The British Library Is Out to Prove That the Victorians Were Actually Funny

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Victorians are known for a lot of things—stuffy sensibilities, high-minded tastes, austerity—but a lively sense of humor is not among them. As Atlas Obscura notes, the eponymous Queen Victoria herself reportedly once shut down a racy dinner party joke with a stone cold reply of, “We are not amused."

Edge Hill University lecturer Bob Nicholson and the British Library are looking to change the perception of Victorian humor by enlisting the help of volunteer “joke detectives.” Nicholson will showcase the findings at Harvard University next week.

You can see some of them yourself right now via the Twitter account Victorian Humour and contribute with the hashtag #VictorianJokes. The hunt is mainly occurring via digitized books and newspapers from the library, according to The Telegraph.

"When it comes to humour, our ancestors don’t have a sparkling reputation," Nicholson told the paper. "But far from being humourless, it turns out that the Victorians were prolific joke writers. Some of them, dare I say it, were even quite funny."

Here are a few examples of what the joke detectives have uncovered so far.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]