History of English Humour, Vol. 1 (of 2) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 248 pages of information about History of English Humour, Vol. 1 (of 2).
the inhabitants were seized with a panic and pretended to have lost their senses.  This was the tradition upon which, in after-times, these tales were founded, and being unobjectionable they are well adapted for the nursery, but being mere exercises of ingenuity they afford but very slight pleasure to older minds.  Although aimless, there is something clever in them.  The Wise Men determine to hedge round a cuckoo to keep it in so that it should sing all the year.  The bird seeing the hedge flies away.  “A vengeance on her,” say the Wise Men, “we made not the hedge high enough.”  There is the story of the young man, whose mother told him to throw sheep’s eyes at his sweetheart, and who, literally, performed her bidding.  One Good Friday the Men of Gotham consulted what to do with their red herrings, and other salt fish, and agreed to cart them into a pond that the number might increase next year.  At the beginning of the next summer they drag the pond, and only find a great eel.  “A mischief on him,” they say, “he hath eaten up our fish.”  Some propose to chop him in pieces, but the rest think it would be best to drown him, so they throw him into another pond.  Twelve men of Gotham go to fish, and some stand on dry land, and some in the water.  And one says “We have ventured wonderfully in wading; I pray that none of us come home drowned.”  So they begin to count, and as each omits himself he can only count eleven, and so they go back to the water, and make great lamentation.  A courtier, who meets them, convinces them of their mistake by laying his whip on each of them, who calls out in turn “Here’s one,” until twelve are counted.  The minister of Gotham preaches that men should not drink in Lent.  A man, who comes for absolution, and confesses to having been drunk in Lent, replies that fish should swim.  “Yes,” returns the priest, “but in water.”  “I cannot enjoin your prayer,” he adds, “for you cannot say your Paternoster.  It is folly to make you fast because you never get meat.  Labour hard, and get a dinner on Sunday, and I will come and dine with you.”

CHAPTER VII.

Jesters—­Court of Queen Elizabeth—­James I.—­The “Counterblasts to Tobacco”—­Puritans—­Charles II.—­Rochester—­Buckingham—­Dryden—­Butler.

Professed fools seem to have been highly appreciated in the time of Shakespeare.  They do not correspond to our modern idea of a fool, because there was intention in their actions, and yet we could not have considered them to be really sensible men.  Nor had they great talent, their gifts being generally lower than those of our professed wits.

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History of English Humour, Vol. 1 (of 2) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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