Antedating of "Limerick"

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Thu Feb 14 15:41:57 UTC 2013

The OED's first use of the term "limerick" is from an 1896 letter by Aubrey Beardsley.  I have previously posted an occurrence of "Limerick Rhyme" from December 1880, and Stephen Goranson posted a November 1880 instance of the song "Won't You Come to Limerick" being associated with the now-familiar verse form.

Now I notice that the Kipling Journal, March 2003, points out an 1895 usage by Kipling of the noun "limerick" apparently meaning the verse form:

1895 Rudyard Kipling _Letter to William Heinemann_ 20 Jan. in _Letters of Rudyard Kipling_ (1990) II. 169  We'll drive you out of your mind round Brattleboro in deep mud and what Limericks I have manufactured I will disgorge. An almanac is a fearful task for the reason that there are 365-6 days in the year, as your contributors will discover. ... I am working hard but shall experimentalize on Limericks.

In a footnote to this letter, according to the _Kipling Journal_ article, the editor of the letters compilation "suggests that Heinemann had proposed an almanack of limericks to which Kipling might contribute.  No trace of this book has been found, although Kipling did write verse for an Almanac of Twelve Sports, illustrated by William Nicholson and published by Heinemann in 1898."

Fred Shapiro
YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS (Yale University Press)

The American Dialect Society -

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