More hilarious bits from Denys Parsons’ Much Too Funny for Words

Detectives making last-minute enquiries went to a stable in Berkshire yesterday. They wanted to interview the occupier.

Evening Standard.

Miss Y—, the well known singer was nearly poisoned at one time. So she said at the meeting on Tuesday. When she stated that she had been nearly poisoned , the features of the members expressed regret.

Irish Paper.

This policy offers absolute security in the event of any kind of fatal accident.

Insurance advert

London firemen with rescue gear were called early yesterday to Dorset Street, Marylebone, where a man fell into a basement yard. He was lifted to road level, injured, and taken to hospital.

Daily Mail.

The young woman, with a baby in her arms, appeared at the window amidst flames and smoke and yelled quick proof to the editor.

Sunday Paper.

The lad was described as lazy, and when his mother asked him to go to work he threatened to smash her brains out. The case was adjourned for three weeks in order to give the lad another chance.

Manchester Paper.

The service was conducted by te Rev. Charles H—–MA, the bridegroom. The service was of a quiet nature owing to the recent death of the bride.

Blackpool Times.

WANTED, a Gent’s or Lady’s Bicycle for a Pure Bred Sable and White Collie.

Lincolnshire Paper.

There is a sub-department at Scotland Yard which looks after Kings and visiting potentates, Cabinet Ministers, spies, anarchists, and other undesirables.

Continue reading

John Buchan parody by AI and a Clo-Kepp attendee

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is buchan-jot-PM.png
Illustration from DALL-E when asked for a book cover for Buchan’s The Three Hostages. It doesnt seem to understand his name..

I asked Chat GPT to come up with a John Buchan parody. The brief was to write a piece with the context of rain outside, a man and wife inside and an unexpected visit by a friend. This had been the brief for a parody found in the annual school magazine of Clovelly-Kepplestone (1930) a private boarding school for girls in Eastbourne, Sussex. It flourished from 1908 until 1934 and was familiarly known to staff and pupils as “Clo-Kepp”. There is a very comprehensive piece on it at Wikipedia.

The Clo-Kepp John Buchan parody, probably by a school girl, is an amusing and well tuned effort:

    “The night was wild and rainy and reminded me of the time when old Hatiron and I were engaged in that business of the Forty-second Psalm. My wife, who was busily employed in the stitching and repairing of one of my shirts, torn during the day’s shooting at Clan Haggis, remarked upon the persistently bad weather we had been experiencing of late, and wondered, the streams being then in spate, whether I should not take a week off to try the mettle of the fish in the Ben Slioch burns.

    I opened The Times, and, glancing casually through its pages, noted with surprise that Flaxman had resigned his post in the Ministry. He was always pretty keen on politics, though strangely recondite in his views on Empire Policy, which he declared was sheer jingoism and inflated proletarianism.  However, it seemed strange that he should leave the Ministry at a time when Burton was intent on seeing that England got what she wanted.

    ” Well, what’s the news ? ” inquired my wife.

    ” Oh, very little,” I replied, ” the usual things ;  I see Flaxman has retired.  I can’t help thinking there must be something to it.”

    Just then the bell rang, and after a moment Breeves came in to ask if we were at home to Mr. Thoughtnot.

    ” Why, Jimmy,” I cried, ” this is a marvellous surprise.”  The last time I had heard of him he had been wandering about Samarkand disguised as a Shiari ; and had you spoken of him in a certain hovel where the mountains dip down beside the valley, which runs towards Tashkent, you would have heard strange things of him.  For Jimmy was a Lawrence in those parts, and there is not a wandering pedlar on the Kirgiz Steppe who will not give a night’s lodging to him who mentions Raskashpol.

Continue reading

John Buchan and AI

As a lover of the works of John Buchan and one not unconcerned about the precarious future of this planet I consulted ChatGPT using a famous and prescient quote by Buchan from his thriller The Power House (1916).

I asked them this: “John Buchan wrote in 1916 “ ..you think that a wall as solid as the Earth separates civilisation from barbarism. I tell you, the division is a thread,a sheet of glass. a touch here, a push there, and you bring back the reignof Saturn.” Is this still true in 2023?” 

25 seconds later they replied: “The quote by John Buchan is certainly still relevant in 2023, as the line between civilization and barbarism remains thin and fragile. Though the world has made great strides in terms of technological advancements, social progress, and global connectivity, there are still forces that work to destabilize these achievements and push society back towards chaos and conflict. Whether it’s geopolitical tensions, economic inequality, racial divides, or environmental degradation, the challenges facing humanity require us to remain vigilant and work together to maintain and strengthen the bonds of common humanity that hold us together. In short, the quote from John Buchan remains a timeless reminder of the need for vigilance, empathy, and unity in the face of adversity.”

A good answer. He/she / it is definitely more Bernie Sanders than Logan Roy. I went on to ask it for a parody of John Buchan. In a past Jot we have a very good Buchan parody by a young girl at boarding school in the 1930s. It is many miles better than Chat’s brave effort. As the old unreconstructed Dr Samuel Johnson said (in about 1760) of women preachers: “Sir…(it)is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” Tune in again soon to see both parodies..

Leonard Rossiter

The Lowest Form of Wit

Now that the season of good will to all men is behind us Jot 101 can safely tackle the art of sarcasm, examples of which can be found in a compilation published by the gifted comic actor  Leonard Rossiter ( The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin, Rising Damp) in The Lowest Form of Wit (1981).

Now I ‘ didn’t get where I am today ‘ by insisting that all the items   included in his book are good or even funny examples of sarcasm, but here are some of the better ones:-

The novelist James Joyce had an encounter with a fan, a woman who grabbed his hand and asked him fervently:

‘ May I kiss the hand that wrote Ulysses ?’

‘ No’, Joyce told her. ‘ It did other things too.’

Fred Keating once remarked of the actress Tallulah Bankhead:

‘I’ve just spend an hour talking to Tallulah for a few minutes.’

Of Hollywood Rex Reed remarked:

‘Hollywood is where if you don’t have happiness you send out for it.’

Margaret Kendal called Sarah Bernhardt:

‘ A great actress from the waist down.’

And Somerset Maugham , watching Spencer Tracy on set during the filming of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde asked a friend beside him:

‘Which is he playing now?’ 

Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree was nothing if not dramatic in his entrances on stage, always contriving to make the greatest impact on an audience when he appeared for the first time. So, on the opening might of his latest play, he flung open a pair of double- doors centre-stage, at the back of the set, and stood there for a moment holding an impressive attitude and looking straight out into the house. He was just about to launch into his first speech when he was pre—empted by a voice from the goods shouting:

‘Next station Marble Arch!’

Horace Walpole commented on the on the works of Samuel Richardson:

‘The works of Richardson …are pictures of high life as conceived by a bookseller, and romances as they would be spiritualized by a Methodist preacher.’

Oscar Wilde on Hall Caine:

Continue reading

Yet more ‘Howlers’

Jot 101 howlers pic of Cecil HuntCecil Hunt ( 1902 – 54)  was a journalist, editor, novelist and anthologist best known throughout the English-speaking world for his compendiums of schoolboy ‘ howlers’. His first collection appeared in 1928 and proved to be a best-seller. At various times afterwards he produced other anthologies of howlers as well as guides to journalism, which he had studied at King’s College, London,  and creative writing, books on the origins of words and a collection of unintentionally funny letters. He also wrote novels under two pseudonyms ( Robert Payne and John Devon). Interestingly, Hunt was President of the London Writers’ Circle and was instrumental in establishing Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. He died at just 51, but ironically his wife lived to be 107.

Hunt always denied the charge that he concocted many of the howlers that made him famous, explaining that there was no need to cheat, as ‘the genuine supply is ample ‘.

We must take him at his word, though reading some of the following examples from Science and Nature, taken from the second (1957) edition of My Favourite Howlers, it is sometimes easier to believe that they are product of a witty and inventive man rather than a ignorant schoolboy.

 

Science and Nature

The Solar System is a way of teaching singing

 

An herbaceous border is one who boards all the week and goes home on Saturdays and Sundays

 

Iron filings are always attracted by a magnate

 

An aorta is a man who makes very long speeches. Continue reading

Selhurst—The Public School that never was

 

Jot 101 Selhurst Humphry Berkeley pic

Hoaxes, if done well, often fool people—even those who are generally regarded as reasonably intelligent. One that caught out some Oxbridge educated people who ought to have known better, was the piece of tom foolery dreamt up in 1948 by a  twenty-two year old Cambridge undergraduate who later became an MP. His name was Humphry Berkeley and he invented a public school called Selhurst whose head was a certain H. Rochester Sneath.

 

Berkeley tried an experiment with any undergraduates he came across. Steering the conversation towards the subject of where he went to school, Berkeley, when asked would reply: ‘Well, as a matter of fact I went to a school called Selhurst. The name was brilliant chosen. It had a plausibility about it, unless, of course, you knew that Selhurst Park was the home of Crystal Palace football club. Had you this knowledge you may have asked some probing questions, but doubtless in 1948 most Oxbridge undergraduates would not have been football fans. Anyway, Richard Boston takes up the story:

 

‘ Registering his questioner’s non-recognition of the name he would follow up with ‘ Haven’t you hard of Selhurst?’ Anxious not to cause offence his acquaintance would reply,’ Of course I’ve heard of it my dear fellow.’ After various such successful experiments Berkeley knew that he had found the perfect name for what he calls a minor public school of ‘ the third degree’.

 

The next move was to have some letter headings printed with words at the top reading ‘Selhurst School, Near Petworth, Sussex. From the Headmaster H. Rochester Sneath.’ At small expense but with considerable ingenuity, Berkeley was able to make a forwarding arrangement with the Post Office.  ( Another ruse was to pretend that he was on staying holiday with an imaginary sister to whom letters should be sent .) Now he was in business.

 

The first letter was to the Master of Marlborough College. H. Rochester Sneath announced that the three–hundreth anniversary of the foundation of Selhurst was coming up , and that he was anxious to have the opportunity of entertaining Their Majesties on the occasion. ‘Perhaps you would be kind enough to let me know how you managed to engineer a visit recently from   the King and Queen’. He also asked for any helpful tips about how to treat royalty. Continue reading

Little known historical facts

(for use in pub quizzes)

 

Henry the First was drowned in the wreck of the Channel Steamer called the White Star Line

 

When Englishmen on one side fight Englishmen on the other it is called a General Election.

 

Another name for Tories is Preservatives.

 

Karl Marx is a character in “The Third Round “by Sapper

 

The chief work of the British in Egypt since 1880 has been the extermination of the sphinxes and the evacuation of old caves

 

When Wolsey was young he was the son of a butcher.

 

The Battle of Trafalgar was fought on sea, and therefore it is sometimes called Waterloo

 

“ Bring out your dead”, was what the judges said when a prisoner was brought from his cells for trial.

 

Childe Harold was defeated at Hastings by William the Conqueror.

 

Garibaldi was a maker of biscuits

 

Henry the Seventh did not allow retainers to have livers

 

William the Second met his death by stepping on a hot coal while riding in the New Forest

 

Mussolini is a type of material used for ladies’ stockings

 

James the Fourth of Scotland afterwards became James the Fourth of England because his mother, Margaret of Norway, had died childless.

 

After the Battle of Worcester, Charles the Second fled disguised as a pheasant

 

Nelson was born a weak and sickly man. He grew up to be a weak and sickly boy. Unfortunately the had his eye shot out by Napoleon. He is now a statue in Trafalgar Square, and he has his hand out saying, “Lest we forget “. Continue reading

Max  Beerbohm and The Age of Improvement

In a recent Jot we looked at the way Sir Max Beerbohm ‘ improved ‘ certain books in his library by adding illustrations to them or altering their printed illustrations to make a point about the authors. Some of these books were inscribed to him by the authors, but that didn’t seem to bother Beerbohm. On occasion he would also add false inscriptions from famous people, such as Queen Victoria.

The source of information concerning these amusing interventions may have been the catalogue of ‘ The Library and Literary Manuscripts of the late Sir Max Beerbohm ‘that Sotheby & Co issued to accompany the sale of the author and artist’s library on 12 and 13thDecember 1960. Beerbohm had died in (  ) and his widow followed him on (  ).

Anyone wishing to obtain some idea of Beerbohm’s literary likes and dislikes could hardly do better than to study this catalogue, which is profusely illustrated. It is quite obvious that he didn’t take to Rudyard Kipling and the feeling was probably mutual.

Jot 101 Beerbohm Kipling improvement 001

Here is a description of Lot 136.

KIPLING ( RUDYARD) BARRACK-ROOM BALLADS and other verse; the illustration on the title-page altered by Max Beerbohm  into a portrait of Kipling, blood dripping from his red fingernails; signature of Beerbohm and an inscription: ‘H.M.B. from F.H.H. on fly-leaves, original cloth.                                                                                                                            8vo 1892

And here is Lot 137.

KIPLING (RUDYARD)  A Diversity of Creatures , Max Beerbohm has introduced a pen-and-ink caricature portrait of Kipling, behind bars, into the design facing the title-page, and under the author’s name has written: ‘the Apocalypic (sic) Bounder who can do such fine things but mostly prefers to stand ( on tip-toe and stridently) for all that is cheap and nasty’; pen-scoring on last page, original limp red calf gilt                                                                                                                                                                                                               8vo Macmillan and Co., 1917

And Lot 139

Le Gallienne (Richard) RUDYARD KIPLING, A CRITICISM, inscribed on fly-leaf by the author : ‘ For Max from Dick. June 1900’, the portrait of Kipling altered by Max Beerbohm into a bitterly satiric caricature, and the title changed from ‘ Rudyard Kipling ‘ to ‘Rudyard Kipling’s soul’, original cloth, the leaf bearing the portrait detached and fore-edge frayed. 8vo 1900.

And lot 239

To the frontispiece of Frederick Whyte’s A Bachelor‘s London(1931), which features a drawing by Josephine Harrison entitled ‘ The House of the Light that Failed ‘, Beerbohm has added a pencil caricature of Kipling and four lines of verse parodying the poet:

Fred Whyte ‘e done me bloody proud,

So to Je’ovah Thunder-browed

Says I, “ O Jah, be with me yet,

Lest I forget, lest I forget.” 
Continue reading

Some lesser known geographical facts ( useful for quizzes)

 

More from From The Howlers Omnibus(1928)

Jot 101 howlers lyons-mapThe cold at the North Pole is so great that the towns there are not inhabited

 

Oxo is the capital of Norway

 

Lipton is the capital of Ceylon

 

The population of London is a bit too thick

 

China is called China because the first china was made there

 

Persian cats is the chief industry of Persia, hence the word “ purr”.

 

Africa is called the Dark Continent because the negroes in it are black

 

In Holland the people make use of water to drive their windmills.

 

The people in Iceland are called Equinoxes

 

Volcanoes  throw out saliva

 

The valley of the Rhone grows tea, which is packed at Lyons.

 

A mountain range is a cooking stove used at high altitudes.

 

The Menai straits are crossed by a tubercular bridge Continue reading

Max Beerbohm—practical joker

Max Beerbohm young picIn The C. O. Jones Compendium of Practical Jokes(1982) Richard Boston narrates some entertaining anecdotes concerning the humorist Max Beerbohm. Most of those involving the ‘ alteration ‘ of books remind us of the hilarious alterations  made in the ‘50s and 60s by Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell on books borrowed from Islington Public Library, where they are still displayed. It is possible that the two men got their idea from Beerbohm.

One joke, according to Boston, was played on ‘a volume of exceptionally solemn poems by a dullard called Herbert Trench ‘. Boston doesn’t identify  the collection, but since it contained a ‘ romantic dialogue between Apollo and a mariner ‘ it was definitely Apollo and the Seaman(1908).This is what Beerbohm did.

With a sharp knife and painstaking care Max scraped out the aspirates at the beginning of every word beginning with ‘h’ spoken by the mariner, and substituted an apostrophe. The result was that a speech intended to be of a classical dignity was turned into straight Cockney. Max then sent the book to the author, commenting that he had notpreviously come across this edition of the book.

The work had been done so carefully that it appeared to be perfectly genuine. At first Trench was horrified. When he tumbled, he was offended. Max made it up by explaining to Trench that he considered him to be a true poet —-‘Otherwise there wouldn’t be any fun in making fun of you’.

 Some lines altered by Beerbohm may have appeared thus:

Apollo:    “ And whence did that craft hail, sailor,

Of which you seem so fond ?”

Seaman:   “ It was some ‘ arbour of the East

Back o‘ beyond, back o’ beyond. Continue reading

Some lesser known facts about books and bookmen. Extracted from The Howlers Omnibus (1928)

Pope poet

 

Alexander Pope

Pope wrote principally in heroic cutlets. (pic above)

 

Robert Burns

Robert Burns, in 1787, became literally a lion.

 

John Wycliffe

John Wycliffe was the editor of the Morning Star, but afterwards became a reformer.

 

Francis Bacon

Bacon was the man who thought he wrote Shakespeare.

 

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tennyson, the greatest prose writer who ever lived, wrote the “Iliad” and “Paradise Lost”.

 

George Bernard Shaw

Mr George Bernard Shaw is the famous actor and comedian.

 

Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott wrote “ Quentin Durwood, “ Ivanhoe” and “Emulsion “.

 

Sir Walter Scott

Walter Scott was imprisoned in the Tower because he could not pay his debts. While there he wrote the Waverley Novels, but he was afterwards burnt alive. He also brought tobacco from Virginia, so called after his beloved mistress Queen Elizabeth. Continue reading

In Honour of John Betjeman

Betjeman parody Fermor 1 001We found this very affectionate parody of John Betjeman torn out of a magazine (possibly the London Magazine) in our voluminous archives. It is by the eminent travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor and appears to date from the fifties or sixties. Whoever tore it out obviously valued it as an item worthy of preservation, and indeed as parodies go, it is a pretty accurate imitation of the poet’s style.

 

Although the scansion is sometimes clunky ( or even downright bad) and the rhymes positively Byronic at times—risk it/biscuit; harmony/Abide with me—the piece is redolent of Betjeman’s inimitable , well, Betjemanisms, as it evokes a visit by bicycle to a parish church, which could be anywhere, but may possibly have been in Cornwall. As well as the expected allusions to ecclesiastical features—interiors and exteriors—and Anglican name dropping ( with the Catholic Pugin worked in)—we find the poem overloaded with evocative trade names ( Peak Frean biscuits, Ronuk polish, Raleigh and Rudge bikes, Dolcis, Lotus and Delta  shoes.

 

Because of his inimitable style Betjeman must be one of the most parodied of twentieth century writers. One of the best of these exercises appeared in Private Eyeduring the poet’s own lifetime, and we must assume that it was appreciated by its ‘ victim’. I learnt it off by heart and hope that I can recall it accurately:

 

‘ Lovely lady in the pew

Golly, what a scorcher, pheeew

What wouldn’t I give to do

Unmentionable things to you Continue reading

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

The Yellow Peril ?

Anyone recall that classic episode of Father Ted in which Ted is accused of racism after he is unwittingly caught making fun of the small Chinese community on Craggy Island? Only a decade or so earlier it had been acceptable to call the Chinese ‘chinks ‘ or ‘slitty-eyed’ and remark on their skin colour and droopy moustaches. Further back still, Sax Rohmer became a best-selling author with his tales of the criminal Dr Fu Manchu and Music hall artistes made jokes about opium dens, Chinese laundries and the white slave trade.

One of these artistes was Billy Bennett, who worked the halls from 1919 until his death in 1942. One of his specialities was to recite ‘ burlesque monologues ‘ –not only on the stage but also on radio—and some of the texts of these were published in booklet form for use, presumably, to keep up morale during the early years of the Second World War. These monologues were liberally laden with double entendre and barely disguised racist slurs that would prevent them from being performed today. Continue reading

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

J.B. Morton – ‘..one of the greatest English humorists of all time’

IMG_1914The Daily Express  celebrated the 80th birthday of the humorist J.B. Morton (aka ‘Beachcomber)  on 7 June 1973 with a long article and a tribute from Spike Milligan. Chesterton had described Morton as “a huge thunderous wind of elemental and essential laughter” and Evelyn Waugh wrote that he had “the greatest comic fertility of any Englishman.” He was certainly an inspiration for the Goons and subsequently Monty Python. Spike wrote:

I have met him once, though I have been a Beachcomber addict for a million years

It was a dinner the BBC gave to launch the television version of his column.

For years, when I was young back in Australia, I had collected all his stuff and stuck it in a book. I didn’t realise I had a sense of humour-myself until a discovered this man.

I didn’t know what to expect. But when he arrived he was just like his writing. There were lots of grey people there, and they did not know what to make of him. He kept launching into fantasy world. Continue reading

The Herlock Sholmes Parodies, 1915 – 1940

Frank_Richards_Smoking

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.

Continue reading

A Club for Millionaires

IMG_1366

Illustration by Dudley Hardy

Found in The Idler Magazine (Chatto & Windus, 1892. Volume 1, February to July. pp 109-110) this piece by regular contributor Barry Pain. The Idler was edited by Robert Barr and Jerome K Jerome. It ran from 1892-1911.

Over the years, the roster of writers who contributed to various issues was impressive: O. Henry, Mark Twain, Conan Doyle, Eden Phillpotts, Marie Corelli, Barry Pain, Israel Zangwill, Grant Allen, W. W. Jacobs, and Robert Louis Stevenson. At a single sitting, the pages took the reader from travel adventures to cultural appreciations of events in the home island nation. “The Idler‘s Club” was a standard feature of most issues. Various writers sketched out opinions in ironic and exaggerated language. This piece was found there. It was Barry Pain’s second idea in this issue – his first was that amateur dramatics would be much improved if performed in total darkness and thus they would also be able to avoid paying a licence fee…His idea for a club follows:

Barry Payn (sic) sympathises with the millionaires.

IdleraMy second proposal is to establish a club for millionaires. We see suffering all around us, and it is useless to close our eyes to it. There are millionaires in our midst; and, whether we like it or not, they are out brothers and sisters. Putting it on grounds which will appeal to everyone – I mean the lowest possible grounds – we cannot afford to miss an opportunity of making a little out of them. If we explore the region of the docks, we find separate homes there for sailors of every nationality; there is even a home for lost dogs. But nowhere do we find a home for millionaires. I propose to establish a proprietary club for them, a little room with a sanded floor, where they will find that absence of luxury which they must miss so much. They will be able to get a chop or steak they; wine will not be served, but a boy will fetch them beer if they feel that they don’t want it; a large cup of cocoa will be one penny, and a small one will be half-a-crown.

I have forgotten my reason for that last regulation, but I remember that it was logical. One of the cheaper evening papers will be taken, and members of the club can have it in turn; or, if they prefer it, they can do without it. I have no wish to limit their liberty more than is absolutely necessary for their own discomfort. Everything that can done to make the place nasty will be done. I intend, for the protection of the general public, to make the club exclusive. Only millionaires will be eligible. There will be an entrance fee of a thousand guineas and an annual subscription of one hundred. The subscription, together with a statement of the place of their birth, if any, must be forwarded in advance to the proprietor. I shall be the proprietor myself. I have other proposals to make, but these are enough for the present. I may have occasion to refer to the subject again, but I make no threats.