Fun, January 5, 1901
THE LOST REPARTEE.
Oh! bitter the grief that it causes to me,
The thought of that wonderful, lost repartee.
In its youth and its beauty it fled from my brain
And never, I fear me, ah! never again,
If I wait all my life, from to-day till I die,
Shall I find such a chance for a crushing reply.
It’s wording was mild, but that rendered it worse.
It was crisply satirical, bitingly terse.
And it fled! Yes, it fled! In my hour of need
From my agonised brain did it coyly recede,
Returning no more with its luminous ray
Till the critical moment had perished for aye.
Oh! let lovers lament of love’s terrible pangs,
Let hunters talk darkly of tigers and fangs,
Let the gambler repine o’er the loss of his cash,
Let the banker hold forth on the woes of a smash,
Let the penniless debtor dilate on how ill
He feels, when a dun ambles in with a bill,
Let the footpad explain all the feelings that gnaw
His heart, when he’s safe in the hands of the Law,
Let ministers prate of the worries of state,
But none of these woes—though they’re all of them great—
Can compare with the grief that is harassing me
For the loss of that priceless, superb repartee.
Printed unsigned in Fun; entered by Wodehouse in Money Received for Literary Work.
Philip Whitwell Wilson (1875–1956) was a journalist, author and politician who was P.G.’s editor at the Public School Magazine. He left that post for Fun in January and asked P.G. for, eventually, three pieces, the first of which was “The Lost Repartee,” four stanzas that have the distinction of having been Wodehouse’s first paid poetry. The real significance of this little poem is that it was Fun that first published the Bab Ballads in 1866. W. S. Gilbert wrote hundreds of articles and poems for Fun and also served as its dramatic critic. I think it’s safe to say that Wodehouse would have taken notice, with pardonable pride, of being published in the same magazine that had premiered the Bab Ballads. Anything that was good enough for Gilbert was sure to have pleased Wodehouse. Fun ceased being fun in 1901, when it was absorbed into Sketchy Bits.
This was reprinted in the US magazine Current Literature, April 1901, page 448. As far as we are aware this was Wodehouse’s first item published in the United States. Since Wodehouse was not credited in Fun, it is probable that he was not paid for nor notified of this reprint. Thanks to Diego Seguí for finding this.