Welcome to Episode Sixteen of our nightly audio adventure, Psmith, Journalist - P G Wodehouse's odd blend of Wodehousian whimsy and social conscience in New York a century-and-change ago.
My throwaway suggestion the other night that we start a Classics Corner here at SteynOnline prompted various reactions, at least one of which is rather terrifying. Nicola Timmerman, a Mark Steyn Club member from the sorely put upon province of Ontario, writes:
How about Winnie the Pooh in Latin for Tales for our Time or the Classics Corner - Winnie Ille Pu.
Er, well, a little A A Milne goes a long way with me, Nicola - aside from the lethargically mesmeric game of Pooh Sticks and "Changing Guard at Buckingham Palace" when sung (which can be oddly moving). So I can't decide whether a Latinized Pooh would make him even more twee. Dorothy Parker has not worn well over the years, but the last time I sat down to read Christopher Robin's doings to a kid of mine her judgment thereof did spring unbidden into my bear-sized brain:
And it is that word 'hummy,' my darlings, that marks the first place in The House at Pooh Corner at which Tonstant Weader fwowed up.
From A A to P G: In tonight's episode our heroes and villains meet at the offices of Cozy Moments and, before the bullets start flying, Psmith offers a sentimental strain:
"The cigars are on the table," said Psmith hospitably. "Draw up your chairs, and let's all be jolly. I will open the proceedings with a song."
In a rich baritone, with his eyeglass fixed the while on Mr. Repetto, he proceeded to relieve himself of the first verse of "I only know I love thee."
"Chorus, please," he added, as he finished. "Come along, Comrade Repetto. Why this shrinking coyness? Fling out your chest, and cut loose."
But Mr. Repetto's eye was fastened on Mr. Jarvis's revolver. The sight apparently had the effect of quenching his desire for song.
"'Lov' muh, ahnd ther world is—ah—mine!'" concluded Psmith.
I'm always partial to Wodehousian annotation, so please allow me a word on what Plum refers to as "I only know I love thee". The actual title is Psmith's concluding line - "Love Me, and the World Is Mine":
I care not for the stars that shine
I dare not hope to e'er be thine
I only know I love you
Love Me, And The World Is Mine!
That's from the pens of Ernest R Ball and Dave Reed Jr, and it was a big hit in 1906. So it was in the air when Wodehouse began writing this tale a couple of years later. For you young 'uns who care naught for the popular culture of 114 years ago, Ernest Ball is perhaps more relevantly the great-great-grandfather of singer-songwriter Tiare' Ball and of actress Hannah Marks, who was named one of Rolling Stone's 25 Artists Under 25 Changing the World. The world has certainly changed this past year. Whether it's fair to blame Miss Marks for that I leave to another day.
Aside from being the great-great-grampa of the above, Mr Ball was also a "singer-songwriter" of the vaudeville stage, the composer of such shamrock-hued delights as "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling", "Mother Machree" and "There's a Little Bit of Heaven (Sure They Called It Ireland)". "Love Me, and the World Is Mine" hasn't lasted quite as long, but here's Albert Campbell's big-selling platter of 1906:
Maybe Tiare' Ball would like to do a "cover version".
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