The Toastmaster's companion and the modern jester


The burgeoning popular publishing market of the early- to mid-1800s included all types of self-help and advice. Often these were published as cheap 24-page booklets, and one of the most prolific publishers was Thomas Richardson of Derby.

This guide was aimed at the sociable man called on to make a speech or toast at the sort of bacchanalian gathering illustrated on the frontispiece. The list of toasts ranges from noble sentiments to suggestive one-line jokes for a group of sportsmen; the ‘jester’ section offers a list of anecdotes about various famous people. These include names such as George IV (1762–1830), Lord Byron (1788–1824), and Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832), showing that the cult of celebrity is nothing new. However – even with such a potentially promising subject as the excessive Byron – most of the humour will be lost on the modern reader.

Full title:
The Toastmaster's companion and the modern jester
1838, Derby, Derbyshire
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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Article by:
Ruth Richardson
Reading and print culture, Popular culture

Chapbooks were small, affordable forms of literature for children and adults that were sold on the streets, and covered a range of subjects from fairy tales and ghost stories to news of politics, crime or disaster. Dr Ruth Richardson explains what this literature looked like, its subject matter and the ways in which it was produced.

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