“The column itself was an extraordinary affair. . . . You would quote something from the morning paper and then you’d make some little comment on it.” (Wodehouse, quoted in David Jasen’s A Portrait of a Master, 1974.)
The column was “By the Way,” a front-page lineup of pert and pithy paragraphs and verse revolving around Edwardian politics and quirky news items from the police courts, London, the British Isles, America, and the world over. It had been a feature (with a distinguished pedigree) of the Globe and Traveller evening newspaper since 1881. British humorist E. V. Lucas wrote that the column “consisted of a dozen or so paragraphs, each with a joke or sting in it, bearing on the morning news.” Richard Usborne wrote it was “a column—a dozen or so short snippets and a set of verses.” The column was pieced together by a couple of fellows every morning in “The By the Way Room” according to a balanced formula of politics, funny news commentary, and verse.
Wodehouse contributed to “By the Way” intermittently from August 16, 1901 up to August 1903, when he joined the paper as Harold Begbie’s full-time deputy editor, working six days a week. A year later he was put in charge of the column, a position he held until he left the paper in May 1909. His cash journal, Money Received for Literary Work, records his payments from the Globe for work from 1901 up to its last entry in February 1908. In all, he worked on over 1,600 “By the Way” columns as freelancer, deputy editor, and editor.
Image at right: Studio photograph of Wodehouse, ca. 1903,
by Florence Mason, colorized by Laiz Kuczynski
In early 1908 the Globe was sold to Hildebrand Harmsworth, brother of Alfred Harmsworth (later Lord Northcliffe of Lord Tilbury fame). Jasen quotes Wodehouse: “He said we must put out one of those shilling paper-backed books to advertise our column.” The result was The Globe By the Way Book, published by the Globe in June 1908. Robert McCrum, in his 2002 “Wodehouse: A Life,” incorrectly states that the book is “an anthology of extracts from the column.” None of the “By the Way” column material was included in the book, which consists of illustrated, full- or half-page topical features and jokes, all of which were specially prepared for it. The Globe went to great pains to inform the public that the book did not consist of material from the column:
We believe there is an impression in some quarters that the “By the Way Book” is a reprint of paragraphs which have appeared in this column. This is not the case. We are journalists, but we have humane instincts. Once you have read this column, your punishment is over, and will not be repeated. The “By the Way Book” contains no reprinted matter. (“By the Way” column, July 7, 1908.)
For a closer look at this rare and unfairly maligned book, see “Deconstructing the Globe By the Way Book.”
In 1908’s Not George Washington, Wodehouse gives us an autobiographical look at the “On Your Way” room at the Orb.
“Well, all the work at the Orb’s done between nine and eleven. You must be there at nine sharp. Literally sharp, I mean. Not half-past. . . . Four or five really good paragraphs a day and an occasional set of verses are all he’ll want from you.”
The source of material was the morning papers, which were placed in a pile on our table at nine o’clock. The halfpenny papers were our principal support. . . . We attended first to the Subject of the Day. This was generally good for two or three paragraphs of verbal fooling. There was a sort of tradition that the first half-dozen paragraphs should be topical. The rest might be topical or not, as occasion served. . . .
Gresham [ostensibly editor Begbie] had a way of seizing on any bizarre incident reported in the morning papers, enfolding it in “funny language,” adding a pun, and thus making it his own.
Although thousands of Wodehouse’s books, magazine appearances, and plays have been collected over the years, the Globe material has until now languished in obscurity. The only original print editions languish in the remote confines of the British Library newspaper archive at Boston Spa and on microfilm in three libraries on two continents.
The P. G. Wodehouse Globe Reclamation Project was formed in January 2013 by a group of collectors and specialists in Wodehouse’s early newspaper and magazine work (Anita Avery, Ananth Kaitharam, Ian Michaud, Neil Midkiff, Arthur Robinson, Raja Srinivasan and myself; Karen Shotting was added to the group in November). Tony Ring and Norman Murphy act as senior consultants, and their erudition, advice, and guidance have been critical to our success. It seems amazing that we’ve managed to copy, scan, index, and archive all of Wodehouse’s approximately 1,600 By the Way columns, obtained through the volunteer foot-soldiering efforts of Ananth and Karen. And there are literally thousands of new treasures in store for Wodehouse fans!
The first use of this material can be viewed in two new articles appearing exclusively on Madame Eulalie: “Conan Doyle/Sherlock Holmes References in Early Wodehouse” and “O, Woman!—Wodehouse and the Suffragettes.” I’m grateful to the Wodehouse Estate for allowing me to quote extensively from these “new” columns and hope that fans will find them enjoyable.
As you may imagine, it’s been a very busy year for the GRP. Today, we’re announcing these new developments:
The Review Panel of the project (Norman, Tony, Ian, Karen and myself) has now completed evaluation of the over 900 poems found in the columns, and we’re excited to announce the attribution—although that is a problematic word—of 337 verses, 1901–1908, that we have identified as having significant and persuasive evidence of Wodehouse’s authorship. Heretofore, Wodehouse’s poetic legacy has resided in the 100 or so known poems he published in Punch, Vanity Fair, the Daily Chronicle, and other publications. In the space of less than two years, the work of the Review Panel has trebled his known output of poetry. Much if it sparkles with Wodehouse brilliance and will delight fans!
Since the underlying aim of the GRP has always been to bring the newly-discovered material to fans, we’re excited to announce that we’ve completed negotiations with the Estate to publish three books. By the Way, Day By Day is an annotated compendium of the best of the jokes and verse from the column. The second volume, By the Way: 200 Verses, is edited by Tony Ring, whose 2014 book, What Goes Around Comes Around, compiled the best of Wodehouse’s already-known poems for the first time. We’re aiming for a September 2015 publishing date for these two books, which are to be issued in the US and the UK simultaneously.
The third volume, still in development, will consist of excerpts from the Globe’s Notes of the Day columns—heretofore unknown and discovered in our work, these 250-word essays contain, over the years, an abundance of new Wodehouse material of great interest. Presently, the Review Panel is engaged in evaluating these columns, but it will be a long process. We don’t expect the third book to be near publication for at least another year, but it will be worth the wait, I promise!
The P. G. Wodehouse Globe Reclamation Project is a not-for-profit volunteer group that does not solicit funds from individuals, although philanthropic groups or associations are invited to contact us. We’re partnered with the good folks at Madame Eulalie who sponsor this page, and would like to acknowledge Raja Srinivasan for his generosity in both bringing Madame Eulalie to the world and underwriting research on the Globe material. Ananth Kaitharam and Neil Midkiff have worked tirelessly to make Madame a fabulous repository of Wodehouse’s early work, and it is the only internet site authorized by the Estate to publish it. If you are new to Madame, please take a few minutes to browse the site—you will be amazed! The GRP welcomes your comments and correspondence—please click this link to contact us.
—John Dawson, September 2014; updated August 2015