Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Wed Nov 4 17:51:20 UTC 2009

There's disappointment and perhaps discovery in the "19th Century UK
Periodicals" database (Gale).  In summary, I did not find "limerick"
associated with "rhyme" or "poem", but I did find one limerick from
1878 and a few more through 1894.

1.  Disappointment

This may be only momentary, as I did not have the time or energy last
night to go further than the searches below.  And I neglected to
check whether "limerick" will also find "limericks".

All searches with "before 1895".

limerick + sporting times = none.
limerick [alone] = 344.  I didn't examine these.
limerick + rhyme[s]/poem[s] = none.
will/won't you come up = none.
there once was + limerick = none.
there once was = 23.  See "Discoveries" below.

2.  Discoveries

8 poems, of which 6 I will certify to be limericks (actually, one is
half limerick and half a 4-line ABAB rhyme), nearly all with amusing
illustrations (some of which are signed or initialed).

1878, St. Nicholas [London], Jan. 1, p. 222; from British Library
[earliest limerick of the 8; perhaps a beta release since it uses the
same word twice]:

There once was a man with a child
Who, the neighbors said, never had smiled;
      But the father said, "See !
      Smile in this way, like me,
And then folks will know when you've smiled.

Other limericks from:

1883, St. Nicholas, Jan. 1, p. 224, from British Library - There once
was a youngster named Dcik [no, don't get excited]

1884, St. Nicholas, Aug. 1, p. 815, from British Library - There once
was a ver-y rich pig

1889, The Boy's Own Paper [London], Nov. 9, p. 96 - see below.

[date unknown], Little Wide-Awake: An Illustrated Magazine for
Children [London], p. 138, from Trustees of the National Library of
Scotland - There once was a dear little soul

1894, The New Zealand Graphic and Ladies' Journal [Auckland], July 7,
from British Library - see below.

The 1889 is the portmanteau:

There once was a funny old Sioux,
Very partial to having a chew
Of fresh Betel Nut,
And enjoyed a prime cut
Off a nicely baked Captive or two.
For he was a Cannibal bold
While he had a sound tooth in his head,
But when they wore out, I've been told,
He seemed to prefer home made Bread.

And the 1894, which amused me:

There once was a woman called Mrs.
Who said, 'I don't know what a Krs.'
      But a fellow in haste,
      Put his arm round her waist,
And quietly answered, Why, Thrs.'

3.  Future Research?

Ensure that "limerick" and "limericks" return the same set of results.
Try "limerick[s]" + Oxford.
Try "limerick" - lace, gloves, [fish]hooks, pattern, glasses, and pig-jobbers.
Look into the 344 "limerick" returns.
Any other suggestions?


At 11/1/2009 10:25 AM, Stephen Goranson wrote:
>Thanks Joel.
>We have Limericks (poems) securely named as currently defined from
>1895. We have
>1880 and 1881 US uses of "Limerick Rhymes" that may be the same poem type.
>"Limerick Rhymes" in 1896 in UK reliably is the poem type. The US uses of
>"Limerick rhymes" may have been tacked on to a plagiarized 1879 book set in
>Qxford. So, maybe start with "Limerick Rhymes."
>If you're still interested, maybe try "will/won't you come up (come up) up to
>Limerick (town)" that we have in 1898ff as a claimed Limerick composition game
>chorus and claimed years later by his son as 1880 in Oxford when the (CE)
>Bishop of Limerick got an honorary degree, supposedly chanted (though not
>necessarily with Limerick poems included, just the chorus).
>I'd try "come to Limerick" (meaning "surrender," "get with the program," etc.)
>Maybe exclude [Limerick(s)]: gloves, lace, fishhooks, tobacco.
>Maybe Limerick(s) plus "there was an old/young..." or plus Oxford.
>good luck,
>PS IIRC Charles L. Graves, the Bishop's son, eventually wrote for Pink 'Un,
>though later. Also Wilkes the owner of a NY newspaper (with 1863 poems) once
>owned Police Gazette (the 1880 Limerick source), and similar to Pink 'Un.
>Kipling was in the US when an 1895 letter from his publisher Heinemann
>mentioned Limericks....

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