While searching for something else recently, I came across a little book of humorous anecdotes published in 1805...
The Duchess of Gordon, while she was in Scotland, at holiday time, had a party of friends, who, according to old English custom, were amusing themselves with Christmas gambols, and amongst others the game of Questions and Commands. The Marquis of Huntley being asked what trade he would choose, answered:
"Making garters for ladies."
"Hah! hah!" said the bonny duchess, "I am afraid, George, you would soon be ABOVE your trade."
Sandy Wood, an eminent surgeon at Edinbourgh , was walking through the streets of that city during the time of an illumination, when he observed a boy, not above ten years of age, breaking every window he could reach, with as much industry as if he had been doing the most commendable action in the world. Enraged at this mischievous disposition, Sandy seized him by the collar, and asked him what he meant by thus destroying the honest people's windows.
"Why it’s all for the good of trade," replied the young urchin, "I am a glazier."
"All for the good of trade is it?" said Sandy, raising his cane and breaking the boy’s head. "There then, that's for the good of my trade, I am a surgeon."
Mr. T. Sheridan was saying, that if he got into parliament, he would not stand upen principles as his father had done, to the ruin of his fortunes; but would stick a bill on his forehead, with this inscription, 'To be let.'
"That's very well of you," said Mr. Sheridan, "but you may as well be explicit at once Tom, and say 'To be let unfurnished.'"
When Lord Howe commanded in America, he sent orders to a certain officer of rank to defend, at all events, a post he then occupied, The officer returned for answer that it could not be done without a reinforcement. His lordship replied that he could not spare any more troops, that the place could very easily be defended with what he already had, and if he did not choose to do it, he would appoint some other officer in his place, The officer still persisting in his objections, the general superseded him - the post was attacked and the assailants were beaten off with considerable loss. Soon afterwards the officer, who had been superseded, attended the general's levee – he told Lord Howe he had a particular favour to request – the general desired him to name it – the officer stammered out something --
"I understand you," said the gallant general, "I wave all conciderations of rank, if you think I have injured you -- name your time and place – I will be punctual." The officer bowed and retired. On the morning they met --
"You: think yourself the injured person," said his lordship, "take the first fire.”--
The officer levelled his pistol; it missed its aim. – His lordship fired his pistol in the air.--
The officer levelled his pistol; it missed its aim. – His lordship fired his pistol in the air.--
",Are you satisfied?" said he. --
"No,” said the officer, and again he aimed his weapon at the general's heart – again the general fired in the air. --
"Are you now satisfied?"
"No," -- and once more the revengeful miscreant levelled the deadly tube -- the hand of omnipotence, again, turned it aside. -- The general now walked coolly up to his antagonist --
"l always had a bad opinion of you,” said he, "and I see I was right. - Good morning to you."
Two comedians having a wager about which of them sung the best, they agreed to refer it to Kelly, who undertook to be arbitrator on this occasion. A day was accordingly agreed on, and both the parties executed to the best of their abilities before him. As soon as they had finished, he proceeded to give judgment in the following manner:
"As for you, Sir, (addressing himself to the first), you are by much the worst singer I ever heard in my life."
"Ah," said the other, exulting, "I knew I should win my wager."
"Stop, sir," says the arbitrator, "I have a word to say to you before you go, which is this; that as for you, Sir, you cannot sing at all."
A fellow being lately tried for bigamy on the Irish southern circuit, before Counsellor Calbeck, (who, being a king's counsel, travelled as one of the judges) and being convicted of the fact upon the testimony of both his wives, the judge, when proceeding to pass sentence, after lecturing the fellow pretty severely upon the heinousness of his offence, added:
"For my part, I have to regret that the law in this case deprives me of all discretion, and suffers meto go no further than merely to sentence you to transportation for seven years. Instead of which, if I had my own will, I would certainly give you a more severe fate – I would sentence you to seven years' imprisonment in the same house with your two wives, where you would feel, indeed, the just punishment due to your atrocity."
In the year 1786, a carpenter, whose name was Day, engaged to build a theatre at Sturbitch. Dr. Watson, at that time chemical professor at Cambridge, and afterwards Bishop of Landaff, objected to the erection of a play-house in a town so near the university, and opposed it with such effect as to stop Master Day’s career. On this occasion the following jeu d'esprit was written by one of the fellows of Trinity College:
"They tell us a tale, : · :
That in Askalon’s vale
Dan Jos stopt the SUN in his way:
As great is the power
Of LANDAFF, at this hour,
For he’s finished the progress of Day."
In a cause which came before the court of King's Bench , one of the witnesses, a captain of a Caernarvon ship, said that he had delivered the defendant eight thousand countesses and eleven thousand ladies. Lord Ellenborough appeared astonished; but Mr. Garrow told him they were the names for different descriptions of slates; and added,
"As to the countesses, the best of them are worth six pounds a thousand, and the ladies not so much.”
"What's that you say, madam, (replied the duke), a soldier's wife! Pray, what is your mistress? Engage the woman this instant."
It is now several years since one of the venerable inhabitants of King’s Place told the Duke of Queensbury that she had just had consigned to her from Yorkshire, a young and beautiful girl, who would suit him to a T as she was ignorant of life, unacquainted with the town, inexperienced, simple, captivating &c. &c. The duke agreed to the terms, paid down the stipulated sum, fixed upon his hour, and was introduced to this paragon of innocence and simplicity – when, to his inexpressible surprise, he recognised an old acquaintance.
"No, your grace,” replied she, "you did not, I takes more ruining than you thinks for.”
A certain doctor observing lately, that in the space of six weeks he had inoculated six thousand persons in Paris, for the cow-pox. Why then, doctor, returned Jack Bannister, you have cowed more French people in a given time, than even the bravest of our commanders.”
Mr. Pitt, soon after his resignation, was laid up with a severe fit of the gout. When he was recovered, in one of his first rides, Lord Clare meeting him, cried out –
J. P. Kemble, at a period when his fame had not reached its present height, was deeply in debt to his landlady, for rent of his apartment, in a small town in Staffordshire, and was much dunned by her for payment. While ruminating in his bed; on the means of procuring a dinner, he overheard a physician prescribing to his landlord, who lay very ill in the room below him, and to whom quietness was particularly recommended. Mr. Kemble instantly went out and borrowed a top, with which he returned, and began to spin it with great violence in his apartment. The hostess called to him repeatedly to desist, but he, took no notice of her entreaties, till she came upstairs, and explained the necessity for silence, as the doctor had ordered it. John Philip told her that his doctor had prescribed the exercise of the top to him for rheumatism; and, as his health was as precious as her husband’s, he could not give it up. The dame at length insisted that he should either desist, or leave the house.
And again he made his plaything hop about the room, and made such a noise, that the old woman, in a passion, ordered him out of her house, pay or not pay:- an order he felt no difficulty in obeying.
Mr. Corri, the musics seller, became bankrupt in Edinburgh, and having been thrown into prison, he was liberated by the humanity of the law of that country, which allows an insolvent debtor, who has not acted fraudulently, to be released, on his giving "...his creditors all his property on oath. This is done by an action against the creditors called cessio bonorum, in the course of which the bankrupt must satisfy the Court respecting his losses etc. Mr. Corri’s Counsel, Mr. Robert Sinclair, after enumerating a variety of losses from the theatre, a tea-garden &c. added; "There is one article,my Lords, which I shall read to you from Mr. Corri’s own statement - Item, I have had forty-seven lawsuits, all of which I lost, except one, and that cost me £3. 17s. 4d. for the winning of it!”
Colonel Thornton once asked his coachman, if he had any objection to go abroad with him? "To any place, that was ever created,” said the fellow very eagerly."Would you drive me to hell?" said the Colonel.
"That I would,” answered the fellow, "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.”
Signora Storace, being at Oxford during the Assizes, and seeing the sheriff, who was a very handfome young gentleman, attending the judge, who was an old man; a gentleman standing by, asked her which she liked beft, the judge or the sheriff? The lady told him the sheriff."Why so?” said the gentleman.
"Because,” answered she, "though I love judgment well, I love executiou better.”
A day or two after the performance of Mr. Sheridan's School for Scandal, the author, conversing with a friend who was present at the performance, on the manner it was received, asked hirn how Mr.
"For," added he, "I hear he was in a side box."
"He was," replied his friend, "and he looked exactly like the ancestors of Charles in the picture-scene, – he never stirred a muscle, nor gave the least indication of a laugh from beginning to end."
"No," replied Sheridan, "that was devilish ungrateful of him though, for he had a tragedy come out last week, and curse me if I did not laugh the whole time of its representation."
Charles Fox, upon seeing hung at a lady’s watch the picture of her deceased husband, who, it was believed, had hastened his end by intemperance in connubial joys, said:
"It was barbarous in her to hang him in chains so near the place of execution."
Miss S--, a dashing Cyprian, in dancing at a masquerade at the Opera House, happened to trip, and fell flat on her back; Lord Sandwich, who was in a domino, and near her, stooping to pick her up, said:
"Never mind it, my pretty dear, practice makes perfect."
Some few years ago, in the course of an important debate in the House of Commons, Mr. Erskine rose to speak, out of the order that had previously been settled by the members of opposition. As soon as he had uttered a few sentences, he found his mistake, but as he was on his legs, go on he must. He hackered and stammered for five minutes, when finding himself completely gravelled, he sat down; and being really, or affecting to be, ill, exclaimed with Regan in the play:
"Sick! sick! oh, sick!"
"Sick!" said Mr. Hare, who sat next him; "Sick! never mind that, I have been sick ever since you began."
During the time that martial law was în force in Ireland, and the people were prohibited from having fire-arms in their possession, fome mischievous varlets gave information that a Mr. Scanton of Dublin, had three mortars in his house, A magistrate, with a party of Dragoons in his train, surrounded the house, and demanded in the king's name, that the mortars should be delivered to him. Mr. Scanton, who is a respectable apothecary, immediately produced them; adding, that as they were useless without the pestles, these also were at His Majesty's service.
Fawcet, who has chambers in the Temple, having called a ticket-porter to carry a message, asked his name; he said it was Russel.
"And pray," said the comedian, 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 pretty much alike, but there is a
damned deal of difference between our coats."
"How could ye disgrace the corps, by turning a play-actor?"
Mr. Bensley replied, that he by no means considered it in that light; that, on the
contrary, a respectable player, who behaved with propriety, was looked upon in the
best manner, and kept the company of the first people.
"And what, maun," said the other, "do you get by this business ofyours?"
"I now," answered Mr. B. "get about a thousand a year."
"A thousand a year!" exclaimed Saunders, astonished; have you any vacancies in your corps."
A fellow being indicted at the commission of Oyer and Terminer, for having been somewhat too rude to a young woman, said in his defence, that the prosecutrix had frequently come into his garden to steal beans, and that he at length told her, if ever she came again, she should not return without a green gown. This he proved by two witnesses, and was acquitted. As he was going out of court, Mr. Jekyll called out to him:
"Indeed young man, you have taken a very good method to save your bacon, but you took a very bad one to save your beans."
A gentleman of the name of Vesey, who is a constant visitor at Margate, was remarkably fond of picturesque prospects, and knew every fine situatión in that country. Having in one of his excursions quitted his carriage, and riding his servant’s horse, a gentleman, very well mounted, joined company with him, and Vesey, finding him an intelligent man, told him the object of his search.
"Why then," says the other, "at the bottom of this lane is the finest view in the kingdom."
"Really!"says Vesey, "let us ride and see it."
When they came near there, Vesey enquired for the prospect.
"Here it is," said the gentleman, clapping a pistol to his breast, "your money, sir – is not it a very fine prospect?”
"Yes," replied Vesey, "but rather a dear one."
He was however obliged to deliver fifty guineas, and a fine gold watch, and in consequence of this adventure, is ever since denominated Prospect Vesey.
The Count D'Artois, when about nine years of age, offered to lay a wager with his elder brother, then the Dauphin, that he would wear his hat in the presence of his grandfather, Louis XV. The Dauphin said, that as this was a privilege with which no person was indulged, and he would venture to lay an hundred Louis d’ors that he would not dare to put on his chapeau in the royal presence. The princes agreeing, he walk ed in the king's apartment, and fixing his hat over his left eye, and putting his arms akimbo like a military maçaroni, "Papa," says he, "n'ai-je par l'air guerrier? Papa, have not I a martial look?” The old monarch, pleased at the sprightliness of the child, and forgetting the court etiquette, tenderly embraced him, and the count demanded from his brother payment of the Wager.