This play has the most ludicrous opening in the whole of English literature:
[Enter RIGDUM-FUNNIDOS and ALDIBORONTIPHOSCOPHORNIO]
Where left you Chrononhotonthologos?
ALDI.: Fatigu’d with the tremendous Toils of War,
Within his Tent, on downy Couch succumbent,
Himself he unfatigues with gentle Slumbers.
Written around 1734 by Henry Carey, the Tory wit and Scriblerian, it mocks the doings of Robert Walpole and the monarchy, and revolves around such matters as the Queen’s diarrhoea and the King’s insomnia. As the historian of burlesque VC Clinton-Baddeley put it: ‘Carey is important because of his delight in pure extravagance.’ The play’s sesquipedalian title was inspired by antique models such as the Batrachomyomachia (a parody of the Iliad), and became so well-known that for decades afterward a ‘chrononhotonthologos’ (the King’s name in the play) was a synonym for a braggart or blusterer: it might be rendered ‘one who spends time over hot words’. It certainly got Carey into hot water. It was one of the plays that goaded the Whig establishment into passing the Licensing Act of 1737, which effectively muzzled the theatre.
Carey invented the word ‘namby-pamby’, by the way, to describe a fellow scribbler, Ambrose Philips.
Clinton-Baddeley, V. C.: The Burlesque Tradition in the English Theatre after 1660 (1952)
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