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PUNCH’S PENCILLINGS.—No. XXII.
[Illustration: JACK CUTTING HIS NAME ON THE BEAM.]
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PUNCH’S INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE.
The Fleet is a very peculiar isolated kingdom, bounded on the north by the wall to the north or north wall; on the south, by the wall to the south or south wall; on the east, by the wall to the east or east wall; and on the west, by the wall to the west or west wall. The manners and habits of the natives are marked with many extraordinary peculiarities; and some of the local customs are of an exceedingly interesting character.
The derivation of the word “Fleet” has caused many controversies, and we believe is even now involved in much mystery, and subject to much dispute.
Some commentators have endeavoured to establish an analogy between the words “fleet” and “fast,” with the view of showing that these being nearly synonymous terms, “the fleet is a corruption from the fast, or keep fast.” Others again contend the origin to be purely nautical, inasmuch as this country, like the ships in war time, is mostly peopled with pressed men. While a third class argue that the name was originally one of warning, traditionally handed down from father to son by the inhabitants of the surrounding countries (with whom this land has never been in high favour), and that the addition of the letter T renders the phrase perfect, leaving the caution thus, Flee-it—now contracted and perverted into the commonly used term of Fleet.
As we are only the showmen about to exhibit “the lions and the dogs,” we merely put forward these deductions, and tell our readers they are welcome to choose “which_h_ever they please, hour little dears!” while we will at once proceed to describe the manners and habits of the natives.
One great peculiarity in connexion with this strange people is, that the inhabitants are, from the first moment of their appearance, invariably adults; and we can positively assert the almost incredible fact, that no bona fide occupant of these realms was ever seen in any part of their domain in the hands of a nurse, enveloped in the long clothes worn by many of the infants of the surrounding nations. Like the Spartan youths, all these people undergo a long course of training, and exceed the age of one-and-twenty before they are deemed worthy of admission into the ranks of these singular hordes. They have no actual sovereign, but merely two traditionary beings, to whom they bow with most abject servility. These imaginary potentates are always alluded to under the fearful names of “John Doe and Richard Roe;” though they are never seen, still their edicts are all-powerful, their commands extending to the most distant regions, and carrying captivity and caption-fees