Volltext: A history of caricature and grotesque in literature and art

arid Art. 
to inquire into the conduct of the inhabitants, they found them engaged 
in the moit extraordinary purfuits, fome of them feeking to drown an eel 
in a pond of water, others making a hedge round a tree to confine a 
cuckoo which had fettled in it, and others employing themfelvesin fimilar 
futile purfuits. The cominitiioriers reported the people of Gotham to be 
no better than fools, and by this {tratagem they efcaped any further 
perfecntion, but the character they affumed remained attached to them. 
This explanation is, of courfe, very late and very apocryphal; but 
there can be little doubt that the character of the wife men of Gotham 
is one of confiderable antiquity. The {tory is believed to have been 
drawn up in its prefent form by Andrew Borde, an Englifh writer of the 
reign of Henry VIII. It was reprinted a great number of times under 
the form of thofe popular books called chap-books, becaufe they were 
hawked about the country by itinerant bookfellers or chap-men. The 
acts of the Gothamites difplayed a greater degree of fimplicity even than 
thofe of the Schildburgers, but they are lefs connected. Here is one 
anecdote told in the unadorned language of the chap-books, in explana- 
tion of which it is only neccilary to ftate that the men of Gotham admired 
greatly the note of the cuckoo. " On a time the men of Gotham fain 
would have pinn'd in the cuckow, that the might ting all the year; and, 
in the midtt of the town, they had a hedge made round in compafs, and 
got a cuckow and put her into it, and faid, ' Sing here, and you {hall lack 
neither meat nor drink all the year.' The cuckow, when {he perceived 
herfelf encompaffed with the hedge, flew away. "A vengeance on her] 
faid thefe wife men, 'we did not make our hedge high enough.'" On 
another occation, having caught a large eel which offended them by its 
voracity, they affembled in council to deliberate on an appropriate punifh- 
ment, which ended in a refolution that it fhould be drowned, and the 
criminal was ceremonioufly thrown into a great pond. One day twelve 
men of Gotham went a-tithing, and on their way home they liiddenly 
difcovered that they had loft one of their number, and each counted in his 
turn, and could rind only eleven. In fact, each forgot to count llimfelf. 
In the midfi: of their diltrefs-for they believed their companion to be 
drowned-a {iranger approached, and learnt the caufe of their forrow. 


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