The Weekly Telegraph, March 30, 1901

A Family Doctor Tells this Story.

The monotony of a doctor’s existence is very often relieved by the remarkable requests of some of those in his charge. A few weeks ago a leading doctor of Sydney received a letter which was type-written and bore no signature, in which the writer inquired what his terms would be for poisoning a lady. If he was willing to carry out the poisoning, the letter directed him to advertise in a certain paper for a dog-cart, naming the payment he would require. The doctor did as he was requested, and received another letter saying that the lady would call on him at noon the next day. He immediately put the matter into the hands of the police. The writer of the anonymous letter turned out to be the husband of the lady in question, who had repented of his marriage and desired to be freed from it. A clerk in a city firm noted for their extreme strictness towards their employes and their vigilant guard against malingerers, called on a doctor in Croydon the other day to beg him to sign a medical certificate that he was suffering from an infectious disease, as he particularly wished to be present at the ’Varsity cricket match. Needless to say the doctor was unable to accede to this astonishing request, and the clerk was obliged to depart unsatisfied. The doctor, whose sense of the ludicrous had been greatly tickled by the interview, took the trouble to make inquiries at the office after the match had been played, and was told that Mr. —— had just returned to his work, having been granted leave of absence in order to attend the funeral of his grandmother. He kept the clerk’s secret, and the latter was never detected by his employers.—P. G. W.



Entered by Wodehouse as “Strange Requests made of Doctors,” a short article accepted by the Weekly Telegraph, listed on the March 1901 page of Money Received for Literary Work, but without a date of publication. Apparently not recovered by previous bibliographers; discovered by AK in the British Library on p. 18 of the March 30, 1901 issue.

Wodehouse would return to the “grandmother’s funeral” theme in his fiction, for instance the baseball story “The Pitcher and the Plutocrat” (1910):

Statisticians have estimated that if all the grandmothers alone who perished between the months of April and October that year could have been placed end to end they would have reached considerably further than Minneapolis.

Also, in “The Colour Line” (1920) Lancelot Purvis obtains “special leave of absence to attend the funeral of a relative” in order to visit his fiancée, who is out of town touring with a play.

Neil Midkiff