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Attic Pleasantries

THE Bishop of Belley was a great Wit, and very happy in extemporaneous effusions; but his wit bears too frequently the alloy of puns and clenches, The following are neat—

“Après leur mort, les Papes deviennent, des Papillons; les Sires des Cirons, et les Rois des Roitelets.”

For the satisfaction of those who are pleased with clenches, I transcribe the following connected and ingenious ones—

“Le Maire d’une petite ville située sur le bord du Rhône fit ce compliment a un General des Armées du Roi en Piémont.
“Monseigneur, tandis que Louis le Grand fait aller l’Empire de mal en pire, damner le Dannemarc, suer la Suede; tandis que son digne rejetton fait baver les Bavarois, rend les troupes de Zelle, sans zèle, et fait des essais aux Hessois; tandis que Luxembourg fait fleurir la France a Fleurus, met en flamme les Flamands, lie les Liegois, et fait danser la Castanaga sans castagnettes; tandis que le Turc hongre les Hongrois, fait esclaves les Esclavons, et reduit en servitude la Servie; enfin, tandis que Catinat demonte les Piémontois, que St. Ruth se rue sur les Savoyards; vous, Monseigneur, non content de faire sentir la pesanteur de vos doigts aux Vaudois; vous, faites encore la barbe aux Barbets, ce que nous oblige d’etre avec un profond respect, &c.”

Stephen Dolet was a Poet, a Printer, and a Grammarian. He had given very liberal strictures on religious matters, for which he was imprisoned; and, not having kept his promise of turning a good Catholic, he was condemned to be burnt as an Atheist, at Paris, on the third of August 1546. As he proceeded to the place of execution, he observed the people commiserate his fate; on which he made this verse—

“Non dolet ipse DOLET, sed pia turba dolet.”

The Doctor who accompanied him answered—

“Non pia turba doIet, sed dolet ipse DOLET.”

Among the many puerile amusements which Fashion has frequently sanctioned, there was one which merits to be distinguished. It was the contrivance of arranging letters and words, apparently without signification, so as to form a perfect sentence in the pronunciation. Among the most tolerable of these was the following one, chosen as the device of one who had thrown off the yoke of an unworthy mistress—

J,  A,  C,  O,  B,  I,  A,  L;

which letters, pronounced in the French language, have this compleat signification—

J’ai, assés obei à Elle.

Something similar has been lately given by the ingenious Harry Erskine, who inscribed on his Tea-Chest the following Latin words—


These, however inapplicable they may appear, when translated into our vernacular tongue, run thus—


The second person singular of the verb docere making a very neat pun of the substantive Tea-Chest.

Juan Rufo, a Spanish wit, said of a tiresome Buffoon, that he was a little leaden Bell.

Here is an instance of Cacophony: John Taylor, the Water Poet, entitles one of his volumes of poetry—

“Mad Verse, Sad Verse, Glad Verse, and Bad Verse.”


ALE, ALE-vated into an ALE-titude; for Ale, elevated into an Altitude.

Such are the miserable conceits of vulgar Wits!

Fuller, ridiculously quaint, observes of Shakespeare, that he resembled Martial. The reader is curious, perhaps, to know in what respect:—it is in the warlike nature of his name; as Shake-speare, like Martial, relates to war.

A rich grocer had retired from his shop, and had written under one of his devotional pictures, in his country seat, the Latin motto—

Respice finem.

A French wag erased the initial R and the final m, to remind him of his origin; and there very appositely remained

espice fine. (fine spices.)

It is a pleasantry perfectly characteristic of that vulgar fanatic, Hugh Peters; when, in a print prefixed to his life, he is represented in the pulpit, amidst a full congregation; while he is turning an hour-glass; near him are thefe words—“I know you are good fellows; stay, and take the other glass.”

When the French King lay in imminent danger, every corporation attended prayers daily for the benefit of his majesty’s health. It was to this custom an academician (somewhat too facetious for a serious eulogium on the king) alluded, when he said; “The merchant quits his business, to bend at the foot of the altar; the artisan leaves his work unfinished; the physician quits his patient; and the patient is all the better for it.”

It was the literary humour of a certain Mecenas, who frequently added to the lustre of his patronage the chearful steams of a good dinner, to place his guests according to the size and thickness of the books they had printed. At the head of the table, in the most honourable places, sat those who had published volumes in folio, foliissimo; next the authors in quarto; then those in octavo.—This was not a fair estimate: Blackmore would have had at that table the precedence of Gray. It is a fine remark of Gresset—

“Le Dieu du gout et du genie,
  A rarement eu la manie,
  Des honneurs de l‘ IN-FOLIO.”
The lively God of Genius and of Wit,
Rarely with FOLIO PRIDE is madly smit.

Dr. Granger supplies me with two curious puns. Hobbes was much pleased with the following epitaph, which was made for him, to be engraven on his tomb-stone:


The punning Fuller would have been delighted with this for himself—