The Books of To-day and the Books of To-morrow, May 1906
Study . .
TO Art (the truth I can’t repress),
I’ve never had a leaning.
I gibber when I try to guess
A picture’s hidden meaning.
From boyhood up I never knew
What Tadema 1 and Co. meant:
And so I suit my comments to
My comrade of the moment.
My Emmeline’s an earnest maid:
I stretch a point to serve her.
I speak of light, and tone, and shade,
With fine artistic fervour.
My voice assumes the reverent key
Of one whose soul’s in labour
(Though every picture seems to me
Precisely like its neighbour).
But Mabel has a flippant soul,
And no artistic mission;
With her I play another rôle
When at the Exhibition.
Each daub, as through the rooms we flit,
I mock in fashion drastic.
She smiles upon my mordant wit:
She likes me best sarcastic.
And sometimes when the lights are dim,
And morbid dreams pursue me,
When all my thoughts are grey and grim,
My meditations gloomy,
One thought turns my complexion green—
The speculation whether
I’ll ever chance on Emmeline
And Mabel there together.
Printed unsigned; entered by Wodehouse in Money Received for Literary Work under the title “The Fraud”; no poem of that title appears in this issue, and McIlvaine’s bibliography suggests that this poem best fits Wodehouse’s style and the topic.
John Dawson suggests that this may be a wink at Wodehouse’s Aunt Emmeline Deane (1858–1944), a fine artist who herself exhibited at the Royal Academy.
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836–1912) was a Dutch-born artist who fled to England on the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and spent the rest of his life there. He became one of the most renowned artists of late 19th-century Britain, noted particularly for his depictions of Classical antiquity.