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Victorian Poetry, Drama and Miscellaneous Prose 1832–1890$
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Paul Turner

Print publication date: 1990

Print ISBN-13: 9780198122395

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198122395.001.0001

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Comic Verse, Parody, Nonsense

Comic Verse, Parody, Nonsense

(p.432) 21. Comic Verse, Parody, Nonsense
Victorian Poetry, Drama and Miscellaneous Prose 1832–1890

Paul Turner

Oxford University Press

The Victorian urge to be funny had three happy results for literature. It produced some excellent comic verse, some wonderfully accurate parodies, and a whole new subgenre, Nonsense. Oscar Wilde was not the first Victorian to question the importance of being earnest. The Evangelicals, and the Agnostics stimulated the mass-production of light literature. However there was nothing secret about it. With the birth of Punch in 1841 the making of jokes became a national industry, and it claimed in its first number to be simply a ‘Guffawgraph’. Its motto, taken from Lord Byron’s Don Juan, was: ‘laugh at all things’. Its philosophy, far from Hamlet’s notion of ‘looking before and after’, was to make ‘the most of the present, regardless of the past or future’, and countless humorists wrote in the same spirit. Their quest for ‘the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind’ now seems faintly frenetic.

Keywords:   comic verse, parodies, subgenre, nonsense, light literature, Punch, jokes, Guffawgraph, Lord Byron

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