Impertinence of Every Petulant Jackanapes

Jackanapes, an 1883 British juvenile novel

in about Warren

Date: June 1, 1767

“To the PUBLIC.

The case between Dr. Whitworth and myself stood reduced to this single alternative; I was a rash ignorant chance-medly manslayer: Or Dr. Whitworth an intemperate incompetent judge of the matter he laid to my charge. For my vindication I stated the facts at large, and quoted such authorities as defy the test of time to invalidate their suffrage.-

Dr. Whitworth conscious of the difficulty to dispute facts of which he could have no possible means of knowledge, gave railing for argument, and setting forth a representation as distant from sense and connection, as from truth and conviction; drew his conclusions from his own premises.-

I submitted the matter to your sovereign tribunal for a just and impartial decision; little imagining I was setting myself up a mark for the impertinence of every petulant Jackanapes, whounder a fictitious character, learned of some boy in the accidence, might issue forth a torrent of nonsense against me sufficient to suffocate a whole tribe of Hottentots.- If you can approve such measures I have no more to say; if otherwise, hope the dignity of the supreme, and only court on earth from whence lies no appeal, will be maintained by Gentlemen whose capacity and integrity give them a right to the initial declaration falsely enough made and as meanly observed by the pusillanimous Philo Physic.- This bashfulness of names among equals being apparently scandalous and injurious to all concerned in debates of such importance, where one would conceive the Judges might as well appear in daylight as the parties – And if after all the pains I have taken, if anything should yet remain in the least obscurity, I declare myself ready in the most public or private manner to give treasonable satisfaction on that or any other matter or thing relative to my profession, when regularly requested or demanded by any person or persons worthy the least notice or regard; anonymous scribbles, repetitions of old stories, always excepted by

[Dr.] Tho[mas]. Young.”

Source: Boston Evening-Post, June 1, 1767, issue 1654, p. 4

Commentary: Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary offers several meanings for jackanapes: ape or monkey; an impudent or conceited fellow; and a saucy or mischievous child. The singular of the term ends in ‘s’ – potentially confusing some about whether the word is singular or plural. Thomas Young probably intended any or all of the three meanings in labeling Joseph Warren’s pseudonymous Philo Physic. Wikipedia, that impeccable source for use by jackanapeses, cites applications of the word from Shakespeares’ Cymbeline to George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, with Joseph Conrad and Samuel Butler in between.

This letter is one of a newspaper free-for-all among Drs. Miles Whitworth, Joseph Warren, and others, ostensibly about Young’s alleged medical malpractice. Here Dr. Young attempts to take the high road by inviting Warren’s Philo Physic to reveal his true identity and to meet publicly to debate the medical issues. Joseph Warren will have none of it.

The illustration is from a 19th century English juvenile novel, where Jackanapes is a mischievous orphan.       

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