Vanity Fair, May 1916
THE COMING OF SPRING
Original Thoughts on a Wholly Original Theme
By C. P. West
SPRING is here! What magic in those words. We look out of our window at the heaped up snow, which Street Cleaning Commissioner Fetherston has been unable to clear away; we turn on a little more steam heat; and we say to ourselves “Well, Spring is here. Hurrah!”
What a gay, happy season it is. On every side the book-stalls are bright with next December’s Christmas numbers of the magazines. The latest costumes, designed by some lunatic in Paris with a grudge against the human race, cause us to renew the vow we swore on New Year’s Eve to avoid the demon Rum. Hats which we have only seen before in nightmares smite the eye wherever we go. We hear the joyous note of the automobile salesman honking to his mate. The traffic policemen discard their ear-muffs. The panhandler emerges from Blackwell’s Island where he has been spending the winter and parades the streets once more. In Central Park swarms of happy children are digging their heels into the young grass and not doing a thing to it. Out in Brooklyn is heard the whirr of the wheels of a hundred thousand baby-carriages. In a million stores a million commuters are buying the flower-seeds which will shortly fill their gardens with bindweed. Brimstone and molasses flow in a gurgling stream down a million happy young throats. For it is Spring!
IT has often seemed to me a remarkable thing, considering the effect which the season has on us, that no poet has ever conceived the idea of dealing in verse with the subject of Spring. Even if you are a vers libre bard and can afford to despise rhymes, you cannot deny that there is something about this particular time of the year which is poetic and stimulating. And if you are one of the old-fashioned poets who like to have a poem rhyme, Spring is simply made for you. It rhymes with wing, sing, sting, bing! Gosh ding! fling, Ming (if you should happen to want to write of Spring in ancient China), ring, cling, and other admirable and useful words. It is strange indeed that the theme should have been so consistently neglected by the merry songsters throughout the ages.
Spring is the season of hope. Directly the calendar informs us that it is once more in our midst, we shed our winter flannels and don our flimsy gents’ suitings and stride out upon the Avenue, hoping that we shall not contract double pneumonia. And not even the fact that this hope is never realized can daunt us. The only exceptions to this rule are theatrical managers, who very wisely wear their fur-lined overcoats all the year round.
May Day! What a thrilling promise of love it brings! Soon, all over New York, bankers will be spending the better part of their lives on the Follies Roof. And soon the fashionable young polo player will be wooing his best friend’s wife. And the serious minded business-man will be offering the usual tribute of gardenias to the coy and diffident coryphées in one of the thousand and one Russian ballets now devastating our fair Island of Manhattan.
And, over the whole scene, Cupids—flying Cupids, dancing Cupids, musical Cupids, winged Cupids, robust Cupids, will be whirling about and adding to the general chaos and confusion of Love’s triumphal merry-go-round.
SPRING is the season of love. It is a well-established scientific fact that the normal human being can fall in love with anyone in the Spring. It is always about this time of the year that the papers are obliged to give a couple of lines (instead of the customary three columns) to the blighted romance of the millionaire’s only son who wanted to marry the second girl from the end of the first row and was stopped at the church door by his nurse. With the coming of Spring the entrance to the City Hall begins to resemble a Subway express during the rush hour. As far as the eye can see, the approaches to the building are congested with wild-eyed young men, brandishing dollar bills and sparing neither age nor sex in their mad charge for the little window in the license department where they hand you out the form which you must fill in before you can even think of alimony as a factor which will play a part in your life.
Nat Goodwin gets married every Spring. If May Day came and found De Wolf Hopper still wondering whether to take the plunge, he would be ashamed of himself. Never a Spring approaches but the Sultan of Turkey sends the Grand Vizier round the corner to the five and ten cent store to purchase a fresh consignment of wives. Hard-headed business-men whose minds during the winter months have been filled with Bethlehem Steel and Crucible Ingots heave sighs and automatically marry their stenographers. Prudent bachelors, frankly acknowledging their weakness, lock themselves into their apartments and lose the key, lest a worse fate befall. To add to the romance of the season, many of our best people now make a point of getting their divorce in the Spring. This leaves them unhampered when they fall in love with someone else, and keeps the wires from getting crossed.
Editor’s Note: C. P. West is one of the many pen names
that P. G. Wodehouse used in the 1910s in writing for Vanity Fair. The Wodehouses rented a flat at 375 Central
Park West (at 97th Street) for six months in 1915/16. [Thanks to Norman Murphy for this information.]
Karen Shotting found a photocopy of a reprinted version of this article, this time credited to P. G. Wodehouse, but with no indication of when or where it had been published. We tracked it down to Vanity Fair, March 1984, p. 125; it was accompanied by illustrations relating to Spring from other early issues of VF, including the cover art from the May 1921 issue and the Marion Morgan dancers from May 1916.