[Ads-l] Joke Origin: "It is very pleasant; but it would be much better if we had good society and plenty of water" "So would Hades"

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Apr 16 16:11:53 UTC 2023

A traveler who was visiting an arid and desolate place asked a
resident for his opinion of the location. The resident was
enthusiastic, but the traveler's mordant response was hilarious:

"This is a wonderful place. All it needs is water and good society."
"That's all hell needs!"

I was asked to attempt to trace this joke. The results of my analysis
are available here:

Full article:

The earliest match I located appeared in "The Philadelphia Inquirer"
in November 1869. The newspaper reported on a lecture delivered at the
local Concert Hall by U.S. Congressman William D. Kelley who discussed
a long journey on the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific

[Begin excerpt]
Passing over the Union Pacific the engineer informed me that there had
been no rain for a long time. Coming home we had rain following us and
preceding us for fifteen hundred miles. I could see it passing before
us and laying the dust, as well as I ever saw it done by one of the
water carts on the street.

The lecturer stated that he stopped, together with the rest of the
party, at a small station on the line. While there, the Hon. Ben.
Wade, one of the party, got into conversation with the station-master,
and said to him: -- "You have a pleasant place here; it is truly
delightful?" "Yes," said the station-master, "it is very pleasant; but
it would be much better if we had good society and plenty of water."

"So would Hades," quietly remarked Mr. Wade, turning upon his heel and
walking away.
[End excerpt]

Feedback welcome and earlier citations,

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

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