Public School Magazine, March 1901
Eton is at present suffering from another attack of unofficial journalism. Having survived the “Gnat” and “The Bantling,” she finds herself a victim to the “X.” If report speaks truly, the disease has this time taken a peculiarly malignant form. For myself, though I am loth to think evil of any human being, I cannot conceal the fact that in my opinion a person who prints a short story and calls it “Our Feuilleton,” should be avoided by the moral. Foenum habet in cornu, as Dan Horace puts it.
I was present—not officially, for it is a mistake to overwhelm with attention, but incog.—at the Dome Entertainment given by the Brighton Grammar School. I am glad to be able to conscientiously praise it. (I will split my infinitives if I like. It shows my independence). The programme, especially such of it as dealt with the exploits of the Forty Black Sheep, was essentially a bright ’un. A book of the words, illustrated by C. H. Leigh (delightful feature, this), is among my most cherished possessions.
To a poetical and imaginative mind the disadvantages of eating pudding with a spoon only are outweighed by the harmless pleasure such a practice affords. It is like fox-hunting, but not so dangerous, and it resembles the De Wet chase that we read about in our evening paper, except that it holds out a greater prize to the successful. The mind of Dulwich, however, is not poetical. It is earthly and practical, and the ancient custom of serving the midday meal on a forkless board finds no supporters. Forks, forks et praeterea nihil is the cry that rings in the cloisters, and reverberates through the form-rooms from nine to four every day.
At a lecture on “Game in Manitoba” at Haileybury, the lecturer stated that all the fur-bearing animals in the land had been killed. It would appear, therefore, that the human inhabitants do not resemble the brute creation of those parts in this respect. They are evidently not of a forbearing nature. (I am aware that this is rather subtle, but—ah, you see it now? I thought you would if you only gave your mind to it). The mention of Manitoba always brings a tear drop to my eye, for it reminds me of a dear old friend of mine who used to live there. He it was who ground down a seven-foot crowbar so small and so thin that it looked like a pin. To Science there really is no bar.
I am told that of the hundred and thirty-seven members of Loretto, a hundred and thirty-five are in residence, the other two in Germany. This idea of doing your schooling from the Continent is a pleasant and ingenious one. Perhaps the school story of the future will run thus:
“. . . An uncanny stillness pervaded everything as Vincent Trevelyan made his way to the Head Master’s sanctum. The place seemed deserted. . . ‘Ah! Trevelyan,’ said the great man, as our hero entered, ‘I am indeed glad to see you. You come, however, at an unlucky time. I am hard at work correcting the Sixth Form Greek prose.’ ‘But where is the Sixth Form?’ asked Vincent. ‘The Sixth Form,’ replied the Doctor, consulting a small memorandum-book, ‘is, I fancy (though I am not certain), at Monte Carlo. They were there when I last heard of them.’ ‘And the rest of the school?’ ‘Oh! that is too wide a question,’ said the other with a smile. ‘But what has happened? An epidemic? A raging plague? A devastating scourge?’ ‘Not at all. It is merely our latest Educational Scheme. Shall I explain further? But no, I am too busy. Goodbye.’ Vincent turned away, and, as he went, he murmured softly to himself, that wonderful line of the Laureate’s: ‘ ’E dunno where ’e are’ and once again, ‘ ’E dunno where ’e are.’ ”
A Rossallian correspondent, writing on the subject of an O.R’s adventures at the front, concludes with this significant remark:
“His horse was shot in the ribs, two inches off the calf of his leg.” Now, as a patriotic Briton who buys the Daily Mail regularly and has conscientiously abused everybody from the start, I insist upon being informed whether a horse whose ribs are only two inches off the calf of his leg is fit for active service. Do the War Office imagine that we, that I am going to permit equine freaks to be palmed off upon us at a time of national crisis? I pause for a reply.
A friend tells me that I really ought to read an article in the Pauline dealing with De Wet. Personally speaking, to do so would afford me exquisite pleasure, but I feel that it would be placing unnecessary temptation in my path. Whenever I read anything about the wily and elusive Christian, a still small voice stands at my elbow and whispers: “Up. Be a man, and make a pun.” Self-respect, on the other hand, puts its foot down with a bang at such an idea. In me, therefore, as in Mr. Rackstraw, there meet on such occasions a combination of antithetical elements which are at eternal war with one another. Driven hither by objective influences, thither by subjective emotions, I become but a living ganglion of irreconcilable antagonisms. I think, therefore, that under the circumstances I had better refrain.
“Foenum habet in cornu, as Dan Horace puts it.” (A feuilleton is the part of a European newspaper devoted to light literature, criticism, and the like; Foenum habet in cornu, longe fuge: Literally, ‘He has hay on his horns; fly for life!” from Horace’s Satires) The Romans were wary of bulls who gored haystacks. The proverb warns against the man who exhibits taurine (pertaining to a bull) traits.
The Greek author Plutarch wrote: Vox et praeterea nihil meaning literally “voice and nothing more;” PGW puns here by substituting “forks” for the similar-sounding “vox.”
Wodehouse was fond of giving the surname Trevelyan to the heroes of short snippets of fiction such as this, though he seems not to have used the name for a character in a full-length story. See Our Boys Again and Our Boys—III in Punch, The Gold Bat in The Captain, and A Drama of Tomorrow in the London Echo for other examples. Rupert Trevelyan is the hero of the spoof serial “For Love or Honour.” Jimmy Pitt, in The Intrusion of Jimmy (A Gentleman of Leisure), might have chosen Tressilyan or Trevelyan if he had picked an alias as a gentleman thief. “Alan Beverley” in “The Man Upstairs” might have chosen Cyril Trevelyan as his nom de pinceau if the coin toss had gone the other way. Cyril Trevelyan is the hero of Miss Postlethwaite’s Desert Island novel in “The Castaways” (in Strand, June 1933, Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, and The World of Mr. Mulliner).
“ ’E dunno where ’e are” was a very popular music-hall song by Harry Wright and Fred Eplett, made famous by Gus Elen from 1893 on.
Christiaan de Wet (1854–1922) was a political and military leader of the Boer forces fighting the British in South Africa.