Punch, December 30, 1903
THE REFORMED SET.
[A writer in the Ladies’ Field has replied to Rita’s indictment of the Smart Set with the statement that their pleasures are in reality simple and strenuous. Their favourite game is said to be Shinty, which is described as “a wild and tumultuous version of hockey, in which there are absolutely no rules.”]
It was Lord Adalbert Perceval Cholmondley-Cholmondley’s first season in London after an absence of five years. In the winter of 1903 he had been compelled by financial troubles to emigrate to Clapham. For five years he had trekked about the Great Common, teaching the natives of that unexplored region Bridge and similar games of skill, and now, having by these means amassed a handsome fortune, he had returned to the ancestral residence in Belgravia, prepared to fill once more his long-vacated place in the Smart Set.
The Red Book informed him that his old friends, the Brabazon-Smiths, still lived at their old address. Thither on the afternoon after his arrival he repaired.
As he approached the drawing-room a curious intermittent thudding sound reached his ears, and the voice of the footman announcing his name was drowned in a burst of applause. Something interesting seemed to have been going on in the middle of the room. It was evidently over, for people were strolling about, talking to one another. Lord Adalbert saw his host coming towards him, and went to meet him.
Mr. Brabazon-Smith greeted him effusively.
“What has been going on?” he replied in answer to a question. “Oh, you ought to have come earlier. It’s over now. We’ve just been fighting off the semi-finals of the Smart Set Middle Weights competition.”
“I keep forgetting that you have been abroad for so long. We go in a great deal for Boxing now in Society. I fancy we were taking to athletics when you left. We used to play Shinty then, if I recollect rightly. The game is still very popular. Poor old Mountararat—you remember him?—was killed at it the other day. We all told him that he was too old, but he would play, and he got a fractured skull and never recovered. But come round with me, and I’ll show you a few of our celebrities. You see that wiry-looking man? That is the Duke of Datchet. He has just beaten the Stockbrokers’ champion over the Brighton course. He is talking to the man they call Sandow the Second. He can lift a billiard table in his teeth. Strictly between ourselves he owes his great social success entirely to the feat, for he has few other merits. Just beyond him is Sir John Gregory, who defeated Hackenschmidt at the Tivoli the other night. The Terrible Bart they call him. Those two men are the best half-backs in the Park Lane Prowlers’ F.C. They are playing for England next Saturday against Wales. The Prowlers have had a very good season this year. They beat Oxford, Cambridge, Blackheath, and Newport, and drew with Richmond after a great game. That tall man by the fireplace is our full-back. He dropped two goals against Blackheath from outside the half-way line. Both against the wind, too. Oh, yes, we are a capital team. You must join us. Then we run a cricket team, too, the Belgravia Butterflies. We were very successful last season, and the Marquis of Anglesey, who headed our averages, is going out with Warner’s next team to Australia. There was a little difficulty at first, but they said he might wear his jewels, so it’s all right, and he’s going. Downshire has been invited, too. He’s our best bowler. So clever, you know.”
“And you still play Bridge, of course?” queried Lord Adalbert.
“Bridge? Bridge? Don’t know it. Is it a game? You must teach it us.”
In one of the larger oases on the Great Common you will see a simple red-brick hut. On its door-post are the words “Wistaria Villa.” Enter, and you will be shown into the presence of Lord Adalbert Perceval Cholmondley-Cholmondley. He has returned to the wilds.
Unsigned story as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 125 of Punch.
Some of the names above seem to be fictitious; I haven’t found a reduplicated Cholmondeley so far. The Duke of Datchet is a recurring character in stories and novels by Richard Marsh in late Victorian and early Edwardian times. The surname Brabazon-Smith shows up in stories by Harold MacFarlane and Christian Burke. Mountararat is the title of an earl in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe.
But the Marquis of Anglesey was real; at the time, the title was held by Henry Cyril Paget, 5th Marquess (1875–1905). Upon succeeding to the title in 1898, he became immensely wealthy and spent lavishly on jewelry, furs, and entertaining, often taking the lead in opulent self-produced theatrical performances. From 1880 his stepmother was the widow of the Hon. Henry Wodehouse, second cousin of PGW’s father.
Pelham Francis Warner (later Sir Pelham Warner, 1873–1963) captained the England team in the Test matches against Australia in 1903–04. As with PGW, his first name was affectionately shortened to Plum.
There was also an Irish peer, Arthur Wills John Wellington Trumbull Blundell Hill, 6th Marquess of Downshire (1871–1918), living at the time. He is remembered for an interest in motor vehicles rather than for cricket, so far as I have found. Interestingly, two cricketers of the era were also named Arthur Hill, each also born 1871, one English and one Australian, so this could conceivably be a subtle joke as well.