Thursday, 24th May, 2012

When I tell people that I work on Crabbe, one of the standard responses is a joke about crustaceans. It’s a fairly well-worn routine, one of the first examples being a vignette created in 1827 by Thomas Bewick. It depicts a crab’s claw and palette, presumably a response to Byron’s line that Crabbe was ‘nature’s sternest painter’:

But I’ve just come upon this from an issue of the Commonwealth in July 1880 – proof, perhaps, that the very obvious jokes never get old:

LITERARY young man at party: “Miss Jones, have you seen Crabbe’s Tales?” Young lady scornfully: “I was not aware that crabs had tails.” Literary young man covered with confusion: “I beg your pardon, ma’am, I should have said read Crabbe’s Tales?” Young lady, angrily scornful: “And I was not aware that red crabs had tails, either.” Exit young man.

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