John Buddle's Speaking Head


Compiled by Steven Connor as part of The Dumbstruck Archive, a continuing, online supplement to Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).


In 1778, John Buddle, Marquis of Worcester, published The Marquis of Worcester's Century of Inventions, an immodest and implausible listing of 100 of his own inventions and contrivances. Number 88 in the list of 'the Names and Scantlings of INVENTIONS by me already practised' (p. 9), keeping company with Buddle's strength-increasing spring, his unsinkable ship, his device for writing in the dark and his flying machine was the following: 
LXXXVIII How to make a brazen or stone head, in the midst of a great field or garden, so artifical and natural, that though a man speak never so softly, and even whispers in the ears thereof, it will presently open its mouth, and resolve the question in French, Latin, Welsh, Irish, or English, in good terms uttering it out of his mouth, and then shut it until the next question be asked.
John Buddle, The Marquis of Worcester's Century of Inventions: To Which Is Added, An Appendix, Containing an Historical Account of the Fire-Engine for Raising Water (Newcastle: printed T. Slack and G. Robinson, 1778), p. 31.