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The 'Miseries of Human Life': Celebrating the 'petty outrages' of the 19th century

Illustration by George Cruikshank

In these turbulent times, to re-center oneself, it’s sometimes a good idea to focus on the small things. No, not the smell of coffee in the morning, or freshly cut grass in spring, but the “petty outrages, minor humiliations and tiny discomforts that make up everyday human existence” -- such as those found in James Beresford’s “Miseries of Human Life.”

Originally published in 1806, a version of the “Miseries” was adapted in 1995 by Michelle Lovric and republished along with illustrations by George Cruikshank.

Beresford wrote his witty and elegant musings on “these teasing troubles … to disarm them of their sting.” Something to consider doing with or instead of our daily positive affirmations, perhaps? And by this year’s Festivus, you’d have a worthy airing of grievances.

Some noteworthy examples to inspire you (find the rest in the book, available here):

“Letting fall (of course on the buttered side), the piece of roll, or muffin, on which you had your heart.”

“Scissors that pinch, instead of cutting.”

“The feeling of your teeth and gums, when you have insulted them by an over-proportion of strong toothpaste.”

“After washing your hands in icy water, dangling them before you like a dancing bear, while you ferret about in vain for a towel.”

“On taking shelter from a storm, under a gateway, finding yourself face to face with the very person from whom you had long been concealing, by all possible stratagems, the fact of your being in town.”


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