Damages, Two Hundred Pounds

- 1811-1863
  Special Jurymen of England! who admire your country's laws,
  And proclaim a British Jury worthy of the realm's applause;
  Gayly compliment each other at the issue of a cause
  Which was tried at Guildford 'sizes, this day week as ever was.

  Unto that august tribunal comes a gentleman in grief,
  (Special was the British Jury, and the Judge, the Baron Chief,)
  Comes a British man and husband—asking of the law relief;
  For his wife was stolen from him—he'd have vengeance on the thief.

  Yes, his wife, the blessed treasure with the which his life was
  Wickedly was ravished from him by a hypocrite profound.
  And he comes before twelve Britons, men for sense and truth renowned,
  To award him for his damage, twenty hundred sterling pound.

  He by counsel and attorney there at Guildford does appear,
  Asking damage of the villain who seduced his lady dear:
  But I can't help asking, though the lady's guilt was all too clear,
  And though guilty the defendant, wasn't the plaintiff rather queer?

  First the lady's mother spoke, and said she'd seen her daughter cry
  But a fortnight after marriage: early times for piping eye.
  Six months after, things were worse, and the piping eye was black,
  And this gallant British husband caned his wife upon the back.

  Three months after they were married, husband pushed her to the door,
  Told her to be off and leave him, for he wanted her no more.
  As she would not go, why HE went: thrice he left his lady dear;
  Left her, too, without a penny, for more than a quarter of a year.

  Mrs. Frances Duncan knew the parties very well indeed,
  She had seen him pull his lady's nose and make her lip to bleed;
  If he chanced to sit at home not a single word he said:
  Once she saw him throw the cover of a dish at his lady's head.

  Sarah Green, another witness, clear did to the jury note
  How she saw this honest fellow seize his lady by the throat,
  How he cursed her and abused her, beating her into a fit,
  Till the pitying next-door neighbors crossed the wall and witnessed it.

  Next door to this injured Briton Mr. Owers a butcher dwelt;
  Mrs. Owers's foolish heart towards this erring dame did melt;
  (Not that she had erred as yet, crime was not developed in her),
  But being left without a penny, Mrs. Owers supplied her dinner—
  God be merciful to Mrs. Owers, who was merciful to this sinner!

  Caroline Naylor was their servant, said they led a wretched life,
  Saw this most distinguished Briton fling a teacup at his wife;
  He went out to balls and pleasures, and never once, in ten months'
  Sat with his wife or spoke her kindly.  This was the defendant's

  Pollock, C.B., charged the Jury; said the woman's guilt was clear:
  That was not the point, however, which the Jury came to hear;
  But the damage to determine which, as it should true appear,
  This most tender-hearted husband, who so used his lady dear—

  Beat her, kicked her, caned her, cursed her, left her starving,
    year by year,
  Flung her from him, parted from her, wrung her neck, and boxed her
  What the reasonable damage this afflicted man could claim,
  By the loss of the affections of this guilty graceless dame?

  Then the honest British Twelve, to each other turning round,
  Laid their clever heads together with a wisdom most profound:
  And towards his Lordship looking, spoke the foreman wise and sound;—
  "My Lord, we find for this here plaintiff, damages two hundred

  So, God bless the Special Jury! pride and joy of English ground,
  And the happy land of England, where true justice does abound!
  British jurymen and husbands, let us hail this verdict proper:
  If a British wife offends you, Britons, you've a right to whop her.

  Though you promised to protect her, though you promised to defend her,
  You are welcome to neglect her: to the devil you may send her:
  You may strike her, curse, abuse her; so declares our law renowned;
  And if after this you lose her,—why, you're paid two hundred pound.

More by William Makepeace Thackeray

The Mahogany Tree

Christmas is here;
Winds whistle shrill,
Icy and chill,
Little care we;
Little we fear
Weather without,
Shelter'd about
The Mahogany Tree.

Once on the boughs
Birds of rare plume
Sang, in its bloom;
Night birds are we;
Here we carouse,
Singing, like them,
Perch'd round the stem
Of the jolly old tree.

Here let us sport,
Boys, as we sit—
Laughter and wit
Flashing so free.
Life is but short—
When we are gone,
Let them sing on,
Round the old tree.

Evenings we knew,
Happy as this;
Faces we miss,
Pleasant to see.
Kind hearts and true,
Gentle and just,
Peace to your dust!
We sing round the tree.

Care, like a dun,
Lurks at the gate:
Let the dog wait;
Happy we 'll be!
Drink every one;
Pile up the coals,
Fill the red bowls,
Round the old tree.

Drain we the cup.—
Friend, art afraid?
Spirits are laid
In the Red Sea.
Mantle it up;
Empty it yet;
Let us forget,
Round the old tree.

Sorrows, begone!
Life and its ills,
Duns and their bills,
Bid we to flee.
Come with the dawn,
Blue-devil sprite,
Leave us to-night,
Round the old tree.

The Speculators

  The night was stormy and dark,
  The town was shut up in sleep:
  Only those were abroad who were out on a lark,
  Or those who'd no beds to keep.

  I pass'd through the lonely street,
  The wind did sing and blow;
  I could hear the policeman's feet
  Clapping to and fro.

  There stood a potato-man
  In the midst of all the wet;
  He stood with his 'tato-can
  In the lonely Hay-market.

  Two gents of dismal mien,
  And dank and greasy rags,
  Came out of a shop for gin,
  Swaggering over the flags:

  Swaggering over the stones,
  These shabby bucks did walk;
  And I went and followed those seedy ones,
  And listened to their talk.

  Was I sober or awake?
  Could I believe my ears?
  Those dismal beggars spake
  Of nothing but railroad shares.

  I wondered more and more:
  Says one—"Good friend of mine,
  How many shares have you wrote for,
  In the Diddlesex Junction line?"

  "I wrote for twenty," says Jim,
  "But they wouldn't give me one;"
  His comrade straight rebuked him
  For the folly he had done:

  "O Jim, you are unawares
  Of the ways of this bad town;
  I always write for five hundred shares,
  And THEN they put me down."

  "And yet you got no shares,"
  Says Jim, "for all your boast;"
  "I WOULD have wrote," says Jack, "but where
  Was the penny to pay the post?"

  "I lost, for I couldn't pay
  That first instalment up;
  But here's 'taters smoking hot—I say,
  Let's stop, my boy, and sup."

  And at this simple feast
  The while they did regale,
  I drew each ragged capitalist
  Down on my left thumbnail.

  Their talk did me perplex,
  All night I tumbled and tost,
  And thought of railroad specs,
  And how money was won and lost.

  "Bless railroads everywhere,"
  I said, "and the world's advance;
  Bless every railroad share
  In Italy, Ireland, France;
  For never a beggar need now despair,
  And every rogue has a chance."

The Battle of Limerick

    Ye Genii of the nation,
    Who look with veneration.
  And Ireland's desolation onsaysingly deplore;
    Ye sons of General Jackson,
    Who thrample on the Saxon,
  Attend to the thransaction upon Shannon shore,

    When William, Duke of Schumbug,
    A tyrant and a humbug,
  With cannon and with thunder on our city bore,
    Our fortitude and valiance
    Insthructed his battalions
  To respict the galliant Irish upon Shannon shore.

    Since that capitulation,
    No city in this nation
  So grand a reputation could boast before,
    As Limerick prodigious,
    That stands with quays and bridges,
  And the ships up to the windies of the Shannon shore.

    A chief of ancient line,
    'Tis William Smith O'Brine
  Reprisints this darling Limerick, this ten years or more:
    O the Saxons can't endure
    To see him on the flure,
  And thrimble at the Cicero from Shannon shore!

    This valliant son of Mars
    Had been to visit Par's,
  That land of Revolution, that grows the tricolor;
    And to welcome his returrn
    From pilgrimages furren,
  We invited him to tay on the Shannon shore.

    Then we summoned to our board
    Young Meagher of the sword:
  'Tis he will sheathe that battle-axe in Saxon gore;
    And Mitchil of Belfast
    We bade to our repast,
  To dthrink a dish of coffee on the Shannon shore.

    Convaniently to hould
    These patriots so bould,
  We tuck the opportunity of Tim Doolan's store;
    And with ornamints and banners
    (As becomes gintale good manners)
  We made the loveliest tay-room upon Shannon shore.

    'Twould binifit your sowls,
    To see the butthered rowls,
  The sugar-tongs and sangwidges and craim galyore,
    And the muffins and the crumpets,
    And the band of hearts and thrumpets,
  To celebrate the sworry upon Shannon shore.

    Sure the Imperor of Bohay
    Would be proud to dthrink the tay
  That Misthress Biddy Rooney for O'Brine did pour;
    And, since the days of Strongbow,
    There never was such Congo—
  Mitchil dthrank six quarts of it—by Shannon shore.

    But Clarndon and Corry
    Connellan beheld this sworry
  With rage and imulation in their black hearts' core;
    And they hired a gang of ruffins
    To interrupt the muffins,
  And the fragrance of the Congo on the Shannon shore.

    When full of tay and cake,
    O'Brine began to spake;
  But juice a one could hear him, for a sudden roar
    Of a ragamuffin rout
    Began to yell and shout,
  And frighten the propriety of Shannon shore.

    As Smith O'Brine harangued,
    They batthered and they banged:
  Tim Doolan's doors and windies down they tore;
    They smashed the lovely windies
    (Hung with muslin from the Indies),
  Purshuing of their shindies upon Shannon shore.

    With throwing of brickbats,
    Drowned puppies and dead rats,
  These ruffin democrats themselves did lower;
    Tin kettles, rotten eggs,
    Cabbage-stalks, and wooden legs,
  They flung among the patriots of Shannon shore.

    O the girls began to scrame
    And upset the milk and crame;
  And the honorable gintlemin, they cursed and swore:
    And Mitchil of Belfast,
    'Twas he that looked aghast,
  When they roasted him in effigy by Shannon shore.

    O the lovely tay was spilt
    On that day of Ireland's guilt;
  Says Jack Mitchil, "I am kilt!  Boys, where's the back door?
    'Tis a national disgrace:
    Let me go and veil me face;"
  And he boulted with quick pace from the Shannon shore.

    "Cut down the bloody horde!"
    Says Meagher of the sword,
  "This conduct would disgrace any blackamore;"
    But the best use Tommy made
    Of his famous battle blade
  Was to cut his own stick from the Shannon shore.

    Immortal Smith O'Brine
    Was raging like a line;
  'Twould have done your sowl good to have heard him roar;
    In his glory he arose,
    And he rushed upon his foes,
  But they hit him on the nose by the Shannon shore.

    Then the Futt and the Dthragoons
    In squadthrons and platoons,
  With their music playing chunes, down upon us bore;
    And they bate the rattatoo,
    But the Peelers came in view,
  And ended the shaloo on the Shannon shore.