Index Humour

Edmund Hardy
Gay's index to Trivia is very different to Pope's for The Dunciad. Often, the reader of the latter must look up the reference in the poem to be amused; Gay's fuller entries summon the poem back, flickering through it re-ordered into continual, comic censure. A kind of prose emerges, picked up by later writers such as Jane Austen when she speeds through all the different things a character is saying, an index in quotes. For example, during the famous strawberry pic-nic[1] (in Emma), Mrs Elton leads the way, thinking and talking only of strawberries, this reported in a manner which could have been the index for a three part poem on them, which we must now invent:

"The best fruit in England--every body's favourite--always wholesome.--These the finest beds and finest sorts.--Delightful to gather for one's self--the only way of really enjoying them.--Morning decidedly the best time--never tired-- every sort good--hautboy infinitely superior--no comparison-- the others hardly eatable--hautboys very scarce--Chili preferred-- white wood finest flavour of all--price of strawberries in London-- abundance about Bristol--Maple Grove--cultivation--beds when to be renewed--gardeners thinking exactly different--no general rule-- gardeners never to be put out of their way--delicious fruit-- only too rich to be eaten much of--inferior to cherries-- currants more refreshing--only objection to gathering strawberries the stooping--glaring sun--tired to death--could bear it no longer-- must go and sit in the shade."

[1] "Come, and eat my strawberries."

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