Gleanings From The Past #62


Bag o’ Nails

BACCHANALS—BACCHANALIANS — vulgo “The Bag o’ Nails.” A public-house in Pimlico had originally a sign on which was represented a satyr and several Bacchanalians dancing and carousing. The common people called the satyr the devil, and, in course of time, the sign was known only as “The Bag o’ Nails,” or “The Devil and the Bag o’Nails.” Well might Ben Jonson exclaim:

It even puts Apollo
To all his strengh of art to follow
The nights, and to divine
What is meant by every sign.

“The Devil and the Bag o’ Nails ” as a sign is not uncommon even now in the Midland Counties.

Century Illustrated Magazine, Vol. 10, August 1875

Folly of Betting

The folly of betting is well satirized in one of [Horace] Walpole’s Letters:

“Sept. 1st, 1750,

They have put in the papers a good story made at White’s. A man dropped down
dead at the door, and was carried in; the club immediately made bets whether he was dead or not, and when they were going to bleed* him, the wagerers for his death interposed, and said it would affect the fairness of the bet.”

— Launceston Examiner, May 9, 1861

* “Bleeding” was a former medical treatment.

Sun and Moon

A lady observing in company, how glorious and useful a body the sun, — “Why, yes madam,” said the Irish gentleman present, “the sun, to be sure, is a very fine body, but in mine opinion the moon is much more useful; for the moon affords us light in the night-time, when we really want it; whereas we have the sun with us only in the day-time, when we have no occasion for it.”

The Ladies’ Literary Cabinet, Vol. 5, December 1, 1821

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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. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

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