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

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon May 6 15:50:07 UTC 2013

Joel: Thank you very much for your response and your willingness to
help. You are correct that the document is available through the ECCO
database, and a list member kindly forwarded me a copy. I replied with
a message of thanks under a different subject title: "Request solved:
Saying: Puns and pickpockets - Also Contemporary Legend: Man in the

With appreciation,

Joel S. Berson wrote:
> 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.
> Joel
> 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 -

The American Dialect Society -

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