Edward Lear and Ogden Nash wrote many famous limericks, and Shakespeare composed verses similar to limericks in some of his plays. Some nursery rhymes, such as Hickory Dickory Dock, are also limericks. Other famous limericks have unknown authors and were part of an oral tradition.
Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense, published in 1846, contributed to the limerick's rise in popularity among children. One of the limericks from his book starts "There was an old man with a beard", and another begins with "There was a young person of Crete." Most of his limericks follow a similar format. Two of Ogden Nash's limericks start with "There was a young lady of Natchez" and "A flea and a fly in a flue". In his limericks, Nash enhanced the humor by playing with the sounds and spellings of words.
A limerick always follows a pattern in which the first two lines and the last line rhyme with each other and the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other. Many good limericks also contain puns. Though some limericks are appropriate for children, others are written for adults. Poetry similar to limericks dates back to the 11th century, and the name comes from the Irish town of Limerick.