The Limerickiad volume III

Byron to Baudelaire

Every week since 2006, the award-winning cartoonist and writer Martin Rowson has been making a fool of himself in The Independent on Sunday by reducing the work of some of the world's best-loved writers to a series of puerile and filthy limericks. Following the success of the first two volumes of The Limerickad (from Gilgamesh to Jane Austen) The Limerickiad volume III lays waste to the literary greats of the nineteenth-century. Rowson mangles Melville, puts the boot into the Brontёs and defaces the complete works of Dickens. He even finds time to write a limerick in homage to its inventor ('When a runcible fellow called Lear...').

Sample Poems

The Brontës

The time: 1830s; Place: Lyme,
Where the crumbling cliffs, well worth a climb,
      Reveal loads of fossils
      Who see off Apostles
In deep geological time.

And though Churchmen gibber and shout,
Insisting the Flood wiped them out,
      When God puts before us
      A Megalosaurus 
These dinosaurs call all in doubt!*

But if Learning's in flux, what of Lit?
Did dinosaurs feature? A bit.
      I think no great classic
      Is all that Jurassic,
But if you look North, there's a fit.

The BRONTËS were not from a poor class
Though all could've done with some more brass
      While the moors stretched for miles
      'Cos the girls all got piles!**
And there is your link – BRONTË sore arse!***

* It was LYELL who made such talk legal
While DARWIN embarked on The Beagle...

** The vicarage in Howarth was drafty
(And draughty with books too! There's crafty!)

***BRANWELL cracked this joke. 'Oh good grief!'
The girls cried. More of them o'erleaf.
As he dipped each girl's head in the font, he
Reflected, did Reverend BRONTË,  

      With his home's cold stone floors
      And the wild windswept moors
They'd never be that MARY QUANTY,

Nor would they dress in diamonte,*
Nor croon tunes like H. BELLAFONTE,
      But though they lacked looks
      These girls might write books!
And thus was the fate of each BRONTË,

So he brought them up showing you can dwell
On moors and write verse that can scan well
      While the damp, folk insist, has
	Killed Mum and two sisters
And a stoned, pissed-up brother called BRANWELL!

But you'll see there's a problem here. Hell!
The name's hard to rhyme and to spell!
      Which is why, I suppose,
      The BRONTËS all chose
As their first nom de plume the name BELL...**

* It's said thus in posh shops, like 'Modom'.
And if folk don't believe me – well, sod 'em!

** Plus they said they were male. It's not sarky
To blame this sleight on Patriarchy...

Wuthering Heights

MR LOCKWOOD, on one of those nights
Yorkshire's famous for, gets several frights!*
      Is 'e 'avin' a laff?
      'No!' his host cries. 'It's CATH!'
NELLIE DEAN explains, 'at Wuthering Heights

CATHY loved HEATHCLIFF, though wed
ED.  CATH's bro HINDLEY, it's said,
      Drank. Ed's sis ISSY
      O'er HEATHCLIFF grew dizzy.
Their son LINTON's a drip. All are dead

Save HEATHCLIFF, and now he's benighted
Those two children's lives!'** All is righted
      When Lockwood returns
      Eight months later and learns
H. & CATH are in Death reunited!

'But HEATHCLIFF were wild!' NELL said. 'Mothering
Is what that lad needed. Or smothering.
      But the lot - has thou guessed? -
      Were so sexually repressed***
They all needed a bloody good Wuthering!'

* A ghost, past the window, went whoosh!
It's described very well by Kate Bush.

** HARETON, HINDLEY's son, was now, I fear
HEATHCLIFF'S ward. And CATH's CATH's girl.All Clear?

*** Do you think – though in shame is this voiced -
As she wrote it that EMILY got... moist?

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

On those wild windswept moors without trees
Certain factors pertain, if you please:
      The men are Byronic
      (Though their manners are chronic)
And the BRONTË girls all come in threes!

So, the first Mrs ROCHESTER's call
Will ruin your sleep; then you'll fall
      For brooding HEATHCLIFFE!
      Then read ANNE B.'s riff

For herein this fem'nist debunks
Traditional marriage! She dunks
      Her women in deeper
      Than when thou dipst sheep! Er...
The men? They're adulterous drunks!

Let's rebrand the œuvre so it's stated
The Sisters' lives won't be frustrated!
      ROCHESTER and his mate
      Will seek help from Relate,
And HEATHCLIFFE, of course, be castrated...

Jane Eyre

Dear Reader, my  name is JANE EYRE.
No folk round these parts really care,
      For I am an Orphan
      And many a corffin 
Is filled with my best friends. Despair

Is compounded when I must, perforce,
Seek Work (as a Governess, of course)
      Worse still, my new boss
      Will be terribly cross
'Cos I made him fall off of his horse!

But we fall in love! Then we get proof
That life is a bitch, for in truth,
      While we two got pally
      His first wife's doolally
And locked in a room near the roof! *

I flee! I return! Had I tarried... Him?
She burned the place down! Cruel fate harried him:
      Blind and crippled! Will no man
      In this bildungsroman
Be mine at last?!? Reader - I married him! **

* 'It's BIGAMY!' We plight our troth
To these words, though it's big of us both.

** Though given his state when I married him
In practice thereafter I carried him...


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

Morning Star

'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... a great way to get people who think literature is stuffy and superior talking about books.'

Mistress Quickly's Bed