Coincidence

It had so happened for several days that Major Eckert had been out whenever the President came into the office. Coming in one day and finding the Major counting money at his desk, Mr. Lincoln remarked that he believed the Major never came to the office any more except when he had money to count. The Major declared that his being out when the President happened to come in was simply a coincidence, and this reminded him, the Major, of a story: ‘A certain tailor in Mansfield, Ohio, was very stylish in dress and airy in manner. Passing a shopkeeper’s door one day the shopkeeper puffed himself up, and gave a long blow expressive of the inflation of the conceited tailor, who indignantly turned and said: “I’ll learn you not to blow when I’m passing,” to which the shopkeeper instantly replied: “And I’ll teach you not to pass while I’m blowing.”‘ The President said that was very good — very like a story which he had heard of a man who was driving through the country in an open buggy, and was caught at night in a pouring shower of rain. He was hurrying forward toward shelter as fast as possible; passing a farmhouse, a man, apparently struggling with the effects of bad whisky, thrust his head out of the window and shouted loudly, ‘Hullo! hullo!’ The traveller stopped and asked what was wanted. ‘Nothing of you,’ was the reply. ‘Well, what in the d—- do you shout hullo for when people are passing?’ angrily asked the traveller. ‘Well, what in the d—- are you passing for when people are shouting hullo?’ replied the inebriate.

— T.Y. Crowell, Abraham Lincoln, 1895

Analysis

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_file_photo_of_Sigmund_Freud.jpg

A quirky old gent, name of Freud,
Was, not without reason, anneud
That his concept of Id,
And all that Id did,
Was so starkly and loosely empleud.

— Martin Fagg

“If you dream,” said the eminent Freud,
“Your Id is in doubt, or annoyed,
By neuroses complex
From suppression of sex,
So passions are best if enjoyed.”

— Russell Miller

Sigmund Freud says that one who reflects
Sees that sex has far-reaching effects,
For bottled-up urges
Come out in great surges
In directions that no-one expects.

— Peter Alexander

Said Freud: “I’ve discovered the Id.
Of all your repressions be rid.
It won’t ease the gravity
Of all the depravity,
But you’ll know why you did what you did.”

— Frank Richards

Principle

Returning from off the circuit once [Lincoln] said to Mr. Herndon: ‘Billy, I heard a good story while I was up in the country. Judge D—- was complimenting the landlord on the excellence of his beef. ‘I am surprised,’ he said, ‘that you have such good beef. You must have to kill a whole critter when you want any.’ ‘Yes,’ said the landlord, ‘we never kill less than a whole critter.’

— William Henry Herndon, Abraham Lincoln, 1889

Trade Secrets

Seems there were three lawyers and three MBAs traveling by train to a conference. At the station, the three MBAs each buy tickets and watch as the three lawyers buy only a single ticket. ‘How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?’ asks an MBA. ‘Watch and you’ll see’ answers a lawyer.

They all board the train. The MBAs take their respective seats but all three lawyers cram into a restroom and close the door behind them. Shortly after the train has departed, the conductor comes around collecting tickets. He knocks on the restroom door and says, ‘Ticket, please.’ The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes it and moves on.

The MBAs see this and agree it was quite a clever idea. So after the conference, the MBAs decide to copy the lawyers on the return trip and save some money (being clever with money and all that). When they get to the station, they buy a single ticket for the return trip. To their astonishment, the lawyers don’t buy a ticket at all. ‘How are you going to travel without a ticket?’ asks one perplexed MBA. ‘This time we can’t tell you,’ says one of the lawyers, ‘it’s a professional secret.’

When they all board the train the three MBAs cram into a restroom and the three lawyers cram into another one nearby. The train departs. Shortly afterward, one of the lawyers leaves his restroom and walks over to the restroom where the MBAs are hiding. He knocks on the door and says, ‘Ticket please.’

— Marc Galanter, Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture, 2005

Done

https://www.flickr.com/photos/130968770@N07/34266311904
Image: Flickr

A final exam had just one question: ‘Write the best possible final exam question for this course, then answer it.’

One student immediately wrote, ‘The best possible final exam question for this course is “Write the best possible final exam question for this course, then answer it.”‘

— Jan Harold Brunvand, Too Good to Be True: The Colossal Book of Urban Legends, 2011

(Presumably the answer was “Write the best possible final exam question for this course, then answer it.”)

Aplomb

Abe Lincoln’s law partner William Herndon said Lincoln told this joke “often and often”:

Well, there was a party once, not far from here, which was composed of ladies and gentlemen. A fine table was set and the people were greatly enjoying themselves. Among the crowd was one of those men who had audacity — was quick-witted, cheeky, and self-possessed — never off his guard on any occasion. After the men and women had enjoyed themselves by dancing, promenading, flirting, etc., they were told that the table was set. The man of audacity — quick-witted, self-possessed, and equal to all occasions — was put at the head of the table to carve the turkeys, chickens, and pigs. The men and women surrounded the table, and the audacious man, being chosen carver, whetted his great carving knife with the steel and got down to business and commenced carving the turkey, but he expended too much force and let a fart — a loud fart so that all the people heard it distinctly. As a matter of course it shocked all terribly. A deep silence reigned. However, the audacious man was cool and entirely self-possessed; he was curiously and keenly watched by those who knew him well, they suspecting that he would recover in the end and acquit himself with glory. The man, with a kind of sublime audacity, pulled off his coat, rolled up his sleeves, put his coat deliberately on a chair, spat on his hands, took his position at the head of the table, picked up the carving knife and whetted it again, never cracking a smile nor moving a muscle of his face. It now became a wonder in the minds of all the men and women how the fellow was to get out of his dilemma. He squared himself and said loudly and distinctly: ‘Now, by God, I’ll see if I can’t cut up this turkey without farting.’

Fair Enough

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abelincoln1846.jpeg

Lincoln used a particular logical sleight of hand, long familiar to humorists, as a means of addressing the tariff question. He told of a fellow who had come into the grocery store in New Salem and asked for a few cents’ worth of crackers. The clerk laid them out on the counter, but after just sitting for a while the fellow said, ‘I don’t want these crackers, take them, and give me a glass of cider.’ So the clerk put the crackers away and gave him the cider, which he drank and headed for the door. ‘Here, Bill!’ called out the clerk, ‘pay me for your cider.’ ‘Why,’ said Bill, ‘I gave you the crackers for it.’ ‘Well, then, pay me for the crackers.’ ‘But I hain’t had any,’ responded Bill. ‘That’s so,’ said the clerk. ‘Well, clear out! It seems to me that I’ve lost a [few cents] somehow, but I can’t make it out exactly.’

— Richard Cawardine, Lincoln’s Sense of Humor, 2017

A Private Affair

For his 2004 book Tell Me Another!, Jack Aspinwall asked members of Parliament to tell him jokes and stories. Richard Ottaway told him this:

The Duchess returned to the Manor one evening and encountered her butler in her boudoir. She looked the butler straight in the eye and said:

“James, take off my dress.” James took off her dress.

“James, take off my petticoat.” James took off her petticoat.

“James, take off my bra.” James took off her bra.

“James, take off my panties.” James took off her panties. The Duchess turned, faced her butler again and in a soft but firm voice said:

“Now then, James, never let me catch you wearing my clothes again.”

Romance at Short Notice

http://scruss.com/wal/chapter1.html

“According to the legend whispered by the retainers and villagers, no sooner did the clock strike twelve than a headless apparition was seen to move slowly across the moonlit hall.”

In 1911 English humorists Edward Verrall Lucas and George Morrow took the illustrations from a department store catalog and arranged them into “a deeply-moving human drama.”

Stewart C. Russell has put the whole thing online (PDF).

“The Sentimental Law Student”

https://www.pexels.com/photo/sky-sunny-clouds-cloudy-3768/

Writing in the Territorial Enterprise in 1863, Mark Twain claimed to have found the following letter atop Sugarloaf Peak, Nevada. It was addressed to Miss Mary Links of Virginia City from Solon Lycurgus, “law student, and notary public in and for the said County of Storey, and Territory of Nevada”:

To the loveliness to whom these presents shall come, greeting:–This is a lovely day, my own Mary; its unencumbered sunshine reminds me of your happy face, and in the imagination the same doth now appear before me. Such sights and scenes as this ever remind me, the party of the second part, of you, my Mary, the peerless party of the first part. The view from the lonely and segregated mountain peak, of this portion of what is called and known as Creation, with all and singular the hereditaments and appurtenances thereunto appertaining and belonging, is inexpressively grand and inspiring; and I gaze, and gaze, while my soul is filled with holy delight, and my heart expands to receive thy spirit-presence, as aforesaid. Above me is the glory of the sun; around him float the messenger clouds, ready alike to bless the earth with gentle rain, or visit it with lightning, and thunder, and destruction; far below the said sun and the messenger clouds aforesaid, lying prone upon the earth in the verge of the distant horizon, like the burnished shield of a giant, mine eyes behold a lake, which is described and set forth in maps as the Sink of Carson; nearer, in the great plain, I see the Desert, spread abroad like the mantle of a Colossus, glowing by turns, with the warm light of the sun, hereinbefore mentioned, or darkly shaded by the messenger clouds aforesaid; flowing at right angles with said Desert, and adjacent thereto, I see the silver and sinuous thread of the river, commonly called Carson, which winds its tortuous course through the softly tinted valley, and disappears amid the gorges of the bleak and snowy mountains — a simile of man! — leaving the pleasant valley of Peace and Virtue to wander among the dark defiles of Sin, beyond the jurisdiction of the kindly beaming sun aforesaid! And about said sun, and the said clouds, and around the said mountains, and over the plain and the river aforesaid, there floats a purple glory — a yellow mist — as airy and beautiful as the bridal veil of a princess, about to be wedded according to the rites and ceremonies pertaining to, and established by, the laws or edicts of the kingdom or principality wherein she doth reside, and whereof she hath been and doth continue to be, a lawful sovereign or subject. Ah! my Mary, it is sublime! it is lovely! I have declared and made known, and by these presents do declare and make known unto you, that the view from Sugar Loaf Peak, as hereinbefore described and set forth, is the loveliest picture with which the hand of the Creator has adorned the earth, according to the best of my knowledge and belief, so help me God.

Given under my hand, and in the spirit-presence of the bright being whose love has restored the light of hope to a soul once groping in the darkness of despair, on the day and year first above written.

(Signed) Solon Lycurgus