Vanity Fair (UK), January 12, 1905

(Complaints are being made in the papers of the modern tendency of the titled lady amateur to write works of fiction.)

LADY Clara Vere de Vere,
 I do not think a lot of you:
I’ll slate your novel all I know,
 If it is sent me to review.
The public looks elsewhere for books,
 Your services are not required:
The daughter of a hundred earls,
 You are not one to be desired.

Lady Clara Vere de Vere,
 Typewriters stand within your hall:
The stain of ink is on your brow,
 The pile of sheets is waxing tall.
You hold your course without remorse:
 The Public you would turn from worth
To works whose only merit is
 Their authoress’s noble birth.

Lady Clara Vere de Vere,
 You get strange fancies in your head:
Lo, thrice your branching limes have blown,
 And still your book remains unread.
You lack the skill to charm or thrill,
 Yet, sickening of this weird disease,
You waste your valuable time,
 And needs must play such pranks as these.

Trust me, Clara Vere de Vere,
 In vain your arduous toil is spent:
Critics in these un-Feudal days
 Smile at the claims of long descent.
No book can be, it seems to me,
 Worth reading if it is not good:
Grammar is more than coronets,
 And simple style than Norman blood.

Clara, Clara Vere de Vere,
 If time be heavy on your hands,
Is there no parish magazine
 To meet your fictional demands?
Oh, give the vicar all your stuff,
 If ink you feel that you must shed:
And leave the market free for those
 Who write to earn their daily bread.

P. G. Wodehouse.





Tennyson’s Lady Clara Vere de Vere, used metaphorically here to represent the contemporary English amateur lady author. A notable aspect of this poem is the unvarnished scolding Wodehouse gives to these amateur female authors; his words are not fully cloaked in humour as we are accustomed to, but rather more direct. Wodehouse takes the title from Juvenal’s insanabile scribendi cacoethes – “incurable passion for writing” – from the late first century.


John Dawson    


Wodehouse incorporates several phrases of the Tennyson poem into his satire, as well as copying the meter of the original, so a comparison of the two is interesting.

Neil Midkiff