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Having entertained, in the last post, the possibility of transformation into a bird, I pass on to an indisputable instance thereof, with scholarly commentary appended.

“Of a man whom nothing could put out of his way, or dérouter in the least,” Harriet Cavendish reports this anecdote to her mother, the Duchess of Devonshire, in 1804.

To try him one night Lord Somebody and a large party at a house in the country made him dead drunk, rubbed him all over with sirrup, rolled him in a feather bed and then hid themselves in his room to watch his recovery. When he woke he walked slowly up to the glass, and, upon beholding himself, quietly said—“A bird, by God,” and went and sat down again.

“I nearly expired when I heard it,” writes Harriet. (The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose, ed. Frank Muir.)

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