Gleanings From The Past #45


Wilde on Fashion

Fashion is what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear.

— Lord Goring, in Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband, Act III, 1893

And, after all, what is a fashion? From the artistic point of view, it is usually a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.

— Oscar Wilde, “The Philosophy of Dress”, New York Tribune, 1885, cited in John Cooper, Oscar Wilde on Dress, 2013

(Note: This article of Wilde was “lost” and only rediscovered in 2012.)

Dutch Mail Hoax

A hoax which did not deceive the learned, but sorely puzzled them, was that known as the Dutch Mail hoax. Some fifty years ago, an article appeared in the Leicester Herald, an English provincial paper, under the title of ‘The Dutch Mail,’ with the announcement that it had arrived too late for translation, and so had been set up and printed in the original. Much attention was attracted to the article, and many Dutch scholars rushed into print to say that it was not in any dialect with which they were acquainted. Finally it was discovered to be a hoax. Sir Richard Phillips, the editor of the paper, recently told this story of how the jest was conceived and carried out: ‘One evening, before one of our publications, my men and a boy overturned two or three columns of the paper in type. We had to get ready someway for the coaches, which, at four in the morning, required four or five hundred papers. After every exertion, we were short nearly a column, but there stood a tempting column of ‘pi’ [a jumble of odd letters] on the galleys. It suddenly struck me that this might be thought Dutch. I made up the column, overcame the scruples of the foreman, and so away the country edition went with its philological puzzle to worry the honest agricultural readers’ heads. There was plenty of time to set up a column of plain English for the local edition.’ Sir Richard met one man in Nottingham who for thirty years preserved a copy of the Leicester Herald hoping that some day the letter would be explained.

Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, September 1888


I trembled once beneath her spell
Whose spelling was extremely so-so.

— Frederick Locker-Lampson, London Lyrics, 1881


About Edmark M. Law

My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. I blog at You can find me on Twitter @EdmarkLaw and Facebook. My email is
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7 Responses to Gleanings From The Past #45

  1. 3C Style says:

    Wilde also said and I quote: “I can resist anything except temptation”. That sounds like something many fashionistas could say? Uhmmm, not me of course… 😉


  2. Abigail says:

    Lord Goring’s quote reminds me of the perspective that one is never late, but everyone else is simply early.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good post. I enjoy your works and research efforts. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. masercot says:

    I wrote some essays on modern hoaxes for a defunct site called “99ways”… my first paid gig. Not as hilarious as yours, but the passage of time does make things funnier…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. anjalisk96 says:

    That Dutch mail hoax is a very interesting and rather funny glimpse into the past! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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