Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Nugae Venales, Or Complasent Companion, 1675
The full title of this publication is "Nugae Venales, Or Complasent Companion: Being new jests domestic and foreign, bulls, rhodomontados, pleasant novels, and miscellanies." Basically, it's a bit of light reading for Puritans, and books like these were full of little stories, folk tales, and occasionally bawdy jokes. The Nugae Venales is a jest book (nugae=jokes, venales=for sale), which is a subgenre of this literary trend. Although I'm not sure what dismemberment has to do with jests, I've tried to recontextualize it for a modern audience.
This is my new favorite book. There are some absolutely amazing "jests" contained in here (that's right, real Renaissance lolz!!!1!). Take this zinger: "A gentleman whose name was Church sitting in a chimney-corner drinking a pot of ale asked the question, whether any of the company ever saw a chimney in a church. No (said one) But now I see a Church in a chimney-corner." HAHAHA! There's actually a whole series of jests featuring Mr. Church, and trust me, they're all this sidesplitting. There's another jest that riffs on Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, where a man has to tell his wife what play is playing, and who's-on-first-esque hilarity ensues. I can't wait to be invited to a dinner party, because I'm going to dazzle everyone with my 17th century topical humor.
If you're interested in such things, check out Jules Paul Seigel's "Puritan Light Reading." The New England Quarterly. 37. 2 (Jun. 1964): 185-199. It just goes to show you that although I lol on some of these publications, the actual Renaissance lolz blow me right out of the water. I mean, a church in a chimney! Can you imagine?