Old Groaners - an Introduction

Old Groaners contains a selection of jokes, riddles and conundrums that I found in books published in Victorian England.

How did I come to produce this book? Today it is getting harder to find Victorian books at reasonable prices. I started collecting books in the 1970s when Victorian books were much easier to find. Many collectors collect books in good condition. I went for well-thumbed books that owners over the years had found of interest. For me content was more important than condition. Some of the humour in Old Groaners is from books of humour; other pieces are from "funny corners" or similar in magazines.

Tom Lawrence, or Thomas Lawrence, was in the news in January 2007. A selection from his Victorian joke book was performed at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool, on 25 January 2007. I don't know the source of Tom Lawrence's material, but the pieces I have seen were reminiscent of the pieces in Old Groaners! I suspect that much of the humour was recycled by different comics in a slightly different way.

For the Manchester performance see

Old Groaners is at

And there is a more serious side - reading Old Groaners you will gain an insight into the concerns and living conditions of people living in Victorian England.

If you like the jokes you find in Christmas crackers, you will love this book. There are some examples of the humour below.

Why are poultry always necessarily dirty?

  • Because they are foul (fowl).

What do we know of Adam and Eve that leads us to trace our origin to a fruit-tree?

  • We know they were originally the first pear (pair).

How can you drink a bottle of ginger-beer without breaking the bottle, drawing the cork, or boring it?

  • By pushing the cork in.

What sort of ball does our Poet Laureate resemble?

  • A tennis 'un (A. Tennyson).

Why should a novel-writer be an extraordinary-looking animal?

  • Because of his tale coming out of his head.

What animal has death no effect on?

  • A pig, because directly you have killed him you can cure him, and save his bacon.

Why is the water in Liverpool docks like a respite to a condemned criminal?

  • Because it flows from Mersey.

Why does a donkey prefer thistles to corn?

  • Because he is an ass.

When may a chair be said to dislike you?

  • When it can't bear you.

What is the best kind of shooting in winter?

  • To have coals shot into your cellar.

Why does a sailor know that there is a man in the moon?

  • Because he has been to sea.

Why is a reckless man like a man stabbing at a shadow?

  • Because he sticks at nothing.

Why are washerwomen the most inconsistent persons?

  • Because they put out tubs to catch soft water when it rains hard.

Why should you go to London by the 12.50 train?

  • Because it is ten to one if you catch it.

Why is a new-born baby like a storm?

  • Because it begins with a squall.

What is the difference between an honest and a dishonest laundress?

  • One irons your linen, the other steals it.

Old Groaners