James Barry cut an impressive figure as a British military surgeon, working tirelessly to improve conditions for wounded soldiers around the globe. He worked with Florence Nightingale, performed the first successful cesarean section in Africa, and rose to the rank of inspector general of British military hospitals.

So when he died on July 25, 1865, the attendants were surprised to find he was a woman.

No one knows who she was, where she came from, or what led her to a career in military medicine. She’s buried in London under the alias she lived by.

See also Charley Parkhurst.

Fair Enough

A man of the name of Desjardins was tried on his own confession, for having admitted that he was an accomplice of Louvel, the assassin of the Duke de Berri. The case was clearly proved. Desjardins set up, as his defence, that he was so notorious for his falsehood, that nobody could give credit to a word he said, and produced a whole host of witnesses, his friends and relatives, who all swore to the fact with such effect, that he was declared Not Guilty.

Annual Register, 1822

Fair Enough

[Felix Malleolus] relates at large the proceedings instituted against some mosquitoes in the thirteenth century in the Electorate of Mayence, when the judge before whom they were cited granted them, on account of the minuteness of their bodies and their extreme youth, a curator and counsel, who pleaded their cause and obtained for them a piece of land to which they were banished.

— Sabine Baring-Gould, Curiosities of Olden Times, 1896

“A Christmas Pie of Ye Olden Time”

James, Earl of Lonsdale, sent a Christmas pie to King George III, which contained 9 geese, 2 tame ducks, 2 turkeys, 4 fowls, 6 pigeons, 6 wild ducks, 3 teals, 2 starlings, 12 partridges, 15 woodcocks, 2 Guinea fowls, 3 snipes, 6 plovers, 3 water-hens, 1 wild goose, 1 curlew, 46 yellow-hammers, 15 sparrows, 15 chaffinches, 2 larks, 4 thrushes, 12 fieldfares, 6 blackbirds, 20 rabbits, 1 leg of veal, half a ham, 3 bushels flour, and 2 stones of butter. It weighed 22 stones, was carried to London in a two horse wagon, and if it was not as dainty as the celebrated pie containing four-and-twenty blackbirds, which, when the pie was opened, began to sing, it was, at all events, a ‘dish to set before the king.’

Bizarre Notes & Queries, January 1886

Lex Talionis,M1

In 1386, the tribunal of Falaise sentenced a sow to be mangled and maimed in the head and forelegs, and then to be hanged, for having torn the face and arms of a child and thus caused its death. … As if to make the travesty of justice complete, the sow was dressed in man’s clothes and executed on the public square near the city-hall at an expense to the state of ten sous and ten deniers, besides a pair of gloves to the hangman.

— E.P. Evans, The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals, 1906

“Walking Blindfolded”

Dennis Hendrick, a stone mason, sometime ago, for a wager of ten guineas, walked from the Exchange in Liverpool, along Deal-street to the corner of Byrom-street; being a distance of three quarters of a mile, blindfolded, and rolling a coach wheel. On starting, there were two plasters of Burgundy pitch put on his eyes, and a handkerchief tied over them to prevent all possibility of his seeing. He started precisely at half past seven in the morning, and completed his undertaking at twenty minutes past eight, being in fifty minutes.

Curiosities for the Ingenious, 1825

Do Us Part

Unfortunate marital grave inscriptions, collected by Susan Darling Safford in Quaint Epitaphs (1895):

Sacred to the memory of Anthony Drake,
Who died for peace and quietness sake.
His wife was constantly scolding and scoffing,
So he sought repose in a twelve dollar coffin.

Here lies my wife a sad slatterned shrew
If I said I regretted her I should lie too.

Within this grave do lie
Back to back my wife and I.
When the last trump the air shall fill,
If she gets up I’ll just lie still.

Here lies the body of Obadiah Wilkinson
And Ruth, his wife.
Their warfare is accomplished.

Here lies the body of Sarah Sexton
She was a wife that never vexed one.
But I can’t say as much for the one at the next stone.


Here lies Jane Smith,
Wife of Thomas Smith, Marble Cutter.
This monument was erected by her husband as a tribute
to her memory and a specimen of his work.
Monuments of this same style are two hundred and fifty dollars.


A razor company once invited George Bernard Shaw to shave his famous beard. He responded with a postcard:


I shall never shave, for the same reason that I started a beard, and for the reason my father started his. I remember standing at his side, when I was five, while he was shaving for the last time. “Father,” I asked, “Why do you shave?” He stood there for a full minute and finally looked down at me. “Why the hell do I?” he said.