How to be a Journalist Though Jugged.
Fair (UK), December 8, 1904
(The inmates of an American prison have started a paper of their own, conducted for convicts by convicts.)
THE October number of our enterprising little contemporary, Gaol Jottings (Sikes and Turpin; price, two screws of ’baccy when the warder ain’t looking), is fully up to the standard which we have grown accustomed to expect. There have been changes in the editorial staff since the September issue, Mr. Jabez K. McLurkin having succeeded Mr. J. Gold-Brick as chief editor, owing to the latter having been released on ticket-of-leave; while the society gossip is now in the capable hands of Mr. “Jimmy” Fagin, who, as our readers will probably remember, was one of the most fascinating members of the Smart Set sentenced last year.
Space forbids us to quote at great length from the many admirable articles contained in the current number, but we cannot refrain from noticing the instructive interview with Mr. Reginald Peace, which forms No. 3 of the “Master Workers” series. It is interesting, as showing how genius runs in families, that Mr. Peace is a connection of his great namesake, Charles. “A strong man, this, reader,” says the writer. “A glance at the small, receding forehead, the massive head (the shape of which is emphasised by his habit of wearing his hair close cropped), the firm jaw, protruding like the ram of a battleship, the keen eyes under the pent-house of brow, and we no longer wonder why it was that far so many years the name of Reginald Peace was a by-word among the constables of South-West Sydenham.” Reading on, we find an expert’s views on burglary as a profession. “Burglary,” he said, in answer to the representative’s question, “is not what it was. Electric-bells and dogs that don’t seem to care for poisoned meat are animadverting against its success. You would think every one of them was a vegetarian, and lived upon a diet of pea-nuts and plasmon, like Mr. Eustace Miles. It’s as much as the most expert members in the profession can do to make both ends meet. Competition, my dear sir, ruinous competition, is at the bottom of all the trouble. What with alien immigrants undercutting the trade and overworking themselves, a noble art is being reduced to a sweater’s den. A dozen years back it was different. A man could be a burglar and a gentleman.”
We wish we could quote the whole of this pathetic interview, but we think we have done enough to give our readers some idea of the way in which modern hustle and alien competition are ruining our old British industries. The foreigner is beating us on our own ground. England must Wake Up, to use the Prince of Wales’ very words.
Mr. Reginald Blinkbit’s exciting serial, “The Forger of Folkestone,” continues to run well. The scene in which the hero murders the two detectives in the lonely cottage is a most realistic piece of writing, and is evidently based on a personal experience of the author’s. The passage which concludes, “With a swinging blow the gallant burglar brought down the poker on the head of the elder detective. He fell like a log, never knowing what struck him”—could only have been written by a man who knew his ground thoroughly. We congratulate the judicious editor of Gaol Jottings on securing a contributor who is qualified to rank among our best-known novelists of sensation.
Under the pen-name of “Bertie,” another writer contributes a series of “Proverbs for Professionals,” which repay quotation, such as “Too many cops spoil the scoop,” “A shot in time saves nine,” “Procrastination in a thief means ‘time,’ ” and many others.
A useful feature is the “Answers to Correspondents” column, conducted by the Editor. It is full of excellent advice. “Anxious” is informed that only black boots should be worn with a frock coat. “The usual method of procedure,” says the reply to “Etiquette,” who wishes to know what is the right way of obtaining an introduction to a lady, “is as follows: When you meet her, you say, ‘Ullo!’ ‘Ullo! to you’ will be the modest and probable reply. ‘Now, then; now, then,’ you say. ‘Not so much of it; not so much of it.’ ‘Why are you jostling me?’ she will rejoin. ‘I am not jostling anybody,’ is your correct, if inaccurate, answer. The acquaintance may now be said to have been established.”
As in the September issue, the Poet’s Corner is well filled. That most prolific of bards, Mr. Benjamin de la Rue, has in this number an “Ode to a Night in Gaol,” after the manner of Keats. Mr. U. le Gan is represented by another of his “Songs of Street Araby,” and a contributor whose name is new to us, Mr. B. R. Gee, finds a place for his Swinburnian effort, “A Canal Passage.”
We regret that we cannot quote further the contents of this brightest of prison periodicals. We must conclude by congratulating the Editor once more, and wishing him a continuance in a position which he has so thoroughly deserved to win.
P. G. Wodehouse.