Saying: A man who will pun, will pick a pocket. Request for 1722 citation.

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon May 6 15:30:19 UTC 2013


This (these; there may be three impressions) is available in ECCO:

An epistle to Sir Richard Steele, : on his play,
call’d, The conscious lovers. By B. Victor.  London, 1722.

Someone with direct access -- such as Fred? --
might volunteer.  But if your query has not been
answered by Tuesday morning, I will be glad to
tackle it on my library visit that day.


At 5/5/2013 08:58 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole wrote:
>There is an expression about puns and pickpockets that I have been
>asked to explore, The saying has been attributed to Alexander Pope,
>Samuel Johnson, Jonathan Swift, John Dennis and others. Here are
>several versions. The final two sayings do not condemn all puns.
>A Man who will Pun, will pick a pocket.
>He that would pun, would pick a pocket.
>No Man would make a Pun that would not pick a Pocket.
>Any man who would make such an execrable pun would not scruple to pick
>my pocket.
>Sir, the man that will make such an execrable pun as that in my
>company, will pick my pocket.
>Fred, has the best citation, I think, in the YBQ, but the YBQ can only
>present a compressed excerpt.
>Perhaps some kind reader has access to a database which contains scans
>of the 1722 document described below. Some catalogs indicate that the
>document is available online but access is restricted. The document is
>An Epistle to Sir Richard Steele, on his play called The Conscious Lovers
>Below is an excerpt from a periodical in 1816 which reprints an
>anecdote about the origin of the expression above from the 1722
>document. Perhaps you will be able to compare the text below and the
>text in the scan of the 1722 epistle. If you are willing to perform
>this task please send me an email (on or off list). Thank you very
>The pun in the passage below is based on the word "drawer". In 1722
>"drawer" could be used to reference a "waiter" in a tavern.
>[ref] 1816 July, The Theatrical Inquisitor and Monthly Mirror, Volume
>9, The Collector No XXXI: 11.—Punning, Start Page 30, Quote Page 33,
>Published for the Proprietors by C. Chapple, Pall-Mall, London.
>(Google Books full view) link [/ref]
>[Begin excerpt]
>The remark that a man who will make a pun will pick a pocket, though
>frequently attributed to Swift, originated with Dennis. The
>circumstance which gave rise to the remark is thus related in a
>pamphlet written by Victor, entitled "an Epistle to Sir Richard
>Steele, on his play called The Conscious Lovers." 1722:—
>"Mr. Purcell and Mr. Congreve going into a tavern, by chance met
>Dennis, who went in with 'em. After a glass or two had passed, Mr.
>Purcell, having some private business with Mr. Congreve, wanted Dennis
>out of the room, and not knowing a more certain way than punning, (for
>you are to understand, Sir, Mr. Dennis is as much surprised at a pun
>as at a bailiff,) he proceeded after the following manner. He pulled
>the bell, and called two or three times, but no one answering, he put
>his hand under the table, and looking full at Dennis, he said, 'I
>think this table is like the tavern;'—says Dennis, with his usual
>prophane phrase, —'God's death, Sir, how is this table like the
>tavern?'—'Why,' says Mr. Purcell, 'because here's ne'er a drawer in
>"Says Dennis starting up, 'God's death, Sir, the man that will make
>such an execrable pun as that in my company, will pick my pocket;' and
>so left the room."
>[End excerpt]
>Thanks for any help you can provide,
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list