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The Wonderful Magazine.
fashionable, another deems ridiculous.” To help the new enterprise, an incentive to emulation was proposed by the offer of two silver medals, one for the most humorous tale, and the other for the best answer to a prize enigma.
The Magazine contained a long story of enchantments, a dramatic scene full of conflicts and violence, some old bons mots, and pieces of indifferent poetry. The editor had evidently no good source to draw from, and the best pieces in the work are the following:
“ Belinda has such wondrous charms,
A copy of Verses on Mr. Day,
Who from his Landlord ran away. “ Here Day and Night conspired a sudden flight, For Day, they say, is run away by Night, Day's past and gone. Why, landlord, where's your rent? Did you not see that Day was almost spent ? Day pawned and sold, and put off what we might, Though it be ne'er so dark, Day will be light; You had one Day a tenant, and would fain Your eyes could see that Day but once again. No, landlord, no; now you may truly say (And to your cost, too,) you have lost the Day. Day is departed in a mist; I fear, For Day is broke, and yet does not appear. But how, now, landlord, what's the matter, pray ? What! you can't sleep, you long so much for Day ? Cheer up then, man; what though you've lost a sum, Do you not know that pay-day yet will come ? I will engage, do you but leave your sorrow, My life for yours, Day comes again to-morrow; And for your rent-never torment your soul, You'll quickly see Day peeping through a hole."
Births, deaths, and marriages are recorded in this Magazine, under such headings as “ The Merry Gossips,” “ The Kissing Chronicle," and “ The Undertaker's Harvest-Home,” or “ The Squallers-a tragi-comedy,” “ All for Love,” and “ Act V. Scene the Last.”
It seems to have been more easy at that time to collect wonders than witticisms—perhaps also the former were more appreciated, for the “Wonderful Magazine” was re-commenced in 1793, and went through sixty weekly numbers. It was intended to be humorous as well as marvellous, but the latter element predominated. Here we have accounts and engravings of witches, and of men remarkable for height and corpulence, for mental gifts or strange habits—a man is noticed who never took off his clothes for forty years. One of the most interesting biographies is that of Thomas Britton, known as “the musical small-coal man,” who started the first musical society, and, notwithstanding his lowly calling, had great wit and literary attainments, and was intimate with Handel, and many noblemen. Probably he would not have obtained a place in this Magazine but for the circumstances of his death. There was, it seems, one Honeyman, a blacksmith, who was a ventriloquist, and could speak with his mouth closed. He was The Wonderful Magazine.
introduced to Britton, and, by way of a joke, told him in a sepulchral voice that he should die in a few hours. Britton never recovered the shock, but died a few days afterwards in 1714.
Among the humorous pieces in this Magazine, we have :
A DREADFUL Sight.
There are a few amusing anecdotes in it, such as that about Alphonso, King of Naples. It says that he had a fool who recorded in a book the follies of the great men of the Court. The king sent a Moor in his household to the Levant to buy horses, for which he gave him ten thousand ducats, and the fool marked this as a piece of folly. Some time afterwards the king asked for the book to look over it, was surprised to find his own name, and asked why it was there. “Because,” said the jester, “you have entrusted your money to one you are never likely to see again.” “But if he does come again,” demanded the king, “and brings me the horses, what folly have I committed ?”
“ Well, if he does return," replied the fool, “I'll blot out your name and put in his.”
We also find some puns remarkable for an absurdity so extravagant as to be noteworthy. There is a string of derivations of names of places constructed in the following manner :
“When the seamen on board the ship of Christopher Columbus came in sight of San Salvador, they burst out into exuberant mirth and jollity. The lads are in a merry key,' cried the commodore. America is now the name of half the globe.
“The city of Albany was originally settled by Scotch people. When strangers on their arrival there asked how the new comers did, the answer was 'All bonny. The spelling is now a little altered but the sound is the same.
“ When the French first settled on the banks of the river St. Lawrence, they were stinted by the intendant, Monsieur Picard, to a can of spruce beer a day. The people thought this measure very scant, and were constantly exclaiming, • Can-a-day !' It would be ungenerous of any reader to require a more rational derivation of the word Canada.”
No name is more familar to us in connection with humour than that of“ Joe” (Josias) Miller. He was well known as a comedian, between 1710 and 1738, and had considerable natural talent, but was unable to read. He owes his celebrity to popular jest books having been put forward in his name soon after his death.* It was common at that time, as we have seen in the case of Scogan, for compilers to seek to give currency to their humorous collections by attributing them to some celebrated wit of the
* He was buried in Portugal Street graveyard, but was removed in 1853 on the erection of the new buildings of King's College Hospitnl.
day. To Jo Miller was attributed the humour most effective at the period in which he lived, and it has since passed as a byword for that which is broad and pointless. Sometimes it merely suggests staleness, and I have heard it said that he must have been the cleverest man in the world, for nobody ever heard a good story related that someone did not afterwards say that it was “a Jo Miller.”
A question may here be raised whether these humorous sayings, which are similar in all ages, have been handed down or re-invented over and over again. It must be admitted that the minds of men have a tendency to move in the same direction, and may have struck upon the same points in ages widely separated. In reading general literature, we constantly find the same thought suggesting itself to different writers, and I have known two people, who had no acquaintance with each other, make precisely the same joke-original in both cases. On the other hand, the rarity of genuine humour has given a permanent character to many clever sayings, and there has always been a demand for them to enliven the convivial and social intercourse of mankind. Their subtlety -the small points on which they turn-makes it difficult to remember them, but there will be always some men, who will treasure them for