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Comic History of England

Comic History of England by Bill Nye
By: (1850-1896)

If you thought history was dull, dry and boring, you haven't read Bill Nye's books! He brings wit, humor, satire, irony and sheer nonsensical fun into the subject, making it both entertaining and memorable.

The Comic History of England was published posthumously in 1896 after the writer's tragic and untimely death half-way through the project. Hence it remains incomplete and covers the history of the island nation only up to the Tudor period. However, beginning with Julius Caesar, the Roman invasion of Britain, the Druids and Stonehenge, this book is still a rib-tickling ride through the centuries. Some of the humor is extremely topical and readers may in fact have to actually know some of the facts to get the jokes, but one thing is certain; this is no serious and scholarly tome to be pored over in a dusty library! Delightfully illustrated by W. W. Goodes and AM Richards, the book is embellished by truly hilarious illustrations which add to the comic element.

Edgar Wilson (“Bill”) Nye was an American journalist. He was a trained to be a lawyer and was admitted to the bar. However, his interest lay in humor and writing and he soon began to contribute short sketches and humorous pieces to local newspapers. His works were well received and he was also popular on the lecture circuit as a comic speaker along with fellow writer James Whitcomb Riley. His brand of humor was uniquely American and he not only poked fun at people from all over the world, but also at himself and his fellow Americans. He once remarked that true humor rose from a “pathetic philosophy” of hunger and deprivation, making it all the more keen and hard hitting. His earlier book, Comic History of the United States had met with a rousing reception.

The Comic History of England contains some droll and ludicrous takes on events like the advent of the Danes, the Norman Conquest and the Feudal System. Some of the humor is quite trenchant, as when he speaks of the Roman invasion of Caledonia (modern Scotland) and says one of the generals, Agricola, took some Scotchmen home and “domesticated” them! He also uses puns and word-play to enhance the humor, especially in the chapter that describes the advent of the Angles; the paragraphs are filled with “obtuse angles” “right angles” and the like!

For a light-hearted, rollicking account of the centuries gone by, the Comic History of England is indeed unmatched!

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