add some information on animal husbandry in ancient Rome.

These poems appear to have been Vergil’s attempt to equal, in Latin, the famous pastoral poems of classical Greece written by Bion and Moschus.

Eclogue IV, is also called the ‘Messianic Eclogue,’ and there is another translation, not much better, on this site already: The Return of the Golden Age, “The Messianic Eclogue” by Virgil, translated by Sir Charles Bowen.

I picked Mackail’s translation because I heartily admired, nay, adored, his translation of some of the epigrams in the Greek Anthology, which spurred my interest in the Classical Age, years ago. So I was disappointed with this translation, but then short epigrams are easier to do and since many of us have probably never heard of the Eclogues, then good modern English translations are still lacking or little known. I will keep searching to see why Vergil's work caused him to attain legendary status in the Middle Ages.

August 2, 2012. A lucky find! and it’s a sweet and very amusing story, too. Online, in all its glory: “The Luck of the Bean-rows, a Fairy-tale for Lucky Children,” illustrated by Claud Lovat Fraser, translated from the French of Charles Nodier.

Also online, the last of the online sermons from No Uncertain Sound, Sermons that Shaped the Pulpit Tradition, edited, with an introduction, by Ray C. Petry, 1948:

Sermon 59 by Girolamo Savonarola, and

Sermon 60 by Michel Menot.

Only the Index, Bibliography, Contents and Introduction, from this book to go! (Groan, grimace, grumble).

Also online, from the World’s Wit and Humor, Volume 12, German, with original but anonymous translations:

“Chevalier Riccaut de la Marlinière,” from Minna von Barnhelm, “The Ape and the Fox,” “Zeus and the Horse,” “The Raven,” “The Decorated Bow,” and “The Peacocks and the Crow,” all from the Fables, some “Epigrams,” and “The Academical Lover,” from The Young Scholar, by Ephraim Lessing,,

“The Lion and the Crocodiles,” “A Horse Tied to a Steeple,” “The Frozen Tunes,” “A Rather Large Whale,” and “The Siege of Gibraltar,” by Erich Raspe, all extracts from Adventures of Baron von Münchausen,

“The Wives of Weinsberg,” a poem by Gottfried Bürger,

“The Hen and the Egg,” by Matthis Claudius, from The Fables,

“The Capuchin’s Sermon,” an extract from Wallenstein’s Camp, and Pegasus in the Yoke,” by Friedrich von Schiller

Ephraim Lessing, above was hugely popular across Europe, most anthologies of international humor include a few of his epigrams and poems. An example:

So vain your grimace, and so croaking your speech,
     One scarcely can tell if you’re laughing or crying;
Were you fix’d on one’s funeral sermon to preach,
     The bare apprehension would keep me from dying.

July 29, 2012. More online from No Uncertain Sound, Sermons that Shaped the Pulpit Tradition, edited, with an introduction, by Ray C. Petry, 1948:

Sermons 49, 50, 51, and 52 by John Wyclif,

Sermons 54, 55, and 56, by Bernardine of Siena, pretty interesting and mildly funny, and

Sermons 57 and 58, by Nicholas of Cusa. Astoundingly oblique, this one.

Time for a little humor, German style, from the World’s Wit and Humor, Volume 12, German, with original but anonymous translations in this collection:

The New Town Hall, from The Schildburghers, published in the 16th century,

The Donkey’s Voice, and A Burdensome Wife, by Ulrich Megerle from Hie, Fie!

Origin and Rearing of Simplicius, by Christoph von Grimmelhausen, an extract from Simplicius Simplicissimus,

The Patient Cured, by Christian F. Gellert a poem from the Fables.

July 24, 2012. Drat! I thought I had possibly found a missing page in the translation of the Ephesiaca, by Xenophon but Andrew Smith, of attalus.org fame, kindly double-checked the Greek text for me and said that nothing was missing. So my only contribution to the online text is fixing the obvious typos.

I have been busy, working on incomplete projects — courtesy of my “short intention span.” Proofreading in smaller clumps is less overwhelming, I find, and less tedious. So here are some more clumps of new stuff:

Online, from No Uncertain Sound, Sermons that Shaped the Pulpit Tradition, edited, with an introduction, by Ray C. Petry, 1948:

Sermons 42, 43, and 44, by Thomas Aquinas,

Sermon 45 and 45, by Meister Eckhart, and

Sermon 47 and 48, by John Tauler.

And also online, from Volume XXX, of The International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Editor-in-Chief: Harry Thurston Peck; The International Bibliophile Society, New York; 1901:

An excerpt, entertaining to a degree, from a popular British novelist, “The Eve of St. Bartholomew,” from The House of the Wolf, by Stanley John Weyman (1855-1928).

Three very interesting samples by a past Archbishop of Dublin of the 1800’s: Richard Whately (1787-1863), “Learned Ignorance” from Lectures on Bacon’s Essays, & “Origin of Civilization,” and “Civilization Favorable to Morality,” from Lecture on the Origin of Civilization.

Best of all, a “new” favorite author for me! Two extracts from one of the first and best British amateur naturalists: Gilbert White (1720-1793), “The House-Swallow,” and “The House-Cricket,” from The Natural History of Selborne.

The cricket pestilence, in old manors and likely castles, too, is never discussed in the romanticized view of Ye Olde England. I can say that this article definitely gave me the entomological heebie-jeebies.

July 15, 2012. Oopsy-daisy! I forgot. Last month, I put online the late Classical poem by an anonymous author, the Pervigilium Veneris, the Eve of Venus, in Latin and in English, edited and translated with a Commentary by R. W. Postgate. The translator was the son of a very famous Classical scholar, J. P. Postgate.

Bill Thayer, who reads Latin well, admires the poem in Latin very much, but states that none of the translations are very good, including this one. Postgate’s introduction discusses some of the difficulties of any translation of this poem, and gives several examples of translations that veer far and away from the real sense. This is the most interesting part to me, unilingual slob that I am. I separated the Latin and English texts onto two different webpages so you can compare the two pages, if you wish.

July 12, 2012. Well, another accidental discovery of a crooked author. Thanks to Bill Thayer for discovering that almost the entire book I just put online was plagiarized, albeit translated into English for the first time, see the details and the text: The Inns of Greece & Rome, and a history of Hospitality from the Dawn of Time to the Middle Ages, by W. C. Firebaugh, with an Introduction by Wallace Rice and Illustrations by Norman Lindsay.

July 8, 2012. I have regretted not buying one of the gorgeous blue orchids on sale at Kroger since I first saw them last year for the first time. But I did not. When they were again for sale this year, I could not resist. I have a flower-loving friend now, Carol, who will take care of it when I am not home for long stretches, I hope. I also got her one of them, because they are so pretty! And such a blue!

On taking her her own blue orchid present, 'Blue Mystique,' sold in a white pot with red netting, so arrayed in timely Fourth of July colors, she was impressed. I expounded on my amazement on such a great vivid blue flower. She leaned over and looked at the label's fine print, which I had neglected to do at the store, in my usual rush, plus my lust for that bloom. To my shock she showed me this, written on the tag: “With a little bit of magic we have made a white orchid blue. . .” !!!

Was I ever crushed, disappointed and grumpy! Then she showed me her white orchid which had rebloomed — a year later with minimal care. She also said that when it blooms it blooms for several months at a time.

Still disconsolate, ruing my impulsivity and failure to read the 'fine print,' I was dismayed for several hours. But as I look at this blue beauty as I type, I realize that if it gives me joy for even a couple of days, then I can accept that. Especially since I kill plants with great regularity anyway. The blue is heartening and if I can be delighted in this simple way for a few moments by its presence for a few weeks, then that is all to the good.

A little belated research yields the information that they inject the plant as it is growing with the color. They don't just dye it or paint it or by some easy method that requires no special expertise. The color is worth the trouble, artful and 'unnatural' as it may be. And when it reblooms white next year, (God willing and the creek don't rise) maybe by then I will have found some beautiful place or fabric to make the white just as joyful to see. I'll let you know how long the flowers stay alive and fresh and blue.

Back to task — now online, from No Uncertain Sound, Sermons that Shaped the Pulpit Tradition, edited, with an introduction, by Ray C. Petry:

Sermon 36, by Jacques de Vitry: well worth reading too! And
Sermon 37, by Jean de Saint-Gilles,
Sermons 38 and 39, by Berthold of Regensburg (Ratisbon): also fabulous! (of the genre) He reproves, with a dollop of humor and a peck of scorn, bad business tactics by all types of workers, and fashion-obsessed women. He was a German traveling preacher who had a huge cult following, thousands and thousands travelled in his wake to hear him.
Lastly, Sermons 38 and 39, by St. Bonaventura.

July 5, 2012. Finally! I have had the text of this book online and incognito for years, but not the pictures, Table of Contents, Notes or index. Now its complete (and all that took five long days to do!): Fables & Folk-Tales from an Eastern Forest, by Walter Skeat, illustrated by F. H. Townsend.

One of the best stories stars the Mouse-deer, the Malaysian equivalent of Reynard the Fox, in Tale XVII: The Elephant has a bet with the Tiger.

The black and white ink drawings, by Townsend, are excellent: here's one of my favorites, the tiger has ‘Friend’ Squirrel on his head and 'Friend Mouse-deer' on his back:

Black and white pen and ink drawing by F. H. Townsend, a tiger crouched on a riverbank, looking at his reflection in the water.

Also online, from No Uncertain Sound, Sermons that Shaped the Pulpit Tradition, edited, with an introduction, by Ray C. Petry: Sermon 35, by Francis of Assisi.

July 3, 2012. Online, from No Uncertain Sound, Sermons that Shaped the Pulpit Tradition, edited, with an introduction, by Ray C. Petry:

Sermon 31, by Guarric, Abbot of Igniac,
Sermons 32, and 35, by Peter of Blois, and
Sermon 34, by Pope Innocent III,

June 29, 2012. Online, (yawn, yawn, yawn!), mystical by report, dense in reality: Sermons 27, 28, 29, and 30, by Bernard of Clairvaux, from No Uncertain Sound, Sermons that Shaped the Pulpit Tradition, edited, with an introduction, by Ray C. Petry.

From The Wit and Humor of America, edited by Marshall P. Wilder, Volume IX, New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company); p. 1779:


There is a rule to drink, I think,
A rule of three
That you’ll agree
With me
Can not be beat
And tends our lives to sweeten:
Drink ere you eat,
And while you eat,
And after you have eaten!

June 28, 2012. Dribs and drabs:

I have a THIRTY volume set, called The International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Editor-in-Chief: Harry Thurston Peck; The International Bibliophile Society, New York; 1901.

It was a fad, and likely a necessity, back then to possess such an eclectic collection of notable excerpts and extracts, from all fields of study, including history, fiction, poetry, religion and science, from all eras. Libraries were few and far between in many places, and a handy collection like this was a source of amusement and education, as well as serving as a reference.

Although some people don’t like extracts of larger works, the editors of this work, and people like me, use it as a way to sample unknown authors and artists, to decide if someone is worth a more detailed look. That is the purpose it serves for me! A couple of books on this site owe their presence to an excerpt that I liked enough to read the whole book. This is how I discovered Edmond About, and Somerville and Ross.

Such collections and anthologies led me to Froissart, and to "der noble Ritter Hugo," both of whom I adore.

Another plus: by apparently picking the best sample of an author’s work, you will find plenty to not like and thus put testing the opinion of the editor, as to his choice, to a test for much later — after reading further books by the writers you do like!

I doubt that I will get all thirty done anytime soon, but I dipped back into this collection for ideas and decided to put some more sections online, from a smattering of the authors in Volume XXX:

Some hymns by Charles Wesley, John Wesley’s brother, the “the poet of Methodism,”

And also two brief extracts by John Wesley.

From the brief biography that accompanies each author, I learned that both Wesley brothers went with Oglethorpe to Georgia, when he planted his colony there. They stayed two years. This painting accompanies John’s section, the artist and date are not credited:

A black and white photograph of a painting, of John Wesley preaching to a large group of Indians.


By the way, I have already put up a few extracts that I hoped made you giggle, from another set of books that Tory (my darling kid) gave me, and it is TEN volumes, sans pictures.

An example from The Wit and Humor of America, edited by Marshall P. Wilder, Volume IX, New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company); p. 1764:


A stout, fat boat for gailin’
     And a long, slim boat for squall;
But there isn’t no fun in sailin’
     When you haven’t no boat at all.

For what is the use o’ calkin’
     A tub with a mustard pot —
And what is the use o’ talkin’
     Of a boat you haven’t got?

June 21, 2012. Trivia! About umbrellas and heros.

The first report to England about umbrellas was by Thomas Coryat, who saw them in Italy in the 1700’s. The second report was by James Wolfe, who later became a famous British hero as the winning general at the Battle of Quebec. This letter is now online: Letter to His Father, by James Wolfe.

This is one of those great trivia questions, as shown in this book from the 19th century: Question 151, Quizzisum and Its Key, Quirks And Quibbles From Queer Quarters, by Albert Southwick, on this site. The link will open in a new window. As noted by the editor above, the umbrella was introduced to England by Jonas Hanway.

Wolfe was a famous General, who attained hero status, after he defeated General Montcalm at the Battle of Quebec, thus kicking the French out of Canada. Both generals were killed during the fight. There was an eyewitness, James Johnstone, a Scotsmen who was an aide-de-camp to Montcalm, and he wrote a scathing attack about the politics of French corruption and the battle itself, in A Dialogue in Hades, which is on this site.

General James Wolfe was a popular hero to the British for years. In Canada stories were told about him for generations, as Fredric S. Cozzens witnessed on his vacation from 19th century New York to Canada: see the popular stories still told about these famous generals in Chapter VI, Acadia; or a Month with the Blue Noses, by Frederic S. Cozzens, on this site.

General Wolfe was so popular in England, that witty anecdotes about him made it into Joe Miller’s Jest Book, in two spots. The first, Jest 89, on page 20:


When George II. was once expressing his admiration of General Wolfe, some one observed that the General was mad. “Oh !   He is mad, is he !” said the king, with great quickness, “then I wish he would bite some other of my generals.”

The second time, is Jest 763, on page 167:


General Wolfe invited a Scotch officer to dine with him; the same day he was also invited by some brother officers. “You must excuse me,” said he to them; “I am already engaged to Wolfe.” A smart young ensign observed, he might as well have expressed himself with more respect, and said General Wolfe.  “Sir,” said the Scotch officer, with great promptitude, “we never say General  Alexander, or General  Cæsar.” “Wolfe, who was within hearing, by a low bow to the Scotch officer, acknowledged the pleasure he felt at the high compliment.

And that summarizes all the links related to Wolfe on this site! (So far.)

Now, for surely a heartfelt prayer, expressed as a witty ditty, from the Christ Church Manuscript K. 3 43-5, with music by Thomas Ford, from More Lyrics from the Song-Books of the Elizabethan Age, edited by A. H. Bullen, London: John C. Nimmo, 1888; p. 74:

My sins are like the hairs upon my head
And raise their audit to as high a score.
In this they differ: they do daily shed,
But ah my sins grow daily more and more:
If by my hairs thou number out my sins,
Heaven make me bald before that day begins.

June 20, 2012. Another chapter is online: Chapter VI: The Barbaric Disruption of the Empire, from The Mediaeval Mind, by Henry Osborn Taylor.

June 18, 2012. Now online, from No Uncertain Sound, Sermons that Shaped the Pulpit Tradition, edited, with an introduction, by Ray C. Petry, sermons by:

Sermons 22 and 23, by Peter Damian, and
Sermon 24, by Raoul Ardent.

Finally! The pictures are online, along with the Title and Table of contents for Some Experiences of an Irish R.M., by Somerville and Ross. It has also been proofed one more time as I inserted the sketches by Somerville.

These women were incredibly popular at the turn of the 20th century. This book was even the basis for a T.V. series in the 1980's.

More from the anthology Tor[e]y (my good kid) sent me The Wit and Humor of America, edited by Marshall P. Wilder, Volume IX, New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company); pp. 1688-1689:


Sedate Mamma

When guests were present, dear little Mabel
     Climbed right up on the dinner-table
And naughtily stood upon her head!
     “I wouldn’t do that, dear,” Mamma said.

Merry Moses

Merry, funny little Moses
     Burnt off both his brother’s noses;
And it made them look so queer
     Mamma said, “Why, Moses dear!”

Johnny’s Fun

Johnny climbed up on the bed,
     And hammered nails in Mamma’s head.
Though the child was much elated,
     Mamma felt quite irritated.

A Merry Game

Betty and Belinda Ames
     Had the pleasantest of games;
’Twas to hide from one another
     Marmaduke, their baby brother.

Once Belinda, little love,
     Hid the baby in the stove;
Such a joke! for little Bet
     Hasn’t found the baby yet.

Tom and Grandpa

From his toes up to his shins
     Tom stuck Grandpa full of pins;
Although Tom the fun enjoyed,
     Grandpapa was quite annoyed.

Baby’s Looks

Bobby with the nursery shears
     Cut off both the baby’s ears;
At the baby, so unsightly,
     Mamma raised her eyebrows slightly.

Jeannette’s Pranks

One night, Jeanette, a roguish little lass,
Sneaked in the guest room and turned on the gas;
When morning dawned the guest was dead in bed,
But “Children will be children,” Mamma said.

June 15, 2012. Now online, from No Uncertain Sound, Sermons that Shaped the Pulpit Tradition, edited, with an introduction, by Ray C. Petry, sermons by:

Sermon 19, by Atto of Vercelli,
Sermon 20, by Aelfric, and
Sermon 21, by Wulfstan.

Also online, Chapter V: Latin Transmitters of Antique and Patristic Thought, from The Mediaeval Mind, by Henry Osborn Taylor.

June 10, 2012. One of the very first books on this site, imperfectly done at the start, with pages that vanished mysteriously into the nebulous Etherzone, has been redone: Mother’s Geese, by George Barr Baker, George C. Chappell, and Oliver Herford, pictured by T. Gilbert White. These guys were the young Turks of the New York literati during Teddy Roosevelt’s time and some great sarcasm is in play in these parodies.

Something like this had to balance these Sermons 9-14, mercilessly turgid, by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, which are online, from No Uncertain Sound, Sermons that Shaped the Pulpit Tradition, edited, with an introduction, by Ray C. Petry.

Also online, mercifully brief, from the same book:

Sermon 15, by Pope Gregory I, and
Sermon 18, by Hrabanus Maurus.

Lastly, here are two samples of the early (fifteenth century) fabled rapscallion of Germany: Eulenspiegel’s Pranks. The second story has its roots in Eastern lore, as noted on the page.

June 6, 2012. What has been slowing me down, has been the sheer boredom of virtuous typing. For some reason, I thought it was important to give samples of the words of famous churchmen through history. The most famous had to be so for a reason, right? Their words had to be better, more profound, more inspiring than those of other holy men. That was my premise. That was not my conclusion. Popular preachers were popular only because there was no T.V. and books were scarce and more boring — all the best books on nonreligious subjects being conveniently lost to make theology, the only worthwhile subject, the only reading material to be had. It helped that illiterate people had little choice in entertainment: secular theater being suppressed as unholy, too.

Anyway, the best of the best sermons by the best of the best preachers, have been collected, and edited, in English translation, by Ray C. Petry, in No Uncertain Sound, Sermons that Shaped the Pulpit Tradition. The first ones now online (numbered as in the text) are by:

Sermons 1-4, by Origen,
Sermon 5, by Basil of Caesarea,
Sermons 6-8, by John Chrysostom, and because I am a bedophile,
Sermons 16-17, by Bede The Venerable.

As these sermons prove, the Bible is the “inspired” source that is used as a reason and excuse and authority for everything under and above the sun. One example of its utility is in the Cyclopædia of Wit and Wisdom, by F. Wiseman, 1845; p. 100:

Scripture authority. — A quaker married a woman of the church of England. After the ceremony, the vicar asked for his fees, which he said were a crown. The quaker, astonished at the demand, said, if he would show him any text in the Scripture, which proved his fees were a crown, he would give it unto him: upon which the vicar directly turned to the twelfth chapter of Proverbs, verse 4th, where it is said, “a virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.” “Thou art right,” replied the quaker, “in thy assertion: Solomon was a wise man; here are five twelvepenny pieces, and something beside to buy thee a pair of gloves.”

May 28, 2012. Completed! (including Title Pages, Preface, Contents and Index — proofed even —  The Church Treasury of History, Custom, Folk-Lore, etc.,” edited by William Andrews.

And now for a humor break, with pert near the longest paragraph on this site. It’s from the anthology Tor(e)y sent me (The Wit and Humor of America, edited by Marshall P. Wilder, Volume IX, New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company); p. 1799-1800:


I rekon I’ve lived as much as most foaks accordin’ to age, and I ain’t tired of livin’ yit. I like it. I’ve seen good times, and bad times, and hard times, and time that tired men’s soles, but I never seed a time that I couldn’t extrakt sum cumfort out of trubble. When I was a boy I was a lively little devil, and lost my edycashun bekaus I couldn’t see enuf fun in the spellin’ book to get thru it. I’m sorry for it now, for a blind man can see what a fool I am. The last skhoolin’ I got was the day I run from John Norton, and there was so much fun in that my daddy sed he rekoned I’d got larnin’ enuf. I had a bile on my back as big as a ginney egg, and it was mighty nigh ready to bust. We boys had got in a way of ringin’ the bell before old Norton got there, and he sed that the first boy he kotched at it would ketch hail Kolumby. Shore enuf he slipped upon us one mornin’, and before I knowed it he had me by the collar, and was layin’ it on like killin’ snakes. I hollered, “My bile, my bile, don’t hit me on my bile,” and just then he popped a center shot, and I jumped three feet in the atmosphere, and with a hoop and a beller I took to my heels. I run and hollered like the devil was after me, and shore enuf he was. His long legs gained on me at every jump, but just as he was about to grab me I made a double on him, and got a fresh start. I was aktiv as a cat, and so we had it over fences, thru the woods and round the meetin’ house, and all the boys was standin’ on skool house hill a hollerin’, “Go it, my Bill — go it, my Bill.” As good luck would have it there was a grape vine a swingin’ away ahead of me, and I ducked my head under it just as old Norton was about two jumps behind. He hadn’t seen it, and it took him about the middle and throwed him the hardest summerset I ever seed a man git. He was tired, and I knowd it, and I stopped about three rods off and laffd at him as loud as I could ball. I forgot all about my bile. He never follered me another step, for he was plum giv out, but he set there bareheaded and shook his hickory at me, lookin’ as mad and as miserable as possible. That lick on my bile was about the keenest pain I ever felt in my life, and like to have killed me. It busted as wide open as a soap trof, and let every drop of the juice out, but I’ve had a power of fun thinkin’ about it for the last forty years.
     But I didn’t start to tell you about that.

May 27, 2012. Another chapter is online, called Stave-Kirks, by the Rev. George S. Tyack, in “The Church Treasury of History, Custom, Folk-Lore, etc.,” edited by William Andrews.

The Hitterdal Church, in Norway, which is shown in this essay is adorably whimsical. I want one!

Also online, from the same book:

Holy Wells, by Cuming Walters,

Hermits and Hermit-Cells, by the Rev. J. Hudson Barker,

Church Wakes, an essay by an anonymous contributor,

The Knights Templars: their Churches and their Privileges, by J. Rogers Rees,

English Mediæval Pilgrimages, by W. H. Thompson,

Pilgrims’ Signs, by George S. Tyack,

Animals of the Church, in Wood, Stone, and Bronze, by T. Tyndall Wildridge,

Queries In Stones, by the Rev. Francis Haslewood,

Pictures In Churches, by the Rev. George S. Tyack,

Flowers and the Rites of the Church, by Hilderic Friend,

Church Walks, by W. B. Russell Caley, and

Westminster Wax-Works, by William Andrews.

May 20, 2012. A poem for you, from the set Tory got me, The Wit and Humor of America, edited by Marshall P. Wilder, Volume IX, New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company; p. 1654-1655:


The darkest, strangest mystery
I ever read, or heern, or see
Is ’long of a drink at Taggart’s Hall —
     Tom Taggart’s of Gilgal.

I’ve heern the tale a thousand ways,
But never could git through the maze
That hangs around that queer day’s doin’s;
     But I’ll tell the yarn to youans.

Tom Taggart stood behind his bar,
The time was fall, the skies was fa’r,
The neighbors round the counter drawed,
     And ca’mly drinked and jawed.

At last come Colonel Blood of Pike,
And old Jedge Phinn, permiscus-like,
And each, as he meandered in,
     Remarked, “A whisky-skin.”

Tom mixed the beverage full and fa’r,
And slammed it, smoking, on the bar.
Some says three fingers, some says two, —
     I’ll leave the choice to you.

Phinn to the drink put forth his hand;
Blood drawed his knife, with accent bland,
“I ax yer parding, Mister Phinn —
     Jest drap that whisky-skin.”

No man high-toneder could be found
Than old Jedge Phinn the country round.
Says he, “Young man, the tribe of Phinns
     Knows their own whisky-skins!”

He went for his ’leven-inch bowie-knife: —
“I tries to foller a Christian life;
But I’ll drap a slice of liver or two,
     My bloomin’ shrub, with you.”

They carved in a way that all admired,
Tell Blood drawed iron at last, and fired.
It took Seth Bludso ’twixt the eyes,
     Which caused him great surprise.

Then coats went off, and all went in;
Shots and bad language swelled the din;
The short, sharp bark of Derringers,
     Like bull-pups, cheered the furse.

They piled the stiffs outside the door;
They made, I reckon, a cord or more.
Girls went that winter, as a rule,
     Alone to spellin’-school.

I’ve sarched in vain, from Dan to Beer-
Sheba, to make this mystery clear;
But I end with hit as I did begin, —

May 19, 2012. Now online: The second edition of the first English translation of the “Ephesiaca,” 1727. This is one of the earliest Greek prose romances that we have preserved: Xenophon’s Ephesian History: or the Love-Adventures of Abrocomas and Anthia, in Five Books, translated from the Greek by Mr. Rooke.

May 17, 2012. Two chapters are online from “The Church Treasury of History, Custom, Folk-Lore, etc.,” edited by William Andrews:

Fortified Church Towers, by the Rev. George S. Tyack,

Ghost-Layers and Ghost-Laying, by William Andrews.

May 16, 2012. Inspired by a reference in the Fables of Babrius, I found a lecture on a very obscure topic, now online: Chapter VII, Wolf-Priests, Goat-Priests, Ox-Priests, Bee-Priests, by Sir William M. Ramsay, from “Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation,” The Gifford Lectures in the University of Edinburgh, 1915-1916. It includes a discussion on which ancient people discovered the correct sex of the head bee in a hive, queen or king?

Here are a few modern fables by an American author, George T. Lanigan, who made me smile in earlier days on Elfinspell, from The World’s Wit and Humor, Volume IV, American, pp. 97-98.

George T. Lanigan


The Merchant of Venice

A Venetian merchant who was lolling in the lap of Luxury was accosted upon the Rialto by a Friend who had not seen him for many months.
     “How is this?” cried the latter. “When I last saw you your Gabardine was out at elbows, and now you sail in your own Gondola!”
     “True,” replied the Merchant, “but since then I have met with serious losses, and been obliged to compound with my Creditors for ten Cents on the Dollar.”
     Moral. — Composition is the Life of Trade.

The Good Samaritan

A certain Man went from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among Thieves, who beat him and stripped him and left him for dead. A Good Samaritan, seeing this, clapped Spurs to his ass and galloped away, lest he should be sent to the House of Detention as a Witness, while the Robbers were released on bail.
     Moral — The Perceiver is worse than the Thief.

And the following fable in this collection is the one which I found funny before. It is a parody of Fable XXXVIII, The Husbandman and the Viper, by Babrius. Read it first! Then read the spoof.

The Villager and the Snake

A Villager one frosty day, found under a hedge a Snake almost dead with cold. Moved with compassion, and having heard that Snake Oil was good for the Rheumatiz, he took it home and placed it on the Hearth, where it shortly began to wake and crawl. Meanwhile, the Villager having gone out to keep an engagement with a Man ’round the Corner, the Villager’s Son (who had not drawn a sober Breath for a Week) entered, and, beholding the Serpent unfolding its plain, unvarnished Tail, with the cry “I’ve got ’em again!” fled to the office of the nearest Justice of the Peace, swore off, and became an Apostle of Temperance at $700 a week. The beneficent Snake next bit the Villager’s Mother-in-law so severely that Death soon ended her sufferings — and his; then silently stole away, leaving the Villager deeply and doubly in his Debt.
     Moral — A Virtuous Action is not always its only Reward. A Snake in the Grass is Worth two in the Boot.

May 15, 2012. A very interesting take on the Trojan War — Priam the Robber Baron! — can be found here in: Chapter X, The Iliad and the War of Troy, by Sir William M. Ramsay, from “Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation,” The Gifford Lectures in the University of Edinburgh, 1915-1916.

A day late for my punkin’s birthday, from The World’s Wit and Humor, Volume V, American, p. 143. :

Jarvis Keiley

The Song of the Jellyfish

As the waves slip over my cuticle sleek,
     They tickle my soul with glee,
And I shake with a visceral, saccharine joy,
     In the place where my ribs should be.
          For I’m simply a lump of limpid lard,
               With a gluey sort of a wish
          To pass my time in the oozing slime —
               In the home of the jellyfish.

But I’m happy in having no bones to break
     In my unctuous, wavering form,
And I haven’t a trace, nor, indeed, any place,
     For the dangerous vermiform.
          For I’m built on the strictest economy plan,
               And the model was made in a rush,
          While essaying to think almost drives me to drink,
               For I’m simply a mass of mush.

At night, when I slide on the sandy beach,
     And the moonbeams pierce me through,
The tears arise in my gelatine eyes,
     And I gurgle a sob or two,
          For I wonder — ah, me! — in the time to come,
               When the days are no longer young,
          What fish’s digestion will suffer congestion
               When the end of my song is sung.

May 6, 2012. A chapter is online called Human Skin on Church Doors, by the Rev. George S. Tyack, in “The Church Treasury of History, Custom, Folk-Lore, etc.,” edited by William Andrews.

Also, another poem from the anthology Tory (my great kid) sent me:


If ever you should go by chance
     To jungles in the East,
And if there should to you advance
     A large and tawny beast —
If he roar at you as you’re dyin’,
     You’ll know it is the Asian Lion.

If, when in India loafing round,
     A noble wild beast meets you,
With dark stripes on a yellow ground,
     Just notice if he eats you.
This simple rule may help you learn
     The Bengal Tiger to discern.

When strolling forth, a beast you view
     Whose hide with spots is peppered;
As soon as it has leapt on you,
     You’ll know it is the Leopard.
’T will do no good to roar with pain,
     He’ll only lep and lep again.

If you are sauntering round your yard,
     And meet a creature there
Who hugs you very, very hard,
     You’ll know it is the Bear.
If you have any doubt, I guess,
     He’ll give you just one more caress.

Whene’er a quadruped you view
     Attached to any tree,
It may be ’tis the Wanderoo,
     Or yet the Chimpanzee.
If right side up it may be both,
     If upside down it is the Sloth.

Though to distinguish beasts of prey
     A novice might nonplus;
Yet from the Crocodile you may
     Tell the Hyena, thus:
’Tis the Hyena if it smile;
     If weeping, ’tis the Crocodile.

The true Chameleon is small —
     A lizard sort of thing;
He hasn’t any ears at all
     And not a single wing.
If there is nothing on the tree
     ’Tis the Chameleon you see.

May 5, 2012. The pause that stresses! [not refreshes] However absent online, stuff was being done. Here is part of it: a chapter is online called Curious Churches in Cornwall, by Rev. W. S. Lach-Szyrma, in “The Church Treasury of History, Custom, Folk-Lore, etc.,” edited by William Andrews. This is another great book from his Hull press full of lovely antiquarian details.

Two jokes from A Batch of Smiles, Selected from Many Sources, by Carleton B. Case, 1917, p. 60:


“I tell you I won’t have this room,” protested the old lady to the boy in buttons who was conducting her. “I ain’t goin’ to pay my money for a pig-sty with a measley little foldin’ bed in it. If you think that just because I’m from the country —”

Profoundly disgusted, the boy cut her short. “Get in, mum, get in,” he ordered. “This ain’t yer room. This is the elevator.”


This is told of a Philadelphian whose mother-in-law was alarmingly ill. One night a physician who was attending her shook his head and said, impressively:

“She has got to go to a hot climate. Mind, I don’t mean a warm place, but a hot one.”

The son-in-law disappeared, but soon emerged from the cellar carrying an axe. Handing it to the doctor, he exclaimed:

“Here, Doc, you do it; I can’t.

March 25, 2012. Finally, I have returned to proofreading Froissart line by line, after spell-checking it. All I can say is that spellcheck is far from perfect. But now all of Book I has been proofread with the book before me. In this book, Chapter 326, of Froissart's Chronicle, Chaucer is mentioned as being one of the ambassadors to France, trying to arrange a treaty with the French, in 1377, during the Hundred Years War, pp. 509-510:

About Shrovetide, a secret treaty was formed between the two kings for their ambassadors to meet at Montreuil-sur-mer; and the king of England sent to Calais sir Guiscard d’Angle, sir Richard Sturey, and sir Geoffry Chaucer. On the part of the French were, the lords de Coucy and de la Rivieres, sir Nicholas Bragues and Nicholas Bracier. They for a long time discussed the subject of the above marriage; and the French, as I was informed, made some offers, but the others demanded different terms, or refused treating. These lords returned therefore, with their treaties, to their sovereigns; and the truces were prolonged to the first of May. The earl of Salisbury, the bishop of St. David’s chancellor of England, and the bishop of Hereford, returned to Calais; and with them, by orders of the king of France, the lord de Coucy, and sir William de Dormans chancellor of France.
     Notwithstanding all that the prelates could say or argue, they never could be brought to fix upon any place to discuss these treaties between Montreuil and Calais, nor between Montreuil and Boulogne, nor on any part of the frontiers; these treaties, therefore, remained in an unfinished state. When the war recommenced, sir Hugh Calverley was sent governor of Calais.

From Parton’s Humorous Poetry, 1884, three anonymous epigrams, p. 570:


As my wife and I, at the window one day,
      Stood watching a man with a monkey,
A cart came by, with a “broth of a boy,”
      Who was driving a stout little donkey.
To my wife I then spoke, by way of a joke,
      “There’s a relation of yours in that carriage.”
To which she replied, as the donkey she spied,
      “Ah, yes, a relation — by marriage! ”


One of whom, O’Connell, delayed a duel on the plea of his wife’s illness; the other declined on account of the illness of his daughter.

Some men with a horror of slaughter,
Improve on the Scripture command,
And honor their wife and their daughter,
That their days may be long in the land.


“Pray, why does the great Captain’s nose
      Resemble Venice?” Duncomb cries.
“Why,” quoth Sam Rogers, “I suppose,
      Because it has a bridge of size (sighs).”

March 23, 2012. The original printed Aesop is online! The completed text of The Fables of Babrius, in Two Parts, translated into English Verse from the text of Sir G. C. Lewis, by the Rev. John Davies.

March 18, 2012. I came across a fable, Number 66, by Babrius, which mentioned living birds as decoys, translated by Davies, 1860; p. 188:



A sportsman in his net a partridge caught,
To sup on which immediately he thought:
But for her life entreating mournfully
She cried, “Oh spare, and do not slaughter me,
And I for thee a crowd of birds will get,
Decoying ready victims to thy net.”
Said he, “Thou silly partridge, stay thy cry;
It is for this cause chiefly thou shalt die,
That never more thou may’st betray thy friends.”

Evil design’d for others ever tends
To thine own hurt. And so doth ev’ry plan
Thy malice plots against a fellow-man.

I had never heard of such a thing. So I scrounged around on my bookshelf and found out that this was a common practice for centuries, and centuries. Read, and see the copies of the engravings by Stradanus, a 16th century Dutch engraver online here: Fowling in Bygone Days, by W. A. Baillie-Grohman, Pall Mall Magazine, Volume XIII, 1875.

The article also discusses ongoing massive decimation of birds, even tiny songbirds of every sort by the greedy and bloodthirsty.

Let's lighten it up a bit, quick! There was one funny fable, Number 84, in the same book, p. 207:



A bald man in a wig did ride a race:
A sudden gust dislodged it from its place.
It flew aloft, by breezy motion borne,
And the by-standers laugh’d the man to scorn.
But said the bald-head, as he ceased to ride,
“What marvel if strange locks refused to bide
Where mine own hair had long deserted me?”

Vexed at the loss of goods let no man be:
For borrowers of this life’s things are we.

From Comparative Geography 101: Bill Thayer tells me:

“Umbria” in Roman times is not the same as modern Umbria. Modern Umbria (1) is landlocked, (2) extends not very far north, and (3) includes some of the right bank of the Tiber. Roman Umbria extended all the way north to Ravenna, included a chunk of the north-central Adriatic coast, and firmly excluded the right bank of the Tiber. Similarly, Tozer describes Calabria, correctly, as being the heel of the Italian boot: which is now the southern part of Puglia, whereas modern Calabria is the toe of the boot, the ancient Bruttium.

March 17, 2012. The complete text is online: The Biographical Writings and Letters of Venerable Bede, translated by John Allen Giles. This includes the Index! (Proofed even).

Detouring to Rome, in the tradition of Biscop, the monk with the itchy feet who founded Bede's Monastery, an anecdote from the Cyclopædia of Wit and Humor, by F. Wiseman, 1845; p. 315:

Monte di Pieta. — This is an establishment at Rome, which has existed ever since the year 1585. It is certainly the greatest pawnbroker’s shop in the world, and in its kind one of the noblest charities. Any person that brings a pawn may borrow from sixpence to thirty crowns without paying any interest, but all that is lent above that sum pays after the rate of two per cent. per annum. At the end of the year the borrower may renew, which is done without any expense; but at the end of two years, if the pledge be not redeemed, nor interest of the money paid, the pledge is sold, and the overplus of the debt is laid by for the owner, who has it in his power to demand it at any time within 100 years.

For more on the subject, and some original photographs, see Bill Thayer's Gazetteer of Italy: Mons Pietatis, the Origins of the Lowly Pawn-shop, Assisi.

A sweet discovery! Short, too. Here's the online copy of a pamphlet called Boyhood Days in Iowa, An Informal Address before the Iowa Society of Washington, by Herbert Hoover. This was a speech delivered when he was Secretary of Commerce, 1921-1928, prior to his Presidency.

March 13, 2012. From the Take-This-Down File. I just realized something. Typos are difficult enough to spot (and introduce) when you are closely involved with a typewritten text, whether copying it or proofreading the text and the copy. But in the bygone days, before the invention of the typewriter, the printer had to set type from hand written manuscripts. Everybody had different handwriting, too. How much harder his job was then!

I know that monks and clerks who had beautiful handwriting were prized as copyists, in the days before printing. Also some writers dictated to others, some had "boys" as Bede did, or slaves, (obviously with good hand writing), as Pliny the Elder did, in ancient Rome. In some cases, I imagine, this is because the author's own handwriting was not up to snuff.

All that vast printed output of critical scholarship that began with the invention of the printing press, burgeoning in the late 1700's and 1800's, with the publication of critical works of major manuscripts in Greek, Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Hebrew, etc., were all done from a handwritten text. The talents of the printers, when throwing type with any speed at all, boggles the mind. Let's not forget the work of competent illustrators and engravers before the invention of the camera either. No wonder books were so expensive. I don't think I appreciated the reason quite so well as I do now.

Speaking of manuscripts, from Wehman Bros. Wit and Humor, New York, 1912, p. 18:

A baby lately had the misfortune to swallow the contents of an ink bottle. Its mother, with wonderful presence of mind, immediately ministered a box of steel pens and two sheets of foolscap paper, and the child has felt write inside ever since.

And a tidbit for Jona Lendering, from the Cyclopædia of Wit and Humor, by F. Wiseman, 1845;, p. 494:

Sailor turned Tumbler. — In the great Dutch war, in the reign of Charles II. the English fleet and that of Holland fought in the Channel for three days successively, engaged in the day and laying to at night; but just as they were preparing to renew the action, advice came off that an armistice was concluded upon, and the hostile parties began to exchange mutual civilities. On board a Dutch man-of-war, which lay alongside an English first-rate, was a sailor so remarkably active, as to run to the mast-head and stand upright upon the truck; after which he would cut several capers, and conclude with standing upon his head, to the great astonishment and terror of the spectators. On coming down from this exploit all his countrymen expressed their joy by huzzaing, and thereby signifying their triumph over the English. One of the bold tars, piqued for the honour of his country, ran up to the top like a cat, and essayed, with all his might, to throw up his heels like the Dutchman; but not having the skill, he missed his poise, and came down rather faster than he went up. The rigging, however, broke his fall, and he alighted on his feet unhurt. As soon as he had recovered his speech he ran to the side, and exultingly cried out to the Dutchman, “There, you lubber, do that if you can!”

And last thing! Now online: The Chronicle of the Six Ages of the World, by Bede, tr. by John Allen Giles, from The Biographical Writings and Letters of Venerable Bede.

And from reading all about monks, you know that they loved to nap! Of course they got up at all hours for devotional duties, so a snooze was probably necessary to diminish some of those visions from hallucinations due to sleep deprivation.

March 12, 2012. A great goat:

Black and white photograph of a long-haired goat, wearing a head-piece, muzzle, and a necklace, the mascot of the 23rd Regiment of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

Since this goat is all decked out, and muzzled, as you see, so you cannot hear his opinion about his outfit. What is the occasion? He was the treasured mascot for a troop of Welsh fusiliers (an infantry regiment). Commandant Mowat, traced the probable origin of this choice of regimental pet. It goes a long, long, way back. See The Capricorn of the Second Legion, surnamed Augusta, and the Goat of the 23rd Regiment Royal Welsh Fusiliers, by M. le Commandant R. Mowat, of Paris.

He is not named, which is sad. It's a good thing that the goat is probably not a spy, or he would certainly be known as "Mata Hairi."

March 8, 2012. Now online: A Narrative of the Translation of the Body of Saint Cuthbert, from Lindisfarne to Durham, translated by Joseph Stevenson, from the Acta Sanctorum in the The Biographical Writings and Letters of Venerable Bede.

I am very surprised that there is not more discussion on the mainstream news about the religious beliefs of the Mormons. Having had two Mormon friends in High School, I went to Wednesday church discussion groups with them for several months. It turns out that a woman cannot go to heaven in the Mormon church unless a man, her husband usually, takes her with him!

Interestingly enough, back then a person who was African-American, male or female, could not go to heaven unless a [white] male member of the Church of Latter-day Saints brought him or her along. This, however, was changed in the 1980's or so, because they could not recruit black athletes into the college programs in Utah with this particular tenet in place. So there was a revelation in the Tabernacle. Behold! now African-American males can go to heaven without needing an escort, but any woman still has to be invited by a man. This rule remains true, according to my last discussion with a Mormon, in 2011. I forgot to ask about other ethnic groups.

In the best spirit of capitalistic religion, too, that interdenominational Prophet Profit fueled other changes in that church. For years, caffeine was banned and considered totally unacceptable for consumption by their members. But what do you know? When the Mormon Church got the Coca-Cola franchise in the 70's or 80's, attitudes shifted, although it is still not recommended, the degree of condemnation backed off considerably. The strictest Mormons still won't drink caffeine, but it does not stop them from making a tidy sum off of purveying the evil drink pandering to anybody else's "vices" with vim and vigor.

Now, freedom of religion is crucial. However, since principles of religion are used (truly or falsely, sincerely or insincerely) to dominate and affect political thoughts, motives, and policies constantly, this religion's philosophy needs to be addressed directly by all who are concerned about equal rights for everybody.

By the way, I told Ron Paul's campaign headquarters about this, because he is anti-war, number one, and the least bigoted of any of the current Republican candidates, number two. Naturally the man does not have a prayer, unfortunately as a result of his more moderate views. My suggestion was not acted on as far as I can see. Which is too bad, if he was a serious candidate then the drums of war would stop rat-a-tat-tatting so loudly.

Not that I am a Republican, or a Democrat, or a Tea-Partier. Mostly, I am disgusted.

From the anthology Tor[e]y (my good kid) sent me The Wit and Humor of America, edited by Marshall P. Wilder, Volume IX, New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company); pp. 1797-1798:


The Carnivorous Bear

Gentle Jane went walking, where
     She espied a Grizzly Bear;
Flustered by the quadruped
     Gentle Jane just lost her head.

The Rude Train

Last week, Tuesday, gentle Jane
     Met a passing railroad train;
“Ah, good afternoon,” she said;
     But the train just cut her dead.

The Careless Niece

Once her brother’s child, for fun,
     Pointed at her aunt a gun,
At this conduct of her niece’s
     Gentle Jane went all to pieces.

The Naughty Automobile

Gentle Jane went for a ride,
     But the automobile shied;
Threw the party all about —
     Somehow, Jane felt quite put out.

The Cold, Hard Lake

Gentle Jane went out to skate;
     She fell through at half-past eight.
Then the lake, with icy glare,
     Said, “Such girls I can not bear.”

The Calm Steam-Roller

In the big steam-roller’s path
     Gentle Jane expressed her wrath.
It passed over. After that
     Gentle Jane looked rather flat.

A New Experience

Much surprised was gentle Jane
     When a bullet pierced her brain;
“Such a thing as that,” she said,
     “Never came into my head!”

The Battering-Ram

“Ah!” said gentle Jane, “I am
     Proud to meet a battering-ram.”
Then, with shyness overcome,
     Gentle Jane was just struck dumb.

March 7, 2012. A line from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15:55, has oft been quoted. Alexander Pope used the line, and improved the original context (tremendously) by expanding it into a poem that I found, whilst browsing through Choice Readings, by Robert McLean Cumnock, Chicago: McClurg & Co.; p. 495:


Vital spark of heavenly flame,
Quit, oh! quit this mortal frame!
Trembling, hoping, lingering, flying, —
Oh, the pain —  the bliss of dying!
Cease, fond nature, cease thy strife,
And let me languish into life!

Hark! they whisper: angels say,
“Sister spirit, come away!”
What is this absorbs me quite, —
Steals my senses, shuts my sight,
Drowns my spirit, draws my breath? —
Tell me, my soul! can this be death?

The world recedes — it disappears:
Heaven opens on my eyes; my ears
     With sounds seraphic ring:
Lend, lend your wings! I mount, I fly!
O Grave! where is thy victory?
     O Death! where is thy sting?

Alexander Pope.

The last line formed the basis for a very funny joke I put up before: It Missed Fire. (Click on the title and you can jump to it, then click on the * and you will return to this spot.)

Bill Thayer was the one who told me the line was first used in the Bible, which I have read for a total of 60 minutes in my life, being a born-again heathen. This includes the minute I spent reading the passage above.

March 5, 2012. The Book of the Life and Miracles of Saint Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, by Bede, tr. by John Allen Giles, is online, from The Biographical Writings and Letters of Venerable Bede.

Speaking of saints:


As down the street he took his stroll,
     He cursed, for all he is a saint.
He saw a sign atop a pole,
As down the street he took a stroll,
And climbed it up (near-sighted soul),
     So he could read — “FRESH
               PAINT,” . . .
As down the street he took a stroll,
     He cursed, for all he is a saint.

March 4, 2012. The Life of Bede, by John Allen Giles, is online, from The Biographical Writings and Letters of Venerable Bede.

And also by my friend, John Trumbull below-mentioned, is a poem he wrote as a feisty Yale college student, with the usual scatological glee expected from the gender. It is on pages 39-40, of John Trumbull, Connecticut Wit, by Alexander Cowie, who states that “This poem, which needless to say could be circulated only privately in his time, is now first published”:


— There runs an antient story, You can
Find it, or something like in Lucan,
Of a strange hill, whose top, they tell us,
Puffed wind by fits, like blacksmith’s bellows;
And such an odour fumed around,
Such horrid earthquakes shook the ground,
With cholic rumbling, that the hearers
Believed it near the world’s posteriors.
High on the top a temple stood,
Devoted to some heathen God;
His priest (and in the days we name
A priest and poet was the same)
Fixing a sacred three-legg’d stool,
They call’d a tripod, o’er the hole,
And sitting down in solemn show,
Drew inspiration from below,
Which thus received he made the best on,
And by a vicevers’ digestion,
Th’ inflation rising from behind,
It came out verse, which went in wind.

The vicevers’ bit, is a poetical abbreviation for vice versa, I guess, and Trumbull abbreviated it to preserve the meter.

Cowie adds that this is from a Cornell MSS. of his works, and bears the date “1767,” “1768.”

In case you are not amused much, being picky, maybe this will make you smile! It is from Funny Stories Told By The Soldiers, Pranks, Jokes and Laughable Affairs of Our Boys and Their Allies in The Great War, The Victors in their Cheerful Moments, by Carleton B. Case, 1919, on p. 14. The title is a spoiler, so I omitted it:

A British office who was inspecting the line in Flanders came across a raw-looking yeoman.
     “What are you here for?” asked the officer.
     “To report anything unusual, sir.”
     “What would you call unusual? What would you do if you saw five battle cruisers steaming across the field?”
     “Take the pledge, sir.”

“If at first you don’t fricassee, fry, fry, a hen.” I remember that still from a book by Carol Ryrie Brink, when I was a wee lass. And I stil love it.

From Told on the Way, Snappy Short Stories heard aboard Trains, Steamboats, and in Hotel Lounges, by Pop Peregrinet on his First European Trip, Chicago: Drift Publishing Company, 1913; p. 187 sqq.:

The journalist rung one in at this juncture:
     “An English tourist,” he said, “was seeing the sights in Ireland. The guide pointed out the Devil’s Gap, the Devil’s Peak, and the Devil’s Leap to him.
     “‘Pat,’ he said, ’the devil seems to have a great deal of property here.’
     “ ‘He has, sorr,’ replied the guide; ‘but, sure, he’s like all the landlords — he lives in England.’ ”

And, from an anthology of humor, given to me by my darlink dotter:


When I am dead you’ll find it hard,
                 Said he,
To ever find another man
                 Like me.

What makes you think, as I suppose
                 You do,
I’d ever want another man
                 Like you?

The last one, for now.


One day in Paradise,
     Two angels, beaming, strolled
Along the amber walk that lies
     Beside the street of gold.

At last they met and gazed
     Into each other’s eyes,
Then dropped their harps, amazed,
     And stood in mute surprise.

And other angels came,
     And, as they lingered near,
Heard both at once exclaim:
     “Say, how did you get here?”

March 1, 2012. Spring is sprung, and those gardening juices are flowing. Here’s a great picture for you, something to try at home:

Black and white engraving, signed by F. Weisener, of large tree shaped into a tree house or arbre-belvedere, with two stories.  Two people are on the first story at one window.  There is a stairway, wooden, from the ground to the start of the leaves.  Several people, male and female are on the ground in the fashions of the period, 1843.

Now I hope you are saying, “Can you tell me about this picture?”

I certainly can! It is from a short article in Le Magasin Pittoresque, published in their December issue, in 1841.

Figuring I would try to learn some French by translating interesting brief articles, I definitely wanted to know more about this cute tree-house. So I put up the original French article, L’Érable de Matibo, by an anonymous writer.

Here’s the English translation, The Maple Tree of Matibo.

But wait, there’s more! just as you hoped! And it’s a mystery. too. Read the addendum to the English translation: The Matibo Affair, by Sally Forth.

Back to English and back about fifty years before our tree story:

John Trumbull lived during the days of the American Revolutionary War. He wrote a famous satirical poem about it, called M'Fingal. His sense of humor . . . and mischief . . . were evident early. There is a study by him called John Trumbull, Connecticut Wit, the author, Alexander Cowie, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1936. He was the son of a staid New England minister, who worked for Yale College. On page 20, Cowie has found this notice of his childhood escapades, from The History of Ancient Westbury and Present Watertown from its Settlement to 1907:

Tradition says that the parson’s [the Reverend Mr. Trumble’s] grave old dog, who was usually as regular an attendant upon the services as any member of the family, scandalized the good people of the congregation one Sunday, by marching in after the sermon had begun, with the minister’s second best wig tied on his head, and took his seat on the pulpit stairs. The parson looked at him, struggled to maintain his gravity and remarked, “That is some of John’s work.”

February 25, 2012. This joke was the funniest in the whole book to me — yesterday at least, in Funny Stories Told By The Soldiers, Pranks, Jokes and Laughable Affairs of Our Boys and Their Allies in The Great War, The Victors in their Cheerful Moments, by Carleton B. Case, 1919, on p. 53. I laughed out loud and it scared the cats. So I am giving it its own day on this log. I put it up for myself especially to find it again for a chuckle. But I also put it online for Jona Lendering, who speaks several languages and teaches so much to so many as well. I hope he enjoys it! I am omitting the title, because it is a spoiler:

The Post School for Soldiers, gathered for the afternoon session. The teacher was the Chaplain. The lesson, he said, was about the adverb. “What is an adverb?” There was an eloquent silence. At last a weary voice ventured: “That’s a word that ends in ly. I learned that back in Missouri.”
     “Can you give me a definition?” said the Chaplain.
     “No, Sir.”
     “Can you give me an example of an adverb?”
     “Yes, Sir,” came the response, “Kelly.”
     Some months afterward, while in camp overseas, the Chaplain addressed a sentry and inquired who was Corporal of the guard. And the answer came:
     “Kelly, the adverb, Sir.”

. . . of course, maybe you had to have been there.

February 24, 2012. There are two letters by Bede online, from The Biographical Writings and Letters of Venerable Bede, translated by J. A. Giles. The first is: Epistle I to Abbot Albinus, by Venerable Bede, about his Ecclesiastical History, which he was such a big help in providing material for.

Decay from the philosophy of the founding principles of the originator of the Christian Church was common by 200 A.D. or so, although this is not well-taught in history! Corruption in monasticism did not take long to rear its head either. The Venerable One, in the eighth century, talks about it as widespread in England, in the second letter: Epistle II to Bishop Egbert, later Archbishop of York, by Bede.

Time for cheer, obviously. A few jokes from Funny Stories Told By The Soldiers, Pranks, Jokes and Laughable Affairs of Our Boys and Their Allies in The Great War, The Victors in their Cheerful Moments, by Carleton B. Case, 1919:


Staff Colonel — “Your reports should be written in such a manner that even the most ignorant may understand them.”
     Sergeant — “Well, sir, what part is it that you don’t understand?”


First War Correspondent — “Did your dispatch get past the censor?”
     Second War Correspondent — “Only the part that wasn’t true.”
     “Well, isn’t that all your paper wants?”


Queen Mary sent a beautiful bouquet that had been presented to her to a soldiers’ hospital. To show their appreciation, the inmates commissioned one of their number to stand at the hospital gate the following morning, holding the gift, when the queen passed. He did so — with rather unexpected results. Queen Mary, seated in her car, saw the soldier standing there, bouquet in hand, and assuming that he wished to present it to her, she reached out and took it. After she had thanked him, her car passed on.
     The soldier stood quite dumfounded — then recovering his speech, he said: “Well, she’s pinched ’em.”

February 23, 2012. Bede wrote the history of the first abbots of his monastery, in the 7th century, who created a very famous library in England. Biscop (Benedict) began it. He also was the first to fetch glassmakers to England from France to adorn the church he had built — by masons also imported from Gaul. The glassmakers taught their craft to the English while they were there. Biscop traveled to Rome, too, and brought back the Abbot of St. Martin's, John, who was also the archchanter (archicantor or precentor) of St. Peter’s at the Vatican. He had him teach his monks the Roman style of singing (or chanting) the Liturgy. All this is in Bede’s short biography of them, which is now online: The Lives of the Holy Abbots of Weremouth and Jarrow, Benedict, Ceolfrid, Eosterwine, Sigfrid, and Hwaetberht, by Bede (Baeda) from The Biographical Writings and Letters of Venerable Bede, translated by John Allen Giles.

I was tickled to find a story about King Charles II. that was also told about Francis I. of France, (who ruled a century earlier), which is already online here (A Royal Hunt of the XVIth Century, by Richomme). I found the British version, less amusing and less charming, in The Story of Nell Gwyn and the Sayings of Charles the Second, by Peter Cunningham, New York: John Wiley’s Sons, 1888, p. 68. Cunningham says the source of the anecdote is Richardsoniana, p. 103:

The elder Richardson was fond of telling a characteristic story of the King and kingly honour. A cutpurse, or pickpocket, with as much effrontery of face as dexterity of finger, had got into the drawing-room on the king's birthday, dressed like a gentleman, and was detected by the King himself taking a gold snuff-box out of a certain Earl’s pocket. The rogue, who saw his sovereign’s eye upon him, put his finger to his nose, and made a sign to the King with a wink to say nothing. Charles took the hint, and, watching the Earl, enjoyed his feeling first in one pocket and then in another for his missing box. The King now called the nobleman to him: “You need not give yourself,” he said, “any more trouble about it, my Lord, your box is gone; I am myself an accomplice: — I could not help it, I was made a confidant.”

Now, how about some unique content? The short history of the pioneers who established an early resort in Alaska, circa 1939, is online: The Story of Ben-My-Chree, Compliments of White Pass and Yukon Route, printed by Farwest. The little pamphlet was a welcome present from my kid, a while back.

Uh-oh, I may never feel the same again about Frank Baum, the author of Wizard of Oz. I just found out that Toto, in French, means a louse, or cootie!!! (according to Harrap’s Dictionary). B-arf, b-arf.

February 20, 2012. No. 6 in the Pennyworth Series is online: “A Pennyworth of Repartee,” by Reverend David Macrae. A sample:

When a gentleman waggishly introduced his friend to a lady, with the remark, “He’s not such a fool as he looks,” the friend replied, “That makes the difference between me and him!”

February 17, 2012. Now complete (except for a small printer’s logo image to be put in later) and online in its entirety: Miniatures of French History, by Hilaire Belloc.

This joke, too, is from A Batch of Smiles, Selected from Many Sources, by Carleton B. Case, 1917, p. 27:


First Salesman — “A woman was arrested downstairs this morning.”

Second Salesman — “What for?”

First Salesman — “She was caught in the act of concealing a hand mirror.”

Second Salesman — “Poor woman! That’s what comes of taking a glass too much.”

February 16, 2012. I forgot the joke for yesterday. From the Land of the Merchant Pirates, where the bankers have gotten off with a mere “Tsk, tsk,” from Sparks of Laughter, 1926:

A Better World

The late Edgar Addison Bancroft, the noted Chicago lawyer, and once Ambassador to Japan, said at a Blackstone banquet:
     “Some people complain about crooked business, but there’s nothing like the crooked business there used to be.”
     Mr. Bancroft chuckled.
     “Why,” he declared, “there’s many a millionaire to-day who, if he lost his money the same way he gained it, would insist on somebody going to jail.”

Another word of warning, do not leave anything to a library or a museum (should you have any precious little token). They sell it or give it away whenever they want to. That goes for leaving money to any “not-for-profit” charitable organization. Specify the use you want the money to go to and demand proof. Do you really want to pay for somebody’s lunch or for inflated salaries of unnecessary employees or consultants, or lawyers who find out ways to violate the conditions of your bequest, or worse — make sure the public can never access them in any way, shape, or form?

February 15, 2012. The whole of the four part series, Lee of Virginia by Henry Tyrrell, for the British Pall Mall Magazine, 1897, is online, to supplement the definitive biography on Bill Thayer’s site of the owner of the famous horse Traveller, by Douglas Freeman:

Part I: From the Defence of Richmond (1862) to the Battle of Gettysburg,

Part II: The Defeat of Pope’s Army and the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg),

Part III: Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, and

Part IV: Gettysburg.

February 13, 2012. The complete text of Tales of Humour, is now online. This is a collection of uncredited, anonymous translations of French stories and legends. There is one story about a German schoolteacher, and I could not find a source for this one. Maybe it is original. I have traced the original French authors and given them their proper due on each of the story pages.

The rest of the stories are:

Richard de St. Julien, or, an Adventure in the Forest,
The Gascon, or the Statesman’s Blow,
Doctor Peperkouk,
The Present of the Emperor,
The Shooting Excursion,
Fortunes and Misfortunes of a Saxon Schoolmaster,
An Anecdote of Alice of Burgundy,
Uncle Scipio, and
The Interview.

The first page of the first story, has a very ornate engraving of the initial Letter T of the first word in the first paragraph. It took me forever to get the image in any sort of approximation to the paragraph. I was thrilled when it looked pretty dang good in my version of Internet Explorer. Unfortunately, it does not work in Google Chrome’s browser. If anybody can tell me where I erred, feel free! I have posted a question on the forum for Chrome Webmasters, and we'll see if they can give me a solution.

The stories are all very good in whole or in part, and I hope you enjoy them.

The tale in the book called The Shooting Excursion, inspired me to put up some more jokes from the “Sports” section, of Sparks of Laugher, 1925, the first one being particularly appropriate:

Served the Bird Right

Two friends were out shooting. One was a good shot, but the other banged away in all directions without hitting anything. At last a bird fell, to his gun.
     “Well, I hit that one, anyway!” he exclaimed.
     His friend nodded. “Serves it right for getting in the way of your shot!”

Wanted Him To Pose

All addicts are dangerous.
     A camera addict went big game hunting in Africa last year. One of his companions was chased by a lion, and fled for camp with the lion at his heels.
     As the poor fellow fled he heard a shout, and looked hopefully toward the thicket whence the sound came, for he thought salvation was at hand.
     But it was the camera addict instead. The addict came bounding forth with his camera raised.
     “Hold on, there,” he yelled savagely. “Slower! You’re too far ahead. I can’t get you both in.”

— Pittsburgh Chronicle Telegraph.

An Odd Species

It happened in the Adirondacks.
     “What,” demanded the amateur hunter of his guide, “what is the name of the species I just shot?”
     “Well, sir,” returned the guide suavely. “I’ve just been investigating and he says his name is Smith.”

Blamed the Worm

Two miners went on a fishing expedition. But they were novices at the game.
     “Hoo are ye gittin’ on, Jack?” asked one.
     “Not at all,” was the reply. “I don’t believe my worm’s trying.”

Was Getting a Bit Nervous

A party of tourists who were staying at an hotel in the Highlands were questioning a ghillie as to the prospect of securing game.
     Are there any deer about here?” asked one of the party.
     “Well,” replied the ghillie, ponderously, “there was one, but the gentlemen were aye shooting and shooting at it, and I’m o’ the opinion that it left the district!”

— Phoenix Quill.

The Revoke

A golf novice had ploughed up the ground all around the ball at every stroke. The instructor stood it patiently for a while, but after the novice’s several digs into the tee, he remarked, “You’ve revoked.”
     “We’re playing golf, not whist,” said the novice.
     “Yes,” replied the instructor, “but you have played a club where you should have played a spade.”

And one for Bill Thayer, from The Travelers section, with thanks:

Shades of Caesar!

A party of visitors were being shown over the magnificent home of a marquis. In the library they paused before a bust, and one of them asked whom it represented.
     “Marcus Aurelius,” said the guide.
     ”Ah,” said the inquirer, “that would be the father of the present markis?”

     — Tit Bits.

February 9, 2012. Oops! It looks like I forgot to mention that Lucian’s Wonderland, being a Translation of the ‘Vera Historia,’ by St J. Basil Wynne Willson, illustrated by A. Payne Garnett is online.

It's a great adventure fantasy novel written in the second century A.D. This is a free adaptation, and is suitable for all ages. The art deco illustrations are delightful and there are some wickedly funny parts, especially the Author’s Introduction.

February 7, 2012. Here’s a good story about a prank played on Frances the First, of France: A Royal Hunt of the XVIth Century. It is an anonymous translation into English in Tales of Humour, and the original source is not credited, but it is the English version of “Une chasse royale au seizième siècle,” by Ch. Richomme, from François Ier et le seizième siècle: contes et nouvelles historiques.

February 3, 2012. Another in the Pennyworth Series is online: No. 5, “A Pennyworth of Chestnuts,” by Reverend David Macrae.
There is a supposedly true, cheesy story in it, but it's Gouda-nough:

“Speaking of cheese,” said Jones; “I remember reading a remarkable story about a victory gained with the help of cheese — a naval victory.”

“Oh, come! nonsense.”

“It’s a fact. It was in South America. The officer was Commodore Coe of the Montevidean navy, in an engagement with Admiral Brown of the Buenos Ayrean service. The commodore’s ship had exhausted her ammunition, and the first lieutenant came excitedly to the commodore asking, ‘What are we to do, sir? The lockers are empty.’ ‘All empty?’ asked the commodore. ‘Every one of them,’ said the lieutenant — ‘round shot, grape, canister, double-head, all gone!’ ‘Is the powder done?’ asked the commodore. ‘No, sir, we’ve plenty powder.’ ‘Well,’ said the commodore, ‘we had a darned hard Dutch cheese at dinner to-day; do you remember?’ ‘I ought to,’ said the other, ‘I broke the carving-knife trying to cut it.’ ‘Are there any more aboard?’ ‘About six dozen; we took them from a droger.’ ‘Will they go into the 18-pounders?’ ‘By thunder! commodore,’ cried the lieutenant, ‘that’s an idea. I’ll go and try ’em.’ Presently the guns of their ship, the ‘Santa Maria,’ re-opened fire. Admiral Brown, on the opposing ship, found shot after shot flying over his head. Presently one of them struck his mainmast, and as it did so, shattered and flew in every direction. ‘What, in all creation, is that the enemy is firing?’ exclaimed the startled admiral. Before any answer was possible, another shot came in through a port, killed two men who were near him, and, striking the opposite bulwarks, burst into flinders. ‘By Jove, this is too much!’ cried the admiral. ‘This is some new infernal Paixhan or other. I don’t half like ’em.’ And, as four or five more of them came slap through the sails, he gave the order to fill away, and actually backed out of the fight, receiving a parting broadside of Dutch cheeses.’

I do not know what "fill away" means in naval jargon, it would not surprise me if "fill" was not a typo for "sail". But the same "fill away" is repeated in multiple accounts in almost exactly the same words when this tale was re-told for over fifty years.

Where did this story come from? Is it true? Here is an earlier version, repeated, with slight variations, but the persistence of the term "fill away". It is from Colburn’s United Service Magazine and Naval and Military Journal, August, 1866, Part II, London: Hurst and Blacket Publishers, pp. 552-553:

“Assault the enemy with Dutch cheeses.” — The greatest ammunition that we have heard of lately was used by the celebrated Commander Coe of the Monte Videan Navy, who, in an engagement with Admiral Brown of the Buenos Ayrean service, fired every shot from his lockers. ‘What shall we do, sir?’ asked his first lieutenant, ‘We’ve not a single shot aboard — round, grape, canister and double-headed are all gone.’ ‘Powder gone, eh?’ asked Coe. ‘No, sir, got lots of that yet.’ ‘We had a darn’d hard cheese as round Dutch one at dinner to-day, do you remember it?’ said Coe. ‘I ought to, I broke the carving-knife in trying to cut it, sir.’ ‘Are there anymore on board?’ ‘About two dozen. We took them from a droger.’ ‘Will they go into the 18-pounder?’ ‘By thunder, Commodore, but that's the idea; I’ll try ’em!’ cried the first lieutenant. And in a few minutes the fire of the old Santa Maria (Coe’s ship), which had ceased entirely, was reopened, and Admiral Brown found more shots flying over his head. Directly one of them struck his main-mast, and as it did so, shattered and flew in every direction. ‘What the devil is that which the enemy is firing?’ asked Brown. But nobody could tell. Directly another came in through a port and killed two men who were near him, and then striking the opposite bulwarks burst into flinders. ‘By Jove, this is too much. This is some new-fangled Paixhan or other. I don’t like them at all,’ cried Brown; and then as four or five more of them came slap through his sails, he gave the orders to fill away, and actually backed out of the fight, receiving a parting broadside of Dutch cheeses. This is an actual fact; our informant was the first lieutenant of Coe’s ship.”

Of course when we inform our readers that the “actual fact” was copied from the “New York Mirror,” they will render implicit credence thereto.

But we have British evidence touching the efficacy of Dutch cheeses as a missile; for when the great Major Gahagan had exhausted his shot, and when there was all but famine in his besieged fort, he says, “You will ask how my pieces were loaded? I answer that though my garrison were without food, I knew my duty as an officer, and had put the two Dutch cheeses into the two guns, and had crammed the contents of a bottle of olives into each swivel.

“They advanced, whish! went one of the Dutch cheeses; bang! went the other. Alas, they did little execution on their first contact with an opposing body, they certainly floored it; but they became at once like so much Welsh rabbit, and did no execution beyond the man whom they struck down.”

But the gallant Major had better luck with his swivels. “I fired, bang! 117 best Spanish olives were lodged in a lump in the face of the unhappy Loil Mahommed. The wretch, uttering a yell the most hideous and unearthly I ever heard, fell dead !“*

Here is another East Indian anecdote, wafted in all its truth and integrity across the Atlantic, and is therefore above, or at least beyond suspicion. The story is “told of old Moolraj, the native East Indian general. His followers stole from the English a lot of hermetically sealed provisions in tin cases, and not having seen any thing of the kind before, he mistook them for canister shot, and fired nothing from his guns for three days but fresh lobsters, pickled salmon, and other delicacies, supplying the British camp with a shower of the freshest English provisions.”

*  The tremendous adventures of Major Gahagan. Thackeray’s Miscellanies, i. 400-401.

  “Portsmouth Times,” 26 March, 1853.

The story of Commander Coe, and his Dutch cheeses, appeared in a Mormon magazine, in 1846, and 1848, and it is as above, and cites The New York Mirror as the source, but it does not state the year it was published in it.

January 29, 2012. An ancient saint’s life written by an old but less ancient Abbot of Tours, with his sermon honoring the man: The Life of St. Vedast, Bishop of Arras, by Alcuin (673-735 A.D.) from The Biographical Writings and Letters of Venerable Bede, translated by J. Giles.

For Bill Thayer, another railroad joke, since he has an early history of them on his site: The Great Iron Trail. The Story of the First Trans-Continental Railroad, by Robert West Howard. The joke is from A Batch of Smiles, Selected from Many Sources, by Carleton B. Case, 1917, p. 27:


The sweet young thing was being shown through the Baldwin locomotive works.

“What is that thing?” she asked, pointing with her dainty parasol.

“That,” answered the guide, “is an engine boiler.”

She was an up-to-date young lady and at once became interested. “And why do they boil engines?” she inquired again.

“To make the engine tender,” politely replied the resourceful guide.

January 27, 2012. Now online: a charming medieval legend, Baldwin the Ninth, from Tales of Humour,” an anonymously written collection of stories, published in the late 1800’s. It turns out that this legend is an uncredited translation from the French of Une aventure de Baudouin IX, by Jacques-Albin-Simon Collin de Plancy, in his book, Légendes du moyen âge.

January 26, 2012. With all the Scottish secession news, it seemed like a sign of some kind to run across this joke from Sparks of Laughter, Sixth Annual Compilation, New Jersey: Stewart Anderson, 1926, p. 255:

Lost his Accent

The American statesman was introduced to the Scot as “one of the leading politicians of modern times and the greatest authority upon international law that the world has ever known.”
     The Scot looked him up and down for a moment and then asked:
     “From what land d’ye come?”
     “From the greatest country in the world,” replied the statesman, with a smile.
     The Scot shook his head.”
     “Puir bairn, puir bairn;” he sighed. “Ye’ve lost yer Scottish accent.”

January 21, 2012. Some more jokes from Sparks of Laughter, 1926, while I am finishing a few things:

What Those Behind Be For

     A mule has two legs on behind,
     And two he has before,
You stand behind before you find
     What the two behind be for!

— Moslic Topics.

Also Pigs Kin

“Say, Lawrence,” asked Gallegly, as he walked into the Women’s Shoe Section with the morning paper in his hand, “Can a cowhide in a shoe shop?”
     Lawrence, who isn’t at all slow, replied: “No, but calfskin.”

— Holmes Store News.

A Question of Pace

A traveler was making his way along a toilsome road when he came across an old man. Addressing him, he asked how long it would take him to get to the next village. But the man went on with his work, neither speaking nor looking up. The traveler, thinking the old fellow was deaf, went on his way.
     He had not gone far when he heard the man calling after him: “Hey, mister! Come back; come back!”
     The traveler returned, when the old man said: “It’ll take you just 20 minutes to get into the village.”
     “Why did you not tell me that when I asked you?” remonstrated the traveler.
     “How did I know how fast you was going to walk?” retorted the old man.

It Depended

An excited man caught the arm of the porter standing at the steps of a fast train. “My wife is on the train. Will I have time to get on the car and tell her good-by?” he asked.
     “How long have you been married?” parried the porter.

— Pathfinder.

Saved by a Hair

Two men were becoming abusive in the course of a political quarrel.
     “I think,” cried one of them, “that there is just one thing that saves you from being a bare-faced liar.”
     “What’s that?” asked the other.
     “Your whiskers,” was the reply.

— Tit Bits. (London).

Possibly He’ll Get It

“I see there’s some talk of having the people vote at the next State election upon the question of abolishing capital punishment. Would you vote to abolish it?”
     “No, sir; capital punishment was good enough for my ancestors, and it’s good enough for me.”

— Washington Star.

January 9, 2012. Online: De Die Natale [Natali] by Censorinus, and the Life of the Emperor Hadrian, by Aelianus Spartianus, translated by William Maude, from the Latin.

And the Bibliography, as my sister Beth used to say, "was a booger" to do. Bill Thayer helped immensely.

Also up, The Name of America, by Alexander Del Mar, from Watson's Jeffersonian Magazine, 1911.

From "Ford Smiles, All the Best Jokes about a Rattling Good Car," gathered by Carleton B. Case, 1917, various pages:


In what respect is a Ford like a schoolroom?
     They are both full of nuts and have a crank at the head.


“I understand that you have a new Ford.”
     “Do you drive it yourself?”
     “Nobody drives it. We coax it. ”


There was a young man in Dakota,
Who bought a Ford car with a motah,
     But as he foreboded,
     The darn thing exploded, —
Now Dakota is minus a votah.

January 4, 2012. All ready! Cornfield Philosophy, by Charles D. Strode, illustrated by Percy E. Anderson, is online and proofed. I would tell you what the best essays are, but you will appreciate them more by reading them in order, being surprised often, tickled fairly frequently, and becoming fonder and fonder of Strode along the way.

It is amazing to me that it took me almost three whole days just to put in the illustrations, proofread half of it, and to format the online text. That is about a third of the time it took to type the whole book. This is despite having a basic style sheet done weeks ago. That is what I get for my kaleidoscopic mentality. Most people’s websites have a uniform style throughout. I get bored easily. Different color combinations, different lay-outs, different formats, exist on Elfinspell. It makes me happy, I don’t know about you.

Something with a dollup of humor in it is important to read these days. Especially when I was horrified to read, in a British paper, what shenanigans U.S. politicians have been getting up to, to christen the New Year in a foreboding style. Read in The Guardian that Obama and the gang on the hill have restored the crime of holding anybody in America indefinitely without a trial, for any reason they choose. Pitiful, just pitiful.

If you don’t read foreign newspapers you do not get important news about the bigger Human Rights violations in this fair country. How repressive is that?

Moving past that shudder, here are some more jokes from Sparks of Laughter, 1925, to read between letters and calls to your duly elected officials, and hopefully while arranging recalls of the same:

Why Pick On The Indians?

They were discussing the North American Indian in a rural school, when the teacher asked if any one could tell what the leaders of the tribes were called.
     “Chiefs,” answered one bright little girl.
     “Correct. Now, can any one of you tell me what the women were called?”
     “Mis-Chiefs,” shouted one of the boys.

In A Rural School

“Now, tell me what is the opposite of misery?”
     “Happiness!” said the class in unison.
     “And sadness?” she asked.
     “And the opposite of woe?" ”
     “Giddap!” shouted the enthusiastic class.

Necessity Defined

The motorist from London had stopped to replace a tire in a desolate part of the Highlands. A native chanced along and helped.
     “I suppose,” said the stranger, busy with his wheel, “that even here the bare necessities of life have risen tremendously in price?”
     “Aye, ye're richt,” replied the native, “and it’s no worth drinking when you get it.”

I almost forgot. In “The Story of Posey,” in Cornfield Philosophy, Strode mentions that Posey recited a long, long poem for his class. This was an important part of one’s schooling back then. (Declamations by all the students, in turn, usually occurred on Fridays, it seems.) You can see how long Posey’s pick was here, because I put the Americanized version of it up. It was Horatius at the Bridge, by Lord Macaulay.

You may have noticed that I finally archived much of this page. It was getting too long to load. I hated parting with the jokes that I would re-read often, to crack me up. That’s their purpose, after all. However, the archives are still online, and you can access them at the bottom of the page: at least 19 pages of them!

January 1, 2012. Happy New Year!

Occasionally harsh, occasionally funny, but basically true to my own lights and worth reading: A New Year’s Sermon, by Charles D. Strode, with a sketch by Percy E. Anderson, from “Cornfield Philosophy,” is online.

A few good jokes to start your year, from Sparks of Laughter, Sixth Annual Compilation, 1925-1926, published by Stewart Anderson in Newark, N. J.:

A Bit of Freshman Humor

“What a sad looking store.”
     “Why, because it has panes in the windows?”
     “No, the books are in tiers.”

— Michigan Gargoyle.

He Had No Reply Ready

Minneapolis will never have anything on St. Paul. A man from Minneapolis came to St. Paul the other day just to look around and find fault. He approached a fruit-stand, picked up a large melon, and asked with a sneer:
     “Is this the largest apple you have in St. Paul?”
     “Hey,” bellowed the owner of the fruit stand, “put that grape down.”

The Old, Old Story

At the police hospital, Dr. Hodgdon administered an anecdote after which Officers Calvan and Hayden took the youth to the Los Angeleral General hospital.

— Pasadena Post.

Easy Mark

A man in a mental hospital sat dangling a stick, with a piece of string attached, over a flower bed. A visitor approached, and, wishing to be affable, remarked, “How many have you caught?”
     “You’re the ninth,” was the reply.

Died Too Suddenly.

The Russian play was well on toward the 14th scene of the fifth act. Alexandrovna Petropavnitchka Kossikorkoovitch has been sobbing for three days. The old and imbecile man of law had told her of the death of her lover.
     “Tell me, Serge,” she said, “as he lay dying, did he murmur my name?”
     “Part of it,” he answered, groaning.

One Sure Success

“Six of my sons are studying to be artists and writers, the seventh is learning to be a bricklayer.”
     “Aren’t you rather optimistic, thinking he can support the six of them?”

— Fliegende Blätter (Munich).


To see 8 years worth of this page, with some great old jokes and limericks, and practically no diatribes, go to the Archived New Stuff Pages.

Copyright  © 2004-2012 by Elfinspell

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