Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Tuft-Hunting in Antiquity

[Theodore Alois William Buckley (1825-1856),] The Natural History of Tuft-Hunters and Toadies (London: D. Bogue, 1848), pp. 94-95:
But those persons who read the classics for amusement must be well aware of the antiquity of humbug of every kind. Jupiter was decidedly an old humbug, or he would never have witnessed the Greeks and Trojans fighting for ten years about nothing, like dogs contending for a marrow-bone. Yet Jupiter and his court had their Tuft-hunters;—there was the light-fingered skipjack Mercury, ever ready to fetch and carry from one to another, a kind of winged Parcels Delivery agent, and ready to "cut" his friend Prometheus for quarrelling with the great Tuft, Jupiter. There was Momus, too, a kind of paid, privileged, pun-possessed Tuft-hunter, who sharpened his appetite by making dull jokes, and then retailed them in order to satisfy it. There was Bacchus, a licensed dealer in liquors "to be drunk on the premises," and in cigars of every variety. Notwithstanding his low calling, he was in great request among the drinking and swearing Tufts, and was asked out to "wines" very frequently, on account of his prodigious talents in mixing punch and smoking "weeds." His wife, Libera, so called from her "free-and-easy" manner towards customers, was a smart, dashing little body, with a bunch of keys at her girdle, and a head-dress of grapes. The Tufts, gents, and other anomalous deities, were extremely partial to the "house," but the irregular conduct of the company who frequented it, was scandalous even in Olympus.
Id., p. 100:
Apologising for this digression, we must observe that Tuft-hunting was by no means confined to the gods of the ancients. The poets were fair specimens. Pindar, for instance, (a lineal ancestor of the great Peter,) wrote ballads, like Noisy Jack, upon the winning horses or pet boxers of his aristocratic friends, and, although a water-drinking gentleman by principle, was a fast man in practice, and lived "upon town" in Sicily with great success.
I like the illustrations of H.G. Hine (1811-1895) in this book, especially the following (p. 111):

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