Wise Men of Gotham


Wise Men of Gotham

Wise Men of Gotham, the early name given to the people of the village of Gotham, Nottinghamshire, in allusion to their reputed simplicity. But if tradition is to be believed the Gothamites were not so very simple.

The story is that King John intended to live in the neighbourhood, but that the villagers, foreseeing ruin as the cost of supporting the court, feigned imbecility when the royal messengers arrived. Wherever the latter went they saw the rustics engaged in some absurd task. John, on this report, determined to have his hunting lodge elsewhere, and the wise men boasted, "we ween there are more fools pass through Gotham than remain in it".

The "foles of Gotham" are mentioned as early as the 15th century in the "Towneley Mysteries"; and a collection of their jests was published in the 16th century under the title "Merrie Tales of the Mad Men of Gotham, gathered together by A.B. of Phisicke Doctour". The AB was supposed to represent Andrew Borde or Boorde (1490?-1549), famous among other things for his wit, but he probably had nothing to do with the compilation.

As typical of the Gothamite folly is usually quoted the story of the villagers joining hands round a thornbush to shut in a cuckoo so that it would sing all the year. The localizing of fools is common to most countries, and there are many other reputed imbecile centres in England besides Gotham. Thus there are the people of Coggeshall, Essex, the "carles" of Austwick, Yorkshire, the "gowks" of Gordon, Berwickshire, and for many centuries the charge of folly has been made against silly Suffolk and Norfolk ("Descriptio Norfolciensium" about 12th century, printed in Wright's "Early Mysteries and other Latin Poems").

In Germany there are the "Schildbürger", from the town of "Schilda"; in the Netherlands, the people of Kampen, in the Bohemia, the people of Kocourkov, in Moravia the people of Šimperk. Among the ancient Greeks Boeotia was the home of fools; among the Thracians, Abdera; among the Jews, Chelm; among the ancient Asiatics,Phrygia.

The Wise Men of Gotham are recalled in a nursery rhyme:

Three wise men of Gotham
Went to sea in a bowl.
If the bowl had been stronger
My tale had been longer.

ee also

*English folklore
*Ship of fools
*The Praise of Folly
*Feigned madness
*Schildbürger (Schilda, from Schildau), Schildbürger (German)
*Chelm
*Molbo story

External links

* [http://www.gothamvillage.co.uk/tales.htm Gotham Tales]

References

*WA Clouston, "Book of Noodles" (London, 1888)
*RH Cunningham, "Amusing Prose Chap-books" (1889).----


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  • Wise Men of Gotham — ▪ English legend       in English legend, wise fools, villagers of Gotham, Nottinghamshire, Eng. The story is that, threatened by a visit from King John (reigned 1199–1216), they decided to feign stupidity and avoid the expense entailed by the… …   Universalium

  • wise men of Gotham — fools, simpletons, idiots (from the folk tales about the city of Gotham which was inhabited by simpletons) …   English contemporary dictionary

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  • Gotham, the Wise Men of —    Many English villages were mocked for alleged stupidity, but only Gotham, seven miles from Nottingham, was famous well beyond its neighbourhood. There is a brief allusion to the foles of Gotam in a 15th century play, and a whole cycle of jokes …   A Dictionary of English folklore

  • Gotham — may refer to: Real places: * Gotham, Nottinghamshire, England ** Wise Men of Gotham, an early name given to the people of Gotham, Nottinghamshire * Gotham, Wisconsin, United States * Gotham, a nickname for New York City, first used by Washington… …   Wikipedia

  • Gotham City — ist ein Spitzname für New York City. 1807 benutzte Washington Irving in seiner Essaysammlung Salmagundi, or the Whims and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff and Others den Begriff Gotham City für New York. In Anlehnung an die volkstümliche Legende… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Gotham — [gōt′əm, gät′əm; ] for 2 [ gäth′əm] 1. village near Nottingham, England, whose inhabitants, the “wise men of Gotham,” were, according to legend, very foolish 2. name for New York City Gothamite [gäth′əmīt΄] n …   English World dictionary

  • Gotham, Nottinghamshire — infobox UK place official name = Gotham os grid reference = population = 1,600 shire district = Rushcliffe shire county = Nottinghamshire region = East Midlands country = England latitude = 52.869 longitude = 1.205 map type = Nottinghamshire post …   Wikipedia

  • Gotham (Nottinghamshire) — Welcome to Gotham bewegt viele Touristen zu einem Foto. Gotham ist ein Ort in Nottinghamshire in England 7 km südlich von Nottingham. Die Kirche St. Lawrence stammt aus dem 12. Jahrhundert. Der Ort ist in den Geschichten der Wise Men of Gotham… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Gotham — noun 1. /ˈgoʊtəm/ (say gohtuhm) an English village near Nottingham, proverbial for the foolishness of its inhabitants; the Wise Men of Gotham feigned stupidity to deter King John from living among them. 2. /ˈgɒθəm/ (say gothuhm), /ˈgoʊ / (say goh …   Australian English dictionary