Daily Express, January 30, 1913



[Suggested by a leading article in yesterday’s “Express” on the glorification of the “crook” on the stage.]

The other day I wrote a play, I thought it pretty good.
The plot was complicated, yet quite easily understood;
The dialogue was rather neat, and teemed with quiet fun,
And the part of James, the hero, was the best I’ve ever done.

But the manager said: “No, my boy; this stuff’s no good to me.
This is not the sort of drama that the public want to see.
It hasn’t got a chance on earth, believe me, not a scrap;
Why, hang it all, your hero is a decent sort of chap!

“I’ve just gone through the whole four acts again, a second time,
And, as far as I can see, he don’t commit a single crime.
That sort of thing is hopeless. It is sure to come to grief;
You must alter Sinless Jimmy to a swindler or a thief.”

So I took my blameless hero, for I needed the doubloons,
And rewrote his part completely. . . “Enter James. He steals the spoons.”
“Exit J. with heroine’s bracelet.” “Act three, curtain on the line,
James: ‘I’ve sneaked six hundred milk-cans!’ ” . . . And the manager said “Fine!”

And now each night the gallery with enthusiasm rocks,
As my hero with a hatpin loots the baby’s money-box;
And the stalls, for once excited, make the welkin fairly ring
With plaudits at the deeds of James, the Pocket-Picking King.

And as each sunny morning I start out to take the air
In the motor which is waiting at my door in Belgrave-square,
I take out my little pass-book, scan the figures with relief,
And I bless that Blameless Hero who became a Doormat-Thief.





John Dawson discovered this item as a reprint in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of February 13, 1913. This is its original appearance in the London Daily Express of January 30, 1913.
teemed with quiet fun
: echoes W. S. Gilbert’s libretto for Utopia, Limited in which the character Phantis repeats the phrase “Teems with quiet fun.”
drama that the public wants to see: cf. the opening dialogue in “The Intrusions of Jimmy”/A Gentleman of Leisure, ch. 1.
hatpin . . . baby’s money box: Wodehouse reused this dastardly crime in Bingo Little’s inflammatory speech at Goodwood in “Comrade Bingo.”
pass-book: portable record of bank-account transactions and balances

Notes by Neil Midkiff