I'm always surprised by the connections of members in The Mark Steyn Club. Ă€ propos the much adapted Three Men in a Boat, Washington State member Raymond Swenson wrote the other day to recommend the following variation on the theme:
Award winning science fiction author Connie Willis created a hilarious time travel novel around the idea of this book, and titled it To Say Nothing of the Dog.
Which is, of course, Three Men's subtitle. Almost exactly as Raymond was typing, a fellow Mark Steyn Clubber from just south, Oregon member Walt Trimmer, was also emailing:
Three Men in a Boat is my English major sister's favorite novel. I was dragooned into reading it a long time ago. She even wrote a comedy science fiction novel titled To Say Nothing of the Dog with the Victorian milieu and structure of Jerome's novel. It is still in print if you are interested.
My sister is a true anglophile. She is has toured Britain many times and one of her favorite things is to have treacle and clotted cream at Harrods. I will always be her annoying little brother. I tell her we fought a revolution so we wouldn't have to eat things like that. Don't get me started on the Royal Family.
Now now, Walt. Harry and Meghan are way woker than Beto and Kamala, so who lost out there, eh? Be that as it may, what a pleasure it is to be part of a club so effortlesslly connected that one member can be a fan of another's sister's novel without even knowing it. It's like an extra drizzle of treacle with a supersized dollop of clotted cream.
And, with that, on to Part Nine of Jerome K Jerome's very popular contribution to Tales for Our Time. In tonight's episode our chaps are boating through history on an empty stomach:
We had originally intended to go on to Magna Charta Island, a sweetly pretty part of the river, where it winds through a soft, green valley, and to camp in one of the many picturesque inlets to be found round that tiny shore. But, somehow, we did not feel that we yearned for the picturesque nearly so much now as we had earlier in the day. A bit of water between a coal-barge and a gas-works would have quite satisfied us for that night. We did not want scenery. We wanted to have our supper and go to bed. However, we did pull up to the pointâ€”"Picnic Point," it is calledâ€”and dropped into a very pleasant nook under a great elm-tree, to the spreading roots of which we fastened the boat.
Then we thought we were going to have supper (we had dispensed with tea, so as to save time), but George said no; that we had better get the canvas up first, before it got quite dark, and while we could see what we were doing. Then, he said, all our work would be done, and we could sit down to eat with an easy mind.
That canvas wanted more putting up than I think any of us had bargained for.
We always get queries about the choice of theme music for our tales, and it's usually fairly contemporary to the book. In this case, however, the composer was barely out of nappies (and/or diapers) when Jerome K Jerome published Three Men in a Boat. "Old Father Thames" was written by Betsy O'Hogan (of which more below) and seemed to me, instrumentally, to set the scene most appropriately. We don't hear Raymond Wallace's lyric in our nightly episodes, so, if you're in the mood, here's the magnificent Australian bass-baritone Peter Dawson, as recorded at Abbey Road in 1933:
If you're thinking that "I've never heard of this composer Betsy O'Hogan", well, Miss O'Hogan was a pseudonym for Lawrence Wright, a very successful publisher whose arrival in Denmark Street in London helped make it the heart of British music for almost a century. He also founded the weekly music paper Melody Maker. And he wrote a lot of songs, usually under pseudonyms. His best known, composed under the name "Horatio Nicholls", is that fragrant ballad "Among My Souvenirs" - a hit for Paul Whiteman, Connie Francis, Marty Robbins and many others. Wright lived in a mock castle in Blackpool until old age confined him to a wheelchair, after which he swapped the castle for a bungalow. After his death, his publishing catalogue went through several changes of ownership and eventually wound up among Michael Jackson's souvenirs.
By the way, if you like the music from Tales for Our Time, you can enjoy a wide selection of it - by Brahms, Glinka, Mahler, Mussorgsky and more - here.
If you've yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. Membership is available now - and, if you sign up, you'll be all set for Part Ten of Three Men in a Boat this time tomorrow (and all the earlier episodes, of course). And, if you've a friend who likes classic fiction, don't forget our special Gift Membership. Oh, and aside from audio fiction, we also do video poetry.
If you're one of that brave band who enjoy me on camera, I'll be back on American telly next week. Then again, if you prefer me in non-visual formats, I'll also be back on Canadian radio.