Daily Express, Tuesday, October 1, 1907







Every one is spinning the spindle. Whenever two friends meet the inevitable question is put, “Do you play diabolo?” All London is struggling to get the new toy, and the principal sports establishments are urging the French manufacturers to hurry with the supply. There is no doubt that in the next few weeks Paris will be depleted of its diabolo stock.

One of the reasons for the gigantic success of diabolo is that its reputation has been made on the snowball system. Somebody buys a set, plays with it once or twice in the open, the onlookers are fascinated with the flying spindle, and rush off to buy sets for themselves. And so it goes on. Judging by the sales of last week converts were made at the rate of 500 a day.

“For some reason,” said a salesman at a large toyshop yesterday, “people seem ashamed to admit that they want diabolo for themselves. I don’t know why, for it is quite as much a game for grown-ups as for children. But most of our customers come in and ask for the game, adding, in an off-hand manner, that they ‘want it for the children, you know.’ Then they ask me to show them how it is played, and in a few minutes the spell of diabolo is cast over them, and it is as much as we can do to get them out of the shop.”


What is the secret of diabolo’s success? The question was put to some players, who replied:—

“I think it is so successful because you can play it independently.”

“Because it teaches you patience and perseverance.”

“Because it makes you feel young and springy.”

“Because there is no end to the variations on the game. There is always some new trick to be learnt.”

“I think the secret of diabolo is the strange fascination of the revolving spindle. It is only human to love to see the ‘wheels go round.’ ”

“Undoubtedly because it appeals to all ages and both sexes. Because it is an international game, and because it can be played either indoors or outdoors.”

It is true, as stated by one of the players, that there is always something new in the game. Each day brings fresh testimony from players who tell of newly discovered feats with the two sticks and the spindle. Here are a few which have not been touched upon before:—

Holding both sticks in one hand, and keeping the spindle on the spin. This is an extremely good exercise, for it entails strong wrist work.

Two players, standing back to back, catching the spindles as thrown. This is described as “tricky and difficult.”

One player walking up to the other and taking the running spindle from the cord to his own.

Three people playing, throwing the spindle simultaneously. This requires absolute precision, and each must throw on the given signal.

Throwing the spindle under the leg and catching it. This is a very showy trick.


It is possible that the latest innovation in the game will be musical diabolo. As made now, the diable has a small hole in one of the cones, so that when it is spinning at high speed the rush of air sets it humming like a wasp. It is hoped to make the diables on the principle of a mouth organ, with different notes, so that a number spinning together could play a simple tune. The spindles would be sent up in the air and only retained on the cord when their places came in the melody.

Great efforts are being made to get diabolo on the stage. Mr. Seymour Hicks is going to introduce it into “The Gay Gordons,” at the Aldwych, when very probably Miss Ellaline Terriss will sing a song on the subject, supported by a chorus of diabolo playing ladies. Mlle. Anne Dancrey, the popular Parisian singer, is announced to appear next week at the Palace with a diabolo scene, and, doubtless, no musical comedy will be considered up to date without its diabolo turn. Music-hall managers are crying for the first sensational diabolists, and jugglers and equilibrists are seeing how they can play the game standing on their heads, or while treading the tight-rope.

Mr. Hermann Darewski is setting a diabolo song for Messrs. Francis, Day, and Hunter. It will have a strong chorus, and is likely to become the national anthem for diabolists.

Mr. Gautrey, L.C.C., favours the introduction of diabolo into the London County Council schools. “It seems to be the ideal game for secondary girls’ schools,” he said to an “Express” representative yesterday. “It would not do for the elementary schools because there we have a carefully considered schedule of games, based on the Swedish exercise system. But, under the Government code organized games are now part of the school curriculum, and schools may provide or pay for pitches where games may be played for not less than a half hour, or more than two hours, each day. Diabolo seems to meet every requirement for a school game, and it should appeal to many of the teachers. They are looking for games which are easily learnt, which require little apparatus, and in which every one can join.”


A player supplies the following “Don’ts for Diabolists”:—

Don’t stoop over the game. It is unnecessary.

Don’t expect to be an expert in ten minutes.

Don’t play near a glasshouse.

Don’t smash the spindle when you fail for the fiftieth time. Try again. The fifty-first time you may succeed.

Don’t hold your arms stiffly. Give the diable a chance to move.

Don’t play too near your neighbour’s fence. Unless he is a diabolist himself he will get cross at your fifth request to “kindly pass me the spindle over.”

Don’t think of anything but the game when you are playing it. You will never be proficient if you do.

Don’t try to learn diabolo unless you are sure that the diable is mathematically correct.



From the “Daily Diabolist,” of Oct. 1, 1910

Great disappointment is felt by those who have worked for the release of Kaid Sir Harry Maclean at the stubborn refusal of the Kaid to leave Raisuli’s camp. Our special correspondent wires that both captive and captor have thrown and caught the diabolo an equal number of times (four), and Sir Harry resolutely declines to leave until some definite result is arrived at.


Mr. Seymour Hicks’ move in ejecting from his gallery noisy diabolists has excited favourable comment in theatrical circles. Nobody nowadays objects to galleryites playing diabolo during a first-night performance, but it must be done quietly, or it puts the stalls off their game.


Mr. Hall Caine has issued another manifesto to the Press. It is for the public, he says, to decide whether the main theme of the new play, “The Diabolist,” namely the founding of a home of refuge for broken-down diabolo players, is impracticable or not. He has his Message, and he must deliver it.


The “Diabolist” (late “Times”) Book-club war has taken a new lease of life owing to the action of the promoters in distributing a diabolo set with each volume bought from them. The usual letters from Mr. Byles, Mr. Moberly Bell, and “Retired Admiral” will be found in another column.


The distribution of diabolo sets to the natives has, as we predicted, settled the unrest in India.


The inequality in skill which prevails among diabolists has stirred the Socialists, who demand that every one shall be obliged by law to throw and catch the bobbin an equal number of times.


One good effect of the spread of the game is that the police have been so busy playing it that they have not had time to arrest an innocent person for nearly a week.


The diabolo interval is now a recognised feature in first-class cricket.


The Government have rarely had a narrower escape than last Tuesday’s, after the debate on Tariff Reform. When the division was taken, Mr. Lupton was the only member not playing diabolo in Palace-yard. The Government consequently just scraped home. Against the motion, 1; for the motion, 0.


A diaballot is to be taken early this month with regard to the attitude of the men in connection with the threatened railway strike.


The sensation among loyal Shavians which was caused by the disappearance of Mr. Bernard Shaw has subsided. It was supposed at first that he had been lost on the heights of Constitution-hill, and search parties patrolled that desolate district all night with lanterns and bloodhounds. It was then discovered that the Master Mind had been playing diabolo in his backyard by moonlight all the while. He had at last succeeded in catching the bobbin twice when his rescuers arrived.


There is a spice of novelty in the plot of Mr. Esmond’s new comedy. The heroine is a champion diabolist, who, wishing to be loved for herself alone, changes places with her companion, and gives herself out as a non-diabolist dominoes player. All, however, ends happily.


It is unlikely that any battle will take place yet awhile in the American-Japanese war, both sides being too busy playing off the final ties of their national diabolo competitions.


One of the most popular of the birthday honours published today will certainly be the peerage which has been granted to James Bodger, of Chipping Sodbury, who for three years in succession has held the All-England diabolo championship. Samuel Johns, last year’s runner-up, received a baronetcy in well-deserved recognition of his plucky play.


We doubt whether the experiment of presenting a violinist to the public at Queen’s Hall will be a success, though the authorities deserve all credit for their courageous endeavour to give London a novelty. Little Max Hoffheimer, the child diabolist, who can catch the bobbin 8,349 times, started his autumn tour in America today after drawing all the crowds to Queen’s Hall during September.


Mr. Victor Grayson, in a speech delivered last night, refuses to withdraw the hope he expressed last week that the Irish mob would pelt the soldiery with jagged bobbins.



T. Smith (Diab.) . . . . . . . 8,9999

Sir J. Jones (U.)  . . . . . . .     2

P. Robinson (L)   . . . . . . .     0

Hunstable also played.

Last year Mr. Smith was returned unopposed.


The “Express” Paris correspondent describes how that city has gone diabolo-mad, on Page 4.



Printed unsigned in newspaper; entered by Wodehouse in Money Received for Literary Work.

A predecessor of the mid-twentieth-century crazes for hula hoops and yo-yos, diabolo—juggling an hourglass-shaped spindle by means of a string connected to the tips of two sticks, one held in each hand—had a long history (based on a bamboo Chinese toy and later European wooden models with cone-shaped ends). Wodehouse here notes a brief but intense vogue after French engineer Gustave Phillippart developed a rubber version with cup-shaped ends and patented it in 1905. Modern diabolo sets retain the double-hemisphere shape of Phillippart’s design but are generally made of plastic.

For more Wodehouse references to diabolo, see “Diabolo Day by Day”, “Reginald’s Record Knock”, and two mentions in the serial “The Lost Lambs” (=Mike and Psmith), Ch. II and Ch. XX.