NONSENSE LITERATURE

The adventures of John Manks and his pock-marked cat.

Dublin, P Bereton 1 Lr Exchange Street, [c. 1865?].

Small broadside, 28.5 x 11.3 cm; a single column below a woodcut illustration of a cat; a central horizontal fold, browned, and with some slight creasing and spotting at the extremities.

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This short nonsense-writing prose anecdote is set in Ireland and recounts the unnamed protagonist’s encounters with a coach man driving ’78 old dead jack asses, under an empty steam coach’, a ‘poor old man’ with a ‘great big stack of chimney on his back’ and ‘John Manks’, listed in the title. When the protagonist wants to travel quickly he prepares himself thus: ‘I then put my two shin-bones in my pocket, & my head under my arm & a way I ran jumping […]’. The piece is littered with odd spelling and mis-settings, presumably in order to render it linguistically as well as logically counter-intuitive. The fantasy realm conjured here is less empathetic and more grotesque than Lear’s nonsense-creations with hags, dead animals and recurring images of sickness (vomiting), scarring (pockmarks) and dismemberment.

This issue of the text is scarce, with copies in five European (British Library, National Library of Scotland, National Library of Ireland, University of Manchester, Göttingen) and four American institutions (Boston College, New York Historical, Texas, Yale). The National Library of Ireland lists two copies, one from ‘[1865?]’ and other from ‘[c.a. 1868]’; the catalogue listing for the later copy omits the street address and gives a larger paper measurement. The present copy matches the description of the earlier edition. Trinity College Dublin lists a copy with a variant title The wonderful adventures of John Manks and his pockmarked cat; there are no other World Cat listings for that issue.

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