You know those questionnaires that get circulated through the blogosphere, a list of questions (about likes and dislikes and such) that you're supposed to answer and then pass along to others?
Turns out the idea's been around a lot longer than I thought:
At the end of the nineteenth century, when Proust was still in his teens, he discovered a questionnaire in an English-language album belonging to his friend Antoinette[...], entitled "An Album to Record Thoughts, Feelings, etc." At that time, it was a fad among wealthy English families to answer such a list of questions that revealed the tastes and aspirations of the taker.
--Wikipedia article on Proust Questionnaire
I should note that the article is entirely unsourced, so I have no idea whether that line about it having been a fad is true or not.
Apparently Vanity Fair regularly runs celebrity answers to a similar questionnaire, and the TV show Inside the Actors Studio asks guests an allegedly related but entirely different set of questions.
Still, I'm intrigued by the idea that a hundred and some years ago, relatively ordinary people were passing around this kind of questionnaire, and now it's happening again online. Is it a continuous tradition? Have people been doing this all along, on paper and in email and such? Or is it a revival? And how far back does the idea go? Did Jane Austen write up her meme answers and send them to friends? Did Shakespeare?