Chapter XIII. – Inadvertence and Forgetfulness, pp.57-59.

[Book of Blunders Contents]

SOME odd mistakes are made through inadvertence or forgetfulness. 

The old Parish Registry Act provides that any person or persons wilfully making or causing to be made false returns in the books of baptisms, burials, or marriages, being thereof lawfully convicted, shall be deemed and adjudged to be guilty of felony, and shall be transported for the term of fourteen years. And the succeeding clause enacts  

   “that one-half of all fines or penalties to be levied in pursuance of this Act shall go to the person who shall inform or sue for the same; and the remainder of such fines as shall be imposed on any churchwarden, shall go to the poor of the parish.” 

The only penalty imposed by the Act is transportation for fourteen years, and that is to be equally divided between the informer and the poor of the parish! In the original draft of the Act, instead of penalty, there had probably been a fine proposed; and on making the substitution, the necessity of a corresponding alteration in other parts of the bill was overlooked. 

A very ludicrous erratum occurs in “Alison’s Lives of Lord Castlereagh and Sir Charles Stewart.” In describing the great public funeral of the Duke of Wellington, the historian is made to say that 

   “the pall was borne by the Marquis of Anglesea, the Marquis of Londonderry, Lough Gough, Lord Chambermere and Sir Peregrine Pickle.” 

The association between “Peregrine” and “Pickle,” rendered immortal by Smollett’s novel, was evidently too strong for either compositor or reader to be struck by this strange anti-climax. Sir Peregrine Maitland was the name intended. 

A lady, having a couple of children sick with the measles, wrote to a friend for the best remedy, and got sent her by mistake a recipe for making pickles, which, to her horror, thinking of her children, she read as follows:- 

   “Scald them three or four times in very hot vinegar, and sprinkle them with salt; and in a few days they will be cured.” 

Bourienne, in his “Life of Napoleon,” records the following incident in connection with Pope Pius VII.:- Several presidents of cantons who came to be presented, being too poor to pay coach hire, put on gaiters to save their silk stockings from the mud. One had put his gaiters into his pocket, and at a melting part of the Pope’s address, pulled them out and besmeared his entire visage with mud. The Pope could not restrain himself, but laughed outright. 

The following story is also worth repeating:- 

An eminent Scottish advocate, who had drunk rather freely, was called on unexpectedly to plead in a cause in which he had been retained. Mistaking the party for whom he was engaged, he delivered, to the amazement of the agent who had fee’d him, and to the horror of his client, an eloquent speech on the other side. Just as he was about to sit down, the trembling solicitor, in a brief note, informed him of his mistake. This would have disconcerted most men, but had quite the opposite effect upon him. Readjusting his wig and gown, he resumed his oration with the words – 

   “Such, my Lords, is the statement of this case, which you will probably hear from my learned brother on the other side. I shall now, therefore, show your Lordships how utterly untenable are the principles, and how distorted are the facts, upon which this plausible statement has proceeded.” 

And going over the whole ground, he so completely refuted the whole of his former pleading that he won his cause. 

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