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The Scrivener, The Scrivener: To Afford Pleasure

Brian Barratt presents a few short tales from Select Anecdotes: From Various Sources collected by J.S. Laurie, published in 1864. Laurie explained that the purpose of the series was "to provide the young and, generally speaking, the less educated portion of the community with books which they will find readable... The prime end kept in view will be to afford, in a wide and liberal sense, pleasure and amusement; and to this end whatever bears more directly upon the practical utilities of life will invariably be held subordinate.''

An Old Head

Henry IV, being one day in Paris, and seeing a man who had a black beard and white hair, asked him, "How is it, that you have a black beard and white head of hair?" He replied, "It is because the head is twenty years older than the beard."

A Slight Misunderstanding

A countryman, going into a court of justice, took notice of two lawyers at the bar, who, being employed on opposite sides of the case at issue, scrupled not wrangle and contradict each other frequently, while at the same time each bestowed the appellation of 'brother' on his opponent. The simple bystander observed to another person next to him, that there seemed to be no brotherly love between the two. "Why," says the other, "you misunderstand the matter; they are merely brothers in law."

Theory and Fact

At the last meeting of the Royal Geographical Society, some of the successful Australian explorers were present. Mr. Middleton(one of them) gave a variety of interesting details respecting the journey, stating that the thermometer stood as high as 160 degrees in the sun. Mr. Crawford was of the opinion that wool could not be grown in the tropics: sheep were intended for a temperate climate, and the fleece was given them to protect from the cold. In the tropics the fleece was not required. Mr. Landsborough (another of the explorers): "You are theorising. Who of all the human race have the most wool on their heads—is it not the inhabitants of the tropics?" (Roars of laughter.)

Novel use of Tea

Tea came into general use sooner in England than in Scotland. In 1685, the widow of the Duke of Monmouth sent a pound of it to one of her relations on Scotland. This Chinese production was then unknown. They examined it with great attention, and ordered the cook to come, who, after a long examination, decided that it was some dried herb. They abandoned to him this precious eatable to use as he thought proper.

Consequently he had the leaves boiled, threw the water away, and served them up like spinach. The guests did not find the garden stuff to their taste, and its reputation in Scotland thus suffered for a long time.


Certain animals, birds, and reptiles, are very long-lived, though nothing can be discovered in their formation to account for the circumstances. The stag, the elephant, the eagle, the crow, the parrot, and the viper, are notorious for longevity. In 1497, a carp of prodigious size was caught in a fish-pond in Suabia, with a ring of copper round it on which were engraved these words in Latin:—"I am the first fish that was put into this pond, by the hands of Frederick II, Governor of the World, 5th October, 1230." It must therefore have lived 297 years.

A Model Christian

"Dear Brother,—I have got one of the handsomest farms in the State, and have it nearly paid for. Crops are good, and prices never were better. We have had a glorious revival in our Church, and both our children (the Lord be praised) are converted. Father got to be rather an incumbrance, and last week we took him to the Poorhouse. Your affectionate brother."

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