In 1958, Canada held a bullfight. The Lindsay, Ontario, chamber of commerce approved $12,500 to arrange the event, apparently to promote cultural enrichment, but the transplant was shaky from the start.

Four Mexican matadors showed up on July 21, but the six bulls were delayed at the Texas border and the fight was delayed for three weeks. It finally went ahead, with three matadors, on August 22 and 23, over the objections of the Ontario SPCA, though organizers promised it would be “bloodless.”

Apparently the event itself went well, but when it was over the bulls were retired anyway, and Ontario never tried bullfighting again. Matador Jorge Luis Bernal told the Peterborough Examiner, “If a bull lives, he will be too wise for anyone to fight again. He will know the ways of the bull ring.”

Bacon Testimony


Among trials of individual animals for special acts of turpitude, one of the most amusing was that of a sow and her six young ones, at Lavegny, in 1457, on a charge of their having murdered and partly eaten a child. … The sow was found guilty and condemned to death; but the pigs were acquitted on account of their youth, the bad example of their mother, and the absence of direct proof as to their having been concerned in the eating of the child.

— Robert Chambers, The Book of Days, 1864

Stress Rehearsal


In 1983, Monya Scully invented a “sound muffling cup into which an enraged person can shout to release tension while avoiding disturbing other persons.”

We don’t know much about Scully, but the patent abstract seems to tell a story: “It is a fact of life that many people in a state of anger shout, often at children, a spouse, a dog, etc. with the motivation being not to communicate, but rather mere anger. … The use of the cup may result in avoidance of embarrassment as is experienced by many after having disturbed others by shouting in a fit of anger.”

Divine Mystery

The sermons of London theologian Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872) were always received with rapt concentration. Alas, there was a reason:

  • “I suppose I must have heard him, first and last, some thirty or forty times, and never carried away one clear idea, or even the impression that he had more than the faintest conception of what he himself meant.” — Sir M.E. Grant Duff
  • “I do not remember that a word ever came from him betokening clear recognition or healthy free sympathy with anything.” — Thomas Carlyle
  • “I am never in his company without being attacked with a sort of paroxysm of mental cramp.” — Carlyle’s wife, Jane
  • “Well! All that I could make out was that today was yesterday, and this world the same as the next.” — Benjamin Jowett
  • “Frederick Maurice has philosophical powers of the highest order, but he spoils them all by torturing everything into Thirty-nine Articles.” — John Stuart Mill

“Listening to him,” wrote Aubrey de Vere, “was like eating pea soup with a fork.”

Teach Your Children Well

Safety lessons for young people, from The Book of Accidents (1831):

“Horses are very dangerous, but most useful animals. To be kicked by them is almost certain death.”

“Careless children, in spite of warning, often run across the street when carts and carriages are near, and are knocked down and run over.”

“Many children delight in teazing dogs, and without caution go too near them, by which they get miserably torn and mangled.”

(More to come.)

All Relative

The world’s largest family tree belongs to Confucius — his descendants have been carefully cataloged through 2,500 years and more than 80 generations.

This year will see the first published update since 1937. It contains more than 2 million people.

A Delicate Matter

In 1926 an English probate court accepted a will written on an empty eggshell.

A Manchester widow had found the shell on her husband’s wardrobe. On it was written, “17-1925. Mag. Everything i possess. — J. B.”

The dead man had been dieting and used to bring eggs with him to work. His initials had been J.B., the message was in his handwriting, and he had always called his wife “Mag.” The court accepted the shell as a valid will (Hodson v. Barnes, 1926).

See also Let’s Get This Over With.

One Solution

The Professor brightened up again. ‘The Emperor started the thing,’ he said. ‘He wanted to make everybody in Outland twice as rich as he was before — just to make the new Government popular. Only there wasn’t nearly enough money in the Treasury to do it. So I suggested that he might do it by doubling the value of every coin and bank-note in Outland. It’s the simplest thing possible. I wonder nobody ever thought of it before! And you never saw such universal joy. The shops are full from morning to night. Everybody’s buying everything!’

— Lewis Carroll, Sylvie and Bruno


A friend of mine, a cosey old bachelor, who has been looking into a prayer-book, says that the Matrimonial Service exactly resembles Matrimony itself, since they both begin with ‘Dearly Beloved,’ and both end with ‘Amazement.’

The Nic-Nac; or, Oracle of Knowledge, May 10, 1823