The Books of To-day and the Books of To-morrow, March 1904
THE ingenious promoters of the buried treasure scheme have evolved another competition. A number of pictures are printed, each with some error in its composition, and the reader is invited to guess what is wrong. We propose to start a pen-picture competition on similar lines.
What is wrong with the following?
‘Mr. Balfour said that it was his firm belief that the Fiscal problem was capable of solution. 1 It was a point upon which he held decided views.’—Answer: ‘Decided views’ is wrong. Mr. Balfour has none.
‘We hear that Mr. Hall Caine 2 is busily engaged upon another book.’—Answer: ‘Book’ is wrong. It should be ‘colossal masterpiece.’
‘The Duke of Devonshire 3 said that he was fully awake to the responsibilities of the situation.’—Answer: ‘His Grace is never fully awake.’
‘At present the final result of the war 4 is shrouded in mystery. The issue is uncertain.’—Answer: ‘Uncertain’ is wrong. A halfpenny paper says that Japan will win.
‘With a fine drive past coverpoint Warner reached his century. Two overs later Hayward did the same.’—Answer: There are two mistakes here, the words ‘Warner’ and ‘Hayward.’ 5 In cases where they make centuries, the pair must be referred to respectively as ‘Plummy’ (or ‘the cheery-faced cherub from Chelsea’) and ‘Our Tom.’
Printed unsigned; entered by Wodehouse in Money Received for Literary Work.
Arthur Balfour (1848–1930) was a Conservative politician and Prime Minister
from 1902 to 1905, during which time he struggled to heal a rift in his government,
which was split between those (such as the Duke of Devonshire) who favoured
free trade and those (most prominently Joseph Chamberlain) who were campaigning
for tariff reform. Balfour resigned as Prime Minister in December 1905
but remained the leader of the Conservative party until late 1911. He returned
to government in 1915 as a member of the wartime coalition government,
in which he served as First Lord of the Admiralty and then Foreign Secretary.
The “Fiscal problem” refers the issue of tariff reform. Free trade had been one of the fundamental tenets of late-Victorian British economic policy, but by the turn of the century, with the rise of competing economies, especially in Germany and the United States, the case for protectionist tariffs, with preferential treatment for the Empire, was being argued more forcibly. When, in his Budget, in April 1903, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Thomson Ritchie, removed the import duty on corn [=grain, in American English], this infuriated Joseph Chamberlain, who had been arguing for retention of the duty and preferential remission in favour of Canada. Thus, a seemingly minor act of fiscal adjustment became the focus for a wider debate that split the Balfour government and led, in September 1905, to its fall.
Wodehouse refers to the topic (variously described as “fiscal reform,” “the fiscal issue,” or, as here, “the fiscal problem,” in numerous writings of this period.
Though almost forgotten today, Thomas Henry Hall Caine (1853–1931) was
one of the most popular and best-selling English authors of the late-Victorian
and Edwardian eras. Although he was a powerful story-teller, he used his
novels—mostly based on the theme of a ‘love triangle’—to
promote his social and political ideas; stripped of the didactic element
which makes them almost unreadable today, many of his books were successfully
dramatised for the stage or cinema.
Wodehouse frequently lampooned Hall Caine, whom he seems to have regarded as pretentious, self-absorbed and self-promoting; how far this reflected the envy of a struggling young writer for a successful older one is not clear. The “By the Way” columns in The Globe newspaper contain numerous disparaging references to Hall Caine, as do some of his early poems and other newspaper and magazine columns.
Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire (1833–1908), was Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords in Arthur Balfour’s government. Prior to succeeding to the Dukedom, Cavendish used the courtesy title Marquess of Hartington. He had a distinguished political career, which included being offered (and declining) the Prime Ministership on three separate occasions. He served as Chief Secretary for Ireland in William Ewart Gladstone’s first government and in 1875 succeeded Gladstone as leader of the Liberal party in opposition. In Gladstone’s second government, he was successively Secretary of State for India (1880–82) and Secretary of State for War (1882–85), but broke with Gladstone altogether and refused to serve in his third government because he opposed Gladstone’s policy of Home Rule for Ireland (Cavendish’s younger brother, Lord Frederick Cavendish, was murdered by Irish rebels in 1882). In 1895, Devonshire (as he had become) joined Lord Salisbury’s government as Lord President of the Council; he retained this position after Balfour replaced Salisbury in 1902 but resigned from the government in September 1903 in protest at Joseph Chamberlain’s tariff reform scheme.
The Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05 had its origins in Japan’s desire to preserve its sovereignty and its fear of increasing Russian involvement in the far East, especially in Manchuria and Korea (which Japan viewed as ‘buffer’ states). The war started when Japan mounted a surprise attack on Port Arthur (now Lüshun City, China), a Manchurian port that the Russians had fortified as a naval base for its Pacific fleet. Most western nations and military observers firmly believed that Russia would win the war but Wodehouse’s “halfpenny paper” had it right: Japan inflicted heavy defeats on both the Russian Army and the Russian Navy and, faced with revolution at home, the Tsar was forced to sue for peace.
Sir Pelham Francis Warner (1873–1963), better known as ‘Plum’
Warner, played cricket as an amateur for Middlesex and England (whom he
captained 10 times) and had a long and successful career as a cricket journalist
and author. He was knighted for his services to cricket in 1937, became
president of the MCC in 1950 (and its first life vice-president in 1961),
and had a new stand at Lord’s named after him in 1958. In 1903–04
Warner captained the first MCC side to tour Australia and compete for the
Ashes (previous tours had been organised privately), and returned successful,
the MCC having won the series 3-2. In his career, Warner made 60 first-class
centuries, but only managed one Test century. Warner was never known as
‘Plummie’; his wife, for example, always called him ‘Pelham.’
Thomas Walter Hayward (1871–1939) was a professional cricketer for Surrey and England. In 1913, he became the first batsman since W. G. Grace to score 100 first-class centuries; he ended his career with 104, plus a further three in 35 Tests for England. Between 1895 and 1914 (his last season), Hayward never failed to score at least 1,000 first-class runs in a season (he scored 3,170 in 1904 and 3,518 in 1906) and in 1900 he achieved the very rare feat of scoring 1,000 runs before the end of May. When he died, in July 1939, his obituary in Wisden described him as “one of the greatest batsmen of all time.”
In the 1902–03 Ashes series, Hayward and Warner opened the batting for England in the first three Tests (and the first innings of the 4th Test) and twice put on more than 100 runs for the first wicket (122 in the 2nd Test and 148 in the 3rd Test), but neither batsman scored a century in the series (Hayward’s highest score was 91, in the 1st Test, Warner’s 79, in the 3rd Test).