Serious Charge against a Child.
Punch, April 1, 1903
[Editor’s Note: This short item was “discovered” by John Dawson (who also discovered “Providence and the Butler”). This item is not listed in the McIlvaine bibliography, but John, while researching Wodehouse’s “Money Received for Literary Work,” came across a reference to this item, and it was tracked down.]
Serious Charge against a Child.—By an error in filling in a schedule of previous convictions, a burglar was charged at Edinburgh with having been engaged in his professional duties at the age of two, and it would have gone hard with him had not his one-time nurse come forward and deposed that, though a fine child, and remarkably heavy for his age, he had never been known to crack his crib. Valuable evidence was also given by his schoolmaster, showing that prisoner had in his youth been extremely fond of cribs. The charge was finally dismissed.
Unsigned paragraph as printed in Punch; entered by Wodehouse in “Money Received for Literary Work.”
‘Crack a crib’ is criminal-world jargon to break into a house, dating from at least 1891 when Conan Doyle used it in “The Red-Headed League”; Crib, English slang for a forbidden list of answers to be referred to during a test, known as a ‘cheat sheet’ in America. P.G. triple-puns on ‘crib’ here, using three distinct definitions of the word, and for good measure also puns on the ‘remarkably heavy’ two-year-old who has never been known to ‘crack his crib,’ meaning his weight hasn’t broken the cradle yet. That’s four related puns in one paragraph and also a nice early P.G. use of an impossibly compound sentence, with nine unique thoughts stated in one sentence!