An account of the origin of the universe explains how such pagan deities as 'Night', 'Day', and 'Nox' created the earth and heavenly bodies. They 'kneaded and rolled' the matter of the universe into balls and thus made the earth and heavenly bodies 'into which they inspired a quantity of electric fluid which set them spinning'. Adds that they made the sun 'out of an enormous carbuncle', the moon out of silver, and some of the stars out of diamonds. Notes that during the creation of the earth 'several subaltern divinities were appointed to various employments in the administration of mundane affairs' such as the oceans, winds and aurorae. (20)
Argues that men's and women's bodies have been formed for particular practices: believes the 'hand of man is formed' to undertake such tasks as guiding the plough while the 'delicate fingers of woman are calculated for the dexterities of the sempstress'. Contends that the 'constitution of the universe' is such that shirt-buttons come off and that men are not endowed with the physiology or temperament for sewing or the 'economy of the kitchen'. Notes that 'owing to its physiological relations to the external world, the nervous system of the infant is peculiarly susceptible to irritation from the application of moisture to the skin', which makes the infant scream. Contrasts the aggressive approach taken by men to this problem with the tender approach taken by women.
Droll responses to claims regarding the composition of various organic substances. For example, hopes that, since there is carbon in cabbages and 'albumen [...] is identical with the gluten of plants', hedges will one day 'hatch chickens'. Having explained how the oxygen and carbon in the human body produce breath and animal heat, asks why human breath has not been used to 'light the metropolis'.
Engineering, Military Technology, Gender, Domestic Economy
Describes how Mrs Snooks, a laundress, unblocked a chimney in her washhouse. This relatively trivial domestic operation is treated as if it were a great engineering problem with Mrs Snooks earning the appellation 'engineer-in-chief'.
Description of the bun in absurdly technical language. For example, reports that 'naturalists having occasionally [...] observed a sort of ossification resembling a currant upon the surface of the bun, were led to undertake a mining speculation, for the discovery of any of these curiosities which might by chance be concealed in the bowels'. Adds that the mathematical shapes described by the outer surface of the bun would puzzle EuclidEuclid
(fl. 295 BC)
DSB CloseView the register entry >>.
Gives miscellaneous medical advice. For example, suggests that a visit to the workhouse will transfer a head-ache to the heart, that a large appetite can be removed by calculating one's outstanding bills and taxes, and that a dry skin condition can be remedied by 'running a mile in a great-coat'.
Considers phrenology to be a subject 'upon which the opinions of scientific men have always been so unanimous, and upon which so little has been said, either by the lecturer or the disputant'. Seeks to reduce this 'much-neglected branch of science' to a 'few natural elements, which may always be relied upon by the student'. Explains the nature of fifteen faculties including 'Adhesiveness', a faculty 'possessed in a strong degree by a criminal who has told a lie, and has come to the resolution of sticking to it', and 'Wit or mirthfulness', a faculty which 'disposes the mind to view objects and events in a ludicrous light', and is more fully developed in Punch than it was in Richard B SheridanSheridan, Richard Brinsley
ODNB CloseView the register entry >>.
Medical Treatment, Societies, Education, Surgery, Gender
In his story of Minerva, Mr Punch claims that Vulcan 'officiated as surgeon, and performed craniotomy very cleverly with a hatchet' on Minerva's head. Jupiter, he adds, gave Minerva a 'patent for life-pills which enabled her to prolong human existence to any term' (130). Notes that 'the young ladies who take notes at the Royal InstitutionRoyal Institution of Great Britain
CloseView the register entry >> may consider themselves as her peculiar pets, as also may all geological and botanical beauties'. Ponders the claim that Minerva 'presides over mechanics' institutes, literary and scientific associations, and particularly over the Grand National Association for the Advancement of Science' (an allusion to the British Association for the Advancement of ScienceBritish Association for the Advancement of Science
CloseView the register entry >>). (131)
Announces the opening of an 'Academy for the instruction of youth in the art of insanity'. Adds that it will enable young criminals to 'escape punishment', pickpockets to 'become monomaniacs pro tempore', and to enable others to 'remove all impediments' to legacies.
Writing from 'Over the White Bear, Piccadilly', 'The Comet' announces that it has been 'a thousand years coming fifty millions of miles' to give British artists a chance to introduce it into cartoons. Thinks John F W HerschelHerschel, Sir John Frederick William
ODNB CloseView the register entry >> 'ought to have known I was on my way'.
Punch, 4 (1843), 152.
Grand Invention! India in Two Hours!!—Punch's Aerial Courier the Gull!!
Details 'Punch's Aerial Courier', an invention which it believes will 'henceforth be the sole means of communication from one country to another, however distant'. Claims that the 'suspensory and propelling power is obtained by the union of Steam and PunchPunch
Directory CloseView the register entry >>'. The illustration shows the invention in plan-view. The invention resembles an aerial steamship with 'numbers of Punch' forming the sails, propellers built from 'fantail revolvers', and ballast consisting of the 'back stock' of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful KnowledgeSociety for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge
CloseView the register entry >>. Notes that 'Centrifugal Railways and Inclined Planes' will be erected for the 'flabbergasted' travellers.
Drawing on the law of refraction of light the notes state that a 'brilliant sally from an encephalon of a rare wit, striking upon the denser medium of the thick skull of a blockhead, becomes refracted; the angle of refraction being equal, &c'. This is supposed to prove the adage, 'in at one ear and out at the other'. The illustration depicts this apparent new law of physics.
Describes several faculties of the brain and the types of people in whom they are acutely developed. For example, 'Time—is an organ very largely developed in gentleman's stewards and tax collectors, who are always punctual in their application for payments, but will never allow time to those whom they are employed to visit'.
Admits that despite possessing a small faculty of 'destructiveness' he will commit suicide if his mistress is deaf to his 'vehement call'. Notes that his organ of 'veneration' is swelling so much that if his mistress is 'contending' with his passion then his 'organs will swell' until his hat is knocked off. Thinks that his mistress 'secretly sneerest' at his passion but never wants the 'truth unto me' to be proved. Resolves to send a cast of his forehead to his mistress before flying to the devil. Concludes that 'When 'tis passion that Spurs-him, 'tis bitter as Gall'.
Describes the route to be taken by the Aerial Steam Carriage from London to Bombay. Notes that the conductor, who is later revealed to be John F W HerschelHerschel, Sir John Frederick William
ODNB CloseView the register entry >>, will carry all the provisions in his waistcoat, 'as by a new invention, the essence of three sheep can be concentrated into a small lozenge'. Adds that the 'Rocket Aerial Steam Carriage will [...] tour round the Comet, proceeding by easy stages to the Milky Way'.
Aeronautics, Transport, Mechanics, Steam-power, Matter Theory
Reports on a 'Committee' appointed by Punch to investigate the 'comparative merits' of the Aerial Steam Ship. The committee is convinced of the 'flighty nature' of the invention. Holds that the 'process of flying through the air' was once 'perfectly feasible' and is now considered chimerical, but will be brought to 'perfection'. The committee challenges the analogy between the bird and the invention, having failed to discover 'British birds with steam engines', and recommends trying to make a 'dead bird fly by clockwork'. The committee is not satisfied with related experiments on a clock-work-mouse and its recommendations for realising the invention include securing the assistance of William BradwellBradwell, William
WBI CloseView the register entry >>, a theatrical mechanist famous for his 'flying chariots' and reputed to be the 'only man who has ever set the laws of matter and gravitation completely at defiance'.
Questions typically play on the fact that several medical terms also have non-medical connotations. For example, 'What is the difference between the course of the femoral artery and the second course of a civic dinner?' and 'Is the fenestra ovalis or oval window, of the labyrinth framed and glazed or is it not?'.
Reports that at the Royal SocietyRoyal Society of London
CloseView the register entry >> a paper was read 'on the reduction of metals by a solution of salts, within the voltaic circuit', and the observation that Epsom salts reduce shillings to smaller coinage. Reports that one member presented a case of silver exposed to air becoming completely absorbed by 'some invisible influence': the disappearance of a silver plate in a room is attributed to the fusion of silver in the 'atmospheric humidity' or 'voltaic action'.
The article probably alludes to the recently founded Agricultural Chemistry Association of ScotlandAgricultural Chemistry Association of Scotland
CloseView the register entry >>. Participants at the spoof meeting exchange their solutions to agricultural problems, which turn out to be more trivial than the title of the society suggests. Reports that the chairman of the meeting, Professor Grubemup, boasts that medical men are now preferred to gardeners as garden experts. Contributions include that by Kidney Tatur whose cure for 'Sleepy Apples' is to water them with 'an infusion of green tea' and to 'let the branches be well shaken'.
Provides a spoof report on an unsatisfactory paper on 'French leaves' at the Botanical SocietyBotanical Society of London
CloseView the register entry >> that concerned 'a clump of spinach picked out of the middle of the High Street, at Sandwich'. Other presentations at the society include a proposal to travel to Cos to investigate the cos lettuce.
Laments that London's 'poorest classes' have 'limited means of studying natural history' owing to the difficulty of access to animals at the Surrey Zoological GardensSurrey Literary, Scientific and Zoological Institution—Gardens
CloseView the register entry >> (204). Describes the origins of the menagerie near the National GalleryNational Gallery
CloseView the register entry >>. Warns that unless visitors to the menagerie are 'on the alert' they are likely to incur expenses by the 'solicitations of the showman'. Believes the 'inmates of the menagerie are rather more remarkable for harmony than rarity, chiefly consisting of cats, pigeons, mice, owls, rabbits, rats, and small birds'. Notes that the proprietor thinks he can, by 'intermingling the breed', produce flying cats and horses, and that domestic life could be improved by following the example of this harmonic menagerie. (205)
Describes a 'contrivance', built out of card, for establishing the day of the week 'at all times and all seasons'. Adds that copies of the invention are being left in people's houses where they are 'mislaid or torn by children'. The projector, on calling to pick up his invention, is accordingly paid back and thus 'obtains the reward of his art as well as his sciences'.
A satire on the Society of AntiquariesSociety of Antiquaries of London
CloseView the register entry >>. In these spoof proceedings, the society discusses the discovery of a bag of marbles in the ruins of a house pulled down in St Martin's Lane. The marbles are pronounced to be 'dyed with woad' and dating from the time of the Druids, Romans, Saxons, or King William IVWilliam IV, King of Great Britain and Ireland, and King of Hanover
ODNB CloseView the register entry >>. An 'angry discussion' suggests that these marbles equal their 'brethren of the Elgin epithet'. Two members argue over whether the 'various figures' on the surface indicate Chinese or Roman provenance. A 'young member', Simon Clearwitz insists that the marbles come from the 'juvenile days' of the proprietor of the house where they were found'.
Punch, 4 (1843), 220–21.
Narrative of an Experimental Trip in an Aerial Courier
Gullphlatt describes his construction and attempt to launch an 'Aerial Courier'. Some of the 'first working chemists in London' gave his machine 'extra volatility' by supplying highly compressed 'jokes' in 'strong cast-iron cylinders'. Wanted to put the statesman Henry P Brougham (1st Baron Brougham and Vaux)Brougham, Henry Peter, 1st Baron Brougham and
ODNB CloseView the register entry >> in charge of the engine-room because, in addition to his 'scientific knowledge', he had been 'so long in hot water'. Decided against him because he would cause the engines to work 'all ways at once' (a reference to the description of Brougham as the Mr Facing-Both-Ways of William M Thackeray'sThackeray, William Makepeace
ODNB CloseView the register entry >>Vanity Fair). Gullphlatt finally manages to launch the invention from Primrose Hill but mishaps begin when the machine is turned around on colliding with the steeple of St Giles' Church. He attempts to steady the machine by letting out 'spare jokes' and accordingly considers the 'whole accident a glorious piece of fun'. (220)
Believes that for the 'curious Zoologist [...] there is not a more valuable museum of specimens from the class Mammalia (order Primates) than that which is open every day to inspection in Regent Street'. Classifies animals into 'Migrators' and 'Hybernators' and distinguishes such classes.
Describes ancient practices regarding the interpretation of dreams. Laments the fact that 'man's knowledge, that has wrestled with all things, from a comet to an earthquake, has shown a strange cowardice on the subject of dreams'. Punch believes much can come of a 'science which grew in darkness' and offers a 'Dictionary of Dreams'. Entries include 'Ass—to hear the braying of an—proves that you are talking in your sleep', and 'Thorns. In your side, are poor relations'.
Describes Hercules' attempts to 'extirpate the evil' of medical quackery. Insists that in the 'old world' (a thinly-veiled reference to the present world), people indulged on 'turtle, venison, beef, mutton and vegetables' and physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries, instead of telling patients what to eat and drink, were preoccupied with dispensing 'peculiar substances called medicines'. Links this to the rise of quacks who 'only have to invent some substance or compound' and who 'pay a certain sum which secured the monopoly of [the substance] to themselves, in order to go and sell it wherever'. (240) Describes how medical men complained of quackery to Hercules, who told them about the 'real nature of disease' and the 'proper principles of treatment', but who would not help them 'until they purged their own body of quackery'. Eventually Hercules attacked the 'unprincipled Legislature' which protected the quack, and 'vigorously and unsparingly' assaulted people from all classes with the 'light of reason'. Adds how Hercules attacked 'proprietors of various noted journals' until they 'ceased to be the abettors of homicidal humbug'. Describes how Hercules disposed of the quack's products by dumping them on wastelands or by turning them into manure. Just as Hercules overthrew the Centaurs (half-man, half-horse) so he expunged the 'half-rational creature and half-jackass', including homeopathists, hydropathists, mesmerists and phrenologists. Concludes by noting that Hercules' labours resulted in 'the attenuation of the Faculty' and the extinction of 'diseases and doctors'.