The fatal effects of reading Dutch


Dutch poem typescript 001Found in a copy of Montague Summers’ Restoration Theatre is this typed copy of a poem entitled ‘The Dutch Mail or The Tragic Fate of Examiner 3X22.’ It is dated February 27th 1918 and signed E. de K, which suggests that it is an original composition. The corrections in black ink bear this out. It is most likely to have been sent to a magazine editor.


It tells the story of a polyglot censor named Examiner 3X22 whose job it was to censor outgoing mail during the First World War. Though happy to be dealing with mail written in many languages, he is forced to admit one day that he couldn’t read Dutch. He quickly remedies this defect until he becomes so fluent in the language that he is mistaken for a native. Unfortunately, his mastery means that he is now forced to censor ‘stacks’ of letters from the Dutch East Indies. The cumulative effect on the censor of dealing with these ‘verbose effusions vapid’ results in a rapid decline. One day he faints from the effort, falls from his chair onto the floor where he rapidly expires.


This is obviously a squib, possibly ridiculing both the Dutch language and in particular employees of the Dutch East Indies Company whose language it was . On the surface Examiner 3X22 seems to be working for the Netherlands government, but this cannot be so if he is unable to read Dutch. On the other hand, if he is working in Britain, how is it that so much mail from the Dutch East Indies is being censored in Britain? A possible alternative to either of these scenarios is that the censor is working in South Africa, which during the First World War was a self-governing dominion of the British Empire and as such contributed troops to the war effort in Europe and suffered many losses. The writer’s surname de Koch/ Koch/Klerk was a common enough one in South Africa, which had been colonised by the Dutch as well as the British. In addition, an online postal history site records a letter sent to Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indies (now known as Indonesia), being censored in 1915.


The squib may have political undertones. After all, the Boer War was a recent memory for both the defeated Boers and those of British heritage, though the exact nature of the tensions in South Africa that prompted the satire remain to be discovered. We welcome comments from the Jottosphere on this issue. [R.M.Healey]


Jeffrey Kwintner, Village Idiot ?

Jeffrey Kwintner Village Idiot squib 001Here is a puzzle. Found among some ephemera at Jot HQ is this six-page photocopy of a typewritten squib entitled ‘My Life and Times, by an anonymous Jeffrey Kwintner’. The piece is obviously a satire on the business dealings of the real-life Jeffrey Kwintner, a well known entrepreneur of the Swinging Sixties who with John Simons co-founded the ‘Squire Shop ‘ in King’s Road, Chelsea and a string of sixteen menswear shops called ‘Village Gate’. He ended up founding the much admired  Village Bookshop, Regent’s Street, which eventually went out of business.

The satire is written in the first person and is cast in the form of a psychedelic dream sequence, influenced partly by Dickens’ Christmas Carol. In it Kwintner leaves home for his office in King’s Road, where he has some strange encounters with a telephone caller who asks him if his name is Lucifer, a dancer with a debit book in his hand, a cashier who faints at the sight of him, and a shrouded figure who introduces himself as Jack the Jive, an alteration tailor Kwintner had once known from his early days in the fashion business, who suspects him of betraying a trade secret. Soon afterwards a mysterious telephone caller  with an oriental voice asks him if he is Mao-Tse- Cohen; then an Irish worker in his warehouse calls him a ‘ heathen Managing Director ‘ and a ‘ Decadent Capitalist Renegade’. Kwintner runs out into the street and takes refuge in a shop called Cassidy One, where he proceeds to empty the till, the assistant crying ‘ Petty cash. God save Malcolm Muggeridge and all who sail in him.’ Continue reading

Stephen Pribil—the Invisibility Man

Here are three photographs out of a possible six from the photo-archive of the famous newspaper  El Mundo of Argentina. Interestingly, they are stamped 1st April 1935. Now, I don’t know if the Spanish, or indeed the Argentinians, reserve the 1st of April for tricks, leg-pulls, spoofs, scams or other deceptions, but if Dr Pribil, a Hungarian oculist, was deliberately playing a trick on journalists with his demonstration of ‘Invisibility  Rays’, then he certainly went to a lot of trouble to do it.

According to the typewritten labels on the back of each photograph Pribil placed three objects—a teddy bear, a bronze statuette and an opaque china vase -- in his apparatus—basically a wooden box fronted by a picture frame behind which is a sort of slated affair. Out of the back of this box electric cables are connected to a supply. Unfortunately, the two photos showing how the objects gradually fade away are missing, but the last photo does show that all the objects have now disappeared.’ They are in the same place, perfectly tangible ‘, the caption points out, ‘but are completely invisible’.

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