The Books of To-day and the Books of To-morrow, March 1905

The Essay

Our Ruthless Authors.

(Mrs. Coulson Kernahan has con­fided to an interviewer that her husband, when engaged on a novel, works in a room, the door of which is guarded by a ferocious mastiff to prevent interruption.)

IT has frequently been complained that interviewers receive payment for their work which, considering that they are merely relating what has been told them by another, is excessive. ‘Ah, my dear fellow,’ said one interviewer to a friend, who had grumbled in his hearing, ‘you envy me my house in Park Lane, my six motors, my diamond sleeve-links, and compare my thousand pounds a month with your penny-halfpenny a line; but consider what I have to go through. Only last week Mr. Guy Boothby’s trained bulldog abstracted a section of my calf, and the week before that I was almost strangled by Mr. Kipling’s python. We interviewers are here to-day, gone to-morrow.’ The words were prophetic. At three p.m., to the minute, on the following day, the speaker was decentralised by an African baboon, which invariably guards the study-door behind which Mr. Rider Haggard composes his masterpieces.

It is time that this matter received public attention. Hitherto the proper authorities have contrived to shuffle out of their responsibilities. The technical quibble that an interviewer cannot be considered a human being has enabled the police to shirk their duty; while the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals advances the specious plea that interviewers have no tails, and consequently lie outside the jurisdiction of the Society. This is mere trifling, and the matter is not one to be trifled with. Every day the papers contain fresh accounts of accidents, generally fatal, which have happened to those in search of material for interviews. There is one unfortunate member of the profession, at present in the accident ward at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, who in the space of three days sustained injuries from a Manx cat belonging to Mr. Hall Caine, a Paradox of Mr. G. K. Chesterton’s, and a ring-tailed Allegory, the property of M. Maeterlinck. These things cannot go on. Once and for all it must be decided exactly what is the status of an interviewer. If he is a human being, he must receive police protection. If he is a creature, he must be looked after by the R.S.P.C.A. There is no middle course. If England is the humane country it professes to be, the tearing and rending of even the lowest created things must cease to be an every-day affair. What is the feeling of the country on the subject may be gathered from the Judge’s remarks in the recent case of Scrappy Remnants versus Doyle; in which, it will be remembered, the paper sued Sir A. Conan Doyle for damages in compensation for injuries done to A. W. Blodgett, of their staff, while collecting material for No. 2 of their ‘Authors in their Studies’ Series. Blodgett, our readers will recall, deposed, before expiring of his wounds, that he had been attacked in the passage leading to the defendant’s work-room by a luminous hound, obviously of the Baskervilles, which had sprung upon him and worried him. The Judge, who fined the defendant half-a-crown, stated that in his opinion deceased had got little more than what he deserved. And this in the twentieth century!



Printed unsigned; entered by Wodehouse in Money Received for Literary Work.