The Books of To-day and the Books of To-morrow, November 1907
(From any paper of ten years hence—perhaps.)
The Park was very full yesterday. Citizeness Bodger was there, taking the air (even on Sundays Socialists take something). Citizeness Binks, in a green plush dress, with black jet, and Citizeness Robinson, in mauve velvet and a picture-hat, presented a very striking appearance. Great credit is due to Constable X 15, who stopped the horse which shied at Citizeness Smith’s new Hampstead Road confection, and was bolting down the Ladies’ Mile.
Several smart weddings are fixed for this week. Lucinda, only daughter of Citizeness Bewstridge, and, it is believed (though in these days of Free Love, uncertainty must always exist), of Comrade Blenkarn, is led to the altar by Comrade Webster, the promising young orator of the Ponder’s End Triangle. Many eminent Socialists will attend the reception afterwards, and a special force of detectives has consequently been told off to keep an eye on the presents.
In order to give the great public an opportunity of making themselves acquainted with his stirring lectures, Comrade Watkins, the Kennington Cross-Roads baritone, is having a number of gramophone records made. These will be distributed all over the country, so that even the dwellers in far-off Lancashire may be privileged to listen to the master. We are told by those who are in a position to know that the records are wonderfully faithful to the original. Sometimes even the zealous machine has actually dropped an ‘h’ when Comrade Watkins had accidentally put it in.
Everybody was at Citizeness Widgery’s At Home yesterday. Various municipal singers performed, at the usual uniform rate of sevenpence-halfpenny an hour, including Signor Caruso, who was in fine voice. The gem of the afternoon’s entertainment was, however, Comrade Wabsley’s recitation of the great speech in which he referred to his political opponents as ‘lop-eared, one-eyed, ranting polecats.’
A little bird whispers that a certain old-world formality is to be the order of the day at Citizeness Blenkinsop’s Hop next Thursday. Corduroys will be frowned upon, and guests dancing in boots with nails will be politely informed that they are committing a social solecism.
It is rumoured that the cloth cap, which was all the rage at Ascot last year, will give place this year to the bowler. Those who effect the extreme of fashion will wear bowlers of the rich brown shade. Frock-coats, red ties, and white tennis-shoes are likely to hold their own.
While on the subject of dress for men, Comrade Wabbs, the D’Orsay of to-day, tells me that he has planned a new shape of celluloid collar, with a sponge attachment. The merits of this are obvious. It need not be taken off to be cleaned. I expect that the young bloods of the town will all be donning this at a very early date.
A practical Socialist, who was cashier in the United Working-man’s Bank, has disappeared, leaving no address, and taking £12,000. On the equalisation of property basis he was entitled to about a penny three-farthings of this, and will doubtless return the balance shortly.
Comrade Victor Grayson has got Clergyman’s sore throat at last.
Printed unsigned; entered by Wodehouse in Money Received for Literary Work as “Society Notes.”
Most of these names are familiar working-class surnames used elsewhere in Wodehouse’s fiction. A Radical socialist named A. A. Wabbs was mentioned as a public speaker at Tower Bridge (Liberty Review, v.22, p. 284). Victor Grayson, M.P. (1881–1920?) won a by-election seat in Parliament as an Independent Labour candidate in 1907.
At a French Socialist Congress, the treasurer found that his pocket had been picked to the extent of £64. The report of this in the Daily Express, October 11, 1907, was headlined “Practical Socialism,” and the news item was commented upon in the Globe’s “By the Way” column that evening: “M. Lefèvre is a stout upholder of the even distribution of wealth, but he did not want the thing to start quite so soon.” While the two words “Practical Socialism” had long been used together in a positive sense, the Daily Express headline writer used them ironically to describe something very like Psmith’s definition of it as “you work for the equal distribution of property, and start by collaring all you can and sitting on it”—a reference to “practical Socialism” which Wodehouse echoes in this column, and which would also appear a few months later in the first installment of “The Lost Lambs” (Mike and Psmith in book form) in April 1908.
—Notes by Neil Midkiff