Vanity Fair (UK), March 23, 1905

(Mrs. Coulson Kernahan states in the Express that her husband when writing a novel, works in a room, the door of which is guarded by a ferocious mastiff, to prevent interruption.)

I AM standing in the passage all a-quiver
   (Oh, Mary, is the mastiff at the door?),
I do not mind admitting that I shiver
   (I hate the thought of mastiffs at the door).
But, although it may be painful, still my duty I must do,
For my editor he said to me, “We all rely on you.
We’re trusting to you, Tompkins, to secure that interview.”
   (Oh, Mary, is the mastiff at the door?)

If my friends my body wish again to see whole
   (Did you hear a sort of growling at the door?)
I must ask my list of questions through the keyhole
   (As far as I can manage from the door).
Through the darkness of the passage, when the light is faint and dim,
I can see the canine monster, looking sinister and grim:
What is that the beast is chewing? Can it be a human limb!
   (Oh, Mary, is the mastiff at the door?)

Be firm, my moral pecker. I must risk it
   (With diffidence I’ll sidle to the door).
I wish I’d thought of bringing him a biscuit
   (It might have soothed the mastiff at the door).
I’ll creep unostentatiously along the friendly wall:
If I perish in the conflict, then in duty’s cause I fall.
Break the news to mother gently, and on second thoughts that’s all.
   (Oh, Mary, is the mastiff at the door?)

I know my face with fear is turning yellow
   (Look out! The mastiff’s lying at the door).
Good dog, then! Cats! Goo’ doggy! Nice old fellow!
   (I can’t appease the mastiff at the door).
My blandishments are useless. All his teeth he coldly bares;
I wonder if it’s any use to make a dash upstairs?
Or would he follow silently, and nip me unawares?
   (Oh, Mary, is the mastiff at the door?)
      *    *    *
Did you hear that horrid shriek that split the ceiling?
   (The mastiff is no longer at the door).
Did those cries induce that creepy sort of feeling?
   (The mastiff’s eating something at the door).
A corpse upon a shutter left the house ’ere day was done;
Another luckless interviewer’s hectic course was run.
   .    .    .    .    .
And the author with a chuckle started Chapter Twenty-one,
   And the mastiff dozed, contented, at the door.

P. G. Wodehouse.





THE LADY – AND THE BULLDOG. Mrs. Kernahan herself is ascending the ladder of fame as an authoress, and I notice that she is contributing a new serial story to the Daily Express. “When my husband was finishing his last book, ‘The Face Beyond the Door,’ the studio in which he works was guarded by a mastiff of forbidding, not to say ferocious, aspect, so that would-be interrupters thought twice before coming within a score of yards.” (The Cornishman, February 23, 1905)


John Dawson