The Free Lance no. 69, week ending Sat., January 25, 1902, p. 418
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Mr. G. R. Halkett, the present editor of the “Pall Mall Magazine,” is an artist-journalist. He has had a curiously romantic career. His story reads like the motif of some novel. All the materials of emotional fiction are there—the struggling young artist, the millionaire’s beautiful daughter, the stern father. It was at Manchester that it happened. Mr. Halkett was at that time doing his best to get a footing on the ladder of success with his brush. The brush was mightier than the pen in those days. Commissions were few and very far between, but one day Fortune smiled upon him. A very wealthy merchant prince of the town brought his daughter to the studio to have her portrait painted. The young couple fell violently in love with one another, and in spite of the vigorous opposition of the young lady’s father, were married.
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The father thereupon acted as a father—in a novel—is expected to act. He refused to see his daughter, and cut himself off altogether from her. This, however, did not discourage Mr. Halkett. He worked with redoubled energy at his profession, and slowly but surely made a name for himself. But the culminating point of the story is still to come. The interdict of the father did not extend to his grandchildren, and so it came about that they were sent on a visit to him. The experienced novel reader can guess the rest. The children came, were seen, and conquered. A complete reconciliation took place, and the merchant prince makes no secret of his intention of leaving them at his death his fortune.
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[Note: The editors are indebted to Arthur Robinson for the text of this rare item, and to AK for an image confirming the text and providing the layout and for the image of the Free Lance cover.]
P.G. wrote in his account book: ‘While at the Lyons’ one Sunday Lord Freddy Hamilton, who was there, told us the story about Halkett’s marriage, & I, being the dam smart young journalist, wrote it down. Apparently it was all a lie.’ He appended: ‘Contradicted in next number & never paid for!’
Lord Frederick Spencer Hamilton (1856–1928) was a Conservative Party politician and the sixth son of James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Abercorn, and M.P. (Member of Parliament) for Manchester South West and North Tyrone. From 1896 to 1900, he was managing editor of the Pall Mall Magazine (owned by American William Waldorf Astor). Lord Freddy was succeeded at Pall Mall by George R. Halkett (1855–1918) who had been art editor since 1892. Halkett was an artist and art critic, whose work was published in Punch and Pall Mall, where he served as political cartoonist. P.G.’s memo ‘Contradicted in next number & never paid for’ indicates that Halkett denied that the events in Wodehouse’s retelling were accurate and that the editor at the Free Lance withheld payment from Wodehouse because of it. Wodehouse never placed another contribution in that paper. (At any rate, P.G. must have liked the plot, true or not as told by Lord Freddy, because he used a similar device—forbidding father dotes on grandchild and forgives the erring child—again in the story “Providence and the Butler” in 1910.)
The Free Lance
Clement Scott was an autocratic drama critic—J. M. Barrie called him ‘Sir Benjamin Backbite’—on the Daily Express. When he retired from that paper he established the society weekly Free Lance from 15 Essex Street, Strand. It was a weekly penny paper of popular society providing ‘bright, readable and authentic information about Court and society and doings, and all the topics and amusements of the day’ including ‘Society Gossip, Drama, Finance, Fashions for Ladies and Gentlemen.’ Submissions were to be ‘light and bright in treatment, full of points, free of verbiage, and rendered readable by new ideas and new points of view; subjects may be treated seriously or humorously, frankly, blandly, or caustically, or merely from the informative aspect.’