The Power of Orthography and Punctuation

This piece shows how bad spelling and punctuation can cause confusion (and hilarity!).

“The husband of a pious woman, having occasion to make a voyage, his wife sent a written request to the parson of the parish; which, instead of spelling and pointing properly, viz:

“A person having gone to sea, his wife desires the prayers of the congregation;”

She spelt and pointed as follows:-

“A person having gone to see his wife, desires the prayers of the congregation.”

The parson (who had not examined the contents of the paper) gave it out accordingly.”

Stamford Mercury 17th May, 1805.


Thirty-two pints and happy ever after

A husband takes advantage of his wife’s absence by consuming thirty-two pints of porter!  Early porters were strong beers by modern standards.

“A journeyman bookbinder, of Norwich (whilst his wife was from home last week), being determined to be happy for one day in his life, actually drank thirty-two pints of Norwich porter (4 gallons), viz. 17 pints before dinner and 15 after it.”

Stamford Mercury 31st December, 1802.

A Lady Turned to Stone

The Mercury often picked up stories from around the country, such as this one about some country girls’ day out at the International Exhibition.

“A gentleman, residing in Clifton, who has some unsophisticated country girls for servants, sent them to London to see the International Exhibition just before it closed.  They expressed themselves very much pleased with their trip on their return., and on being asked what they liked best amongst the collection, they said it was all very beautiful, but “the poor lady, sir, who was turned to stone from eating cod and dumplings was the most curious.”  “A lady turned to stone from eating cod and dumplings?” naturally asked their master, with much surprise.  “Oh yes, Sir,” they replied, “’twas very sad, to be sure, but curious.”

The Tinted Venus by John Gibson.
The Tinted Venus by John Gibson.

After a little he discovered they were alluding to the tinted Venus, and inquired how they came to hear it was a lady turned to stone by such strange diet. “Please, Sir, it was the policeman at the Exhibition as told us,” was their answer; “he said he did not know the young lady himself, but he had a friend as knew the young lady’s mother uncommon well, and it was all quite true,” so that we suspect some of the Cockney police must have often amused themselves by practising on the credulity or simplicity of country folks.”

Stamford Mercury 26th December, 1862.