The World, January 1, 1907





Old Palace Yard, Westminster. Time, five o’clock in the afternoon. Enter M. Pierre Bonhomme, a Paris Municipal Councillor, personally conducted by Mr. Will Spender, M.P., L.C.C., a prominent and most progressive Wastrel.

M. Bonhomme. And this, Sir Spender, is your House of Commons, the home of British liberty upon which the sun nevare sets. I rejoice myself at this spectacle, so magnificent.

Mr. Spender (in his best platform manner). I do not hesitate to say, Mossoo, that the House of Commons, garrisoned—if I may so express myself, though a hater of the military—with Radicals, Labour Members, and the flower of the London County Council, is a unique object in our history.

M. Bonhomme. Nobly said, Sir Spender. But tell me, Monsieur, is it true that which we hear, that your country, so beautiful, rejoices in her bold fraternal Government, and that your town, so great, has taken the London County Council to its heart? In short, is it that all are satisfied in England?

Mr. Spender (boldly). I answer in the affirmative with no uncertain voice. The Progressive Party, for example, arouses a wild enthusiasm among every class in the citizen community which—er—which hopes to make anything out of it. Peace, Prosperity, and Progress is our motto; which we will obtain, regardless, I repeat, regardless of expense.

Song.—Mr. William Spender, M.P., L.C.C.

   When I tell you, Mossoo,
   What in London we do,
You’ll be filled with a sudden surprise,
   Not a city, I know,
   Has such vigour and go;
I think we shall open your eyes.

   For our Office of Works
   No expense ever shirks,
And we pay all our men double wage,
   Though we’re millions in debt,
   Do we trouble or fret?
Not a bit; we just move with the age.

   On the river our Fleet
   Is progressive and neat,
Though no passengers there you may see,
   I would have you to note
   That the crews have a vote;
And that is sufficient for me.

   But enough—here one turns
   To the thought of John Burns
And Keir Hardie, our Government’s lord,
   They’ll back any project,
   For money’s no object,
If Labour will only applaud.

M. Bonhomme. Ideal, generous people! In my country they would be so base as to consider the cost. But who is this who now approaches?

[Enter Policeman A 1, who marches sadly into the centre of the stage and stands immersed in gloom. Presently he commences to sing.

Song.Policeman A 1.

When I was but a lad, I told my father
  I meant to join the Force. Did he approve?
He shook his head, as if he thought this rather
  A rash and injudicious kind of move.
“My boy,” he answered, “you shall have your will, but
  I fear that you will find, before you’ve done,
How true is that remark of Mr. Gilbert,
  ‘A pleeceman’s lot is not a happy one.’ ”

I’m one, you know, as modest as they make ’em,
  With women I am diffident and shy:
Around the waist I never wish to take ’em,
  I sort of rather blushes when they’re by.
Yet Suffragettes a-raising a commotion,
  I have to hug quite closely, or they run.
It’s dooty, simply dooty—not devotion.
  A pleeceman’s lot is not a happy one.

I’m one, you know, though not exactly snobby,
  Wot ’as an eye, I must say, for a gent;
I hold it’s most degrading for a bobby
  To touch his hat to this here Parliament.
These Labour Members! Lor’, they’re what you meet with
  When you are out and have forgot your gun:
Not one as I’d be seen to cross the street with.
  A pleeceman’s lot is not a happy one.

I’m what you’d call an anything-for-peace man;
  That’s why you see this frown upon my face.
Lor’, lumme, it’s no joke to be a pleeceman
  In this here present blooming year of grace.
I’m hustled and I’m harassed and I’m flurried;
  And ’ave I any compensations? None!
I’m trod on, I’m “commissioned,” and I’m worried.
  A pleeceman’s lot is not a happy one.

M. Bonhomme. All is betrayed! Did you not hear his sentiments? Do you not perceive that he is an aristocrat in disguise?

Mr. Spender. You are mistaken. He was born in Battersea.

M. Bonhomme. But I thought you said that all the lower classes welcomed the advent of Labour to——

Mr. Spender. Hush! Pardon me, Mossoo, if I take cover behind you.

[He falls upon his hands and knees. After a minute he rises, looking uneasily about him.

Mr. Spender. Forgive me, but I thought I heard Suffragettes. We are all terrified of ’em; especially the Prime Minister.

[Enter Peers, marching in fours (right).

Chorus of Peers.

The saviours of the country, we!
No finer statesmen you will see.
Rely upon your House of Peers
(So long as no one interferes)
To put all difficulties right,
If we have to sit up all the night
   To do it, to do it.

We don’t mind owning that, perhaps,
We once were sleepy sort of chaps.
We must confess we liked to doze:
Our state was rather comatose.
But now we show an iron will;
Remember Mr. Birrell’s Bill!
   We slew it! we slew it!

No finer statesmen you will see:
The saviours of the country, we!

[Enter Radical Members of Parliament, marching in pairs (left).

Chorus of Radical M.P.s.

The saviours of the country, we!
No finer statesmen you will see.
Our blood’s not very blue, we know;
But when it comes to brains, what ho!
You will not find our names in Burke,
But if you ask for honest work,
     We do it, we do it.

We don’t mind owning, now and then
We have our rows, like other men.
But if sometimes we disagree —
Well, well, these things have got to be!
Why talk about these small upsets?
The subject’s painful, so don’t let’s
     Pursue it, pursue it.

No finer statesmen you will see:
The saviours of the country, we.

M. Bonhomme. How boldly do the aristocrats address the noble Radicals! Have you no lanterns in London?

Mr. Spender. Magic lanterns?

M. Bonhomme (darkly). To hang a man upon. It is most true that the earth would be glorious without these wicked men. No bishops, no religion, no army, no navy, no sport, no——

Mr. Spender (hastily). Of course, of course. At the same time it would make no difference to the Nonconformists. When you say “No religion,” you mean “No Established Church.”

M. Bonhomme. Not at all. We Radicals of France are against all religions. We are humanists, cosmopolitans. Down with all churches, chapels, seminaries!——

Mr. Spender. I say, Mossoo, steady on. If Dr. Clifford were to hear you! Or R. J. Campbell!

M. Bonhomme. Pish! You are no true Democrat!

Mr. Spender (uneasily). We must go slowly, Mossoo. We must move step by step. But, hush! Here comes the Premier.

[Enter Sir H. C.-B., in Privy Councillor’s uniform, to a flourish of drums and trumpets. At his right hand advance certain Labour Members in the full dress of British Non-Working Men. As the Premier steps forward, they also advance.

Song.—The Premier (with interruptions).

Premier.    I’m Premier of this mighty land,
        And none dispute my sway;
(Labour Mem.  That’s all his fun, you understand;
        We do it every day.)
Premier.   Men rush to do my will; and woe
        Betide ’em if they’re tardy!
(Lab. Mem.  That’s just his little joke, you know:
        He grovels to Keir Hardie.)
Premier.   I’m monarch wheresoe’er I go!
(Lab. Mem.  He grovels to Keir Hardie.)

Premier.    Oh, great reforms I’ll carry out,
        With no delay or fuss.
(Lab. Mem.  He’d like to try it on, no doubt,
        But daren’t, because of us.)
Premier.   Just watch them quail when I begin,
        Like Jove, to wield the thunder,
(Lab. Mem.  Of course, all that is rather thin,
        We always keep him under.)
Premier.   My iron will is bound to win!
(Lab. Mem.  We make him knuckle under.)

Policeman A 1 (entering right). Beg your pardin, Sir Henry, but the Suffragettes——

[The Premier flies, followed by the Radical and Labour Members, amid cries of alarm.

M. Bonhomme (wildly). I do not comprehend. The Radicals they command the Conservatives, and the Premier commands the Radicals, and the Labour members command the Premier, and the Suffragettes they——

Mr. Spender (hastily). Come, sir, let us on.




Hyde Park in the neighbourhood of the Reformers’ Tree. Time: mid-day. Enter M. Bonhomme and Mr. Spender.

M. Bonhomme. And I have seen the—the—“exercise ground of Society”? Is that not so?

Mr. Spender (solemnly). Here walk the bloated millionaire and the proud duchess, surrounded by their crawling sycophants. Here swaggers the dissolute peer with whose infamies all England desires to be familiar.

M. Bonhomme. And who is he?

Mr. Spender. Practically any peer.

M. Bonhomme (cheerfully). Ah! the young blood! Even we socialistic republicans in Paris ——

Mr. Spender. I don’t want to know about Paris. In this country it is understood that all peers are dissolute and all members of the labouring classes are temperate and pure. I beg you not to attack that theory, if you love liberty.

M. Bonhomme. And why?

Mr. Spender. Well—er—you see, all our policy is based upon it. It is understood that a working man is so honest that he can be trusted to spend thousands of pounds upon the Borough Councils, or hundreds of thousands upon the County Councils, or millions in the House of Commons. All waste, wife-beating, infidelity, peculation, immorality, and mismanagement belong to the aristocracy—by right, as it were.

M. Bonhomme. You surprise me! Yet it is understandable. For me, I hate the aristocrats.

Mr. Spender. Here comes a desperate scoundrel.

M. Bonhomme. But how do you know?

Mr. Spender. He is a peer. I have seen his photo in the Church Times.

[Enter Peer, a little man with a flannel collar, pince-nez, and a weary air.

Song: “The Respectable Peer.”

I’m not a bad fellow at heart;
  I’m kind and well-meaning, I think.
   But, despite all my labours,
   My friends and my neighbours
  Consider me blacker than ink.
In the set that is flashy and smart
  My innocent self they enroll;
   They scoff and they sneer
   At the view that a Peer
  May combine with his title a soul.

They murmur, “Take care! He’s a Peer!
They say he’s ten thousand a year!
   Run and fetch Father Vaughan
   To pour buckets of scorn
On the head of this dissolute Peer!”

To church every Sunday I go,
  (Yes, even on rainy days), twice.
   Their comments are bitter:
   “Transparent!” they titter,
  “Hypocrisy cannot cloak vice.”
The Park I find dreary and slow,
  And so, as a rule, stop away.
   My absence is noted,
   They think I have moted
  To Brighton, perhaps, for the day.

They murmur, “Ah, just like a Peer!
In his car on a Sunday. Dear, dear!
   Let us hope the police
   Will soon cause to decrease
The joy of this dissolute Peer!”

Plain water I take at my meals:
  I don’t like French cooking at all.
   But the Radical presses
   Denounce my excesses
  In a manner designed to appal.
My name in connection with “deals”
  Of the shadier sort you won’t see.
   But each man shakes his head
   At the stories he’s read,
  And thinks what my profits can be.

They murmur: “Take care, he’s a Peer!
His ways are decidedly queer.
   His transactions on ’Change
   Are—well, let us say, strange.
He’s a thoroughly rascally Peer.”

M. Bonhomme. Poor fellow! his lot is sad.

Mr. Spender. But he is a peer.

M. Bonhomme. Sir Spender, we democrats in France recognise no class distinctions. I do not care whether he is a duke or a gamin of the streets. I say I am sorry for him.

Mr. Spender (gloomily). That’s not the right way to look at things. All our Labour members——

M. Bonhomme. Have met him, and found cause to dislike him, hein?

Mr. Spender. No; but they’ve read about peers in Reynolds’s.

M. Bonhomme. Please do not be so foolish. That is no true democratic talk. But tell me who are these—so sad, so disconsolate?

[Enter a small and ragged body of the Unemployed.

Chorus of Unemployed.

It ain’t a bit o’ use, you know,
  Us trying to look cheerful;
We’re out of jobs, you see. What ho!
  I tell you straight, it’s fearful.
The way the working man’s oppressed,
And kicked, and trod on, and the rest,
  Is simply something fearful.

Work makes us ill, there ain’t a doubt.
  The very thought of wheeling
A barrowful of bricks about
  Gives us that tired feeling.
Whenever we are asked to plod
Up ladders, carrying a hod,
  We get that tired feeling.

We like our pipes, we like our drink
  (At that there ain’t no shirking),
We like to lie in bed and think
  Of other fellows working,
We lie awake in bed and shake
With ’earty laughter till we ache
  Through thinkin’ how they’re working.

But still the pineful fact remains
  That no one will employ us;
It looks as though they racked their brains
  To find ways to annoy us.
We want some job where pay is good
And we can work when in the mood;
  But no! They won’t employ us.

[Enter an Amateur Socialist. He advances into the middle of the stage and strikes an engaging attitude.

The Amateur Socialist (Recitative).

 I see a crowd of men who look depressed a bit;
   Shall I, then, let the chance that’s offered go
 Of getting my opinions off my chest a bit?
 Come, list to my address;
 I bring you happiness.

Song.—An Amateur Socialist.

If you listen, I will tell you, as concisely as I can,
Of the numerous advantages accruing to my plan:
I’ll free you from the evils which at present fairly pen you in;
For I am a philanthropist. No other kinds are genuine.
I bring to every British home a flood of joy and sunniness,
A joyful lots-to-eat-ity and heaps-of-ready-money-ness.
Oh, a round of simple pleasure everybody’s life will be
If only you have got sufficient sense to follow me.

Chorus of Unemployed (basso profundo).

  Orl that we asks is liberty, so dear;
  Orl that we seeks is work—or else it’s beer.

If you haven’t got the money for to pay the weekly rent,
If the butcher or the grocer-man their small accounts have sent,
If the baker hints that cash is worth far more than pleasant promises,
If your little Billy’s suit of clothes is wearing through (as Tommy’s is),
If in one small room you’re forced to live both stuffily and pokily,
If, in short, affairs are running—shall we put it?—stoney brokily,
Then a thorough alteration in your fortunes you will see,
If only you have got sufficient sense to follow me.

Chorus of Unemployed.

  It seems to us this cove’s a real winner;
  Free drink he seems to mean, likewise free dinner.

The Unemployed. We’re with you, guv’nor.

The Amateur Socialist. Stay, I forgot. All blessings I have mentioned will fall upon you equally. There will be no distinctions of rank, no private ownership, no bloated millionaires, but free meals, free drinks——

A Workman. But how’s it to be done?

The Amateur Socialist. Quite simply. By work.

The Unemployed. Work ! ! !

The Amateur Socialist. All must labour, irrespective of rank. There must be no idlers, no shirkers, no wastrels—

The Unemployed. ’Ere, let’s bash the tyrant!

[A wild rush is made at the Amateur Socialist, who flies, shrieking.

Mr. Spender. A stupid fellow, letting them into the secret like that.

M. Bonhomme (sadly). Of course, work is necessary in any form of government. But when speaking to the democracy the fact should be concealed.

Mr. Spender. But is work necessary?

M. Bonhomme. Not for the clevare men on the London County Council, eh, Sir Spender?

Mr. Spender (after he has recovered from a hearty laugh). Vous êtes un joli chien.

M. Bonhomme. See! Ladies approach.

Mr. Spender. Peeresses, as I live! Proud and cruel dames, descended from a line of robber barons—fair creatures, maybe, but bloated by a self-consciousness of blue blood.

M. Bonhomme. A bas le blueblood!

[Enter Lady Highflyer, née Miss Ermyntrude Pearl, of the Frivolity Theatre, attended by Lady Scorcher, Lady Blazer, and Lady Pauvreomme.

Song: Lady Highflyer.

When I was a child, and went to school,
They always taught me this golden rule:
“A pretty face,” they said, “is worth
An ocean of brains and a ton of birth;
So watch your complexion carefullee,
And you’ll be a leader of societee.”

Chorus. So watch your complexion carefullee,
     And you may be a ruler of societee.

I sang and danced for a year or so
As a humble member of the last back row;
Till one of the principals left through pique,
And I got her part (one line) to speak.
I spoke that line so carefullee
That now I’m a leader of societee.

Chorus. She spoke that line in a manner free,
     And now she’s a ruler of societee.

I spoke that line till there came the days
Of the actresses’ picture-postcard craze;
I went to the leading firm, and they
Took photographs of me every day.
They photographed me so frequentlee
That now I’m a leader of societee.

Chorus. They photographed her so thoroughlee
     That now she’s a leader of societee.

You wouldn’t believe how my postcards sold!
My fame was increased a thousandfold.
And the manager said, “Hullo, hullo!
She must play the lead in our next new show.”
I played that lead so winsomelee
That now I’m a leader of societee.

Chorus. She played the lead so activelee
     That now she’s a leader of societee.

One night to supper I was taken by
The elderly Earl of Peckham Rye.
He simply lived in a front-row stall:
He bought me bouquets, and said, “Might he call?”
I played that peer so artfullee
That now I’m a leader of societee.

Chorus. She played the knave so artfullee
     That now she’s a leader of societee.

M. Bonhomme. Clever girls! My heart warms to them.

Mr. Spender. But they are peeresses!

M. Bonhomme. From the coulisses. Tush, monsieur!

Mr. Spender. And actresses! !

M. Bonhomme. Well, what then?

Mr. Spender. The Nonconformist conscience——

M. Bonhomme. Mon Dieu, what are you, Sir Spender? Reactionary, aristocrat, clerical——?

Mr. Spender. Not at all, not at all, I assure you.

M. Bonhomme. Then you speak like one great big fool.




The exterior of the Stock Exchange. Enter M. Bonhomme, wearing a worried look, accompanied by Mr. Spender.

M. Bonhomme (wearily). I trust, Sir Spender, that here we shall find a greater unanimity, a stronger support of your party, a wider love of the true spirit of humanitarianism and democracy.

Mr. Spender (earnestly). Of course, of course.

M. Bonhomme. How rich is London! Here are the prosperous men, those who think in millions. Ah, but who are these? Millionaires, I doubt not.

Mr. Spender. Not exactly, Mossoo. Yet they spend millions right nobly. They are the leading financiers——

M. Bonhomme. Of England, of the World?

Mr. Spender. No, of the London County Council. I rather fancy that they have come down here to raise a bit.

[Enter Progressive members of the L.C.C., dancing gaily.

Chorus: Progressive Members of the L.C.C.

We are subject like everyone else
  To occasional fits of the blues;
We know what it’s like to awake with a shiver
At seven a.m. with a touch of the liver;
  Our studs, too, we frequently lose.
But all of these ills of the flesh
  We are able at last to endure:
Things cannot go wrong with our spirits for long,
  For we’ve found an infallible cure.

Raise a loan! Raise a loan!
  It’s the only thing to do,
It’s the finest mental pick-me-up that’s known.
  If your tailor’s bill’s unpaid
  Don’t be moody and dismayed:
Raise a loan! Raise a loan! Raise a loan!

M. Bonhomme. They seem, Sir Spender, to take their responsibilities lightly.

Mr. Spender. And why not? It’s not their money.

M. Bonhomme (cautiously). But it must be somebody’s savings. Do the public love these spendthrifts?

Mr. Spender. There are surly beggars, of course. Some folks are never satisfied, whatever you do for them.

M. Bonhomme. See these wild-eyed men who now approach. What are they? Bankrupts, I suppose.

Mr. Spender. People who have investments and those sort of things. I haven’t any myself. They don’t get much sympathy from me.

[Enter crowd in a state of great excitement.

Kaffir Market Stockbrokers.

A gentleman named Damocles,
  Of whom perhaps you’ve read,
Was noticeably ill at ease
  Because above his head,
When he was at the festive board,
There hung a dooced nasty sword.

Oh, Damocles! Oh, Damocles!
  Your lot was better far:
Things never sank to twenty odd
  Which you had bought at par.

We hold a lot of Kaffir shares,
  And wish that we did not:
For, oh, it thins our whitening hairs,
  And makes us cold and hot
(Alternately) to see the way
The Government is making hay.

Oh, Damocles! Oh, Damocles!
  You should have been content:
For you were never harried by
  A Liberal Government.

Railway Shareholders.

And look on our distressful case,
  And see how sad we are
For Socialism grows apace,
  And beats down every bar.
And nobody would be surprised
If railways soon were nationalised.

Oh, Damocles! Oh, Damocles!
  You got on very well:
You never held a lot of stuff
  That you could never sell.

India Shareholders.

The Government that rules to-day
  Despises me and you;
But loves with all its heart the gay
  And frolicsome Babu.
He’s only got to agitate,
And we get ruined while you wait.

Oh, Damocles! Oh, Damocles!
  Your life was one long bliss;
You were not made to jump about
  By Governments like this.


Oh, Damocles! Oh, Damocles!
  You weren’t in such a fix
As were the wretched City men
  Who lived in 1906.

M. Bonhomme. As a careful man, Sir Spender, a man who has worked hard and saved money, I must say I sympathise with them. Your Government——

Mr. Spender. What, you dare to insinuate that our Government can do wrong? Sir, be careful.

M. Bonhomme (with dignity). If you had been taught the principles, so simple, of political economy you would understand (in a sudden outburst) that you are a silly fat pig-dog.

[Enter a banker, at whose respectable appearance Mr. Spender calms himself.

M. Bonhomme (addressing banker). Pardon, monsieur, but can you tell me what has been the practical result of this Radical Government?

Song.The Banker.

If I had a friend with some money to spend,
  And he wished me to choose an investment,
“My boy,” I should say, “listen closely, I pray,
  To advice which is all for the best meant.
If to get a return for your money you yearn,
  And if you don’t wish to be bitten,
I think it is best all your cash to invest
  In something that’s outside Great Britain.”

That’s the only rule for safety nowadays.
There’s not another policy that pays.
  The golden rule, I’m sure it is,
  Runs “Shun home in-securities.”
It’s the only rule for safety nowadays.

There was a glad time, in our glorious prime,
  When English investments were steady,
When our army and fleet were not easy to beat,
  And our motto was “Ready, aye ready.”
But the Government now says, “It don’t matter how
  Reduced is our Navy’s condition;
For it costs, does it not, such a terrible lot
  To put a new ship in commission.”

So the only rule for safety nowadays,
The one and only policy that pays,
  Is “Remember every other land
  Is safer than the motherland.”
That’s the only rule for safety nowadays.

M. Bonhomme. I thank you, monsieur. (With dignity) Sir Spender, kindly summon for me a motor-cab.

Mr. Spender. Why, you’ve a lot to see yet! You shouldn’t be so hasty. I want to show you——

M. Bonhomme. All I hope to see is Charing Cross.

Mr. Spender. ? ?

M. Bonhomme. I desire to return to Paris. It seems to me the safer.




See John Dawson’s article on the Wodehouse-Robinson collaboration for more about the content and style of this and other “pantomimes” written by these authors.

Printer’s error corrected above:
In Scene II, 2nd speech, magazine had “droud duchess”; corrected to “proud”