Limerick license, poetic license, in the US

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sun Nov 1 11:39:50 UTC 2009

1) The Critic [New York],  Oct. 10, 1891, no. 406, p. 179:
[p. 178] Two Theosophical Novels
[p. 179]....Lest it should be thought that the first of these two books suffers
only by comparison with the second, we would say, with Limerick license, that
if Mr. Knight's novel [Save Me From My Friends] were the only one ever written
about Theosophy, it would still be the worst.

[This may, possibly, via Limerick poetic license, be an allusion to the absurd,
nonsense verse known by 1891 as Limericks.]

2) In My Nursery, Laura Elizabeth Howe Richards (Boston: Little, Brown, and
Company, 1890) p. 28:

Hoppety hoppety ho!
Where shall the baby go?
Over dale and down,
To Limerick town,
And there shall the baby go. ...

[This almost-Limerick, lacking in meter, but having the rhyme scheme, etc., and
the possibly-interesting movement Limerickward, may suggest awareness in 1890
of Limerick-type poems]

3) Broadway Magazine [New York]
 October, 1898 v.2 no.1, p. 557:
Voluptuous Volumes: Scholarly Book Reviews by Harold Halfcalf
VIVACIOUS VERSES, by Lawrence Limerick. This is a collection of scintillating
stanzas, intended, we presume, for the eyes of children. But grown-ups can
derive singular pleasure from the perusal of some of them. This, for instance:
There was a young girl of New York,
Who never ate bacon nor pork;
When they said: "Have some ham?
She replied "Yes I am!"
Which surprised the young men of New York.
This little book of verses will probably be distributed in the schools in this

[This faux "Lawrence Limerick" appears to be a stand-in for the genre name in

4) The list archives includes other relevant and likely-relevant US "Limerick"
attestations, and more such have been found.

5) Gershon Legman guessed that the (UK) The Sporting Times aka the "Pink 'Un"
might have early Limerick citations. According to Worldcat, the Wellcome Library
page lists this serial as included in 19th century UK periodicals. Series 1: new
readerships [Gale]. Is that accurate? I don't have access to that
database. If anyone has digital access to The Pink 'Un, please consider
searching and reporting any early "Limerick" use. Thanks.

Stephen Goranson

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