Quaker Humor, Allegedly


Come to the Sunny Side

Daniel Trotter was a weighty Friend of his day, who often observed solemnly that “There is nothing but trouble this side of the grave.” 

One day at a Friend’s funeral, he stood to speak by the freshly dug mound, just as a curious sailor poked his head into the Quaker burial ground to see what was going on. Trotter was gazing down into the pit and said, characteristically, “There is nothing but trouble this side of the grave.”

“Well in that case,” called the sailor helpfully, “come on over to this side, there’s no trouble over here.”

Putting A President In His Place

The story goes that Herbert Hoover could be rather gruff in manner when he felt irritated.  At one private White House dinner he became piqued when one of his guests, a Quaker minister, responded to his request for a blessing by praying in a very low tone.

The exasperated president finally interrupted the prayer with a curt, “Louder, Fred–I can’t hear!”

Without looking up, the minister paused, then said, distinctly: “Herbert Hoover, I was not talking to thee.”

Preaching the Word

Our British correspondent Ben Vincent recalls an incident from his youth, in the early years of the last century. In his meeting it was then customary, when a Friend was exercised in vocal prayer, for the rest of the congregation to rise.

One First Day morning, a family coachman came in after meeting had started, sat down unnoticed on the back bench, and soon fell asleep. While dozing he began to slide off the bench, finally slipping right off and onto his knees with a bump, whereupon he was heard to exclaim, “Oh, Christ!”

At this, the entire meeting stood up.

Fortunately, the coachman was a well-versed Anglican, and after gathering his wits about him, he proceeded to recite one of the Collects from the Book of Common Prayer. His message impressed most Friends greatly, as they had never heard it before.

Pass the Seasoning

Upper Creek Monthly Meeting was once visited by a new young elder from Philadelphia.  The visitor preached eloquently at First Day worship–so eloquently that Lucretia, Upper Creek’s senior minister, suspected him of being infatuated with city notions and affectations, and in need of seasoning.

Her suspicions deepened when she heard the young elder declaiming after meeting to some of the male elders.

“Friends,” he asserted, “the truly wise are always in doubt. Only the foolish are sure of their case.”

Lucretia spoke up quietly. “Is thee sure of that?”

The young elder did not hesitate. “Yes,” he answered. “Absolutely.”

“That’s what I was afraid of,” Lucretia murmured.

—- From the collection, Quakers Are Funny, by Chuck Fager



3 thoughts on “Quaker Humor, Allegedly”

  1. Not sure about the Herbert Hoover anecdote. I first heard this as a story about Bill Moyers, offering a prayer in Lyndon Johnson’s presence:
    LBJ: “Speak up, Bill, I can’t hear you!”
    WM: “I wasn’t addressing you, Mr. President.”

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