Comic Annual, 9 (1838), 1–45.
The Carnaby Correspondence
Introduction, Drollery; Letter, Spoof
Authorship, Expertise, Education, Navigation, Medical Treatment, Horticulture, Natural Philosophy, Mathematics, Astronomy, Race, Industrial Chemistry
The introduction states that unthinking persons make ludicrous estimates of the powers of authors: 'Thus, when a gentleman has once written a Book, say, on Domestic Medicine, it is popularly supposed that he is competent to compose a work on any subject whatever, from Transcendental Philosophy down to Five Minutes' Advice on the Teeth' (1). The letters relate the inadequacies of the school attended by Robert Carnaby. Carnaby's naval uncle reports the results of his inspection of the school in a letter to the boy's father. He records that on asking the boy what the variation of the compass was, he received the reply: 'Why, it's one leg shorter than t'other' (37). To the question 'what's metaphysics?' the boy replied 'Brimstone and Treacle'; the uncle observes 'there's no more physic in metaphysics than a baby might take in its pap'. When, to the question 'What's religion?' the boy returned the answer 'The colic [collect] on Sundays', the schoolmaster 'looked as pleased as if he had found the longitude'. (38) The uncle reports that when showing him the kitchen garden, the schoolmaster announced that he encouraged his pupils in 'perusing the book of Nature'. The uncle approved, but on asking his nephew what natural philosophy was, he received the reply '"Keeping rabbits" [...] which sounds likely enough, but it's not the thing by sixty degrees'. (39) In desperation, the schoolmaster asked the boy 'What is Algebra,—Al—gebra?' only to be told 'its a wild donkey all over stripes' (40), and on asking him to describe a triangle was told 'it's the thing that tingle-tangles to the big drum' (41). The uncle examined the gentlemen ushers: 'One told me that Guy Fox found out gunpowder; and another that a solar eclipse was along of the sun's standing in its own light' (43). The illustration 'Recrimination' (45) depicts two men, one black and the other wearing worn-out clothes, carrying advertising placards on poles and cocking a snook at each other; the black man's placard reads 'Try Warren', the ill-dressed man's placard reads 'Ask for the Bleaching Fluid'.
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