The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 17/God's Revenge Against Punning

While this work is included within The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift and is not attributed to anyone other than Jonathan Swift, it may have been written by another member of the Scriblerus Club. The club, which was founded in 1714, included Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Gay, John Arbuthnot, Henry St John, and Thomas Parnell.




Showing the miserable fates of persons addicted to this crying sin, in court and town.

MANIFOLD have been the judgments, which Heaven from time to time for the chastisement of a sinful people has inflicted on whole nations. For when the degeneracy becomes common, 'tis but just the punishment should be general: of this kind, in our own unfortunate country, was that destructive pestilence, whose mortality was so fatal, as to sweep away, if sir William Petty may be believed, five millions of christian souls, beside women and Jews.

Such also was that dreadful conflagration ensuing, in this famous metropolis of London, which consumed, according to the computation of sir Samuel Morland, one hundred thousand houses, not to mention churches and stables.

Scarce had this unhappy nation recovered these funeste disasters, when the abomination of playhouses rose up in this land; from hence hath an inundation of obscenity flowed from the court and overspread the kingdom: even infants disfigured the walls of holy temples with exorbitant representations of the members of generation; nay, no sooner had they learnt to spell, but they had wickedness enough to write the names thereof in large capitals: an enormity observed by travellers to be found in no country but England.

But when whoring and popery were driven hence by the happy Revolution; still the nation so greatly offended, that Socinianism, Arianism, and Whistonism triumphed in our streets, and were in a manner become universal.

And yet still, after all these visitations, it has pleased Heaven to visit us wiih a contagion more epidemical, and of consequence more fatal: this was foretold to us, first, by that unparallelled eclipse in 1714: secondly, by the dreadful coruscation in the air this present year: and thirdly, by the nine comets seen at once over Soho square, by Mrs. Katharine Wadllngton and others; a contagion that first crept in among the first quality, descended to their footmen, and infused itself into their ladies: I mean the woeful practice of Punning. This does occasion the corruption of our language, and therein of the word of God translated into our language, which certainly every sober Christian must tremble at.

Now such is the enormity of this abomination, that our very nobles not only commit punning over tea, and in taverns, but even on the Lord's day, and in the king's chapel: therefore to deter men from this evil practice, I shall give some true and dreadful examples of God's revenge against punsters.

The right honourable —— but it is nor safe to insert the name of an eminent nobleman in this paper, yet I will venture to say that such a one has been seen; which is all we can say, considering the largeness of his sleeves: this young nobleman was not only a flagitious punster himself, but was accessary to the punning of others, by consent, by provocation, by connivance, and by defence of the evil committed; for which the Lord mercifully spared his neck, but as a mark of reprobation wryed his nose.

Another nobleman of great hopes, no less guilty of the same crime, was made the punisher of himself with his own hand, in the loss of five hundred pounds at box and dice; whereby this unfortunate young gentleman incurred the heavy displeasure of his aged grandmother.

A third of no less illustrious extraction, for the same vice, was permitted to fall into the arms of a Dalilah, who may one day cut off his curious hair and deliver him up to the Philistines.

Colonel F——, an ancient gentleman of grave deportment, gave into this sin so early in his youth, that whenever his tongue endeavours to speak common sense, he hesitates so, as not to be understood.

Thomas Pickle, gentleman, for the same crime banished to Minorca.

Muley Hamet, from a healthy and hopeful officer in the army, turned a miserable invalide at Tilburyfort.

—— Eustace, esq; for the murder of much of the king's English in Ireland is quite deprived of his reason, and now remains a lively instance of emptiness and vivacity.

Poor Daniel Button for the same offence deprived of his wits.

One Samuel an Irishman, for his forward attempt to pun, was stunted in his stature, and hath been visited all his life after with bulls and blunders.

George Simmons, shoemaker at Turnstile in Holborn, was so given to this custom, and did it with so much success, that his neighbours gave out he was a wit. Which report coming among his creditors, no body would trust him; so that he is now a bankrupt, and his family in a miserable condition.

Divers eminent clergymen of the university of Cambridge, for having propagated this vice, became great drunkards and tories.

A Devonshire man of wit, for only saying in a jesting manner I get up pun a horse, instantly fell down, and broke his snuffbox and neck, and lost the horse.

"From which calamities, the Lord in his mercy defend us all, &c. &c." So prayeth the punless and penny less J. Baker, knight.