THE NEXT INVASION.
Punch, June 17, 1903
Mr. Punch, Sir,—Greatly stimulated and encouraged by the kindly spirit of hospitality in which you received my projected Society drama, I venture to submit to you some notes in connection with a novel which I now have in hand. When an editor rejects a manuscript of mine, I send that manuscript to another editor. When he accepts one, I send another manuscript to that editor. This is the strenuous life. The purpose of my romance is to revive the type so popular a few years back, in the manufacture of which there has lately been something of a lull. I refer to the Inspired-Prophecy kind of novel, in which England is overrun by invaders until the last few chapters. In my style, and especially in my strict regard for the probabilities, I shall follow as nearly as I can the example of my great predecessors.
After years of secret preparation, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Turkey, and Monaco suddenly declare war on England. England is totally unprepared. She always is in novels. Also, by the ingenious device of sending the admiral in command a bogus telegram to say that his aunt is ill, the Channel fleet is got out of the way. A vast consignment of assorted invaders sails up the Thames, and lands at the Docks. The authorities have grown so accustomed to alien immigrants that they see nothing peculiar in these manœuvres, and, Sir Howard Vincent being away, no obstacle is offered to the invading force, which proceeds to occupy the town. This is an easy task. The example of the Stock Exchange pedestrians has long ago been followed by every branch of Society, and the day chosen for the invasion is also that fixed for the various contests, with the result that London, with the exception of two bank clerks, the bookstall young man at Waterloo, three waiters, and Mr. Arthur Bourchier, is totally empty. The Stock Exchange is down at Brighton, the Guards at Cane Hill, and everybody else either at some distant spot or walking to it. The bank clerks and the bookstall young man are speedily overpowered. The Garrick Theatre, though strongly held by Mr. Bourchier, is subjected to the unfair criticism of large shells, and demolished, and the three waiters welcome their compatriots with shouts (and bottles) of Hoch. London is in the hands of the enemy. End of Book One, to be called Blue Ruin.
In Book Two, Wake up, England! there are thrilling accounts of battles and so on, and the shocking goings-on of the invaders generally. There is very little damage for them to do in London, for the L.C.C. have recently been at the streets, but they do all they can, and when the feelings of the reader are worked to the proper pitch by my vivid descriptions, I bring in my grand climax. One night Mr. Winston Churchill and the Editor of the Daily Mail (on whom the command of the British forces has naturally devolved) receive a visit from a mysterious stranger with a strong German accent. It is Herr Julius Seeth. In consideration of being allowed a monopoly in performing lions for the space of his natural life, he offers to bring his peculiar methods of education to bear on the Strand rats, mobilise them into an Army Corps, and send them against the foe. The chapter descriptive of the final struggle between the trained rodents and the invaders is one of my most powerful bits of work. The hair of the reader will shoot up like a rocket. The rats win and the war is at an end. That, I think, is all to-day.
Unsigned article as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 124 of Punch.
The Prince of Prussia, Frederick William Victor Albert (Kaiser Wilhelm) embarked in 1902 on a program of massive naval construction, aimed at building a German fleet to rival that of Britain. His professed theory was that Germany could gain its demands in international diplomacy through the implied threat posed by a powerful battle fleet concentrated in the North Sea. Most felt, however, that he was arming for war, despite his protestations to the contrary. The idea of a surprise invasion across the North Sea was a sensational subject for the popular press, and over the weeks and months Wodehouse repeatedly mocked the Kaiser’s public statements in ‘By the Way’. This is P.G.’s second mention of E. Howard Vincent, the Conservative Party politician and vocal opponent of ‘Alien immigration’; Brighton was a popular seaside resort; Cane Hill Hospital was a psychiatric hospital in Croydon; The Garrick was (and is) a West End theatre, opened in 1889 and financed by W. S. Gilbert which specialized in the performance of melodrama. The theatre is named for David Garrick, a popular Shakespearean actor. German troops used to shout ‘Hoch! Hoch!’ meaning high or exalted, at the Kaiser; P.G. puns it with ‘Hoch,’ the Scottish variant of a white German Rhineland wine; by 1903, Winston Churchill, then a Conservative member of Parliament, had written three books on his war experiences and P.G. is parodying Churchill’s self-proclaimed battle expertise. Julius Seeth was a German lion tamer who performed with various circuses with up to 25 lions.
Wodehouse would parody the Inspired-Prophecy novel at greater length in The Swoop! or, How Clarence Saved England, a 1909 shilling paperback never serialized in magazines in its original form, though it was later adapted into “The Military Invasion of America” in the US Vanity Fair.