Siegfried Sassoon’s ‘The Daffodil Murderer’

WRCLIT75739Found – a rather battered copy of Siegfried Sassoon’s early book The Daffodil Murderer (1913) published under the pseudonym ‘Saul Kain.’ In decent condition it has auction records like this from Bloomsbury Book Auctions in April 2009:

[Sassoon (Siegfried)], “Saul Kain”.
The Daffodil Murderer
First edition of the author’s first book not to be privately printed, pseudonymous prefatory note by “William Butler” [the poet/publisher T.W.H.Crosland], original orange-yellow wrappers printed in red, light dust-soiling and rubbing, otherwise very good, housed in an envelope with inscription in Sydney Cockerell’s autograph: “The Daffodil Murderer by Siegfried Sassoon Very Rare”, 8vo, John Richmond Ltd, 1913.
Scarce. Sassoon’s parody of The Everlasting Mercy by John Masefield, apparently written during a moment of tedium, then sent off to Edmund Gosse who in turn forwarded it to Edward Marsh, editor of the Georgian Poetry anthologies. Masefield was as impressed by the work that he hailed the then 26-year-old Sassoon as “one of England’s most brilliant rising stars”. £150

The publisher’s name  ‘John Richmond’ was itself a pseudonym for the great contrarian T WH Crosland, whose sardonic introduction, under the name ‘William Butler’ we publish here. It is so far  unknown to any digital medium. The Everlasting Mercy, the poem parodied (with some skill) can be found here.

Preface by William Butler.

I have read ‘The Daffodil Murderer’ nineteen times. It is with our doubt the finest literature we have had since Christmas. The fact that it has won the Chantrey Prize for Poetry speaks for itself. Of course, readers of this noble poem will, after wiping their eyes, wish to know something of the personality of the author. I may say at once that he resembles Shakespeare in at least one respect: that is to say, no account of him is yet to be found in ‘Who’s Who’. It is possible that in early life he was a soldier, and fought for his country on many a bloody field; but becoming tired of the military life, he retired to the country on a meagre pension and there interested himself in the rural sights and sounds and bucolic workings of the human bosom which are so admirably portrayed for us in the present pathetic ‘chef d’oeuvre’. Continue reading

Rubaiyat of a Rhode Island Red

rhodeislandred-web-2Found — a  handwritten poem in a reprint of Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, a parody on the theme of chickens. It probably dates from the 1920s. There are  1000s of such tribute/ parodies, many published. This appears completely unknown …

Rubaiyat of a Rhode Island Red

Awake, for morning through the roosting shed

Has stained the dusty windows gold and red;

The weary toiler of a thousand fields

Will soon be climbing from his downy bed!

Awake! The silver buckets of the day

Are clanking and the corn is on the way – 

The early worm creeps but a laggard inch,

And lo! The bird espies her prey.

‘Neath that inverted box they call a coop 

There sits the broody with her little troop:

For them what fortune calls – the plucking shed,

The Palace – or the haying test – or Roup?

(The Palace = a famous poultry show – Roup = a disease) Continue reading

In Honour of Mr. John Betjeman – Patrick Leigh Fermor

john-betjeman-statueFound- in a copy of Nip in the Air (John Murray 1974)  a book of poems by John Betjeman this affectionate parody by the esteemed travel writer Patrick (‘Paddy’) Leigh Fermor. It is probably from a magazine (pp 379-380), possibly The London Magazine but is not archived anywhere online. It is probably from the 1970s. It deserves a place in a completist Betjeman collection and in any future collection of Fermor’s complete oeuvre.

In Honour of Mr. John Betjeman – Patrick Leigh Fermor

Eagle-borne spread of the Authorised Version,

Beadles and bell ropes, pulpits and pews,

Sandwiches spread for a new excursion

And patum peperium under the yews!

 

Erastian peal of Established Church-bells!

(Cuckoo-chimes in Cistercian towers)

Bugloss and briny border our search. Bells

Toll the quarters and toll the hours.

 

Unscrew the thermos. Some village Hampden

Swells the sward. Fill the plastic cup

For toast to Brandon, to Scott and to Camden,

To dripstone and dogtooth, with bottoms up! Continue reading

The Herlock Sholmes Parodies, 1915 – 1940

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The contribution of W.O.G. Lofts ( 1923 – 1997) to the history of boys’ fiction in the British periodical press is immense. ‘Bill’ Lofts, a mechanical engineer by training, but a fact-collector by inclination (why did he never enter BBC’s Mastermind ?), was also interested in detective stories. Sexton Blake and Sherlock Holmes were two creations on which his skills as an astonishingly assiduous researcher were exercised to great effect. Years spent among the riches of the British Museum Periodical Library at Colindale on projects which probably no-one else had either the energy or commitment to pursue produced what turned out to be invaluable guides to the more obscure purlieus of popular literature. One such study was The Adventures of Herlock Sholmes: a History and Bibliography, a pamphlet co-written in 1976 with the owner of the Dispatch Box Press, Jon Lellenberg, an expert in the history of Sherlock Holmes in parody and pastiche.

According to Lofts and Lellenberg, the story of the Herlock Sholmes parodies was also the story of their creator, Charles Hamilton (above)  the most prolific writer in the English language, who as the mainstay of Amalgamated Press, is estimated to have written around 72 million words in his whole career , the equivalent of a thousand full-length novels. Using the pen name ‘Peter Todd’, which was the name of a pupil at Greyfriars School, which Hamilton had dreamed up for The Magnet, Hamilton made Todd a contributor of Sherlock Holmes parodies to The Greyfriars Herald, the school’s own newspaper, which Amalgamated Press brought out as a separate publication.

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Proust a la Wodehouse

Marcel ProustThis the last part of a two part posting. See here for the first and the way that it was found. The photo of Proust is the jolliest I could find apart from the one before of him strumming a tennis racket. It is unlikely that both men met, although Proust was only 10 years older, as they moved in rather different worlds. Jeeves, however, may have read A la recherche du temps perdu.

Proust a la Wodehouse

Swann Upping

After one of those awful Paris soiree evenings at Madame Verdurin’s, when they play that maddening little tune which gets on your wick, I was being carted back to the old ancestral homestead, when I noticed a familiarly cove sauntering along the boulevard.

‘What ho, Swann!’ I cried. ‘Going my way? Take a pew in the dickey.’

I said I’d just returned from Deauville where I had spent days trying to lure Albertine out of her bathing machine for a splash around. Her trouble is she talks volumes and never gets anywhere. I told Swann I’d reminded her, when I could get a moan is edgeways, that, as fellow Candide said, – ‘It’s all for the best dans le meilleur des mondes possible, n’est pas? Is this the fin-de-siecle or not – wot, wot?

What I didn’t blab out was i’d had this call from aunt Leonie, blaring down the wrong end of her ear trumpet – ‘That blighter Swann should be drummed out of our society. It’s time, depraved nephew, you ceased lounging on that chaise-lounge – as the English call it – and took action.’ Sounding like a military band in jack-boots, marching on cobbles, she bellowed, ‘If you have any sense of honour you’ll call him out’.

No Proust takes that sort of thing standing up. Once goaded to inaction I addressed Swann from my couch, bounce on pillows. ‘Pass the madeleines’, I said ‘Never forget about remembrance of the old temps p.’

He took it like a lamb off to the proverbial what’s it. I dictated a million words without raising said bounce from said c. lounger, breaking off once a decade to allow him to nip round to Baron Charlus’s den for a dollop of what that royal chappie – the one who was King – labelled the entente cordiale. One way of putting it, wot?

Wodehouse a la Proust

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Marcel Proust on air guitar

Going through a large collection of modern Christmas cards sent to a well connected literary figure, looking for bankable names. It’s not easy because most are signed ‘John & Susan’ etc., so you have to recognise the handwriting or find a clue. Sometimes a book is mentioned or the address is given –  e.g ’Vladimir and Vera, Montreux’ (I wish!)  There are many different styles, from tiny cheap cards with robins, to elaborate, large, arty and expensive cards. Many are from charities, either bought or received for free, some are hand made, some have original photos on the front, some large classy ones from members of the House of Lords, some with round-robin annual newsletters or long catch-up messages… This one is from someone (’Noripoll’) who appears to send out a parody every year. It’s ‘Wodehouse a la Proust’, next time we will post his ‘Proust a la Wodehouse’:

Wodehouse a la Proust

Life Sentence

When Jeeves, on the morning following that reunion with Augustus Fick-Nottle, Esq., at the Drones, proffered me a phial containing one of his special life-restorers, memories came flooding back of the long journey down country lanes to Totleigh Towers during which not only the corn shimmered but Jeeves, in his inimitable manner, shimmered too, black against the black Tarmacadam, as we approached the village close to the Towers, a company, nay a caravan, of gourmet penitents come to entreat the incomparable Anatole, my aunt Dahlia’s chef, not to abscond to the kitchen of Sir Watkyn Bassett; all of us barefooted behind out slowly moving limousines, and one of us, Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright, Esq., on his actual knees (as was not, for him, unusual), in desperate dedication to our mission, while I, wretched Bertram, scion of the Wooster line, who had twice filched Sir Watkyn’s silver cow creamer, under pressure to complicate the plot and provoke frolicsome incidents on tops of wardrobes and up and down ladders propped against the walls of ancient, country mansions, had vividly become aware, my heart throbbing violently all the while, of a refracted light from the late evening sun gleaming upon the brass fitments of an upturned policeman’s helmet, suspended by Agustus, on Totleigh church’s simple, slender spire, from which Anatole’s unsurpassable sauce vinaigrette flowed, lava-like, down the steeple, on to the battlemented tower, thence via gargoyle (one notably resembling Sir Watkyn himself), via pipe and conduit, just clearing the clerestory but developing a tendency to ooze into the nave through a fissure, yet signifying all the while, to those who put their trust in the power of Jeeves, that the great chef would return to my aunt Dahlia’s, once the final drop of precious liquid had dribbled over a flying buttress to reach, not only its elemental origin as it were, but to come, at last, to a full stop.

Spice Girls spice labels

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Sent in by a loyal jotwatcher this useful and amusing piece about the Spice Girls and Viz the cult British comic magazine. It probably dates from about 1996. Go easy on the nutmeg!

Spice Girls spice labels

Does anyone remember that issue of Viz that appeared at a time when the Spice Girls were at the height of their fame. This particular number featured cut-out ’n’-keep labels which could be stuck onto spice jars. Aping the designs of the famous Schwartz spice bottles, there was one label for four of the Spice Girls—‘Scary Spice’ was left out for some reason.  Was I the only person who actually cut out the labels and used them? I somehow doubt it. Anyway, I’ve still got them, although they are getting a bit grubby. Each label contains a description of each of the spices, together with a recipe contributed by one of the girls.

Victoria presents Basil.

There is no finer sight in a herb garden than a basil flower. Generally used to add colour a dish, Basil is completely tasteless, but compensates for this by being extremely flavourful. It can be bought in most supermarkets or stolen from posh people’s gardens.

Victoria’s recipe.
Welsh rabbit.     Place your rabbit (or hare if in season) on the toast and cover  generously with cheese. Then toast until Welsh throughout. Add Basil to taste and serve

Toast
Cheese.
Rabbit
Basil

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Stella Gibbons parodies modernist poetry (1921)

Found in a  University of London College magazine from December 1921 this poem/ parody by the novelist Stella Gibbons. She was 19 at the time and had just begun a two-year Diploma in Journalism at UCL. The course had been established for ex-servicemen returning from the First World War, but attracted several women, including another future novelist - Elizabeth Bowen. After a spell as a caustic book reviewer at The Lady her first book (poetry) was published in 1930, and in 1932 her masterpiece Cold Comfort Farm appeared. This, too, was a parody (of the current 'loam and lovechild' school of rural novelists.) The writers parodied are mostly somewhat forgotten: Mary Webb, Sheila Kaye-Smith, Eden Philpotts - although D.H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy did not escape her mirth. In this piece modernist poets (T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound?) are mocked..

The Marshes of My Soul
(With  apologies to the latest School of Decoratively- Melancholy Introspectives.)

I.
Brackish …brackish,
The Pools of Weariness, flung in a glimmering chain
Reach the horizon.
And my thoughts, like purple parrots
Brood
In the sick, light trees 
Blowing above those shallow pools
In whorls and whorls
Noiselessly 
Printing a monotonous pattern upon the heavy air
Like watery curves upon the silken robe of a dying Mandarin.

II.
I am a peg, pinning up
Nebulous shadows of half guessed moods
Along the clothesline of "Let's-be-Clever."
Sometimes (ah - rape of the Muse by the cold fingered--) 
Doubt takes me.
I wonder
If all these mists and moods and parrots mean 
Much?
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Francine Saigon parodist of Francoise Sagan

Found  - a Keystone file photo from March 9th 1963 of 16 year old  novelist Felicity Moxton. Her book Bonsoir Maitresse: a novel (Pavilion Publications, London 1963) was a parody of Francoise Sagan's bestselling 1954 novel Bonjour Tristesse. It is quite rare but looks like this (the design very much like Francoise Sagan's French paperbacks):-

The back of the press photo reads:

Only 16 years old… is the young English writer Felicity Moxton and in a short time her first book will be to get in all book-shops. Felicity is the daughter of a writer in London. Her first book has the title 'Bonsoir Maitresse' and her pseudonym is 'Francine Saigon'. Everybody can see by this title and this name, that Felicity thought to the famous French author Francoise Sagan and her book 'Bonjour Tristesse'. Felicity told a newspaper, that she wanted to make a joke about the books of Francoise Sagan. Let us see, what Felicity had to write!

There are fake reviews at the rear 'Sagan, beware' (Paris Snatch) and 'Proceeds entrancingly from one triviality to another.' (Figarifico). The fictitious former works by Francine Saigon are noted as -Un Certain Sneer, Aimez-vous Hams? and *Marvellous New Ages. The blurb reads:

What is a mistress? How does a mistress begin? How does a mistress end? Exploring this theme, Francine Saigon's new novel tells the story of a young girl's relationship with a father who is more faithful to his old mistress than his successive wives.

Written in the inimitable style which is so familiar to Saigon devotees, 'Bonsoir Maitresse' will linger in the reader's heart long after the covers are closed.

* Les Merveilleux Nuages

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Marlowe in Abadan

Another humorous piece from the papers of  'EVOE' i.e. Punch editor E.V. Knox. A Kit Marlowe parody…

MARLOWE IN ABADAN

 "Our methods of dealing with Persia have scarcely been those of Tamburlaine the Great," I wrote; and then (remembering a recent dramatic performance) I thought "How very strange if they had been." Something, I suppose, after this sort.

Enter, from underground holes, MR. MOUSSADEK and the BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY, with great voluted swords.

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My Epigram

Some more humorous writing from the papers of E. V. Knox ('Evoe.") He was, for a while, editor of Punch (1931 - 1949) and this may have appeared there although there is no trace of it online...

MY EPIGRAM

  For long it was a fugitive dream. I would catch sight of it, as one sees, or seems to see, a wild animal far down a forest clearing, or might it be a woodland nymph or faun? Or perhaps I would trace it written in the colours of the sunset, or in the morning among the folds of mist as they cleared from the chimneys on the mountain tops.

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A Sitwell Parody

Edith Sitwell by Roger Fry

Not sure where this came from but it is most likely to be from the voluminous papers of 'Evoe' - i.e. E. V. Knox. The poem parodied Colonel Fantock (from Troy Park, Duckworth 1925) is actually one of Edith Sitwell's finest, but 'Evoe' has picked up on her and her brothers' snobbery, haughtiness and pretentions. The full  original poem can be found here. It contains some beautiful lines and has elements of tragedy, or at least pathos:

I was a member of a family
Whose legend was of hunting -- (all the rare
And unattainable brightness of the air) --

The parody dates from the early 1950s when it seems the Sitwells had become ubiquitous in British cultural life, possibly to a slightly  annoying extent in the way that some British celebrities (with vast tribes of twitter followers) are 60 years later.

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The Princess and the Pauper—seeing is not always believing

Sent in by loyal jotperson RMH. It is worth noting that despite his suggestion HG is not totally forgotten and, in fact, is quite saleable. He was also, at one time, collected by Teflon man Kenneth Baker and other lesser lights...

Here’s a puzzle. Look at the cover of this oddity recovered from a job lot two years ago. Open the volume and seemingly, what we have is the printed programme notes of a comic drama performed at ‘The Theatre Royal’, somewhere or other, bound in with a carbon copy of the script. Looking more closely we find that the venue is Government House and the reviews, which are from Canadian newspapers mainly from the Ottawa district, are far too facetious to have been genuine. Further research reveals that, despite the highly professional quality of the programme, everything suggests that the ‘extravaganza’ is purely an amateur production. A little more delving tells us that most of the players are members of the same aristocratic family—in fact sons and daughters  of the fourth Earl of Minto, Governor General of Canada, then a British colony.

We have already noted that the playwright was ‘Col. D Streamer’ and the small print reveals that this supposed army officer (who also directed the play) was the author of Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes, which had appeared a year before the play was performed. By now, most fans of ‘sick’ humour will have twigged that Col. D Streamer was the pseudonym of one of Britain’s most admired comic poets--a man worthy to stand by Thomas Hood and Edward Lear-- much darker than the former and just as inventive as the latter. We are talking, of course, about Harry Graham, then just 26, who was aide de camp to Lord Minto and a close friend of the Minto family (pic below).

The Governor General and Graham, who were both old Etonians, got on famously, but it is not known what his employer thought of such a ‘ruthless rhyme’ as the following:

Billy, in one of his nice new sashes
Fell in the fire and was burnt to ashes
Now, although the room grows chilly
I haven’t the heart to poke poor Billy

However, it is likely that Minto took the play’s rather disparaging references to Canada, and Ottawa in particular, in good heart. In his turn Graham had the script ( which was probably his own )and accompanying programme notes specially bound and presented to Lady Minto at Christmas, 1900, possibly just after the play hit the Theatre Royal. Incidentally, this grandiose- sounding venue was probably just a modest lecture hall within Government House, specially adapted for this one performance by family and friends.

In the following year Graham departed for the Boer War. He returned unscathed in 1902 for a second term as Lord Minto’s right hand man. Before his death in 1936 he went on to publish more comic verse  and compose many more comic dramas, most of which, like The Princess and the Pauper,  are now totally forgotten.