Pearson’s Magazine (US), May 1906
HE lane was not wide and the Kid’s automobile, which had broken down after the manner of automobiles, blocked a generous two-thirds of it. The greater part of the Kid was out of sight, underneath the machine. The hottest sun that had shone on the State of New York that summer was slowly roasting a pair of brown boots and the lower portion of two flannel-clad legs, which protruded from beneath the wheels. The Kid hated this phase of automobilism, but he went through it conscientiously.
The sound of horses’ hoofs mingled with the amateur engineer’s murmured imprecations. They slowed down to a walk as they neared the derelict, and finally halted.
“Is there any one in charge of that smoke-wagon?” inquired a voice politely. “Saved!” he added, “I see boots. Shop!”
The Kid began to wriggle out from his place of retirement.
“If you can spare me a moment of your valuable time,” continued the horseman, “I wish you would ease off that bubble a point or two to the left. At present it’s taking up most of the road, and this intelligent animal refuses to pass.”
The Kid stood up and inhaled the fresh air.
“Why it’s the Kid! I had a sort of idea I’d seen that bubble before. Just the very man I wanted to meet.”
He jumped down from his horse, and approached the Kid with outstretched hand.
“I’ve been looking for you everywhere. They told me you were in the village. I want a soul-to-soul talk with you when you’re through with your tinkering. By the way, you may not remember me. Garth. Tom Garth. I interviewed you for the Manhattan Daily when you came to New York after winning the championship. You were in bed. Remember? You got outside your breakfast, while I sat on the chest of drawers and asked you questions. It would have made a good subject for a historical painting. Now do you remember? Don’t mind me. We can talk when you’ve finished. I don’t understand bubbles, or I’d help you. As it is, the sun is hot. I have a cigar-case somewhere, and if you look closely you’ll see me do my popular imitation of a hard-worked young journalist taking a much-needed rest.”
“Not be long,” responded the Kid, crawling into retreat once more, while Mr. Garth, whistling the “Mosquito’s Parade” under his breath, sat down by the roadside and felt for his cigars.
Ten minutes elapsed before the Kid, damp and red as to the face, emerged, wiping his hands.
“Done it,” he said complacently.
“Then sit down and have one of these. It’s much too hot for the strenuous life. However— Well, Kid, it brings back my vanished youth meeting you like this. Been assaulting the police lately? What’s up now? I wish you wouldn’t spring about like that. It’s too hot.”
The Kid continued to gaze at his loquacious companion, in consternation. The lurid episode of Detective Dunn and the female jewel-robber, in whose cause he had displayed so much mistaken chivalry, had begun to fade from his mind, but this sudden, apparently irrelevant, question brought it surging back in all its pristine freshness. How much did the man know?
Mr. Tom Garth stretched himself lazily on the grass and blew a scientific smoke-ring. He was a long, thin young man, with a dark, clever face, and a humorous mouth. He appeared wholly unconcerned at the disturbance he had caused. “What—what—how? Who’s been telling you?” gasped the Kid.
“It’s all right,” replied Garth. “Sit down. It was a shame to spring it on you like that. My passion for the dramatic’s quite a disease. You needn’t worry. We’re all friends here. Nobody but myself knows a word about it. Your cigar’s out!”
The Kid subsided to the grass again.
“How did you know?” he asked.
“I recognized you on the platform that day. It was a decent disguise, all the same. I recognized you by your build, and the way you put that shot in at the jaw. Poor old Dunn! Not much need to count ten there. He was out for twenty minutes, and even then he wasn’t what you’d call chirpy. I’ve been wanting to see you ever since, to ask you what the deuce you were at. You’re a law-abiding person, I know. Why this sudden outburst of devilry?”
It was with a certain hesitation and confusion that the Kid explained the machinations of the insidious Miss Grant. He had been badly buncoed, and there was not much pleasure to be derived from saying so.
Garth chuckled incessantly throughout the tale. “Smart girl, that. Deserved to get away. I’m glad she did. Now I’ll tell you where I come in. Bear in mind, from this point, a certain proverb you may have heard—one good turn deserves another. I shall come back to it shortly. Well, this was how it was. I know Dunn. He told me he was expecting to make an important arrest at the station. I hovered around to scoop it for my paper. But mark the sequel: I didn’t get the scoop I wanted, but I got another twice as good. Have you ever seen an editor smile? You should have seen Taylor’s face split in half when I cake-walked into the office with my story. As you know, I put them off the scent by describing you as a burly man. Dunn would have it that his assailant was a fellow about your own build, Kid, but I assured him that he was wrong, and that the jolting he had got had sent his memory off the rails. So that made it all right for you. And the moral of that, as I said before, is, that one good turn deserves another.”
“Anything I can do—” began the Kid fervently.
“Good. I knew you had a noble heart, Kid.
“ ‘I’ve heard of hearts unkind, kind deeds
With coldness still returning;
Alas; the gratitude of men
Hath oftener left me mourning.’
“As one Wordsworth observed. I don’t suppose you know him. He held the championship belt for poetry at one time. But he wasn’t referring to you. When it comes to gratitude, you’re there with the goods. And now I’ll tell you what you can do to help me. It’s a long story, and I think I’ll light another weed before I begin.”
“I’m listening,” said the Kid encouragingly.
Garth lit his cigar, threw the match at the horse, which was still making a hearty meal, and resumed:
“They have an unholy custom in newspaper offices of New York,” he said, “of dispensing, during the hot weather, with the services of a certain number of their employees. Or, if you want that sentence translated, they bounce about one in every five of the reporters on the papers. There is no animus about it. They hint that you are a splendid fellow, and what the paper will do without you they don’t know, but, all the same, would you mind taking a holiday? Thanks, very much. When the summer’s over, and people begin to come back to town they take you on again. But in the meanwhile you are at a loose end. That’s my case. The Manhattan Daily don’t want me till the cold weather.”
“It’s a burnin’ shame!” broke out the sympathetic pugilist.
“Dry the starting tear,” said Garth. “I don’t mind, as far as I’m concerned. In fact, I’m very glad. Being thrifty by nature and habit, I have plenty of money to keep me going till I resume my job. And the holiday is welcome for many reasons, principally because it will give me time to carry out a certain scheme. Whatever you do, try and keep awake now, for this is where you come in.”
The Kid expressed himself all attention.
“I shall now bore you with a little biography. It’s painful, but necessary. I was born of poor but honest parents, who sent me to school at an early age, where I met a certain Lord Worfield!”
“A lord!” echoed the interested Kid.
“A lord,” said Garth. “We were friends at school, and when we went to Oxford we continued friends. In fact, we are still friends. I came out to the States; he stayed at home. Well, Worfield arrived in New York just before I left the paper. He was rolling in money, and showed a pleasant anxiety to get rid of it. After he had seen all the theaters and got tired of all the restaurants, he found—with horror—that he still possessed more than would be good for two men. It was then that he was struck with a bright idea. I hope you’re listening. Have another cigar. This was his idea: A thoughtful study of our New York papers had left him with the impression that there was no law of libel in the land; or, if there was, that you couldn’t say anything about a person bad enough to make a jury give damages. Having got this notion firmly into his head, he came to me. ‘Tom,’ he said—just like that—‘why shouldn’t we start a paper that’s not only libellous in spots, but all through? The greater the truth the greater the libel. Let’s start a weekly that tells the unvarnished truth about all these New York beauties—in Wall Street, and so on. It will sell like hot cakes. And it will be the best rag since Oxford. You shall be editor, and I’ll finance the thing.’ ‘Very well,’ I said, ‘if you’re dying to burn money. But,’ I added, ‘we shall want somebody to protect us from infuriated callers. Somebody to sit at the door and throw them down-stairs as they arrive. And,’ I said, ‘I know the very man—Kid Brady.’ So there you are, Kid. Will you come in? Handsome pay, and pleasant work. I’ll get you fit for your next fight. Join the staff of Candor as fighting-editor, and combine business with pleasure.”
“How?” said the Kid. “I’m not next to the game yet.”
“It’s perfectly simple. We want you to be around during office hours to see that strong and angry gentlemen don’t come worrying me. I shan’t have time to attend to them myself. You will sit in your little rabbit-hutch at the top of the stairs, and when any one calls and asks to see the editor, you will tell him that the editor is not in. If he tries to get past you, it will be up to you to see that he gets the rapid bounce. Don’t be violent with them. Simply assist them gently in the direction of the street.”
There was a silence while the idea filtered through into the Kid’s brain. Then he rose to a point of order.
“What’s going to be doing when they recognize me?” he asked. “I’d like to help you, Mr. Garth, but I daren’t risk getting into trouble with the cops. You see, a fighting-man’s got to be more careful than most. He don’t get let off too easy when he comes into court for hitting people.”
“That’s all right, my dear Kid,” said Garth with much cheerfulness, “don’t worry yourself. In the first place, you musn’t hit ’em. I explained that. We don’t want New York to be full of Trust Magnates with black eyes. Then a man with your talent for disguise need never be recognized. You shall dress for the part. Doesn’t that stir your young blood? We’ll get you up as an elderly and respectable partner with a neat gray mustache. Any more objections? He is silent. Ergo, he is convinced. Excellent. All the arrangements are now complete. We shall leave for New York to-night. If you like you can run me down in your bubble. The first number of Candor has been ready this many a day. Now that the staff is complete, we can begin. Approach me, Bucephalus, if you have finished your meal. Whoa! And now, Kid,” he added from the saddle, “get into the bubble, and we’ll go back to the hotel and drink success to the paper.”
The Kid had been in some queer situations in the course of his short life, but he was inclined to give the palm to the one in which he now found himself. Every afternoon, Wednesdays and Saturdays excepted, he repaired to his post at the top of the first flight of stairs in the building in which Candor rented its offices. Here he sat entrenched behind a wooden barrier, fingering his gray mustache uneasily—the fear that it would come off never left him—and interviewing gentlemen who objected to hearing the truth about themselves. These were of all sorts. On the second day after the appearance of the first number, a tall, somber man in a long fawn-colored dust-coat called. The Kid recognized him from photographs as a celebrated romantic actor.
“I wish to see your editor,” said the great man with ominous calm.
“Editor not in,” replied the Kid glibly.
“You are sure that he is not in?”
“The better for him,” retorted the other darkly. “Can you remember a message, my man?”
“Then give your editor, when he arrives, the compliments of Mr. Bodkin, Mr. Aubrey Bodkin of the National Theater, and tell him that Mr. Bodkin does not lightly forget.”
They were not all so pacific. Arriving one afternoon a little late, the editor of Candor had to stand aside on the stairs to allow a procession of two to pass him. The procession was headed by a stout, red-faced gentleman in business suit who moved reluctantly. The rear was brought up by the Kid. He was grasping the visitor by the elbows, and appeared to be supplying the motive force.
“I knew that Wall Street people would be a success,” said Garth to himself with a grin as he watched them disappear.
Candor created a considerable sensation from its very first number. Theoretically, New York is empty during the summer; but in practice there are still a few inhabitants. These read the new weekly almost to a man. Its victims bought it from curiosity and against their better judgment. Their friends read it eagerly, amused and interested to find that the truth about the victims had at last become known.
The progress of the paper was like that of a forest fire. Contemporaries in Chicago and St. Louis quoted tit-bits from it in their Sunday editions. Astute firms sent in orders for advertisements. Founded to enable Lord Worfield to dispose of his surplus cash with the maximum of amusement to himself, it rapidly began to assume the proportions of a great investment. The expenses were small, the profits large. On the appearance of the eighth number, an attempt was made, by unknown persons, in the absence of the staff, to wreck the office. Garth edited number nine from behind a door with three panels splintered. Number eleven saw his salary doubled, also the Kid’s. The Kid had now got well into the swing of his duties, and was enjoying journalism immensely.
One afternoon Garth was writing a trenchant leader, when he was interrupted by a knock at the door.
“Come in!” he cried. “Hullo, Kid, what’s the matter?”
“There’s somebody wants to see you,” said the gray-mustached one.
“Tell him I’m not in.”
“It’s a lady,” said the Kid with a blushful grin.
Garth clicked with his tongue doubtfully.
“Well,” he said at last, “show her in. I didn’t bargain for this. I wonder what she wants. We haven’t had a word about any woman in the paper. There is a line, Kid, and we draw it. Show her in, then. But keep an eye on the stairs and see that no one else gets through.”
The Kid reappeared a moment later, ushering in the visitor.
Garth placed a chair for her. She was the type of an American girl who seems to radiate brightness.
“Are you the editor of Candor?” she inquired.
“I am,” said Garth. “Is there anything—?”
“Yes,” she replied decidedly, “there is. I want you to read this. I’m Julie Weyder, and Cornelius Weyder is my father.”
“I don’t need to read the article,” said Garth, “I think I know the one you mean. It is called ‘What we think of Mr. Cornelius Weyder,’ is it not?”
“ ‘Number one’. That’s it.”
“Exactly. ‘Number one’. H’m. I don’t mind admitting to you, Miss Weyder, that this slightly complicates matters. When I—when my contributor wrote that article, he did not take into account the fact that even Copper Kings have those who love them. The consequence was that—er—that, in fact, he rather let himself go.”
“He did,” responded the lady, grimly.
He looked compassionately at her.
“I really do not see what I can do.”
Miss Weyder stamped a minute foot upon the floor.
“Do! You don’t see what you can do? Why print a piece next week saying the thing isn’t true.”
“I cannot do that, Miss Weyder. I am afraid it is quite true.”
“Well, they ought not to have said it. And I don’t believe it’s true. And, anyhow, you can deny it in the paper.”
“I am afraid that would scarcely be possible, Miss Weyder. You forget my position as regards the paper. I am a paid servant. If I do not perform my work as my proprietor wishes, I am not doing my duty. My proprietor wishes Candor to be run on certain clearly defined lines, and I must do it, however greatly against my will.”
“But you can stop them from printing any more of it. This is number one. How many more are there?”
“It is a series of six,” replied Garth.
“Six! But you must stop them.”
“I am afraid it is impossible. Unless,” he added to himself, “Worfield will stop the infernal things.”
“Then you’re very, very cruel,” said Miss Weyder, her eyes filling with tears.
There was an awkward pause, during which Tom Garth felt more uncomfortable than he remembered ever to have felt before; and then a merciful interruption relieved the tension. The door-handle turned, and Lord Worfield entered.
All three spoke at once.
“Hullo, Tom!” said Lord Worfield.
“Hullo, Jimmy!” said Garth, with fervent gratitude.
“Jimmy!” said Miss Weyder, springing to her feet.
“Why, Julie,” said Lord Worfield, “I didn’t see you. What are you doing here? I was just coming to tell Tom about you. Have you introduced yourselves? This Is Tom Garth, Julie. We were at school and Oxford together. Tom, this is Miss Julie Weyder, who has promised to be my wife. We have been engaged since yesterday evening. I was coming to tell you.”
“ ’Gratulate you, old man,” murmured Tom.
“Jimmy, can’t you do anything? Who is it who owns this paper? Because they have been printing things about father, and it’s to be a series of six, and Mr. Garth says he has no power to stop it, unless he gets his proprietor’s leave. Do you know the proprietor? Can’t you speak to him? Look!” She held out a copy of Candor. Lord Worfield ran his eye through the article.
“Bitter,” was his comment.
“Smith’s stuff is always that,” said Garth eyeing him steadily, “he thinks the proprietor likes it.”
“So he does,” said Lord Worfield hastily, “so he does, old chap. Only this is different. You see—I mean—that is to say—What I mean to say is, Mr. Weyder being a friend of mine— No, that’s not it. I don’t know what I’m saying. I didn’t know anything about this series. Oh, lord!”
He edged close to Tom.
“For heaven’s sake, old chap,” he entreated in a hot whisper, “don’t give me away.”
“Miss Weyder,” said Tom, courteously, “with your permission, I will change my mind. I will brave my proprietor’s wrath and suppress the remaining five articles on my own responsibility.”
The sun broke through the clouds. Miss Weyder dimpled charmingly, Lord Worfield’s long face cleared, and he heaved a sigh of relief, which he instantly changed into a cough.
“Then, that’s all right,” he began.
“What is that noise?” inquired Julie.
From the direction of the stairs came the well-known sound of the Kid informing a caller that the editor was not in. Lord Worfield, who was nearest the door, looked out. Then he shut the door with what seemed unnecessary rapidity and decision. His face was pale. From the stairs the sound of shuffling feet made itself heard.
“What is it? Do let me look,” said Julie.
“No, no, it’s nothing,” said Lord Worfield, with a ghastly grin. “It’s only that ass of a porter. He often does a sort of dance to keep himself warm.”
Miss Weyder stared.
“To keep himself warm! In a New York summer! I must look. The man must be mad.”
“That’s just what he is. Just what he is. A little eccentric, that is to say. Tom only engaged him out of charity, because he’s old and has a widow and six small children. I mean a wife. That’s all.”
The shuffling feet died away. Silence reigned on the stairs.
“Well,” said Julie, “I must be going. No, you are not to see me home, Jimmy. Good-by, Mr. Garth, and thank you so much. I hope your proprietor will not be very angry with you.”
“I don’t think he will, Miss Weyder,” said Tom. “Good-by.”
The door closed behind her.
“My lord!” said Worfield, wiping his forehead with his handkerchief.
“Well, Jimmy,” said Tom Garth, “so you’re hooked at last. No more Candor for you after this, I suppose? Candor generally ceases with marriage.”
Lord Worfield breathed heavily.
“The narrowest squeak I ever had,” he said, “or want to have. Yes, the paper’s dead. Do you know who that was that the Kid was showing out just now? Mr. Weyder. Julie’s father. My lord, what a shave! If she’d seen—! Look here, Tom, I’m awfully sorry to have to put a stopper on the show just when it’s beginning to go well, and after all the trouble you’ve taken; but I simply daren’t. If it came out.——You don’t know old Weyder. It wouldn’t take much to make him withdraw his consent.”
“He isn’t impressed by the title?”
“Not a bit. And he an American father!”
“I don’t know what the world’s coming to,” said Tom. “A man with his dangerous ideas ought not to be at large. Exit Candor, then. In life it was beautiful, and in death—R. I. P.”
“I’m sorry, Tom. Are you—I mean, does this make it at all awkward for you?”
“Don’t name it, old man. That’s all right. I shall enjoy a holiday, and the Daily will take me on again when the cold weather begins. Slay the rag with an easy conscience. You’ll be ruining nobody.”
A Trust Magnate met a Wheat King in Wall Street a week later.
“It’s dead,” said the magnate.
“That filthy rag, Candor.”
“Yes, so I see. These papers never last. Good at first, but fall off.”
“Mere flash in the pan,” said the magnate. “Do we lunch?”
“Kid,” said Tom Garth, as they sat together in the private room in the latter’s saloon, “there never was a good thing on this earth which a woman couldn’t smash up in one round, if she started in on it.
‘What mighty ills have not been done by woman!
Who was’t betrayed the Capitol?—A woman!
Who lost Mark Antony the world?—A woman!
Who was the cause of a long ten-years’ war,
And laid at last old Troy in ashes?—Woman!’
“That’s poetry, Kid, one Thomas Otway wrote it.”
“He knew his business,” said the light-weight champion of the United States.
Readers familiar with Wodehouse will recognize much in the present installment. Most important, we catch our first allusion to Smith in Wodehouse, a journalist character (or perhaps just a convenient cover) who will later appear as Psmith in “The Lost Lambs” (serialized in The Captain between April and September 1908, and forming the second half of the book Mike , later appearing separately as Mike and Psmith) and in “The New Fold” (serialized in The Captain between October 1908 and March 1909 and published as Psmith in the City in 1910). More strikingly still, the character reappears between October 1909 to March 1910 in the serial “Psmith, Journalist” (The Captain), which A & C Black (UK) published in September 1915. Wodehouse further reworked the Psmith material from The Captain (together with a romance story from Ainslee’s Magazine) into an American novel published by W. J. Watt & Company titled The Prince and Betty (14 February 1912). (The UK and US serial of The Prince and Betty, in The Strand Magazine and Ainslee’s Magazine respectively, reveal further differences in setting and character, as do their novel publications in the UK and US, the former by Mills & Boon on 1 May 1912.) The American novel is interesting because Psmith appears there as Smith, the same character alluded to in the closing moments of our current Pearson’s Magazine installment: “Smith’s stuff is always [bitter] . . . he thinks the proprietor likes it.”
Here in “How Kid Brady Joined the Press” readers discover a sketch of much of the later Psmith material, with sometimes subtle and sometimes less subtle variations. Because readers are most familiar with that material from Psmith, Journalist, our notes here will have recourse to the novel to better illustrate how ideas and characters get recycled in Wodehouse, particularly early Wodehouse. The informed reader, however, or the reader undertaking a dissertation in early Wodehouse, would do well to lay these various stories in UK and US periodical form and UK and US novel form side by side and develop a thesis from there.
Readers should be aware, though, that such recycling extends even to the minutiae of Wodehouse’s imagination. For instance, the Kid’s fighting career in Psmith, Journalist (though Kid Brady there is from Wyoming and not “English born” as in our current serial) has odd recourse to unrelated snippets from the earlier fiction, as when Wodehouse names an early opponent “the Cyclone” and tells readers, in an aside, “Like the month of March, the Cyclone, who had come in like a lion, was going out like a lamb” (ch. XIV). In the concluding moments of the previous number of Pearson’s Kid Brady serial, Wodehouse referenced the devastating cyclone in the Midwest that likely destroyed Snyder, Oklahoma on 10 May 1905, one of the best indicators of historical time yet in the Brady stories. The allusion might possibly suggest that the Psmith or Smith material occupied Wodehouse’s imagination already as early as 1905 or 1906, an interesting fact when reconstructing both character and historicity in Wodehouse’s imagination.
broken down after the manner of automobiles: given the quality of motor vehicles and motor travel during this era, a “phase of automobilism” hated by the Kid (and presumably by his creator), readers likely see Wodehouse’s appropriation of the slang term “bubble” for automobile. Farmer and Henley’s 1905 Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English lists “bubble” as a dupe or gull, or, in its verbal usage, to cheat, humbug, or overreach. A new automobile that habitually breaks down, as here, would encourage the association of automobile for “bubble.” Moreover, Maitland’s 1891 American Dictionary of Slang (p. 50) identifies “bubble” (Old Eng.) as “to swindle” or deceive, and therefore, as a noun, a deception, as with the reputation of automobiles at this time.
Shop!: in British speech, a customer’s exclamation used to summon a shopkeeper or sales attendant when no help is visible [NM]
Garth. Tom Garth: the same reporter from the November 1905 (second) installment of the current serial; suggested earlier as likely modeled on sports journalist Damon Runyon. Given that Garth forged the article on fruitarianism that nearly cost Brady his training, readers might imagine a somewhat frosty reunion here. Garth’s subsequent attitude suggests a more developed character than we catch in the serial. In fact, Garth’s sangfroid here closely resembles Psmith’s, at least in the journalist phase of his career.
You got outside your breakfast: one of the earlier instances so far uncovered of Wodehouse’s frequent use of this humorous inversion of putting a meal inside oneself; see “How Pillingshot Scored” (Captain, May 1903) for an earlier use: “Scarcely was he outside the promised ice…”. The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D. (2007) cites this usage from 1888 onward, so Wodehouse was not the inventor of the turn of phrase, but he can certainly be said to have implanted it into the minds of a century of readers. [NM] Karen Shotting finds it in Jerome K. Jerome’s Diary of a Pilgrimage (1891), which Wodehouse certainly would have read.
“Mosquito’s Parade”: the 1899 “Mosquito Parade” (alternately “Mosquitoes’ Parade”) attributed in 1900 to Howard Whitney. An unknown 1899 orchestral rendering can be heard online at this link. The 1900 piano solo sheet music is online at this link, courtesy of the Levy Sheet Music Collection at Johns Hopkins.
(Though considerable work has been done on Wodehouse and music, one senses still an academic void in this field.)
I’ve heard of hearts unkind . . . oftener left me mourning: last four lines of the concluding stanza of William Wordsworth’s “Simon Lee: The Old Huntsman,” detailing an offer of help to an overtasked old man whose thanks and praise give occasion for sorrow, because the once hale and vibrant life has been sadly reduced by age and the times.
Here the suggestion is very roughly that Garth, who perhaps in an earlier era where truth rather than humbug was preferred, would not require the Kid’s services, here, in the modern early twentieth century, where culture was more concerned with humbug than truth, Wodehouse suggests the need to accompany the publication of truth with a bit of muscle. Alternately, the suggestion here might be, again given the modern world, that Garth must initially appeal, though unnecessarily it will turn out, to coercive blackmail to get what he wants; the Kid’s character, however, being properly sporting and old school will do the sporting thing without being forced. Either way, the allusion seems to comment on the modern era, for which Wodehouse already professes a distaste. Interestingly, Simon Lee in a sportsman, as is the Kid, and sport, particularly in early Wodehouse, seems the likeliest vehicle for preserving old-world ideals.
He held the championship belt for poetry at one time: Wordsworth was Britain’s Poet Laureate, from his appointment by Queen Victoria in 1843 till his death on 23 April 1850.
A thoughtful study of our New York papers: from colonial times, American newspapers were established on partisan lines and typically published highly biased accounts of political events and personages. Much early material, in fact, was published under pseudonyms to protect writers from libel charges. New York was particularly involved in such practices, and an early legal case there set precedent for greater journalistic freedoms in America than were typically enjoyed elsewhere. In fact, The New York Weekly Journal was founded in 1733 in direct response to libel charges brought against The New York Gazette, and American newsprint has enjoyed freedoms of expression particular to America from that time, freedoms that were later entrenched in the Constitution of America.
left him with the impression . . . no law of libel in the land: unlike in the UK, the Constitution of America guaranteed absolute freedom of the press via the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
Perhaps the most famous libel case in America, the precedent in fact for subsequent law, involved a political attack on the colonial governor of New York in 1734. Publisher John Peter Zenger printed an attack on New York governor William Cosby, for which he was subsequently imprisoned and stood trail. The ensuring case established in American jurisprudence the absolute burden of proving falsehood in prosecuting cases of libel. Libel in America, unlike defamation of character charges elsewhere, had to establish that accusations brought against a party were false. As a result of the Crown versus John Peter Zenger, charges that were determined not to be false, either in print or in the spoken word, could not be considered libelous. A 1738 “brief narrative” of the case of Crown versus John Peter Zenger can be viewed at this link.
The greater the truth the greater the libel: a maxim which once applied in British jurisprudence (attributed, perhaps incorrectly, to Lord Mansfield, chief justice of the King’s Bench from 1756 to 1788) but not in America; see previous note. [NM]
Let’s start a weekly that tells the unvarnished truth . . . in Wall Street, and so on: Technically what is being proposed here is called muckraking, watchdog journalism that investigates and exposes social and particularly corporate and political corruption at all levels. It was essentially a journalism of social reform, though typically associated with larger and more established periodicals. The early twentieth century was a golden age of sorts for such journalism, which ran largely unchecked until the advent of the Great War and the need for solidarity across the controlling interests of America.
Wodehouse’s interest in such journalism at the height of the muckraking craze again shows him not merely up to date with the political and cultural affairs of America but largely at the helm of such affairs, informing his readership through a popular forum. In fact, it might be interesting to consider Wodehouse’s position in the professionalization of journalism in America. Most media authorities attribute the rise in American journalistic professionalism to 1908, with Columbia University and the University of Missouri establishing highly reputable schools for journalism in that year. The National Press Club was also founded in 1908, and subsequent years saw professionalization innovations such as the objective newsreel and photographic halftones rather than caricatures to accompany stories.
The Kid Brady material obviously predates these expressions of American journalistic professionalism by some two years, and Wodehouse’s interest in muckraking and in exploring newsprint as a vehicle for social change by no means ended here. In fact, the same material and themes will occupy a large part of his professional energy during the decade, culminating in the publication of Psmith, Journalist. See headnote above.
For a particular comparison of the above passage with Psmith, Journalist, see Chapter V, “Planning Improvements,” of which the following excerpt is representative:
. . . briefly, my idea is that Cosy Moments should become red-hot stuff. I could wish its tone to be such that the public will wonder why we do not print it on asbestos. We must chronicle all the live events of the day, murders, fires, and the like in a manner which will make our readers’ spines thrill. Above all, we must be the guardians of the People’s rights. We must be a search-light, showing up the dark spot in the souls of those who would endeavor in any way to do the PEOPLE in the eye. We must detect the wrong-doer, and deliver him such a series of resentful biffs that he will abandon his little games and become a model citizen. The details of the campaign we must think out after, but I fancy that, if we follow those main lines, we shall produce a bright, readable little sheet which will in a measure make this city sit up and take notice.
the best rag since Oxford: from the context of Lord Worfield’s and Garth’s shared experiences at school and university, one is tempted to read “rag” here in the sense of “schoolboyish prank”; Wodehouse uses that sense repeatedly in the school stories contemporaneous with this series. Later in this story, Wodehouse uses the same word for a publication, especially a disreputable one; see note below. [NM]
Join the staff of Candor as fighting-editor: the Wyoming Kid Brady gets the very same offer in Psmith, Journalist: “what we want is some one to help in case they try to rush us [in the office],” explains Billy Windsor, to which Psmith adds: “In brief, a fighting-editor . . . At all costs we must have privacy. No writer can prune and polish his sentences to his satisfaction if he is compelled constantly to break off in order to eject boisterous hooligans. We therefore offer you the job of sitting in the outer room and intercepting these bravoes before they can reach us” (ch. XV).
“I’m not next to the game yet”: readers remember this particular slang phrase from Clancy’s Saloon, where a Bowery conman complains of being out of the loop with regards to fixing the Brady-Garvis (Garvin) fight. Here, the repetition of the phrase in relation to Brady is interesting for its further relation to Kid Brady in Psmith, Journalist. In the later work, precisely in the novel when Brady is invited to join Cosy Moments, he adopts the phrase “Say, this gets past me . . . Put me wise” (ch. XV). The repetition suggests that Wodehouse worked very closely with his former material, recycling even key elements of dialogue.
Further linkages between the works and later works featuring journalism abound. A paper remarkably close to both Cosy Moments and Candor appears in Heavy Weather (1933), titled Society Spice. Lord Tilbury owns the “nasty little paper” (ch. I) along with Tiny Tots, and Monty Bodkin writes for Tiny Tots while its regular contributor is on holiday. The article that Bodkin contributes occasions his dismissal from the paper, an article on both alcohol and betting for the section “Uncle Woggly to His Chicks.” (Bodkin of course misplaces the spice in an article and paper intended for mothers, nannies, and children. He forgets his audience.) Not only, then, does Candor link to Cosy Moments in Wodehouse’s later imagination, but the minor character Aubrey Bodkin here in “How Kid Brady Joined the Press” links to Monty Bodkin later on, both marginally associated with the popular press in negative, albeit different ways.
worrying me: sporting metaphor; to worry an intended quarry is to tear it to pieces, typically with the teeth of the attacking animals; often reserved for blood sport involving pack animals, such as hounds in foxhunting or wolves in their natural hunting practices; without the sporting application, worry can also mean to strangle or suffocate.
bounce: US colloquial, to eject from the premises
a fighting-man’s got to be more careful than most: in the carnival and vaudeville wrestling days—Wodehouse loves the locution “all-in wrestler”—showmen boasted of possessing registered weapons in their skilled hands. My hands are registered weapons in ten states, one might boast, by way of conversation opener. The hands of professional fighters from that time have been proverbially considered registered weapons. No law or statue would confirm such a belief; however, professional fighters charged with assault against non-professional fighters typically receive much stiffer punishments in court, lending some credence to the popular belief.
Approach me, Bucephalus, if you have finished your meal. Whoa!: addressed to Garth’s horse, using the name of the horse of Alexander the Great
Mr. Bodkin, Mr. Aubrey Bodkin: as with the reference below to Smith, the first mention in Wodehouse of the surname of a later, major character in the literary canon; Aubrey and Monty indeed share little more than a last name, though given the place of the material above in Wodehouse’s larger and later imagination, the repetition is perhaps more than mere coincidence. (Or perhaps the appearance of ‘bodkin’ in Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy justifies the use in a theatrical context here. [NM])
the National Theater: founded 7 December 1835 in Washington, DC and located three blocks from the White House. Frequent entertainment venue for American presidents and hence associated with the social elite. Bodkin’s performances on the boards of the National Theater strongly denote his significance.
Contemporaries in Chicago and St. Louis . . . in their Sunday editions: syndication, whereby papers acquire reprint rights for articles or article excerpts not otherwise part of their own copyrighted material.
a trenchant leader: a leading article, also called an editorial or opinion piece; since leaders typically voice the opinion of the paper, usually undertaken by a senior editor, the “trenchant” nature of this particular leader perhaps further testifies to Lord Worfield’s “impression that there was no law of libel in the land; or, if there was, that you couldn’t say anything about a person bad enough to make a jury give damages.”
Trenchant: cutting, sharp-edged, piercing, incisive, vigorous, energetic; often with the connotative suggestion of being acerbic, caustic, venomous.
There is a line, Kid, and we draw it: these lines are beautifully ironic, given that in them Garth professes a typically chivalric attitude toward women even as Wodehouse undermines that attitude by exposing women (in a definite instance of line crossing) both in the tone and tenor of the following interview and in the citation from Otway and subsequent commentary to close the installment.
’Gratulate you: clipped form of “I congratulate you”; Tom here is murmuring or uttering faintly or indistinctly.
Smith: this reference, though obscure and apparently merely opportunistic, can scarcely be coincidental given the close affinity of this work with the later Psmith material, particularly Psmith, Journalist; this reference to Smith and his “stuff” is the first we have in the Wodehouse canon.
Candor generally ceases with marriage: Not quite the innocent fun we expect in our Wodehouse. However, although such grit, as here, isn’t always present, or as overtly present, in Wodehouse’s later work, the Wodehousian wink is something all readers should recognize. Here a fiancé has just lied to his betrothed to escape detection of a compromising secret, after which we read this extraordinary (and extraordinarily dark) pun playing on the title of Jimmy Worfield’s weekly: “Candor generally ceases with marriage.” Of course readers need not attribute the championing of such an idea to Wodehouse—to do so, in fact, would be to oppose a critical tradition that views Plum largely as a consummate gentleman, if not a bit submissive or even dominated by the women in his life and fiction. The critical tradition does not often speak of a naughty, a properly naughty Wodehouse! And yet here in Kid Brady readers catch quite another side of the master, particularly with this proverbial knowing wink: “Candor generally ceases with marriage.” Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, 5th Earl of Ickenham, will still advocate such a wink in his policy of stout denial forty years later. “Heaven knows,” he explains in Uncle Dynamite (1948), “that there are few more fervent apostles of the creed of stout denial than myself—I have been practicing it for thirty years with [Jane] . . .” (ch. IX, §ii). Somehow, however, Uncle Fred manages the knowing wink with less of a leer than readers undoubtedly catch in the above scene from “How Kid Brady Joined the Press.” In the smiling irony of Wodehouse’s fiction, advocates of stout denial are unquestionably guilty, even habitually guilty parties—think George Cyril Wellbeloved, “not in all Shropshire—and probably not in Herefordshire and South Wales—a more gifted exponent of stout denial” (Pigs Have Wings, ch. 6, §2)—and their denials run to confession every time.
In the critical tradition, Wodehouse is generally accepted as closed-mouthed about personal affairs and beliefs; his writings, as Robert McCrum explains, “accumulate into an iceberg of self-denial and self-discipline. He is, as I’ve said, in my biography, the laureate of repression.” Overall, however, our Kid Brady serial sheds interesting perspective on the secret life of Wodehouse: his interest in the Bowery, in bohemian culture and subcultures generally, and, here, his candid diplomacy in matters of matrimonial bliss—no candor in marriage, stout denial!
the rag: pejorative term for a sensationalist or tabloid newspaper; the original edition of the OED describes “rag” as a contemptuous term for such items as “a flag, handkerchief, theatre-curtain, newspaper, paper money, etc.” Robert L. Chapman’s American Slang (1987) gives one definition as simply “a newspaper or magazine, esp. one that the speaker does not like.” [NM]
What mighty ills have not been done by . . . Woman!: from Otway’s The Orphan, or The Unhappy Marriage, a domestic tragedy, 1680. One of two celebrated works by Otway, and popular on the stage into the nineteenth century. Wodehouse’s characters cite this passage repeatedly, including Eustace Hignett (ch. II, §2) in The Girl on the Boat/Three Men and a Maid (1922), Mervyn Potter (ch. 13) in Barmy in Wonderland/Angel Cake, and Kipper Herring (ch. 9) in How Right You Are, Jeeves/Jeeves in the Offing (1960).
Thomas Otway: b. 3 March 1652, d. 14 April 1685, English Restoration dramatist noted for obscenity and dissolution. Though his tragic works, see above, were better received, his comedy, as was the case, Samuel Johnson tells us, with Friendship in Fashion, 1678, was “hissed off the stage for immorality and obscenity.” Johnson further tells us in his Lives of the English Poets that:
Want of morals, or of decency, did not in those days exclude any man from the company of the wealthy and the gay, if he brought with him any powers of entertainment; and Otway is said to have been at this time a favourite companion of the dissolute wits. But as he who desires no virtue in his companion has no virtue in himself, those whom Otway frequented had no purpose of doing more for him than to pay his reckoning. They desired only to drink and laugh: their fondness was without benevolence, and their familiarity without friendship. Men of wit, says one of Otway’s biographers, received at that time no favour from the great, but to share their riots; “from which they were dismissed again to their own narrow circumstances. Thus they languished in poverty, without the support of eminence.”
In his Session of the Poets, Rochester calls Otway “the scum of the playhouse.” See link above, page 153.
Wodehouse’s interest in Otway again revels a side of his aesthetics seldom noted or explored. Indeed, as newspaperman and pugilist comment upon dramatic literature (and misogyny generally), readers might almost fancy early Wodehouse conjuring his ideal audience: practical men of the world who appreciate the practical in literature rather than the polemic or obtuse. If so, then Wodehouse establishes his noted departure from modernist writings even at the outset of his career.
—Notes by Troy Gregory, with contributions from Neil Midkiff
Printer’s errors corrected above:
Magazine had extraneous opening quotation marks on paragraphs beginning “Candor created a considerable sensation”, “Garth clicked with his tongue doubtfully”, and “From the direction of the stairs”
Missing closing quotation marks added to “no one else gets through” and “No, no, it’s nothing”
Magazine had “Only this it different”; corrected to “is”