The Limerickiad volume IV

from Tolstoy to Modernism

Despite being unceremoniously sacked by The Independent on Sunday in 2013, the award-winning cartoonist Martin Rowson has continued to churn out the ridiculous series of limericks they once paid him to write for them. It’s almost as though he enjoys making a fool of himself by reducing the work of some of the world’s best-loved writers to a series of puerile and filthy limericks. Following the embarrassing success of the first three volumes (from Gilgamesh to Baudelaire) The Limerickiad volume IV lowers the tone further by abusing all the early Modernists from Eliot to Eliot. Rowson joshes with Joyce and James, has a hoot reading Hardy, insists on trying to be funny in the company of some gloomy Russians and Scandinavians, and pisses himself with Prufrock. Unbelievable.

Sample Poems

War and Peace

In their own different fashions prepare
      For War! ANDREI’s posh
      While the ROSTOVS seem gauche*
And DOLOKHOV’s bad, so beware!

If you’d like to know the true costov
Land Management, don’t ask a ROSTOV.
      Pierre duels**. Austerlitz
      Sees Andrei blown to bits
And that’s Book 2 more or less tossedov.

Dumped by NATASHA, ANDREI’s jaded.
PIERRE’s idealism has faded
      Though now the book’s more
      Or less about War
Because BONAPARTE has invaded.

NAPOLEON retreats with PIERRE.
ANDREI dies of his wounds, beyond care,
      First forgiving NATASH
      And so – bish bosh bash! –
She now marries PIERRE! The End! Yeah!

Some survive. Others take early baths,
And TOLSTOY says History’s like Maths...

* In translation this doesn’t quite rhyme,
But this book’s bloody thick! Give it time!
** Does it matter that PIERRE’s embracin’
e sinister life of the Mason?

Anthony Trollope

Every morning just wearing his socks
TROLLOPE wrote, then chased after a fox
      Whilst administ’ring The Post
      In which role he could boast
He invented the red pillar box!*

He wrote of the Church’s estate
In ways I’ll now seek to truncate:
      Thoughts of Deans’ daughters’ knickers
      And low plots by vicars
Dominate these books, in sextuplate.

If that’s all too mitre-y and chalice-r,
Instead you can read of the PALLISER
      Clan! (Gets quite soapy
      And plotwise just dopey
Does Victorian Lit get much Dallas-er?)

Nonetheless several very well read
Statesman have publicly said
      That these books are so neat
      Nothing else can quite beat
Curling up with a TROLLOPE in bed!**

* This self-serving ruse shows some brass neck,
Just to post him his royalty cheque!
Unlike PROFUMO he was just chillin’.

Emily Dickinson

As to poets who hid under rocks –
      Were white – Short, her Verse –
      Her manners – quite terse –
With a ticked ‘No Publicity’ box...

A Shropshire Lad

In Shropshire there once was this lad
Who was laddish and wild and quite bad*
      And dead at one-and-twenty
      Exactly like plenty
Of others. How terribly sad.

* I think we’ll gloss over the thrills
   To be had by blue remembered hills....

Arnold Bennett

It is an unquestionable tenet
That Prosperity’s not for you when it
      Turns out Life’s Lottery’s
      Seen you born in the Potteries.
Unless, of course, you’re ARNOLD BENNETT.


‘although the rhymes can sometimes make you groan, they’re meant to, and they delight you with their inventiveness.’

Ian McMillan, Yorkshire Post

‘a delightfully dirty digest of literature from Gilgamesh to Shakespeare.’

Independent on Sunday

‘He writes as well as he draws... a riot of literature and laughs.’


‘a book which wears its erudition like a drunk the suit he’s slept in.’

Mistress Quickly’s Bed

‘another must-have for the bookish, the cynical and gourmets of deliberately dreadful verse.’

Morning Star

‘scholarship wrapped in a lot of tosh and a lot of fun.’

Mistress Quickly’s Bed