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Recap / Blackadder S 3 E 2 Ink And Incapability

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Prince George is sick of everyone thinking he's an idiot. So to boost his credibility, he decides to patronize Dr. Samuel Johnson's new book, The English Dictionary. Blackadder thinks this a ridiculous idea (though he is biased against Dr. Johnson since he submitted Johnson a novel entitled Edmund: A Butler's Tale, under the name Gertrude Perkins, and never heard back from him. But unfortunately, the prince is too dumb to be persuaded. Dr. Johnson comes over, and the prince, being himself, fails to understand what exactly a dictionary is, and insults Dr. Johnson, who storms out, but not before saying that the only book he ever read that was better than his own was "Edmund: A Butler's Tale," and if the prince weren't so stupid, he could patronize that book as well. Realizing this might be his chance to have his novel published, Edmund tries to convince Dr. Johnson to give the prince another chance, and let Edmund convince him to patronise the book. Dr. Johnson agrees, and after remembering he left the dictionary in the prince's room, tells Edmund to give it to him later at Mrs. Miggins' Pie Shop. Edmund manages to convince the prince to patronize the book, but runs into a worse problem; Baldrick has burned the dictionary in a fire, and there are no other copies.


The rest of the episode involves Edmund trying to stall for time and replace the book before he is brutally murdered by Johnson and his poet friends. He eventually tries to rewrite the dictionary, getting only as far as 'aardvark.' But on the morning when the book must be delivered, George appears, having had the book the whole time! Doctor Johnson accepts it gratefully, and allows George to be both its patron and the patron of "Edmund; A Butler's Tale." Edmund finally, reveals himself as Gertrude Perkins, and offers to prove it by comparing his signature to that on the manuscript's title page. However, Dr. Johnson now can't find that manuscript. Turns out Baldrick hadn't burn the dictionary manuscript; he burnt Edmund's. And to make matters worse, Johnson left the word 'sausage' out of his dictionary. He's going to have to hope he has better luck next time; as they all leave, Baldrick sets a third fire, this time throwing the dictionary on it for good!


  • All Just a Dream: Blackadder wakes up to find that Dr. Johnson is about to arrive and find out his dictionary has been burned. Then Dr. Johnson comes in an announces that he didn't like the dictionary after all and that he is glad to find out it has been destroyed. Things start getting surreal when Blackadder's aunt appears out of nowhere and Baldrick starts turning into a dog, until Blackadder realises that "It's all a bloody dream!" Cut to Blackadder waking up and finding out that Dr. Johnson is still arriving and the dictionary has still been burned.
  • Anachronism Stew: Samuel Johnson actually published his dictionary in 1755, seven years before Prince George was born. In addition, Johnson died 27 years before the Regency was declared.
    • And a more obvious example: Dr. Samuel Johnson refers to Edmund's Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue" book Edmund: A Butler's Tale as a "huge rollercoaster of a novel".
  • Artistic Licence – Linguistics: When trying to rewrite the dictionary, Blackadder refers to "a" as an "impersonal pronoun". The grammatically correct term is "indefinite article".
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  • Ax-Crazy: The poets and Doctor Johnson. The former evidently on account of being high as kites (combined with suffering from syphilis in Lord Byron's case), the later because of the ten years he spent writing his Dictionary.
  • Big "NO!": They didn't burn the dictionary as they thought. They burnt Blackadder's book, a novel that would have made him a millionaire. When Baldrick reveals this, Blackadder excuses himself and lets out one of these.
    Blackadder: [from outside] OH, GOD, NO!
  • Black Comedy Rape: Lord Byron threatens to kill everyone in the palace by giving them syphilis.
  • Brick Joke: Baldrick's terrible "novel".
    • And the word "aardvark."
  • Buffy Speak: Baldrick calls the manuscript "The big papery thing tied up with string," the fire "The hot orangey thing under the stony mantlepiece" and Edmund threatens that "the booted boney thing with five toes at the end of [his] leg will soon connect sharply with the soft dangly collection of objects in your trousers."
  • Comically Missing the Point: Most Baldrick and George's efforts to help Blackadder rewrite the dictionary:
    Blackadder: "AB". What starts with "AB"?
    Baldrick: Honey? Honey starts with a bee.
And later:
George: "Medium-sized insectivore with protruding nasal implement." [beat] Doesn't sound much like a bee to me.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: "Baldrick, believe me. Eternity in the company of Beelzebub, and all his hellish instruments of death, will be a picnic compared to five minutes with me... and this pencil... if we cannot replace this dictionary."
  • Dream Sequence: "Baldrick! Who gave you permission to turn into an Alsatian?"
  • Groin Attack: "The booted bony thing with 5 toes will soon connect sharply with the soft dangly collection of objects in your trousers."
  • Have a Gay Old Time: A somewhat subtle example: Blackadder says that "The prince cannot wait to patronise your dictionary." At the time, "patronise" meant "to be a patron of; to bankroll", which is what Doctor Johnson is looking for. Of course, to modern audiences, "patronise" means "to sarcastically insult", which is closer to what the regent actually does to the dictionary.
  • Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue":
    • Blackadder's novel Edmund: A Butler's Tale sounds like this, based on what he tells Baldrick about it.
    • Baldrick's novel (or "Magnificent Octopus") also has elements of this: "Once upon a time there was a lovely little sausage called Baldrick, who lived happily ever after."
  • Hope Spot: When Samuel Johnson tells Edmund that he wasn't happy with the dictionary and is glad that it was destroyed. Shame it's All Just a Dream.
  • Hot Gypsy Woman: Dr. Johnson says that Edmund's novel is "crammed with sizzling gypsies".
  • Is That What They're Calling It Now?: George mistakes Dr. Johnson's large words for 'damn saucy talk.'
  • Large Ham:
    • The poets, Lord Byron in particular.
    Lord Byron: To hell with his fine talking! COFFEE, WOMAN! My consumption grows ever more acute and Coleridge's drugs are wearing off!
    • Doctor Johnson's last line as well.
    Johnson: Sausage? SAUSAGE?! OH BLAST YOUR EYES!
    • Blackadder himself snaps for a brief second over the word "Aardvark".
  • Life's Work Ruined: Double Subverted in a very odd way. It turns out that Dr Johnson's dictionary was never burned at all, despite what Blackadder and Baldrick spent most of the episode believing; the book that was burned was in fact Blackadder's novel, which both he and Johnson thought was a masterpiece. The dictionary then gets burned by Baldrick while he's making a fire.
  • Magnum Opus: Blackadder spends seven years writing Edmund: A Butler's Tale, "a giant rollercoaster of a novel in four hundred sizzling chapters, a searing indictment of domestic servitude in the eighteenth century, with some hot gypsies thrown in," and describes it as his magnum opus. (Followed immediately by a parody in which Baldrick produces his "magnificent octopus": "Once upon a time, there was a lovely little sausage called Baldrick, and he lived happily ever after." Baldrick doesn't like long books, y'see.) And Samuel Johnson agrees that Blackadder's book is a masterpiece, pronouncing it the only book superior to his dictionary. A pity he's the only person besides Blackadder who ever gets to read it before a misunderstanding leads Baldrick to throw it on the fire...
  • Moustache de Plume: Edmund writes Edmund: A Butler's Tale under the name Gertrude Perkins, because everyone wants books by women nowadays. He claims that Ann Radcliffe, Jane Austen, and Dorothy Wordsworth are all men, Austen being an "a huge Yorkshireman with a beard like a rhododendron bush". Reversed with James Boswell being a woman wanting to snare Dr Johnson.
    Baldrick: Gertrude Perkins?
    Blackadder: Yes, I gave myself a female pseudonym. Everybody's doing it these days: Mrs. Radcliffe, Jane Austen...
    Baldrick: [astonished] What, Jane Austen's a man?!
    Blackadder: Of course! A huge Yorkshireman with a beard like a rhododendron bush!
    Baldrick: Oh, quite a small one, then?
    Blackadder: Well, compared to Dorothy Wordsworth's, certainly! James Boswell is the only real woman writing at the moment, and that's just because she wants to get inside Johnson's britches.
  • Neologizer: Blackadder becomes one for a short while in order to confuse Doctor Johnson, who is boasting about having written the first English dictionary and that he has taken care to include every English word.
  • Noodle Implements: Blackadder threatens Baldrick into helping him by stating that eternity in the company of Satan and all his little devils will be nothing compared to five minutes with him and a pencil.
  • Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: Invoked. Edmund asks what the next greatest book to the dictionary is "Dictionary 2: The Return of the Killer Dictionary?"
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: Edmund makes up a lot of these to annoy Dr. Johnson into thinking he has left out words such as 'contrafibularities' "pericombobulations" and "interfrastically."
  • Purple Prose: The poets talk like this.
  • Rage Breaking Point:
    • Blackadder reaches this when Baldrick reveals he burned his novel.
    • Doctor Johnson when he learns what word he left out of his dictionary.
    Doctor Johnson: "Once upon a time there was a lovely little sausage n-" ... Sausage? Sausage?! Damn and blast your eyes!
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Dr. Johnson talks like this at first:
    Dr. Johnson: I celebrated last night the encyclopaedic implementation of my premeditated orchestration of demotic Anglo-Saxon.
    George: Didn't catch any of that.
    Dr. Johnson: I simply observed, sir, that I'm felicitous, since, during the course of the penultimate solar sojourn, I terminated my uninterrupted categorisation of the vocabulary of our post-Norman tongue.
  • Shout-Out: The plot of the episode is inspired by a real alleged incident from the 1830s, when the only manuscript of Thomas Carlyle's The French Revolution was burned by a servant of John Stuart Mill, who mistook it for waste paper.
  • Talks Like a Simile: In addition to Blackadder as usual, Doctor Johnson does this, albeit his are a little less creative.
  • Truth in Television: Dr. Johnson really did leave the word 'aardvark' out of his Dictionary, although he did include 'sausage'.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Doctor Johnson was very focused on his work. When his mother died, he didn't notice. When his father cut his head off and fried it in garlic, he didn't look up from his work. When his wife cheated repeatedly just to raise a huge family of bastards, he didn't care.
  • Wake Up Make Up: The Prince Regent wakes up (at three in the afternoon) fully made up in powder and rouge, and with his wig already on his head.


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