West Country tales

Cornwall is so famous for pies among other things, that it has been ironically said, that the Devil is afraid to shew his nose in that ancient Duchy, lest he should be put into a pie. If so, the circumstance only proves that, according to scripture the heart of man is innately evil above all things and desperately wicked, since as much immorality, profanity and wickedness prevail in Cornwall as elsewhere – altho they have not the presence of the Tempter to guide and encourage them.


To conclude, Dr. Type has long ere this forgotten his disappointment, and has found in the flowing bowl, joys, which compensate him for what he has lost. For a time he will work hard, and save like any close hunks – then he will dress himself out for a parade, and finish his spree by going to a public house, and remaining there until he has spent all the money in his pockets, & whatever he can raise by the disposal of his new geer. He being out, he very quietly returns to his work, and his book. Alas poor Yorick!!!


At the time of the Reform Bill [*] was exciting such a sensation in England and abroad, a vessel coming into the English Channel was met by one of the Scilly Pilots. A few general questions were put & answered, and at last one of the passengers asked if the Reform Bill had passed. “The Reform Bill” said one of the Pilots, with a thoughtful twist of his head, “was she a ship or a bark? Was she bound up or down channel? Really don’t know such a ship!!!”


Quid pro quo

Before the New Game Act [*] came into force legalising the sale of game, a woman of the West Country had been in the habit of selling game, under the rose, to a respectable apothecary at Exeter. On one occasion, she came when there [were] several gentlemen in the shop at the time. Having called the dealer in drugs aside, she said “I have a very fine hare for you in this bag,” displaying the bag. “A fine hare” said he slyly – “surely you mean a fine puss.” “Puss,” exclaimed she, with an accent of astonishment – “tis no puss, but a very fine hare.” – “I’ll lay you a bet of ten shillings against your bag, that all the Gentlemen in my shop will decide in my favour, that what is in your bag is a puss and no hare.” The poor woman ignorant of the circumstance that in order to evade the law, people often bought and sold hares under the name of puss, at once accepted the bet. The Apothecaire, then, taking the bag produced the hare before the gentlemen, who all with one voice exclaimed “What a remarkably fine puss that is,” to the utter surprise of the woman, who thought them all blind or mad, as well as to her great vexation, since by the terms of the bet she had fairly lost her hare.

There was no remedy but she determined to be even with the witty Apothecary, which she more than accomplished in the following way.

You must know that this woman was in the custom of supplying the same Druggist with honey in which article he dealt largely. None in all the country side was equal to hers, and she had the quickest sale and the best price for all she could bring. Not very long after the incident I have just mentioned she came as usual with a large jar, which the Apothecary doubted not contained honey – but wishing to be jocular he said “Well Margery, what have you got in that jar – of course it is the honey, and I hope the quality is as good as before.” “No,” replied Margery, “it is not honey, it is [Sur Reverence].” “Pooh, pooh,” rejoined he, “none of your tricks upon Travellers” – “I see you cannot forget the small bet I won of you, and you think to joke me by calling things wrong names – Hand me your jar and let’s see the honey.” The woman delivered up the jar, the cover was taken off and there appeared some very fine Honey, into which Monsieur Pestle put his finger, and after tasting it declared it to be the most delicious honey he had ever seen. “Honey,” repeated Margery, “I tell thee, this baint no honey – tis pure [Sur] Reverence.” – “Oh nonsense,” Margery, “you know seeing is believing. Here John,” calling to one of his apprentices, “pour this honey among the rest” (for he had a large quantity on hand) “&, I’ll warrant, it will add to the flavour of the whole.” “John, John don’t thee do it,” again said the woman, “I tell thee, tis pure [Sur] Reverence.” “Never mind her,” responded the Master, “do as I bid you, and meanwhile I shall pay Margery what is due.”

“A wilful man will have his way,” was all that Margery observed, and with much inward satisfaction she received the price of the Honey – and not a moment too soon had she clutched it, for immediately after, John was heard calling out “Master, Master, its true as she said it.” “Whats true, you fool?” with a misgiving twinge at his heart. “Sure enough Master, its pure, Sir [Reverence],” replied the aghast apprentice, at the same time, that the mauvaise odeur exhaling from his hands, gave palpable evidence of the truth of his story. “Oh Margery, how could you serve me such a trick – tis shameful.” “I serve you a trick – not I – did I not tell you often and plainly what was in my jar – and yet, Mr. Pestle, tho’ you would have me, upon your word, to believe that my fine hare was a puss, you would not believe but that my[Sur Reverence] was honey.

Auctori Notro Capitano.


Who, that has lived at Plymouth, has not heard of Tom Kelly the Lawyer – a man of infinite humour and boiling over, like fermented liquor, with practical jokes, at the expence, but not the injury of one and all of his friends.

One day a Noted female Smuggler came into his office to endeavour to dispose of her goods. It was her custom to carry about a handsome parrot in a cage, and having gained an entrance, on pretence of selling her parrot, would slyly open up her real business. As usual therefore she asked Kelly, if he would purchase a parrot – he told her he knew nothing about the matter, but referred her to Mrs. Kelly. The woman immediately went into the dwelling house, leaving her parrot behind in the office – of which circumstance the Lawyer took the advantage to play her a trick. He happened to have an old owl, which he had kept for many years. This he put into the cage, and took away the parrot, taking care to leave everything in the same place. When the woman returned from settling affairs with Mrs. Kelly, she came into the office with a smirking self-satisfied face. No sooner had she appeared, than Kelly putting on a stern countenance asked her how she had had the impudence to come into his house with smuggled goods, and to make him a partner in cheating his Majesty’s Revenues, adding at the same time several very scurrilous epithets to her name & profession. The woman in a great rage retorted, and black-guarded him in style – he was not a whit behind her, & if possible loaded her with double abuse, until she at last ready to burst with indignation, seized her cage, & bundled herself out of the office in double quick time slamming to the door with expressive force. Her passions were up, and she was ready to snarl at any thing – nor did she long want occasion. The common people and boys hooted at her as she passed along, crying what a fool to carry about an old owl in such a fine cage. “Tiz no owl, you fools,” she angrily replied. “Tiz a very fine parrot.” Which caused shouts of laughter whilst she of course did not look at her burden. The poor woman could not understand why all the people laughed at her, and thought that they were either mad, or had a mind to annoy her. At last a labourer, going home, suddenly stopped her, and seriously asked her why she was foolish enough to go about the streets with an old ugly owl? “tiz you,” said she in a pet, “that be a fool, to mistake a beautiful parrot for an ugly owl. Look here and say whether.” – here her utterance was completely choked by her astonishment at what she beheld in her cage – and when she found words to express her feelings, all that she said, and that in a sardonic grin was. “That’s Tom Kelly; there Tom Kelly.” Farther the deponent sayeth not.

Eodem auctores [domini Baynham]


When prizes were taken during the war into Plymouth, a sample of the cargoes for sale were disposed in a large room on a table. On one occasion among other things there was a small quantity of rancid oil, which, like the rest was pointed out by a label on the jar. Kelly coming into the room observed this, and determined to play some one a pliskie [sic]. He removed the original label and substituted another on which he had written “Maltese Honey.” Shortly after a Militia Colonel (Maxwell) came in the course of his survey to this jar. He looked at the label and said. “Bless me, Maltese honey. It is long since I have tasted it, and if it is as good as I have seen, I shall purchase the whole of it. Now let us see – the proof of the pudding is in the tasting of it” – and with that he took up spoon to  mouth and bolted it in expectation of a delicious morceau. An instant after he ran out of the room, spluttering and spewing as if his whole internals were threatening to make an irruption by the mouth. Very wisely for him, he said nothing, wishing to see others in the same predicament. More than half a dozen were taken in this way, all of whom kept the knowledge of the secret to themselves – nor would the affair have been known but for the blabbing of Tom K. who considered it an excellent

Eodem Auctore Mr. B.m


 Mr. Kelly was often in Exeter in the course of business, and particularly during the assizes. Once upon a time the trials which came on were very interesting, and occasioned a greater influx than usual of strangers, so that every bed was already bespoken when Lawyer Kelly came to the Inn, which Mr. [Baynham’s] grand father had just left; after obtaining the promise of the [last] unoccupied bed. He spoke sweetly and softly to the Landlady, well guessing how the land lay – and after some flattering preface to her charms & accommodations, he ventured to ask if he could have a bed there. “No,” replied mine hostess, upon which his blarney was not lost. “I’m extremely sorry to say that my very last bed has been but a few moments been bespoken.” “I should have been happy to accommodate you, but that is impossible.” “Who has bespoken it,” interrogated Mr. Kelly – “Mr. Pridam,” said [she], “an old customer here.” “What,” uttered he with an accent of joyful surprise. “My father Mr. Pridam – I thought I should find him here, but did not expect to be lucky to fall at once upon the very place. I’m all right – shew me up to his room – we often sleep together at home and at present, I am so tired with travelling that I cannot wait for him. When he comes, tell him I am arrived and gone to bed.” The landlady, not in the least misdoubting what he told her, called the waiter and directed him to shew the gentleman up to N.o 24. As soon as Tom was in possession of the room, he set about fortifying it against the anticipated inroads of the disappointed owner. He moved a large chest of drawers – sundry chairs and tables from their usual places, so as to bar block up the door – and that done, he very composedly laid himself down to rest. At a late hour Mr. Pridam came home, and the first news he received was that his son had arrived. “My son arrived,” said he, “I did not expect it.” “Yes Sir,” replied the Waiter, “and he has gone up to your room to sleep, having been accustomed to sleep with you at home.” “What nonsense is this, you tell me. My son never slept with me in his life. You are certainly imposed upon by some designing villain, who has an intention of robbing your house.” This intelligence alarmed the Landlady – & they all proceeded in a body to the room, the door of which they found locked. A Smith was instantly sent for, who picked the lock, when it was discovered that the door was completely blocked up – so they left matters as they were till morning, a bed having in the meantime being made up for Mr. Pridam in the sofa. Next day the whole affair was explained, and excited great laughter to every one, so that it was impossible to be angry with the artful rogue, all agreeing that he deserved his quarters for his wit and ingenuity.

Autore [Dom.o Baynham]

[Passengers and Personalities. M.r Henry Baynham, Clerk of the Works, Royal Engineers Department, came on board of us at Bermuda, having been invalided home on account of Inflammation of the Liver. He was obviously a great raconteur.]


On another occasion Mr. Pridam a Colonel in the Militia was riding with his troop to some place not far from Plymouth. He usually carried a pair of excellent pistols in his holsters – which pistols Tom Kelly had by some means contrived to abstract & to fill their place with two huge carrots. At night the Militia halted and the Colonel rode to one of the best Inns & went up stairs with the other officers, telling the Ostler to send up his holsters. Not long after the waiter appeared with a grin he could not repress, and presented to view the vulgar red carrots instead of the handsomely inlaid pistols. The circumstance was so ludicrous that all burst out into a loud gaffaw – but Mr. Pridam was so annoyed that he did not forgive Kelly for a long time afterwards.

Eodem Auctore.


Crabs have no tails!

A lady in Plymouth very partial to Poetry, sent her footboy to procure Crabbe’s Tales at a Bookseller’s near the Fish Market. Unfortunately Tom had never heard of the celebrated biped & claped Crabbe, nor indeed knew any other Crabbe than crab fish. He was no philosopher, no attender of mechanics institutions,[4] where the meanest members could have corrected his ignorance. Hinc error magnus et valde ridiculus. Away he posted to the market, and asked at every stall for crabs tails for his misses, nor omitted tone, notwithstanding the jokes and jeers of the fishmongers. Satisfied with having done every thing in his power to execute his commission he returned with the news, that there was no such thing in the Market as Crab’s Tails – that he had been told Crabs had no tails – and that every body laughed at him for his pains. Altho’ much chagrined at this unexpected reply, she could not help smiling at the naivete with which he told his story but to prevent further mistakes she gave him a written note and told him to carry it to Mr. _______ the Bookseller.


“Who tould thee.”

The wife of a Miner having been confined, an acquaintance who met him asked if it was a boy – “No,” said the father – “Then it is a chield,” [5] guessed the friend. “Who tould thee,” queried John, surprised at Tom’s right conjecture.


A useful Motto

Mr. [Pearce at Truro – lextus conjugalig] – England expects every Man to do his duty.

[The punch line in the above seems to have been lost in the translation – or rather the non-translation.]