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           PROPOSALS FOR A NATIONAL
                        JESTBOOK

It has been ascertained, within the last
two years, that Britannia is in want of nothing
but an official joker. Having such
exalted officer to poke her in the ribs when
she considers her condition serious, and to
put her off with a wink when she utters a
groan, she must certainly be flourishing and
it shall be heresy to doubt the fact. By this
sign ye shall know it.

My patriotism and my national pride have
been so warmed by the discovery, that, following
out the great idea, I have reduced to
writing a scheme for the re-establishment of
the obsolete office of Court Joker. It would
be less expensive to maintain than a First
Lord of the Jokery, and might lead to the
discovery of better jokes than issue from that
Department. My scheme is an adaptation
of a plan I matured some years ago, for the
revival of the office of Lord Mayor's Fool; a
design which, I am authorised to mention,
would have been adopted by the City of
London, but for that eminent body, the
Common Council, agreeing to hold the office
in Commission, and to satisfy the public, in
all their Addresses to great personages, that
they are never unmindful of its comic
duties.

It is not, however, of either of these ingenious
proposals (if I may be permitted to
call them so) that I now desire to treat. It
is of another and far more comprehensive
project for the compilation of a National
Jest-Book.

Few people, I submit, can fail to have
observed what rich materials for such a collection
are constantly being strewn about.
The parliamentary debates, the audiences
given to deputations at the public offices, the
proceedings of Courts of Enquiry, the published
correspondence of distinguished personages,
teem with the richest humour. Is
it not a reproach to us, as a humorous nation,
that we have no recognised Encyclopaedia of
these facetious treasures, which may be
preserved, and (in course of time), catalogued by
Signor Panizzi in the British Museum?

What I propose is, that a learned body of
not fewer than forty members, each to
receive two thousand five hundred pounds per
annum, free of Income Tax, and the whole to
be chosen from the younger sons, nephews,
cousins and cousin-germans, of the Aristocracy,
be immediately appointed in perpetuity
for the compilation of a National
Jest-Book. That, in these appointments, the
preference shall be given to those young
noblemen and gentlemen who know the
least of the subject, and that every care
shall be taken to exclude qualified persons.
That, the First Lord of the Jokery be,
in right of his office, the President of this
Board, and that in his patronage the appointments
shall rest. That, it shall meet as
seldom as it thinks proper. That, no one
shall be a quorum. That, on the first of
April in every year, this learned society shall
publish an annual volume, in imperial quarto,
of the National Jest-Book, price Ten Pounds.

I foresee that I shall be met at this point
by the objection that the proposed price is
high, and that the sale of the National Jest-Book
will not remunerate the country for
the cost of its production. But, this objection
will instantly vanish when I proceed to state
that it is one of my leading ideas to make
this gem of books the source of an immense
addition to the public revenue, by passing an
act of Parliament to render it compulsory on
all householders rated to the relief of the
poor in the annual value of twenty-five
pounds, to take a copy. The care of this
measure I would entrust to Mr. FREDERICK
PEEL, the distinguished Under-Secretary for
War, whose modest talents, conciliatory
demeanour, and remarkable success in quartering
soldiers on all the private families of
Scotland, particularly point him out as the
Statesman for the purpose.

As the living languages are not much
esteemed in the public schools frequented by
the superior classes, and as it might be on
the whole expedient to publish a National
collection in the National tongue (though too
common and accessible), it is probable that
some revision of the labors of the learned
Board would be necessary before any volume
should be finally committed to the press.
Such revision I would entrust to the Royal
Literary Fund, finding it to have one professor
of literature a member of its managing
committee. It might not be amiss to embellish
the first volume of the National Jest-Book
with a view of that wealthy institution

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