2 January 1759: ‘O ye Witlings!’

The following riddle appeared in the new year edition of the York Courant for its readers to solve in January 1759. Can you guess the answer?



I Live—-an Animal well known,

Yet have I neither Flesh or Bone:

Mute, blind, a foul, deformed Creature,

No Comliness in Shape or Feature;

Nor Legs, nor Fins, nor Wings have I,

I walk not, swim not, cannot fly.—-

Such is my Form: Nor more my Worth

Intrinsical; if right set forth.

Few the good Deeds, which I can boast

For my unhospitable Door

Seldom is opened for the Poor.

Not even them with Scraps relieve;

But many a dainty Morsel give

To the Polite and Epicure.

There to be met with, I am sure

In various Company often prest,

And in Disguise as various drest.

Sometimes so frolicksome I’m grown

To feast you with myself alone,

Then not a greater Sloven known:

And Ladies, e’er you take your Seat

I warn you, —-graceless is the Treat.


Person and Parts thus set to View,

My Habitation next I shew.

The which, for inconsistent Frame,

Earth’s spacious Round scarce shews the fame:

True, not of loftiest Magnitude,

But strong, irregular, and rude,

Form’d of Materials most durable,

Not Adamantine Rock more stable;

With Symmetry nor Beauty grac’d,

Outward uncouth as its vile Guest;

Yet blameless am of that Defect,

Nature, not I, sole Architect.

And, O ye Witlings! e’er you dare

To tax her Work, survey with Care

The radient Room in which I dine,

Not Eastern Emperor’s more fine,

With orient Pearl inlaid all o’er,

More glitt’ring far than Golden Oar.

In Solitude immur’d around,

Hard of Access to all I’m found.


And bold the Man, (as often said)

Bold, sure , by lawless Hunger made,

First dar’d display my secret Hoard,

And me, with Glutton-Rage, devour’d.

But hold! too much already shewn,

Ye Smarts and Fair the rest make known;

For ’tis, ye Smarts and Fair, to you,

Thus drest, I’m sent to publick View:

And, O! may all whose piercing Eyes

Shall trace me in this close Disguise,

In Silk or Leathern Purse, still see

The splendid Sum will purchase me.


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