“Wonderful Memory of William Lyon”

William Lyon, a strolling player, who performed at the theatre in Edinburgh, and who was excellent in the part of Gibby, the Highlander, gave a surprising instance of memory. One evening over his bottle, he wagered a crown bowl of punch, a liquor of which he was very fond, that next morning, at the rehearsal, he would repeat a Daily Advertiser from beginning to end. At the rehearsal, his opponent reminded him of his wager, imagining, as he was drunk the night before, that he must certainly have forgot it, and rallied him on his ridiculous bragging of his memory. Lyon pulled out the paper, desired him to look at it and be judge himself whether he did or did not win his wager. Notwithstanding the want of connection between the paragraphs, the variety of advertisements, and the general chaos which goes to the composition of any newspaper, he repeated it from beginning to end, without the least hesitation or mistake.

Cabinet of Curiosities, Natural, Artificial, and Historical, 1822

Oil Money


Most expensive paintings (sale prices expressed in dollars and adjusted for inflation):

  1. No. 5, 1948, Jackson Pollock: $142.7 million (2006)
  2. Woman III, Willem de Kooning: $140.2 million (2006)
  3. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, Gustav Klimt: $137.6 million (2006)
  4. Portrait of Dr. Gachet, Vincent van Gogh: $129.7 million (1990)
  5. Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre, Pierre-Auguste Renoir: $122.8 million (1990)
  6. Garçon à la pipe, Pablo Picasso: $113.4 million (2004)
  7. Irises, Vincent van Gogh: $97.5 million (1987)
  8. Dora Maar au Chat, Pablo Picasso: $97.0 million (2006)
  9. Portrait de l’artiste sans barbe, Vincent van Gogh: $90.1 million (1998)
  10. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, Gustav Klimt: $89.1 million (2006)

Japanese industrialist Ryoei Saito bought both #4 and #5 in 1990 and then announced he would have them burned during his cremation. Perhaps fortunately, he later ran into financial difficulties and was forced to sell them.

The Piasa

Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 1673, French missionary Jacques Marquette was exploring the Mississippi valley when he came upon a strange mural painted on a limestone bluff near what is now Alton, Ill.:

While Skirting some rocks, which by Their height and length inspired awe, We saw upon one of them two painted monsters which at first made Us afraid, and upon Which the boldest savages dare not Long rest their eyes. They are as large As a calf; they have Horns on their heads Like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard Like a tiger’s, a face somewhat like a man’s, a body Covered with scales, and so Long A tail that it winds all around the Body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a Fish’s tail. Green, red, and black are the three Colors composing the Picture. Moreover, these 2 monsters are so well painted that we cannot believe that any savage is their author; for good painters in France would find it difficult to reach that place Conveniently to paint them. Here is approximately The shape of these monsters, As we have faithfully Copied It.

In 1836 local settler John Russell told of a flying monster that lived in the cliffs and attacked nearby Indian villages, and the notion of wings is carried through in the reproduction above. Because the original is lost, we can’t be sure how faithful it is.

A Grim Guest

Thomas Jolley Death has a brother named Sudden Death, as the former told when he was on a professional visit to Nottingham, Eng., as a private detective. The father of the two men may yet be alive, and if so, has probably had time to reflect upon the hideous names with which he labelled his two baby boys to go through the world. The real name of the family is D’Ath.

Bizarre Notes & Queries, April 1886