The Georgian Joke Book


Covent Garden Jester

Covent Garden Jester

Titter ye not. Why not? Well the truth is, most Georgian jokes are not that funny. Some of them are though and I had the pleasure of giggling at them when sitting at my desk during a recent research trip to the British Library. I was hunting for actresses and actors featured in the journals and newspapers of the eighteenth century, when I stumbled upon the well known ‘jester’ series of publications. They were printed throughout the latter half of the eighteenth century under various titles, mainly rehashing older material, but also adding fresh jokes, puns, sayings and anecdotes to each volume. The anecdotes concerning certain entertainers were informative and mildly amusing, the jokes were sometimes funny as previously mentioned, but more often they were not; the original context lost somewhere between 1780 and the signpost for 2012. Well, lost on me anyway. Were they full of innuendo? Of course they were and the ooh-err bawdiness translates well for a twenty-first century audience. I feel no shame in repeating them here: 

Husbands, Wives and Cuckolds


A Plumber’s Bill, as delivered.
Right Hon. Lady Craven, to Priest Shrubb. For work done in your Ladyship’s Water-Closet.
To mending your ladyship’s cistern – £0.2.0
To a man to go to the bottom – £0.7.0
Easing your Ladyship’s waste pipe – £0.2.6
To a cock put in the front – £0.5.3
To a double ball ditto – £0.7.6
Right Hon. Lord Craven, Dr.  
To mending your lordship’s cock – £0.5.3
To lengthening ditto a snout – £0.7.6
Canvas and pitch to close the hole – £0.5.6















A butcher in Smithfield, lying at the point of death, said to his wife, my dear, I am not long for this world, therefore advise you to marry our man John ; he’s a lusty strong fellow, fit for your business. – “O dear, husband,” said she, “never let that trouble you, for John and I have agreed upon that matter already.”


Some men and their wives, who all lived on the same side of a street, being merry-making at a neighbours house said one of the husbands, it’s reported that all the men in our row are cuckolds, but one. Soon after, his wife being thoughtful, What makes you sad, my dear? Said he, I hope you are not offended at what I said. “No,” said she, “I’m only considering who that one can be.”

Wives, Sisters and Tottie..

A gentleman who was lately married telling Foote that he had been that morning laying out three thousand pounds in jewels for his dear wife—Foot replied, I see you are no hypocrite, for she is really and truly your Dear Wife.


As two gentlemen were standing together in the Strand, a young lady passed them, when one of them said to the other, That is one of the handsomest women I ever saw. The lady over hearing him, replied, Sir, I wish I could return the compliment; So you might, Madam, replied, the gentleman, and tell a confounded lie as I did.


Two gentlemen, strangers to each other, were sitting together at the Haymarket Theatre, when one of them asked the other, if he ever saw a more ordinary woman in his life than the lady who sat about five from themSir, replied the other, that it my wife !—I beg your pardon, Sir, said the gentleman who made the remark; it is not that lady I mean, ’tis the one who sits next to her. Sir, said the latter, That is my sister.


A woman prosecuted a gentleman for a rape: upon trial the Judge asked her, if she made resistance? I cried out, and please your Lordship, said the woman. Ay, said one of the witnesses, but that was nine months after.


When a certain celebrated female historian; who has shone more by her literary talents than her prudence,. published what she called her Loose Thoughts — Foote said, It was a very improper title for a woman of any modesty to prefix to her work.—Garrick happened to be in company, and replied, He was of a different opinion ; for the sooner a woman gets rid of such thoughts, the better…



In the reign of King Charles the second, a clergyman remarkable for his wit was speaking of the terrible fire of London, which happened in the year 1666; a gentleman in company asked him to what particular sin he could impute such a token of the Almighty’s displeasure. The divine answered, that it could not be for the sin of lewdness and debauchery, for then the fire would have begun in Covent Garden; nor could it be for the sin of lying and perjury, for then it would have begun at Westminster hall ; nor could it be for the sin of swearing and blasphemy, for then it would have begun at Billingsgate; he therefore concluded, that it must be for the sin of gluttony ; for it began in Pudding Lane, and ended in Pye Corner. 


An Englishman, Irishman and…

A person asked an Irishman why he wore his stockings the wrong side outwards? Who answered, because there was a hole on the other side.


An Englishman. and an Irishman were sometime ago condemned for piracy, and generally in these cases they are executed as near the water side as possible. Upon the day of execution, the tide being remarkably high, by some accident or other, as the Englishman was turned off, the rope slipped, and being a good, swimmer, he made his way to the other side the river and got off. The Irishman observing what had happened, desired the executioner to tie his rope fast ; For, said he, if it should chance to slip, I shall certainly lose my life, for I cannot swim.


An Englishman and a Welchman disputing in whose country was the best living: said Taffy, there is such noble housekeeping in Wales, that I have known above a dozen cooks employed at one wedding dinner: Ay, answered the Englishman, that was because every man toasted his own cheese.



And finally, some toilet humour…

Mr. Quin happening to call at a friend’s house which was not quite finished near Bath, found only the servant at home; however, Quin being rather hard drove in a certain way, told the fellow to shew him the little house; “Yes, Sir, said the servant, the house is small, but it is very compact.”—”I mean, said Quin, your necessary house.” “I believe, Sir, said the servant, “when my master comes down he will find it very necessary, and much preferable to lodgings,” Quin was almost out of all patience and exclaimed, “‘Tis your conveniency I mean, Sir.” “Yes, Sir, I can assure you, Sir, as I said before, tho’ small, it is very convenient.” You rascal, you, says Quin, ‘Tis your s–t-house I mean, and if you don’t shew it me directly, I shall foul my breeches, Oh lord, Sir, said the servant, that is not built yet.

MJ Holman @mishjholman

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