Irish Wit and Humour

Spirit of Irish Wit (1811)

spirit-of-irish-wit Original Introduction: "Whereas it has been credibly represented to us, and we have, moreover, strong reasons to believe, that during the rancour, spleen, party dullness, and mutual distrust, which for some time prevailed in this once good-humoured and convivial realm, very considerable quantities of current and sterling wit and pleasantry of the land had been withdrawn from circulation; and that humorous anecdotes, bon mots, good jokes, epigrams, bulls, and divers other devlish things, to the amount of some millions, were concealed or hoarded in memories, brain-boxes, pocket-diaries, common-place-books, and other repositories of once chearful, but since dull, splenetic and gloomy persons, who have passed over to this realm, and have for some time withdrawn themselves from social intercourse, and do now obstinately withhold from conversation the said wit, humour and pleasantry, both in coin and bullion, to the great injury and detriment of colloquial pleasure and national humour, and in the propagation of dullness, the spleen and the blue devils.

An Irishman much accustomed to marvellous narrations, and also attached to sporting, was one day silenced by a gentleman presenting him with the following method of catching wild geese. "Tie a cord to the tail of an eel, and throw it into the fens where the fowls haunt. One of the geese swallowing this slippery bait, it runs through him, and is swallowed by a second and third, and so on until the cord is quite full. A person once caught as many geese in this way, that they actually flew away with him."

Spirit of Irish Wit (1811)


A collection of c. 800 pieces of wit and humour, published in 1811, which encapsulates the lives of the humble chimney sweep, cheeky shoeblack, sassy nymph, phlegmatic sailor, witty counsellor and arrogant gentleman in Ireland, England and abroad, as well as the standard fare of Irish Bulls and servant jokes.

An essential guide to humour of culture and manners, pomp and politics, humbug and sharp tongues, class and craft, language and expression, wisdom and foolishness during the political ferment of the late 18th century, the 1798 Rebellion and after the Act of Union. It includes stories about (in)famous people and characters of the time, Swift, Curran, Sheridan, Blind Peter, politicians, lawyers and aldermen

This edition of Spirit of Irish Wit (1811) is a modern, fully indexed with introduction, transcription readable on most platforms and applications and available online in the following formats: Online Reading, Kindle, Epub, PDF, RTF, LRF, Palm Doc (PDB) and Plain Text (download and view).

Also available from Apple (iTunes), Barnes & Noble (US & UK), Sony, Kobo, WH Smith, FNAC, Diesel, Baker & Taylor (Blio and Axis360 library service), Page Foundry ( and for Cricket Wireless and Asus Android ebook store apps). A 20% sample of the book is free from all publishers; other examples can be found under Black Humour on the 1798 Rebellion page.

It may also be bought directly from me via Paypal. Transfers to iancantwell(at)gmail(fullstop)com with a confirming email to that address or via the contact page. Available only in PDF format

The perfect gift for the Gathering, homesick emigrant, genealogist or historian who has everything.

Price $3.99

An Irish country schoolmaster being asked what was meant by the word 'fortification', instantly answered, with the utmost confidence, "Two twentifications make a fortification."

Samples & Indexes

An Irish recruit being rebuked by the serjeant for striking one of his comrades. "I thought there was no harm in it", quoth Pat, "as I had nothing in my hand but my fist".