APRIL brings springtime, baseball and, this year, Easter...

Salmagundi

April 01, 1994

APRIL brings springtime, baseball and, this year, Easter and Passover. It also brings April's Fool's Day, a day devoted to practical jokes. "The Book of Days" records a couple of famous pranks:

"In March 1960, a vast multitude of people received through the post a card having the following inscription, with a seal marked by an inverted sixpence at one of the angles, thus having to superficial observation an official appearance: 'Tower of London. -- Admit the Bearer and Friend to view the Annual Ceremony of Washing the White Lions, on Sunday, April 1st, 1860. Admitted only at the White Gate. It is particularly requested that no gratuities be given to the Wardens or their Assistants.' The trick is said to have been highly successful. Cabs were rattling about Tower Hill all that Sunday morning, vainly endeavouring to Discover the White Gate. . . .

"April fooling is a very noted practice in France, and we get traces of its prevalence there at an earlier period than is the case in England. For instance, it is related that Francis, Duke of Lorraine, and his wife, being in captivity at Nantes, effected their escape in consequence of the attempt being made on the 1st of April. 'Disguised as peasants, the one bearing a hod on his shoulder, the other carrying a basket of rubbish at her back, they both at an early hour of the day passed through the gates of the city. A woman, having a knowledge of their persons, ran to the guard to give notice to the sentry. "April fool!" cried the soldier; and all the guard, to a man, shouted out, "April fool!" beginning with the sergeant in charge of the post. The governor, to whom the story was told as a jest, conceived some suspicion, and ordered the fact to be proved; but it was too late, for in the meantime the duke and his wife were well on their way. The 1st of April saved them.' "

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