This essay analyzes the Irish jokes that circulated in London in the 1680s, paying particular attention to those that emanated from the stage and from the two earliest Irish joke books, Bog Witticisms; or, Dear Joy’s Common-Places (1682) and Teagueland Jests, or Bogg-Witticisms (1690). Like ethnic jokes in general, these Irish jokes sought to stereotype and ridicule the population that they depicted, in this case, the London-Irish. But, as this essay illustrates, these comic representations can also serve as a rich source of information on the cultural, social, and economic life of that population during that period, documenting its resilience and energy as it mapped itself onto the landscape of that city. To recover this information, however, requires a different mode of reading, one that focuses on the “ground,” or background detail of the joke, rather than its “figure,” the material that is on its surface.
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Helen Burke; The Irish Joke, Migrant Networks, and the London Irish in the 1680s. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 January 2015; 39 (1): 41–65. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-2834094
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