Fun, January 12, 1901

(From a Forthcoming Opera.)


When my correspondent told me that the war was at an end,
 (One morning in the middle of November)
Though bald as any billiard-ball, my hair I strove to rend,
 (A very painful process, I remember).

The Editorial steak and beer untouched I left to lie,
 In vain they brought my tea and muffins to me,
The office boys all whispered, “He must weep or he will die,”
 The printers and compositors looked gloomy.

But now once more the night has fled. The morn of Hope has blushed,
 Through Sorrow’s fog the sun of Joy shines clearly,
My correspondent wires again, “I said the Boers were crushed,
 But (my mistake) I should have added, ‘Nearly.’ ”

I heaved a sigh of rapture deep. My health began to mend,
 No more with mental anguish am I troubled,
My steps towards the office door with eagerness I wend,
 Prepared to work with energy redoubled.

I probe the misty future far as human eye can see,
 And find it full of realistic grimness,
For cordons and alarums and excursions there will be,
 With saws and modern instances of Slimness.

So broach the oldest cask of ink, produce the freshest quill,
 Oh! set the presses clanking ever faster,
And let the yearning public once again enjoy its fill
 Of details of the latest new disaster.



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




The London Times of November 5, 1900 printed an article headed “The War in South Africa: A Retrospect,” which began, “The operations in South Africa no longer involve military problems of special interest.” In fact, the war was far from over; it had merely entered a new phase. The Boers, who had been using sporadic guerrilla tactics from as early as March 1900 now instituted a widespread guerrilla campaign, which prolonged the war for another 20 months. On January 12, Fun published “The Editor’s Song,” a six-stanza poem by P.G. that mocked the insatiability of the press for sensational detail and portrays the glee of a newspaper editor who, having been informed that “the war is at end” and wondering how to fill his pages, now learns that the war is not yet over and that he will be able continue describing the “realistic grimness” of “the latest new disaster” for the foreseeable future, to the great benefit of his circulation.


John Dawson    


The previously-specified date of June 12 was an error; this poem’s appearance in the January 12, 1901 issue has been verified from scans at the Internet Archive. Thanks to Diego Seguí for the correction.