The Project Gutenberg eBook of English Jests and Anecdotes, Collected from Various Sources

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Title: English Jests and Anecdotes, Collected from Various Sources

Author: Various

Release date: July 5, 2015 [eBook #49370]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Chris Curnow, Elisa and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
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Transcriber’s Note:

The cover has been created by the transcriber using the actual cover from the book and the title page. This new cover is placed in the public domain.

Please see the detailed transcriber’s note at the end of this book.


English Anecdotes


Uniform with this volume, price 1s. each

Scottish Jests and Anecdotes
Irish Jests and Anecdotes

Jests and

Collected from



14 Clyde Street, Edinburgh




A lady who kept a boarding-school some years ago, near London, wrote a novel, in which, among other extravagant expressions, occurred the following:—“His Lordship could not weep; the tale of sorrow had frozen his lachrymal canals.” A person to whom the fair author lent a copy of her work, returned it, after a perusal, with this note appended in pencil to the word canals: “Madam, I am a keen skater; would they bear?”


This famous lady, who wrote many plays and romances, in the most extravagant taste of the reign of Charles II., asked Bishop Wilkins, how she could get up to the world he had discovered in the moon; for, as the way must needs be long, a person travelling thither would require to have some resting places by the way? “Oh, madam,” said the bishop, “your grace, who has built so many castles in the air, can be at no loss.”


Mr. Pennant had an unaccountable antipathy to wigs. Dining at Chester with an officer who wore a wig, when they had drunk pretty freely, he, after much impatience, and many wistful looks, started up, seized[2] the wig, and threw it into the fire. It was in flames in a moment, and so was the officer, who ran to his sword. Down stairs flew Pennant, and the officer after him, through all the streets of Chester. But Pennant escaped from superior local knowledge. This a wag called Pennant’s Tour in Chester.


A felon who was just on the point of being turned off, asked the hangman if he had any message to send to the place where he was going? “I will trouble you with a line,” replied the finisher of the law, placing the cord under his left ear.


Dryden and Otway lived opposite to each other in Queen Street. Otway coming one night from the tavern, chalked upon Dryden’s door, “Here lives John Dryden; he is a wit.” Dryden knew his handwriting, and, next day, chalked on Otway’s door, “Here lives Tom Otway; he is oppo-site.”


“With regard to purgatory,” says an old popish writer, “with regard to purgatory, I will not say a great deal; but this much I think,—that the Protestants may go farther, and fare worse.”


It being proved, on a trial at Guildhall, that a man’s name was really Inch, who pretended that it was Linch. “I see,” said the judge, “the old proverb is verified in this man, who being allowed an Inch, has taken an L.”


A drunken fellow, to maintain himself at his pot,[3] having sold all his goods, except his feather bed, at last made away with that too; when, being reproved for it by some of his friends, “Why,” said he, “I am very well, thank God; and why should I keep my bed?”


When Jeffries was told that the Prince of Orange would very soon land, and it was reported that a manifesto, stating his inducements, objects, &c., was already written: “Pray, my lord chief-justice,” said a gentleman present, “what do you think will be the heads of this manifesto?” “Mine will be one,” replied he.


Richard II., on the pope reclaiming, as a son of the church, a bishop he had taken prisoner in battle, sent him the prelate’s coat of mail, and, in the words of Scripture, asked him, “Know whether this be thy son’s coat or no?”


Mrs. B—— desired Dr. Johnson to give his opinion of a new work she had just written; adding, that if it would not do, she begged him to tell her, for she had other irons in the fire, and in case of its not being likely to succeed, she could bring out something else. “Then,” said the Doctor, after having turned over a few of the leaves, “I advise you, madam, to put it where your other irons are.”


The proud Duke of Somerset employed Seymour the painter to make some portraits of his running horses. One day, at dinner, he drank to him with a[4] sneer: “Cousin Seymour, your health.” The painter replied, “I really do believe that I have the honour to be of your grace’s family.” The duke, offended, rose from the table, and sent his steward to pay Seymour and dismiss him. Another painter of horses was sent for, who, finding himself unworthy to finish Seymour’s work, honestly told the duke so. On this the haughty peer condescended once more to summon his cousin. Seymour answered his mandate in these words: “My Lord, I shall now prove that I am of your grace’s family, for I will not come.”


James I. was complaining of the leanness of his hunting horse, and swore by his soul, he could see no reason why the animal should not be as fat as the horses of his subjects, seeing that he bestowed upon him good feeding and keeping, and rode him very easily. Archy Armstrong, his fool, who was standing by, said he would tell his majesty how to raise the animal’s flesh, and that very speedily. “I pray thee, fool, how?” inquired the king. “Make him a bishop,” answered Archy, who seems to have had an antipathy to that class of dignitaries, “and if he is not soon as fat as he can wallow, ride me!

Being desired to say a grace at the royal table, where Archbishop Laud was present, he gave one in these emphatic and ambiguous words: “All praise to God, and little Laud to the deil.” (Laud, it must be understood, was a man of very small stature; the Puritans gave him the punning epithet of his Little Grace.)


Being informed that Jervis the painter was come[5] from London to —— in a coach and four, Sir Godfrey, who had an unaccountable antipathy to that gentleman, cried, “By gar, if de horses draw no better dan himself, he will never get back to town again.”


Pace, jester to Queen Elizabeth, was so bitter in his retorts upon her, that he was forbid her presence. After he had been absent for some time, a few of his friends entreated her Majesty to receive him back into favour, engaging for him, that he would be more guarded in his discourse for the future. The very first time they again met Pace was as bad as ever. “Come on, Pace,” said the Queen in a gracious humour; “now, we shall hear of our faults.” “No, madam,” said Pace; “I never talk of what is discoursed by all the world.”


When Queen Elizabeth was at Osterby, near Brentford, the seat of Sir Thomas Gresham, who built the Royal Exchange, she pointed out to him a wall on one side of the garden, which confined, in some respect, the prospect. Sir Thomas seemed to take no farther notice of her majesty’s remark at that time, than to coincide in it; but as soon as she retired to her chamber, he had a number of workmen in readiness, who had the wall entirely pulled down by morning. The Queen, upon her walking in the gardens, was surprised at the alteration; but, turning about to Sir Thomas, with great readiness observed, “She did not wonder that he that could build a Change, could so readily change a building.”



Sir Roger Williams, who was a Welshman, and had been a tailor, though afterwards a good soldier, preferred a request to Queen Elizabeth: she refused him; but he, another time, moved it again. He had on a pair of new boots, and the Queen could not bear the smell of leather. Stopping him short, she put her hand to her nose, and cried, “Fah, Williams, prithee be gone; for thy boots stink.” “Tut, tut,” answered he; “it is my suit that stinks.”


William the Conqueror being sick, long kept his chamber; whereat the French King scoffing, said, “The King of England lies long in child-bed.” When William heard this, he said, “When I am churched, there shall be a thousand lights in France.” He made good what he said, by wasting the French frontier with fire and sword.


A Catholic asked a Protestant where his religion was before the time of Luther? “Where was your face this morning,” said the Protestant, “before it was washed?”


A yeoman of Kent selling some lands, the lawyer was puzzled as to the designation which he should have in the deeds. “Say gentleman,” suggested a bystander; “for selling lands is a gentleman’s trade.”


Queen Elizabeth was naturally dilatory enough in suits, and the Lord Treasurer Burleigh, being a wise man, and willing therein to feed her humour, would[7] say to her, “Madam, you do well to let visitors stay; for, you know, bis dat qui cito dat: if you grant them speedily, they will come again the sooner.”


Captain Robert Bacon, revelling at Sir William Paston’s, had his sack served him in a curious Venice glass, very much under the size he used to trade in. So, after a long contemplation of his measure, “Sir William,” said he, “If you value this glass, as I believe you do, tie a good long string to it, to draw it up again; for I am sure I shall swallow it some time or other.”


In the time of James the First, when privy-counsellors multiplied very fast, and were sometimes admitted at a very green age, some one remarked one day that the table would be soon too little to hold them. “Why,” said another, “some must just do like other children, then, and sit on the joint stools without.”


As a regiment of soldiers were marching through a country town, the captain (a strict disciplinarian) observed that one of the drums did not beat, and ordered a lieutenant to inquire the reason. The fellow, on being interrogated, whispered to the lieutenant, “I have two ducks and a turkey in my drum, and the turkey is for his honour:” which, being whispered to the captain, “D—n the fellow,” cried the captain, “why did he not say he was lame? I don’t want men to do their duty when they’re not able.”



A traveller speaking of the many countries and cities he had seen, one of the company asked him if he had ever been in Cosmography? He, taking it for the name of a city, said, “We saw it at a distance; but, as we went post, we could not visit it.”


A prisoner being brought up to Bow Street, the following dialogue passed between him and the sitting magistrate: “How do you live?” “Pretty well, sir; generally a joint and pudding at dinner.” “I mean, sir, how do you get your bread?” “I beg your worship’s pardon; sometimes at the baker’s, and sometimes at the chandler’s shop.” “You may be as witty as you please, sir; but I mean simply to ask you, how do you do?” “Tolerably well, I thank your worship: I hope your worship is well.”


No prince was more addressed than Charles II., while the very people who sent these generous, nay, extravagant offers, scarcely allowed him the necessary supplies. Killigrew saw this in the proper view, and once gave private orders to the king’s tailor to make one of his majesty’s coat-pockets of a most enormous size, and the other scarcely larger than a thimble. The king being informed that this was done at the desire of Killigrew, asked him the reason. “May it please your majesty,” replied the arch wag, “the large pocket is to receive the addresses of your subjects, and the other is to put the money in, which they intend to present you with.”



A gentleman sitting in one of the boxes in company with Lord North, not knowing his lordship, entered into conversation with him, and seeing two ladies come into an opposite box, turned to him, and addressed him with, “Pray, sir, can you inform me who is that ugly woman that is just come in?” “O,” replied his lordship, with great good humour, “that is my wife.” “Sir, I ask you ten thousand pardons, I do not mean her, I mean that shocking monster who is along with her.” “That,” replied his lordship, “is my daughter.”


Lord North who was very much troubled with the gout, one day feeling some symptoms of an approaching fit, ordered his servant to bring him his gouty shoes. The fellow, after looking for them some time in vain, returned, and told his master he believed they were stolen, and as an addenda to the information, muttered a few hearty curses against the thief. “Poh! poh!” said the good-humoured peer, “do not be ill-natured; all the harm I wish the rascal is, that the shoes may fit him.”


A Frenchman, on landing at Dover, went into a barber’s shop to get shaved. The poor man’s cheeks were so much collapsed, that the barber was under the necessity of thrusting his fingers into his customer’s mouth to assist the operation. “O mon Dieu, mon Dieu!” exclaimed the Frenchman, whilst the barber was dashing away, “me be damnably cut.” “Confound[10] your thin lanthorn jaws,” replied Strop, “I have cut my fingers cursedly through your cheek.”


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; engaging in the day, and lying-to at night. But, just as they were preparing to renew the action, advice came off that an armistice had been concluded, and the hostile parties began to exercise mutual civilities. On board a Dutch man of war, which lay alongside of 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 cut several capers, and concluded with standing on his head, to the great astonishment and terror of the spectators. On coming down from his exploit, all his countrymen expressed their joy by huzzahing, and thereby signifying their triumph over the English. One of the British 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 as the Dutchman had done; 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 lighted on his feet unhurt. As soon as he had recovered his speech, he ran to the side, and exultingly cried out to the Dutchmen, “There, d—n your eyes, do that if you can.”


Strange, Moore, and Wright, three notorious punsters, were on a certain occasion dining together, when Moore observed, “There is but one knave[11] among us, and that’s Strange.” “Oh no,” said Wright, “there is one Moore.” “Ay,” said Strange, “that’s Wright.”


The captain of one of the British frigates, a man of undaunted bravery, had a natural antipathy to a cat. A sailor who, from misconduct, had been ordered a flogging, saved his back by presenting to his captain the following petition:—

By your honour’s command
A culprit I stand—
An example to all the ship’s crew;
I am pinioned and stript,
And condemned to be whipt,
And if I am flogged—’tis my due!
A cat I am told,
In abhorrence you hold:
Your honour’s aversion is mine!—
If a cat with one tail
Makes your stout heart to fail,
O, save me from one that has nine!


The students at Oxford stand much upon punctilio in the matter of making acquaintance; insomuch that one will not hold the least intercourse with another, unless the proper formula of introduction has been gone through. It is told, as a quiz upon them for this peculiarity, that a young gentleman, who had recently entered one of the colleges, happening to be seized with cramp while bathing in the Isis, and being on the point of sinking, probably to rise no more, a youth of older standing, who leant over a bridge near the[12] scene, thus soliloquized:—“Good God! what a pity I was not introduced to that fresh-man—perhaps I might have saved him.”


Some time ago, a member of Parliament applied to the post-office to know why some of his franks had been charged. The answer was: “We supposed, sir, they were not of your writing; the hand is not the same.” “Why, not precisely the same; but the truth is, I happened to be a little tipsy when I wrote them.” “Then, sir, will you be so good, in future, to write ‘drunk’ when you make free.”


Henrietta, queen of Charles I., when pregnant of her first child, longed very much for some cheese. An attendant expressed surprise at her majesty having an appetite for such coarse meat, and remarked that if the Welshmen heard of it they would take it as a high compliment. “Oh,” said the queen, “content yourself; what do you know but the Prince of Wales may long for it.”


In the time of Joe Miller there was an old deaf player of the name of Cross, who, being very vain, took every pains to conceal his infirmity. Joe, walking along Fleet Street with a friend, saw Cross on the opposite side, and told his acquaintance he should see some fine sport. So beckoning to Cross with his finger, he opened his mouth wide, and began to assume the attitude and gestures of one who bawls very loud to a distant object. Cross, thinking that Miller had hallooed to him, and taking that as too broad a signification[13] of his infirmity, came puffing across the street as hard as he could, and “What the devil,” cried he to Joe, “do you make such a noise for? do you think one cannot hear?”


Matthews being asked what he was going to do with his son (the young man’s profession was to be that of an architect), “Why,” answered the comedian, “he is going to draw houses like his father.”


James the First, when he came from Scotland to England, stopped at Lumley Castle, which contained some curious portraits of the ancestors of the Lumleys in the habits of their several times. These were shewn to the king, together with a genealogical tree of the ancient pedigree of the family, carrying it far beyond what his majesty thought credible; upon which, he said to the Bishop of Durham, who shewed it, that he “did not know before that Adam’s surname was Lumley?”


A wag passing through a country town in the north, observed a fellow placed in the stocks,—“My friend,” said he, “I advise you by all means to sell out.” “I should have no objection, your honour,” he replied drily, “but at present they seem much too low.”


An auctioneer, at a sale of antiquities, put up a helmet, with the following candid observation:—“This, ladies and gentlemen, is a helmet of Romulus,[14] the Roman Founder; but whether he was a brass or iron founder, I cannot tell.”


It was a beautiful turn given by a great lady, who, being asked where her husband was, when he lay concealed for being deeply concerned in a conspiracy, resolutely answered, “She had hid him.” This confession drew her before the king, who told her, nothing but her discovering where her lord was concealed, could save her from the torture. “And will that do?” said the lady. “Yes,” replied the king, “I give you my word for it.” “Then,” answered she, “I have hid him in my heart, where you’ll find him.” Which answer so charmed the king that he granted a free pardon to both the husband and wife.


Colonel Bond, who had been one of King Charles the First’s judges, died a day or two before Cromwell; and it was strongly reported everywhere that the Protector was dead. “No,” said a gentleman, who knew better, “he has only given Bond to the devil for his further appearance.”


Lord Mansfield, being willing to save a man who stole a watch, desired the jury to value it at tenpence; upon which the prosecutor cried out, “Tenpence, my lord! why the very fashion of it cost me five pounds!” “Oh,” said his lordship, “We must not hang a man for fashion’s sake.”


An officer in the fleet of Earl St. Vincent, asked one of the captains, who was gallantly bearing down[15] upon the Spanish fleet, “Whether he had reckoned the number of the enemy?” “No,” replied the latter, “it will be time enough to do that when we have made them strike!”


Mr. Pitt was forming a park about Walmer Castle, thinking to enclose it with posts and rails. As he was one day calculating the expense, a gentleman stood by, and told him that he did not go the cheapest way to work. “Why?” said the Premier. “Because,” replied the gentleman, “if you will find posts the country will find railing.”


A young man, in a large company, descanting very flippantly on a subject, his knowledge of which was evidently very superficial, the Duchess of Devonshire asked his name. “’Tis Scarlet,” replied a gentleman who stood by. “That may be,” said her grace, “and yet he is not deep read.”


King James the First gave all manner of liberty and encouragement to the exercise of buffoonery, and he took great delight in it himself. Happening once to bear somewhat hard on one of his Scotch courtiers, “By my soul,” retorted the peer, “he that made your majesty a king, spoiled the best fool in Christendom!”


Two gentlemen, one named Chambers, the other Garret, riding by Tyburn together, said the former, “That is a very pretty tenement, if it had but a[16] Garret.” “You fool!” replied Garret, “don’t you know there must be Chambers first.”


One asked his friend, why he married so little a wife? “Why,” said he, “I thought you had known that of all evils we should choose the least.”


The master of a ship, walking about on deck, called into the hold, “Who is there?” A boy answered, “Will, sir.” “What are you doing?” “Nothing, sir,” “Is Tom there!” “Yes,” cried Tom. “What are you doing, Tom?” “Helping Will, sir!”


A forward young scholar wishing to appear in the pulpit, consulted an older preacher as to what text he should choose. The latter, wishing him well, and knowing he was too young, suggested this text,—“Go to Jericho till your beard be grown.” The scholar, it is said, took the sage’s advice, and waiting a few years, proved eventually an excellent preacher.


A gentleman, travelling in a long lane, where his horse could hardly get through the mire, met a peasant, of whom he inquired the way to a certain place. “Straight forward,” said the man, “you cannot go out of your way.” “Faith, I fear so,” said the querist; “I wish I could!”


In the time of the Long Parliament, Sandys, a gentleman of bold spirit, was examined before the House, when Lenthall, the Speaker, put some ridiculous[17] and impertinent questions to him, asking, at last, what countryman he was! “Of Kent,” said Sandys; “and pray, may I demand the same of you?” “I am out of the west,” said Lenthall. “By my troth,” replied Sandys, “so I thought, for all the wise men come out of the east.”


In the crowd which attended the exhumation of Cromwell, Ireton, and Bradshaw, after the Restoration, some one exclaimed, “Who would have ever thought to see Cromwell hanged for high treason!” “Oh, sir,” said another, “this is nothing strange: see,” he added, pointing to Bradshaw, “there is a president for it.”


“I defy you,” said a stubborn culprit to a justice during the Civil War; “there is no law now.” “Then,” said the justice gravely to his servants, “if there be no law, bring me a rope.” The knave instantly knocked under.


Jeffries, examining an old fellow with a long beard, told him, he supposed he had a conscience quite as long as that natural ornament of his visage. “Does your lordship measure consciences by beards?” said the man; “that is strange, seeing you are yourself shaven.”


Sir William Davenant, the dramatic poet, had no nose. He was one day walking along the Mews, when a female beggar followed him, crying, “Ah, God preserve your eyesight, sir! the Lord preserve[18] your eyesight!” “Why, good woman,” said he, “do you pray so anxiously for my eyesight?” “Ah, dear sir,” answered the woman, “if it should please God that you grow dim-sighted, you have no place to hang your spectacles on!”


Charles the Second laid it down as a rule, that in his convivial parties the king was always absent. Being one night in a select party of this kind, one of his courtiers, who had contributed a good deal to his mirth, ventured to ask him for a place. Charles, though he liked the man as a companion, was yet unwilling to break through a fixed rule; and he therefore quickly replied,—“You may depend on it, I will speak to the king to-morrow about it.”


Charles the Second, being at hazard one Twelfth Night at court, with the Duke of Buckingham and others, a well-dressed sharper, who stood behind the Duke’s chair, took the liberty to pick his pocket of a diamond snuff-box, which was very valuable. Just in the instant of his stealing it, the king happened to fix his eyes on him; on which the sharper, with great presence of mind, put his finger up to his nose, thereby insinuating it was done out of fun. The king knew the world too well to be gulled even by such an artifice; but, however, held his tongue. Some time after, the Duke missing his box, his majesty told him the circumstance. “Good God, sire,” says his grace, “why did not your majesty tell me of it in time?” “Oh!” says the king, “I could not do that; I was upon honour.”



The first Protestant Duke of Norfolk, carrying the sword of state before James II. to his chapel, stopped at the door, and would go no further. The king said, “Your father would have gone farther:” to which the Duke answered, “Your father would not have gone so far.”


Hugh Peters, the puritan, preaching on the Devil entering the swine, said,—“My beloved, for conclusion, I shall give three observations on the text; which, for your better remembrance, I shall clothe in three English proverbs. 1. The Devil went from men into swine: he had rather play at small game than stand out. 2. When he possessed them, they ran down a bank into the sea: they must needs go whom the Devil drives. 3. They were all, no less than two thousand, drowned in the sea: the Devil brought his hogs to a fair market.”


Hugh Peters, preaching a sermon to one of the Companies of London, the object of which was to exhort them to love and unity, he concluded by expressing a wish, that they might all join in concord, accord, or any other cord, so that they might all hang together.


Sir Isaac Newton was once riding over Salisbury Plain, when a boy keeping sheep called to him, “Sir, you had better make haste on, or you will get a wet jacket.” Newton, looking round and observing neither clouds nor a speck on the horizon, jogged on,[20] taking very little notice of the rustic’s information. He had made but a few miles, when a storm suddenly arising, drenched him to the skin. Surprised at the circumstance, and determined, if possible, to ascertain how an ignorant boy had attained a precision and knowledge in the weather of which the wisest philosophers would be proud, he rode back, wet as he was. “My lad,” said Newton, “I’ll give thee a guinea, if thou wilt tell me how thou canst foretell the weather so truly.” “Will ye, sir? I will then!” and the boy, scratching his head, and holding out his hand for the guinea; “Now, sir,” having received the money, and pointing to his sheep, “when you see that black ram turn his tail towards the wind, ’tis a sure sign of rain within an hour.” “What!” exclaimed the philosopher, “must I, in order to foretell the weather, stay here and watch which way that black ram turns his tail?” “Yes, sir.” Off rode Newton, quite satisfied with his discovery.


Sheridan was one day accosted by a gentlemanly looking elderly man, who had forgotten the name of the street to which he was going, when the following dialogue ensued:

Stranger. “Sir, I wish to go to a street the name of which I have forgotten; it is a very uncommon name; pray, sir, can you tell me of any such street near?”

Sheridan. “Perhaps, sir, you mean John Street?”

Stranger. “No; it is a street with an unusual name.”

Sheridan. “It can’t be Charles Street?”


Stranger (a little impatiently). “It is not a common name—the most unusual name for a street.”

Sheridan. “Surely, sir, you are not looking for King Street?”

Stranger (growing more impatient). “I tell you, sir, it is a street with a very odd name.”

Sheridan. “Bless me, sir, it is not Queen Street, is it?”

Stranger (evincing some degree of irritation). “Queen Street! no, no! it is a sort of a curious name, I tell you.”

Sheridan. “I wish, sir, I could assist you: let me think. It may be Oxford Street?”

Stranger (getting testy). “Sir, for Heaven’s sake, think; I keep telling you, that it is a street with any thing but a common name; any body knows Oxford Street.”

Sheridan. “Perhaps, the street has no name after all.”

Stranger. “No name, sir! Why, I tell you it has,—confound the name!”

Sheridan. “Really, sir, I am very sorry that I am unable to assist you; but let me suggest Piccadilly.”

The stranger could no longer restrain his irritation, but bounced away, exclaiming, “Oh, damn it, what a thick-headed fellow!” Sheridan, calling to him and bowing, replied, “Sir, I envy your admirable memory;” then walked on, enjoying his joke.[A]



Between Tickell and Sheridan there was a never-ending “skirmish of wit,” both verbal and practical; and the latter kind, in particular, was carried on between them with all the waggery, and, not unfrequently, the malice of school-boys.

On one occasion, Sheridan having covered the floor of a dark passage, leading from the drawing-room, with all the plates and dishes of the house, ranged closely together, provoked his unconscious play-fellow to pursue him into the midst of them. Having left a path for his own escape, he passed through easily, but Tickell falling at full length into the ambuscade, was very much cut in several places. The next day, Lord John Townshend, on paying a visit to the bedside of Tickell, found him covered with patches, and indignantly vowing vengeance against Sheridan for his unjustifiable trick. In the midst of his anger, however, he could not help exclaiming, with the true feeling of an amateur of this sort of mischief, “But how amazingly well done it was!”


Stevens (who died gravedigger of Clerkenwell, in 1768, at the age of ninety), was once on an examination before one of the courts in Westminster Hall, relative to some parochial affairs, when, being asked who he was, he replied “I am gravedigger of the parish of St. James’s, Clerkenwell, at your honour’s service.”


An anecdote is told of Mr. Roger of Werndee, in Monmouthshire, which exhibits the pride of ancestry in a striking point of view. His house was in such a[23] state of dilapidation, that the proprietor was in danger of perishing under the ruins of the ancient mansion, which he venerated even in decay. A stranger, whom he accidently met at the foot of the Skyrrid, made various inquiries respecting the country, the prospects, and the neighbouring houses, and among others, asked, “Whose is this antique mansion before us?” “That, sir, is Werndee, a very ancient house; for out of it came the Earls of Pembroke of the first line, and the Earls of Pembroke of the second line; the Lords Herberts of Cherbury, the Herberts of Coldbrook, Ramsay, Cardiff, and York; the Morgans of Acton; the Earl of Hunsdon; the houses of Ircowm and Lanarth, and all the Powells. Out of this house, also, by the female line, came the Duke of Beaufort.” “And pray, sir, who lives there now?” “I do sir.” “Then pardon me, and accept a piece of advice; come out of it yourself, or you’ll soon be buried in the ruins of it.”


George Selwyn one day dining at the Duke of Richmond’s, a French marquis was declaiming on the ingenuity of his countryman; “who,” he said, “were de grande artistes for de modes and de fashions, pour tout le monde. For instance,” said he, “look at de roffel (ruffle), dat fine ornament for de hand and for de breast: de Frenchman invent it, and all de oder nations in Europe quickly adopt de same plan.” “True,” replied Mr. Selwyn, “we allow that your countrymen have great merit in invention; but you must at the same time admit, that, though the English are not an inventive, they are at least an improving[24] people: for example, to the very articles which you mention they have made a very important and useful addition.” “Les Anglois, Mistare Selvin,” returned the Frenchman, stroking and pulling down the ruffles on his breast and hands, “are, sans doute, ver clevar men; mais je ne connois pas quelle improvement dey could make to de roffel; que ce la, Monsieur?” “Why, by adding a shirt to it,” replied Selwyn.


A Russian officer, named Valensky, who had a command in the Persian expedition, had once been beaten by the Emperor Peter’s order, mistaking him for another. “Well,” said Peter, “I am sorry for it, but you will deserve it one day or other, and then remind me that you are in arrears with me;” which accordingly happened upon that very expedition, and he was excused.


As Mr. Sheridan was coming up to town in one of the public coaches for the purpose of canvassing Westminster, at the time when Paull was his opponent, he found himself in company with two Westminster electors. In the course of the conversation, one of them asked the other to whom he meant to give his vote? When his friend replied, “To Paull, certainly; for though I think him but a shabby sort of fellow, I would vote for any one rather than that rascal Sheridan!”

“Do you know Sheridan?” asked the stranger.

“Not I, sir,” answered the gentleman, “nor should I wish to know him.”

The conversation dropped here; but when the party[25] alighted to breakfast, Sheridan called aside the one gentleman, and said,—

“Pray who is that very agreeable friend of yours? He is one of the pleasantest fellows I ever met with, and I should be glad to know his name?”

“His name is Mr. T——: he is an eminent lawyer, and resides in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.”

Breakfast over, the party resumed their seats in the coach; soon after which, Sheridan turned the discourse to the law. “It is,” said he, “a fine profession. Men may rise from it to the highest eminence in the state; and it gives vast scope to the display of talent: many of the most virtuous and noble characters recorded in our history have been lawyers. I am sorry, however, to add, that some of the greatest rascals have been lawyers; but of all the rascals of lawyers I ever heard of, the greatest is one Mr. T——, who lives in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.”

“I am Mr. T——,” said the gentleman.

“And I am Mr. Sheridan,” was the reply.

The jest was instantly seen; they shook hands, and, instead of voting against the facetious orator, the lawyer exerted himself warmly in promoting his election.


A bully telling a gentleman, that in manhood and valour he came far behind him, “You are not far wrong,” answered the other; “the last time I fought with you, you ran away so fast that I could not overtake you, run as I might.”


The second Duke of Buckingham talking to Sir[26] Robert Viner in a melancholy humour about his personal extravagance, “I am afraid, Sir Robert,” he said, “I shall die a beggar at last—the most terrible thing in the world.” “Upon my word, my lord,” answered the mayor, “there is another thing more terrible which you have reason to apprehend, and that is, that you will live a beggar at the rate you go on.”


One coming into a cathedral, where the choir consisted of very bad voices, said, that the prophecy of Amos was fulfilled; “and the songs of the temple shall be howlings.”


The dissenters waited upon Lord Thurlow by appointment, to request his vote for the repeal of the test act. After he had heard their sentiments in a long harangue, with more than his ordinary patience, when the speech was concluded, he thus addressed them:—“Gentlemen, you have requested me to vote for the repeal of the test act. I shall not vote for it. I do not care whether your religion or mine has the ascendancy, or whether any religion or none; but as I know when you were uppermost, you kept us down; so now that we are uppermost, we will, by the help of God, keep you where you are.”


Sheridan took his son one day to task upon his celibacy, and strongly urged that he should take a wife. “Very well, father,” answered Tom, “whose wife shall I take?”


In a cathedral, one day after service, the bellows-blower[27] said to the organist, “I think we have done very well to-day.” “We!” said the organist, in no small surprise at the impudence of his menial, “how can you pretend to have any merit in the performance? Never let me hear you say such a thing again.” The man said nothing more at the time, but when they were next playing, he suddenly intermitted in his task of inflating the organ. The organist rose in wrath to order him to proceed, when the fellow thrusting his head out from behind the curtain, asked slily, “Shall it be we then?”


A lady, who, by virtue of an immense fortune, acquired by her father in the profession of a pawnbroker, had married a poor nobleman, was shewing her new and elegantly furnished house to George Selwyn. Having led him from room to room, and displayed the whole of her rhetoric and taste, she at last threw open a pair of large folding doors that led into the grand saloon, which was superbly furnished, but contained no pictures. “Here, Mr. Selwyn,” said she, “I intend to hang up all my family.” “I thought,” replied George, “your ladyship might have spared yourself that trouble; for I always understood they were hung up long ago.”


A friend having pointed out to Sheridan, that Lord Kenyon had fallen asleep at the first representation of Pizarro, and that, too, in the midst of Rollo’s fine speech to the Peruvian soldiers, the dramatist felt rather mortified; but, instantly recovering his usual[28] good humour, he said, “Ah poor man! let him sleep! he thinks he is on the bench.”


Sheridan sometimes met with his match, and that in quarters where it might have been least expected. He was one day endeavouring to cut a suit of new clothes out of a tailor’s shop in the city. Flattery was the weapon he employed. “Upon my word,” said he, “you are an excellent finisher; you beat our snips in the West End hollow. Why don’t you push your thimble amongst us? I’ll recommend you every where. Upon my honour your work does you infinite credit.” “Yes,” replied the artist, “I always take care that my work gives long credit, but the wearers ready money.”


A stammering Lord Deloraine, being in a cock-pit, and offering several bets, which he would have lost if he could have replied in time, at length offered ten pounds to a crown. A gambler who stood by, said, “Done;” but, his lordship’s fit of stuttering happening to seize him at that moment, he could not repeat the word “done” till the favourite cock was beat. “Confound your stuttering tongue!” cried the leg, “if you could speak like other folk, you would be ruined.”


Dunning the celebrated barrister, was addicted to the low and unpardonable vice of turning witnesses into ridicule at their examinations. One morning, he was telling Mr. Solicitor-General Lee that he had bought a few good manors in Devonshire, near his native village of Ashburton. “I wish,” said Lee,[29] “you would bring some of them into Westminster Hall; for upon my honour, you have most need of them there.”


The first time the musical instrument called The Serpent was used in a concert where Handel presided, he was so much surprised with the coarseness of its tones, that he called out hastily, “Vat de devil is dat?” On being informed it was the serpent, he replied, “It never can be de serpent vat seduced Eve.”


About the time when Murphy so successfully attacked the stage-struck heroes in the pleasant farce of The Apprentice, an eminent poulterer went to a sporting-club in search of his servant, who, he understood, was that evening to make his debut in Lear; he entered the room at the moment when Dick was exclaiming, “I am the king—you cannot touch me for the coining!” “No, you dog,” cried the enraged master, catching the mad monarch by the collar; “but I can for not picking the ducks.”


A Frenchman, who had learnt English, wished to be particularly polite, and never neglected an opportunity of saying something pretty. One evening, he observed to Lady R——, whose dress was fawn-coloured, and that of her daughter pink, “Milady, your daughter is de pink of beauty.” “Ah monsieur, you Frenchmen always flatter.” “No madam, I only speak de truth, and what all de world will allow, dat your daughter is de pink, and your ladyship de drab of[30] fashion!” It was with great difficulty that the Frenchman could be made to comprehend his sottise.


An old East Indian, who had returned from Calcutta, with a large fortune and a liver complaint, had retired to his native place (Banffshire), and was availing himself one evening of the usual privilege of travellers to a very large extent. His Scotch friends listened to his Major Longbows with an air of perfect belief; till, at last, the worthy nabob happened to say, that in a particular part of India it was usual to fatten horses upon the flesh of sheep’s heads reduced to a pulp and mixed with rice. “Oh,” exclaimed all his auditors with one voice, “Oh, that will never do. We can believe all the rest; but really, feeding horses upon sheep’s heads is too bad.” “Well, gentlemen,” said the man of the East, “I assure you, that my story about the horses is the only bit of truth that I have told you this evening!”


Mr. Tyers, the proprietor of Vauxhall Gardens, was a worthy man, but indulged himself a little too much in querulous complaints, when anything went amiss; insomuch that, he said, if he had been brought up a hatter he believed people would have been without heads! A farmer once gave him a humorous reproof for his kind of reproach of Heaven; he stepped up to him very respectfully, and asked him when he meant to open his Gardens. Mr. Tyers replied, the next Monday fortnight. The man thanked him repeatedly, and was going away; but Mr. Tyers asked him in return, what made him so anxious to know. “Why,[31] sir,” said the farmer, “I think of sowing my turnips on that day, for you know we shall be sure to have rain.”


A gentlemen paying a visit one morning to a family in Hanover Square, was shewn into a room, where on a writing desk was a paper, on which a lady had begun to transcribe a song from the opera of Love in a Village: remarking that she had left off at the end of the two following lines,—

In love should there meet a fond pair,
Untutor’d by fashion or art;

he took up a pen, and completed the verse by adding,—

If on earth such a couple there be,
I’ll be whipt at the tail of a cart!


Among the many peculiarities of Dr. Burney, were two of a very innocent kind: the first was, the constant possession of wine of the best vintage, the next the dread of a current of air. “Shut the door,” was the first salutation uttered by him to any one who entered his apartment; and but few of his associates ever neglected the rule. This custom did not abandon him on the most trying occasions; for having been robbed by footpads while returning home one evening in his carriage to Chelsea Hospital, of which national asylum he was organist, he called them back as they were making off, exclaiming to them, in his usual peremptory tone, “Shut the door.” A voice so commanding had the desired effect; he was instantly obeyed.



Mr. Jekyll being told that Mr. Raine, the barrister, was engaged as counsel for a Mr. Hay, inquired, if Raine was ever known to do good to Hay?


While Handel was presiding at the organ, during the performance of his oratorio, entitled “Israel in Egypt,” the prima donna, Figuria Galli, commenced a song entirely out of tune—“I am an Israelite;” upon which Handel stopped the accompaniment, glared ferociously down upon the offender, and exclaimed, in a voice of ten thousand thunders, “You are von dam beesh!


When the Earl of Kelly paid Foote a visit at his country villa, that celebrated wit took him into his garden, and, alluding to the beaming honours of his lordship’s face, said, “Pray, my lord, look over the wall upon my cucumber bed; it has had no sun this year.”


A gentleman walking in the fields with a lady, picked a blue bell, and taking out his pencil, wrote the following lines, which, with the flower, he presented to the lady.

This pretty flower, of heavenly hue,
Must surely be allied to you;
For you, dear girl, are heavenly too.

To which the lady replied:—

If, sir, your compliment be true,
I’m sorry that I look so blue.



A young girl from the country, on a visit to Mr. H——, a Quaker, was prevailed on to accompany him to the meeting. It happened to be a silent one, none of the brethren being moved by the spirit to utter a syllable. When Mr. H. left the meeting-house with his young friend, he asked her, “How dost thou like the meeting?” To which she pettishly replied, “Like it? why, I can see no sense in it; to go and sit for whole hours together without speaking a word,—it is enough to kill the Devil.” “Yes, my dear,” rejoined the Quaker, “that is just what we want.”


When Sir William Curtis returned from his voyage to Italy and Spain, he called to pay his respects to Mr. Canning, at Gloucester Lodge. Among other questions, Sir William said, “But, pray, Mr. Canning, what do you say to the tunnel under the Thames?” “Say,” replied the secretary, “why, I say it will be the greatest bore London ever had, and that is saying a great deal.”


It has often been observed, that a habitual sayer of good things will have his joke under whatever circumstances he may be placed. Radcliffe, brother of the unfortunate Earl of Derwentwater, and who was himself executed in 1746, for his concern in the insurrection of 1715, was brought to the bar to receive sentence of death, in company with an old man of Falstaffian dimensions. The judge asking the usual question of[34] this other prisoner, “Plead your belly, plead your belly,” said the grandson of Charles II, with a sly look at that part of his companion’s person.


Just about the time that Mr. Sheridan took his house in Saville Row, he happened to meet Lord Guildford in the street, to whom he mentioned his change of residence, and also announced a change in his habits. “Now, my dear Lord, everything is carried on in my house with the greatest regularity; everything, in short, goes like clockwork.” “Ah!” replied Lord Guildford, “tick, tick, tick, I suppose.”


Mr. H——, the Professor of Chemistry in the University of Dublin, who was more remarkable for the clearness of the intellect than the purity of his eloquence, adverted in one of his lectures to the celebrated Dr. Boyle, of whose talents he spoke with the highest veneration: he thus concluded his eulogy:—“He was a great man, a very great man; he was the father of chemistry, gentlemen, and brother of the Earl of Cork.”


In one of the latter days of Fox, the conversation turned on the comparative wisdom of the French and English character. “The Frenchman,” it was observed, “delights himself with the present; the Englishman makes himself anxious about the future. Is not the Frenchman the wiser?” “He may be the[35] merrier,” said Fox; “but did you ever hear of a savage who did not buy a mirror in preference to a telescope.”


Judge Richardson, in going the western circuit, had a great stone thrown at him, which, as he happened to stoop at the moment, passed clear over his head. “You see,” he said to the friends who congratulated him on his escape, “you see, if I had been an upright judge I had been slain.”


Boys fly kites for recreation, and men for other motives; the first require the wind to raise the kite, the second the kite to raise the wind.


They have, at the very head-quarters of orthodoxy, Oxford, sayings which would be termed profane anywhere else. For instance, when a tradesman has grown rich by trusting the scholars, they say, that “his faith hath made him whole.”


A sea captain, being asked for his opinion of a future state, answered, “he never troubled himself about state affairs.”


“Do you smoke, sir?” said a London sharper to a country gentleman, whom he met in a coffee-house, and with whom he wished to scrape acquaintance. “Yes,” said the other, with a cool steady eye, “anyone who has a design upon me.”



A young clergyman, who possessed every requisite for the pulpit but a good voice, having occasion to preach a probation sermon for a lectureship, a friend congratulated him, as he descended from the pulpit, observing that, “he would certainly carry the election: he had nobody’s voice against him, but his own.”


A person being arrested for a large sum of money, sent to an acquaintance, who had often professed a great friendship for him, to beg he would bail him. The other sent back a note, to the effect that he had promised never to be bail for anybody. “I will tell you, however, what you may do,” added he; “you may get somebody else, if you can.”


A lady, who loved gaming very much, and who, at the same time was very covetous, falling sick in the country, in a village where her estate lay, sent for the curate and proposed play to him. The curate, being also fond of gaming, accepted the proposition with joy. They played, and the curate lost. After having won all his money, she proposed to play him for the parson’s fees at her burial, in case she died. They played; and he lost. She obliged him to give a note for the sum at which interments then stood; and dying eight or ten days after, the curate withdrew his note by the interment.


Two little girls of the city of Norwich, one the daughter of a wealthy brewer, the other the daughter of[37] a gentleman of a small fortune, disputing for precedency,—“You are to consider, miss,” said the brewer’s daughter, “that my papa keeps a coach.” “Very true, miss,” said the other, “and you are to consider that he likewise keeps a dray.”

Three ladies meeting at a visit, a grocer’s wife, a cheesemonger’s, and a tobacconist’s, who perhaps stood more upon the punctilios of precedence than some of their betters would have done at the court-end of the town; when they had risen up and taken their leave, the cheesemonger’s wife was going out of the room first; upon which the grocer’s lady, pulling her back by the skirt of her gown, and stepping before her, “No, madam,” says she, “nothing comes after cheese.” “I beg your pardon, madam,” replies the cheesemonger’s wife, pulling the tobacconist’s lady back, who was also stepping before her, “after cheese comes tobacco.”


“I cannot conceive,” said one English nobleman to another, “how it is that you manage. I am convinced you are not of a temper to spend more than your income; and yet though your estate is less than mine, I could not afford to live at the rate you do.” “My Lord,” said the other, “I have a place.” “A place! you amaze me. I never heard of it till now. Pray what place?” “I am my own steward.


When Mrs. Rogers, the actress, was young and handsome, the Lord North and Grey used to dangle after her; and one night being behind the scenes, standing with his arms folded, in the posture of a[38] desponding lover, he asked her, with a sigh, “What was a cure for love?” “Your lordship,” said she, “the best in the world.”


Lord Richardson, riding abroad in his coach to take the air, and passing by a carman whose horses were of unequal fatness, called out, “Sirrah, sirrah, resolve me one question: why is your foremost horse so lusty and pampered, and the rest such lean jades?” The carman, not knowing the judge, but deeming him a lawyer, from his habit, answered, “Whoy, the reason is plain enough; my fore horse is the counsellor, and all the rest his clients.”


A fat apothecary having got drunk at a tavern in Fleet Street, was sent home by his companions in a porter’s basket. When the man came to Temple Bar, he was asked by the keeper within what was his business. “A thing of great weight,” was the answer. After being admitted, he was asked what was in his basket. “A pot I carry,” replied the porter.


When Grosvenor House, Millbank, was the extreme house on one of the ways leading out of London, somebody asked another, in passing, “Who lived in it?” “Lord Grosvenor,” was the reply. “I do not know what estate his lordship has,” said the querist; “but he ought to have a good one; for nobody lives beyond him in the whole town.”


Mrs. Sheridan was anxious to secure an income by her vocal powers; and she earnestly entreated her[39] husband to relax from his opposition, so far as to allow of her occasional performance, until their circumstances should render it unnecessary. But he still continued inflexible, though it was with great difficulty he could raise the necessary supplies for the ordinary purposes of life, and that by very equivocal means. One of his sources was that of writing for the fugitive publications of the day, in which he was materially assisted by his wife; and many years after his entrance into the sphere of politics, he has been heard to say, if he had stuck to the law, he believed he should have done as much as his friend, Tom Erskine; “but,” continued he, “I had no time for such studies. Mrs. Sheridan and myself were often obliged to keep writing for our daily leg or shoulder of mutton, otherwise we should have had no dinner.” One of his friends, to whom he confessed this, wittily replied, “Then, I perceive, it was a joint concern.”


Soon after the accession of George III., an additional tax was laid on beer, to the great discontent of the populace. His majesty was one night attending the theatre, when a fellow in the upper gallery called to another to come and drink with him, as he had got a full pot. “What did you give for your full pot?” inquired the invited person. “Threepence-halfpenny.” “Threepence-halfpenny! Why, where did you send for it?” “To George the Third.” “You fool,” said the other, “why did you not send to George the Second? you would have had it there for threepence.”


A gentleman, passing a woman who was skinning[40] eels, and observing the torture of the poor animals, asked her, how she could have the heart to put them to such pain. “Lord, sir,” she replied, “they be used to it.”

A fishmonger of famous London town was telling a neighbour that he intended to take a trip to Margate, where he should spend some time. “And will you bathe?” inquired the other. “O, Lord, no!” answered the worthy citizen; “the fishes would know me.”


A person, going into a meeting-house, happened to stumble over one of the forms which were set near the entrance. “Who the devil,” he cried, as he rubbed his irritated shins, “would have expected to find set forms in a meeting-house?”


Soon after M. Favor was appointed first ballet-master of the Opera (towards the close of the last century), Signor Sodorini, another performer there, came one day upon the stage, after the rehearsal, and said to him: “Allow me, my dear sir, to introduce myself to you. You are the dearest friend I have on earth. Let me thank you a thousand times for the happiness you have conferred upon me by coming amongst us. Command me in any way; for, whatever I do for you, I can never sufficiently repay you.” The ballet-master, who had never seen or heard of Sodorini before, was astounded. At last, he said, “Pray, sir, to what particular piece of good fortune may I attribute the compliments and professions with which you favour me.” “To your unparalleled ugliness, my dear sir,” replied Sodorini; “for, before your arrival,[41] I was considered the ugliest man in Great Britain.” The ballet-master (strange to say) took this joke in good part; and the two were ever after warm friends.


Fischer, a first rate oboe player, at Dublin, was a man of great professional pride, and had also much of the ex-professional gentleman in his composition. A nobleman once asked him to sup after the conclusion of the opera; and, although very averse to going, he at last consented, on being assured by his patron that it was only for his society and conversation, and not for his musical proficiency, that he was invited. He had not, however, been many minutes in his host’s company, when the latter approached him, and said: “I hope, Mr. Fischer, you have brought your oboe in your pocket.” “No, my lord,” said Fischer, “my oboe never sups.” So saying, he turned on his heel, and instantly left the house; nor could any persuasion ever induce him to return to it.


A gentleman driving on the road between Little River and Brighton, was overtaken by a negro boy on a mule, who attempted for a long while, without success, to make the animal pass the carriage. At length the boy exclaimed to his beast, “I’ll bet you one fippeny I make you to pass this time;” and, after a short pause, again said, “you bet? very well.” The boy repeated the blows with renewed vigour, and at last succeeded in making him pass; when the gentleman, who overheard the conversation between Quashee and his steed, said to him, “Well, my boy, now you have won, how are you going to make the mule pay you?[42]” “Oh, sir,” says the negro, “me make him pay me very well; massa give me one tenpenny for buy him grass, and me only buy him a fippeny worth!”


When Dr. Franklin applied to the King of Prussia to lend his assistance to America, “Pray, doctor,” says the veteran, “what is the object you mean to attain?”—“Liberty, sire,” replied the philosopher of Philadelphia; “liberty! that freedom which is the birthright of man.” The king, after a short pause, made this memorable and kingly answer: “I was born a prince; I am become a king; and I will not use the power which I possess to the ruin of my own trade.”


Sheridan never gave Lewis any of the profits of the Castle Spectre. One day, Lewis, being in company with him, said, “Sheridan, I will make you a large bet.” Sheridan, who was always ready to make a wager (however he might find it inconvenient to pay it if lost), asked eagerly, “What bet?” “All the profits of my Castle Spectre,” replied Lewis. “I will tell you what,” said Sheridan (who never found his match at repartee), “I will make you a very small one—what it is worth.”


Some people have an objection to thirteen at dinner. Dr. Kitchiner, the culinary, happened to be one of a company of that number at Dr. Henderson’s, and, on its being remarked, and pronounced unlucky, he said, “I admit that it is unlucky in one case.” “What case is that?” “When there is only dinner for twelve.”



At a dinner party, one day, somebody talked of a rich rector in Worcestershire, whose name he could not recollect, but who had not preached for the last twelve months, as he every Sunday requested one of the neighbouring clergy to officiate for him. “Oh!” replied a gentleman present, “though you cannot recollect his name, I can—it is England—England expects every man to do his duty.”


A coach proprietor complained to Sir William Curtis that he suspected his guard of robbing him, and asked what he should do? “Prenez-garde,” said Sir William.


Lady S——r was complaining one morning at breakfast that the tea was very bad, and said she was quite sure the water didn’t boil; “Nay,” said she, “the urn didn’t even hiss when it was brought in.” “No,” said Sir W. E., “it was tacit-urn.”


A gentleman who was relating an accident he had met with from a fall, was asked by a surgeon, if it was near the vertebræ that he had been hurt? “No, sir,” was the reply, “it was near the Observatory.”


A barber having come up to poll at a Berwick election, one of the candidates, with evident marks of disappointment, asked, “What! did you not shave me this morning?” “Yes,” answered the barber, “but I have shaved Mr. —— (meaning the opposing candidate) since.”



Doctor Thomson was called in to attend a gentleman, who persuaded himself that he was, to use a popular expression, “dying by inches.” The doctor caught the invalid at dinner, and having seen him demolish some soup, a slice of salmon, two cuts of chine of mutton, and half a partridge, inquired what other symptoms of disease he felt. “None particularly, sir,” said the invalid, “only every thing about me tends to convince me that I am consumptive.” “Your appetite is, at all events, sir,” said the doctor, and walked off.


The fireworks for the peace of Ryswick were made by a colonel in the army, and were much admired. This gentleman one day commending Purcel’s epitaph, “He is gone to that place, where only his harmony can be exceeded.”—“Why,” said a lady present, “that epitaph will serve for you, with a very small alteration: there is nothing to do, but to change the word harmony for fireworks.”


In the great catalogue of the British Museum Library many of the books are classed according to the subjects of which they treat. Against the head “Rebellion” there appears this notice (only)—“Vide Hibernia.”


An Indian of the Abipones, an equestrian people of South America, was about to be baptized. “You will certainly go to heaven after this ceremony, when you die,” said the Jesuit who was to christen him. The[45] Indian was content. Just as the water was on the point of being thrown, however, a doubt arose in the mind of the savage. “By this water I shall go to heaven?” said he. “As sure as there are mosquitoes in America,” answered the father. “But my friends, who will not be baptised.”—“They must go to hell: assuredly, they shall not miss; not a man of them.” “Then excuse me,” said the savage; “I am sorry to have given you this trouble; but I shall choose to go too.”


Sir Baptist Hickes was telling how his gold buttons were cut off in a crowd, and he never the wiser, though the poorer. Sir Edmund Bacon asked him, if they were not strung upon lutestring? “No,” answered he. “Oh, fie,!” said Sir Edmund, “that was the cause it was not discovered; for if they had been strung upon lutestring, as soon as it was cut it would have cried twang.”


When the public bodies at London paid their court to the Prince of Orange on his arrival in the ever-memorable 1688, Sergeant Maynard, a man near ninety years of age, headed the deputation of lawyers. William, remarking his great age, expressed a supposition that he must have outlived all the men of law of his time. “Why,” said Maynard, with wit admirably suited to the crisis, “I was like to have outlived the law itself, if your Royal Highness had not come over.”[B]



A staunch Whig of the old school, disputing with a Jacobite, said he had two reasons for being against the interest of the Pretender. “What are those?” inquired the Tory. “The first is, that he is an impostor, and not really King James’s son.” “Why, that,” said the Jacobite, “is a good reason, if it could be proved; but, pray, what is the other?” “That he is King James’s son.”


An ignorant preacher, the vicar of Trumpington, near Ely, having occasion to read that passage in Scripture,—“Eloi, Eloi, Lama sabbacthani,” and considering with himself that it might be ridiculous and absurd in him to read it as it stood, since he was vicar of Trumpington, and not of Ely, actually bawled out, “Trumpington, Trumpington, Lama sabbacthani.”


A young but ambitious M.P. of the last age, having long resolved upon attempting some speech which should astonish the House, at last rose solemnly up, and, after three loud hems, spoke as follows:—“Mr. Speaker, have we laws, or have we not laws? If we have laws, they are not observed, to what end were those laws made?” So saying, he sat down, his chest heaving high with conscious consequence; when another rose up, and delivered his thoughts in these words:—“Mr. Speaker, did the honourable gentleman who spoke last, speak to the purpose, or not to the purpose? If he did not speak to the purpose, to what purpose did he speak?” It is needless to describe[47] the roar of laughter with which the House was instantly shaken, or to say that the orator never spoke again in that place.


Some years ago, a gentleman at Windsor took the place of the organist, with a view to shew his superiority in execution. Among other pieces, he was playing one of Dr. Blow’s anthems; but, just as he had finished the verse part, and begun the full chorus, the organ ceased. On this, he called to Dick, the bellows-blower, to know what was the matter. “The matter?” says Dick; “I have played the anthem below.” “Ay,” says the other, “but I have not played it above.” “No matter,” quoth Dick, “you might have made more haste, then; I know how many puffs go to one of Dr. Blow’s anthems, as well as you do: I have not played the organ so many years for nothing.”


Dr. Butler was a man of peculiar manners. Being sent for to a lady’s house, the lady desired a servant to ask what he would have for supper. “A roasted horse,” said the doctor. The man stared, and vanished; but, turning upon the stairs, soon re-appeared, and said to the reverend divine, “Sir, will you please to have a pudding in his belly?” Butler, laughing, said, “Thou hast a pudding of wit in thy head, and I like thee well. But why ask me what I choose for supper? I came here to give advice and not to eat. I shall eat as the rest.”


A travelled man was descanting one day upon what[48] he had seen in his peregrinations. He was particularly impressive on the largeness to which common reptiles and insects grew in tropical climates. “In the West Indies,” said he, “bees are about the size of our sheep.” “And how large may the bee-hives be?” inquired one of the company. “Oh, about the ordinary size,” said the traveller, without thinking of the exaggerated size he had just ascribed to the tenants of these receptacles. “Then,” said the inquirer, “how do the bees get into the hives?” “Oh,” replied the detected Manchausen, “let the bees look to that!”


Tom Burnet, son of Bishop Burnet, happening to be at dinner at the Lord Mayor’s, in the latter part of Queen Anne’s reign, when the Tories were for a space triumphant, after two or three healths, “The Ministry” was toasted. Tom, unwilling to compromise his principles by drinking to a cabinet he could not approve of, endeavoured to escape, by telling a story to a person who sat next him. This, however, would not do with the Lord Mayor, who, observing a full glass on the table, called out, “Gentlemen, where sticks the Ministry?” “At nothing,” replied the Whig, and immediately drank off his glass.


A Whig, of the same stamp with Tom Burnet, being asked what he thought of the fireworks which celebrated the peace of Utrecht (a peace concluded by the Tory ministry much against the wishes of the opposition), “I think,” said he, “they were a burning shame.”



George II., at a review of his horse guards, asked Monsieur de Bussy, the French Ambassador, if he thought the King of France had better troops. “Oh, yes, sir,” answered the ambassador, “the King of France has his gendarmes, which are reckoned the best troops in the world. Did your majesty never see them?” The king answered, “No;” upon which General Campbell, colonel of the Scots Greys (who afterwards lost his life at the battle of Fontenoy), stepped up and said, “Though your majesty has not seen those troops his excellency speaks of, I have seen them: I have cut my way through them twice, and make no doubt of doing the same again, whenever your majesty shall command me.”[C]


The tragedy of Macbeth was acted at a town in Suffolk, and amongst the audience was a man who had been nearly fifty miles, in the course of the day, to see Corder, the memorable murderer, hanged at Bury. Such was the belief entertained to the last, in some parts of the country, that the extreme penalty of the law would not be inflicted, that the man who had seen him die was pestered on all sides for an account of the melancholy spectacle. At last he actually betook himself to the theatre, to avoid further importunities. Just as he entered, the fourth scene of the tragedy was commencing, and he was quietly setting himself down [50]in a box near the stage, when Duncan began, in the words of the author,—

“Is execution done on Cawdor?”

“Yes, sir,” said the man, “I saw him hanged this morning—and that’s the last time I’ll answer any more questions about it.” The audience was convulsed with laughter at the strange mistake, and it was some time before the performance could be proceeded with.


The late Dr. Franklin used to observe, that of all the amusements which the ingenuity of man had ever devised for the purpose of recreation, none required the exercise of most patient attention so much as angling; a remark which he frequently illustrated by the following story:—“About six o’clock, on a fine morning in the summer,” said the doctor, “I set out from Philadelphia, on a visit to a friend, at the distance of fifteen miles; and, passing a brook where a gentleman was angling, I enquired if he had caught anything? ‘No, sir,’ said he, ‘I have not been here long; only two hours.’ I wished him a good morning, and pursued my journey. On my return in the evening, I found him fixed to the identical spot where I had left him, and again inquired if he had any sport? ‘Very good, sir,’ says he. ‘Caught a great many fish?’ ‘None at all.’ ‘Had a great many bites though, I suppose?’ ‘Not one, but I had a most glorious nibble.’”


A few days previous to Foote’s opening the Haymarket Theatre, amongst a variety of applications for engagements, a lady came to him warmly recommended.[51] Some time after she was introduced ensued the following scene:—“Pray, madam,” says Foote, “are you for tragedy or comedy?” No answer. “Are you married, madam? for if you are, by God, your husband is very happy in regard to your tongue.” By this time, the lady perceived she was spoken to; when, drawing her chair close up to the wit’s, and turning one of her ears to him at the same time, she replied,—“Speak a little louder, sir, for I am deaf.”


A person, speaking of the remarkably short lives of prime ministers, said, “that almost as soon as they’re primed they go off.”


The peace of Utrecht sticking in the House of Lords, Queen Anne, or rather her prime minister, the Earl of Oxford, found it politically necessary to create a majority, by calling up twelve commoners to the House of Peers. The celebrated Duke of Wharton, who was in the opposition, took care to be in the House the day of their introduction, and, as they passed by him, very deliberately counted out aloud, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve: well, gentlemen of the jury, who shall speak for you?”

The same nobleman, soon after, meeting the Earl of Oxford, addressed him with,—“So, Robin, I find what you lost by tricks, you have gained by honours.”


Foote once went to spend his Christmas with C—— B——n, Esq., when, the weather being very cold, and there being but bad fires, occasioned by the scarcity of wood in the house, Foote was determined to make his[52] visit as short as possible. Accordingly, on the third day after he went there, he ordered his chaise, and was preparing to set out for town. Mr. B——n, seeing him with his boots on in the morning, asked him what hurry he was in, and pressed him to stay. “No, no,” says Foote, “you would not let me have a leg to stand on.” “Why, sure,” says Mr. B——n, “we do not drink so much.” “No,” says the wit, “but there is so little wood in your house, that, by God, I am afraid one of your servants may light the fires some morning with my right leg.”


Quin one day complaining of his old age and infirmities, in the public rooms at Bath, a pert young coxcomb asked “What would he give to be as young as he was?” “I do not know,” says Quin, measuring him very contemptuously, “but I should be almost content to be as foolish.”


Counsellor C—— being chosen a friendly arbitrator between two near relations, one of whom had a very deservedly bad character, it happened, in the warmth of stating their grievances, the one gave the other the lie. “Lie, sir!” says the man with the bad character; “know that is amongst the actions of my life I dare not do.” “My dear friend,” says the counsellor, “do not be in a passion: upon my soul, you have too mean an opinion of your own courage.”


Foote being at a nobleman’s house, his lordship, as soon as dinner was over, ordered a bottle of Cape to be set on the table, which, after magnifying its good[53] qualities, and in particular, its age, he sent round the table in glasses that scarcely held a thimble-full. “Fine wine, upon my soul,” says the wit, tasting, and smacking his lips. “Is it not very curious?” says his lordship. “Perfectly so, indeed,” says the other; “I do not remember to have seen anything so little of its age in my life before.”


Foote, meeting at Bath, his old acquaintance, Major B—— (a character well known in the annals of gaming), came up to him, and asked him, with great cordiality, how he was? “Ah, Foote,” says the other, “I have had a terrible accident since I saw you last; no less than the loss of an eye.” “My dear fellow,” says the wit, “I am heartily sorry for it: pray, at what game?”


A well beneficed old parson being at a public dinner, he entertained them with nothing else but the situation and profits of his parochial livings, which last, he said, he kept entirely to himself. The company in general despised him too much to make any remarks on his egotisms; but Quin being of the party, and observing the parson, as he stretched across the table, to shew a pair of very dirty yellow hands, he immediately called out,—“So, so, doctor, I think you do keep your glebe in your own hands.”


The late Duke of York once remarked to Colonel W. at the mess of the 11th regiment, that the colonel was uncommonly bald, and, although a younger man than his royal highness, he stood in more need of a[54] wig. The colonel, who had been of very long standing in the service, and whose promotion had been by no means rapid, informed his royal highness that his baldness could be very easily accounted for. “In what manner?” asked his royal highness, rather eagerly. To which Colonel W. replied, “By junior officers stepping over my head.” The duke was so pleased with the reply, that the gallant colonel obtained promotion in a few days afterwards.


When Brummell was the great oracle on coats, the Duke of Leinster was very anxious to bespeak the approbation of the “Emperor of the Dandies,” for a “cut” which he had just patronised. The duke, in the course of his eulogy on his Schneider, had frequently occasion to use the words “my coat.” “Your coat, my dear fellow!” said Brummell, “what coat?” “Why, this coat,” said Leinster; “this coat that I have on.” Brummell, after regarding the vestment with an air of infinite scorn, walked up to the duke, and, taking the collar between his finger and thumb, as if fearful of contamination, said, “What! duke, do you call that thing a coat?”


Counsellor C—— being very infirm and goutified from his excesses, meeting one day with an old friend of his, a permit officer of the custom-house, the latter asked how he did? “Ah?” says the counsellor, “you will not have me long amongst you.” “Come, come,” says the other, “do not be cast down; you shall not have a permit to die yet a while.” “Shall not I,[55] indeed?” says the counsellor; “why, then, I would have you keep a sharp look-out for death; for, if you don’t, I am afraid he will smuggle me.”


The Puritans carried their peculiar tenets into the minutest affairs of life. When Lord Brook, one of the number played at bowls, he would sometimes run after his cast, and cry, “Rub, rub, rub,” in the eager, but absurd hope that such a cry would give effect to his play. On such occasions, his chaplain would run after him with equal eagerness, and earnestly exclaim, “Oh, good my lord, you must leave that to God.”


A bishop of Lincoln adopted the strange conceit of having the grand Scripture sentence, “Fiat Lux,” painted on all the windows of his house. In his hall, in particular, it was so thickly painted, that the reverse of the command was observable, and, as a wag remarked, you could scarcely see for light. A mad scholar, at last, happened to wait upon the bishop, and, observing the opacity of the light, fell a-breaking the windows with his stick. Being carried by the servants into the presence of the bishop, and questioned as to the cause of his conduct, “Why, my lord,” answered he, “I was only obeying your lordship’s commands: Fiat Lux.”


A young preacher, in the time of James I., being appointed to hold forth before the vice-chancellor and heads of the colleges of Oxford, chose for his text, “What! cannot you watch one hour?” which carried a personal allusion, as the vice-chancellor happened[56] to be one of those heavy-headed persons who cannot attend church without falling asleep. The preacher repeating his text in an emphatic manner, at the end of every division of his discourse, the unfortunate vice-chancellor as often awoke; and this happened so often, that, at last, all present could very well see the joke. The vice-chancellor was so nettled at the disturbance he had met with, and the talk it occasioned, that he complained to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who immediately sent for the young man, to reprove him for what he had done. In the course of the conference which ensued between the archbishop and the preacher, the latter gave so many proofs of his wit and good sense, that his grace procured him the honour of preaching before the king. Here also he had his joke: he gave out his text in these words,—“James First and Sixth, Waver not;” which, of course, everybody present saw to be a stroke at the indecisive character of the monarch. James, equally quick-sighted, exclaimed, “He is at me already;” but he was upon the whole so well pleased with this clerical wag, as to make him one of his chaplains in ordinary. He afterwards went to Oxford, and preached a farewell sermon on the text, “Sleep on now, and take your rest.”


It sometimes happens that a candidate for admission into a society, or club, finds every individual member to whom he speaks during the canvass agreeable to his wishes; but when the day of ballot arrives, discovers that there is a majority of black balls. We would recommend to the attention of all such unhappy individuals, the practical joke which a curate once[57] played off under similar circumstances. Being a candidate for some vacant benefice, which was at the disposal of the clergy of the district, he sounded them all beforehand as to their disposition to serve him, and found each more disposed to favour and support him than another. When they met, however, to deliberate on the subject in full synod, he found himself by no means so well treated. Afraid that he should lose his election, he invited the whole to a feast. They, knowing that he should be unable to provide for them from his own resources, sent, as was customary, each a certain portion of the materials of the entertainment—one fish, another flesh, a third wine, a fourth oil, and so forth. The whole he boiled together in one kettle. Of course, when the guests were all arranged, and the food brought in, it was found to be the most unpalatable stuff in the world. They asked what sort of food this was, and he answered with oblique veracity, that it was what they had sent to him. “Ah,” said they, “but what, if cooked each thing by itself, and presented in a separate dish, would have been very good, it is quite disgusting in this hotch-potch style.” “Just so are ye to me,” replied the host; “you are very fair and kind to me when single, and one by one; but when you are gathered together, you are the most disagreeable people in the whole world.”


As William Spencer was contemplating the caricatures at Fores’s, somebody pointed out to him the marine piece, entitled “The Ostend packet in a Squall,” when the wit, without at all sympathizing in the nausea[58] visible on some of the faces represented in the print, exclaimed, “Quodcunque Ostendis mihi sic incredulus odi.”


When Mrs. Mary Robinson published her Sappho and Phaon, she wrote to Mr. Boaden, then editor of a newspaper, in the following terms:—“Mrs. Robertson would thank her friend Boaden for a dozen puffs for Sappho and Phaon.” By mistake of the twopenny post, this note was delivered to Mr. Bowden, the pastry-cook, in the Strand, who sent this answer:—“Mr. Bowden’s respectful compliments to Mrs. Robertson; shall be very happy to serve her; but, as Mrs. R. is not a constant customer, he cannot send the puffs for the young folks without first receiving the money.”


One day, when Sir Isaac Heard was in company with George III., it was announced that his majesty’s horse was ready for hunting. “Sir Isaac,” said the king, “are you a judge of horses?” “In my younger days, please your majesty, I was a great deal among them,” was the reply. “What do you think of this, then?” said the king, who was by this time preparing to mount his favourite; and without waiting for an answer, added, “we call him Perfection.” “A most appropriate name,” replied the courtly herald, bowing as his majesty reached the saddle; “for he bears the best of characters.”


An American gentleman, who was so passionately fond of backgammon, that, even to be a spectator of[59] it much interested him, happened to be surveying a game in which one of the players shewed an evident inferiority to the other. As the game proceeded, he was wrought up to a pitch of perfect fury at the bad play of this individual, who on the other hand, maintained, under all his reverses, a coolness perfectly admirable. “Can you bear that?” cried the American at every hit made by the good player. “Why not?” said the other, with perfect indifference. At last, on the good player gaining an advantage of a particularly brilliant nature, “Can you really bear that?” exclaimed the American. “Why not?” drawled out the loser, with his usual philosophic coolness. “Well,” cried the American, “if you can I cannot;” and seizing the board, he threw the whole, dice, men, and everything, into the fire.


“What did Mr. —— die of?” asked a simple neighbour. “Of a complication of disorders,” replied his friend. “How do you describe this complication, my good sir?” “He died,” answered the other, “of two physicians, an apothecary, and a surgeon!”


Garrick having remarked at the Beef-Steak Club, that he had so large a mass of manuscript plays submitted to his perusal, that they were constantly liable to be mislaid, he observed, that, unpleasant as it was to reject an author’s piece, it was an affront to the poor devil’s feelings if it could not instantly be found; and that, for this reason, he made a point of ticketing and labelling the play that was to be returned, that it might be forthcoming at a moment’s notice. “A fig[60] for your hypocrisy!” exclaimed Murphy, across the table: “you know Davy, you mislaid my tragedy two months ago, and I make no doubt you have lost it.” “Yes,” replied Garrick; “but you forget, you ungrateful dog, that I offered you more than its value; for you might have had two manuscript farces in its stead.”


On one occasion, Garrick dined in the beef-steak room at Covent Garden, ready dressed in character for the part of Ranger, which he was to perform the same night at the other theatre. Ranger appears in the opening of the comedy; and as the curtain was not drawn up at the usual time, the audience began to manifest considerable impatience, for Garrick had not yet arrived. A call-boy was instantly despatched for him, but he was unfortunately retarded by a line of carriages that blocked up the whole of Russel Street, which it was necessary for him to cross. This protracted still further the commencement of the piece; and the house evinced considerable dissatisfaction, with cries of “Manager, manager!” When Garrick at length reached the green-room, he found Dr. Ford, one of the patentees, pacing backwards and forwards in great agitation. The moment the doctor saw him, he addressed him in a strong tone of rebuke. “I think, David, considering the stake you and I have in this theatre, you might pay more attention to its business.” “True, my good friend,” returned Garrick, “I should have been in good time; but I was thinking of my steak in the other.” The appearance of their favourite soon pacified the audience, and Garrick went through the character with more vivacity than ever.



When Colman read his admirable opera of Inkle and Yarico to the late Dr. Moseley, the doctor made no remark during the progress of the piece; but, when it was concluded, being asked what he thought of it, “It won’t do,” said the doctor; “stuff, nonsense!” Every body else having been delighted with it, this decided disapprobation puzzled the circle: he was asked why? “I’ll tell you why,” answered the critic; “you say in the finale,

‘Now, let us dance and sing,
While all Barbadoes’ bells shall ring.’

It won’t do: there is but one bell in the whole island.”


Some one was asked what works he had in the press? “Why, the History of the Bank, with notes; the Art of Cookery, with plates; and the Science of Single-Stick, with wood-cuts.”


In the reign of King James the First, it is said, that titles were not always well placed; which made an extravagant young fellow very smart upon a courtier, whom he desired to move the King to make him a lord. “What pretensions, either of blood or merit,” replies the courtier, “have you to recommend you to that dignity?” The young man confessed modestly, that “he hoped he stood possessed of all the qualities requisite for a fashionable nobleman; that he loved dogs, dice, and drabs; scorned wit in poor clothes; and had beat his shoemaker, and ruined his tailor.” The matter came to the king’s ear; but the young candidate’s preferment was opposed by a person in[62] waiting, who, it seems, had had no feeling in the affair. The king demanded what reasons there were against the man’s being made a lord; the courtier insisted, that “he was a mean obscure person, and not so much as a gentleman.” “Oh! it is no matter for that,” replies the monarch, merrily, “I can make a lord, though I cannot make a gentleman.”


A noted wag remarked the absurdity of a tradesman putting his name plump in the middle of the words expressing his trade,—a practice very common in London. “For example,” said he, “how ridiculous it is to see General Henderson Fish-merchant, in Holborn; or Dealer in Mash Potatoes, in the Commercial Road.” “Dear me,” exclaimed a young lady present, “I am very fond of mash-potatoes; I should like to deal with that man.” “If you are so fond of them,” replied her informant, “probably you would like better to board with him.”


A barrister observed to a learned brother in court, that he thought his whiskers were very unprofessional. “You are right,” replied his friend; “a lawyer cannot be too barefaced.”


A solicitor, who was remarkable for the length and sharpness of his nose, once told a lady, that if she did not immediately settle a matter in dispute, he would file a bill against her. “Indeed, sir,” said the lady, “there is no necessity for you to file your bill, for I am sure it is sharp enough already.”



A gentleman told Lord North, that, from a variety of losses, he had found himself compelled to reduce his establishment. “And what,” said his lordship, “have you done with the fine mare you used to ride?” “I have sold her.” “Then you have not attended to Horace’s maxim,—

Equam memento rebus in arduis servare.”


Three Venetians, whom Lord Byron brought with him into this country, were so dreadfully attacked by ophthalmia, as almost entirely to lose their eye-sight. “What can we do with these poor fellows?” said his lordship, when he heard of their misfortune. “Why,” said Dr. L., “at the worst, we can set each of them up as a Venetian Blind.”


A boat ascending the Ohio river was hailed by another boat, when the following dialogue ensued:— “What boat is that?” “The Cherrystone.” “Whence came you?” “From Redstone.” “Where are you bound to?” “Limestone.” “Who is your captain?” “Thomas Stone.” “What are you loaded with?” “Millstones and grindstones.” “You are a hard set to be sure; take care you don’t go to the bottom. Farewell.”

The above reminds us of another, and, perhaps, more original joke, of which we supply a new edition:—Two ships meeting, the following dialogue ensued:—“What ship is that?” “The Dam.” ”Whence came you?“ ”From Amsterdam.” “Where are you bound to?” “To Rotterdam.” “What is your[64] captain’s name?” “Potsdam.” “What is your cargo?” “Damsons and Damask.” “How goes it with you?” “In the last gale much damage.” “What news?” “The dams of Holland overflowed.” “You are,” concluded the interrogating tar, “a d—-d set; so d——n your eyes, sheer off!”


Among the few highly favoured individuals who were included in the select evening parties of George the Fourth, while at the Pavilion, Brighton, was the facetious Rev. J. Wright. On one occasion, the king hinted to his brother, the Duke of York, some intention he had of doing a particular act, to which the duke dissented: his majesty referred to the D.D.; on which the reverend jocularly observed, “The King can do no wrong.” “Then,” said his majesty, “Fred, I shall pursue my object; for you hear I have Wright Divine on my side.”


Eric Rosenkrantz, who visited England in the reign of Charles I., from a motive of curiosity, was, in 1652, sent hither on an extraordinary embassy from the court of Denmark. Cromwell, who considered Rosenkrantz as a young minister without experience, asked him, whether there were many such forward geniuses among the Danes, who were qualified to manage the arduous affairs of state before their beards were grown. Rosenkrantz, who had occasion for all his temper and discretion not to say too much or too little upon the attack, replied, with an admirable firmness, “Sir, my beard, though it be young, is, however, older than your[65] republic.” The protector, from this smart reply, conceived a different opinion of him, and treated him with much higher regard.


Lord Loughborough rallying a physician one day, on the inefficacy of his prescriptions, the doctor said, he defied any of his patients to find fault with him. “That,” answered the witty lord, “is exactly what Jack Ketch says.”


Somebody once remarked that the Englishman is never happy but when he is miserable; the Scotchman is never at home but when he is abroad; and the Irishman is never at peace but when he is fighting.


A droll equivoque, and not unseasonable, took place between Sir —— and Mr. M——, at the time of the great cash distresses in 1826. The baronet overtook the latter on returning from a fox chase; and, supposing the banker had been one of the field, and wishing to say something civil as he passed, observed, “A hard run to-day, Mr. M.” “Oh, no, sir, I assure you!” replied the conscious man of money, not of straw; “no such thing, sir; not in the least hard pressed to-day; no run at all!” “Why we run him in!” rejoined the baronet, with evident surprise; “would you have all knocked up?” “Oh! you are talking of the fox, perhaps,” said the banker, “and I was thinking of my bank. I have not been hunting, but hunted all the week by a pack of fools.”


A recruiting sergeant, addressing an honest country[66] bumpkin in one of the streets of Manchester, with—“Come, my lad, thou’lt fight for thy king, won’t thou?” “Voight for my king,” answered Hodge, “why, has he fawn out wi’ ony body?”


Dr. James was sent for to a widow lady, who was not very well, who asked him if sea bathing would not be a very good thing for her? “Why, yes, madam, if a widow won’t keep without being salted.”


The Duchess of Kingston, who was remarkable for having a very high sense of her own dignity, being one day detained in her carriage by a cart of coals that was unloading in the street, she leaned with both her arms upon the door, and asked the fellow, “How dare you, sirrah, stop a woman of quality in the street?” “Woman of quality,” replied the man. “Yes, fellow,” rejoined her grace, “don’t you see my arms upon my carriage?” “Yes, I do indeed,” says he, “and a pair of plaguy coarse arms they are.”


A certain reverend drone in the country, preaching a very dull sermon to a congregation not used to him, many of them slunk out of the church, one after another, before the sermon was nearly ended. “Truly,” said a gentleman present, “this learned doctor has made a very moving discourse.”


An instance of astonishing quickness is related of the witty Duke of Buckingham: Being present at the first representation of one of Dryden’s pieces of heroic nonsense, where a lover says, “My wound is great,[67] because it is so small!” The Duke cried out, “Then ’twould be greater, were it none at all.” The play was instantly damned.


At a dinner party at the Duke of Ormond’s in 1715, Sir William Wyndham, in a jocular dispute about short prayers, told the company, among whom was Bishop Atterbury, that the shortest prayer he had ever heard, was that of a common soldier, just before the battle of Blenheim:—“O God, if there be a God, save my soul, if I have a soul!” This was followed by a general laugh. Atterbury seemed to join in the conversation, and, applying himself to Sir William Wyndham, said, “Your prayer, Sir William, is indeed very short; but I remember another as short, and much better, offered up likewise by a poor soldier, in the same circumstances:—‘O God, if in the day of battle I forget Thee, do not Thou forget me!’”

[A Highlander offered up a prayer almost as laconic as either of the above two, just before fighting for the Old Chevalier, at the battle of Sheriffmuir. He said, “Oh Lord, be Thou for us; but if Thou be not for us be not against us, but leave it between the red coats (the king’s soldiers) and us.”]


A person, who lived in constant fear of the bailiffs, having absconded, one of his acquaintances was asked, what was the reason of his absence? to which he replied, “Why, sir, I apprehend he was apprehensive of being apprehended.”


When Mr. Charles York was returned a member for[68] the University of Cambridge, about the year 1770, he went round the Senate to thank those who had voted for him. Among the number was a Mr. P., who was proverbial for having the largest and most hideous physiognomy that ever eye beheld. Mr. York, in thanking him, said, “Sir, I have great reason to be thankful to my friends in general, but confess myself under a particular obligation to you, for the very remarkable countenance you have shewn me upon this occasion.”


Theodore Hook being told of the marriage of a political opponent, exclaimed, “I am very glad, indeed, to hear it.” Then suddenly added, with a feeling of compassionate forgiveness, “And yet I don’t see why I should, poor fellow, for he never did me much harm.”


At Allithwaite, Westmoreland, Mrs. Sarah Birkett, innkeeper, and formerly of Troutbeck, famous for brewing fine ale, had upon her sign-post the following words:—

O mortal man, that liv’st by bread,
How comes thy nose to be so red?
Thou silly ass, that look’st so pale,
’Tis red with Sarah Birkett’s ale.


A singular old gentleman was waited upon with his surgeon’s bill for the purpose of being paid. After cogitating over its contents for some time, he desired the person in waiting for his answer, to tell his master that the medicine he should certainly pay for, but that he should return the visits.



In a company where the conversation happened to turn upon the Mosaical account of the creation of the first woman, a lady made the following remark:—“The Creator appears, in this story, in the light of a midnight robber—he steals from Adam in his sleep.” “Allow me, madam,” said a gentleman, “to narrate an anecdote by way of argument against your objection. Last night, some persons broke into my father’s house; they carried away a bar of silver, and left in its place a richly chased golden vase. Can we consider these men as thieves?” “Thieves!” exclaimed the lady, “no; benefactors.” “Well, then,” said the gentleman, “in what manner ought we to regard Him who took away a worthless rib, and gave in exchange an inestimable treasure?”


A very worthy, though not particularly erudite, underwriter at Lloyd’s, was conversing one day with a friend in the coffee-house on the subject of a ship they had mutually insured. His friend observed, “Do you know that I shrewdly suspect our ship is in jeopardy?” “The devil she is,” replied he, “well, I’m glad that she’s got into some port at last.”


At the period of Wilkes’s popularity, every wall bore his name, and every window his portrait. In china, in bronze, or in marble, he stood upon the chimney-pieces of half the houses of the metropolis? he swung upon the sign-post of every village, of every great road throughout the country. He used himself to tell, with much glee, of a monarchical old lady,[70] behind whom he accidently walked, looking up, and murmuring within his hearing, in much spleen, “He swings everywhere but where he ought!” Wilkes passed her, and, turning round, politely bowed.


The following was, in consequence of an evening’s frolic, inscribed by some wags of Oxford, over an apothecary’s door:—

Hic venditur
Catharticum, Emeticum, Narcoticum,
Et omne quod exit in um,


“How do you like your new place, Jack?” said a smart liveried footman, to an old fellow-servant whom he met in Pall Mall, bearing one of the lottery placards. “Pretty well,” replied the other: “if it’s not quite so genteel as yours, it is more independent; for, don’t you see, I get seventeen shillings per week, and my board,” pointing to the notice on his shoulder.


When those trusty defenders of the country, the Tower Hamlets militia, were doing duty, a fat shopkeeper having fallen asleep when sentry, was called upon to give the watchword. “The watchword!” said another; “ask him for the counter-sign.”


Foote and Garrick were at the tavern together, when the former, pulling out his purse to pay the reckoning, asked the other what he should do with a light guinea he had? “Pshaw! it is worth nothing,[71]” says Garrick; “fling it to the devil!” “Well, David,” says the other, “you are what I always took you for, ever contriving to make a guinea go further than any other man.”


An eminent barrister had a case sent to him for an opinion. The case stated was the most preposterous and improbable that had ever occurred to the mind of man, and concluded by asking, whether, under such circumstances, an action would lie? He took his pen, and wrote,—“Yes if the witnesses will lie too; but not otherwise.”


Dean Swift had a shoulder of mutton brought up for his dinner, too much done: he sent for the cook, and told her to take the mutton down, and do it less. “Please your honour, I cannot do it less.” “But,” says the Dean, “if it had not been done enough, you could have done it more, could you not?” “Oh, yes! very easily.” “Why, then,” says the Dean, “for the future, when you commit a fault, let it be such a one as can be mended.”


A lady beating a tune on a table, as destitute of harmony as time, asked another, if she knew what she played? “I do,” answered she; “you play the fool.”


Pope, one night crossing the street from Button’s coffee-house, when the moon occasionally peeped through a cloud, was accosted by a link-boy, with “Light, your honour; Light, your honour!” He[72] repeatedly exclaimed, “I don’t want you.” But the lad still following him, he peevishly cried out, “Get about your business, God mend me! I will not give you a farthing; it’s light enough.” “It’s light enough!” echoed the lad; “what’s light enough? your head or your pocket? God mend you, indeed! it would be easier for God Almighty to make two men, than mend one such as you.”


Foote rattling away one evening in his green-room with great wit and brilliancy, as usual, the Duke of Cumberland, who was present, and seemed highly entertained, cried out, “Well, Foote, you see I swallow all your good things.” “Do you, my Lord Duke,” says the other; “why, then, I congratulate you on your digestion; for, by G—d, I believe you never threw up one of them in your life.”


When Sheridan’s life was to be insured, Mr. Aaron Graham, the magistrate, was applied to, in order to know whether Mr. Sheridan was, at that period, living a more regular life than usual. “I believe he is,” said the justice; “but understand me; I think he is more regularly tipsy, every night now, than he has been for several years past.”


The Belleisle, Captain Haywood, when dismasted, was attacked by five ships at once. Captain H. finding himself thus assailed, looked over the gangway, and, shaking his head at his enemies, involuntarily ejaculated, “I’ll not strike for any of you—no, that I won’t.” A dauntless old quarter-master, who was the[73] captain of the foremast gun on the quarterdeck, hearing what his captain said, immediately remarked, “Who the devil asked you?”


When Macpherson’s Homer came out (a book universally decried for a bombastical, affected style), a lady remarked one evening, in a large company, to Dr. Johnson, that she had been endeavouring to read it, but the style appeared so old, she could not go through it with any satisfaction. “You are perfectly right, madam,” says Johnson; “it is as old as the building of Babel.”


Much about the time of the universal damnation of the above book, the Lord Advocate of Scotland, being in company with a number of beaux esprits, after haranguing with great vehemence and nationality on the general talents of Mr. Macpherson, he asserted there was not a man in England had ever the knack of writing down a character more than he had. “I believe it most sincerely,” says a gentleman present; “and I think he has given a very recent proof of it, by writing down one of the first characters of all antiquity.”


Dr. Paris, author of the well-known work on Diet, observing many of the miners in Cornwall to be deprived of legs and arms, and otherwise maimed, inquired the cause, and was shocked to learn that these men had been exposed for ages to the greatest dangers, from their using a metal in their excavations, which sometimes struck fire, and exploded the blasts[74] prematurely. He immediately suggested a metal which was equally fitted for their trade, and was not liable to this dreadful objection. The poor men, truly grateful for his kindness, afterwards presented him with a piece of plate; on which was the following singularly apt and happy quotation from Virgil:—

“————- Manet altâ mente repostum
Judicium Paridis, spretæque injuria formæ.”


An English judge, when about to administer the oath to a dyer, observing his hand to be dark, called out, “Take off your glove.” The dyer, whose hand only bore the usual stain of his profession, promptly rejoined, “Put on your spectacles.”


Jack Bannister, praising the hospitality of the Irish, after his return from one of his trips to the sister kingdom, was asked if he had been in Cork. “No,” replied the wit, “but I saw a great many drawings of it.”


When the Earl of Clancarty was captain of a man-of-war, and was cruising off the coast of Guinea, he happened to lose his chaplain, who was carried off by a fever; on which the lieutenant, who was a Scotchman, gave him notice of it, saying at the same time, “that he was sorry to inform him he had died a Roman Catholic.” “Well, so much the better,” said his lordship. “Hout awa, my lord; how can you say so of a British clergyman?” “Why,” said his lordship, “because I believe I am the first captain of a man-of-war that could boast of having a chaplain who had any religion at all.”



An English lady was on a visit to a friend in Edinburgh, who was at great pains to point out to her all the delightful prospects of that romantic city. The stranger, assuming an air of consequence, generally answered, “’Tis very well for a Scotch view!” One delightful evening, walking along Queen Street, while the autumnal moon shone with uncommon lustre, her friend could not help expressing her admiration of the resplendent orb of night, when the Cockey remarked, “’Tis pretty well for a Scotch moon!”


A worthy farmer in the north of England was once waited upon by a tax-gatherer, who claimed taxes which had been already paid. The receipt had been mislaid, and the farmer could not on the instant produce it. The man of taxes became very abusive; and the farmer, in his own phrase, remonstrated with him. “Well, and to what effect did you remonstrate with him?” asked a friend, who heard the story from the farmer’s own mouth. “I don’t know,” was the reply; “but I know the poker was bent, and I had to get a hammer to straighten it again.”


A young nobleman, full of the follies of youth and the vanities of his rank, was rattling away at a great rate one morning at the Smyrna coffee-house. He, in particular, took great pains to let the company know of what consequence he was abroad, by the number of valuable presents made him at the several courts of Europe: “For instance, now,” says he, “I have got a bridle given me by the King of France, so exceed[76]ing rich and elegant, that upon my soul, I do not know what use to make of it.” “A bridle! my lord,” says an old gentleman, who sat in the corner. “Yes, sir,” says his lordship. “Why, then, I think the best use you can make of that is, to put it about your tongue.”


The late Lord Holland (who was, perhaps, the fattest man of his height in England), and his brother Charles, coming out of the Thatched-house one night together, a chair was called for the former, who, altering his mind, agreed to go home in his brother’s carriage, which was in waiting: the chairmen, however, being disappointed, he gave them a shilling. “Long life to your lordship,” says Paddy; “sixpence more to the poor chairmen.” “What!” says he, “have I not given you your full fare?” “O, yes, your lordship; but consider the fright.”


Foote being at supper one night at the Bedford coffee-house, just after Garrick had performed Macbeth, the conversation very naturally turned on the merits of that great performer, when, after many eulogiums on the universality of his powers, it was admitted, on all hands, that he was the first actor on any stage. “By G—d, gentlemen,” says Foote, “I don’t think you have above half said enough of him; for I think him not only the greatest actor on, but off the stage.”[D]



When Dr. Johnson was in Scotland, amongst other curiosities shewn him, he was taken to a very ancient and high castle, which was reckoned to command the most extensive views of any in the country. “Well, sir,” says his guide, “what do you think of this prospect?” “It is the finest in all Scotland,” says the doctor; “for I can here see the road to England.”


Dr. Johnson sitting one night with a number of ladies and gentlemen of his acquaintance, the ladies, by way of heightening the good humour of the company, agreed to toast ordinary women. In this round, one of the ladies gave an old housekeeper of Dr. Johnson’s, blind of an eye, and another matched her with Dr. Goldsmith. This whimsical union so pleased the former lady, that though she had some pique with the latter in the beginning of the night, she ran round the table, kissed her, and said she forgave her every thing that happened for the ’propos of her last toast. “Ay,” says Johnson, “this puts me in mind of an observation of Swift’s, that the quarrels of women are made up like those of ancient kings,—there is always an animal sacrificed on the occasion.”


Lord Chesterfield, a little before his death, was so infirm, that, whenever he went out in his coach, the horses were generally led step by step. In this situation he was one morning met by an acquaintance, who congratulated his lordship on being able to take the[78] air. “I thank you kindly, sir,” says his lordship; “but I do not come out so much for the air, as for the benefit of rehearsing my funeral.”


The vicar in a certain village in England, returning one Sunday from church, was thus accosted by an opulent farmer: “Well, doctor,” said he, “you be gwain on pretty well now; but why dount ye gi’ us now and than a scrap of Latin?” “Why,” said the vicar, “if I had thought it had been your wish, I should have had no objection, but for one thing—I am afraid you would not understand it.” “That,” said the other, “is nout to you; as we do pay vor the best, we oft to ha’ the best.”


Hogarth wrote a History of the Arts, which he intended to publish as a supplement to the Analysis of Beauty, and even went so far as to write the dedication for it, which was as follows:—

“The no-dedication; not dedicated to any prince in Christendom, for fear it might be thought an idle piece of arrogance; not dedicated to any man of quality, for fear it might be thought too assuming; not dedicated to any learned body of men, as either of the Universities, or the Royal Society, for fear it might be thought an uncommon piece of vanity; nor dedicated to any one particular friend, for fear of offending another; therefore, dedicated to nobody: but if, for once, we may suppose nobody to be every body, as every body is often said to be nobody, then is this work dedicated to every body, by their most humble and devoted William Hogarth.”



Notwithstanding the perpetual contention between Rich and Garrick for the favour of the town, they lived upon very friendly terms. Rich had improved his house at Covent Garden, and made it capable of holding more. Garrick went with him to see it, and asked him, in the theatrical phrase, how much money it would hold. “Sir,” says Rich, “that question I am at present unable to answer; but were you to appear but one night on my stage, I should be able to tell you to the utmost shilling.”


Some English officers, drinking in their tent, asked the chaplain for a toast. “The King of France.” “What! our foe?” said the colonel. “You live by him,” said the chaplain. The colonel, in his turn, gave “The Devil.” “Do you mean to affront me?” exclaimed the chaplain. “You live by him,” said the colonel, very coolly; “do you not, my good doctor?”


Dr. R—— maintained that poverty was a virtue. “That,” replied Mr. Canning, “is literally making a virtue of necessity.”


Joe Miller going one day along the Strand, an impudent Derby Captain came swaggering up to him, and thrust between him and the wall. “I don’t use to give the wall,” said he, “to every jackanapes.” “But I do,” said Joe, and so made way for him.


A gentleman having a remarkably bad breath, was met by Lord Thurlow in Pall Mall, who, seeing him[80] booted and spurred, asked him where he had been? “I have been taking the air this morning,” says he, “which was rather disagreeable too, as I had a d—d north wind full in my face all the time.” “Come, come,” says his lordship; “don’t you complain: the north wind had the worst of it.”


Lord Norbury, happening to drive out in the neighbourhood of Kingstown, was accosted by a poor person in want of employment. His lordship asked him many questions, and, amongst others, his name, and what business he followed. He said, “his name was Pew, and he was a labourer.” “Why, Pew,” replied his lordship, “you should have had a permanent situation in the church.”


There was once a man of a peculiarly gentle temper—a man of mere milk—a perfect Nathaniel, whom nobody could ever provoke to say so much as an ill word of any body. The most atrocious villains who came to the gallows were pitied by this man. He found an excuse for every folly—a pardon for every crime. Somebody, at last, by way of trying his temper, related to him the whole story of Nero—how he killed his mother, set fire to Rome, and would have slain his whole people by one blow if he could. “What—what do you think of that man?” inquired the narrator at last, expecting to hear him pronounced upon as a monster in human shape. “Why,” said the man of sillibub, “I think he must have been a wag!”


A printer observing two bailiffs pursuing an ingenious[81] but distressed author, remarked, “that it was a new edition of ‘The Pursuits of Literature,’ unbound, but hot-pressed.”


At a canvas, in which Sheridan was engaged at Westminster, soon after the Great Seal of England was so strangely abstracted, the mob saluted him with loud cries of,—“Who stole the Seal? Sherry stole the Seal,” &c.; and one fellow at last exclaimed, “I suppose if there had been a watch at it, he would have stolen it too.” “No,” said Sheridan; “if there had been a watch at it, it probably would not have been stolen at all.”


A country gentleman of great taciturnity, and whose servant quite understood all his ways, was one day crossing a bridge, when he took it into his head to look back and ask his attendant if he liked eggs. John answered, “Yes,” and no more passed at that time. Exactly on that day twelvemonth, he happened to cross the same bridge, about the same hour of the day. “How?” cried he to the servant, who rode behind him. John, not behind in one respect, instantly replied, “Poached, sir.” The conversation then dropped.


On the 5th of December, 1803, Mr. Reynolds, the prolific dramatist, produced a musical afterpiece at Drury-Lane, entitled, “The Caravan; or, the Driver and his Dog.” There was some pretty music in it, composed by Reed, and it had a very great run, and brought much money to the treasury. The chief[82] attraction of the piece was a dog called Carlo. “One day, Mr. Sheridan having dined with me,” says Kelly in his Memoirs, “we went to see the performance of this wonderful dog; as we entered the green-room, Dignum (who played in the piece) said, ‘Sir, there is no guarding against illness; it is truly lamentable to stop the run of a successful piece like this—’ ‘Really! what?’ cried Sheridan, interrupting him. ‘I am so unwell!’ continued Dignum, ‘that I cannot go on longer than to-night.’ ‘You!’ exclaimed Sheridan, ‘my good fellow, you terrified me; I thought you were going to say that the dog was taken ill.’”


A medical practitioner, who occasionally jests with his patients, being visited by one who was hypochondriac, and fancied himself ill of a fever, he gave the following prescription:—“Recipe—A washerwoman.” On being asked the reason for this curious order, he replied, “He knew nothing better for the cure of such fevers than medicine at once sud-orific and soap-orific.”


In the newspaper account of an inquest held on the body of a glutton, who died by devouring part of a goose, the verdict suffocation was misprinted stuffocation.


Sheridan was dining with the black-browed Chancellor, when he produced some admirable Constantia, which had been sent him from the Cape of Good Hope. The wine tickled the palate of Sheridan, who saw the bottle emptied with uncommon regret, and set his wits[83] to work to get another. The old chancellor was not to be so easily induced to produce his curious Cape in such profusion, and foiled all Sheridan’s attempts to get another glass. Sheridan being piqued, and seeing the inutility of persecuting the immoveable pillar of the law, turned towards a gentleman sitting farther down, and said, “Sir, pass me up that decanter, for I must return to Madeira since I cannot double the Cape.”


Two rival shoemakers, who lived directly opposite to each other, in one of the streets near the west end of London, and whose opposition was not in situation alone, but in every matter connected with business, carried on for a long time a war of advertisements and placards, till at last, one of them, to signify the purity of his style of doing business, got his doorway adorned with the classic sentence, “Mens conscia recti.” This the other conceived to be an advertisement of something in the line of business; and, as he was a lady’s shoemaker also, he got his door ornamented with the following improved reading of the apothegm,—“Men’s and Women’s conscia recti.”


As a person was shewing Dr. Johnson the castle of Edinburgh, he mentioned to him a tradition that some part of it had been standing 300 years before Christ. “Much faith,” replied the doctor in his usual manner, “is due to tradition; and that part of the fortress which was standing at so early a period, must undoubtly have been the rock upon which it was founded!”



A Mr. Topham, who was many inches above the usual stature of men, used to tell an amusing story of himself. Going once to inquire for a person, he looked in at the window over the door, and asked an old woman who sat by the fire if her husband was at home. “No, sir,” said she; “but if you will please to alight and come in, I will go and call him.”


A gentleman happening to have high words with a butcher in St. James’s market, was at last so provoked, that he raised his cane, and threatened to give him a good dressing. “No Master,” said his antagonist, “it shall only be lent, and I will take care it shall be repaid with interest.”


There was little piety in the army in the reign of the second George. It is told of an officer, who was desirous of presenting a petition to that monarch, and who requested a friend’s assistance in drawing it up, that, finding it concluded as usual, “And your petitioner shall ever pray,” he exclaimed, “Pray! I never prayed in my life, and shall not begin now: why should I tell a lie to his majesty?” So he substituted, “And your petitioner shall ever fight.” The king laughed heartily at this eccentricity, and granted the officer his request.


In a country playhouse, after the play was over, and most wretchedly performed, an actor came upon the stage to give out the next play. “Pray,” says a gentleman, “what is the name of the piece you have[85] played to-night.” “The Stage-coach, sir.” “Then let me know when you perform it again, that I may be an outside passenger.”


“Boy, what have you got before you there?” cried a pursy old doctor of divinity, who sat at the head of a table in one of the colleges of Oxford, to a young man a good way down. “Anser Capitolinus,” cried the boy in reply. “A capital answer,” roared the doctor; “send me a wing.”


In 1781, Lord Bateman waited upon the king, and with a very low bow, begged to know “at what hour his majesty would please to have the stag hounds turned out.” “I cannot exactly answer that,” replied the king, “but I can inform you, that your lordship was turned out about two hours ago.” The Marquis Caermarthen succeeded him.


Oliver Goldsmith being at supper one night with a lady, who was making an apology for the brownness of her pickles, very gravely desired her to send them to Hammersmith. “To Hammersmith, doctor!” says the lady; “why, is there any thing particular in that place?” “O yes, madam,” says he, “that is the way to Turn’em Green.”


In a company where Johnson and Foote were together, the emigration of the Scotch to London became the subject of conversation: Foote insisted that the emigrants were as numerous in the former, as in the present reign; the doctor the contrary: this dispute[86] continued with a friendly warmth for some time, when Johnson called out, “You are certainly wrong, Sam; but I see how you are deceived; you cannot distinguish them now as formerly, for the fellows all come breeched to the capital of late years.”


Some one jocularly observed to the Marquis Wellesley that in his arrangements of the ministry, “His brother the Duke had thrown him overboard.” “Yes,” said the Marquis, “but I trust I have strength enough left to swim to the other side.”


Frog Morgan, a barrister of very diminutive size, before he was much known at the bar, had commenced an argument, when Lord Mansfield, not aware of his stature, called upon him repeatedly to get up, conceiving that he was not addressing the court standing. “My lord, I am up,” screamed out the little man; “and I have been up these ten minutes.”


Sergeant Prince, a contemporary of Murphy, the translator of Tacitus, has described that gentleman as the most lengthy and soporific speaker of his time. Bar, Bench, jurors, attorneys—nay, even the javelin-men, nodded under their somnolescent influence. A counsel getting up to reply to him, began, “Gentlemen, the long speech of the learned sergeant——” “I beg your pardon, sir,” interrupted Mr. Justice Nares, “you might say the long soliloquy of the learned sergeant, for my brother Prince has been talking an hour to himself.”



An officer was defending himself before Sir Sydney Smith for not having attacked a certain post, because he had considered it unattackable. “Sir,” said the gallant chief, “that word is not in English.”


At the commencement of the French revolutionary war, an honest farmer, who read his Bible every Sunday, went to his rector, and asked him whether he did not think that the contest would go very hard with the French? The rector replied, that, if pleased God, he hoped it would. “Nay,” said the farmer, “I am sure it will then; for it is said by the prophet Ezekiel, chap. xxxv. verse 1, ‘Son of man, set thy face against Mount Sier;’ now, my wife, who is a better scholar than I am, says this can be nothing but Mounseer, the Frenchman; and in almost the next verse it is still stronger, for there the prophet adds, ‘O, Mount Sier, I am against thee and I will make thee most desolate.’”


Mr. Carbonel, the wine-merchant, who served George the Third, was a great favourite with the good old king, and was admitted to the honours of the Royal Hunt. Returning from the chase one day, his majesty entered, in his usual affable manner, into conversation with him, riding side by side with him, for some distance. Lord Walsingham was in attendance, and watching an opportunity, whispered to Mr. Carbonel, that he had not once taken off his hat before his majesty. “What’s that, what’s that, Walsingham!” inquired the good-humoured monarch. Mr.[88] Carbonel at once said, “I find I have been guilty of unintentional disrespect to your majesty, in not taking off my hat; but your majesty will please to observe that whenever I hunt, my hat is fastened to my wig, and my wig to my head, and I am on the back of a high-spirited horse; so that if anything goes off, we must all go off together.” The king laughed heartily at this whimsical apology.


Lord Belgrave having clenched a speech in the House of Commons with a long Greek quotation, Sheridan, in reply, admitted the force of the quotation so far as it went; “But,” said he, “had the noble lord proceeded a little farther, and completed the passage, he would have seen that it applied the other way.” Sheridan then spouted something, ore rotundo, which had all the ais, ois, kous, and koes, that gave the world assurance of a Greek quotation; upon which Lord Belgrave very promptly and handsomely complimented the honourable member on his readiness of recollection, and frankly admitted that the continuation of the passage had the tendency ascribed to it by Mr. Sheridan, and that he had overlooked it at the moment when he gave his quotation. On the breaking up of the House, Fox, who piqued himself on having some Greek, went up to Sheridan, and asked him, “Sheridan, how came you to be so ready with that passage? It certainly is as you say, but I was not aware of it before you quoted it.” It is almost unnecessary to observe that there was no Greek at all in Sheridan’s impromptu.



When the “School for Scandal” came out, Cumberland’s children prevailed upon their father to take them to see it: they had the stage-box; their father was seated behind them; and, as the story was told by a gentleman, a friend of Sheridan’s, who was close by, every time the children laughed at what was going on on the stage, he pinched them, and said, “What are you laughing at, my dear little folks? you should not laugh, my angels; there is nothing to laugh at;” and then, in an under tone, “Keep still, you little dunces.” Sheridan having been told of this long afterwards, said, “It was very ungrateful in Cumberland to have been displeased with his poor children for laughing at my comedy; for I went the other night to see his tragedy, and laughed at it from beginning to end.”


When the Marquis of Tullibardin was at Cambridge, he was made the subject of a pun, by the young waggish Cantabs, in the following manner: they took their opportunity and locked the young nobleman up in his apartments, and then calling to their fellows with much clamour, shouted, “See Cicero in prison!” The Marquis was then expostulating through the open window, and begging to be released. “Cicero in prison!” said the puzzled Cantabs, not comprehending the joke. “Yes,” said the joker, “it is Tully-barr’d-in.”


Parson Paten was so much averse to the Athanasian Creed that he would never read it. Archbishop Secker having been informed of his recusancy, sent the archdeacon to ask him his reason:—“I do not[90] believe it,” said the priest. “But your metropolitan does,” replied the archdeacon. “It may be so,” rejoined Mr. Paten, “and he can well afford it; he believes at the rate of seven thousand a year, and I only at that of fifty pounds.”


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 the five twelvepenny pieces, and something beside to buy thee a pair of gloves.”


A physician being out a-shooting one whole morning without killing any thing, his servant begged leave to go over into the next field, for he was sure there was some birds there; “and,” adds the man, “if there are, I’ll doctor them.” “Doctor them,” says the master, “what do you mean by that?” “Why, kill them, sir.”


King Charles II., on a certain time, paying a visit to Dr. Busby, the doctor strutted through his school with his hat on his head, while his majesty walked complacently behind him, with his own hat under his arm; but when he was taking his leave at the door,[91] the doctor, with great humility, thus addressed the king: “I hope your majesty will excuse my want of respect hitherto; but if my boys were to imagine there was a greater man in the kingdom than myself, I should never be able to rule them.”


A party had once climbed a considerable way up the usual track on the side of the Skiddaw, when a gentleman (a stranger to the rest of the company) who had given frequent broad hints of his being a man of superior knowledge, said to the guide, “Pray, what is the highest part of this mountain?” “The top, sir,” replied the guide.


“Your horse has a tremendous long bit,” said a friend to Theodore Hook. “Yes,” said he, “it is a bit too long.”


“Shall I cut this loin of mutton saddlewise?” said a gentleman carving. “No,” said his friend, cut it bridlewise, for then we may all chance to get a bit in our mouths.


A negro passing along Fleet Street, was astonished at hearing a voice call out, “How d’ye do, Massa Mungo; How d’ye do, Snowball?” and, on looking up, observed it proceeded from a parrot in a splendid gilt cage. “Aha, Massa parrot,” said Blackee, “you great man here, you live in gold house now; but me know your fader very well, he live in bush.”


An attorney being much molested by a fellow importuning[92] him to bestow something, threatened to have him taken up as a common beggar. “A beggar!” exclaimed the man, “I would have you know I am of the same profession as yourself; are we not both solicitors?” “That may be, friend; yet there is this difference—you are not a legal one, which I am.”


A parson who had a scolding wife, one day brought home a brother clergyman for dinner. Having gone into a separate apartment to talk to his spouse about the repast, she attacked and abused him for bringing a parcel of idle fellows to eat up their income. The parson, provoked at her behaviour, said, in a pretty loud tone, “If it were not for the stranger, I would give you a good drubbing.” “Oh!” cried the visitor, “I beg you will make no stranger of me.”


A gentleman, who thought his sons consumed too much time in hunting and shooting, gave them the appellation of Nimrod and Ramrod.


When the celebrated Beau Nash was ill, Dr. Cheyne wrote a prescription for him. The next day, the doctor coming to see his patient, inquired if he had followed his prescription. “No, truly, doctor,” said Nash; “if I had, I should have broken my neck, for I threw it out of a two-pair of stairs window.”


A very young officer, striking an old grenadier of his company for some supposed fault in performing[93] his evolutions, was unable to reach any higher than his legs. The grenadier, upon this infantine assault, gravely took off his cap, and holding it over the officer by the tip, said, “Sir, if you were not my officer, I would extinguish you.”


Tom Brown having once asked a man how he contrived to live in these hard times? was answered, “Why” Master Brown, “I live, as I believe you do, by my wits.” “Truly,” replied Tom, “you must be a much more able trader than I ever thought you, to carry on business, and live upon so small a capital.”


The king leaning carelessly out of a window, with the skirts of his coat gaping behind, a stout scullion perceiving the favourable situation, and mistaking his sacred majesty for one of the cooks, advanced on tiptoe, and, with a well extended arm, discharged a heavy blow on the royal buttocks. “Zounds!” cried the king, “what the devil’s the matter now?” The poor woman, thinking herself undone, fell upon her knees, and excused herself by protesting she had mistaken his majesty for Bertrand. “Well,” replied the king, rubbing briskly the aching part, “if it had been Bertrand, where was the necessity of striking so hard?”


A spunger was reproached one day for dining so often among his friends. “What would you have me to do?” answered he; “I am pressed to do it.” “True,” answered Monk Lewis, “there is nothing more pressing than hunger.”



Buck, the player at York, was asked how he came to turn his coat twice: he replied, smartly, that “one good turn deserved another.”


Dean Swift once preached a charity sermon at St. Patrick’s Church, Dublin, the length of which disgusted many of his auditors; which coming to his knowledge, and it falling to his lot soon after to preach another sermon of the like kind, in the same place, he took special care to avoid falling into the former error. His text was, “He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord, and that which he hath given, will He pay him again.” The dean, after repeating his text in a more than commonly emphatical tone, added, “Now my beloved brethren, you hear the terms of this loan: if you like the security, down with your dust.” It is worthy of remark, that the quaintness and brevity of this sermon produced a very large contribution.


The Count de Villa Medinna, being at church one day, and finding there a Religious who begged for the souls in purgatory, he gave him a piece of gold. “Ah! my lord,” said the good father, “you have now delivered a soul.” The count threw upon the plate another piece: “Here is another soul delivered,” said the Religious. “Are you positive of it?” replied the count. “Yes, my lord,” replied the monk, “I am certain they are now in heaven.” “Then,” said the count, “I’ll take back my money, for it signifies nothing to you now, seeing the souls are already got[95] to heaven; there can be no danger of their returning again to purgatory.” And he immediately gave the pieces to the poor that were standing by.


In the midst of his distresses, Sheridan had one day invited a party of friends to dine with him, amongst whom were a few noblemen of the Opposition party; but, upon examining his cellar, a terrible deficiency was found. He was largely in debt to Chalier, the great wine-merchant, and for two years had been unable to obtain from him any further credit. He put his imagination to work and tried the following expedient. He sent for Chalier on the day of the dinner in question, and told him that luckily he was just in cash, and wished to settle his account. Chalier was much pleased; but told him, as he had not the account with him, he would return home and bring it. He was about to leave the room, when, as if upon sudden recollection, Sheridan said, “Oh, Chalier, by-the-by, you must stop and dine with me to-day; I have a party to whom I will introduce you—some leading members of both Houses.” Chalier, who was fond of good company, and also hoped to meet with a recommendation, was obliged to Sheridan for the offer, and promised to be with him at the hour appointed. Upon his return home, he informed the clerk of his cellars that he was going to dine with Mr. Sheridan, and probably should not be home till it was late. Sheridan had fixed the hour of six to Chalier, but desired him to come before that time, as he had much to say to him in private. At about five o’clock, Chalier came to his appointment, and he was no sooner in the house, tha[96]n Sheridan sent off a servant, with a note to the clerk, desiring him, as Mr. Chalier was favouring him with his company, to send, as soon as possible, three dozen of Burgundy, two dozen of claret, and two dozen of port, with a dozen of old hock. The clerk, knowing his master was at Sheridan’s, and thinking that the order came with his concurrence, immediately obeyed it. After dinner, every body praised the fine qualities of Sheridan’s wines, and all were desirous of knowing who was his wine-merchant. Sheridan, turning towards Chalier, said, “I am indebted to my friend here for all you have tasted, and am proud to recommend him.”


It was told Lord Chesterfield, that Mrs. M——, a termagant and scold, was married to a gamester; on which his lordship said, “that cards and brimestone made the best matches.”


Mr. Money, a little dapper man, was dancing at the York Assembly with a tall lady of the name of Bond; on which Sterne said, “There was a great bond for a little money.”


A gentleman, begging Villiers, the witty Duke of Buckingham, to employ his interest for him at court, added, that he had nobody to depend on but God and his grace. “Then,” said the duke, “your condition is desperate: you could not have named any two beings who have less interest at court.”


Some time after a late nobleman had abjured the Roman Catholic religion, he was sent ambassador to[97] France, where he resided several years. Being one day at an entertainment, a noble duke, his near relation, rallying him on the score of religion, asked his lordship whether the ministers of state, or the ministers of the gospel, had the greatest share in his conversion. “Good God, my lord duke!” replied the witty peer, “how can you ask me such a question? Do you not know that when I quitted the Roman Catholic religion I left off confession?”


A large party of soldiers surprising two resurrection men in a churchyard, the officer, seizing one of them, asked him what he had to say for himself:—“Say, sir!” replied the surgeon’s provider, “why, that we came here to raise a corpse, and not a regiment.”


The organ of early destructiveness sometimes exhibits itself in a droll way. The mother of a family was one day saying, that as soon as the youngest child was of such an age, she should break up the nursery. “La, mamma!” said one of the children, “that will be fine sport—I’ll break up the chairs, and John shall break up the tables.”


A lady went into the Police Office, Bow Street, and inquired the price of some fur and silk articles. Townsend quizzingly replied, “Oh, ma’am, we’re all fair and above board—we’ve no cloaks here.” To which the lady rejoined, “Sir, I beg pardon; I really thought that this was the celebrated pelisse office.”



There was a famous eating match at a village in Yorkshire, between two men, named Gubbins and Muggins, which caused a great deal of interest in the neighbourhood; and a countryman, leaving the place before the match was decided, was stopped by almost every one on the road with “Who beats? how does the match get on?” &c.: to which he answered, “Why, I doant exactly know—they say Gubbins’ll get it; but I thinks Muggins’ll bet ’un yet, for when I leaft he was oanly two geese and a torkey behind him!”


A gentleman having appointed to meet his friend on particular business, went to his house and knocked at the door, which was opened by a servant girl. He informed her he wanted her master. “He is gone out, sir,” said she. “Then your mistress will do,” said the gentleman. “She,” said the girl, “is gone out too.” “My business is of consequence,” returned he; “is your master’s son at home?” “No, sir,” replied the girl, “he is gone out.” “That’s unlucky indeed,” replied he; “but perhaps it may not be long before they return; I will step in and sit by your fire.” “Oh, sir,” said the girl, “the fire is gone out too.” Upon which the gentleman bade her inform her master, that he did not expect to be received so coolly.


A gentleman being asked his opinion of the singing of a lady who had not the purest breath, said, “That the words of the song were delightful, but he did not much admire the air.”



“Pray, Monsieur l’Ambassadeur,” said the late King of France one day at his levee, “what do you take to be the difference between a Whig and a Tory?” “Please your majesty,” was the reply, “I conceive the difference to be merely nominal; the Tories are Whigs when they want places, and the Whigs are Tories when they have got them.”


There was not much wit, but there was some good humour in the reply George II. made to a lady, who, at the first masquerade his majesty was at in England, invited him to drink a glass of wine at one of the beaufetes. With this he readily complied, and the lady filling a bumper, said, “Here, mask, the Pretender’s health;” then filling another glass, presented it to the king, who, receiving it with a smile, replied, “I drink with all my heart to the health of all unfortunate princes.”


When Jonas Hanway once advertised for a coachman he had a great number of applicants. One of them he approved of, and told him, if his character answered, he would take him on the terms which they had agreed upon; “But,” said he, “my good fellow, as I am rather a particular man, it may be proper to inform you, that every evening, after the business in the stable is done, I shall expect you to come to my house for a quarter of an hour to attend family prayer; to this, I suppose, you can have no objection?” “Why, as to that, sir,” replied the fellow, “I does not see much to say against it, but I hope you’ll consider it in my wages.”



A great crowd being gathered about a poor cobbler, who had just died in the street, a man asked Alexander Stevens “What was to be seen?” “Oh!” replied he, “only a cobbler’s end.”


An illustrious person told Mr. D——, of C——, that he had drunk two bottles of champagne and six of port. “That,” said Mr. D——, “is more than I can swallow;” and if the wit was relished, it was never forgiven.


A player performing the Ghost in Hamlet very badly, was hissed; after bearing it a good while, he put the audience in good humour by stepping forward and saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am extremely sorry that my humble endeavours to please are unsuccessful; but if you are not satisfied, I must give up the Ghost.”


A gentleman just married telling Foote he had that morning laid out three thousand pounds in jewels for his dear wife. “She is truly your dear wife,” replied the wit.


A gentleman passing the evening among some friends in the city, was requested, in his turn, to favour the company with a song; he politely declined it, alleging that he was so indifferent a performer, that any attempt of his would rather disgust than entertain. One of the company, however, asserted that he had a very good voice, and said, he had frequently had the[101] pleasure of hearing him sing. “That may be,” resumed the other, “but as I am not a freeman, I have no voice in the city.”


As Lady B—— L—— was presiding one evening at the tea-table, one of her ruffles caught the flame of the tea-lamp, and was burned before it could be extinguished. Lord M——, who was of the party, and thought to be witty on the accident, remarked, “He did not think her ladyship so apt to take fire.” “Nor am I, my lord,” replied she with great readiness, “from such sparks as you.”


At the battle of Dettingen, as Lord Townsend, then a young man, was marching down pretty close to the enemy, he was observed to be so very thoughtful (as is usual with most officers on their first battle) as to take no notice of a drummer’s head that was shot off just before him, though he received some of the brains on his coat. A veteran officer observing this, went up to him, and endeavoured to rouse him, by telling him the best way in these cases was not to think at all. “Oh! dear sir,” says the other, with great presence mind, “you entirely mistake my reverie; I have been only thinking what the devil could bring this little drummer here, who seemed to possess such a quantity of brains.”


A little after Lord Chatham (then Mr. Pitt) had changed his political sentiments in regard to the protection of Hanover, in the course of replying one day in the house of Commons to Sir Francis Blake Delaval,[102] he threw out some sarcastical reflections on him for appearing on the stage; upon which the other got up and acknowledged it was true; youth and whim led him once to amuse himself that way; but he could safely lay his hand on his heart and say, “He never acted but one part.”


During Sheridan’s management of Drury Lane, an author[E] had produced a play which he offered to Covent Carden, saying, that it would make Drury Lane a splendid desert. His play failed; but, soon after, he prevailed on a friend to present a new one to Sheridan. “No! No!” exclaimed the latter, “I can’t agree to connive at putting his former threat into effect.”


Major Cartwright used to relate many curious particulars of this woman; among others, that on being shewn the interior of St. Paul’s, she was so struck with astonishment and awe, that her knees shook under her, and she leaned for support on the person who stood next to her. After a pause of some moments, she exclaimed, in a low and tremulous voice, “Did man make it, or was it found here?”


A gentleman, remarkable for having a great deal of lead in his forehead, called one morning on a counsellor, who had asked what news? “Why,” says the other, “I do not know; my head is confoundedly out of order this morning.” “That is extraordinary[103] news, indeed,” says the counsellor. “What! an extraordinary thing for a man to have the headache!” ”No, sir,” says he, “I do not say that; but for so simple a machine to be out of order is extraordinary indeed!”


An eminent carcass butcher, equally as meagre in his person as he was in his understanding, being one day in a bookseller’s shop where Doctor Johnson was, took up a volume of poems, and, by way of shewing his taste, repeated with great affectation the following line:—

“Who rules o’er freemen, should himself be free.” “There is poetry for you, doctor, what do you think of that?” “Rank nonsense, sir,” says the other; “it is an assertion without a proof; and you might, with as much propriety, say,—

‘Who slays fat oxen, should himself be fat.’”


A tobacconist having set up his chariot, in order to anticipate the jokes that might be passed on the occasion, displayed on it the Latin motto of “Quid rides?” Two sailors, who had frequented his shop, seeing him pass by in his carriage, the one asked the meaning of the inscription, when his companion said it was plain enough, repeating it as two English words, Quid rides.


A child having got a flannel cloth to dry, while his mother was busied otherwise, held it so close to the fire that it soon began to change colour. “Mamma,” he cried, “is it enough when it looks brown?”



Dr. Parr being asked who was his immediate predecessor in the mastership of the free school at Norwich, replied, “It was Barnabas Leman, an honest man, but without learning, and very tyrannical in his discipline. This man had the impudence to publish, by a half-guinea subscription, what he called an ‘English Derivative Dictionary,’ in quarto. He pretended to find a derivation for every word in Saxon, German, Dutch, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. No matter what the word was, whether culinary or vernacular, he undertook to find its etymology. Coming to ‘pig’s pettytoes’ (a Norfolk way of dressing the feet of sucking pigs), he was a little puzzled, but it did not stop him; so he wrote, as it now stands in the book, ‘Pig’s petty-toes—a dish of which the author of this Dictionary is very fond.’”

There lately resided in an Ayrshire village, a man who, like Leman, proposed to write an Etymological Dictionary of the English language. Being asked what he understood the word pathology to mean, he answered, with great readiness and confidence, “Why, the art of road-making, to be sure.”


A lady, very much afflicted with nervous complaints, went to consult the celebrated surgeon, Mr. Abernethy. The rough and caustic manner in which he catechised her, so discomposed the fair one’s weak spirits, that she was thrown into a fit of hysterics. On parting, she put the usual fee into his hand, in the form of a one pound note and a shilling. Mr. Abernethy pocketed the note with one hand, and with the[105] other presented the shilling to her, saying, gravely, “Here, madam, take the shilling; go to the next toy-shop, buy a skipping-rope, and use it every day; it will do you more good than all my prescriptions!”


A monkey-faced fellow offered himself to Garrick as an actor. “It will not do,” says Garrick; “but if you had a tail, no money should part us.”


One meeting an acquaintance, who was a printer by profession, inquired of him, “If it was true Mr.—— had put a period to his existence?” “No, no,” replied the typographer, “he had only put a colon, for he is now in a fair way of recovery.”


A carpenter in Dorsetshire was employed to make a pair of stocks for the parish, for which he charged a good round sum. One of the parochial officers said, “You have made a good deal by that job.” “Yes,” said Master Chip, “we stock-jobbers always attend to our own interest.”


A man, in the habit of travelling, complaining to his friend that he had often been robbed, and was afraid of stirring abroad, was advised to carry pistols with him on his journey. “Oh! that would be worse,” replied the hero, “the thieves would rob me of them also.”


Lee Lewis, shooting on a field, the proprietor attacked him violently: “I allow no person,” said he, “to kill game on my manor but myself, and I’ll shoot[106] you, if you come here again.” “What,” said the other, “I suppose you mean to make game of me.”


Bonnel Thornton, like most wits, was a lover of conviviality; which frequently led him to spend the whole night in company, and all the next morning in bed. On one of these occasions, an old female relation having waited on him before he had arisen, began to read him a familiar lecture on prudence, which she concluded by saying, “Ah! Bonnel, Bonnel! I see plainly that you’ll shorten your days.” “Very true, madam,” replied he, “but, by the same rule, you must admit that I shall lengthen my nights.”


Dr. Parr was not very delicate in the choice of his expressions, when heated by argument or contradiction. He once called a clergyman a fool, who, indeed, was little better. The clergyman said he would complain of this usage to the bishop. “Do,” said the doctor, “and my Lord Bishop will confirm you.”


Ralph Wewitzer, ordering a box of candles, said he hoped they would be better than the last. The chandler said he was very sorry to hear them complained of, as they were as good as he could make. “Why,” says Ralph, “they were very well till about half burnt down, but after that they would not burn any longer.”


Parker, Bishop of Oxford, being asked by an acquaintance what was the best body of divinity, answered, “That which can help a man to keep a coach and six horses.”



The motto which was inserted under the arms of William Prince of Orange, on his accession to the English crown, was, “Non rapui sed recepi.”

“I did not steal, but I received.”

This being shewn to Dean Swift, he said, with a sarcastic smile, “The receiver’s as bad as the thief.”


A French nobleman, who had been satirized by Voltaire, meeting the poet soon after, gave him a hearty drubbing. The poet immediately flew to the Duke of Orleans, told him how he had been used, and begged he would do him justice. “Sir,” replied the duke, with a significant smile, “it has been done you already!”


A late Duke of Norfolk was much addicted to the bottle. On a masquerade night he asked Foote what new character he should go in. “Go sober!” said Foote.


A hair-dresser, in a considerable town, made an unsuccessful attempt in tragedy. To silence an abundant hissing he stepped forward and delivered the following speech: “Ladies and gentlemen: yesterday I dressed you; to-night I ADdress you; and to-morrow, if you please, I will REdress you. While there is virtue in powder, pomatum, and horse-tails, I find it easier to make an actor than to be one. Vive la bagatelle! I hope I shall yet shine in the part of a beau, though I have not the felicity of pleasing you in the character of an emperor.”



This author had the merit of interrupting the servile etiquette of kneeling to the king. “I myself,” says the water poet, “gave a book to King James once, in the great chamber at Whitehall, as his majesty came from the chapel. The Duke of Richmond said merrily to me:—‘Taylor, where did you learn the manners to give the king a book and not kneel?’ ‘My lord,’ said I, ‘if it please your grace, I do give now; but when I beg anything, then I will kneel.’”


Two boys, belonging to the chaplains of two different men-of-war, entertaining each other with an account of their respective manners of living, “How often, Jack,” says one of them, “do you go to prayers?” “We only pray,” replied Jack, “when we are afraid of a storm, or are going to fight.” “Ay,” says the former, “there’s some sense in that; but my master makes us go to prayers when there’s no more occasion for it than for me to jump into the sea.”


“I will forfeit my head if you are not wrong,” exclaimed a dull and warm orator, to the president Montesquieu, in an argument. “I accept it,” replied the philosopher: “any trifle among friends has a value.”


One of the king’s soldiers, in the Civil War, being full of zeal and liquor, staggered against a church; and, clapping the wall of it repeatedly with his hand, hiccupped out,—“D—n you, you old b—h, I’ll stand by you to the last!”



A boy, who had not returned after the holidays to Winchester school, which the master charged him to do, came back at last loaded with a fine ham, as a bribe to the master, who took the ham, but flogged the lad, and told him, “You may give my compliments to your mother for the ham, but I assure you it shall not save your bacon.”


During the Civil War, some persons of the royal party having mixed with the republicans in company, were talking of their future hopes. “’Tis all building castles in the air,” observed a surly republican. “Where can we build them else?” replied a cavalier; “you have robbed us of every inch of land.”


A coachmaker remarking the fashionable stages or carriages, said, “That a sociable was all the ton during the honey-moon, and a sulky after.”


Mr. Congreve going up the water in a boat, one of the watermen told him, as they passed by Peterborough House, at Millbank, “that the house had sunk a storey.” “No, friend,” said he; “I rather believe it is a storey raised.”


During a retreat in the unfortunate Dutch campaign, when the army was flouncing through the mud, in a part of the road uncommonly bad, a company of the guards was much scattered: the commanding officer[110] called out to the men to form two deep. “D—me!” shouts a grenadier, from between two mountains of mud; “I am too deep already.”


An officer in battle happening to bow, a cannon-ball passed over his head, and took off the head of a soldier who stood behind him. “You see,” said he, “that a man never loses by politeness.”


During the poll for the Westminster election between Mr. Fox, Lord Hood, and Sir Cecil Wray, a dead cat was thrown on the hustings; one of the adherents of the latter observed it stunk worse than a fox. “No wonder,” said Mr. Fox, “considering it is a Poll cat.”


When Foote was at Salt Hill, he dined at the Castle; and when Partridge produced the bill, which was rather exorbitant, Foote asked him his name. “Partridge, an’t please you,” said he. “Partridge!” returned Foote; “it should be Woodcock, by the length of your bill.”


A ludicrous mistake happened at a funeral in Mary-le-bone. The clergyman had got on with the service, until he came to that part which says, “Our deceased brother, or sister,” without knowing whether the deceased was male or female. He turned to one of the mourners, and asked, whether it was a brother or sister? The man very innocently replied, “No relation at all, sir; only an acquaintance.”



A painter was employed in painting a West India ship in the river, suspended on a stage under the ship’s stern. The captain, who had just got into the boat alongside, for the purpose of going ashore, ordered the boy to let go the painter (the rope which makes fast the boat). The boy instantly went aft, and let go the rope by which the painter’s stage was held. The captain, surprised at the boy’s delay, cried out, “D—n your eyes, you lazy dog, why don’t you let go the painter?” The boy replied, “He’s gone, sir, pots and all.”


Judge Burnet, son of the famous Bishop of Salisbury, when young, is said to have been of a wild and dissipated turn. Being one day found by his father in a very serious humour, “What is the matter with you, Tom,” said the Bishop; “what are you ruminating on?” “A greater work than your lordship’s History of the Reformation,” answered the son. “Ay! what is that?” asked the father. “The reformation of myself, my lord,” replied the son.


Dr. E——, recovered from some consumptive disorders, by the use of egg diet, soon after married. W——, the master of University College, Oxford, went to Dr. L——, then sick in bed, and resolved to discharge a pun which he had made. “Well, sir,” said he, “Dr. E—— has been egged on to matrimony.” “Has he so?” said L——; “why, then, I hope the yoke will sit easy.”



A physician attending a lady several times, had received a couple of guineas each visit; at last, when he was going away, she gave him but one; at which he was surprised; and, looking on the floor, as if in search of something, she asked him what he looked for. “I believe, madam,” said he, “I have dropt a guinea.” “No, sir,” replied the lady; “it is I that have dropt it.”


An honest tar wishing to be coached up to town from Deptford, thought it a very unbecoming thing in him, who had just been paid off, and had plenty of money, not to have a whole coach to himself; so he took all the places, and seated himself upon the top. The coach was about to set off, when a gentleman appeared, who was holding an altercation with the coachman about the absurdity of his insisting that the seats were all taken and not a person in the coach. Jack, overhearing high words, thought, as he had paid full freight, he had a right to interfere, and inquired what was the matter? when, being told that the gentleman was much disappointed at not getting a seat, he replied, “You lubber, stow him away in the hold; but I’ll be d——d if he come upon deck.”


A facetious character, whose talents for humour in private companies were the cause of his being always a guest in convivial societies, had, by late hours and attachment to the bottle, brought himself into a dropsy: insomuch, that the faculty, one and all, agreed nothing could save him but tapping. After[113] much persuasion, he consented to the operation, and his surgeon and assistants arrived with the necessary apparatus. Bob was got out of bed, and the operator was on the point of introducing the trocar into the abdomen, when, as if suddenly recollecting himself, he bid the doctor stop. “What! are you afraid?” cried the surgeon. “No,” says the other; “but, upon recollection, it will not be proper to be tapped here; for nothing that has been tapped in this house ever lasted long.”


A punster, on hearing that the clergy were about to embody themselves for the defence of their country, after making some observations on their sable attire, and how ill the sword would become it, exclaimed, “Oh! England, unhappy England! to what a condition are we reduced, when we are to be indebted for the defence of our rights and interests to a band of black guards!”


Dennis, the critic, was the author of a tragedy acted at Drury Lane, in 1709, called Appius and Virginia. For the advantage of his play, Mr. Dennis had invented a new kind of thunder, which the actors much approved of, and is the same made use of at the theatre to this day. Notwithstanding this aid, the tragedy failed. Some nights after, the author being in the pit at the representation of Macbeth, and hearing the thunder made use of, he arose in a rage, and exclaimed, “By G—d, that’s my thunder! See how these rascals use me; they will not let my play run, and yet they steal my thunder.”



A gentleman, crossing the Strand, was applied to by a man, who sweeps the cross-ways, for charity. The gentleman replied, “I am going a little farther, and will remember you when I return.” “Please your honour,” says the man, “it is unknown the credit I give in this way.”


Munden, when confined to his bed, and unable to put his feet to the ground, being told by a friend that his dignified indisposition was the laugh of the green-room, pleasantly replied, “Though I love to make others laugh, yet I wish much rather they would make me a standing joke.”


A patient of some distinction, who was teazing Peter Pindar with his symptoms, and who had nothing scarcely to complain of, told him that he frequently had an itching, and begged to know what he should do. “Scratch yourself, sir,” replied Peter; which laconic advice lost him his patient.


“Sirrah,” said a justice to one brought before him, “you are an arrant knave.” “Am I, sir?” says the prisoner; “just as your worship spoke, the clock struck two.”


A gentleman riding down a steep hill, and fearing the foot of it was unsound, called out to a clown who was ditching, and asked him if it was hard at the bottom. “Ay,” answered the countryman, “it is hard enough at the bottom, I warrant you.” But in[115] half a dozen steps the horse sunk up to the saddle-girths, which made the gentleman whip, spur, and swear. “Why, thou rascal!” said he, “didst thou not tell me it was hard at the bottom?” “Ay,” replied the fellow, “but you are not half way to the bottom yet.”


A countryman sowing his ground, two smart fellows riding that way, one of them called to him with an insolent air, “Well, honest fellow,” said he, “’tis your business to sow, but we reap the fruits of your labour.” To which the countryman replied, “’Tis very like you may, for I am sowing hemp.”


Garrick and Rigby, walking together in Norfolk, observed upon a board at a house by the road-side the following strange inscription: “A goes koored hear.” “Heavenly powers!” said Rigby, “how is it possible that such people as these can cure agues?” “I do not know,” replied Garrick, “what their prescription is; but I am certain it is not by a spell.”


A gentleman, taking an apartment, told the landlady, “I assure you, madam, I never left a lodging but my landlady shed tears.” She answered, “I hope it was not, sir, because you went away without paying.”


Garrick was walking one day upon the Boulevards at Paris with the famous Preville, the first comic actor of the French theatre. To amuse themselves, and some of their friends, they imitated two drunken men so well, that the company scampered away to avoid[116] them; when Garrick, in the midst of their career, in a loud whisper, said to his companion, Preville, voire pied droit n’est pas assez ivre; mettez y la moindre idée de plus; i.e., “Preville, your right foot is not drunk enough; throw the least shade more into it.”


When General Boyd was Governor of Gibraltar, he wrote an order to a Mr. Brown, his agent in London, for provisions for the garrison, but forgot to insert what he wanted for his own private stores, until the letter was sealed up, and the vessel by which it was to be sent on the point of sailing, he therefore wrote on the outside, “Brown, Beef, Boyd.” His agent returned his provision, with an epistle equally laconic, written immediately under the direction, “Boyd, Beef, Brown.”


“When I have a cold in my head,” said a gentleman in company, “I am always remarkably dull and stupid.” “You are much to be pitied then, sir,” replied another, “for really it is a complaint that troubles you very often.”


The witty and licentious Earl of Rochester meeting with the great Isaac Barrow in the Park, told his companions that he would have some fun with the rusty old pot. Accordingly he went up with great gravity, and, taking off his hat, made the doctor a profound bow, saying, “Doctor, I am yours to my shoe tie.” The doctor, seeing his drift, immediately pulled off his beaver, and returned the bow with, “My lord, I am yours to the ground.” Rochester followed up his[117] salutation by a deeper bow, saying, “Doctor, I am yours to the centre.” Barrow, with a very low obeisance, replied, “My lord, I am yours to the antipodes.” His lordship, nearly gravelled, exclaimed, “Doctor, I am yours to the lowest pit of hell.” “There, my lord,” said Barrow sarcastically, “I leave you,” and walked off.


A Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, on the eve of his departure from the University, preached at St. Mary’s upon these words, Have patience with me, and I will pay you all; and, owing a great sum of money in the town, enlarged mightily on the first part of the text, Have patience, &c. “Now,” says he, “I should come to the second part, and I will pay you all; but having prest too long on your patience, I must leave that to the next opportunity; so pray have patience with me!”


“How are you this morning,” said Fawcett to Cooke. “Not at all myself,” says the tragedian. “Then, I congratulate you,” replied Fawcett; “for be whoever else you will, you will be a gainer by the bargain.”


As the late Earl of Chesterfield and Lord Petre were once stepping out of a carriage, a great lamp, oil and all, fell from the centre of an iron arch before the house, missing Lord Petre by about half-an-inch. “Oh, my lord,” said he, “I was near being gone!” “Why, yes,” replied the Earl coolly, “but there[118] would certainly have been one comfort attending the accident, since you must infallibly have received extreme unction before you went.”


As Rich, the harlequin, was one evening returning home from the playhouse in a hackney coach, he ordered the coachman to drive him to the Sun, then a famous tavern in Clare Market. Just as the coach passed one of the windows of the tavern, Rich, who perceived it to be open, dexterously threw himself out of the coach-window into the room. The coachman, who saw nothing of this transaction, drew up, descended from his box, opened the coach door, and let down the step; then, taking off his hat, he waited for some time, expecting his fare to alight; but at length, looking into the coach, and seeing it empty, he bestowed a few hearty curses on the rascal who had bilked him, remounted his box, turned about, and was driving back to the stand; when Rich, who had watched his opportunity, threw himself into the coach, looked out, asked the fellow where the devil he was driving, and desired him to turn again. The coachman, almost petrified with fear, instantly obeyed, and once more drew up to the door of the tavern. Rich now got out; and, after reproaching the fellow with stupidity, tendered him his money. “No, God bless your honour,” said the coachman, “my master has ordered me to take no money to-night.” “Pshaw!” said Rich, “your master’s a fool; here’s a shilling for yourself.” “No, no,” said the coachman, who by that time had remounted his box, “that won’t do; I[119] know you too well, for all your shoes—and so, Mr. Devil, for once you’re outwitted!”


The Earl of Rochester once endeavoured to throw off his wit upon a young academic at Oxford, by thus accosting him:—

“Pray, Mr. Student, can you tell,
Which is the nearest way to Hell?”

The other instantly retorted,—

“Some say Woodstock, I say nay,
For Rochester’s the nearest way.”


Two gentlemen were at a coffee-house, when the discourse fell upon Sir Joshua Reynold’s painting; one of them said, that “his tints were admirable, but the colours flew.” It happened, unluckily, that Sir Joshua was in the next stall, and he, taking up his hat, accosted them thus, with a low bow: “Gentlemen, I return you many thanks for bringing me off with flying colours.”


A gentleman entered a box at the playhouse in his boots and spurs, and said that he came to town on purpose to see Orpheus; when, unluckily, his spurs got entangled in a lady’s petticoat, she replied, “and Eu-rid-i-ce.”


A gentleman, calling upon a friend who was attended by a physician from the west end of the town, inquired of the doctor, on one of his visits, if he did not find it inconvenient to attend his friend from such a distance? “Not at all, sir,” replied the doctor, “for, having[120] another patient in the adjoining street, I can kill two birds with one stone.” “Can you so?” replied the sick man; “then you are two good a shot for me:” and dismissed him.


Lord Chesterfield, on viewing Lady M——, a reputed Jacobite, adorned with Orange ribands at the anniversary ball at Dublin, in memory of King William, thus addressed her, extempore:—

“Thou little Tory, where’s the jest
To wear those ribbons in thy breast;
When that breast, betraying shows
The whiteness of the rebel rose?”


Lord Nelson was as decided and animated in his intercourse with his friends as with the enemies of his country. Captain Berry had served with him in the unfortunate affair of Teneriffe; and, on their return to England, accompanied him to St James’s. The King, with his accustomed suavity, lamented the gallant admiral’s wounds. “You have lost your right arm,” observed his Majesty. “But not my right hand,” replied the other, “as I have the honour of presenting Captain Berry to your Majesty.”


Dining one day at a party in Bath, Quin uttered something which caused a general murmur of delight. A nobleman present, who was not illustrious for the brilliancy of his ideas, exclaimed, “What a pity ’tis, Quin, my boy, that a clever fellow like you should be[121] a player.” Quin fixed and flashed his eye upon the person, with this reply, “What would your lordship have me be?—a Lord!”


An unfortunate man, miserably afflicted with a hypochondriacal complaint, consulted M. Tronchin, the physician, “You want amusement, sir,” said Tronchin to him; “go and see Carlini:[F] he will make you laugh, and will do you more good, than any thing I can prescribe for you.” “Alas, sir,” said the patient, “I myself am Carlini.”


In Queen Anne’s reign, the Lord B—— married three wives, who were all his servants. A beggar woman, meeting him one day in the street, made him a very low courtesy. “Ah! God Almighty bless you,” said she, “and send you a long life! if you do but live long enough, we shall all be ladies in time.”


A magistrate remonstrating with a culprit of the poor class, who had been frequently before him, asked him why he did not contrive to pursue an honest course? The other, who had got some gin under his girdle, replied, “Upon my soul, please your worship, I can’t afford to be honest.”


George II., when riding through Brentford in dirty weather, was accustomed to say, “I do love this place, it is so like Germany.”



A grotesque instance of the sudden power of gratitude is shewn in a modern Kentish anecdote perfectly well attested. A person of Whitestable, named Patten, was well known in his own neighbourhood as a man of great oddity, great humour, and equally great extravagance. Once standing in need of a new wig, his old one defying all farther assistance of art, he went over to Canterbury, and applied to a barber, young in the business, to make him one. The tradesman, who was just going to dinner, begged the honour of his new customer’s company at his meal, to which Patten most readily consented. After dinner, a large bowl of punch was produced, and the happy guest, with equal readiness, joined in its demolition. When it was out, the barber was proceeding to business, and began to handle his measure, when Mr. Patten desired him to desist, saying, he should not make his wig. “Why not!” exclaimed the honest host; “have I done any thing to offend you, sir?” “Not in the least,” replied the guest; “I find you are a very honest, good-natured fellow; so I will take somebody else in. Had you made it, you would never have been paid for it.”


A Yorkshire boy went into a public-house, where a gentleman was eating eggs. The boy looked extremely hard at him for some time, and then said, “Will you be good enough to give me a little salt, sir?” “Ay, certainly boy; but why do you want salt?” “Perhaps, sir,” says he, “you’ll ask me to eat an egg[123] presently, and I should like to be ready.” “What country are you from, my lad?” “Yorkshire, sir.” “I thought so—there, take an egg.” “I thank you, sir,” said the boy. “Well,” added the gentleman, “they are all great horse stealers in your country, are they not?” “Yes,” rejoins the boy, “my father (though an honest man) would mind no more stealing of a horse than I would drinking your glass of ale—Your health, sir,” added he, and drank it up. “That will do,” says the gentleman; “I see you’re Yorkshire.”


An eccentric barber opened a shop under the walls of the King’s Bench prison. The windows being broken when he entered it, he mended them with paper, on which appeared “Shave for a penny,” with the usual invitation to customers; and over the door was scrawled these lines:

“Here lives Jemmy Wright,
Shaves as well as any man in England—almost—not quite.”

Foote (who loved any thing eccentric) saw these inscriptions, and hoping to extract some wit from the author, whom he justly concluded to be an odd character, he pulled off his hat, and thrusting his head through a paper pane into the shop, called out “Is Jemmy Wright at home?” The barber immediately forced his own head through another pane into the street, and replied, “No, sir, he has just popt out.” Foote laughed heartily, and gave the man a guinea.


A tailor, who was dangerously ill, had a remarkable[124] dream. He saw, fluttering in the air, a piece of cloth of prodigious length, composed of all the cabbage he had made, of a variety of colours. The Angel of Death held this piece of patchwork in one of his hands, and with the other gave the tailor several strokes with a piece of iron. The tailor, awakening in a fright, made a vow, that, if he recovered, he would cabbage no more. He soon recovered. As he was diffident in himself, he ordered one of his apprentices to put him in mind of his dream whenever he cut out a suit of clothes. The tailor was for some time obedient to the intimations given him by his apprentice; but a nobleman having sent for him to make a coat out of a very rich stuff, his virtue could not resist the temptation. His apprentice put him in mind of his dream, but to no purpose. “I am tired with your talk about the dream,” says the tailor; “there was nothing like this in the whole piece of patchwork I saw in my dream.”


A soldier, about to be sent on an expedition, said to the officer directing the drafts, “Sir, I cannot go, because I—I—stutter.” “Stutter!” says the officer, “you don’t go to talk, but to fight.” “Ay, but they’ll p-p-put me on g-g-guard, and a man may go ha-ha-half a mile before I can say, Wh-wh-who goes there?” “Oh, that is no objection, for there will be another sentry placed along with you, and he can challenge if you can fire.” “Well, b-b-but I may be taken and run through the g-g-guts before I can cry Qu-qu-quarter!”


A carpenter having neglected to make a gibbet[125] (which was ordered by the executioner), on the ground that he had not been paid for the last that he had erected, gave so much offence, that the next time the judge came to the circuit he was sent for. “Fellow (said the judge, in a stern tone), how came you to neglect making the gibbet that was ordered on my account?” “I humbly beg your pardon,” said the carpenter, “had I known it had been for your lordship, it should have been done immediately.”


One Sunday evening, when the weather was extremely hot, the windows of a parish church in the diocese of Gloucester were set open to admit more air, while the congregation was assembled for divine service. Just as the clergyman was beginning his weekly discourse (who, by the by, was not much celebrated for his oratorical powers), a jack-ass, which had been grazing in the church-yard, popped his head in at the window, and began braying with all his might, as if in opposition to the reverend preacher. On this a wag present immediately got up from his seat, and with great gravity of countenance exclaimed,—“One at a time, gentlemen, if you please!” The whole congregation set up a loud laugh, when the jack-ass took fright, and gave up the contest, though, from the clergyman’s chagrin and confusion, he would probably not have been the worst orator.


A gentleman went to see his son at Westminster school, under the great Dr. Busby. When they were in discourse, over a bottle of wine, the doctor sent for the boy. “Come,” says he, “young man, as your[126] father is here, take a glass of wine;” and quoted this Latin sentence,—Paucum vini acuit ingenium (a little wine sharpens the wit.) The lad replied, “Sed plus vini, plus ingenii!” (the more wine, the more wit!) “Hold, young man,” replied the doctor, “though you argue on mathematical principles, you shall have but one glass!”


A West Indian, who had a remarkably fiery nose, having fallen asleep in his chair, a negro boy, who was in waiting, observed a mosquito hovering round his face. Quashi eyed the insect very attentively; at last he saw him alight on his master’s nose, and immediately fly off. “Ah,” exclaimed the negro, “me d—n glad see you burn your foot!”


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


A malefactor of the name of Hogg, under sentence of death, petitioned Lord Chancellor Bacon for a reprieve, claiming a relationship. His lordship said, he could not possibly be bacon till he had first been hung.


When the great Bentley, afterwards so distinguished, was examined for deacon’s orders, he expected that the bishop would himself examine him; and his displeasure[127] at what he considered neglect he vented in such answers as the following:—

Chaplain. Quid est fides?
Bentley. Quod non vides.
C. Quid est spes?
B. Quid non habes.
C. Quid est charitas?
B. Maxima raritas.

This is said to have been enough to satisfy the chaplain, who took the rhymer to the bishop.


Some years ago, a then itinerant portrait painter, whose reputation has since risen much above the point it at that time occupied, being employed to delineate the features of a musician of some eminence, who had taken up his temporary quarters at a watering place, the son of harmony was dissatisfied with the resemblance, and expressed his disapprobation rather strongly. “Who is that like, my dear?” asked the mortified artist of a fine little boy, the eldest hope of his employer. “Papa!” said the child. “So it is, my darling. You see, sir, your son is a better judge of a likeness than yourself. And where is it like papa, my dear?” “It’s very like papa about the fiddle!” was the answer. It is unnecessary to add, that no more questions were asked of the juvenile connoisseur.


It is strange to observe how blind the common people are, in general, to the ends of public justice. They seem to have almost all taken their notions on this subject from the Judaic law, which awarded life for life, and one article to be substituted for another;[128] and punishment is by them rather looked upon as a revenge to gratify the offended person, or his manes, than as preventative of future crimes. In Scotland, for instance, if a man is to be hanged for stealing the sheep, or breaking the shop, of another, the aggrieved individual is sometimes found to express what he will perhaps consider a graceful regret for the fate of the culprit, as if it were only to avenge his petty quarrel, and not to vindicate the cause of offended justice, that the law was to take its course. This was well reproved, on one occasion, by Justice Burnet. A fellow, whom that judge was about to condemn for horse-stealing, said it surely was a hard thing to be hanged for stealing a horse. “You are not to be hanged, friend,” replied the Justice, “for stealing a horse, but that horses may not be stolen.”


The famous Lord Bolingbroke, being at Aix-la-chapelle, during the treaty of peace at that place (at which time his attainder was taken off), was asked by an impertinent Frenchman, whether he came there in any public character. “No, sir,” replied his Lordship, “I come like a French minister, with no character at all.”


In a party of ladies, on it being reported that a Captain Silk had arrived in town, they exclaimed, with one exception, “What a name for a soldier!” “The fittest name in the world,” rejoined a witty female; “for silk never can be worsted!”


A gentleman about to join his regiment, stationed[129] in the West Indies, was making some anxious inquiries of a brother officer, who had returned, after serving several years in that climate, concerning the best means of preserving health; to which the other replied, “During our passage out, many serious discussions took place about the mode of living best calculated to preserve health in a climate, with the fatal effects of which on European constitutions every one is so well acquainted. Some determined to be temperate, and drink nothing but water; others, not to deviate from their usual manner of living. Not to interrupt each other’s plans, we agreed to separate into two distinct messes, which, from their different modes of living, very soon obtained the distinctive appellations of the sober and the drunken club.” “Well,” said the other gentleman, with some anxiety, “and what was the result?” “Why, truly, not very satisfactory: we buried all the members of the sober club in the course of a few months, and I am the only survivor of the drunken.”


The famous Sir George Rooke, when he was a captain of marines, was quartered at a village where he buried a good many of his men. At length, the parson refused to perform the ceremony of their interment any more, unless he was paid for it; which being told to Captain Rooke, he ordered six of his company to carry the corpse of the soldier then dead, and lay him upon the parson’s table. This so embarrassed the priest, that he sent the captain word, “If he would fetch the man away, he would bury him and all his company for nothing.”



Sir Robert Walpole, at the close of his administration, was sitting one evening with some intimate friends, to whom he was complaining of the vanities and vexations of office, adding, from the second epistle of the second book of Horace,

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

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


George IV., when Prince of Wales, and Charles Fox, one day enjoying a ride in the neighbourhood of Brighton, laid bets which of them should make the worst pun on the first subjects they met. Immediately after, meeting a man carrying a dead hare over his shoulder, Fox (who was to make the first essay of his wit) accosted him thus: “Friend, is that your own hare, or a wig?” Riding a little farther on, they came up with two men, one of whom held a snuff-box in his hand. “So, friend,” said the Prince, “I see you are a snuffer.” “Yes, sir,” replied the man. “And are you a snuffer also?” says he to the other man. “I am, please your honour.” “Well, then, you are a pair of snuffers.” Fox gained the bet.


A gentleman inquiring of a naval officer why sailors generally take off their shirts on going into action, was[131] answered, that “they were unwilling to have any check to fighting.”


A gentleman meeting an old friend, whom he had not seen for a long time, congratulated him on lately coming to the possession of a large landed estate. “There was such a report,” replied the other; “but, if you will believe me, it was quite groundless.”


Mossop, the player, always spoke in heroics. A cobbler in Dublin, who once brought home his boots, refused to leave them without the money. Mossop came in whilst he was disputing, and, looking sternly, exclaimed, “Tell me, are you the noted cobbler I have often heard of?” “Yes,” says the fellow, “and I think you the diverting vagabond I have often seen.”


When George I. landed at Greenwich, the inhabitants, after discussing the subject, of what was the highest honour they could confer upon the newly arrived sovereign, determined upon electing him churchwarden, which was accordingly done. A dispute, however, afterwards took place in the vestry, as to whether he who was elected to serve the office of king could serve the office of churchwarden at the same time.


One evening Lord Barrymore made a remark, which transported Anthony Pasquin so much, that he vociferated for writing materials to note it down. The former called him to order, and asked what he wanted? “Ink—ink—ink, my lord!” he replied, striking his[132] hand on the table. “Do you?” said his lordship; “wash your hands, and then you’ll get a quart.”


Two gentlemen, remarkable for a nice appetite, were disputing at a coffee-house upon the best mode of cooking a beef-steak, and were enumerating the different processes for bringing it to the table in the highest perfection. Mr. Wewitzer, of Drury-Lane Theatre, who was present, observed, that “of all the methods of cooking a beef-steak, he thought Shakespeare’s recipe to be the shortest and the best.” Upon being asked for an explanation, “Why, gentlemen,” said Wewitzer,

“If, when ’twere done, ’twere well done,
Then ’twere well it were done quickly.”


An officer, who had lost an eye, supplied it with a glass one, which he always took out when he went to bed. Being in an inn, he took out his eye, and gave it to the wench who attended, desiring her to lay it on the table. The maid still waiting, and staring, he asked her, “What do you wait for?” “Only for the other eye, sir,” said she.


Lord North, exulting over Charles Fox, on the news, in an extraordinary gazette, of New York being conquered, the patriotic wit replied, “It is a mistake, sir; New York is not conquered; it is only like the ministry, abandoned!”


A clown once took a fancy to hear the Latin disputes[133] of doctors at a university. He was asked what pleasure he could take in viewing such combatants, when he could never know so much as which of the parties had the better. “For that matter,” replied the clown, “I a’n’t such a fool neither, but I can see who’s the first that puts t’other in a passion.”


An English stock-jobber, known for his unexampled parsimony, although possessed of an immense fortune, one day met a poor man, one of his own relations. “Come hither, George,” said the miser, “do you know I have just now made my will, and remembered you handsomely, my boy.” “God bless your honour,” said the grateful man, “you will be rewarded for so charitable an action, for you could not have thought of a more distressed family.” “Are you indeed so very poor, George?” “Sir, my family’s starving!” said the man, almost crying. “Harkye, then, George, if you will allow me a good discount, I will pay your legacy immediately.” We need not add, that the terms were accepted of, and that they parted equally pleased with the bargain they had concluded.


An elderly lady, on a visit at Margate, went into the market, having made up her mind to buy a goose. There were but two in the market, both in custody of a little cherry-cheek’d lass from Birchington, who, to the surprise of her customer, positively refused to sell one without the other. Recollecting that a neighbour had also expressed a wish for one, the lady was, without much difficulty, prevailed on to take both.[134] When the bargain was concluded, however, she thought proper to inquire of the vender, why she had so peremptorily declined selling them separately? “If you please, my lady,” was the naïve answer, “Mother said as how the geese had lived together fifteen years, and it would be cruel to part them.”


A gentleman, resident at Harrow, made frequent complaints to the masters of the great school there, of his garden being stripped of its fruit, even before it became ripe—but to no purpose. Tired of applying to the masters for redress, he at length appealed to the boys, and, sending for one to his house, he said, “Now, my good fellow, I’ll make this agreement with you and your companions: let the fruit remain on the trees till it becomes ripe, and I promise to give you half.” The boy coolly replied, “I can say nothing to the proposition, sir, myself, but will make it known to the rest of the boys, and inform you of their decision to-morrow.” To-morrow came, and brought with it this reply: “The gentlemen of Harrow cannot agree to receive so unequal a share, since Mr. —— is an individual, and we are many.”


A vicar and curate of a village, where there was to be a burial, were at variance. The vicar not coming in time, the curate began the service, and was reading the words, “I am the resurrection,” when the vicar arrived almost out of breath, and snatching the book out of the curate’s hand, with great scorn, cried, “You the resurrection? I am the resurrection:” and then went on.



Sir Watkins William Wynne, talking to a friend about the antiquity of his family, which he carried up to Noah, was told that he was a mere mushroom. “Ay,” said he, “how so, pray?” “Why,” replied the other, “when I was in Wales, a pedigree of a particular family was shewn to me; it filled above five large skins of parchment, and about the middle of it was a note in the margin:—About this time the world was created.”


Sir John Jervis’s crew had been paid off at Plymouth, and the ship put in dock; but immediately after, the Admiral received an order to refit for sea. Walking one day in the neighbourhood of Plymouth, he encountered a sailor with a lass under his arm, and a dog running before him, with a watch round his neck. Jack saluted his commander, and made Poll and the dog do the same. Sir John then asked him if he would go to sea with him again, stating the orders he had received. Jack inquired the period Sir John was given to refit. “Only a fortnight,” was the answer. “That’s unfortunate,” said Jack, “for I’ve been kalkylating, your honour, that, with Poll, and the dog, and the watch, my money will jist last me a month; howsomever, I can do this ’ere, your honour—(aside)—I can keep two marms, two dogs, and two watches; and then I shall have unloaded the shiners in a fortnight, sure enough!”


Lord O——, saying that he made a point of never playing beyond the line of his own understanding[136] “Now, my lord,” said the Countess of Buckinghamshire, “I see the reason you never play deep.”


A gentleman passing the shop of Mr. Haswell, tea-dealer, observed his name would be as well without an H.


When Dr. Johnson was told that Rousseau’s Confessions would contain every motive that had induced him to act in every situation; “Then,” replied he, “if he was an honest man, his book will not be worth a farthing.”


Stephen Kemble happening to pass through Newport Market, the butchers set up their usual cry of “What d’ye buy? What d’ye buy?” Stephen parried this for some time, by saying, he did not want any thing. At last, a butcher started from his stall and eyeing Stephen’s figure from top to bottom, which certainly did not indicate that he fed on air, exclaimed, “Well, sir, though you do not now want any thing, only say you buy your meat of me, and you will make my fortune.”


An Irish conjuror and ventriloquist, of the name of Ray, but who called himself “Le Sieur Ray,” to blarney his countrymen (though he spoke a brogue thick enough to have cut with a knife, as Bowles used to say), exhibiting before their majesties, refused to perform his grand deception till the queen said cockalorum, in which he pretended the charm consisted. Her majesty thought the word either difficult[137] or indelicate, and declined; but the king was so bent upon the great astonishment, that he turned round to her good-naturedly and said,—“Say cockalorum, Charlotte—say cockalorum.”


Dr. A——, physician at Newcastle, being summoned to a vestry, in order to reprimand the sexton for drunkenness, he dwelt so long on the fellow’s misconduct, as to raise his choler, and draw from him this expression:—“Sir, I was in hopes you would have treated my failings with more gentleness, or that you would have been the last man alive to appear against me, as I have covered so many blunders of yours.”


Bate Dudley had been telling a story to the Anacreontic Club, which he purported to be entirely new, and which caused a great deal of laughter. Hewardine then observed, that the anecdote related by Mr. Dudley put him in mind of another nearly as facetious. He then repeated some venerable affair, which, whatever was its point, bore no more resemblance to Dudley’s, than a white egg to a black hen. When it was concluded, Dudley turned to Hewardine with a stare of surprise, and observed, “That was a very humorous circumstance; but I can’t see how my anecdote could remind you of it!” “No!” said Tom. “Why, I’ll tell you,—your story is at the top of the leaf, page 17, Miller’s old edition, and mine follows at the bottom!”


A sailor passing by a cooper’s shop, and seeing a number of tubs piled above each other at the door,[138] began to kick and tumble them about the street. The master coming out, and desiring to know the reason of this strange proceeding, “D—n it,” replied Jack, “why should not every tub stand upon its own bottom?”


Mr. Fox having applied to a shopkeeper in Westminster for his vote and interest, the man produced a halter, with which he said he was ready to oblige him. The orator immediately replied, “I return you thanks, my friend, for your very polite offer; but I should be sorry to deprive you of so valuable a family piece.”


Two gentlemen standing together, as a young lady passed them, one of them said, “There goes the handsomest woman I ever saw.” She hearing, turned round, and observing him to be very ugly, answered, “I wish, sir, I could, in return, say as much of you.” “So you may, madam,” said he, “and lie as I did.”


A gentleman’s servant bringing into the dining-room, where the company were all assembled, a nice roasted tongue, tripped as he entered the door, and spread the tongue and sauce on the carpet. The landlord, with much presence of mind, soon relieved the embarrassment of his guests as well as of the servant by saying, with great good humour, “There’s no harm done, gentlemen, ’tis merely a lapsus linguæ.” This fortunate play of words excited much merriment. A very sagacious gentleman, struck with the happy effect of the above accident, was determined to make a similar exhibition. He invited a large party, and when they were all assembled, he had directed his servant to let[139] fall a piece of roast beef on the floor: the servant obeyed his injunctions; but the company felt hurt at the accident. “Be not uneasy, my friends,” cried the would-be witty landlord, “’tis only a lapsus linguæ.”


A clergyman preaching in the neighbourhood of Wapping, and observing that most of his audience were in the sea-faring way, very properly embellished his discourse with several nautical tropes and figures. Amongst other things, he advised them to be ever “on the watch, so that on whatever tack the devil should bear down upon them, he might be crippled in the action.” “Ay, master,” cried a jolly son of Neptune, “but let me tell you, that will depend on your having the weather-gauge of him.”


A gentleman who employs a great number of hands in a manufactory in the West of England, in order to encourage his work people in a due attendance at church on a Fast-day, told them, that if they went to church they would receive their wages for that day, in the same manner as if they had been at work. Upon which a deputation was appointed to acquaint their employer, that “if he would pay them for over hours, they would attend likewise at the Methodist chapel in the evening!”


A scholar declaiming in the college-hall, and having a bad memory, was at a stand, when, in a low voice, he desired one who stood close by him to help him out. “No,” says the other, “methinks you are out enough already.”



It was well answered by Archbishop Tillotson, when King William III. complained of the shortness of his sermon, “Sire,” said the archbishop, “could I have bestowed more time upon it, it would not have been so long.”


Frederick of Prussia, at a review of his tall grenadiers, asked Sir Robert Sutton, the British ambassador, if he could say an equal number of Englishmen could beat them. “No, sir,” answered Sir Robert, “I won’t pretend to say that; but I believe half the number would try!”


A dignified clergyman, going to his living to spend the summer, met near his house a comical old chimney-sweeper, with whom he used to chat. “So, John,” said the doctor, “whence come you?” “From your house, sir, where this morning I swept all your chimneys.” “How many were there?” said the doctor. “No less than twenty,” quoth John. “Well, and how much a-chimney have you!” “Only a shilling a-piece, sir.” “Why then,” quoth the doctor, “you have earned a great deal of money in a little time.” “Yes, yes,” says John, throwing his bag over his shoulder, “we black coats get our money easy enough.”


When Lord Chesterfield was in administration, he proposed a person to George II. as proper to fill a place of great trust, but which the king himself was determined should be filled by another. The council,[141] however, resolved not to indulge the king, for fear of a dangerous precedent. It was Lord Chesterfield’s business to present the grant of the office for the king’s signature. Not to incense his majesty, by asking him abruptly, he, with accents of great humility, begged to know with whose name his majesty would be pleased to have the blanks filled up? “With the devil’s!” replied the king, in a paroxysm of rage. “And shall the instrument,” said the earl, coolly, “run as usual, ‘our trusty well-beloved cousin and counsellor?’”—a repartee at which the king laughed heartily, and with great good humour signed the grant.


A schoolmaster asked one of his boys, in a cold winter morning, what was Latin for cold. The boy hesitating a little, the master said, “What, sirrah, can’t you tell?” “Yes, sir,” said the boy, “I have it at my finger ends.”


A proud parson and his man, riding over a common, saw a shepherd tending his flock in a new coat. The parson asked in a haughty tone, who gave him that coat? “The same people,” said the shepherd, “that clothe you—the parish.” The parson, nettled a little, rode on murmuring a considerable way, and sent his man back to ask the shepherd, if he would come and live with him? for he wanted a fool. The man went to the shepherd accordingly, and delivered his master’s message, concluding, that his master really wanted a fool. “Are you going away, then?” said the shepherd. “No,” answered the other. “Then you may[142] tell your master,” replied the shepherd, “his living won’t maintain three of us.”


Two Oxford scholars, meeting on the road with a Yorkshire hostler, fell to bantering him, and told the fellow they would prove him to be a horse or an ass. “Well,” said the hostler, “and I can prove your saddle to be a mule.” “A mule!” cried one of them, “how can that be?” “Because,” said the hostler, “it is something between a horse and an ass.”


A felon, who was just on the point of being turned off, asked the hangman if he had any message to send to the place where he was going, “I will trouble you with a line,” replied the finisher of the law, placing the cord under his left ear.


A father chiding his son for not leaving his bed at an earlier hour, told him, as an inducement, that a certain man being up betimes found a purse of gold. “It might be so,” replied the son, “but he that lost it was up before him.”


There was a very benevolent widow living in Plymouth, in respectable circumstances, who frequently came to the theatre, and was kind enough to inquire into the private situations of various members of the company. Among others, she asked about Prigmore, and was told that he had but a small salary, and made a very poor appearance. Hearing this, she remembered that she had a pair of her late husband’s[143] indispensables in the house, which she resolved to offer him. A servant was, accordingly, despatched to the object of her charity, who, meeting one of the actors, and partly disclosing her business, he went in search of Prigmore, and finding him, exclaimed, “Prigmore, my boy, here’s your fortune made at last; here’s a rich widow in the town has fallen in love with you, and wants to see you.” Prigmore, not suspecting his roguery, was led to the servant, in a state of bewildered rapture, and by the latter was informed that the widow would be glad to see him any morning it was convenient. He appointed the following, and went home to his lodgings to indulge in a day-dream of golden independence. His friend, in the meantime, whispered the truth through the green-room, where there were two or three others wicked enough to join in the conspiracy, by walking to Prigmore’s house to tender their congratulations. Prigmore, as will be supposed, passed a sleepless night, and spent an extra hour at his toilet the next morning, in adorning himself with a clean chin and neckcloth. He then sallied forth, and, on reaching the widow’s was shown into her parlour, where, casting his eyes around on the substantial sufficiency of its furniture, he began to felicitate himself on the aspect of his future home. The lady at length appeared: she was upon the verge of forty—a very fashionable age at that time, which resting upon the shoulders of a very comely-looking woman, seemed to be in character with her very comfortable dwelling. Prigmore’s satisfaction and her benevolence operated equally in producing some confusion:[144] at length a conversation commenced. She acquainted him that she had heard his situation was not so agreeable as he could wish—that his income was a confined one; she was, therefore, desirous to do him all the service that lay in her power. Prigmore, considering this an express declaration of her affection, was about to throw himself at her feet, when she suddenly summoned the servant, and exclaimed, “Rachel, bring the breeches?” These words astounded him, and he stared in her face like a block of marble; the widow, as suspicionless as himself of the hoax, could not interpret his wonder; but, on receiving the habiliments, folded them carefully up, and remarking that they were as good as new (her husband having caught his fatal cold in them the first time he put them on), begged Prigmore’s acceptance of the same. “And was it for this you wanted me, madam?” exclaimed Prigmore, rising from his chair; his tone and countenance bespeaking a mixture of surprise and disappointment. “Yes, sir.” He put on his hat, and walked to the door in silent indignation. The good woman, as much astonished as himself, followed him and said, “Won’t you take the breeches, sir?” “No, madam,” he replied, pausing at the door to make some bitter remark; “Wear them yourself!” For the remainder of the season, his life was far from being enviable.[G]


Lord Lyttelton asked of a clergyman in the country the use of his pulpit for a young man he had brought down with him. “I really know not,” said the[145] parson, “how to refuse your lordship; yet, if the young gentleman preach better than me, my congregation will be dissatisfied with me afterwards; and if he preach worse, I don’t think he is fit to preach at all.”


A man having been accused of marrying five wives, was committed to prison; and being asked by the judge on his trial, how he came to take so many wives, he replied, “In order, if possible, to find one good one, and then stick to her.” “Oh! oh!” said the judge, “as you cannot find a good wife in this world, you may probably succeed better in the next; so get you gone thither;” and immediately signed the warrant for his execution.


A gentleman having called a ticket porter to carry a message, asked his name; he said it was Russel. “And pray,” said the gentleman, jocularly, “is your coat of arms the same as the Duke of Bedford’s?” “As to our arms, your honour,” says the porter, “I believe they are much alike; but there is a great difference between our coats.”


When Lord Howe was captain of the Magnanime, a negro sailor on board was ordered to be flogged. Every thing being prepared, and the ship’s company assembled to see the punishment inflicted, Captain Howe made a long address to the culprit on the enormity of his offence. Poor Mungo, tired of the harangue and of having his back exposed to the cold, exclaimed, “Massa, if you floggee, floggee; or, if[146] you preachee, preachee; but no preachee and floggee too.”


Dr. Egerton, bishop of Durham, on coming to that see, employed a person of the name of Due as his agent to find out the true value of the estates held by lease under him, and, in consequence of Due’s report, greatly raised both the fines and rents of the tenants; on which the following toast was frequently drunk in the bishopric:—“May the Lord take the Bishop, and the Devil have his Due!”


A buck parson going to read prayers at a village in the west of England, found some difficulty in putting on the surplice. “D—n this surplice!” said he to the clerk, “I think the devil is in it.” Amen, astonished, waited till the parson had got it on, and then answered, “I thinks as how he is, zur.”


A person saying that he would not believe there was any devil, because he had never seen him, was answered by another, “By the same rule, I should believe you to have neither wit nor sense.”


The eldest son of Elwes, the celebrated miser, having fallen down with a ladder, when pulling some grapes, had the precaution to go into the village to the barber and get blooded. On his return he was asked where he had been, and what was the matter with his arm? He told his father what had happened, and that he had got bled. “Bled!” said the old gentleman; “but what did you give?” “A shilling,[147]” answered the boy. “Psha!” returned the father, “you are a blockhead; never part with your blood.”

Elwes had two country seats, the one in Suffolk, and the other in Berkshire; of these he gave the preference to the former, because his journey from town thither cost him only twopence-halfpenny; that into Berkshire amounted to fourpence. At this time he was worth eight hundred thousand pounds.


Two gentleman happening to meet, the one observed, “So our friend ——, the attorney, is dead.” “Yes, and I hear he left very few effects.” “It could not be otherwise: he had very few causes.”


A gentleman expatiated on the justice and propriety of an hereditary nobility. “Is it not right,” said he, “in order to hand down to posterity the virtues of those men who have been eminent for their services to the country, that their posterity should enjoy the honours conferred on them as a reward for such services?” “By the same rule,” said a lady, “if a man is hanged for his misdeeds, all his posterity should be hanged too.”


Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, once pressing the duke to take a medicine, with her usual warmth said, “I’ll be hanged if it do not prove serviceable.” Dr. Garth, who was present, exclaimed, “Do take it, then, my lord duke, for it must be of service the one way or the other.”


A poor fellow having with difficulty procured an[148] audience of the premier Duke of Newcastle, told his grace he came only to solicit him for somewhat towards a support, and as they were of the same family, being both descended from Adam, hoped he should not be refused. “Surely not,” said the duke; “surely not; there’s a penny for you; and if all the rest of your relations will give you as much, you’ll be a richer man than I am.”


A man being asked by his neighbour, how his wife did? made this answer: “Indeed, neighbour, the case is pitiful; my wife fears she shall die, and I fear she will not die, which makes a most disconsolate house.”


A person asked the minister of his parish what was meant by “He was clothed with curses as with a garment.” “My good friend,” said the minister, “it means that he had got a habit of swearing.”


A dog having one day got into the House of Commons, by his barking interrupted Lord North, who happened to be opening one of his budgets. His lordship pleasantly inquired by what new oppositionist he was attacked? A wag replied, “It was a member for Bark-shire.”


Sheridan was down at Brighton one summer, when Fox, the manager, desirous of shewing him some civility, took him all over the theatre, and exhibited its beauties. “There, Mr. Sheridan,” said Fox, who combined twenty occupations, without being clever in one, “I built and painted all these boxes, and I painted[149] all these scenes.” “Did you,” said Sheridan, surveying them rapidly; “well, I should not, I am sure, have known you were a Fox by your brush.”


A dowager Duchess of Bedford, in her eighty-fifth year, was living at Buxton, at a time when it was the medical farce of the day for the faculty to resolve every complaint of whim and caprice into “a shock of the nervous system.” Her grace, after inquiring of many of her friends in the room, what brought them there? and being generally answered, “for a nervous complaint,” was asked in her turn, what brought her to Buxton! “I came only for pleasure,” answered the hale old lady, “for, thank God, I was born before nerves came into fashion.”


A fellow went to the parish priest, and told him, with a long face, that he had seen a ghost. “When and where?” said the pastor. “Last night,” replied the man, “I was passing by the church, and up against the wall of it did I behold the spectre.” “In what shape did it appear?” replied the priest. “It appeared in the shape of a great ass.” “Go home, and hold your tongue about it,” rejoined the pastor, “you are a very timid man, and have been frightened by your own shadow.”


Brindley, an engineer, carried his attachment to artificial navigations so far, that when examined before the House of Commons he spoke of rivers with most sovereign contempt. One of the members asked him for what purpose he apprehended rivers to have been[150] created? To this, after a moment’s pause, he replied, “To feed navigable canals.”


At a time when Queen Elizabeth was making one of her progresses through the kingdom, a mayor of Coventry, attended by a large cavalcade, went out to meet her Majesty and usher her into the city with due formality. On their return, the weather being very hot, as they passed through a wide brook, Mr. Mayor’s horse several times attempted to drink, and each time his worship checked him, which her Majesty observing called out to him, “Mr. Mayor, Mr. Mayor! let your horse drink, Mr. Mayor;” but the magistrate, veiling his bonnet, and bowing very low, modestly answered, “Nay, nay, may it please your Majesty’s horse to drink first!”


“I do not like your terms; my wife is very ill; and please God she but die, I’ll do the duty myself.”


A country squire asked his son, who had been at a Latin school, what was the meaning of the words nemini secundus? “Why, father,” said he, “that is a man who was never second to anyone in a duel.”


A modern traveller, in a late publication, states that the women of Sunda, near Fez, are the best horsemen in the world.


A gentleman disputing about religion in Button’s[151] coffee-house, some of the company said, “You talk of religion, I’ll hold you five guineas you can’t repeat the Lord’s Prayer; Sir Richard Steel here shall hold the stakes.” The money being deposited, the gentleman began, “I believe in God,” and so went through his Creed, “Well!” said the other, “I own I have lost; but did not think you could have done it.”


The late Duke of Grafton, when hunting, was thrown into a ditch; the next moment a young curate called out, “Lie still, your grace!” leapt over him, and pursued his sport. Such an apparent want of feeling, we might presume, was properly resented—not so. On being assisted to remount, the duke said “That young man shall have the first good living that falls to my disposal; had he stopped to have taken care of me I never would have patronised him.” Being delighted with an ardour similar to his own, or with a spirit that would not stoop to flatter.


Lord Craven, in King James the First’s reign, was very desirous to see Ben Johnson; which being told to Ben, he went to my Lord’s house; but being in a very shabby condition, the porter refused him admittance, with some saucy language, which the other did not fail to return. My Lord, happening to come out while they were wrangling, asked the occasion for it. Ben, who stood in need of no one to speak for him, said, “He understood that his lordship desired to see him.” “You, friend!” said my lord, “who are you?” “Ben Johnson,” replied the other, “No, no,” quoth his lordship, “you cannot be Ben Johnson who wrote the[152] Silent Woman; you look as if you could not say Boo to a goose.” “Boo!” cried Ben. “Very well,” said my lord, who was more pleased at the joke than offended at the affront; “I am now convinced you are Ben Johnson.”


Mrs. Montague was one day conversing with Mr. Fox in her own house. In the course of the conversation the lady grew warm; at last she was so much nettled by some remark of Mr. Fox’s, that she declared to him she did not care three skips of a louse for him. Mr. Fox turned aside, and in a few moments produced the following impromptu:

“Says Montague to me, and in her own house,
I do not care for you three skips of a louse,
I forgive it; for woman, however well bred,
Will still talk of that which runs most in their head!”


A quack doctor, in one of his bills, said he could bring living witnesses to prove the efficacy of his nostrum, “which is more,” says he “than others in my line can do.”


On one occasion when John Kemble played Hamlet in the country, the gentleman who acted Guildenstern was, or imagined himself to be, a capital musician. Hamlet asks him, “Will you play upon this pipe?” “My lord, I cannot.” “I do beseech you?” “Well, if your lordship insists on it, I shall do as well as I can;” and to the confusion of Hamlet, and the great amusement of the audience, he played God save the king.



Bishop Andrews, the favourite preacher of King James the First, in his sermon on matrimony, says that ten woman are driven to the altar for one that is led to it.


An old miser, who had a footman that had a good appetite, and ate fast, but was slow when sent on a message, used to wish that his servant would eat with his feet and walk with his teeth.


“I wish,” said Rigby to Charles Fox, “that you would stand out of my light, or that you had a window in that great belly of yours.” “What,” said Charles, “that you might lay an additional tax upon it, I suppose.”


The Welsh formerly drank their ale, mead, or metheglin out of earthen vessels, glazed and painted within and without, with dainty devices. A farmer in the principality, who had a curious quart mug, with an angel painted at the bottom on the inside, found that a neighbour who very frequently visited him, and with the customary hospitality, had the first draught, always gave so hearty a swig as to leave little for the rest of the party. This our farmer three or four times remonstrated against as unfair; but was always answered,—“Hur does so love to look at that pretty angel, that hur always drinks till hur con see its face.” The farmer, on this, set aside his angel cup, and, at the the next Shrewsbury fair, bought one with a figure of the devil painted at bottom. This being produced,[154] foaming with ale, to his guest, he made but one draught, and handed it to the next man quite empty. Being asked his reason, as he could not now wish to look at the angel, he replied,—“No, but hur cannot bear to leave that ugly devil a drop.”


A German gentleman, in the course of a strict cross-examination on a trial during the Oxford Circuit, was asked to state the exact age of the defendant. “Dirty” (thirty), was the reply. “And pray, sir, are you his senior, and how many years?” “Why, sir, I am dirty-two.”


Your comedy I’ve read, my friend,
And like the half you pilfer’d best;
But sure the drama you might mend—
Take courage, man! and steal the rest.


A candidate at Surgeons’ Hall, after a variety of questions, was thus interrogated:—“In such a case, sir, how would you act?” “Well, sir, if that did not operate?” “But if that did not produce the desired effect of causing perspiration?” “Why, gentlemen,” said the worried student, “if all these should fail, I would direct the patient to be brought here for examination!”


The proud Duke of Somerset, a little time before his death, paid a visit to Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, who insisted on his drinking with her a glass of tokay, which had been presented to her husband by the emperor. He assented, and she addressed him as follows:—“My[155] lord, I consider your grace drinking a glass of wine with me as a very high honour, and I will beg leave to propose two healths, the most unpopular imaginable, and which nobody in the three kingdoms except ourselves would drink: Here is your health and mine.”


A great teller of stories was in the midst of one of them, at his evening club, when notice was brought him that a ship, in which he was going to the West Indies, was on the point of sailing; he was therefore obliged to break off abruptly. But on his return from Jamaica some years afterwards, he repaired to the club, and, taking possession of his old seat by the fireside, he resumed his tale: “Gentlemen, as I was saying”—


General Wolfe, happening to overhear a young officer talk of him in a very familiar manner, as, “Wolfe and I drank a bottle of wine together,” and so on, appeared, and said, “I think you might say General Wolfe.” “No,” replied the subaltern, with a happy presence of mind, “did you ever hear of General Achilles, or General Julius Cæsar.”


A member of parliament making a motion to bring in a bill for repairing a very bad road in a particular county, another member stood up and said, “It would be more economical to pass an act for making it navigable.”


Whitfield once preached at a chapel in New England, where a collection was to be made after the sermon.[156] A British seaman, who had strolled into the meeting, observed some persons take plates, and place themselves at the door; upon which, he laid hold of one, and taking his station, received a considerable sum from the congregation as they departed, which he very deliberately put into the pocket of his tarry trousers. This being told to Whitfield, he applied to the sailor for the money, saying it was collected for charitable uses, and must be given to him. “Avast there,” said Jack, “it was given to me, and I shall keep it.” “You will be d—d,” said the parson, “if you don’t return it.” “I’ll be d—d if I do,” replied Jack, and sheered off with his prize.


A physician being sent for by a maker of universal specifics, grand salutariums, &c., expressed his surprise at being called in on an occasion apparently trifling. “Not so trifling neither,” replied the quack; “for, to tell you the truth, I have, by a mistake, taken some of my own pills.”


Some years ago a candidate for a Welsh burgh told his constituents, that if they would elect him he should take care they should have any kind of weather they liked best. This was a tempting offer, and they could not resist choosing a man, who, to use their own language, “was more of a Cot Almighty than Sir Watkin himself.” Soon after the election, one of his constituents waited upon him, and requested some rain. “Well, my good friend, and what do you want with rain? won’t it spoil your hay?” “Why, it will be very serviceable to the wheat, and as to my hay, I have[157] just got it in.” “But has your neighbour got his in? I should suppose rain would do him some mischief.” “Why, ay,” replied the votary, “rain would do him harm indeed.” “Ay, now you see how it is, my dear friend! I have promised to get you any kind of weather you like; but if I give you rain, I must disoblige him: so your best way will be, I think, to meet together all of you, and agree on the weather that will be best for you all,—and you may depend upon having it.”


Sir Joshua Reynolds studied originally under Hudson, an English portrait painter, who bestowed very liberally on his customers fair tie wigs, blue velvet coats, and white satin waistcoats. He afterwards went to Italy, where he studied three years. On his return, he hired a large house in Newport Street, and the first specimen he gave of his abilities was a boy’s head in a turban, richly painted in the style of Rembrandt, which so attracted Hudson’s attention, that he called every day to see it in its progress, and perceiving, at last, no trace of his own manner left, he exclaimed, “Really, Reynolds, you don’t paint so well as when you left England.”


Counsellor Dunning was cross-examining an old woman, who was an evidence in a case of assault, respecting the identity of the defendant. “Was he a tall man?” says he. “Not very tall; much about the size of your honour.” “Was he well-looked?” “Not very; much like your honour.” “Did he squint?” “A little; but not so much as your honour.”



King George I. was remarkably fond of seeing the play of Henry VIII., which had something in it that peculiarly hit the taste of that monarch. One night being very attentive to that part of the play where the King commands Wolsely to write circular letters of indemnity into every part of the country, where the payment of certain taxes had been disputed, and remarking the manner in which the minister artfully communicated these commands to his secretary Cromwell, whispering thus:—

“Let there be letters writ to every shire
Of the king’s grace and pardon: the grieved Commons
Hardly conceive of me. Let it be noised,
That through our intercession this revokement
And pardon comes—”

The king could not help smiling at the craft of the minister, in filching from his master the merit of the good action, though he himself had been the author of the evil complained of; and, turning to the Prince of Wales (afterwards George II.), he said, “You see, George, a minister will be a minister in every age and in every reign.”


When, in 1650, Richard Cromwell succeeded his father Oliver in the protectorship, he received addresses from all parties in the kingdom, filled with the most extravagant professions of standing by him with their lives and fortunes, at the very moment that they were plotting his destruction. Richard was not quite so blind to all this as the world imagined; for after seven months’ mock government, as he was giving orders for[159] the removal of his own furniture from Whitehall, he observed with what little ceremony they treated an old trunk, and begged of them to move it more carefully, “Because,” added he, “it contains the lives and fortunes of all the good people of England.”


Dr. South begins a sermon on this text, “The wages of sin is death,” as follows:—“Poor wages indeed, that a man can’t live by.”


Soon after Lord Sidney’s elevation to the peerage, he happened to observe in company, that authors were often very ridiculous in the titles they gave. “That,” said a gentleman present, “is an error from which even kings appear not to be exempt.”


A cockney having had his horse cropt, was asked the reason; he answered, “Why, my friend, this here horse had a knack at being frightened, and on the least occasion would prick up his ears, and look for all the world as if he had seen the devil; and therefore, to prevent the like in future, I cropt him.”


Swift once gave a gentleman of very good character and fortune a letter of recommendation to Pope, couched in the following terms:—“Dear Pope, Though the little fellow that brings this be a justice of peace and a member of our Irish House of Commons, yet he may not be altogether unworthy of your acquaintance.”


A gentleman seeing the town-crier of Bristol one[160] market-day standing unemployed, asked him the reason. “O,” replied he, “I can’t cry to-day, my wife is dead.”


An economical peeress spoke to her butler to be saving of an excellent run of small-beer, and asked him how it might be best preserved. “The best method I know,” replied the butler, “is to place a barrel of good ale by it.”


A grand-daughter of Oliver Cromwell, who was remarkable for her vivacity and humour, being in company at Tunbridge Wells, a gentleman, who had taken great offence at some sarcastic remarks she had made, rudely said, to insult her, “I think, madam, you would hardly give yourself so many airs, had you recollected that your grandfather was hanged.” To which she instantly replied, “Yes, sir; but please to recollect, he was not hanged till after he was dead.”


King Charles II. being at bowls, and having laid a bowl very near the jack, cried out, “My soul to a horse hair, nobody beats that.” “Lay odds,” says Rochester, “and I’ll take you.”


A tradesman pressing a gentleman very much for payment of his bill, the latter said, “You need not be in so great a hurry, I am not going to run away.” “I do not imagine you are, sir,” returned the tradesman, “but I am.”


King James II. having a wish to converse with[161] Waller, the poet, sent for him one afternoon, and took him into his closet, where was a very fine picture of the Princess of Orange. The King asked him his opinion of the picture, on which Waller said, he thought it extremely like the greatest woman that ever lived in the world. “Whom do you call so?” said the king. “Queen Elizabeth,” replied the other. “I wonder, Mr. Waller,” said the king, “that you should think so; for she owed all her greatness to her council, and that indeed, it must be admitted, was a wise one.” “And pray, sir,” said Waller, “did your majesty ever know a fool choose a wise council?”


When Dr. Johnson visited the University of St. Andrews, he took occasion to inquire of one of the professors into the state of their funds, and being told that they were not so affluent as many of their neighbours, “No matter,” said the doctor drily; “persevere in the plan you have formed, and you will get rich by degrees.”


Complaisance is no longer confined to the polite circles. A captain of a vessel was lately called out of a coffeehouse at Wapping by a waterman, with the following address: “An’t please your honour, the tide is waiting for you.”


A hackney coachman, after putting up his horses in the evening, took out the money he had received during the day, in order to make a division between his master and himself. “There,” says he, “is one shilling for master, and one for me;” and so on alternately[162] till an odd shilling remained. Here he hesitated between conscience and self-interest, when the master, who happened to be a concealed spectator, said, “I think, Thomas, you may allow me the odd shilling, as I keep the horses.”


A gentleman dined one day with a dull preacher. Dinner was scarcely over before the gentleman fell asleep, but was awakened by the divine, and invited to go and hear him preach. “I beseech you, sir,” said he, “to excuse me; I can sleep very well where I am.”


Holroyd, king’s plumber, stood in the pit of the theatre at the time that Hatfield fired at King George III., and it was reported that by his lifting up the assassin’s arm at the moment he was firing, the pistol was raised so that the ball went higher than the box his majesty was seated in. Some one observed that “This was a very loyal thing in the plumber.” “Why, yes,” replied a gentlemen present, “it looks like it; but the motive might possibly be selfish; it perhaps arose from Holroyd not choosing that anyone should serve the king with lead except himself.”


As James II. when Duke of York, returned one morning from hunting, he found his brother Charles in Hyde Park without any attendants, at what was considered a perilous time. The duke expressed his surprise at his majesty’s venturing alone in so public a place at so dangerous a period. “James,” replied[163] the monarch, “take care of yourself, and I am safe. No man in England will kill me to make you king.”


A gentleman remarking that this age was infinitely more dissipated and licentious than that which preceded it, an old officer took upon himself the task of defending it. “Sir,” says he, “I grant that we get drunk as completely as our fathers; but this I will say, that I have not seen a wig burnt these forty years.”


A preacher, whose sermons were beyond human understanding, was wont on Saturday to keep unseen by any one, in order to compose his sublime discourses for next day; on which a wit observed, that the doctor was invisible on Saturday in order that he might be incomprehensible on Sunday.


Mr. Erskine one morning complained to Mr. Jekyll of a pain in his bowels. “I could recommend one remedy,” said the latter; “but I am afraid you will not find it easy to get at it.” “What is it?” eagerly rejoined Mr. Erskine. “Get made Attorney-General, and then you will have no bowels at all.”


A certain secretary of state, being asked by an intimate friend, why he did not promote merit, aptly replied, “Because merit did not promote me.”


Foote, having been invited to dine with the Duke of Leinster, at Dublin, gave the following account of his entertainment:—“As to the splendour, so far as it went, I admit it, there was a very fine sideboard of[164] plate; and if a man could have swallowed a silversmith’s shop, there was enough to satisfy him; but as to all the rest, his mutton was white, his veal was red, the fish was kept too long, the venison not kept long enough: to sum up all, every thing was cold, except his ice; every thing sour, except his vinegar.”


A quaker, driving in a single-horse chaise up a green lane that leads from Newington Green to Hornsey, happened to meet with a young blood, who was also in a single-horse chaise. There was not room enough for them to pass each other, unless one of them would back his carriage, which they both refused. “I’ll not make way for you,” says the blood; “damn my eyes if I will.” “I think I am older than thou art,” said the quaker, “and therefore have a right to expect thee to make way for me.” “I won’t, dam’me,” resumed the first. He then pulled out a newspaper, and began to read, as he sat still in his chaise. The quaker, observing him, pulled a pipe and some tobacco from his pocket, and, with a convenience which he carried about with him, lighted his pipe, and sat and puffed away very comfortably. “Friend,” said he, “when thou hast read that paper, I should be glad if thou wouldst lend it me.”


Dr. Johnson and Boswell, being at Bristol, were by no means pleased with their inn. “Let us now see,” said Boswell, “how we should describe it.” Johnson was ready with his raillery. “Describe it, sir! why, it was so bad—so very bad, that Boswell wished to be in Scotland.”



Sir Charles Wager had a sovereign contempt for physicians; though a surgeon, he believed, in some cases might be of service. It happened that the worthy knight was seized with a fever while he was out upon a cruise, and the surgeon, without much difficulty, prevailed upon him to loose a little blood and suffer a blister to be laid on his back; by and by it was thought necessary to lay on another blister and repeat the bleeding, to which Sir Charles also consented. The symptoms having abated, the surgeon then told him that he must now swallow a few boluses and take a draught. “No, doctor,” said Sir Charles, “you may batter my hulk as long as you will, but damn you, you shan’t board me!”


Hic jacet Joshua Barnes,
Beatæ memoriæ, judicium expectans.


In a storm at sea when the sailors were all at prayers expecting every moment to go to the bottom, a passenger appeared quite unconcerned. The captain asked him how he could be so much at his ease in this awful situation. “Sir,” says the passenger, “my life’s insured.”


When Colonel Thornton once asked his coachman if he had any objection to go abroad with him? “To any place that ever was created,” said the fellow very eagerly. “Would you drive me to hell?” said the colonel. “That I would!” answered the fellow,[166] “that I would!” “Why, you would find it a hot birth and you must go in first yourself, Tom, as the box is before the body of the coach.” “No, no; I would back your honour in.”


Boswell observing to Johnson that there was no instance of a beggar dying for want in the streets of Scotland, “I believe, sir, you are very right,” says Johnson; “but this does not arise from the want of beggars, but the impossibility of starving a Scotsman.”


A fellow, who went about the country playing slight of hand tricks, was apprehended and carried before the sapient mayor of a town, who immediately ordered him to be committed to prison. “For what?” said the fellow. “Why, sirrah, the people say you are a conjuror!” “Will your worship give me leave to tell you what the people say of you?” “Of me? what dare they say of me, fellow?” “They say you are no conjuror.”


When Lord North introduced Dr. Robertson to the king, his majesty made many inquiries concerning the medical professors of Edinburgh, and the state of the college, of which the doctor was principal. Being thus taken upon his own ground, the historian expatiated at large with gravity and decorum on the merits of the Edinburgh College; mentioned the various branches of learning which were taught in it, the number of students that flocked to it from all quarters of the world; and in reply to his majesty’s particular inquiries concerning it as a School of Physic, he observed that[167] no college could boast of conferring the degree of physic on so many gentlemen as that of Edinburgh; for it annually sent out more than forty physicians, besides vast quantities of those who exercised the lower functions of the faculty, as surgeons, apothecaries, &c. “Heaven,” exclaimed the king, interrupting the doctor, “Heaven have mercy on my poor subjects?”


One asked Sir John Millicent, a man of wit, how he did to conform to the grave justices his brethren, when they met. “Indeed,” answered he, “I have no other way to do than to drink myself down to the capacity of the bench.”


A gentleman cheapening fish at a stall, and being asked what he thought an unconscionable price, exclaimed—“Do you suppose I pick up my money in the street!” “No, sir,” replied the vender, “but I do.”


A juryman, not so pliant as many, was repeatedly singular in his opinion, but so determined as always to bring over the other eleven. The judge asked him once how he came to be so fastidious? “My lord,” said he, “no man is more open to conviction than I am; but I have not met the same pliancy in others; for it has generally been my lot to be on a jury with eleven obstinate men.”


The history of this nobleman, in the Biographia Britannica, is a mere panegyric on him. A bon mot[168] of himself conveys the truest idea of his character. Charles the Second said to him one day, “Shaftesbury, I believe thou art the wickedest fellow in my dominions.” He bowed, and replied, “Of a subject, sir, I believe I am.”


A brewer was drowned in his own vat. Mr. Jekyll, being informed of the circumstance, said that the verdict of the jury should be—“Found floating on his watery bier!”


An honest tar, just returned from sea, met his old messmate, Bet Blowsy: he was so overjoyed that he determined to commit matrimony; but, at the altar, the parson demurred, as there was not cash enough between them to pay the fees; on which Jack, thrusting a few shillings into the sleeve of his cassock, exclaimed—“D—n it, brother, never mind! marry us as far as it will go!”


Being asked whether he thought Mr. O’Brien was right in his assertion, that many thousands of the electors of Westminster would vote for the Duke of Northumberland’s porter were he put up, Sheridan coolly replied—“No; my friend O’Brien is wrong; but they might for Mr. Whitbread’s porter!”


Sir John Doyle being told in the House of Commons by those interested in keeping up the slave trade, that the slaves were happy, he said that it reminded him of a man whom he had once seen in a warren, sewing up the mouth of a ferret: he remonstrated with the[169] man upon the cruelty of the act, but he answered—“Lord, sir, the ferret likes it above all things.”


A fire happening at a public house, a man, passing at the time, entreated one of the firemen to play the engine upon a particular door, and backed his request by the bribe of a shilling. The fireman consequently complied, upon which the arch rogue exclaimed—“You’ve done what I never could do, for, egad, you’ve liquidated my score!”


A young clergyman, having the misfortune to bury five wives, being in company with a number of ladies, was severely rallied by them upon the circumstance. At last one of them rather impertinently put the question to him, “How he managed to have such good luck?” “Why, madam,” said the other, “I knew they could not live without contradiction, therefore I let them have their own way.”


A provincial paper, giving an account of a bruising match between two men of the names of Hill and Potter, concluded by saying—“That after sixteen rounds, Hill beat his antagonist hollow.”


Lord B—— wore his whiskers extremely large. Curran meeting him, “Pray, my lord,” said he, “when do you intend to reduce your whiskers to the peace establishment?” “When you, Mr Curran,” said his lordship, “put your tongue upon the civil list.”



A young gentleman seeing a bill on a window announcing lodgings to let, knocked at the door of the house, and was conducted by a pretty girl into the apartments that were to be occupied. The gentleman, struck with the charms of his conductress, said,—“Pray, my dear, are you to be let with this lodging?” “No, sir,” answered the nymph; “I am to be let alone.”


A methodist parson observed, in one of his discourses, that “such was the change in the public manners of the nation, that the rising generation rarely lie down till three o’clock in the morning.”


The following advice was left by a miser to his nephew: “Buy your coals in summer; your furniture at auctions, about a fortnight after quarter-day; and your books at the fall of the leaf.”


Some years ago, there appeared in the English papers an advertisement, which much resembles our notions of an Irish bull, in these words, which are the title to the advertisement:—“Every man his own washer-woman!”


A Welsh tourist, among many other judicious observations, remarked that the mad-house of Lanark was in a very crazy state.


An old offender being asked, whether he had committed all the crimes laid to his charge? answered,—“I[171] have done still worse—I have suffered myself to be apprehended.”


When the learned John Selden was a member of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, who were appointed to new-model religion, he delighted to puzzle them by curious quibbles. Once they were gravely engaged in determining the exact distance between Jerusalem and Jericho; and one of them, to prove it could not be great, observed, “that fish were carried from one place to the other.” On which Selden observed, “Perhaps it was salt fish;” which again threw the Assembly into doubt.


A gentleman passing Milford churchyard a few days since, observing the sexton digging a grave addressed him with—“Well, how goes trade in your line, friend?” “Very dead, sir!” was the reply.


When Whitfield preached before the seamen at New York he had the following bold apostrophe in his sermon: “Well, my boys, we have a clear sky, and are making fine headway over a smooth sea before a light breeze, and we shall soon lose sight of land. But what means this sudden louring of the heavens, and that dark cloud arising from beneath the western horizon? Don’t you hear distant thunder? Don’t you see those flashes of lightning? There is a storm gathering! Every man to his duty! How the waves rise and dash against the ship! The air is dark! the tempest rages! Our masts are gone! The ship is on her beam ends! What next?” It is said, that the[172] unsuspecting tars, reminded of former perils on the deep, as if struck by the power of magic, arose, with united voices and minds, and exclaimed, “Take to the longboat!” Mr. Whitfield, seizing upon this reply, urged them to take to Jesus Christ as the long boat, with an ingenuity which produced the happiest effects.


A lady, who made pretensions to the most refined feelings, went to her butcher to remonstrate with him on his cruel practices. “How,” said she, “can you be so barbarous as to put innocent little lambs to death?” “Why not, madam?” said the butcher; “you wouldn’t eat them alive, would you?”


An English baronet, being asked when he should finish his house, ingenuously answered, “Sir, it is a question whether I shall finish my house, or my house finish me.”


A certain alderman, when young, was thought clever at carving figures from wood. He was asked from whence he copied them? “No where,” said the worthy dignitary; “I made ’em all out of my own head.”

“Thus Pallas sprang from brains of Jove.”


One morning, after a tempestuous night, during which several trees were rooted up, Dr. Vince, at Cambridge, met a friend, who said, “Good morning, doctor; a terrible wind this!” “Yes, sir,” replied the doctor, smiling; “quite a mathematical wind, for I see it has extracted several roots!”



The king, when Prince of Wales, attending Lewes races one day, when a drenching rain kept away the greater part of the expected attendants, on its being observed how few of the nobility had been upon the course, “I beg pardon,” said the prince; “I think I saw a very handsome sprinkling of the nobility.”


When James I. was on the road near Chester, he was met by such numbers of the Welsh, who came out of curiosity to see him, that the weather being dry and the roads dusty, he was nearly suffocated. He was completely at a loss in what manner to rid himself of them civilly; at last one of his attendants, putting his head out of the coach, said, “It is his majesty’s pleasure that those who are the best gentlemen shall ride forwards.” Away scampered the Welsh, and but one solitary man was left behind. “And so, sir,” says the king to him, “you are not a gentleman, then?” “O yes, and please your majesty, hur is as good a shentleman as the rest; but hur ceffyl (horse), God help hur, is not so good.”


We often laugh at our neighbours’ mistakes; they might have smiled at our own, had they overheard a passenger in one of our steam packets, who wished to inform a French lady on board that her “berth was ready,” make the communication as follows:—“Madame votre NAISSANCE est arrangée.”


This distinguished member of the House of Commons has too much of the free-born Englishman about[174] him to submit to the thraldom of braces. A certain high officer in the House is said to have remarked, that during the whole course of his speech he observed but one lucid interval. “And which was that?” inquired Mr. P——. “The space,” replied the former, “between his waistcoat and the waistband of his trousers.” “You jest,” replied Mr. P——, “and should rather say, if you noted the hue of his under garment that it was darkness visible.”


Some profound financiers tell us, that it is of no consequence to us how much we are taxed, because the taxes raised are not thrown away, but spent among us. We might as well tell the housewife, that when her fagot is burned it is not wasted; it is merely decomposed and sent into the atmosphere, and that it will return in some shape or other: both stories are very philosophical; but the old lady would tell you that she could not replace her fagot without putting her hand into her pocket.


An independent elector of one of the midland counties, when called upon by a young slip of aristocracy, who was canvassing the freeholders, replied, that if the right honourable candidate would engage to bestow on his (the elector’s) second son a situation in his lordship’s gift, in the event of its becoming vacant, the suffrage should certainly be given as solicited. “My dear sir,” was the reply, “I shall be too proud to serve your son.” The scion of the noble house of —— was returned, and the vacancy anticipated by the elector shortly occurred; but his lordship wisely disposed[175] of it to one from whom he had still something to expect. The disappointed voter was exclaiming loudly to one of his acquaintances against this breach of faith on the part of his lordship. “I do not perceive,” answered his friend, “that he has been guilty of any. He told you that he should be too proud to serve your son, and the event has shown that he spoke the truth.”


A disappointed author, indulging in a vein of abuse against a successful rival, exclaimed, “He is, without exception, the most superficial, self-sufficient, ignorant shallow creature that ever made any pretensions to literature.” “Gently, my dear sir,” interrupted a gentleman; “you quite forget yourself.”


A poor valetudinarian was recommended to take a change of air for the benefit of his health. “Go to Brighton,” said the medical man; “the air of Brighton is very good for pectoral complaints.” “But very bad for pocket complaints, is it not doctor?” replied the invalid.


Swift, in preaching an assize sermon, was severe upon the lawyers for pleading against their consciences. After dinner, a young counsel said some severe things upon the clergy, and added, that he did not doubt, were the devil to die, a parson might be found to preach his funeral sermon. “Yes,” says Swift, “I would, and would give the devil his due, as I did his children this morning.”



When the beau-monde held their coteries, and pitched tents upon the leads of the houses, it was referred to a person, who, not approving of it, said that it was making too great an encroachment upon the cats.


A strapping fellow told a diminutive man that he was “curtailed of man’s fair proportion.” “If you will just step out on the green,” said the little one, “you shall find that I am not cur-hearted, although I am cur-tailed.”


Sheridan being on a Parliamentary committee, one day entered the room as all the members were seated, and ready to commence business: perceiving no empty seat, he bowed, and, looking round the table with a droll expression of countenance, said, “Will any gentleman move that I may take the chair.”


At a trial about an engraving, where several distinguished artists were summoned to give evidence, Lord (then Mr.) Erskine, after flourishing away, made an attempt to puzzle Mr. Stothard, by drawing two angles on a piece of paper, an acute and an obtuse one, and asking, “Do you mean to say these two are alike?” “Yes, I do,” was the answer. “I see,” said Erskine, turning round, “there is nothing to be got by angling here.”


A officer in the army being entertained at a gentleman’s table while he was in Scotland, happened to[177] commend very highly a dish of fish. A rigid parson of the kirk, looking upon him as a reprobate for being pleased with his dinner, said, “While you pamper the flesh, sir, I hope you do not starve the inward man; the soul is not fed at the mouth, and you ought not to lust after the food that perisheth.” The officer was somewhat surprised at this sermon in miniature; but perceiving that his monitor was, like Sir John Falstaff, hugely waisted, he replied, with a smile, fixing his eyes full upon the preacher’s protuberant paunch, “I will be admonished by your example, for I see plainly by your tabernacle, that your food does not perish.” He then proceeded to exercise his knife and fork with additional vigour, as the plump kirkman encouraged him by his actions not to pay any regard to his words.


Some one remarking that the dinner hour was always getting later and later, “Aye,” quoth Sam Rogers, “It will soon end in our not dining till to-morrow.”


The infernal machine exploded in the streets of Paris after Bonaparte’s carriage had passed, but before Josephine’s came up; which being the subject of conversation in a miscellaneous company in England, some one asked what they were talking of. “Nothing material,” answered a wit; “only a blow up between the First Consul and his wife.”


Lord Thurlow, Lord Chancellor of England, was one of the sternest, and, at the same time, most tempestuous[178] men that ever lived. A mace-bearer, who had attended him for years in awful silence, one day thought he perceived something like a bright streak of good humour enter the lurid horizon of his lordship’s face, and ventured to simper out, “My lord, there is a fine day.” “Damn you and the day too!” thundered out the black-browed chancellor.


The following brief, but pithy dialogue, occurred on the Epsom road, between a Cockney and a countryman:—

Cockney. I say, Bill, my good fellow, vich is the way to Epsom.

Countryman. How did you know that my name was Bill?

Cockney. Vy, I guessed it.

Countryman. But how do you know that I was a good fellow?

Cockney. Vy, I guessed it.

Countryman. Then, guess the way to Epsom.


There is but one instance on record of James II. uttering an expression of wit or humour, and, strange to say, that would appear to have been expressed from him by the weight of his sorrows at the Revolution. During the advance of the Prince of Orange towards London, as, morning after morning, some leading man or other was found to have left the king’s camp during the night, and gone over to the Liberator, the Prince of Denmark used to exclaim, as each successive instance was related to his majesty, “Est il possible?” (Is it possible?) as if he could not believe there was so much[179] treachery in human nature. At length, the good Prince of Denmark found it necessary, with his wife Anne, to follow the example of those well-principled persons: James remarked, when told of it in the morning, “What! is Est-il-possible gone too!”


A woman, suspected of having given poison to her husband, was apprehended by the constable. The man certainly looked very ill; yet, as there was no direct proof, and as, above all things, he had not died, there was some probability in her favour. Mr. Constable was sadly puzzled between the pro and con; and was at last fairly driven from the field by the following appeal from the weeping lady:—“I never gave him any thing to hurt him: only open him, and you will see how false it is!”


Dr. Friend, coming home after having got himself highly praised at a dinner party, was called out to see a lady taken dangerously ill. With some difficulty he went, or rather was led, to the bedside of the patient; where, holding fast by a bed-post with one hand, he seized with the other the lady’s wrist; but all attempts to note the pulsations were vain, and he could only mumble out, “Drunk, by Jove! Drunk!” “Oh, madam,” cried the waiting-maid, as soon as the physician was gone, “what a wonderful man! How soon he discovered what was the matter with you!”


This eminent physician was a man of impatient, irritable temper, and, when bored with the querulous complaints of some of his patients, could hardly ever[180] force himself to return a civil answer. Sometimes his irritability led him to explode in a furious anathema, mingled with horrible oaths; sometimes he assumed a tone of quiet but severe sarcasm. A troublesome patient, who only fancied himself ill, pestered him one day with inquiries as to what he should eat. “My directions on that point,” said Sir Richard, “will be few and simple: You must not eat the shovel, poker, or tongs, for they are hard of digestion; nor the bellows, for they are windy; but any thing else you please!”


The following sound advice occurs in an almanack:—“If you wish to have a shoe of durable materials, you should make the upper leather of the mouth of a hard drinker; for that never lets in water.”


A fellow once brought a vast number of people together in London by giving out that, on a certain day, he would fly over Westminster Hall, in the manner of Icarus. One of the crowd, waiting for this sight on Westminster Bridge, inquired of a neighbour, “Pray, who was Icarus?” to which the reply was, “The son of Diddle-us, I believe.”


Dr. Radcliffe was avaricious, and would never pay his bills without much importunity. A pavior, after many fruitless attempts, caught him as he was going out in his chariot. “Why, you rascal,” said the doctor, “do you pretend to be paid for such a piece of work? Why, you have spoiled my pavement, and then covered it over with earth to hide your bad work.[181]” “Doctor,” said the pavior, “mine is not the only bad work the earth hides.” “You dog, you,” said the doctor, “are you a wit? You must be poor; come in and be paid.”


Lord Sandwich, a member of that administration which carried on the American war, though a dignified looking nobleman in dress, was so ungainly a walker on the street, that, on a gentleman of his acquaintance expressing a doubt whether an individual at a distance was his lordship or not, another is said to have remarked, “Oh, yes, I am sure it is Lord Sandwich, for, if you observe, he is walking down both sides of the street at once.” His lordship used to relate of himself that, having once taken lessons in dancing at Paris, he asked the professor at the conclusion, if he could do him any favour in his own country; to which the man replied, bowing, “I should take it as a particular favour if your lordship would never tell any one of whom you learned to dance.”


A man was tried for stealing a pair of boots from a shop-door in Holborn, with which he ran away. Judge, to shoemaker, who had pursued and seized the prisoner—“What did he say when you caught him?” Witness—“My lord, he said he took the boots in a joke.” Judge—“And pray, how far was he off when you caught him?” Witness—“About forty yards, please your lordship.” Judge—“I am afraid this is carrying the joke too far;” and he condemned the prisoner.



A Frenchman sneered at a British soldier for wearing a Waterloo medal, a thing which did not cost the English government three francs. “It may have cost the English government only three francs,” said the soldier; “but it cost the French a Napoleon besides.”


James the Second, who so seldom said a good thing, one day said a very ill-bred one. He declared, in the midst of his courtiers, that “he had never known a modest man make his way at court.” To this observation one of the gentlemen present boldly replied, “And, please your majesty, whose fault is that?” The king was struck, and remained silent.


“Pray,” said a lady to Foote, “what sort of man is Sir John D.?” “Oh! a very good sort of man.” “But what do you call a good sort of man?” “Why, madam, one who preserves all the exterior decencies of ignorance.”


The great have always been flattered, but never was adulation carried farther than on the part of a lady of honour to Queen Anne. The queen having asked her what the time was, “Whatever time it may please your majesty,” was the reply.


In a case of assault, where a stone had been thrown by the defendant, the following evidence was drawn out of a Yorkshireman! “Did you see the defendant throw the stone?” “I saw a stone, and I’ze pretty sure the defendant throwed it.” “Was it a large[183] stone?” “I should say it wur a largeish stone.” “What was its size?” “I should say a sizeable stone.” “Can’t you answer definitely how big it was?” “I should say it were a stone of some bigness.” “Can’t you compare it to some other object?” “Why, if I wur to compare it, so as to give some notion of the stone, I should say it wur as large as a lump of chalk.”


Mr. Pitt being in company with the late Duchess of Gordon, who spoke the Scotch dialect in the broadest manner, she told him that some of her family had gone to France, and was asked by him why she was not of the party. She said in answer, “That it was very awkward to be in a country and not know the language.” “Why,” said Mr. Pitt, “your grace has not found any such inconvenience in England.”


The old Duchess of Bedford, if born, as she herself once declared, before nerves came in fashion, had not at least been born before it was fashionable to paint. Her grace was, indeed, notoriously addicted to rouge, which she used in uncommon quantities. Lord North one day asked George III. when his majesty had seen the old lady? The king replied, “He had not seen her face, nor had any other person, he believed, for more than twenty years.”


When Dr. Johnson courted Mrs. Porter, he told her he was of mean extraction; had no money; and had an uncle hanged! The lady by way of reducing herself to an equality with him, replied that she had no[184] more money than himself, and that, although she had not a relation hanged, she had fifty who deserved hanging. And thus was accomplished this singular amour.


A gentleman in company with Mr. C. Bannister boasted that he had destroyed five hundred men with his own hands. “Sir,” said Charles, “I have killed a few in my time also—let me see: five at Madrid, ten at Lisbon, twenty at Paris, thirty at Vienna, and double the number at the Hague. At length, coming over from Calais to Dover, I had scarce disembarked, when a desperate fellow of an Irishman killed me.” “Killed you!” said Munchausen; “what do you mean by that?” “Sir,” replied the wit, “I did not dispute your veracity, and why should you question mine?”


A gentleman who used to frequent the Chapter Coffeehouse, being unwell, thought he might steal an opinion concerning his case; accordingly, one day he took an opportunity of asking Dr. Buchan, who sat in the same box with him, what he should take for such a complaint? “I’ll tell you,” says the doctor—“you should take advice.”


The writer of a modern book of travels, relating the particulars of his being cast away, thus concludes—“After having walked eleven hours without tracing the print of a human foot, to my great comfort and delight I saw a man hanging upon a gibbet; my pleasure at this cheering prospect was inexpressible, for it convinced[185] me that I was in a civilized country, there being no such thing among savages.”


During the institution of a society in Liverpool for the purpose of literary improvement, a gentleman of strong body but of slender wit applied to be admitted a member; “I think,” said he to the president, “I must certainly be a vast acquisition to a society of this kind, as I am undoubtedly a great man in the literal sense of the word!” “True,” replied the other; “but I am afraid you are but a little man in the literary sense of the word.”


The English ambassador demanded of Louis XIV. the liberation of the Protestants who had been condemned to the galleys on account of their religion. “What would the King of Great Britain say if I asked him to liberate the prisoners in Newgate?” “Sire,” replied the ambassador, “the king, my master, would grant your majesty’s request if you reclaimed them as your brethren.”


Sir Theodore Mayerne, physician to King James I., and who made an immense sum by his practice, was once consulted by a friend, who laid two broad pieces of gold on the table (six and thirties), and Sir Theodore put them into his pocket. The friend was hurt at his pocketing such a fee; but Sir Theodore said to him, “I made my will this morning, and if it should appear that I refused a fee, I might be deemed non compos.”



In a case of assault, where an eminent brewer was concerned, the following ingenious argument was stated in the pleadings to have been used by that individual: “If there be any charge made against the beer, rebutt it.” It was this clench in jest, which led to the assault in earnest; so that neither your if nor your but is a certain peacemaker.


Several gentlemen at a party contested the honour of having done the most extraordinary thing. A reverend D.D. was appointed to be judge of their respective pretensions. One produced his tailor’s bill, with a receipt attached to it; a cry went through the room, that this would not be outdone; when a second proved that he had arrested his tailor for money lent to him. The palm is his, was the universal outcry; when a third observed, “Gentlemen, I cannot boast of the feats of either of my predecessors; but I have returned to the owners two umbrellas that they had left at my house.” “I’ll hear no more,” cried the arbiter; “this is the very ne plus ultra of honest and unheard of deeds; it is an act of virtue of which I never before knew any person capable: the prize is yours.”


The eccentric Lord Peterborough, though one of the most brilliant of modern military characters, was overshadowed by the Duke of Marlborough. On a temporary return from Spain, where he was commanding, he found all his projects, proposals, and recommendations taken by the ministry ad referendum which disgusted him so much, that he threw himself into a sedan[187] chair to return home, and drawing the curtains all round, sat indulging in his own morose thoughts. As he was passing through the streets, the populace took up an idea that he was the rival general, and gathered round, crying, “God bless the Duke of Marlborough! God bless the Duke of Marlborough!” “Gentlemen,” said his lordship, pushing down one of the windows, “I am not the Duke of Marlborough.” “O yes,” said a spokesman of the multitude, “you are the Duke of Marlborough: we know you well enough.” “Gentlemen,” said Lord Peterborough, “I am not the Duke of Marlborough. Let me down,” he cried to the chairman. Got out of the chair, and now standing,—“I am not the Duke of Marlborough, I tell you, and I will now give you two convincing proofs that I am not; one is, that I have but a single guinea,” and he turned his pockets inside out: “the other is, that I give it you;” and he threw it among them.


“Sir,” said a barber to an attorney who was passing his door, “will you tell me if this is a good seven-shilling piece?” The lawyer pronouncing the piece good, deposited it in his pocket, adding, with great gravity, “if you’ll send your lad to my office, I’ll return the fourpence.”


A heavy-heeled cavalry officer, at one of the Brighton balls, astounded the room by the peculiar impressiveness of his dancing. A circle of affrighted ladies fluttered over to the prince, and inquired by what possibility they could escape being trampled out of the world by this formidable performer. “Nothing can[188] be done,” said the prince, “since the war is over; then he might have been sent back to America, as a republication of the stamp act.”


Lord Bath passed for one of the wisest men in England. “When one is in opposition,” was one of his sayings, “it is very easy to know what to say; but when one is minister, it is difficult to know what not to say.”


Lord Chancellor Loughborough told the Duke of Bridgewater he never knew Lord Bath. “How?” said Bridgewater; “were you not a minister at the same time that he was a minister?” “Yes,” was the reply, “personally; but I used to go to bed before twelve, and Lord Bath never was himself (that is, in the full plenitude of his faculties and gaiety) till after.”


A gentleman in one of the steam-packets asked the steward, when he came round to collect the passage money (of 6d. each for the best cabin), if there was not some danger of being blown up? The latter promptly replied, “No, sir, not the least; we cannot afford to blow people up at these low prices.”


Lord Peterborough, about the time of the revolution of 1688, was anxious to obtain a fine singing canary from a coffeehouse keeper in London, his mistress having taken a fancy for it. Finding the people obstinately bent against selling it, he at last contrived to steal it, leaving a female one in its place. Some two years after, he ventured to say to the good[189] woman of the house, that he supposed she would now take the money he formerly offered for the bird. “Indeed, sir,” answered she, “I would not; nor would I take any sum for him; for,—would you believe it?—from the time that our good king was forced to go abroad and leave us, the dear creature has not sung a note!”


A dull play-wright, about to read one of his compositions in the green-room at Drury Lane, observed, that he knew nothing so terrible as reading a piece before such a critical audience. “I know one thing more terrible,” said Mrs. Powell. “What can that be?” asked the author. “To be obliged to sit and hear it.”


The people at a certain part of the coast of Cornwall, where wrecks frequently happen, used to be so demoralized by the unrestrained plunder of the unfortunate vessels, that they lost almost every humane feeling. It is said that even the clergy sunk under the dominion of this species of selfishness, and were almost as bad as the people. One Sunday, the news of a wreck was promulgated to a congregation engaged in public worship; and in an instant all were eagerly hurrying out at the door, to set off towards the spot. The clergyman hereupon called, in a most emphatic voice, that he only desired to say five more words to them. They turned with impatient attention to hear him. He approached, as if to address them; when, having got to the front of the throng, “Now,” says he, “let us start fair!” and off he ran, all the rest[190] following him, towards the place where the wreck had happened, which, it is believed, he was the first to reach.


All the world has heard of Sir Isaac Newton roasting himself before a great fire, till informed of the possibility of escaping the fate he apprehended by pushing back his chair. The story of his employing the finger of a lady, whom he was courting, as a tobacco-stopper is equally well-known. Not so that which follows:—Dr. Stukely, one day visiting Sir Isaac by appointment, was told by a servant that the philosopher was in his study. No one was permitted to disturb him there; but as it was near dinner time the visitor sat down to wait for him. After a time, dinner was brought in—a boiled chicken under a cover. An hour passed, and Sir Isaac did not appear. The doctor ate the fowl, and, covering up the empty dish, bade the servant dress another for her master. Before that was ready the great man came down; he apologised for his delay, and added, “Give me but leave to take my short dinner, and I shall be at your service; I am fatigued and faint.” Saying this, he lifted the cover, and, without any emotion, turned about to Stukely with a smile: “See,” says he, “what we studious people are; I forgot I had dined.”


A person employed by a sick gentleman to read to him, very soon evinced a great aptitude to stumble whenever he came to any word not belonging to his mother tongue. Tired with this at length, the sick[191] man asked him if he really pretended to know any other language than his own. “Why, really sir,” answered the unfortunate reader, “I cannot exactly say I do; but I have a brother who is perfectly acquainted with French.”


What are now denominated mince pies were formerly called Christmas pies. When John Bunyan, author of the Pilgrim’s Progress, was in Shrewsbury gaol for preaching and praying, a gentleman who knew his abhorrence of anything Popish, and wished to play upon his peculiarity, one 25th of December sent his servant to the poor puritan, and desired his acceptance of a large Christmas pie. John took little time to consider; but, seizing the pastry, desired the messenger to thank his master, and “Tell him,” added he, “I have lived long enough, and am now hungry enough, to know the difference between Christmas and pie.”


A beautiful young lady having called out an ugly gentleman to dance with her, he was astonished at the condescension, and believing that she was in love with him, in a very pressing manner desired to know why she had selected him from the rest of the company, “Because, sir,” replied the lady, “my husband commanded me to select such a partner as should not give him cause for jealousy.”


A captain in the navy meeting a friend as he landed at Portsmouth point, boasted that he had left his whole ship’s company the happiest fellows in the[192] world. “How so?” asked his friend. “Why, I have just flogged seventeen, and they are happy it is over; and all the rest are happy that they have escaped.”


The following anecdote is related of Sir Robert Walpole: Being afraid on one occasion that the bishops would vote against him in a question before the House of Lords, he induced the Archbishop of Canterbury to stay at home for two or three days, and circulated a report that his Grace was dangerously ill. On the day of meeting the house was crowded with lawn-sleeves, not one of which voted against the court!


In the suite of the Princess Amelia, aunt of George III., there was a lady of the name of Russell, grand-daughter of Oliver Cromwell, and who it would seem inherited, without any alloy, much of his undaunted and ready spirit. On 30th of January, she was occupied in adjusting some part of the princess’ dress, when the Prince of Wales (Frederick) came into the room and said, “For shame, Miss Russell, why have you not been at church humbling yourself for the sins of this day committed by your grandfather?” “Sir,” replied Miss Russell, “for a grand-daughter of Oliver Cromwell, it is humiliation sufficient to be employed as I am, in pinning up your sister’s train.”


Daniel Purcel, who was a non-juror, told a friend that he had a full view of George the First as he landed at Greenwich. “Then,” said his friend, “you[193] know him by sight.” “Yes,” said Purcel, “I think I know him; but I can’t swear to him.”


When the celebrated Penn visited Charles II., the king, observing him keep on his hat, took off his own, and stood uncovered before his precise subject, who said, “Prithee, friend Charles, put on thy hat.” “No,” said the king; “it is customary for only one man to stand covered here.”


A gentleman whose grounds had the misfortune to lie near a public road, and were therefore much intruded upon, set up a board to scare offenders by the notification that steel-traps and spring-guns were set in these enclosures. This, however, being no more than the common warning, was totally disregarded: the grounds were just as much molested, and the fruit of the orchard as constantly stolen as ever. At length he caused to be painted in very large prominent letters below the other inscription—“No joke, by God!” which, it is stated, had the desired effect.


A gentleman who had made a fortune abroad, returned in advanced life, like many other such persons, to tell long stories at home. Sensible of a natural weakness he possessed of exaggerating every thing he spoke of, he kept a sober Scotch servant, who was instructed to touch his shoulder whenever his fault began to be observable. One day he told a story of a fox which he had seen at Grenada with a tail ten feet long. The man touched his shoulder. “Well,” said he, “I am sure I speak within the mark, when I say[194] the tail was eight feet.” Still David touched his shoulder. “Well, at least six feet.” Still a touch. “Well, three.” Still another touch, until, provoked at last by the servant’s incredulity—“What the devil!” says he, turning about, “would you have the fox to have had no tail at all!”


Bacon was wont to commend much the saying of an old man at Buxton, who sold brooms. A young spendthrift came to him for a broom upon trust, to whom the old man said—“Friend, hast thou no money? borrow of thy back and of thy belly; they’ll never ask thee for it: I shall be dunning thee every day.


A stranger, passing St. Paul’s cathedral, asked a sailor whom he met, what figures those were at the west front, to which it was answered, “The twelve apostles.” “How can that be,” inquired the stranger, “when there are but six of them?” “Damn your eyes!” said the tar, “would you have them all on deck at once!”


During the Protestant riots of 1780, most persons in London, in order to save their houses from being burnt or pulled down, wrote on their doors, “No Popery!” Old Grimaldi, the mimic, to avoid all mistakes, wrote on his, “No Religion.”


A traveller, coming into the kitchen of an inn on a very cold night, stood so close to the fire that he burned his boots. A little boy, who sat in the chimney[195] corner, cried out to him, “Take care, sir, or you will burn your spurs.” “My boots you mean, I suppose,” said the traveller. “O no, sir,” replied the arch rogue, “they be burnt already.”


One poor beau told another that his new coat was too short for him. “True,” answered he of the short skirts: “I assure you, however, it will be long enough before I get another.”


A melting sermon being preached in a country church, all wept except one man, who was asked why he did not weep with the rest. “Oh!” said he, “I belong to another parish.”


A gentleman, lying on his death-bed, called his coachman, who had been an old servant, and said—“Ah, Tom! I am going a long and rugged journey, worse than ever you drove me.” “Oh, dear sir,” replied Tom, “don’t let that discourage you; it is all down hill.”

HOLE versus DARN.

Ned Shuter thus explained his reason for preferring to wear stockings with holes to having them darned:—“A hole,” said he, “may be the accident of a day, and will pass upon the best gentleman; but a darn is premeditated poverty.”


A sailor at the battle of Trafalgar had his leg shot off below the knee. “That’s but a shilling touch,” said he, alluding to the scale of pensions for wounds; “an inch higher and I should have had my eighteenpence[196] for it.” As they were taking him away to get his leg dressed he called to a brother tar,—“Bob, take a look for my leg, and give me the silver buckle out of my shoe; I’ll do as much for you, please God, another time.”


A traveller, calling at a little inn, the landlord of which was very tenacious of the character of his home-brewed ale, after sipping the beverage, begged to have it warmed. “What! warm my ale!” exclaimed Boniface; “damn that stomach that won’t warm the ale, say I!” “And,” cried the potator, “damn that ale that won’t warm the stomach, say I.”


Mary Queen of Scots was a long time under the charge of George, Earl of Shrewsbury, who found the duty exceedingly troublesome, and, furthermore, attended with great danger. His wife at length contrived to get him quit of it, by representing to Elizabeth that she suspected a growing attachment between her husband and Mary. Nothing more was required with the maiden queen; Mary was soon ordered another keeper.


There is much philosophy in the following anecdote. At the time when the seconds in a duel used to engage as heartily as the principals, a gentleman, who had had a run of good luck at cards, was asked to act in that capacity to a friend. “I am not,” said he, “the man for your purpose; but go and apply to him from whom I won a thousand guineas last night, and I warrant you he will fight like any devil.”



Gibbon the historian was very punctual in his habits, dividing his time after the manner of King Alfred, and never prolonging a particular employment a moment beyond the stated hour of its termination. He once discharged a hairdresser for coming five minutes too late. The next he sent for, to make sure, came five minutes too soon. That was as bad; he was discharged too. A third, by pitching his arrival exactly as the clock struck, was retained.


A sculptor hearing a cobbler find fault with the sandal on the foot of one of his statues, thought the man’s objections so reasonable that he altered it, and returned him his thanks. The cobbler, arrogating consequence to himself, began to disapprove of the formation of the knee. “Hold, my friend,” cried the artist, “a cobbler’s criticisms should never go above the sole.”


When the Whigs came into power in 1806, they turned out everybody, even Lord Sandwich, the master of the stag-hounds. The king met his lordship soon after. “How do you do?” cried his majesty. “So they have turned you off? it was not my fault, upon my honour, for it was as much as I could do to keep my own place.”


Horne Tooke, in his “Diversions of Purley,” introduces the derivation of King Pipin from the Greek noun osper, as thus,—osper, eper, oper; diaper; napkin, nipkin pipkin, pepin king—King Pipin![198] And, in another work, we find the etymology of pickled cucumber from King Jeremiah! exempli gratia—King Jeremiah, Jeremiah King; Jerry, king; jerkin, gerkin, pickled cucumber! Also, the name of Mr. Fox, as derived from a rainy day; as thus—Rainy day, rain a little, rain much, rain hard, reynard, fox!


If you see a man and woman, with little or no occasion, often finding fault and correcting each other in company, you may be sure they are husband and wife. If you see a lady and gentleman in the same coach in profound silence, the one looking out at the window and the other at the opposite side, be assured they mean no harm to each other, but are husband and wife. If you see a lady accidentally let fall a glove or a handkerchief, and a gentleman that is next to her tell her of it, that she may pick it up, set them down for husband and wife. If you see a man and woman walk in the fields at twenty yards distance in a direct line, and a man striding over a style and still going on sans cérémonie, you may swear they are husband and wife. If you see a lady whose beauty attracts the notice of every person present except one man, and he speaks to her in a rough manner, and does not appear at all affected by her charms, depend upon it they are husband and wife.


An old mass priest in the reign of Henry VIII., after the Bible was translated, was reading the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes. When he came to the verse that reckons the number of the guests, he[199] paused a little, and at last said they were about five hundred; the clerk whispered in his ear that it was five thousand. “Hold your tongue, sirrah,” said the priest, “we shall never persuade the people it was five thousand.”


A bishop being at his seat in the country where the roads were uncommonly bad, went to pay a visit to a person of quality in the neighbourhood, when his coach was overturned in a slough, and the servants were unable to extricate the carriage. As it was far from any house, and the weather bad, the coachman freely told his master he believed they must stay there all night; “For,” said he, “while your Grace is present I cannot make the horses move.” Astonished at this strange reason, his lordship desired him to explain himself. “It is,” said he, “because I dare not swear in your presence; and if I don’t, we shall never get clear.” The bishop, finding nothing could be done if the servant was not humoured, replied, “Well then, swear a little, but not much.” The coachman made use of his permission, and the horses used to such a kind of dialect, soon set the coach at liberty.


A physician in a metropolitan hospital, a few years ago, being in haste to leave his public for his private duties, was asked by the house surgeon what he should do with the right and left wards? “O,” exclaimed the other, “what did you do with them yesterday?” “By your directions,” said the surgeon, “I bled all the right ward, and purged all the left.” “Good,[200]” replied the other; “then to-day, purge all the right, and bleed all the left;” and then leapt into his carriage.


A fire happening next door to a gentleman’s house, he was a full half hour before he could prevail on his wife to quit her room, into which she had locked herself. At length she came forth, greatly alarmed, in her shift, her under petticoat, and one long ruffle on her arm. “Bless my soul?” cried her husband, “what a while you have been, and knew the next house to be on fire.” “I can’t help it my dear,” cried she, “if our own house was in flames; I only stopped to make myself decent.”


A bailiff, having been ordered by Lady Hardwick to procure a sow of the breed and size she particularly described to him, came one day into the dining-room, when full of great company, proclaiming with a burst of joy he could not suppress, “I have been at Royston fair, my lady, and got a sow exactly of your ladyship’s size.”


A celebrated preacher having remarked in a sermon that every thing made by God was perfect, “What think you of me?” said a deformed man in a pew beneath, who arose from his seat, and pointed at his own back. “Think of you,” reiterated the preacher; “why, that you are the most perfect hunchback my eyes ever beheld.”


A nobleman, whose son was a hard drinker, and[201] had been cutting down all the trees upon his estate, inquired of Charles Townshend, who had just returned from a visit to him, “Well, Charles, how does my graceless dog of a son go on?” “Why, I should think, my lord,” said Charles, “he is on the recovery, as I left him drinking the woods.”


Among the daily inquiries after the health of an aged Bishop of Durham, during his indisposition, no one was more sedulously punctual than the Bishop of ——, and the invalid seemed to think that other motives than those of anxious kindness might contribute to this solicitude. One morning he ordered the messenger to be shewn into his room, and thus addressed him:—“Be so good as present my compliments to my Lord Bishop, and tell him that I am better—much better; but that the Bishop of Winchester has got a sore throat, arising from a bad cold, if that will do.”


A coach containing four members of parliament was overturned in the Strand. A countryman passing inquired who were the unfortunate persons; and being told, “Oh, let them lie,” cried he, “my father advised me not to meddle with state affairs.”


The following anecdote, if it have not much of the wit, has at least a good deal of the character, of “the Merry Monarch.” He had a saying that five made the best company. It happened that a recruiting captain was so remarkably unsuccessful as to raise only five persons. When it was proposed that he should be broken for negligence, the king inquired how many he[202] had raised, and being told, “Oddsfish!” cried his majesty, “he shan’t, for five’s the best company in the world.”


When this famous person was taken up for his concern in some of the plots of the reign of Charles II., and brought before Lord Nottingham to be examined, his lordship said, “I intend to be very brief with you, Mr. Ferguson, and only ask one or two questions;” to which the prisoner replied, with his usual acrimony of tone, “And I intend to be as short as your lordship, and not answer one of them.” Whereupon he was committed to Newgate.


A courtier of the time of Charles II.—the greatest of his age—used to pay the following pretty compliment to the scruples which are entertained by ladies on the subject of age; he used to say to his lady every New Year’s Day, “Well, madam, how old will your ladyship please to be this year?”


Examples make a greater impression upon us than precepts. An old counsellor in Holborn used to turn out his clerks every execution-day with this compliment, “Go, ye young rogues—to school and improve.”


When Queen Elizabeth made her famous procession to St. Paul’s to return public thanksgivings for the destruction of the Spanish armada, the citizens were ranged along one side of Fleet Street, and the lawyers on the other. As the Queen passed Temple Bar, Bacon, then a student, said to a lawyer that stood[203] next him, “Do you observe the courtiers; if they bow first to the citizens, they are in debt; if to us, they are in law.”


A hasty passionate fellow was supping with a friend who never contradicted him, not wishing to provoke his wrath. Unable to endure this acquiescence, he at last burst out, “Zounds, deny something, that I may know there are two of us.”


One of our most celebrated poets, occasionally a little absent of mind, was invited by a friend whom he met in the street, to dine with him next Tuesday at a country lodging he had taken for the summer months. The address was, “Near the Green Man at Dulwich,” which, not to put his inviter to the trouble of pencilling down, our bard promised faithfully to remember. But when Tuesday came, he, fully late enough, made his way to Greenwich, and began inquiring for the sign of the Dull Man! No such sign was to be found; and, after losing an hour, a person guessed that though there was no Dull Man at Greenwich, there was a Green Man at Dulwich, which the gentleman might possibly mean! This remark connected the broken chain, and our poet took his chop by himself.


Quin used to complain much of the system of giving vails to servants, which, to a man of his uncertain resources, was a very severe tax. Having been invited to the house of a gentleman who had the reputation of giving good dinners, he found himself entertained in a style much below his expectations;[204] wherefore, on leaving the house, and finding the servants all as usual ranked up in the hall, he inquired for the cook and the butler. These officials speedily presented themselves, when he said to the first, “There’s half-a-crown for my eating,” and to the other, “There’s five shillings for my drinking; but really, gentlemen, I never made so bad a dinner at the money in my life before.”

A gentleman at whose house Quin had often experienced the same annoyance, one day gave him a pressing invitation; but Quin would not promise to come unless the servants were taught to expect no vails. He paid dearly for this limitation; for, on going to pay his visit, he had a dirty plate given him for a clean one, bread for beer, and frequently neither one nor other, after repeated applications. When dinner was finished, he addressed himself to the company, pushing round a plate with a half crown on it; “Gentlemen,” said he, “I think we had better pay for our dinner now, before we begin upon the wine; for I have a notion they imagine we intend to bilk them to-day.”


James II. having appointed a nobleman to be lord-treasurer when the exchequer was in a very exhausted state, he complained to the king of the irksomeness of the office, as the treasury was so empty. “Be of good cheer, my lord,” replied his majesty, “for you will now see the bottom of your business at once.”


A certain clergyman, who was more busied in the pleasures of the chase than in superintending the souls[205] of his flock, one day, meeting with little sport, proposed to entertain his companions at the expense of an inoffensive quaker, whom he had very often ridiculed, and who was then approaching them. He rode up to him briskly, saying, “Obadiah, have you seen the hare?” “Why, hast thou lost him, neighbour?” said the quaker. “Lost him! yes, indeed.” “Then,” replied he, “if I were the hare I would run where I am sure thou could’st never find me.” “Where the devil is that?” asked the blustering son of Nimrod. “Why, neighbour,” answered the other, “I would run into thy study!”


An Earl Marshal was found fault with by his sovereign for some misarrangements at a coronation. “Please your Majesty,” said he, “I hope to do better next time.”


Lord Chesterfield chanced one day to be at the Duke of Newcastle’s levee, when Garnet upon Job, a book dedicated to that nobleman, happened to lie in the window. Before his Grace made his appearance, his Lordship had time enough to amuse himself with the book; and when the Duke entered, he found him reading in it. “Well, my Lord,” said his Grace, “what is your opinion of that book?” “In any other place I should not think much of it,” replied his Lordship; “but being in your Grace’s levee, I think it one of the best books in the world.”

A lady of fashion, very young, very giddy, and just married, walking with Lord Chesterfield, asked his Lordship if she did not look very young? “Indeed,[206] my lady,” said he, “you look as if you were just come from boarding-school, and fit to return again.”

As Lord L—— was one day lamenting to his Lordship the misconduct of his son, the latter advised a place at court as one method which, perhaps, might cause an amendment. The father replied he was not steady enough. “Yes, yes,” said his Lordship, “he is steady enough to be Master of the Revels.”


James I. first coined his twenty-two shilling pieces, called Jacobuses, with his head crowned. He afterwards coined his twenty shilling pieces, where he wore the laurel instead of the crown. Ben Jonson observed on this that “Poets always came to poverty; King James no sooner began to wear bays, than he fell two shillings in the pound.”


Mr. West, the painter, told his Majesty one day that he had been employed by one of his principal ministers for what is called in the language of the profession a head. He had waited on him that morning, and had found him so dejected and with so long a face, on account of some bad news, that he could not begin. “Sir,” says his Majesty, “if that noble lord’s head cannot keep up countenance, it is time to employ another hand than yours to take it off.”


Dean Cowper, of Durham, who was very economical of his wine, descanting one day on the extraordinary performance of a man who was blind, he remarked that the poor fellow could see no more than “that bottle.” “I do not wonder at it at all, sir,” replied[207] Mr. Drake, a minor canon, “for we have seen no more than ‘that bottle’ all the afternoon.”


When Foote was in Paris, in the course of an evening’s conversation with some English gentlemen, the subject turned on Mr. Garrick’s acting, when some of the company expressed their fears of that great performer’s relinquishing the stage. “Make yourselves easy on that head,” replied the wit, “for he’d play Richard before a kitchen fire in the dog-days, provided he was sure of getting a sop in the pan.”


Professor Porson being once at a dinner party where the conversation turned upon Captain Cook and his celebrated voyages round the world; an ignorant person, in order to contribute his mite towards the social intercourse, asked him, “Pray, was Cook killed on his first voyage?” “I believe he was,” answered Porson, “though he did not mind it much, but immediately entered on the second.”


There is a delightful smack of old England in the following anecdote. The famous Tom Thynne, who was remarkable for his good house-keeping and hospitality, standing one day at his gate in the country, a beggar coming up to him, begged his worship would give him a mug of his small beer. “Why, how now,” said he, “what times are these, when beggars must be choosers! I say, bring this fellow a mug of strong beer.”


At the time when the lower house were in conversation[208] about the propositions which Lord North intended to lay before them with respect to Ireland, and were calling upon him to give them some hint of what they were; the celebrated Mr. Fox observed that the house might be assured they would be exactly contrary to his former measures; “for the noble lord was convinced in all cases, that the only chance he had of being right was by acting in opposition to himself.”


Mr. Thomas Fuller, a man admired for his wit, but whose great fault was that he would rather lose his friend than his jest, having made some verses upon a scolding wife, Dr. Cousin, his patron and benefactor, hearing them repeated, desired Mr. Fuller to oblige him with a copy of them; to whom he very imprudently, though wittily replied, “’Tis needless to give you a copy, doctor, for you have the original.”


A porter passing near Temple Bar with a load on his shoulders, having unintentionally jostled a man who was going that way, the fellow gave the porter a violent box on the ear, upon which a gentleman passing exclaimed, “Why, my friend, will you take that?” “Take it,” replied the porter, rubbing his cheek, “don’t you see he has given it me.”


A lady raised from an obscure rank by a noble marriage, happened to be at court when the Spanish ambassador made his appearance with very great splendour. Among other things which drew attention, the richness of the laces were particularly noticed.[209] On the return of this new-made lady of quality to her lord’s house, she met the celebrated Lord Chesterfield, to whom she related the splendour of the foreign minister, and dwelt particularly on the richness of the laces. “Pray, my lady,” said his lordship, “what kind of lace was it?” “Really, my lord, I forget the name, but I should know it if you mentioned it.” “Was it then point d’Espagnes?” “No, it was not that.” “Was it point de Brusselles?” “No, no; not that.” “Oh,” said the witty Earl, “I know now what it was, it was point de tout.” “You are very right,” replied the lady, “that was the name of the lace.”


When Milton was blind, he married a shrew. The Duke of Buckingham called her a rose. “I am no judge of colours,” replied Milton, “and it may be so, for I feel the thorns daily.”


Milton’s third wife was the daughter of Mr. Minshull of Namptwich, in Cheshire. She had an unhappy temper, but so fine a complexion that a French gentleman who once paid him a visit said, “Monsieur Milton, your lady is like the rose.” “It may be so,” replied the poet with a sigh, “but I am so unhappy as to be blind, and, alas! I have never found anything but the thorns.”


A Cornish clergyman having a dispute concerning several shares in different mines, found it necessary to send for a London limb of the law to have some conversation with the witnesses, examine the title-deeds,[210] view the premises, &c. The divine very soon found that his legal assistant was as great a scoundrel as ever was struck off the rolls. However, as he thought his knowledge might be useful, he shewed him his papers, took him to compare his surveyor’s drawings, with the situation of the pits, &c. When, in one of these excursions, the professional gentleman was descending a deep shaft by means of a rope which he held tight in his hand, he called out to the parson who stood at the top, “Doctor, as you have not confined your studies to geography, but know all things from the surface to the centre, pray how far is it from this pit to that in the infernal regions?” “I cannot exactly ascertain the distance,” replied the divine, “but let go your hold and you’ll be there in a minute.”


It was once stated in a newspaper that a person was killed by accident, and that his wife was so much affected by the incident as to leave it doubtful whether she would survive him. A gentleman, to whom this blunder was shewn, observed that all the absurdly penned notices of deaths in the newspapers arose from people writing their own obituaries.


Lord Chesterfield having been long very earnestly solicited for his interest in favour of a clergyman who wanted preferment, at length presented his suitor with an engraved portrait of his head. The parson thanked him, and after some time had elapsed, told him that though he did not as formerly attend his levee every day, he regularly paid his court to his portrait. “And pray,” said the sarcastic peer, “have you got any[211] thing of it?” “No, my Lord,” replied he, “it has too strong a resemblance to the original for that.”


The Duke of Newcastle, when prime minister, once told the author of Tristram Shandy, that men of wit were not fit to be employed, being incapable of business. “They are not incapable of business, my Lord, but above it,” replied Sterne; “a sprightly generous horse is able to carry a pack-saddle as well as an ass, but he is too good to be put to the drudgery.”


“I really can’t sing, believe me, sir,” was the reply of a young lady to the repeated requests of an empty fop. “I am rather inclined to believe, madam,” rejoined he, with a smirk, “that you are fishing for compliments.” “No, sir,” exclaimed the lady, “I never fish in so shallow a stream.”


An old farmer, on paying his rent, told his landlord he wanted some timber to build a house, and would be much obliged to him if he would give him permission to cut down what would answer the purpose. The landlord answered peremptorily, “No.” “Why, then, sir, will you give me enough to build a barn?” “No.” “To make a gate then?” “Yes.” “That is all I wanted,” said the farmer, “and more than I expected.”


A person speaking of the tenacity of life in turtles, asserted that he had seen one which had its head cut off, open its jaws six weeks afterwards. The company seeming rather sceptical, he said, “I saw it, and I trust none of you will doubt my word.” Then turning[212] to one gentleman he asked what he thought. The other asked him—“Sir, if you had not seen the circumstance yourself, could you have believed it?” “Indeed,” said he, “I could not.” “Then I hope you will excuse me if I do not believe it.”


A gentleman shewing his friend a collection of curious pictures in his gallery, on the other praising them all very much, he gave him a choice of any one of them as a present. The stranger fixed on a tablet in which the ten commandments were written in letters of gold. “You must excuse me there,” replied the gentleman, “those I am bound to keep.”


A Catholic priest, a pious and yet a facetious man, was requested by a lady for permission to wear rouge. The lady’s character was half coquettish and half devotee. “I can give you permission, madam,” replied the bishop, “only for one cheek.”


A wretched artist, who thought himself an excellent painter, was talking pompously about decorating the ceiling of his saloon—“I am whitewashing it, and in a short time I shall begin painting.” “I think you had better,” replied one of his audience, “paint it first, and then whitewash it.”


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


A gentleman having called his servant to assist him[213] in dressing, the man, who had been employed in some dirty work, came up all over dust. The master, in a rage, took up a cane and was preparing to lay it over the fellow’s back, when he cried out, “Sir, sir, if you wish to dust my coat, I beg I may take it off first.”


The extravagant and enthusiastic opinion Dennis had of the merit and importance of his tragedy, called Liberty Asserted, cannot be more properly evinced than by the following anecdote. He imagined there were some strokes in it so severe upon the French nation, that they would never be forgiven, and, consequently, that Louis XVI. would not consent to a peace with England unless he was delivered up as a sacrifice to national resentment. Nay, so far did he carry this apprehension, that when the congress for peace at Utrecht was in agitation, he waited upon the Duke of Marlborough, who had formerly been his patron, to entreat his interest with the plenipotentiaries that they should not consent to his being given up. The Duke, however, told him with great gravity, that he was sorry it was not in his power to serve him, as he really had no interest with any of the ministers at that time; but added, that he fancied his case not to be quite so desperate as he seemed to imagine, for that he himself had taken no care to get himself excepted in the articles of peace, and yet he could not help thinking that he had done the French almost as much damage as Mr. Dennis himself.


When Charles I. of England shewed his queen Henrietta the picture of Calvin in his cabinet, which[214] pourtrayed the theologist with a pen in his hand, and his eyes turned up and out of sight of his book, the queen said smiling, “I do not wonder now that Calvin wrote so much nonsense, as he seems not to have attended to what he was doing.”


In some parish churches it was the custom to separate the men from the women. A clergyman, being interrupted by loud talking, stopped short, when a woman eager for the honour of her sex arose and said, “Your reverence, the noise is not among us.” “So much the better,” answered the priest, “it will be the sooner over.”


Some philosophers were disputing very learnedly and dully on the antiquity of the world. A man of wit, tired of their long discussion, said, “Gentlemen, I believe the world acts like some old ladies, and does not choose to have her age discovered.”


A counsellor was one day asked by the judge, why he, as a man of talents and integrity, was always employed in knavish causes—“Why, I have been so much in the habit of losing good causes, that I think I had better undertake bad ones.”


A black servant being examined in the Church Catechism by the minister of the parish, was asked, “What are you made of?” Cato answered, “Of mud, massa.” On being told that he should say, “Of dust,” he replied, “No, massa, it no do—no stick togedder.”



Some years ago, the son of an eminent Jew was on the point of being married to a Christian lady, on which the father, who had no objection to the religion of the lady, but to the smallness of her fortune, expostulated with his son, and told him he might have a lady with more money, and that if he married without his consent, he would cut him off with a shilling. The son replied, that whether he consented or not, he would have the object of his wishes; adding, that if he refused he would turn Christian, and then he should claim the benefit of an English law, and obtain half of what he possessed. At this answer, old Mordecai was greatly confounded, and resolved to apply to counsel, to know whether there was any such law. The counsellor replied, “that there certainly was, and that his son, upon turning Christian, would obtain half his fortune; but if you will make me a present of ten guineas,” added he, “I will put you in a way to disappoint him, and the graceless dog shall not be able to obtain a farthing.” At this news the Jew’s hopes revived; and pulling ten guineas out of his pocket he instantly clapped them into the lawyer’s hand, expressing his impatience to know how to proceed. “Why,” said the counsellor, “Mr. Mordecai, you have nothing to do but to turn Christian yourself.”


A country lad went to be confirmed by the bishop, who, inquiring if he had learned his catechism, asked him how many commandments there were. “Forty,” replied Hodge. “Go home, child, and learn better,[216]” said the bishop. On his return home, Hodge met a companion who was also going to be confirmed. “Stop,” said he, “do you know how many commandments there be?” “Yes, to be sure,” replied the other, “ten.” “Pshaw! you fool!” said the other; “I told the bishop forty, and that would not do. Go home, and learn better.”


A satiric poet underwent a severe drubbing, and was observed to walk ever afterwards with a stick. “Mr. P. reminds me,” said a wag, “of some saints, who are always painted with the symbols of their martyrdom.”


At Mr. Beckford’s sale at Fonthill, a gentleman purchased a bed at a very high price, and found, when it was knocked down to him, that he had bid against his most intimate acquaintance. This gentleman immediately came up, and, shaking him by the hand, made urgent enquiry after his health, which the purchaser of the bed assured him was never so well. “I am rejoiced to hear it,” said the other, “because, in that case, I am sure you will let me have the bargain.” “Nay, my dear friend,” said the purchaser, “what has that to do with it?” “Because,” said he, “if you are quite well, you cannot want to keep your bed.”


A gentleman, who drank very hard, being seized with a fever, had a consultation of physicians, and while they, in his bedroom, disputed about the best method of abating the thirst and curing the fever,—“Gentlemen,[217]” said the patient, “permit me to put in a word, and I will engage to take half the trouble off your hands; do you cure the fever, and I will abate the thirst myself.”


When Jeremy Taylor was introduced to the Archbishop of Canterbury, he was told by the prelate that his extreme youth was a bar to his present employment. “If your grace,” replied Taylor, “will excuse me this fault, I promise, if I live, to mend it.”


An officer of a disbanded regiment applying to his agent for his arrears, told him that he was in the most extreme want, and on the point of dying with hunger. The agent seeing him of a jovial and ruddy aspect, replied, that his countenance belied his complaint. “Good sir,” replied the officer, “for heaven’s sake! do not mistake; the visage you see is not mine, but my landlady’s; for she has fed me on trust for these two years.”


A woman of excellent sense, and somewhat of a satiric turn of mind, was asked by her friends if she really intended to marry Mr. ——, adding, that Mr. —— was a good kind of man, but so very singular. “Well,” replied the lady, “so much the better; if he is very much unlike other men, he is more likely to make a good husband.”


Lady C——, an old coquette, and very fond of her reminiscences, and a censor of all present fashions and arts, looking into her glass, beheld sundry[218] wrinkles, freckles, &c. “Now, here is my new glass,” said her ladyship, “not worth a farthing. They cannot make mirrors so well as they used to do.”


A gentleman, on a tour through the west of England, happened to be at a very populous town on a Sunday, and being acquainted with the minister, he accompanied him to church, which, to his great surprise, was very thinly attended. As they were returning home, he asked his friend “if there were any dissenters in this town.” “No,” said the other, “but there are numerous absenters.”


A lad delivering milk, was asked what made it so warm. “I don’t know,” replied he with much simplicity, “unless they put in warm water instead of cold.”


A farmer, in the neighbourhood of Doncaster, was met by his landlord, who accosted him thus, “John, I intend to raise your rent;” to which John replied, “Sir, I am very much obliged to you, for I cannot raise it myself.”


At the time when Mrs. Siddons had just reached her high theatrical fame, and had acted some of her principal characters to the admiration of all who beheld her, a formal assembly of learned ladies, consisting of Mrs. Montagu, Mrs. Carter, Miss Hannah More, and sundry other members of the bas bleu met, and prevailed upon Mrs. Siddons to be of the party. Their object was to examine her, and to get from her the secret how she[219] could act with such wonderful effect. Mrs. Montagu was deputed to be the prolocutress of this female convocation. “Pray, madam,” said she to Mrs. Siddons, addressing her in the most formal manner, “give me leave to interrogate you, and to request you will tell us, without duplicity or mental reservation, upon what principle you conduct your dramatic demeanor. Is your mode of acting, by which you obtain so much celebrity, the result of certain studied principles of art? Have you investigated, with profound research, the rules of elocution and gesture, as laid down by the ancients and moderns, and reduced them to practice? or do you suffer nature to predominate, and only speak the untutored language of the passions?” “Ladies,” said the modern Thalia, with great diffidence, but without hesitation, “I do not know how to answer so learned a speech. All I know of the matter, and all I can tell you is that I always act as well as I can.”


Dr. Henniker being in private conversation with the late Earl of Chatham, his Lordship asked him, among other questions, how he defined wit? “My lord,” said the doctor, “wit is like what a pension would be, given by your lordship to your humble servant, a good thing well applied.”


A vagrant called at a house on a Sunday and begged for some cider. The lady refused to give him any, when he reminded her of the oft-quoted remark, that she “might entertain an angel unawares.” “Yes,” said she, “but angels don’t go about drinking cider on Sundays.”



Dr. Wing, being asked where a young lady’s waist began, replied, “At the altar. The moment they have you trapped, they come down upon your pocket-book like a hawk upon a May bug. After they are married they are all waste.” What a libellous fellow!


When Lord Thurlow was at the bar, his clerk was one day reading to him a legal instrument, and when he came to the part, “I do devise all that farm to,” &c., &c., he was seized with so very violent a fit of coughing that he could not proceed, on which the testy lawyer exclaimed, “Read on, with a curse to you—your heirs and their heirs for ever.”

Mr. Tierney once observed of this noble and learned lord, who was much given to swearing and parsimony, that he was a rigid disciplinarian in his religion, for that in his house it was passion week in the parlour, and lent in the kitchen, all the year round.


A gentleman complaining to his bootmaker that a pair of boots recently sent were too short, and that he wanted a pair to cover the whole calf, had the following jeu d’esprit sent to him:——

These boots were never made for me,
They are too short by half;
I want them long enough, d’ye see,
To cover all the calf.
Why, sir, said Last, with stifled smile,
To alter them I’ll try;
But if they cover all the calf,
They must be five feet high.



A celebrated divine, who had prided himself upon his originality, and who would reject his best thought if he imagined it was traceable to any previous author, was startled one day by a friend coolly telling him that every word of his favourite discourse was stolen from a book he had at home. The astonished writer, staggered by his friend’s earnestness, begged for a sight of this volume. He was, however, released from his misery by the other smilingly announcing the work in question to be “Johnson’s Dictionary,” where, continued his tormentor, “I undertake to find every word of your discourse.”


After listening to Bushfield Ferrand’s fervid appeal at New Malton, a shrewd Yorkshire farmer was asked what he thought of the speech? His reply was, simply, “Why, I don’t know, but I think six hours’ rain would ha’ done us a deal more good!”


A captain of a vessel loading coal, went into a merchant’s counting-house, and requested the loan of a rake. The merchant, looking towards his clerks, replied—“I have a number of them, but none, I believe, wish to be hauled over the coals.”


The Delft, one of the Dutch ships taken at the battle of Camperdown, was in so shattered a state that, after the greatest exertions for five days to keep her from sinking, all hopes of saving her was given up. The English prize-officer called aside Mr. Hieberg, who had been first lieutenant of the Delft, and who[222] remained on board along with a number of the sick and wounded prisoners, who were not in a condition to be removed, and represented that it was impossible to save all; that he intended at a certain signal to throw himself, with his men, into the long-boat, and he invited Hieberg to avail himself of the opportunity to effect his escape. “What!” exclaimed Hieberg, “and leave these unfortunate men?” (pointing to his wounded countrymen, whom it had been necessary to bring on deck, as the hold was already full of water). “No, no; go, and leave us to perish together.” The English officer, affected by the generosity of Hieberg’s answer, replied, “God bless you, my brave fellow: here is my hand; I give you my word I will stay with you.” He then caused his own men to leave the ship, and remained himself behind to assist the Dutch. The Russel soon sent her boats to their succour, which brought off as many as could leap on board them. The boats lost no time in making a second voyage, with equal success. The Delft was now cleared of all but Hieberg and the English officer, with three Dutch subaltern officers, and about thirty seamen, most of them so ill from their wounds as to be unable to move. While still cherishing the hope that the boats would come a third time to their assistance, the fatal moment arrived, and on a sudden the Delft went down. The English officer sprang into the sea and swam to his own ship; but the unfortunate Hieberg perished, the victim of his courage and humanity.


During the late session at N——, a man was brought up by a farmer, and accused of stealing some[223] ducks. The farmer said he should know them anywhere, and went on to describe their peculiarity. “Why,” said the counsel for the prisoner, “they can’t be such a very rare breed—I have some like them in my yard.” “That’s very likely, sir,” said the farmer: “these are not the only ducks of the sort I have had stolen lately.”


A man with one eye laid a wager with another man, that he (the one-eyed person) saw more than the other. The wager was accepted. “You have lost,” says the first; “I can see the two eyes in your face, and you can see only one in mine.”


An old clergyman was in the habit, as soon as he got into the pulpit, of placing his sermon in a crevice under the cushion, where he left it during the singing of the accustomed psalm. One Sunday he pushed the sermon-book too for into the crevice, and lost it. When the psalm was concluded, he called the clerk to bring him a Bible. The clerk, somewhat astonished at this unusual request, brought him a Bible as he was desired. The clergyman opened it, and thus addressed his congregation—“My brethren, I have LOST MY SERMON; but I will read you a chapter in Job WORTH TEN OF IT.”


In a club the other day, sat two gentlemen, one of whom has attained fame upon canvas, the other upon paper. He of the pencil was remarkably complimentary to him of the pen—so much so indeed, that the latter at length, with a good-natured laugh exclaimed,[224] “Why, my good fellow, you really show the versatility of your genius in the most striking light: you prove that you can paint not only in oil, but—in butter!”


An auctioneer replied to a person who was importuning him for the remaining change of a pound note, “You must wait with patience till your change come.”

The auctioneer now mentioned, who is remarkable for the boldness of his wit, said to a young jackanapes who was pestering him during the sale, “that he had read of one ass only that spoke, but he now heard another.”


An itinerant lecturer on Natural Philosophy, and who for some time delivered his prelections in this city, when describing the nature of thunder and the striking phenomena which attend it, gave vent to his alarmed feelings in the following words, “And the repercussant intumescences augment the awful roar.”


The following lines on Serjeant Bettesworth, which Swift inserted in one of his poems, gave rise to a violent resentment on the part of the barrister:——

“So at the bar the booby Bettesworth,
Though half-a-crown o’erpays his sweat’s worth,
Who knows in law nor text nor margent,
Calls Singleton his brother serjeant.”

The poem was sent to Bettesworth at a time when he was surrounded with his friends in a convivial party. He read it aloud till he had finished the lines relative[225] to himself. He then flung it down with great violence—trembled and turned pale—and, after some pause, his rage for a while depriving him of utterance, he took out his penknife, and opening it, vehemently swore, “With this very penknife will I cut off his ears.” He then went to the dean’s house, and not finding him at home, followed him to the house of a friend, where being shewn into a back room, he desired the doctor might be sent for; and on Swift entering the room and asking what were his commands, “Sir,” said he, “I am Serjeant Bettesworth.”—“Of what regiment, pray, sir?” said Swift. “O, Mr. Dean, we know your powers of raillery—you know me well enough; I am one of his majesty’s serjeants at-law, and I am come to demand if you are author of this poem (producing it), and these villanous lines on me?”—“Sir,” said Swift, “when I was a young man, I had the honour of being intimate with some great legal characters, particularly Lord Somers, who, knowing my propensity to satire, advised me when I lampooned a knave or a fool never to own it. Conformably to that advice, I tell you that I am not the author.”


The following paragraph appeared in the newspapers lately:—“A young lady, who has £60,000, has lately paired off from Bath with a Mr. Finch, a young Hibernian, for Gretna Green, where she will make him a Gold Finch.”


A late professor taking a country walk, met one of those beings usually called fools. “Pray,” says the professor, accosting him, “how long can a person[226] live without brains?” “I dunno,” replied the fellow, scratching his head; “pray, how long have you lived yourself, sir?”


An old and rich gentleman married a young lady of good connections and of fashionable manners. His wife’s levee was always attended by a number of young sparks. The old gentleman, however, steered so clear of all jealousy, and kept himself so easy about family affairs, that he used to go to bed and there wait for his wife, who often protracted her amusements until morning, and came home always escorted by young men. One evening, inspired by Bacchus no doubt, they became very unruly in the old gentleman’s house, so that in order to silence them, he was obliged to empty it upon their heads. This expedient had the most desirable effect, for they almost immediately retreated. Fearing, however, that he had proceeded too far, he told a barrister the whole case the next day, and regretted he was not gifted with greater command of temper. “Why are you sorry?” said the other: “you used the company very genteelly; for they came uninvited, and you gave them pot-luck.”


One slippery day a gentleman, as he walked along the streets, suddenly lost the use of his legs and fell. A chairman who stood near him, with the greatest politeness bade the gentleman “come to him and he would lift him up.”


A gentleman, a professed wit, was invited to tea; an opportunity of displaying his powers before the[227] ladies soon occurred. The lady of the house that evening had milk for tea instead of cream. When the wit was asked if he drank cream, “Yes, ma’am,” says he, “but I don’t drink milk.” The old gentleman was so offended at this unreasonable reply, that he ordered the fellow to walk down stairs, and receive the cream of his jest.


“What is that you have found?” said Dr.—— to a little boy going along the streets. “A sixpence, sir,” answered the boy. “Let me see it?” said the doctor: “Now my dear, be sure to tell the person who has lost it (putting it in his pocket) that he will get it again, if he calls at my house, St. —— Square.”


A professor had a great partiality for certain young noblemen who attended his class, and gave them certificates for proficiency which they did not deserve. Among his pupils was a poor lad, whose abilities the professor despised merely on account of his homely garb and simplicity of manners. One day the professor wished to give his favourites a laugh at the poor fellow’s expense. “Here sir,” said he, “I will give you three Latin words, our city’s motto, which if you translate into English immediately, I will perhaps conceive a better opinion of you than I have done of late: the words run thus, Nisi dominus frustra.” The lad without much thinking, stood up and began, “Nisi dominus frustra. Unless we are lord’s sons, it is vain to come here.”


A butcher of this city bored the ears of his guinea[228] pig, and inserted into them a pair of large ear-rings. As the guinea pig lay before his door one summer day its ludicrous appearance attracted the attention of a gentleman and his daughter who were passing by; the gentleman called the butcher by name, and enquired of him how he came to dress his pig so fancifully? “Why,” said the honest butcher, “to tell you the truth, it is because she’s single, and I wish to get her off.”


Whiston was much taken notice of after his expulsion from Cambridge, and had the friendship of all the eminent Whigs then in London: among these, Secretary Craggs, Addison, Steele, Mr. Walpole, Sir Joseph Jekyl, Sir Peter King, and Lord Chief Justice Parker, were his most intimate. Dining one day with Mr. Craggs, when Addison, Walpole, and Steele were present, the conversation happened to turn on this point, “Whether a secretary of state could be an honest man, as to his veracity in dealing with foreign courts, consistent with the good of his country?” Craggs said it was impossible; Addison and Steele were of the contrary opinion. Having long debated this matter with some warmth, during all which time Mr. Whiston continued silent, Mr. Walpole insisted on his giving his opinion: he begged to be excused, as not having made politics at all his study, though the moral duties between man and man he thought very plain. Being pressed strongly to speak his sentiments, he said he was very clear that the duty of speaking truth was so strong, that no apprehension of any inconvenience arising from it could be a sufficient[229] reason against it: that it was not always our duty to speak, but when we did speak it should be the truth, without any prevarication: and that he did firmly believe, if ministers of state did in general practise it, they would even find their account in it. To which Mr. Craggs replied warmly, “It might do for a fortnight perhaps, Mr. Whiston, but it would not hold.” Whiston immediately asked, “Pray, Mr. Craggs, did you ever try it for a fortnight?” To this no answer was returned. Walpole cried out, “Mr. Whiston, truth has prevailed; Craggs is convicted.”


Mr. Wewitzer, late of Drury Lane Theatre, a gentleman no less distinguished for his merit as an actor and his good character as a man, than for the amenity of his manners and the neatness of his wit, having given orders to his tailor for a spencer, asked him how much it would cost. “I cannot,” said Stitch, “exactly say, but you may depend on’t, sir, that it will come very low.” “Then,” said the wit, “it will not be a spencer.”


An actor played a season at Richmond Theatre for the privilege only of having a benefit. When his night came he had to sustain a principal part in the piece. The whole of his audience, however (being thirty in number), gave him every mark of disapprobation, and a great hissing, on which he came forward and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I return you my sincere thanks for your kindness, but when you mean to hiss me again on my benefit night, I hope it will be by at least six times as many as I have here to night.”



When Woodward first played Sir John Brute, Garrick was induced, from curiosity or perhaps jealousy, to be present. A few days after, when they met, Woodward asked Garrick how he liked him in the part, adding, “I think I struck out some beauties in it.” “I think,” said Garrick, “that you struck out all the beauties in it.”


Tom Weston, of facetious memory, being in a strolling company in Sussex, when the success was even less than moderate, ran up a bill of three shillings with his landlord, who, waiting on the comedian, insisted on his money immediately. “Make yourself easy, my honest fellow,” said Weston, “for by the gods, I will pay you this night in some shape or another.” “See you do, Master Weston,” retorted the landlord, surlily, “and, d’ye hear, let it be as much in the shape of three shillings as possible.”


When Delphini first came to England, his company was much sought after by the great; he was invited to the most fashionable parties in town; this greatly impaired his health; he therefore resolved to lead a more retired life; but invitation upon invitation pouring in upon him, and he not speaking English very well, asked a friend, “Vat he say, ven de people ax him come tea and sup?” “Say? why say you have got other fish to fry.” In a day or two after this he was met in the street by Lord C——, who told him he was going to have a party that evening, and would be glad if he would favour him with his company.[231] “No,” replied Delphini, “I no come.” “No! why not?” said his lordship. “Cause I go fry my oder fish.

The same, when he was discharged from Covent Garden, was met one day by his present majesty, then Prince of Wales, who inquired after his health. “My health very bad, Mr. Prince, I get no vine now.” “No wine! that’s bad indeed,” said the Prince; “well, go to my cellarman, and tell him to send you some.” “Yes, I go; God bless you, Mr. Prince.” He accordingly went to the cellarman, and having informed him of the Prince’s orders, he was asked how much he would have, and what sort. He replied, “Only twelve dozen, and all sort.”


A lady, when asked in marriage by a certain chemist, said, “that she had no dislike for him, only she thought that his head was composed of too volatile particles.”


In a certain literary society where the question was, whether the merchant or the man of letters was of the greatest use to society, one of the members asked if by the man of letters was meant a postman?


“They say you’re now become a laird,” said Dr. A. to Dr. B., an eminent accoucheur, as he met him on the street and shook him by the hand. “What would they say,” replied the other, “were I to become a lord?” “They would undoubtedly say, Good lord, deliver us,” answered the other.


A boy when asked if he understood Latin, replied that he did not know, as he had never tried.



“Stand up, and hold up your right hand,” said a judge to a sailor, who had been summoned as a witness in a case of murder, and who had been instructed by some person to repeat what his lordship said to him, and precisely in the same tone in which it was delivered. “Stand up, and hold up your right hand,” replied the other. “What does the fellow mean?” said his lordship amazed. “What does the fellow mean?” answered the other. “This will never do,” said his lordship in a peremptory tone, “you must say the following words after me.” “This will never do; you must say the following words after me, and be d——d!” repeated the sailor.


In the late professor H——’s class, a gentleman’s gilded buttons happened to reflect the sun’s rays upon the professor’s face. The professor, as it may be supposed, ordered the gentleman to desist; the other, ignorant of the matter, with the utmost simplicity, affirmed, “that he would be the last in the class who would cast reflections on the professor.”


An aged grey-haired beggar came to the door of a country ale-house in England, where the three greatest wits of the parish were sitting over a jug of the best. When he preferred his usual petition, one of the jocular companions ridiculed his appearance, calling him Father Abraham; the second called him Father Isaac; the third Father Jacob; asserting that he must be one of those reverend personages. But finding he answered to neither of those appellations, they exclaimed,[233] “then who the devil are you?” The old man cast on them a look of contempt as he replied, “I am neither Abraham, Isaac, nor Jacob: but I am Saul the son of Kish; I was sent to seek my father’s three asses; here I have found them, and here I shall leave them.”


Mr. Moore, the author of many ingenious pieces, being a long time under an expensive prosecution in Doctors’ Commons for marrying two sisters, was called upon one morning by his proctor, as he was writing his excellent tragedy of the Gamester: the proctor having a leisure hour, Mr. Moore read him four acts of his piece, which were all at that time finished. The proctor was so affected by it, that he exclaimed, “Good God! how can you possibly add to this couple’s distress in the last act?” “Oh, very easily,” says the poet; “there I intend to put them both into the spiritual court.”


An Italian singer, at the Opera House, who had but lately arrived in this country, and not speaking English, was so anxious to acquire it, that he always had in his pocket an Italian and English dictionary; and being in general accompanied by a friend who spoke a little better than himself, he determined to practise nothing else. On his first visit to an Orange coffee-house, he placed himself before the fire and called “Vater, vater,” but to no purpose. His friend whispered to him—“He’s no vater at all—he’s vaiter.” “Oh den, vaiter, vaiter.” “What do you want, gentlemen?” “Medin, medin.” “I do not understand,[234]” said the waiter. His friend again whispered—“He’s no medin, he’s dinne me.” “An! dinne me,” repeats the other. “Oh, dinner,” says the waiter; “what would you like to have?” “One large porkshop.” “The devil you will,” said the waiter: “what, a whole porkshop?” His friend whispers—“He no porkshop—he’s one pork chops.” “Oh, pork chops, very well.” The dinner was brought, and after he had dined, he called “Vaiter, vaiter!” “Well sir?” “Mettez moi six or seven turnpikes.” “Seven turnpikes? that’s impossible, sir.” His friend whispers again—“He’s no turnpikes—he’s tiddlepicks.” “Ah! tiddlepicks.” “I do not understand yet, sir.” “No! Got d——n! it is to take it away the meat out ma tooth.”


A woman once asked another, “Pray, had your mother any children?” Seeing the other laugh, and quickly recollecting herself, “Lord bless me,” says she, “what a ridiculous mistake I made! it was your grandmother I meant.”


A man just hung, and an author just about publishing a book, are nearly in the same predicament—both are in suspense. But we may observe this striking difference between them, namely—the former will certainly be cut down, while the latter will most probably be cut up.


One of our scarlet courtiers, lighting from his great prancing horse at the court gate, called to one that stood by, and bid him hold his horse whilst he walked[235] into the court. The man seemed afraid of the beast, and asked him if he was not unruly, and whether one man might hold him or no; he answered yes very easily. “Nay, then,” said he, “If it be but one man’s work I would wish you to do it yourself, for I have other business than to walk horses.”


A fantastic gentleman having bespoke divers pictures to furnish a gallery: when the limner brought them home, he would presently dispose them in their several places. “Here,” said he, “hang this, here that, and there that; but at this end, in full view of the door, will I be hanged myself.”


A gentleman, playing on the lute under his mistress’s window; she disdaining his presence and despising his service, caused her servants to pelt him thence with stones; of which disgrace complaining afterwards to a friend of his, his friend told him that he had much mistaken the gentle woman; for what greater grace could she do to your music than to make the very stones dance about you, as they did to Orpheus.


One Fowle by name, petitioning to a great man in this kingdom, was a long while delayed. At length, somewhat importunate, he stirred the nobleman’s patience so far that in a great rage he bad him get him gone for a woodcock as he was, at which the petitioner, smiling, humbly thanked his Lordship for that present courtesy. The lord, turning back and supposing he had flouted, asked him what courtesy? “Why, truly, my lord,” said he, “I have known myself a Fowle[236] these fifty years and upwards, but never knew what fowl till now your lordship told me.” His answer pleased, and his suite was despatched with all possible speed.


A notable braggard boasted how it was his chance to meet with two of his arch-enemies at once. “The one,” said he, “I tossed so high in the air, that had he had at his back a baker’s basket full of bread, though he had eaten all the way, he would have been starved in his fall ere he had reached the ground; the other he struck so deep into the earth that he left no more of him to be seen above ground but his head and one of his arms, and those to no other end than to put off his hat to him, as he had occasion to pass that way.”


A lady, that used to plaister her face extremely so by art, to repair the decays of nature, was on a time, with divers others, invited abroad to dinner. But one of them, an acquaintance of her’s, wished her by no means to go. “Why?” said my lady. “Marry,” replies the gentleman, “’tis ten to one we shall be wondrous merry, and you cannot well laugh, for fear of shewing two faces.”


A young lad of a college in Oxford, when he should have been in the public hall at disputations, a little before the time fell asleep, and by that means failed of coming down. His tutor, being then moderator, missed him, and after exercise was done went up to his study, where, finding him asleep, he waked him,[237] chid him for sleeping at that time of day, and angrily asked him why he was not at disputations. The youth, after a little yawning and stretching, replied, “Truly, sir, I did not dream of it.”


One Peter Martyr, a great scholar, and very famous in his time, had been a long time suitor for a bishopric, but was still crossed in his suit. At last four friars-confessors were preferred together to four vacant Sees, and he not remembered, which he hearing of, said, “Methinks amongst so many confessors one Martyr would not have done amiss.”


A young master of arts, the very next day after the commencement, having his course to a common place in the chapel, where were divers that but the day before had taken their degree, chose his text out of the eighth chapter of Job. The words were these: “We are but of yesterday, and know nothing.” “This text,” said he, “doth fitly divide itself into two branches—our standing and our understanding—our standing in these words, ‘We are but of yesterday;’ our understanding, ‘We know nothing.’”


When a gentleman heard that a traveller, a friend of his, was drowned, he fetched a great sigh and said, “Now God rest his soul, for he is gone the way of all flesh.” “Nay,” said another, then standing by, “if he be drowned, he is rather gone the way of all fish.”


The High Church at Oxford, having acquired a very large amount of subscribed money to erect a temple or[238] monument in honour of Archbishop Cranmer, was desirous to find a site on the very spot where he was buried. In their search they not only concluded that the spot had been found but also his bones. To make quite certain these were sent for examination to Professor Buckland, who, having examined them, pronounced them to be the bones of a cow.


The wife of an ambassador, in passing before Talleyrand through an ante-room to dinner, the latter looking up, exclaimed significantly, “Ah!” The lady, speaking across the table during dinner, asked him why he said “Oh!” Talleyrand, with a grave, self-vindicatory look, answered, “Madame, je n’ai pas dit oh! j’ai dit Ah!


An English dentist practising in India got a commission to make a set of teeth for the King of Delhi. The prime difficulty was how to obtain the model, as the hand of a Christian in the royal mouth would be counted an abomination. It was at last decided that if his hands were washed in the Ganges contact might be permitted. The teeth suited admirably. One of the courtiers declared they would be good for nothing, and the king, to test them, desired him to put his finger in his mouth and try. The king made a snap and nearly bit the finger in two. Unhappily, the teeth suited so well that the king’s appetite, being enormous, brought on a plethora, which nearly killed him, and the teeth were consigned to the Ganges.


Sydney Smith was accustomed to entertain his friends[239] with a description of the dining process by which Londoners extracted all they wanted from new literary lions. “Here’s a new man of genius arrived; put on the stew pan; fry away; we’ll soon get out of him all we want.”


A horse dealer had a horse for sale. The intending purchaser, intending to use him as a hunter, was desirous of knowing his leaping qualities, and enquired, “Would he take timber?” “He’d jump over your head,” answers the other; “I don’t know what you call that.”


Homer relates how in spite of all the precautions of Ulysses, his companions let loose the Bag of the Winds, and he, calmly wrapping his mantle round his head, submits to his fate. The passage is thus translated—

“I then awaking, in my noble mind
Stood doubting, whether from my vessel’s side
Immersed to perish in the flood, or calm
To endure my sorrows and consent to live.
I calm endured them; but around my head
Winding my mantle, laid me down below.”

An Indian chief was lying asleep in his boat, which was fastened to the shore, in the still water above the current of the Niagara Falls. An enemy passing along cut the rope and sent the boat adrift, which was soon hurrying down the cataract. The Indian, awaking, at once saw his danger, and made every effort by means of his paddle to stop the career of the canoe and gain the land. He soon found that his efforts were[240] unavailing, and that his destruction was at hand. He took a draught from his brandy flask, wrapped his mantle about him, and calmly looking forward at the fate awaiting him, went down the Falls.


An author was entertaining Theodore Hook with a description of a dinner party at which a well known bibliopolist had partaken too freely, when the wit remarked, “Why, you appear to me to have emptied your wine-cellar into your book-seller.”


Sydney Smith, on the occasion of his being invited by his publisher to meet at dinner several distinguished entomologists, suggested as a bill of fare proper for the occasion, “To wit, flea patés, earthworms on toast, caterpillars crawling in cream and removing themselves,” &c., &c.


This great orator and profound lawyer, among his many qualifications, was signally deficient in his knowledge of the French language. Being in Paris, he was desirous of having several of his friends to dinner, and insisted on writing the notes of invitation himself. On Wednesday, the day appointed, none of his friends appeared, and he was in great perplexity. On inquiry being made if he was certain that his notes were all right, after a short pause, he asked, “Isn’t Vendredi French for Wednesday?”


On one occasion at a public dinner, during the feverish times of Jacobinism, the poet was asked for a toast. In response, he gave a Bible toast, “the last[241] verse of the last chapter of the last Book of Kings.” On another occasion, before some high Tories, having to give a toast, he said to the chairman, “You agree that Lords should have their privileges?” “Yes, certainly,” was the reply. “Well, then, I’ll give you the privileges of the Lords of the Creation.”


Fenelon frequently teased Richelieu for subscriptions to charitable undertakings, but quite ineffectually. Telling Richelieu that he had just seen his picture, the latter with a sneer asked “Did you ask it for a subscription?” “No,” answered Fenelon, “I saw there was no chance, it was so like you.”


In a speech in the House of Lords on the Slave Trade, the worthy Bishop made a quotation on the authority of Mungo Park to the effect “That to such a pitch of elegance and refinement has Africa advanced, that in the bosom, in the very heart of that calumniated country, there are women to be found wearing white petticoats.”


A shabby Amphytrion asked repeatedly a neighbour of his to dine with him. After many refusals he at length accepted an invitation, but found the dinner so meagre and bad that he got scarcely a morsel to eat. When the dishes were removed the host said, “Now the ice is broken, I suppose you will ask me to dine with you some day.” “Most willingly.” “Name your day, then.” “To-day,” answered the dinnerless guest.

It is told of another, remarkable for absence of[242] mind, that dining at the same sort of shabby repast he fancied himself in his own house, and began to apologise for the wretchedness of the dinner.


A young fellow having found his way to a ball-room at Chelsea, was asked by one of the stewards, “What are you?” (meaning to enquire what o’clock it was). Awaking to a lively consciousness of the intrusion of which he had been guilty, he stammered out, “Why, sir, I confess I am a baker, but if you will have the goodness to say no more about it I will instantly leave the room.”


A lady from Vienna was very pronounced in expressing her opinion that “French was spoken wretchedly in London.” Lord Dudley, somewhat stung by the remark, replied, “It is true, madam, we have not enjoyed the advantage of having had the French twice in our capital.”


Lamb had for his next neighbour, at dinner, a chattering woman. Observing that he didn’t attend to what she was saying, she remarked, “You don’t seem to be at all the better for what I have been saying to you.” “No, madam,” he answered, “but this gentleman on the other side of me must, for it all came in at one ear and went out at the other.”


Bannister was somewhat sad in finding he had reached his sixty-fifth year, which was exactly the number of his house. Returning home in a melancholy humour, and looking up at the number plate on[243] the door, soliloquised thus: “Aye, you needn’t tell me, I know it; you told me the same thing yesterday.”


A Brabanter, in conversation with a Swiss, charged the latter with always being ready to fight for money, while he (the Brabanter) fought for honour. In reply, the Swiss drily said, “The truth is, we each of us fight for what each most wants.”


It is told of Lord Muskery, that when on his death-bed, in reviewing his past life, he said, “that he had nothing to reproach himself with, having never through life denied himself any thing.”


A man of respectable appearance made a boast of how his eating cost him almost nothing. “On Sunday,” said he, “I always dine with an old friend, and then eat so much that it lasts until Wednesday, when I buy some tripe, which I hate like the devil, and which makes me so sick that I can eat nothing more till Sunday again.”


A Dutch commercial house in writing to their correspondents in London, concluded their letter as follows:—“Sugars are falling more and more every day; not so the respect and esteem with which we are, &c., &c.”


General Smith, the celebrated Nabob, formed one of a shooting party. During luncheon he enlarged on his want of success, and as an excuse for his bad shooting alleged that he had “spoilt his hand by[244] shooting pea-cocks with the Great Mogul.” On another occasion having invited a large number of friends to his country seat, he had to write putting off the engagement saying, “I find my damned fellow of a steward has, in the meantime, sold the estate.”


Some one remarking on the inaccuracy of the inscription on Lord Kenyon’s tomb, Mors janna vita, in the hearing of Lord Ellenborough, the latter remarked that that had been done by Lord Kenyon’s express desire, as he left it in his will that they should not go to the expense of a diphthong.


An old gentleman having fallen sound asleep at the fireside was awakened suddenly by the clatter of the fire-irons all tumbling down, and immediately exclaimed, “What! going to bed without one kiss,” thinking it was the children.


A poor author received an account from his publisher among the items of which was, “Cellarage, £3 10s. 6d.” He naturally concluded that this was a charge for the trouble of selling the 700 copies which formed the edition, but on further enquiry learned that it was the charge for cellar-room, as not a copy had stirred from thence.


Donelly, the famous Irish champion, had a great fight on at the Curragh. Miss Kelly, a young lady of fine behaviour, had followed him thither, and had wagered her gold watch and chain and her coach and four that he would win. At one time Donelly was[245] getting the worst of it when she exclaimed, “Oh, Donelly, would you have me go back on foot and not know the hour?” on which he rallied and won.


During the French war, Mr. Pitt was informed by a person named Forth that there were two persons on their way from the north of Europe to assassinate him. Measures were accordingly taken to track their progress, they were seized at Brussells and lay in confinement there for a long time. It afterwards came to be known that instead of being assassins, they were creditors of Forth’s, who were on their way to have him arrested for a large sum, and he took this method to get quit of them.


Tom Moore who was present at an opera in London where Paganini performed, writes thus:—“Paganini abuses his powers; he could play divinely, and does sometimes, for a minute or two, but then comes his surprises and his tricks, his bow in convulsions, and his inharmonics like the mewlings of an expiring cat.”


Lord Ashburnham was accustomed to quote the following epitaph which he had come across in a country churchyard as a perfect exemplification of poetry, piety, and politeness:

“You who stand around my grave,
And say, ‘His life is gone;’
You are mistaken—pardon me—
My life is but begun.”


Coleridge was lodging at Ramsgate, where his reputation[246] as a poet was known. The servant-maid entering his room, informed him that he was wanted, there being a person at the door inquiring for a poet, on going out he found it was the pot-boy from the public-house, whose cry of “Any pots for the Angel?” the girl had mistaken for a demand for a poet.


John Kemble in performing one of his favourite parts at a country theatre was much interrupted by a squalling baby. Able to endure the rival performance no longer, he walked with solemn step to the front of the stage, and addressing the audience in his most tragic tones, said, “Ladies and gentlemen, unless the play is stopped the child cannot possibly go on.”


“I have seen the king,” says a writer of memoirs, “not once, but often, eat four plates of different soups, an entire pheasant, a partridge, a dish full of salad, a piece of ham, a slice of mutton with gravy, and large quantities of all kinds of confitures.”


A French Curé, in a sequestrated part of the south of France, inquired of an English traveller whether English women wore rings in their noses? to which he replied, “that, in the north of England, near China, it was possible they might, but certainly not in London.”


Among his contemporaries, Wordsworth was generally thought to entertain a very high opinion of himself. At a large dinner party where Sir Humphry Davy was present, he suddenly, in the most epic tone,[247] called from the top of the table to the bottom, “Davy!” and on Davy putting forth his head in awful expectation of what was coming, said, “Do you know why I published the ‘White Doe’ in quarto?” “No, what was it?” “To show the world my own opinion of it.”


On a certain occasion Sydney Smith set off to dine with a neighbouring clergyman. After toiling along a dusty road, he reached the parsonage hungry and weary. Seated in a small hot-room, a stripling opened the door and beckoned our host out of the room. In a short time he returned looking greatly distressed, saying, “The woman assisting in the kitchen had mistaken the soup for dirty water, and had thrown it out, and so we must do without it.” At last, dinner was announced to our great joy, but, oh ye gods, as we entered the dining room what a gale met our nose! the venison was high, the venison was uneatable, and was obliged to follow on the soup with all speed.


Sir James Mackintosh on one occasion went to sup with Sydney Smith, accompanied by a raw Scotch cousin, an ensign in a Highland regiment. On hearing the name of his host, he nudged Sir James and enquired in an audible whisper, “Is that the great Sir Sydney?” “Yes, yes,” said Sir James, and giving Sydney, the hint, he at once assumed the military character, performed the part of the hero of Acre to perfection, fought all the battles over again, and showed how he had charged the Turk, to the infinite delight of the young Scotsman, who was charmed with[248] the kindness and condescension of the great Sir Sydney. Meanwhile, however, the other guests were suffering severe torture and nearly burst with suppressing laughter. In return for the kindness he had received, nothing would content the young Highlander but that he must set off about twelve o’clock at night to fetch the piper of the regiment to pipe to the “Great Sir Sydney,” who said he had never heard the bagpipes. Before he returned, the company had dispersed. Sir James declaring he would be decapitated if he remained. A few days after this occurrence Sir James and his cousin met Sydney Smith, with his wife leaning on his arm. He introduced her as his wife, upon which the young Highlander whispered to Sir James, and looking at the lady, “I did na ken the great Sir Sydney was married.” “Why, no,” said Sir James, winking at him, “not ex-act-ly married—only an Egyptian slave he brought over with him; Fatima, you know, you understand.”


A country cousin used sometimes to visit Sydney Smith—a simple, warm-hearted rustic. It was his custom occasionally to have some of his friends to supper, and on their arrival she would come to him and whisper, “Now Sydney, I know that these are all remarkable men, do tell me who they are?” “Oh, yes,” said he, laughing. “That is Hannibal,” pointing to Mr. Whishaw, “he lost his leg in the Carthagenian war; and that is Socrates,” pointing to Luttrell; “and that is Solon,” pointing to Horner. The girl opened her ears, eyes, and mouth with admiration, yet half believing that Sydney was making fun of her.



The Scottish people are thought to be so imbued with metaphysics, that even in love the passion discovers itself. On one occasion at a ball, Sydney Smith overheard a young lady of his acquaintance, in a pause in the music, remark to her partner, “What you say, my lord, is very true in the abstract, but——” here the fiddlers began, and the rest was lost.


Sydney Smith confessed to a friend that he had one little weakness—one secret wish—“he should like to roast a Quaker.” “Good heavens, no, Smith!” said his friend full of horror, “roast a Quaker?” “Yes, sir” (with the greatest gravity), “roast a Quaker!” “But do you consider, sir, the torture?” “Yes, I have considered everything; it may be wrong, as you say; the Quaker would undoubtedly suffer acutely, I have striven against the taste in vain, one would satisfy me—only one!”


A gentleman called Tenant was a favourite in London society early in this century, the mysteries of whose menage often afforded amusement to his friends. He lived in a small lodging, and his establishment was confined to an old black servant called Dominique, who tyrannised over him. He was overheard one morning calling from his bed, “Dominique! Dominique!” but no Dominique appeared. “Why don’t you bring me my stockings, Dominique?” “Can’t come, Massa.” “Why can’t you come, Dominique?” “Can’t come, Massa, I am dronke.”



A man being asked did he understand German, answered, “No, but I have a cousin who plays the German flute.” Another enquiring at a bookseller, if he had the “Whole duty of man,” got for answer, “No, sir, but we have Mrs. Glasse’s cookery!”


Sydney Smith had for an attendant in his time a clean, fair, squat, tidy little girl about twelve years of age named Bunch. Mrs. Marcet, who was staying in the house, met her host at the foot of the stair when Bunch was passing. Mr. Smith suddenly said, “Bunch, do you like roast duck or boiled chicken?” Bunch had probably never tasted either the one or the other in her life, but answered without a moment’s hesitation, “Roast duck please, sir,” and disappeared. I laughed. “You may laugh,” said he, “but you have no idea of the labour it has cost me to give her that decision of character. The Yorkshire peasantry are the quickest and shrewdest in the world, but you can never get a direct answer from them; if you ask them even their own names, they always scratch their heads and say, ‘A’s sur ai don’t knaw, sir;’ but I have brought Bunch to such perfection that she never hesitates now on any subject, however difficult. I am very strict with her. Would you like to hear her repeat her crimes? She has them by heart and repeats them everyday.” “Come here, Bunch!” (calling out to her), “come and repeat your crimes to Mrs. Marcet;” and Bunch, quite as a matter of course, as grave as a judge, without the least hesitation, and with a loud voice began to repeat—“Plate-snatching, gravy-spilling,[251] door-slamming, blue-bottle fly-catching and curtsey-bobbing.” “Explain to Mrs. Marcet what blue-bottle fly-catching is.” “Standing with my mouth open and not attending, sir.” “And what is curtsey-bobbing?” “Curtseying to the centre of the earth, please sir.” “Good girl! now you may go.” “She makes a capital waiter, I assure you. On state occasions, Jack Robinson, my carpenter, takes off his apron and waits too, and does pretty well, but he sometimes naturally makes a mistake, and sticks a gimlet into the bread instead of a fork.”


On another occasion some years later, when I was going to Brougham Hall, two raw Scotch girls got into the coach in the dark, near Carlisle. “It is very disagreeable getting into a coach in the dark,” exclaimed one, after arranging her band-boxes, “one cannot see one’s company.” “Very true, ma’am, and you have a great loss in not seeing me, for I am a remarkably handsome man.” “No, sir! are you really?” said both. “Yes, and in the flower of my youth.” “What a pity,” said they. We soon passed near a lamp-post; they both darted forward to get a look at me. “Lo, sir, you seem very stout.” “Oh, no, not at all, ma’am, it’s only my great coat.” “Where are you going, sir?” “To Brougham Hall.” “Why, you must be a very remarkable man, to be going to Brougham Hall.” “I am a very remarkable man, ma’am.” At Penrith they got out, after having talked incessantly, and tried every possible means to discover who I was, exclaiming, as they went off laughing, “Well, it is very provoking we can’t see you, but we’ll[252] find out who you are at the hall; Lord Brougham always comes to the ball at Penrith, and we shall certainly be there, and shall soon discover your name.”


A hospitable host in recommending some light wine on the dinner table used the old expression, “There’s not a headache in a bottle of it.” One of his guests, with more truth than politeness, replied, “No, but there’s a belly-ache in every glass of it.”


A man of good appearance gave himself out as a lecturer on English literature. Fortified with letters to certain Professors of Trinity College, a small but select audience assembled to hear him. Moore, who was present, among other questions asked him if he was acquainted with “Shenstone’s School Mistress.” He replied, “Yes, but ha’n’t seen her for some time.” In the course of the lecture, he quoted a passage from Lucan, which he said was counted by some critics very “helegant and hingenious,” and which he read as follows:—“The ’evens hintomb, ’im ’oom the hearth does not hinter,” he declared his own opinion that it was neither “helegant nor hingenious.”




[A] It has been said, that the stranger was looking for Lamb’s Conduit Street. This and the following anecdote, together with one or two others, are from an exceedingly amusing work, entitled “The Clubs of London,” published in 1828.

[B] Burnett’s History of his Own Times, iii. 1350.

[C] The most remarkable thing in this anecdote is certainly the king’s want of good manners, in asking such a question of the representative of a foreign nation.

[D] It was from this, perhaps, that Goldsmith took the idea of Garrick’s character in his poem called “Retaliation.”

[E] Sir Lumely Skeffington, we believe, is the author alluded to.

[F] A celebrated harlequin of the Italian comedy.

[G] Bernard’s Retrospections of the Stage.

Transcriber’s Note:

Variations in spelling, hyphenation and punctuation remain as in the original unless noted below.

Original scans of this book can be found here.