E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Wise Men of Gothamfools. Many tales of folly have been fathered on the Gothamites, one of which is their joining hands round a thornbush to shut in a cuckoo. The bush is still shown to visitors.
It is said that King John intended to make a progress through this town with the view of purchasing a castle and grounds. The townsmen had no desire to be saddled with this expense, and therefore when the royal messengers appeared, wherever they went they saw the people occupied in some idiotic pursuit. The king being told of it, abandoned his intention, and the wise men of the village cunningly remarked, We ween there are more fools pass through Gotham than remain in it. Andrew Boyde, a native of Gotham, wrote The Merrie Tales of the Wise Men of Gotham, founded on a commission signed by Henry VIII. to the magistrates of that town to prevent poaching.
N.B. All nations have fixed upon some locality as their limbus of fools; thus we have Phrygia as the fools home of Asia Minor, Abdera of the Thracians, Btia of the Greeks, Nazareth of the ancient Jews, Swabia of the modern Germans, and so on. (See COGGESHALL.)