The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women

Original Text: 
The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women, Illustrated by as many Engravings; Exhibiting their Principal Eccentricities and Amusements. London: Harris and Son, May 1, 1821. British Library (4)
Mistress Towl.
2Who went out to Sea with her Owl,
3    But the Owl was Sea-sick,
5Which sadly annoy'd Mistress Towl.
Old Woman of France.
1There came an Old Woman from France,
2Who taught grown up Children to dance,
3    But they were so stiff,
5This sprightly Old Woman from France.
Old Woman of Bath.
3    She was brown as a berry,
4    With a Nose like a Cherry;
5This skinny Old Woman of Bath.
Old Woman of Croydon.
3    And would jump and would skip,
4    Till she put out her hip;
5Alas poor Old Woman of Croydon.
Old Woman of Harrow.
2Who visited in a Wheel barrow,
3    And her servant before,
4    Knock'd loud at each door;
5To announce the Old Woman of Harrow.
Old Woman of Glos'ter.
3    But his tongue never ceasing,
4    Was vastly displeasing;
5To the talkative Woman of Glos'ter.
Old Woman of Exeter.
2When visitors came it sore vexed her,
3    So for fear they should eat,
4    She lock'd up all the meat;
5This stingy Old Woman of Exeter.
Old Woman of Gosport.
2And she was one of the cross sort,
3    When she dress'd for the Ball,
4    Her wig was too small;
5Which enrag'd this Old Lady of Gosport.
Old Woman of Lynn.
2Whose Nose very near touch'd her chin,
3    You may easy suppose,
5This charming Old Woman of Lynn.
Old Woman of Leith.
2Who had a sad pain in her Teeth,
3    But the Blacksmith uncouth,
4    Scar'd the pain from her tooth;
5Which rejoic'd the Old Woman of Leith.
Old Woman of Surrey.
2Who was morn noon and night in a hurry,
3    Call'd her Husband a Fool,
4    Drove her Children to School;
5The worrying Old Woman of Surrey.
Old Woman of Devon.
2Who rose every morning at seven,
3    For her house to provide,
4    And to warm her inside;
5This provident Woman of Devon.
Old Woman of Spain.
1There was an Old Woman in Spain,
2To be civil went much 'gainst her grain,
5This whimsical Woman of Spain.
Old Woman of Norwich.
2Who liv'd upon nothing but Porridge,
3    Parading the Town,
4    Made a cloak of her Gown;
5This thrifty Old Woman of Norwich.
Old Woman of Ealing.
2She jump'd till her head touch'd the Ceiling
4    Was announc'd at her Door;
5As a prize to th'Old Woman of Ealing.
Old Woman of Leeds.
2Who spent all her time in good deeds,
3    She work'd for the Poor,
4    Till her fingers were sore;
5This pious Old Woman of Leeds.


1] This pamphlet appears to have introduced the comic limerick form into English.
Towl: a word meaning `toll.' Back to Line
4] Physic: medicine. Back to Line
4] miff: huff, disgust. Back to Line
1] Bath: city on the river Avon and in the modern country Avon. Back to Line
2] Lath: narrow wooden slat. Back to Line
1] Croyden: Croydon, probably the district in London, but possibly the town in Cambridgeshire. Back to Line
2] affected the Hoyden: pretended to be a ill-mannered, rowdy girl. Back to Line
1] Harrow: district in London, well-known for its school. Back to Line
1] Glos'ter: Gloucester (as it is sounded), city on the river Severn in Gloucestershire. Back to Line
2] Guineas: "English gold coin, not coined since 1813, first struck in 1663 with the nominal value of 20s., but from 1717 until its disappearance circulating as legal tender at the rate of 21s" (OED 3). Back to Line
1] Exeter: city in the county Devon in the southwest. Back to Line
1] Gosport: naval supplies town in Hampshire on the Solvent, at this period a rowdy place. Back to Line
1] Lynn: the name of towns in Shropshire and Staffordshire. Back to Line
4] Beaux: male friends. Back to Line
1] Leith: district in Edinburgh. Back to Line
1] Surrey: county south of London. Back to Line
1] Devon: country west of London. Back to Line
3] fandango: "A lively dance in 34 time, very popular in Spain and Spanish America" (OED). Back to Line
4] Fernando: Spain was ruled by the oppressive Fernando VII from 1814. Back to Line
1] Norwich: chief city in Norfolk on the east coast. Back to Line
1] Ealing: district in London. Back to Line
3] 2 1 6 4: presumably a prize-winning lottery number. Back to Line
1] Leeds: the west Yorkshire city. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: