"Limerick" in 1880?

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Mon Jan 19 13:27:48 UTC 2009

Stephen's posting below seems to have a strong claim to being a pre-Beardsley "limerick."  Following up on "Limerick rhyme" as a synonym for "limerick," I find the following:

A thick, unwholesome atmosphere of smoke, oaths, and general uproar pervades the theatre, though the blue-coated guardian of the peace smiles down benignly on the proprietor of the entertainment in his much admired and encored performance, the "Limerick Rhymes."
National Police Gazette, Dec. 25, 1880, p. 3 (American Periodical Series)

It is conceivable that this article is coincidentally using the term "Limerick rhymes" for something other than the five-line verse we call a "limerick," but it is quite possible that this is an antedating.

Fred Shapiro
Associate Librarian for Collections and Access
Lillian Goldman Law Library
Yale Law Library

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Stephen Goranson [goranson at DUKE.EDU]
Sent: Monday, January 19, 2009 7:13 AM
Subject: antedating "Limerick" (rhyme) Feb. 3, 1896

As you may recall, the earliest known uses of "Limerick" stanza are from a
letter of Aubrey Beardsley c. May 1, 1896 and in Judy, or the London serio-comic
journal June 24, 1896.

Previously, I proposed that, in some uses, "come to Limerick" meant "surrender"
and that "will you come to Limerick?" meant "surrender?" and that it may not be
too great a leap of faith to see these two as likely related.

Now, Surgeon-Major John MacGregor, M.D., Indian  Medical Service, and a
published poet, signed the Preface to the following book "London: February 3,

Through the Buffer state;
a record of recent travels through Borneo, Siam and Cambodia,
John MacGregor 1896
English Book xv p., 1 l., 290 p. 8 pl., 2 port. (incl. front.) map, plan. 20 cm.
London, F.V. White and Co.

Page 283

There _was_ a low thief of Calcutta,
Who saw a man open and shut a
Rich cashbox, and said
To himself, 'I'll be dead,
If I don't steal the swag from the gudda.'1
_Limerick Rhymes_ (Oriental Edition)
Footnote 1 Gudda is Anglo-Indian slang for a gowk. Literally in Hindustani
means--a moke.

"_Limerick Rhymes_ (Oriental Edition)" does not appear in WorldCat. This
Limerick, an epigraph to a section on Calcutta "mother of thieves," and not the
only such poem in the book (see pp. 281-2), may have been written by MacGregor.

Stephen Goranson
"Jannaeus, His Brother Absalom, and Judah the Essene"

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list