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Preorder: The Secret Life of Limericks



A limerick is a subtle mixture of puns, rhymes, rhythm, story and characters, often seasoned with an indefinable pinch of genius. Some have become wildly popular and gone round the world in newspapers and on people’s lips. Great limericks live on for ever in anthologies.
Some limericks, however, by a strange interlinking of associations and adventures, have managed to acquire a kind of secret life which can be at least as interesting as the verse itself. During a forty year study of the history and development of the limerick verse form, Bob Turvey has stumbled on a number of these strangely fascinating back-stories:

  • How did the Young Man of Devizes help build the Atomic Bomb?
  • How did the submissive Young Lady of Kent come to define a particular type of American University research activity?
  • The Young Man in a Syndicate was cited in 1941 to help readers of The Times understand Japan’s position vis-à-vis the German invasion of Russia. Why?
  • Who turned the Young Gourmand of John’s into a sex maniac?
  • How can a limerick which was unprintable in 1925 still be unprintable today?
  • A punning limerick about Henry Ward Beecher reminds us of a sex scandal in America in 1875; but how can there be nine claimants to its authorship?
  • Does a limerick really exist in the Volapuk language?
  • What can a ribald verse about the King of Siam tell us about the life and times of an enlightened and unfairly maligned monarch?

These and other stories are told at length in The Secret Life of Limericks: an indulgent treat for limerick aficionados and newcomers alike.

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