The Next Crisis.

Vanity Fair (UK), August 4, 1904

AUGUST 1.—Russian Volunteer Fleet attack and overpower British fishing-smack, the Hall Caine.

August 2.—The Pyedomosti, St. Petersburg, comments on the incident in a leader, and says that the Colossus of the North is never so terrible as when apparently beaten. The Daily Mail requests England to buck up. The Daily News says that if it had not been for Mr. Chamberlain’s proposed scheme of tariff reform, this could never have happened, and that now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party. The Times points out that the best information on fishing-smacks is to be found in the “Encyclopædia Britannica,” under the headings “Angling” (Vol. I.) and “Corporal Punishment” (Vol. III.).

August 3.—Profound excitement in the metropolis. Six City clerks, who had intended to club together to buy a paper-covered reprint of Tolstoi’s “Resurrection,” write to the Daily Mail to say that they mean to take a patriotic line and spend the money on Comic Cuts. Little Tich challenges Hackenschmidt. Mr. W. T. Stead goes to the London Pavilion wearing a Union Jack as a cummerbund, and is ejected for trying to induce Dan Leno to sing Rule Britannia. Hatchard’s book-shop seized by mob, which destroys all volumes bound in Russian leather. Russian cigarettes a drug on the market.

August 4.—Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman asks Mr. Balfour in the House what he intends to do about the matter. Mr. Balfour says that this is the first he has heard of it. He adds that he never reads the papers. Later, he admits unofficially that he is bunkered, but will endeavour to get his friend Lansdowne to lend him a niblick.

August 5.—Dachshund called Czar assassinated in Kensington Gardens. Hackenschmidt takes refuge at the top of Nelson’s Column.

August 6.—In answer to Lord Lansdowne’s memorandum, the Russian Government replies “Boriskoff Ivanovitch thingumbobsky.” Profound sensation. Consols fall to 8½.

August 7.—Russian Ambassador asks for his papers. On enquiry, it appears that the newsboy has left them at the wrong house.

August 8.—Russia restores the Hall Caine, explains that it was all a lark, and accuses England of having no sense of humour.


Published unsigned in Vanity Fair; entered by Wodehouse in Money Received for Literary Work.

Hall Caine
was a prolific author of fiction, much of it romantic, which sold well in its day but was criticized for its lack of literary quality; his works are mostly forgotten today except on the Isle of Man, where he lived and set many stories. Wodehouse joked about him dozens of times; use the search box on our Home page to find links to articles and commentary mentioning him.
Pyedomosti: Now usually transliterated Vedomosti, this St. Petersburg paper was founded as an official organ by Peter the Great in 1702, and continued as a scholarly and liberal paper until its closure in 1917.
Little Tich: Harry Relph (1867–1928), diminuitive (4′6″) English music-hall comedian and dancer.
George Hackenschmidt: (1877–1968), Estonian-born wrestler and bodybuilder, first heavyweight free-style world champion of wrestling.
W. T. Stead: crusading English investigative journalist and editor (1849–1912)
Dan Leno: English music-hall comedian and musical-theatre performer (1860–1904)
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Liberal politician, was at this time Leader of the Opposition; he would serve as Prime Minister (1905–1908).
Arthur Balfour was at this time Prime Minister and head of the Conservative Party; his Foreign Secretary was Lord Lansdowne.
Consols: British government bonds.

—Neil Midkiff