Punch-A-Day

A daily excerpt from a a historical edition of Punch – the greatest satirical magazine in history

Christmas shopping tips

HINTS ON CHRISTMAS SHOPPING.

(By a good Old-fashioned Clown.)

Knock at a shop-door, and then lie down flat in front of it, so that the shopman, coming out, may tumble headlong over you. Then bolt into the shop, and cram into your pockets all the big things you can find, so that in trying to get out, you cannot squeeze them through the doorway. For instance, if it be a watchmaker’s, clap an eight-day kitchen clock and a barometer or two, let us say, in your right pocket, and a brass warming-pan, or some such little article of jewellery (as you will take care to call it) in your left one; taking pains, of course, to let the handle stick well out of it. If it be a butcher’s, pouch a leg of beef and half a sheep or so, and be sure not to forget to bring a yard or two of sausages trailing on the ground behind you. Then, if you can’t squeeze through the doorway, the simplest plan will be to jump clean through the shop-front, and in doing this take care to smash as many panes of glass as you are able, crying out, of course, that you took “great pains” to do so. En passant, you will kick into the street whatever goods are in the window, and then run off as quickly as your heels can carry you.

If the shopman should pursue you, as most probably he will, make him a low bow, and say that it was really quite an accident, and that of course you mean to pay him—indeed, yes, “on your honour!” If he won’t believe you, punch him in the waistcoat, and batter him about with his barometer and warming-pan, or sausages and mutton.

Should a policeman interfere, and want to know what you are up to, catch up your red-hot poker (which you will always have about you), and hold it hidden behind your back, while you beg him to shake hands with you, because you mean to “square the job” with him. Then, when he puts his hand out, slap the poker into it, and run away as fast as your stolen goods will let you.

But after a few steps, of course you must take care to let the handle of your warming-pan get stuck between your legs, and trip you up occasionally; and you will manage that your sausages become entangled so about you that, at every second step, you are obliged to tumble down and roll along the ground, and double up into a heap, till the policeman, who keeps up the chace, comes close enough to catch you. Then you will spring up again, and, jumping on his back, you will be carried off to Bow Street, with the small boys shouting after you; or, else, if you prefer it, you may “bonnet” the policeman, and run away and hide yourself ere he can lift his hat up, to see where you are gone to.

(January 1872)

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Better prison than the workhouse

Six young girls, inmates of the Lambeth workhouse, were brought up at Union Hall, charged with breaking several squares of glass. In their defence, they complained that they had been treated worse in the workhouse than they would be in prison, and said that it was to cause their committal to the latter place they committed the mischief. What a beautiful picture of moral England this little anecdote exhibits! What must be the state of society in a country where crime is punished less severely than poverty?

Old England, bless’d and favour’d clime!

Where paupers to thy prisons run;

Where poverty’s the only crime

That angry justice frowns upon.

Today is End Poverty Day.

This is from one of the earliest issues of Punch, when it was considerably more radical than later on in the 19th century.

October 23rd, 1841

Tobacco smoke or pollution?

FUMIGATION OF THE THAMES.

Tobacco fumes are unpleasant to the majority of ladies. Nevertheless, we must protest against the prohibition of smoking abaft the funnel on board Thames steamers. The other day we were ascending the river in one of these vessels, seated in that quarter of it, when a youth, who was indulging in a Pickwick to the windward of us, was caused to transfer himself and his enjoyment forwards. No sooner had he gone away with his smoke, than our nostrils were assailed by the vilest of odours; a breath from the open mouth of a sewer on the opposite bank. This was just as we were passing the Archbishop‘s Palace at Lambeth; and we could almost have imagined that Dr. Sumner had been at work purifying the Church, and had rendered its abuses palpable to the olfactory sense; in such great indignation were our nostrils at the perfume emitted in the neighbourhood of his Grace’s premises. We wished our young friend back again with his “weed,” the fragrance of which we very much prefer to that of metropolitan tributaries to the Thames: and until that stream is somewhat dulcified, we should think that even ladies would approve of universal fumigation on board its boats.

Fair point.

(August 1853)

Cancer? Try homeopathy

HOMŒOPATHY SUPERSEDED.

Here is a gross libel or a fine satire:—

EXTRAORDINARY ANTI-SURGICAL OPERATION. THE USE OF THE KNIFE UNNECESSARY.

MR. R. L——, MEDICAL HERBALIST, 15, I—— Street, Roxburgh Terrace, begs respectfully to intimate, that as a great many Persons have been very desirous to see the Serpent which he extracted alive lately from the breast of a lady labouring under Cancer, he will be most happy to show it to those interested, any day from 10 to 12 o’clock, at his house, 15, I—— Street.

Edinburgh, 12th August, 1853.

This is either a libel upon somebody or other, glanced at under the figure of the Serpent: or it is a satire on the gullibility of the inhabitants of Edinburgh, from the News of which city it is extracted. The modern Athenians, with all their acuteness, are said to be rather susceptible subjects for quackery.

(August 1853)

Like a Whale

“VERY LIKE A WHALE.”

The first of all the royal infant males

Should take the title of the Prince of Wales;

Because ’tis clear to seaman and to lubber,

Babies and whales are both inclined to blubber.

The Prince of Wales incumbent here is Bertie, the eldest son of Queen Victoria. Currently he is inside his mother’s womb, but he will be born in November.

This coincides with the beaching of an enormous whale off the coast of Wick.

ARRIVED AT LAST.

We perceived by a paragraph copied from the “John o’Groats Journal,” that an immense Whale, upwards of seventy-six feet in length, was captured a few days since at Wick. Sir Peter Laurie and Alderman Humphrey on reading this announcement naturally concluded that the Wick referred to was our gracious Queen Wic, and rushed off to Buckingham-palace to pay their united tribute of loyalty to the long-expected Prince of Wales.

(October 23rd, 1841)

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