Small World

Proportions of national populations who are Internet users:

  • Norway: 88 percent
  • United States: 75 percent
  • Canada: 67.8 percent
  • France: 53.7 percent
  • Spain: 43.9 percent
  • Greece: 35.5 percent
  • Peru: 25.5 percent
  • Russia: 19.5 percent
  • South Africa: 11.6 percent
  • India: 3.7 percent
  • Iraq: 0.1 percent

“Curious Will”

Among curious bequests to wives, that of John Lambeth, who died in 1791, is conspicuous for its bitterness. After declaring that ‘the strength of Sampson, the genius of Homer, the prudence of Augustus, the patience of Job, the philosophy of Socrates, the subtlety of Hannibal, the vigilence of Hermognes, would not suffice to subdue the perversity of her character,’ he bequeathed to his wife Elizabeth the sum of one shilling!

Bizarre Notes & Queries, February 1886

Gallantry Mechanized

James Boyle patented this hands-free hat-tipping device in 1896.

“The hat is detachably secured to the working parts of the device that raise the hat, completely rotate it, and deposit it correctly on the head of the wearer every time said person bows his head and then assumes an erect posture.”

There’s no record of how the ladies received it.

Representing Rats

In the ecclesiastical courts of 16th-century France, lawyer Bartholomew de Chasseneux made his name by prosecuting the local vermin (“O snails, caterpillars, and other obscene creatures, which destroy the food of our neighbours, depart hence!”).

Impressed with his argument, the authorities in Autun asked him to advocate for the rats, which they put on trial in 1510 for eating the harvest of Burgundy.

That’s a tall order for even a master lawyer, but, amazingly, Chasseneux won the day:

In his defence, Chasseneux showed that the rats had not received formal notice; and, before proceeding with the case, he obtained a decision that all the priests of the afflicted parishes should announce an adjournment, and summon the defendants to appear on a fixed day.

At the adjourned trial, he complained that the delay accorded his clients had been too short to allow of their appearing, in consequence of the roads being infested with cats. Chasseneux made an able defence, and finally obtained a second adjournment. We believe that no verdict was given.

(From Sabine Baring-Gould, Curiosities of Olden Times, 1896)

Pulp Friction

Each February, the residents of Ivrea, Italy, throw oranges at each other. On the three days preceding Shrove Tuesday, thousands of costumed “revolutionaries” battle an “aristocracy” by hurling citrus fruits. Supposedly this commemorates a droit de seigneur drama in the 12th century, but in practice it’s just a bunch of people throwing oranges.

Eight hundred miles to the west, they’re throwing tomatoes.

Help Wanted

H. Hamilton, once the proprietor of Payne’s Hill, near Cobham, Surrey, advertised for a person who was willing to become a hermit in that beautiful retreat of his. The conditions were, that he was to continue in the hermitage seven years, where he should be provided with a Bible, optical glasses, a mat for his bed, a hassock for his pillow, an hour-glass for his timepiece, water for his beverage, food from the house, but never to exchange a syllable with the servant. He was to wear a camlet robe, never to cut his beard or nails, nor ever to stray beyond the limits of the grounds. If he lived there, under all these restrictions, till the end of the term, he was to receive seven hundred guineas. But on breach of any of them, or if he quitted the place any time previous to that term, the whole was to be forfeited. One person attempted it, but a three weeks’ trial cured him.

— Robert Conger Pell, Milledulcia, 1857

Splinter Faction

Quite recently in China fifteen wooden idols were tried and condemned to decapitation for having caused the death of a man of high military rank. On complaint of the family of the deceased the viceroy residing at Fouchow ordered the culprits to be taken out of the temple and brought before the criminal court of that city, which after due process of law sentenced them to have their heads severed from their bodies and then to be thrown into a pond. The execution is reported to have taken place in the presence of a large concourse of approving spectators and ‘amid the loud execrations of the masses,’ who seem in their excitement to have ‘lost their heads’ as well as the hapless deities.

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


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