“The Laird of Balnamoon and the Brock”

The laird, so Dean Ramsay had the story sent him, once riding past a high steep bank, stopped opposite a hole in it, and said, ‘John, I saw a brock [badger] gang in there.’ — ‘Did ye?’ said John; ‘wull ye haud my horse, sir?’ — ‘Certainly,’ said the laird, and away rushed John for a spade. After digging for half an hour, he came back, nigh speechless to the laird, who had regarded him musingly. ‘I canna find him, sir,’ said John. — ”Deed,’ said the laird, very coolly, ‘I wad ha’ wondered if ye had, for it’s ten years sin’ I saw him gang in there.’

— Adam White, Heads and Tales; or, Anecdotes and Stories of Quadrupeds and Other Beasts, 1870


A Country Farmer, riding to a merry Meeting on an easy Horse, drank very plentifully ’till Night came on, and his Senses fled. One of the Company resolved to pass a Joke upon him, by perswading the rest to mount him on his Horse, with his Face to the Tail, and turn the Horse loose, who knew very well the Way Home. So up they mounted him, and away went the Horse a Foot-pace, ’till the Farmer fell fast asleep. In an Hour’s Time the Horse was at Home, and presently fell a neighing. His Wife came with a Candle in her Hand and, seeing her Husband in that Condition, began to take on bitterly, and waking him, told him the Greatness of his Sin, &c. Upon which he rubs his Eyes; and, looking about, cries out in a great Passion, Puh! hold your Tongue, Woman: Nothing vexes me so much, as that the plaguy Rogues should cut my Horse’s Head off.

The Jester’s Magazine, April 1766

Palace Life

When Scogin was banished out of France, he filled his shooes full of French earth, and came into England, and went into the king’s court, and as soone as he came to the court, the king said to him: I did charge thee that thou shouldest never tread upon my ground of England. It is true, said Scogin, and no more I doe. What! traytor, said the king, whose ground is that thou standest on now? Scogin said: I stand upon the French king’s ground, and that you shall see; and first he put off the one shooe, and it was full of earth. Then said Scogin: this earth I brought out of France. Then said the king: I charge thee never to looke me more in the face.

Scoggin’s Jests, 1626


A moving Sermon being preached in a Country Church, all fell a weeping but one Man, who being ask’d, Why he did not weep with the rest? Oh! said he, I belong to another parish.

The Jester’s Magazine, November 1766

A Sidelong Glance


“Kilt Curiosity,” caricature, continental Europe, circa 1815.

Spike Milligan was wearing traditional Scottish garb when a curious onlooker asked, “So, is there anything worn under the kilt?”

“No,” he answered, “it’s all in perfect working order.”


A lady, some time back, on a visit to the British Museum, asked the person in attendance if they had a skull of Oliver Cromwell? Being answered in the negative, ‘Dear me,’ said she, ‘that’s very strange; they have one at Oxford.’

— T. Wallis, The Nic-Nac; or, Oracle of Knowledge, 1823


Several Scholars went to steal Rabbits, and by the Way they warn’d a Novice among them to make no Noise, for fear of scaring the Rabbits away. At last, he espying some, said aloud in Latin, Ecce Cuniculi multi! and with that the Rabbits ran into their Boroughs: Wherewith his Fellows offended, and chiding him for it, he said, Who the Devil would have thought the Rabbits understood Latin!

The Jester’s Magazine, 1767

“The Poet and the Boy”

The Russian Poet Lomonossow was accustomed to read his plays to a rude young peasant, whom he had taken into his service for that purpose, to judge (in imitation of Moliere) the more certainly of their theatrical effect, by their impression on an uninformed and unprejudiced mind. One evening the little Huron, while holding the light as usual, suddenly began to weep and sob, in a most piteous way, to the delight of the poet, who cried out in a transport, ‘Waste not your tears before the time, my child; the scenes, in which you will most need them, come not till the fifth act.’ — ‘Oh, no,’ replied the boy, ‘it is not for that, but I want to ***.’

— William Oxberry, ed., The Flowers of Literature, 1822

A Modest Proposal

As a teenager, John Kenneth Galbraith was romancing the daughter of a neighboring farmer when a bull entered a nearby corral and began servicing one of the cows.

“That looks like it would be fun,” Galbraith said.

The girl said, “Well … it’s your cow.”


It’s been reported that proud Soviet automakers challenged their American counterparts to a competition at the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958.

A Swiss engineer made an exhaustive comparison of a Soviet and an American car, and he favored the American.

After an awkward pause, the Soviet press reported that “in a recent international auto competition, the Russian car placed second and the American car was next to last.”