Punch, March 4, 1903


[“Capt. Kettle,” now the Rev. Sir Owen Kettle, K.C.B., has definitely retired into private life, greatly regretted by all who knew him.]

Latter-day Drake (with a liberal dash of the late lamented Kidd),
Long have I followed your bright career, thrilled at the deeds you did;
Long have I watched you pace your bridge, resolute, daring, smart;
You were a friend in my every mood—and now we have got to part.

Long have I helped you range the globe through many a varied scene,
Through troublous times afloat and ashore, keeping your ticket clean.
From Floridan creek to the Congo’s stream, in a hundred stirring frays,
You taught me all I shall ever know of the sea and the sailor’s ways.

Ah, the salt-sea smell, and the hiss of the foam, and the throb of the whirring screw!
Oft we have battled side by side with a villainous, cut-throat crew;
And now with a gibe and an acid sneer, and now with a well-judged shot,
Taught them exactly who was who, precisely what was what.

To run a blockade or to poach a pearl—those were the jobs for us;
Our motto a maximum of work with a minimum of fuss.
The foe might rage or the engines fail, the ship might break in two,
With you at my side I was undismayed; I knew you would see me through.

You were not built for the joys of peace, your business is on the sea;
The bridge of a tramp is the place for you, my reverend K.C.B.
You were not born to be slothful, sleek, a payer of tax and rate.
Leave such a life to lesser men—yours is a nobler fate.

Out once more in your rakish craft, travel the wide world through;
Girdle the earth from shore to shore, from China to Peru.
Where glittering icebergs rear their peaks, where the tropical sun-dart flames,
Let the welkin ring with your pistol’s crack, let it roar with your crisp “By James!”




Unsigned verse as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 124 of Punch.




Captain Kettle was the hero of a long series of adventure stories and books by C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne (1865–1944). The fourth volume, Captain Kettle K.C.B. (1903), ends with “The Last Adventure of Captain Kettle,” prompting public commentary reminiscent of the outcry when Sherlock Holmes apparently perished at the Reichenbach Falls.

An article in the New York Times of April 18, 1903 begins: “It seems that Capt. Owen Kettle has retired from public life. Invested with a Knighthood and the Order of the Bath, through a curious misunderstanding, he is reported to have retired to the secluded but not unimportant town of Wharfdale, in Yorkshire, where as the founder and leader of the Particular Methodists and head of a well established household he has been heard to express his intention to dwell hereafter in peace and comfort.” The writer describes the attraction of the series of books and hopes that, like Sherlock Holmes, the character will return in future stories.

The wish was eventually granted; at least eight more Captain Kettle books were published between 1915 and 1938.

Neil Midkiff