Victorian Jokes: The best in 19th-century humour

Lee Jackson of Victorian London selects some of his favourite Victorian jokes.

Lee Jackson | Published in 04 Oct 2011

If you're an aficionado of all things Victorian and you don't know about Lee Jackson's website, you'd best get yourself acquainted.

Lee runs The Dictionary of Victorian London, a commodious miscellany of all things related to life in London during Queen Victoria's reign. Whilst covering the earnest side of Victorian life, Lee also revels in the less serious aspects, and followers of his Twitter feed will be familiar with the Victorian jokes that he regales his followers with.

We invited him to select some of his favourites and share them with us:

I have a somewhat obsessive interest in Victorian London, and have been publishing nineteenth century news items, diaries, guidebooks, maps and more on my website The Dictionary of Victorian London  for some years.

Having been introduced to Twitter recently, I wondered what I could fit into 140 characters that would encapsulate the Victorian world - then I thought of Victorian jokes. Most surviving Victorian 'facetiae' such as appeared in magazines, newspapers and joke books, are rather staid affairs, relying on mild breaches of social convention, stereotypes which no longer have any resonance, or terrible puns. Nonetheless, some are genuinely funny, some evocative of the era, and others fall into the category of 'so bad it's good' ...

Here's a selection of my favourites -- as you will soon gather, I do have a high tolerance for puns.

Why is a dog like a tree? Because they both lose their bark once they're dead.

"See here, wait, I've found a button in my salad." "That's all right, sir, it's part of the dressing."

Marriage is an institution intended to keep women out of mischief and get them into trouble.

Why are circus horses the slowest breed? Because they are taught horses.

Who is the greatest chicken-killer in Shakespeare? Macbeth, because he did murder most foul.

If William Penn's aunts kept a pastry shop, what would be the prices of their pies? The pie-rates of Penn's Aunts.

Why should the number 288 never be mentioned in company? Because it is two gross.

"There's a man at Camberwell so fat that they grease the omnibus-wheels with his shadow."

HE: "I am a millionaire. Haven't I got money enough for both of us?'"
SHE: "Yes, if you are moderate in your tastes."

Doesn't it make you dizzy to waltz? Yes, but one must get used to it, you know. It's the way of the whirled.

WIFE: "You loved me before we were married!"
HUSBAND: "Well, now it's your turn!"

Pawnbrokers prefer customers without any redeeming qualities.

Moving in unfashionable circles: wearing a crinoline.

Why is a manuscript always called a MS.? Because that is the state in which the editor finds it.

If all the seas were dried up, what would Neptune say? I really haven't got a notion.

A lady wrote the following letters at the bottom of her flour barrel: O I C U R M T.

Why is the devil riding a mouse like one and the same thing? Because it is synonymous.

"I have the best wife in the world," said the long-suffering husband. "She always strikes me with the soft end of the broom."

SERVANT: "Ma'am, your husband has eloped with the cook!"
WIFE: "Good! Now I can have the maid to myself, once in a while."

This, however is my all-time favourite Victorian joke:

What is the difference between a tube and a foolish Dutchman? One is a hollow cylinder and the other a silly Hollander.

For more Victorian jokes, see the website.

Lee Jackson has written the ebooks Daily Life in Victorian London and The Diary of a Murder, a murder mystery set in 1860s Islington. Both are available for Amazon Kindle.

- More on the Victorian era