Some lesser known facts about books and bookmen. Extracted from The Howlers Omnibus (1928)

Pope poet


Alexander Pope

Pope wrote principally in heroic cutlets. (pic above)


Robert Burns

Robert Burns, in 1787, became literally a lion.


John Wycliffe

John Wycliffe was the editor of the Morning Star, but afterwards became a reformer.


Francis Bacon

Bacon was the man who thought he wrote Shakespeare.


Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tennyson, the greatest prose writer who ever lived, wrote the “Iliad” and “Paradise Lost”.


George Bernard Shaw

Mr George Bernard Shaw is the famous actor and comedian.


Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott wrote “ Quentin Durwood, “ Ivanhoe” and “Emulsion “.


Sir Walter Scott

Walter Scott was imprisoned in the Tower because he could not pay his debts. While there he wrote the Waverley Novels, but he was afterwards burnt alive. He also brought tobacco from Virginia, so called after his beloved mistress Queen Elizabeth. Continue reading

Jokes Cracked by Lord Aberdeen


This book has honourable mention in ‘Bizarre Books’ by the wacky duo Lake and Ash. It is in the section ‘Against all odds / Titles to make the heart sink.’ I just bought a decent variant copy of the 1929 first edition for £15 from an Oxfam shop (via Amazon) and the cheapest now available is £30 with one chancer asking £125. Len of the Chines, normally angrily overpriced, wants £45 for his decentish copy with the gilt thistle on the cover. Other titles in this section of ‘Bizarre Books’ include ‘The Wit of Prince Philip’ ‘Songs of a Chartered Accountant’ ‘Not Worth Reading’ ‘The Bright Side of Prison Life’ ‘A Holiday with a Hegelian’ ‘Along Wit’s Trail: The Humor and Wisdom of Ronald Reagan’ and ‘Cameos of Vegetarian Literature’. This might just be a growth area in collecting…

Here for the moment is one of Lord Aberdeen’s jokes entitled ‘Another Irish one’:

An Irish Census recorder on enquiring – ‘How many males in this house?’ received the reply – ‘Three of course; breakfast, lunch and tea!’

As the foreword notes ‘ In the realm of wit and humour, Lord Aberdeen is a name to conjure with… the publishers have great pleasure in introducing to the public a few of his gems.’ There is a ribtickling short ghost joke where a man shoots off his foot thinking it is a ghostly hand, a girl from Aberdeen who kept quiet about where she was from because her ‘mither’ told her ‘Noo Annie be sure and dinna boast.’ There’s even a good book joke that would probably have them speechless on the Edinbugh fringe:

‘A certain man had built and furnished a new house and was showing it to Cardinal Cullen who was accompanied by Father Healy. In one of the rooms, on a shelf above the writing table, there stood a neat row of books. Pointing to them the owner said “These, your Eminence, are my friends.” But Father Healy chimed in (wait for it) “Yes, and he has treated them like friends; he has never cut them.’

ROTFL as they used to say. Et tu Healy etc.,

The fatal effects of reading Dutch


Dutch poem typescript 001Found in a copy of Montague Summers’ Restoration Theatre is this typed copy of a poem entitled ‘The Dutch Mail or The Tragic Fate of Examiner 3X22.’ It is dated February 27th 1918 and signed E. de K, which suggests that it is an original composition. The corrections in black ink bear this out. It is most likely to have been sent to a magazine editor.


It tells the story of a polyglot censor named Examiner 3X22 whose job it was to censor outgoing mail during the First World War. Though happy to be dealing with mail written in many languages, he is forced to admit one day that he couldn’t read Dutch. He quickly remedies this defect until he becomes so fluent in the language that he is mistaken for a native. Unfortunately, his mastery means that he is now forced to censor ‘stacks’ of letters from the Dutch East Indies. The cumulative effect on the censor of dealing with these ‘verbose effusions vapid’ results in a rapid decline. One day he faints from the effort, falls from his chair onto the floor where he rapidly expires.


This is obviously a squib, possibly ridiculing both the Dutch language and in particular employees of the Dutch East Indies Company whose language it was . On the surface Examiner 3X22 seems to be working for the Netherlands government, but this cannot be so if he is unable to read Dutch. On the other hand, if he is working in Britain, how is it that so much mail from the Dutch East Indies is being censored in Britain? A possible alternative to either of these scenarios is that the censor is working in South Africa, which during the First World War was a self-governing dominion of the British Empire and as such contributed troops to the war effort in Europe and suffered many losses. The writer’s surname de Koch/ Koch/Klerk was a common enough one in South Africa, which had been colonised by the Dutch as well as the British. In addition, an online postal history site records a letter sent to Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indies (now known as Indonesia), being censored in 1915.


The squib may have political undertones. After all, the Boer War was a recent memory for both the defeated Boers and those of British heritage, though the exact nature of the tensions in South Africa that prompted the satire remain to be discovered. We welcome comments from the Jottosphere on this issue. [R.M.Healey]


More good Edwardian jokes

Edwardian joke book third page 001For some reason, puns ( usually by Tim Vine ) often win the best gag contest at the Edinburgh Fringe. We at Jot 101 are at a loss to understand why this should be so. Truly witty people hardly ever use puns to get a laugh. In the following third helping of samples from a small bound collection of cuttings collected by a comedian around the year 1900 there are no puns, just witty, often sardonic, or even zany,  asides. They are all the better for that.


Druggist: “ Yes, madam, I remember very well your buying a stamp.”

Lady: “ Well I put it on a very important letter and posted it. It has not been received. I want you to understand that I shall buy my stamps elsewhere if this occurs again.”


“ Excuse me, but it seems to me that I must have met you before. Are you not a brother or near relative of Major Jones ?”

“ No, I am Major Jones himself.”

“ Ah, indeed ! That explains the remarkable resemblance “.


A French lady once said to her husband, who was much given to gesticulation, “ Don’t talk so much, dear, you’ll tire your arms.”


Mr Howland: “I tell you, Maria, you’re worrying over nothing. I can stop smoking any time I want to.”

Mrs Howland: “Well, then, stop now.”

Mr Howland: “But I don’t want to now.” Continue reading

More gags from an Edwardian joke book

Edwardian joke book pages 001In an earlier Jot we selected at random some pretty witty items from an Edwardian  comic’s gag book composed of clippings from newspapers and magazines. Here are some more. Astonishingly, most sound so very modern in their style of humour. None of them contain puns.


He—Last night I dreamt that I died. What do you suppose waked me up ?

She—The heat probably.


IN THE CHEMICAL LABORATORY.—“ Professor, what has become of Tom Appleton ?. Wasn’t he studying with the class last year?”

“ Ah, yes. Appleton—poor fellow! A fine student, but absent-minded in the use of chemicals—very. That discolouration on the ceiling—notice it?”


“That’s him.”

  Continue reading

O Rare Amanda !

Amanda Ros calling card 001

In June 1973 Bevis Hillier, connoisseur of English porcelain and friend and biographer of John Betjeman, wrote a piece in The Times concerning an archive of manuscripts, published books, letters and photographs  of Larne’s best loved citizen and arguably Britain’s worst writer, Amanda McKittrick Ros, that had come onto the market. The collection, assembled over many years, mainly from members of her family, by journalist and founding member of the British Communist Party, Eric Mercer, had been sold by him to the bookseller A.F.Wallis just before he died in 1972 aged 89, and Wallis now wanted  £4,500 for it.

Forty-six years ago this was a tidy sum for a writer mainly known for her comedy value. Back in the 1920s, when smart Oxford undergraduates like Betjeman and Waugh took part in competitions to discover who could read out passages from Ros’s novels and poetry without laughing, such an archive might have fetched more. But even in 1973, years after her star had faded somewhat, £4,500 for such a unique collection seems a bargain today,  especially when we learn that the MS of Enemies of Promise by the minor writer Cyril Connolly was up for sale at the same time for a cool £2,000 !

Few would dispute that Ros has ever been truly fashionable, but her books, all of which were originally privately printed, are still collected and first editions, especially of her verse, are hard to come by, mainly because of their small print-runs. But no publisher in 2019 would dare bring out large editions of her books partly because she is still not well known enough and partly because we have become rather po-faced about ridiculing people who evidently had no talent, whether as writers or marathon runners.  Continue reading

A Victorian joke book

victorian joke book index page 001Found at Jot HQ the other day a small scrapbook containing pasted in humorous cuttings from magazines and newspapers that once belonged to the late prankster Jeremy Beadle (1948 – 2008). The date 1897 on the cover was very likely the year in which the compilation was begun, since many of the jokes and anecdotes are clearly of a later date. The high quality of much of the material strongly suggests that the compiler may have been a comedian of some sophistication who was prepared to devote a long period in search of the best gags.


The jokes are classified into several groups thus:

Ugly faces, dress-makers and milliners, photographers, tailors, bicycles, tramps and beggars, servant-girls, Irishmen, small boys, babies, mean people, love and love-making, mashers, teachers and scholars, country bumpkins, cats, dogs and other animals, singers and musicians, weddings and parties, married men & women, soldiers and the army, ‘tall’ stories, railways, ships & seasickness, conundrums, puns,   ‘new ‘ women, comic rhymes, watches and clocks, definitions, boosey jokes, doctors, shops and shopkeepers, bits of advice, deaf people, hotels and lodgings, actors and the stage, fat people, girls and their doings, ‘ catch ‘ jokes, football, hairdressers , churches & clergymen, mothers-in-law, prisons & prisoners, man & his doings, or unclassifiable jokes, hens and eggs, restaurant, Jews, jokes for twoperformers, swimmers, country yokels, fish tales, patriotic, sailors & ships, dentists.


Some favourites


George III wondering how the apple got into the dumpling is nothing to the small boy who, looking between two uncut leaves of a magazine, said” Mammy, how did they ever get the printing in there?” Continue reading

In Honour of John Betjeman

Betjeman parody Fermor 1 001We found this very affectionate parody of John Betjeman torn out of a magazine (possibly the London Magazine) in our voluminous archives. It is by the eminent travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor and appears to date from the fifties or sixties. Whoever tore it out obviously valued it as an item worthy of preservation, and indeed as parodies go, it is a pretty accurate imitation of the poet’s style.


Although the scansion is sometimes clunky ( or even downright bad) and the rhymes positively Byronic at times—risk it/biscuit; harmony/Abide with me—the piece is redolent of Betjeman’s inimitable , well, Betjemanisms, as it evokes a visit by bicycle to a parish church, which could be anywhere, but may possibly have been in Cornwall. As well as the expected allusions to ecclesiastical features—interiors and exteriors—and Anglican name dropping ( with the Catholic Pugin worked in)—we find the poem overloaded with evocative trade names ( Peak Frean biscuits, Ronuk polish, Raleigh and Rudge bikes, Dolcis, Lotus and Delta  shoes.


Because of his inimitable style Betjeman must be one of the most parodied of twentieth century writers. One of the best of these exercises appeared in Private Eyeduring the poet’s own lifetime, and we must assume that it was appreciated by its ‘ victim’. I learnt it off by heart and hope that I can recall it accurately:


‘ Lovely lady in the pew

Golly, what a scorcher, pheeew

What wouldn’t I give to do

Unmentionable things to you Continue reading

No Hang Ups—funny answering machine messages

ansaphone picThis is a paperback published in California and written by two American stand up comedians, John Carfi and Cliff Carle, of ‘ funny ‘ messages that could be left on answering machines. It appeared in 1983, which means that quite a few of the jokes might not be acceptable in the more PC climate of 2018.

Hi, JANE here. Before you leave your message, I just want to mention that a friend of mine who lives in New York had to go to a specialist in San Francisco for a heart transplant. He just got back today—now there’s a guy who really “ left his heart in San Francisco!”


Hello. This is JOHN’s residence. I’m out fixing my wife’s car. There’s about a hundred things wrong with it —whenever she was driving and heard a strange noise, she just turned up the radio.



Hi, this is JOHN. I’m playing golf again. I went yesterday for my first time and played with these so-called ‘ pros!’. After 18 holes, they scored in the low 70’s. You call that professional? It only took me 3 holes to score 70!




Hi, I’m at the gym lifting weights. Hey, I’m getting pretty strong! I’ve been at it only a month and already I can tear a telephone billin half! Continue reading

Having pun

Puniana title 001Tim Vine and other contemporary stand-ups who base their acts on puns might take some inspiration from nineteenth century books on the subject, such as Puniana(1866), which was edited by the Hon Hugh Rowley, who also did the illustrations. Even if we recognise that many words ( such as ‘draught’ in the medical sense) have fallen into disuse over the past 150 years and that manners and morals have likewise changed, it is astonishing how well many of these mid-Victorian puns work today. Here are a few that do:

Why are cats like unskilful surgeons ?

Because they mew till late and destroy persons.


Why are cowardly soldiers like candles?

Because when exposed to the fire they run.


What flowers are there between a lady’s nose and chin?

Two lips.


Why are books your best friends?

Because you can shut them up without giving offence.


What street in London reminds you of a tooth from which you have suffered a great deal?

Long Acre. Continue reading

Jeffrey Kwintner, Village Idiot ?

Jeffrey Kwintner Village Idiot squib 001Here is a puzzle. Found among some ephemera at Jot HQ is this six-page photocopy of a typewritten squib entitled ‘My Life and Times, by an anonymous Jeffrey Kwintner’. The piece is obviously a satire on the business dealings of the real-life Jeffrey Kwintner, a well known entrepreneur of the Swinging Sixties who with John Simons co-founded the ‘Squire Shop ‘ in King’s Road, Chelsea and a string of sixteen menswear shops called ‘Village Gate’. He ended up founding the much admired  Village Bookshop, Regent’s Street, which eventually went out of business.

The satire is written in the first person and is cast in the form of a psychedelic dream sequence, influenced partly by Dickens’ Christmas Carol. In it Kwintner leaves home for his office in King’s Road, where he has some strange encounters with a telephone caller who asks him if his name is Lucifer, a dancer with a debit book in his hand, a cashier who faints at the sight of him, and a shrouded figure who introduces himself as Jack the Jive, an alteration tailor Kwintner had once known from his early days in the fashion business, who suspects him of betraying a trade secret. Soon afterwards a mysterious telephone caller  with an oriental voice asks him if he is Mao-Tse- Cohen; then an Irish worker in his warehouse calls him a ‘ heathen Managing Director ‘ and a ‘ Decadent Capitalist Renegade’. Kwintner runs out into the street and takes refuge in a shop called Cassidy One, where he proceeds to empty the till, the assistant crying ‘ Petty cash. God save Malcolm Muggeridge and all who sail in him.’ Continue reading

The Yellow Peril ?

Anyone recall that classic episode of Father Ted in which Ted is accused of racism after he is unwittingly caught making fun of the small Chinese community on Craggy Island? Only a decade or so earlier it had been acceptable to call the Chinese ‘chinks ‘ or ‘slitty-eyed’ and remark on their skin colour and droopy moustaches. Further back still, Sax Rohmer became a best-selling author with his tales of the criminal Dr Fu Manchu and Music hall artistes made jokes about opium dens, Chinese laundries and the white slave trade.

One of these artistes was Billy Bennett, who worked the halls from 1919 until his death in 1942. One of his specialities was to recite ‘ burlesque monologues ‘ –not only on the stage but also on radio—and some of the texts of these were published in booklet form for use, presumably, to keep up morale during the early years of the Second World War. These monologues were liberally laden with double entendre and barely disguised racist slurs that would prevent them from being performed today. Continue reading

Siegfried Sassoon’s ‘The Daffodil Murderer’

WRCLIT75739Found – a rather battered copy of Siegfried Sassoon’s early book The Daffodil Murderer (1913) published under the pseudonym ‘Saul Kain.’ In decent condition it has auction records like this from Bloomsbury Book Auctions in April 2009:

[Sassoon (Siegfried)], “Saul Kain”.
The Daffodil Murderer
First edition of the author’s first book not to be privately printed, pseudonymous prefatory note by “William Butler” [the poet/publisher T.W.H.Crosland], original orange-yellow wrappers printed in red, light dust-soiling and rubbing, otherwise very good, housed in an envelope with inscription in Sydney Cockerell’s autograph: “The Daffodil Murderer by Siegfried Sassoon Very Rare”, 8vo, John Richmond Ltd, 1913.
Scarce. Sassoon’s parody of The Everlasting Mercy by John Masefield, apparently written during a moment of tedium, then sent off to Edmund Gosse who in turn forwarded it to Edward Marsh, editor of the Georgian Poetry anthologies. Masefield was as impressed by the work that he hailed the then 26-year-old Sassoon as “one of England’s most brilliant rising stars”. £150

The publisher’s name  ‘John Richmond’ was itself a pseudonym for the great contrarian T WH Crosland, whose sardonic introduction, under the name ‘William Butler’ we publish here. It is so far  unknown to any digital medium. The Everlasting Mercy, the poem parodied (with some skill) can be found here.

Preface by William Butler.

I have read ‘The Daffodil Murderer’ nineteen times. It is with our doubt the finest literature we have had since Christmas. The fact that it has won the Chantrey Prize for Poetry speaks for itself. Of course, readers of this noble poem will, after wiping their eyes, wish to know something of the personality of the author. I may say at once that he resembles Shakespeare in at least one respect: that is to say, no account of him is yet to be found in ‘Who’s Who’. It is possible that in early life he was a soldier, and fought for his country on many a bloody field; but becoming tired of the military life, he retired to the country on a meagre pension and there interested himself in the rural sights and sounds and bucolic workings of the human bosom which are so admirably portrayed for us in the present pathetic ‘chef d’oeuvre’. Continue reading

The Right and Wrong People to invite to a Christmas party

how-to-ruin-christmas-illustration-001Two extracts from The Perfect Christmas (1933) by Rose Henniker Heaton.

Right people

Cheerful People

Lots of Young People

The guest with a car

The Enterprising Girl

The Elderly Woman who can tell fortunes

The Elderly Man (if red-faced and jolly).

The Handy-Man (issue invitation early, as he is in great demand).

Anybody good with children.

The Unselfish Friend.


Wrong people

The Bone-lazy.

The Egoist.



The Greedy and the Selfish.

Mean People (who suffer tortures at Christmas).

People who always feel “out of things.”



Rubaiyat of a Rhode Island Red

rhodeislandred-web-2Found — a  handwritten poem in a reprint of Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, a parody on the theme of chickens. It probably dates from the 1920s. There are  1000s of such tribute/ parodies, many published. This appears completely unknown …

Rubaiyat of a Rhode Island Red

Awake, for morning through the roosting shed

Has stained the dusty windows gold and red;

The weary toiler of a thousand fields

Will soon be climbing from his downy bed!

Awake! The silver buckets of the day

Are clanking and the corn is on the way – 

The early worm creeps but a laggard inch,

And lo! The bird espies her prey.

‘Neath that inverted box they call a coop 

There sits the broody with her little troop:

For them what fortune calls – the plucking shed,

The Palace – or the haying test – or Roup?

(The Palace = a famous poultry show – Roup = a disease) Continue reading

In Honour of Mr. John Betjeman – Patrick Leigh Fermor

john-betjeman-statueFound- in a copy of Nip in the Air (John Murray 1974)  a book of poems by John Betjeman this affectionate parody by the esteemed travel writer Patrick (‘Paddy’) Leigh Fermor. It is probably from a magazine (pp 379-380), possibly The London Magazine but is not archived anywhere online. It is probably from the 1970s. It deserves a place in a completist Betjeman collection and in any future collection of Fermor’s complete oeuvre.

In Honour of Mr. John Betjeman – Patrick Leigh Fermor

Eagle-borne spread of the Authorised Version,

Beadles and bell ropes, pulpits and pews,

Sandwiches spread for a new excursion

And patum peperium under the yews!


Erastian peal of Established Church-bells!

(Cuckoo-chimes in Cistercian towers)

Bugloss and briny border our search. Bells

Toll the quarters and toll the hours.


Unscrew the thermos. Some village Hampden

Swells the sward. Fill the plastic cup

For toast to Brandon, to Scott and to Camden,

To dripstone and dogtooth, with bottoms up! Continue reading

Twelve Miles from a Lemon

img_1366-624x380Found in a bound volume of The Idler Magazine (Chatto & Windus, 1892. Volume 1, February to July. pp 231 – 232) this piece by regular contributor Robert Barr. The Idler was edited by Barr with  Jerome K Jerome. It ran from 1892-1911. This piece was found in the always interesting section ‘The Idler’s Club’, fairly heavy on the whimsy but never unamusing– see an earlier jot  where, among other things, Barry Pain proposed that ‘..amateur dramatics would be much improved if performed in total darkness and thus they would also be able to avoid paying a licence fee…’ This piece by Robert Barr has a curiously modern feel about it (if you substitute the internet for the telegram) and the idea of being 12 miles from a lemon echoes the current city dweller’s fear of being more than ‘four miles from a latte..’

Some years ago, somebody* wrote a book entitled ‘Twelve Miles from a Lemon’. I never read the the volume, and so do not know whether the writer had to tramp  twelve miles to get the seductive lemon toddy, which cheers and afterwards inebriates, or the harmless lemon squash, which neither cheers nor inebriates. I think there are times when most people would like to get twelve miles away from everything – including themselves. I tried to put a number of miles between me and a telegraph instrument, and flattered myself for a time that I had succeeded. I dived into the depths of the New Forest. The New Forest is popular in summer, deserted in winter, and beautiful at any season. I found a secluded spot in the woods, and thought I was out of reach of a telegram. I wish now I had not got so far away from the instrument. The boy came on horseback with the message. It was brief, coming well within the sixpenny range, and it stated tersely that the printer was waiting for these paragraphs. The boy said calmly that there would be fifteen shillings and sixpence to pay for the delivery of that yellow slip of paper. Continue reading

J.B. Morton – ‘ of the greatest English humorists of all time’

IMG_1914The Daily Express  celebrated the 80th birthday of the humorist J.B. Morton (aka ‘Beachcomber)  on 7 June 1973 with a long article and a tribute from Spike Milligan. Chesterton had described Morton as “a huge thunderous wind of elemental and essential laughter” and Evelyn Waugh wrote that he had “the greatest comic fertility of any Englishman.” He was certainly an inspiration for the Goons and subsequently Monty Python. Spike wrote:

I have met him once, though I have been a Beachcomber addict for a million years

It was a dinner the BBC gave to launch the television version of his column.

For years, when I was young back in Australia, I had collected all his stuff and stuck it in a book. I didn’t realise I had a sense of humour-myself until a discovered this man.

I didn’t know what to expect. But when he arrived he was just like his writing. There were lots of grey people there, and they did not know what to make of him. He kept launching into fantasy world. Continue reading

Anti Coronation satire 1953

Found – a 1953 Communist Party booklet criticising the amount of money being spent on the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The figure of 20 million pounds is probably about a billion now but it may not be totally accurate. The name Beavermere is a compound of the two major Press Barons of the time-  Beaverbrook and Rothermere. The style is that of a contemporary gossip column:

Lord and Lady Beavermere will be staying at Claridge’s during Coronation week. Claridge’s will be more than usually expensive because there are so many people like Lord and Lady Beavermere competing for room. The reason why they are stopping at Claridge’s is because the Beavermeres, like the others, have let their town mansion. Living in Lord  Beavermere’s house is the Rajah of Muddlecore who is paying £1000 for the week so as to be on the Coronation route. So, despite the expensiveness of Claridge’s, the Beavermeres can afford to do themselves well. Continue reading

An Acrostic and an Alphabet

IMG_1590Found in Herbert Kynaston.  A Memoir. (Macmillan, 1912)  an acrostic for a bazaar to raise money for a home for ‘Friendless Girls’ (below). The book has the ownership signature of F.E. Balfour (1922). This is almost certainly  Ronald Edmond Balfour , who among other things, wrote a bibliography for E.M Forster’s 1934 book on Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson. In World War 2 he was something of  a hero and there is much on him at the Monuments Men site. He had a huge book collection and went to Eton and King’s College Cambridge (hence the Forster connection.) Possibly inspired by Canon Kynaston’s acrostics (and double acrostics) he wrote out an alphabet at the end of the book. It is headlined ‘Camp Alphabet from the ECC of October 10th 1872.’ This is probably the Eton Cadet Corps, who are still in existence (David Cameron was a member- hence his fondness for The Jam’s Eton Rifles.)

A was an adjutant booted and spurred,

B was a bugle incessantly heard

C was the Colonel commanding the lot

D was the dog he would fain have shot

E is for earwigs esconced in one’s shirt

F the fleas, field- mice and frogs all alert.

G was the beard who so firmly behaved

H was H. Hobbs without mirror who shaved

I was inspection of blankets and store

J the smart jackets our officers wore

Continue reading