Why I Repair, Sew and Mend (part 2)

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Last week, we looked at how learning to sew, once a skill taught to girls in the school system, has nearly vanished thanks to an increase in the supply of cheap clothes from overseas manufacturers.

But with cheapness comes a price. There’s a saying that when it comes to anything, you can have it by picking two out of these three choices: fast, cheap and good. You can have it cheap and good, but you can’t have it fast. Or, you can have it fast and cheap, but not good. Or Fast and good, but not cheap.

So how can you ensure that your family wears good, well-made clothing? You can have clothing custom-made by a seamstress or tailor. You may have to look pretty hard to find this service but these people exist. Then pay them what they ask. If you can’t stomach the prices, reflect on the fact that the local seamstress or tailor wants to earn more than the 29 cents an hour that sewing machine operators get paid in Third-World sweatshops. That the local seamstress doesn’t get to pay the lowest possible wholesale price for fabric bought in 100,000-yard increments. That the local tailor has rent, Social Security, and utilities to pay. Third-World sweatshops and Chinese prison labor is the reason why new clothes in the United States cost so little relative to the amount of workmanship, fabric, notions, and time invested in them.

How do you solve this problem of cost? You learn to do it yourself. You start with a needle, thread, thimble, and sewing scissors. Then you teach yourself to make the most basic of repairs: sewing buttons back on and closing up split seams. Thanks to the miracle of Project Runway, sewing has become popular again, and so you can now find basic how to mend and repair books with loads of pictures that aren’t sixty years old or older.

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menders-manual-cover-home-sewing
A current book is “Mend It Better: Creative Patching, Darning, and Stitching” by Kristin M. Roach. A really excellent older book is “”The Mender’s Manual” by Estelle Foote. The difference between the two books is that Ms. Foote assumes you already know how to sew. Ms. Roach assumes you’ve never had a needle in your hand and so gives you plenty of photographs to demonstrate how to thread and hold one.

cooking-for-absolute-beginners-cover-home-sewingThe progression in sewing books is the same as that of cookbooks. Most older cookbooks — unless aimed at total newbies such as “Cooking for Absolute Beginners” by Muriel Fitzsimmons and Cortland Fitzsimmons (Dover Publications) — assume you already know what to do. More modern cookbooks have to assume you have never boiled water and proceed accordingly. As your how-to-sew books get older and older, the basic information and directions become more and more sparse with many fewer illustrations. Older books can be more useful as they assume you need to save money and so give instructions for things you wouldn’t get today such as replacing a lining in a jacket. Older books also assume that you have an older relative around whom you can ask. If you do have a mother, grandmother, or aunt who still mends, repairs, and sews you have a stunningly valuable resource. So ask for help! I’ve learned a lot from books but being shown by someone who knows what she’s doing is far better than trying to interpret cryptic instructions and tiny line drawings.

Why Sew At All?

home sewing

Cooking is drudgery. Why else would Hamburger Helper be invented?

What happened is that sewing, like basic home cooking, has become a lost art; a skill that in two generations went from the vast majority of women (because let’s face it, most men didn’t cook or sew) knowing at least how to repair a hem and put meals on the table three times a day to most women barely recognizing a needle and thimble and relying on the miracle of pre-fab convenience food cookery. Sewing, like cooking, is time-consuming work and both can turn into drudgery really quick.

If you can’t find the Zen of being bent over a sewing machine for hours on end or making a meal in an hour that gets eaten in five minutes and then repeating the process three times a day for the rest of your life, you start resenting the work. Why wouldn’t you? Especially if you can maintain some 60-hour-a-week career and use some of that money to pay poorer women of color to do the same work. And, you simply can’t maintain that sixty-hour-a-week career (this is about how many hours a week my sister the programmer works, at a minimum, every single week; during sick days and vacations she is expected to check her email faithfully and make up every single missed hour of work when she gets back) and spend three hours a day cooking and cleaning up from said work and doing all the sewing of garments, household linens, plus repair work and mending. This doesn’t cover any of the other daily work to run a house well nor does it include hours spent on exercise and other body maintenance, commuting, community service, church work, housekeeping, personal time with children, spouse, and friends, and food growing and preservation. That 24-hours-a-day pesky time-management problem reappears with a vengeance.

So, as soon as there was a little more money, a job took up your time, and clothing and household cloth items became super cheap (when all the American textile jobs went overseas to sweatshops), sewing fell off of the radar. Your time matters. It matters a lot. So again, why sew at all?

1. Repair work is easy. It is crazy and wasteful to discard a blouse because a button is missing or a seam has opened up. These are both incredibly easy fixes and take far less time and money than shopping for a replacement blouse. If of course, you have a needle, thread, thimble, scissors, and a jar of buttons and you know how to use them.

At this point, let me say that every household that plans on doing repair work to clothing should have a button jar. Take a clean, clear peanut butter jar and start saving all those buttons you find loose in the washer, you picked up off the floor, and that come attached as replacements to the clothes you bought. When you have to buy a packet of buttons to replace the one missing shirt button, put the extras into the jar. Since I sew a lot, I have collected a lot of buttons.

button-jars-home-sewing

My buttons are sorted by type (shank or hole) and by color. For basic repairs, you won’t need nearly this many. What makes button replacement hard is that you can almost never find an exact match of even a plain ½-inch white shirt button. Even the most basic buttons comes in dozens of variations; fancy types are impossible to match. So I save every single button I come across, I joyfully accept the unwanted buttons from other people, and if I come across a jarful of buttons at a thrift shop or yard sale, I buy it and add it to the stash. This way, I can come pretty close to a match or I can replace all the buttons on the garment, ensuring they match.

To complete your basic repair kit, you need a few spools of thread: white, black, cream, and three shades of gray (light, medium, dark). The gray thread will allow you to get reasonably close to the color tone of the item you are redoing the seam on. Since this stitching is hidden, you don’t need an exact color match. If the thread is going to show, you may want to make the trip to the fabric store and buy an exact match. I use Coats and Clark thread and Gütermanns; both are widely available and work very nicely. Avoid the super-cheap no-name thread you sometimes see in dime stores. This thread is so poorly made it is not suitable for anything but hand basting as it may break apart when the garment is washed.

A book of hand needles in various sizes, a thimble that fits your middle finger on your dominant hand, a pair of sewing scissors, and perhaps a small box of straight pins and safety pins will round out your repair kit. All of these items are widely available; even grocery stores carry some of this stuff tucked away in the aisle with the household cleansers and mops.

The thimble is the hardest item to get as you have to try them on. Yes, thimbles come in sizes. You want one that fits snugly over your middle finger on your dominant hand but not so snugly that it pinches. It has to fit well so it doesn’t come off as you sew. The thimble lets you push the needle through the fabric without puncturing your flesh. It is absolutely worth the trouble to learn how to hand sew with a thimble if you are going to do any repair work at all. It increases your speed and saves your skin.

Get a decent pair of sewing scissors and mark them as such. Do not EVER let anyone cut paper with your sewing scissors. Paper cutting ruins the blade for fabric and you will then have to cut out the heart and liver of the person who ruined your good scissors as they are now useless for anything else. Damaged scissors have to be resharpened; fabric stores sometimes offer this service. You can sometimes find someone who sharpens scissors at farmer’s markets too; I got all my scissors redone at the Hershey Farmer’s Market and what a joy they were to use afterwards.

Then you get the basic mending book such as “Hand Mending Made Easy” by Nan L. Ides and you are ready to start fixing simple stuff. Once you learn to resew on buttons and close opened seams, you move on to repairing hems. When you have learned to repair a hem, you can start changing a hem. I do some sewing for money and a simple job I do a lot of is shortening the hems on pants. Depending on the type of pants, I do it by hand or by machine. Any sewing job that can be done by machine can be done by hand and hems are an easy place to learn. It usually but not always just takes longer. And, there are some jobs that even if you can do them by machine should still be done by hand. It works better, it looks better or it just takes less time. Yes, hand sewing can, sometimes, be faster than machine sewing. It can make just as strong a seam.

Learning basic mending is empowering. You no longer have to discard a garment because of an easily repaired seam. As you get better at it, you learn to do harder, more complex jobs. This saves you time and money; the time spent shopping for replacements and the money spent on buying new garments. Doing your own basic repairs will also free up the money for paying a tailor or seamstress for the much harder ones: relining or taking in a suit jacket or replacing a complex coat zipper.

Next week, we’ll take a look at more complex clothing repairs.

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Penman’s Politics (Punch parody)

This Conan Doyle parody, an excerpt from “The Early Punch Parodies of Sherlock Holmes,” refers to one of the two times Arthur Conan Doyle ran for Parliament.

Penman’s Politics

The outbreak of the Boer War in October 1899 marked a new direction in ACD’s life. He tried to enlist, but being 40 and over-weight, he was rejected. He accepted an offer to oversee a hospital unit being formed in England and spent the first half of 1900 in South Africa helping to run it. Returning home determined to do more to support the war effort, he ran for Parliament with the Liberal Unionists, a faction that opposed the ruling Conservatives but supported the war. Rejecting an offer of a safe seat, he ran in his native Central Edinburgh, known for its radical politics. Voters turned out in droves to see him, many of them noisy hecklers who called him “Sherlock Holmes!” Although disappointed in losing by 569 votes out of the less than 5,500 cast, he was grateful to be out of politics. Campaigning, he said, was like “a mud bath — helpful but messy.”

“Penmen’s Politics” pretended to print the stump speeches of two literary politicians: ACD and Anthony Hope (1863-1933), the author of “The Prisoner of Zenda.” At the time, Hope was considering running for Parliament, but decided not to. Naturally, Punch chose to cast ACD’s speech as if he was the embodiment of Holmes.

The daily papers announce that Messrs. Conan Doyle and “Anthony Hope” will contest constituencies at the approaching election. They have failed, however, to report the speeches from which the following extracts are taken:

conan doyle parody

Campaign poster for Conan Doyle.

. . . You will not fail to return me as your Member. (Cheers: and a voice, “Oh!”) The gentleman sitting third from the end in the fourteenth row says “Oh!” (“Shame!”‘) Shall I tell you why? Because he has been bribed by his sister-in-law to support my rival! (Sensation.) Yes, I saw him this afternoon smoking a new imitation-meerschaum pipe. Now, no man ever bought an imitation-meerschaum. Clearly, therefore, it was a present, and a present from a lady. That lady was not his wife, who disapproves of smoking. His only other feminine relative is his sister-in-law. And his sister-in-law is the wife of a member of my Opponent’s committee! (Uproar.) Yes, gentlemen, the case is complete. Bribed by a beggarly gift — from a glimpse I had of the pipe I learnt that it had been in stock for a long time, and had been reduced from 3s. 7d., its original price, to 2s. 5½ d. — bribed, I say, by this beggarly gift, the gentleman has the effrontery to come here and raise his voice against my candidature! (Cheers, and cries of “Throw him out!”) And now to say a few words of my opponent. I chanced to see him enter his committee room today. For perhaps fifteen seconds he stood in the full glare of my inductive glance. What did those fifteen seconds reveal? That he makes a false income-tax return, does not pay his tailor’s bill, eats bacon without mustard, collects postage stamps, only writes to his aged mother on the second Monday in each month, is an anti-vivisectionist, and is suffering from overindulgence in baked potatoes! (Sensation.) Yes, that was what I learnt in fifteen seconds. But soon I hope to study him for a full minute, and then, gentlemen, you shall know the result! (Laughter and cheers.) But in the light of what the most simple inductive process has demonstrated already, is such a man, I ask you confidently, worthy to represent a free, glorious, and enlightened constituency? (Prolonged cheers.)

223B-Punch-Cover-conan doyle parody“The Early Punch Parodies of Sherlock Holmes” has now been added to Google Play.

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Why I Sew, Repair, and Mend

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I learned how to sew decades ago, partly from my mother and partly in the home economics classes that every girl used to take in junior high and sometimes, high school. According to my children, those classes seem to be called Family Consumer Sciences. Everybody, boys and girls alike, takes this class. Shop class seems to have gone by the wayside, at least here in our school district in the Sweetest Place on Earth. I suppose the reasoning is that you don’t need to know anymore how to operate tools to fix your house and repair your car but you still need to eat and run a household. Most of the graduates from Hershey High School will be able to pay for carpenters and mechanics, but they won’t be able to pay for full-time, live-in cooks and housekeepers, thus keeping the Family Consumer Science program alive for at least a few more years.

sew at home

Every girl used to take in junior high and sometimes, high school.

We had real working stoves in fully equipped kitchens (there were knives!) for the cooking portion of home-ec. The sewing room came fully equipped with real sewing machines, one for each girl. There must have been fabric cutting tables with sharp scissors (the horror!) and pattern cabinets but I don’t remember that part.

What I do remember is making a few garments. A dress with a back zipper, a blouse with multiple buttonholes, collar and cuffs, a skirt with another zipper and a set-in waistband. That sort of thing. I even wore the clothes sometimes. The sewing portion of Family Consumer Science that my children took consisted of choosing to make either a small square pillow or a drawstring bag. The pillow concealed its unfinished seams inside itself. The drawstring bag shows every defect of its design and construction. If you want to learn to sew more than that, even something as basic as a button, you have to go elsewhere. You certainly aren’t going to learn how to pick out a pattern and cloth, select, lay out and cut out the fabric, and then sew it all together, fitting as you go, and inserting zippers or making buttonholes.

I got a little sewing at home as well. My mother made most of our everyday dresses, back when girls in small towns still wore dresses to school every day. She made curtains and bedspreads, and repaired everything to make it last longer and save money. When you don’t have money, you spend time.

Clothes were more expensive then, relative to income, and every store there was from dime stores like Woolworth to department stores like Sears carried fabric for home sewers. Even the Sears catalog sold notions to go along with its fabric selection. Now, it’s damn difficult to find a place that sells fabric besides an actual fabric store. Those are becoming few and far between, as they get replaced by craft stores and sometimes, quilt shops. Quilt shops sell fabric which you can use for clothing but it tends to be expensive. They don’t sell any specialty fabric like flannel-back satin, fleece, interfacing, or home-dec. They don’t sell patterns or garment notions. You can buy thread, though.

Clothing is so cheap now. We take it for granted that you can walk into any store and find heaps of clothing, priced well below the amount of fabric, notions, and workmanship that goes into it. The garment cost has nothing to do with the fabric or the amount of work involved. A shirt that has two front pieces, back, yoke, two set-in sleeves, a placket with ten buttonholes and ten buttons, plus collar and cuffs (with more buttonholes and buttons) can cost less than a T-shirt which consists of four pieces of fabric sewn together (a sized tube with no side seams, two sleeves, and collar). T-shirts these days may not even have hems! The sleeve and bottom edges are raw and unfinished for that in-your-face, edgy look. An edgy look that won’t hold up in the wearing or the wash.

Price No Indication of Quality

I saw, just the other day in Boscov’s, this fact of construction vs. cost clearly demonstrated. A pair of Isotoner gloves, each consisting of front, back, thumb piece, and three fourchettes each (this is the part of the glove that is the inner piece between each finger that connects the front and the back of the glove), plus decorative trim panels, lining and an inner lining of Thinsulate cost less than half the price of a shawl made of polar fleece that consisted of a rectangle bound in bias tape and with a narrow strip cut out to allow it to go around the neck better. How can this be? The shawl’s construction made it a basic home-ec project! It was made of about one yard of cheap fleece with a few yards of cheap bias tape! Well-sewn gloves are one of the fiddliest, most detail-oriented projects imaginable where there is no margin for error and the seams have to be 1/8 of an inch (or less) and yet still hold tightly.

Whenever I look at the clothing in the stores, I am constantly amazed at how little is being charged for basic garments. Yes, I know many of them aren’t that well sewn (1/4-inch seam margins!) and made of the cheapest fabric. But I know exactly how long it takes to make a basic shirt, and I know that unless I am given the fabric, the pattern, and the notions, I will rarely spend less than ten to fifteen dollars for supplies. And then I will spend hours of my time. The result: a shirt, that if made of basic plain cotton won’t look much different than the Walmart special. I will make it a lot better, it will wear better, and it will fit better, but is that worth the cost of my money and time?

If you want cheaper clothes, you go to the consignment stores, thrift shops and yard sales that cover the country. Or, you pull your clothes from open trash cans, Dumpsters, and piled up on the sidewalk with a “FREE” sign on them. I’ve done all of those things. Don’t let the fact the clothing is dirty or wet stop you. Clothing can always be washed and free garments are well worth playing laundry roulette.

The second-hand clothing market is so enormous that there is no reason to ever buy new clothes again, other than socks, undergarments, and sleepwear. Those items tend to not show up at all, or they are worn almost to rags. Otherwise, some time spent shopping will produce whatever you want: scarves and neckties by the bushel basket, handbags, coats, ball gowns, Fair Isle sweaters, wedding dresses, tuxedos, jeans, jeans, jeans, khakis, velvet, satin, suits, and leather jackets. Whatever you want.

If the regular Goodwill isn’t cheap enough for you, look for their bargain stores. They are more widely scattered but in them, if you are willing to paw through the bins, you pull out your Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger garments and pay for them by the pound. Bargain bin stores also carry bedding, table cloths and draperies of every description. This can become an important source of raw material for projects, so keep an open eye and an open mind when you rummage through a bin.

Hand-Me-Down Networks

Lowest in cost is playing pass-along and hand-me-down. We have been part of several hand-me-down networks, both back in South Carolina and here in Hershey. Older son was once given a huge bag of fancy summer shorts that I would swear had never been worn by the older relative. There were so many pairs of shorts that I split them with a friend and both our boys ended up with twelve new pairs each just for the asking. Of course, when we are finished with a garment, I make sure it’s clean and in good repair and it goes on to live again in someone else’s closet. Any age person can participate in a pass-along loop from babies on up to adults. Never say no to any garment; just pass it along if it doesn’t suit you.

So with this wealth of clothing available to us, why should you do any sewing at all? Because if you really want something that is unique, something that is well made, something that fits well, you have to do it yourself. If your body type is anything other than a standard size and height, or you are not built like a clothes hanger, and you want attractive, well-made, properly fitted garments, you have to go with custom-made. If you have unusual needs, such as maternity wear that doesn’t look like what a five-year-old would wear (peter pan collars and cutsy designs); if you are breastfeeding full time and on demand; if you have a handicap that prevents you from using zippers or buttons; if you need costuming for your steampunk lifestyle; then custom is the way to go.

Next week, we’ll go into the options for getting the look you want.

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You and Your Arsenal

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This one will be short as I can’t recommend any specific type of firearm for anyone. I don’t know enough about the topic to generalize and everyone has different needs. Guns aren’t like Financial Independence. Everyone should work towards Financial Independence no matter what their situation, and it is always done the same way: cut your expenses, pay off your debts, increase your cash flow, distinguish clearly between needs and wants, and say no to a lot of what the culture wants to sell you.

I think that guns are tools like any other, and they can certainly be misused. The difference between an axe and a rifle is you can kill more game animals or people faster with your Winchester and you don’t have to get nearly as close to them to do so. The same is true with your machete, your baseball bat, your cast-iron skillet, and your chef’s knife. Every one of those items, useful as they are, can and has been used to kill people. Cars can be used for this purpose too, although it isn’t their intended function.

So if you decide you want to arm yourself, what should you do? You should go into it, knowing in advance, that gun safety is paramount. Plenty of people have been shot by guns they were sure were unloaded. Good gun safety assumes that the gun is always loaded unless proven otherwise. Every person in your household should be taught gun safety. Take refresher courses regularly. It is easy to get complacent and forget what you learned.

Part of good gun safety is storing them correctly. Don’t skip this part. Make sure your family understands what proper storage is. I don’t think it is a good idea to store your prized Hello Kitty AK-47 in a glass case over the couch where burglars can see it through your living room window.

hello-kitty-rifle

A good gun safety course should address this issue. Ask plenty of questions and follow through on the answers! It doesn’t necessarily help you to learn that you need a locking closed cabinet to put your shotguns in, if you are going to leave them lying around because you haven’t the time or the money to get one.

Using a gun, any kind, means learning how to use it properly. TV and movies are not the way to learn. They teach you that guns never misfire (unless it’s important to the plot), that it’s more effective to fire your pistol holding it sideways (it isn’t), and they never, ever, run out of bullets (they do).

So the first step is to take a gun safety course. This way, you can find out if gun ownership is right for you, learn what may be the right gun for you, and all before you spend any more money or time. The NRA offers gun safety programs of all kinds. Or, ask at the local police station, gun shop or the sporting goods store.

Once you have learned the basics, you still have to practice. Taking the classes and going to the range a few times will not make you an expert. It may make you overconfident instead, leading to mistakes. Just as with driving a car or knitting socks, if you don’t practice a skill regularly, you forget what to do. Using a handgun or a long gun is no different. If you really want to hit your target accurately, every time, you will have to put in the hours on the shooting range. If you want to hit your target, accurately, while in the dark during a home invasion, you really have to practice. Stress and fear do not improve your aim or your skills.

How much time, weekly, should you spend on the shooting range? How proficient do you want to be? Like with everything else, you have to put in the time to train your mind and body. As with driving a car, knitting socks, or playing the piano, you have to teach your muscles what to do, so doing the action becomes more automatic.

This is why professionals practice, practice, and practice some more. And they still make plenty of mistakes. Don’t assume you will do better, with a few hours of training under your belt.

Don’t get caught up in the idea that having a Glock will make you safer, healthier, or more resilient. Having these tools can help you, but you still have to do all the other stuff. That is, having an arsenal (with plenty of ammo!) does not mean you can skip learning how to cook, paying off your debt, learning to food garden, getting active in your community or insulating your house. You still have to do all of those things if you want to make your family more resilient.

Your gun collection is one more tool in your tool box of skills. It doesn’t replace several months of stored food or water. If you have the idea that you will purchase a gun collection so you can take stored food and water from your more careful neighbors, stop right there. This is not just theft. It is the sort of behavior that in a crisis will get you killed. Then your family will be at even greater risk of bad things happening to them and your arsenal may end up with the person you tried to rob.

A common saying in the prepper/survival communities is beans, bullets, and Band-Aids. You will notice that food is listed first. Before you start your gun collection, start your food storage program and your vegetable garden. Learn to cook what you grow and store and learn to preserve what you grow for future needs. Your food needs always come first.

If purchasing guns and ammo will put you into debt (or keep you from paying off debts), then you need to revisit your budget prior to spending any more money. You need the emergency savings cash cushion more than you need another rifle. Guns, like everything else, have associated costs. That is, without plenty of the correct ammunition on hand they are awkward clubs. You also need a gun storage locker and cleaning equipment. Depending on where you live, you may need extra insurance or annual licenses. Don’t forget to include them in your budget.

You have to have your spouse onboard. If your partner objects to having firearms in the house, you need to listen. Some of the objections may be based on fear and ignorance. Is having a gun worth straining your marriage? This is the time for gun safety courses, taken before you lay out any money. Take them with your spouse. Knowledge can go a long way towards relieving fears. The other common objection to starting a gun collection is cost. Again, if you have debts, no emergency cash fund and no food storage, then the gun collection needs to take a back seat to these needs. Take care of those issues and objections to buying a rifle (another expensive, dust-catching toy, in my opinion!) may go away.

So should you buy a gun? It could certainly be the right choice for your household. But do your homework first, and get your family onboard and trained prior to your purchase. Then get started, knowing that guns have a learning curve like everything else and they require regular practice, safe handling, and maintenance to be the useful tool you want them to be.

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The Day P.G. Wodehouse Interviewed Conan Doyle (Punch parody)

Another excerpt from “The Early Punch Parodies of Sherlock Holmes,” only this one has nothing to do with Sherlock, or parodies, or even Punch magazine. But it has everything to do with P.G. Wodehouse and his friend and fellow cricket player, Arthur Conan Doyle.

wodehouse conan doyle

A young Plum Wodehouse, about 1903, thinking of the next thing to write.

In the book’s appendix, I printed this interview from Victoria Cross magazine that Plum conducted, and added this explanation:

Wodehouse left his clerking job at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in September 1902 determined to support himself as a writer. This led to an explosion of short stories, verses and articles, including this interview with Conan Doyle, which was published in V.C. [Victoria Cross] Magazine on July 2, 1903. The article was discovered by Richard Lancelyn Green during his research for his bibliography of Conan Doyle.

I decided to include this to highlight the connection between the two men. Wodehouse was a fan of Sherlock Holmes. He quoted the Canon repeatedly in his stories, and even had a hand in creating the immortal catchphrase “Elementary, my dear Watson,” which I explained in another essay found in the book. Conan Doyle befriended the young Wodehouse and played cricket beside him on a team of authors created by James M. Barrie.

At this time, Wodehouse was already a writing machine, turning out essays, stories, news articles, songs; literally anything anyone was willing to pay for. After a couple years of steady production, he found that stories and songs paid best. He would soon take his talents to America, where he would have a hand in a number of musicals, and eventually, a certain leather-headed hero and his talented butler.

Grit: A Talk With Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

P. G. Wodehouse

One of the reasons why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books make such delightful reading is the vividness and truth of the outdoor episodes in thereof. And the reason of the vividness is that he has had personal experience of the thing of which he writes. Like Mr. Squeers’ boys, he “goes out and does it.” And there can be no doubt that, however much such a feeling may be censured by the superior person, the public likes a man to resemble his books. It is grateful when a writer who can describe a fight like those in “Rodney Stone” and “The Croxley Master” is able to use the gloves in fact as well as fiction, and when the author of a story like “The King of the Foxes” or “The Crime of the Brigadier” is not a merely theoretical huntsman.

Immensely powerful in build, and the keenest of sportsmen, he is the very embodiment of the Man in the Field. There is strength behind everything he does. Whether he is riding straight on the hunting-field, or going in in a bad light to stop a rot, or bowling to break up a long stand at cricket, he does it with the air of a man who gets there. The last time I saw him play was down at Chatham for the Authors against the Royal Engineers. He went on to bowl fourth change, when the score was 220 for four wickets, and the wicket playing like a billiard-table. In his third over he had clean bowled the man who had been doing what he liked with the bowling for two hours, and in another seventy minutes the side was out for 290, and he had taken five wickets for forty-four. He was captain that day. A captain who is capable of bowling like that, and yet does not try his hand till fourth change, is no ordinary man.

One of the few things Sir Arthur has not done in the course of his life is to come down from a balloon in a parachute. And he means to try that some day.

Pluck and Parachutes

“I think the man who first tried coming down in a parachute was the pluckiest man on earth,” he said, “though aeronauts have told me that it is really perfectly safe. I should like to try it, just for the sake of the one great experience. But it must be nervous work stepping over the side of the car for the first time. You must start at least a mile and a half from the earth, and for the first thousand feet I believe you fall like a stone. But I suppose a parachutist gets used to it. Courage is rather a hard thing to judge for that reason. If one sees a man at his own special work for the first time, one is generally impressed by his coolness, especially as, being new to it, one is frightened oneself. The first time I went up in a balloon I was terribly frightened. It was pleasant enough at first, with all the spectators cheering, and so on. But when we had been rising some minutes, and were a mile from the ground, and I looked over the side:— I was never in such a miserable fright in my life. To see people running about, looking the size of dogs, and to feel that there was only a sort of strawberry-basket between me and that! It was a long time before I would let go of the ropes. But after I had been up a little while I became quite used to it, and I suppose that is what happens to everyone. Spencer, the aeronaut, who was with me, struck me as being very brave and cool. I heard one story about him which seemed to me to support this impression. It was while he was in India, in the days before balloons were so common as they are now. Spencer was going to give an exhibition at Calcutta, and thousands of natives had come to see him go up, some of them from a considerable distance. On the day when the ascent was to take place it happened that a tremendous hurricane was blowing. The authorities were in great trouble about it. Word had gone forth that the ascent was to take place on that particular day, and the natives had come in to see him go up. If the ascent was postponed, the faith of the native in the word of an Englishman would be considerably diminished. Spencer saw the point, and up he went, and away he was carried at a hundred miles an hour, and finally came down again in some tiger-haunted spot on the Hoogli, where the people lived up trees to prevent the tigers getting at them. Spencer sat on what was left of his balloon and looked around him, spent the night on the wreck with the tigers, and in the end got help, and came safely back to Calcutta after a journey of a week or more. Yes, he got an ovation when he arrived. That sort of thing is quite different from courage on the field. A soldier is really such a minute atom in such a mighty host that I don’t see how he can be afraid. I have certainly never seen one afraid myself. You see them laughing and cracking jokes all the time that they are under fire. In my experience a man always plays the game as a matter of course. It comes in his day’s work. Cases of cowardice are so rare that one would notice them directly. I must have seen some brave men in the hospitals, but no case in particular stands out in my mind. You expect a doctor to treat a fever-case without thinking of the risk, and the patients are almost without exception equally plucky.”

Some Experiences

“Are any of those stories you told in ‘The Surgeon Talks’ in ‘Round the Red Lamp’ true ones?” I asked.

“Some of them. And they are nearly all founded on fact. They are the sort of thing that might happen.”

“When you were in the whaler in the Arctic, did you see anything particularly brave done?”

“I saw a man climb from one boat to another across the body of a living whale. Perhaps it is hardly what you could call brave, but it was certainly cool, and it is a good instance of how lightly a certain class of men treat danger. This man hauled himself on to the whale’s body by means of a fin, walked across it — a distance of a dozen feet — and jumped into the boat on the further side. Another instance of this curious indifference to danger occurred on a steamer on which I was doctor. I was roused up in the middle of the night by one of the mates, and told to go round to all the passengers and tell them that the ship was on fire. I broke it as gently as I could to the women, but I didn’t mince matters with the men. I told them straight out what had happened. One of the last men to be informed was a Swiss. I went to his bunk and woke him. ‘The ship’s on fire,’ I said; ‘get up.’ ‘I vos often on board ships that vos on fire,’ he said in an uninterested voice, and he turned over and went to sleep again. He seemed more bored than anything else by the news.

“People talk a great deal of nonsense,” said Sir Arthur after a pause, “about the degeneration of the race. The race is all right. I will give you an instance. In the hospital in South Africa there were eighteen assistants, who all came, curiously enough, not only from the same town in Lancashire, but from the same mill. You couldn’t have found eighteen men who looked more degenerate at first sight. They were stunted and ruddled, and didn’t look as if they were good for anything. But they worked splendidly. Fourteen of the eighteen were down with enteric at the same time. You might have expected the others to be frightened. Not a bit of it. They went on doing their work as stolidly as if no such thing as enteric had ever been heard of. All that men like that want is good leading. Then they are as good as anybody.”

Apropos of the soundness of the race, I cannot, I think, conclude this article more fully than by quoting a passage touching on the subject. It comes from “The Surgeon Talks.” It was written some years ago, but apparently Sir Arthur still holds the same views.

“Some people say” (it runs) “that the more one has to do with human nature, and the closer one is brought in contact with it, the less one thinks of it. I don’t believe that those who know most would uphold that view. My own experience is dead against it. I was brought up in the miserable-mortal-clay school of theology, and yet here I am, after thirty years of intimate acquaintance with humanity, filled with respect for it. The evil lies commonly upon the surface. The deeper strata are good.”

The words might be used as a motto for “V.C.” It is exactly these sentiments that we are doing our best to promulgate.

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My Day With Mysteries at the Museum

Now it can be told; nine months later than I wished and about a week later than I should have.

I committed television.

mysteries at the museum between the covers

The Scene of the Crime: Between the Covers Rare Books in Gloucester, N.J.

Early last year, an email appeared in my inbox from a producer from the Travel Channel’s “Mysteries at the Museum” show. They were looking for an Agatha Christie expert to narrate a segment about her 11-day disappearance back in 1926.

They found me instead.

At first, I was reluctant to cop to being an expert. While I’ve researched her life as part of annotating her first two novels, there were people far more qualified to talk about Christie. There are her two biographers Janet Morgan and Laura Thompson. There’s John Curran, who edited and annotated two volumes of her working notebooks. There’s even Jared Cade, who wrote an excellent book about her disappearance, a book that angered Christie’s relatives.

But, they explained, they needed an American expert. “Mysteries at the Museum” is shot in the U.S. They use artifacts from U.S. museums to tell the stories. An American authority they needed.

So on Easter Sunday, I drove to Between the Covers Rare Books in Gloucester, New Jersey, and played an Agatha Christie expert on TV.

I don’t know what was more fun: sitting down to talk about Christie, or meeting bookstore owner Tom Congalton and seeing his precious treasures, such as the Beatles’ “Butcher” album cover, or the first edition “Great Gatsby.”

Mysteries at the Museum Between the Covers Rare Books

With Tom Congalin, owner of Between the Covers Rare Books, holding my non-existent pipe.

Or maybe it was holding his first edition of “Unfinished Portrait,” the novel Christie wrote as Mary Westmacott that described the collapse of her marriage. (It’s still for sale for a modest $700; I’m sure Tom would be happy to talk about it.)

And on Dec. 26, the show’s finale episode led off with “Dial M for Missing,” a 4-minute video clip can be found at the Travel Channel website.

So for most of the year, bound by a contract not to tell, I had to keep quiet about my first appearance on national television. Of course, I screwed it up when, after being told I could talk about it, I didn’t; but that’s on me.

So how am I? Pretty damn good if I say so myself.

Really? Pinky swear?

Truth be told: I haven’t seen it. I haven’t been able to work up the nerve.

I’m sure it’s fine. The “Mysteries” crew were pros at their job, and they handled my commentary as if they dealt with people who had never been on TV before all their lives (which it must seem like sometimes).

Also, they played the odds. My session before the camera took two hours. From the time Agatha published her latest book (“The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”) to the revelation that, despite all that Archie Christie did to her marriage and spirit, she still loved him, and had kept his love letters by her side until her death.

From two hours of film, they needed only about 25 bits of narration and images for a segment that lasted about eight minutes. They shot a lot of material.

Fortunately, I was used to speaking up. I acted in stage plays, gave book readings, and delivered a talk on Christie the previous month at the Mechanicsburg Mystery Bookshop (and I’ll be returning there March 29th to talk about Sherlock Holmes). Even when I speak gibberish, it’s enunciated gibberish.

So I’m sure it’s fine. I just need to have a drink or three first.

As for seeing the episode, I can only suggest checking out the website. I’ll embed their YouTube link to the show below, but I’m not sure how long this will be active. Mine is the first episode.

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RIP: Sherlockian Robert Adey

From Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine, I learned that mystery scholar Robert Adey has died.

Robert Adey

Robert Adey

As part of the 223B Casebook project, I bought a copy of his collection of Sherlockian pastiches “As It Might Have Been” from Calabash Press. He found 38 stories that were published from 1894 to 1958, from obscure sources such as “Amateur Wireless,” “Carry On: The Armstrong Munition Workers’ Christmas Magazine,” “Lika Joko” (a competitor to Punch) and “The Gazette of the Third London General Hospital.” Some of these will appear in the Casebook series, thanks to his ferreting skills worthy of Holmes himself. Even though I’ll never meet him, he will be missed.

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Sherlock Holmes parody: “His Final Arrow” (223B Casebook)

This excerpt from “The Early Punch Parodies of Sherlock Holmes” uses R.C. Lehmann’s Picklock Holes to poke fun at “His Last Bow.”

His Final Arrow

R.C. Lehmann

picklock holes punch sherlock holmes parodyMy name is Potson, as all the world now knows. I am only a poor doctor and suffer from the consequences of a wound received in a border skirmish in Afghanistan many years ago. It is not for any merits of my own that my name has become celebrated, but because I have enjoyed the friendship and the society of the most illustrious and most detective man known to this or any other age. That man, as every reader will have guessed, was Picklock Holes. It was his custom, when engaged on one of those marvellous feats of investigation which made Continents shudder and Scotland Yard grow green with envy, to take me with him, not so much to help him — I never aspired to that — as to be the recipient of his confidences and the foil for his humour. “Potson,” he would say to me, “you are not clever; in fact, not to put too fine a point on it, you’re a fool; but if I want any one to tell me how many beans make five you will do for the job as well as any other man. Of course you ask silly questions, but they don’t worry me now and therefore I can endure you.”

“My dear Holes,” I used to murmur, “I love your quaint harshness and could not do without it. Lead on and wherever you go I’ll follow.”

I am now about to relate the last and perhaps the most striking example of my wonderful friend’s genius. Everyone will remember the sensation that was caused a year or two ago by the discovery that there was a shortage in the accounts of the Food-Controller of one lump of sugar and three standardized bread-crumbs. All kinds of guesses were hazarded to explain the deficiency and to discover the culprit who was responsible for it, but none was successful. It was thought at one time that German spies, whom this country, by the way, has never sufficiently hated, were responsible for the loss; but this supposition proved to be untenable. At last the War Cabinet decided to call in the assistance of Holes, and he, as usual, summoned me to his side. Without a moment’s delay I repaired to the Baker Street room on which Holes had conferred the dignity of his presence. I found him deep in calculations. Without looking up or even responding to my greeting he continued to cover sheets of paper with mysterious formulæ until at last he noticed that I was there.

“Potson,” he said, “we learn from the arithmetic books that nine times twelve is a hundred and eight.”

“Are a hundred and eight,” I ventured to object.

“Brainless chatterer,” he hissed, “is this a time for grammatical subtleties? Can you tell what this is?” and he handed me a fragment of something green.

“It belongs,” I said, looking at it carefully, “to the vegetable kingdom.”

He gave me one of his piercing looks. “Any fool,” he said, “could have told me that. Do you not see that it is a strawberry leaf, and do you not remember that, according to my Detective’s Manual, a strawberry leaf is always a clue of the first importance? Let us proceed. We will eliminate the strawberry and the cream, because there is no cream to be had, and the strawberry has already been eaten, and we then find ourselves brought up against a ducal coronet.”

“Holes,” I said, “you are a perfect marvel.”

He waved me aside and continued: “Proceeding twice, according to the well-known theory of ‘Next Things,’ we find that the next thing to a ducal coronet is a Duke, and the next thing to a Duke is a Marquis. This leaf was found in the back-garden. Therefore it was found outside. Now fetch Who’s Who, and look at this entry, ‘Outside, family name of the Marquis of Bobstay.’ Ah, Henry Brabazon Beltravers, Marquis of Bobstay, I think we have got you fixed at last, and shall bring your career of crime to a close.” In a moment we had flung ourselves into a taxi, and in about ten minutes we had arrived at the palatial mansion of the Marquis of Bobstay. We found his Lordship at home and were ushered into his library. He is a stout man and evidently well fed. Holes grappled with him at once, and after a short struggle produced from the Marquis’s breast-pocket a glistening lump of sugar. The bread-crumbs were discovered in the ticket-pocket of his Lordship’s overcoat. On the following morning the miserable man paid the penalty of his wickedness.

“Holes,” I said, as we came away, “what made you think of this?”

“I never think,” said Holes; “I always know.”

Footnotes


[BACK]From Ruth 1:16, in which Ruth expresses her loyalty to Naomi: “And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”


[BACK]As an island nation that needed to import its food, Britain was vulnerable to Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare during World War I. To help control fears of food hoarding and price gouging, a Food Controller was appointed in 1917 charged with fixing prices, regulating the distribution of food and encouraging homeowners to reduce waste.


[BACK]With the onset of World War I, a coalition government was formed between the Conservative and Liberal parties.


[BACK]In the English peerage, duke is the highest rank, followed by marquess, earl, viscount and baron/baroness.

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The Limited Value of Ideas (part 2)

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Suburban stockade introductionLast week, we talked about ideas and how they’re not worth anything until they are tried out in the real world.

Less sleep, particularly broken sleep, makes me psychotic and suicidal.

Less sleep, particularly broken sleep, makes me psychotic and suicidal.

The same problem of ideas versus reality happens in my kitchen. Wonderful meals that take an hour or more to prepare and get eaten in ten minutes and then the time to clean up afterwards. We have to eat, and when I have other things to do, like trying to write “Her Martian Tiger” to make us some money, the concept of frozen pizza and canned soup becomes very attractive. Is it the best diet? God, no. Quick and convenient and fills the belly? Yes, it does.

Ideas always run into that pesky time-management problem. What do you do first? Which thing takes priority? I have to sleep eight or nine hours a night to remain functional and sane. I found this out the hard way as less sleep, particularly broken sleep, makes me psychotic and suicidal. So I can’t cut back. I have to exercise an hour every day to keep the weight down and the joint pain away. Eating and body hygiene. I’ve lost a lot of my twenty-four hours per day here. Household chores, including errands and grocery shopping. Some time spent on community activities and seeing the friends I claim to care about. More time spent on family members I claim to love. Walking my dog. All that time lost to following up on every idea that I have.

I look at my ideas and try to choose the most important ones to work on, or the ones that seem the most productive. Doing ideas that seem the most interesting can, over time, lead to many, many unfinished projects. I try very hard now to not start new projects without finishing the old ones. The mending pile must be dealt with before I start making my dream collection of fabulous coats and cashmere hats.

I really do want a collection of fabulous coats as a coat is what most people see me wear in the fall, winter, and spring. My coats are my advertisements for my sewing and design skills. Wearing a ratty old coat that I bought at a thrift shop twenty-two years ago does not say: what a great designer and seamstress. It says: this woman doesn’t know how to dress. Is that the image I want to project? Well, no, not really. So the coats move up the work hierarchy. With each beautiful coat design, I have to consider not just the idea — so perfect! so fitted! so unique and eye-catching! — but the reality of the time spent making it, the cost of the materials and whether or not my sewing skills match the idea in my head. And will my idea actually work in the real world? Holding together, being flattering, keeping out the cold? I won’t know that answer until after I spend the hours cutting, pinning, basting, fitting, and sewing. If my ideal coat turns out to not work, then all of that time, money, and life energy are lost. I get some improvements in my skills but it is still annoying to spend ten or twelve hours of my life on something that turns out to be unwearable.

You can’t always tell going into a project if the idea will work or not. You just have to spend the time and energy and then find out at the finish line if the effort put into the idea was worth it. More experience helps, a little, to judge the validity of an idea. I spent the summer making fabric shopping tote bags for the Derry Twp. Winter Arts and Crafts show and I have a much better idea now of what fabrics will work in a purely mechanical sense and which ones won’t. Unfortunately, this particular idea did NOT pan out as we sold only five (!) fabric tote bags out of the 85 I made. Hundreds of hours got put into an idea that didn’t earn its keep.

We also, at the same craft show, sold books that Bill wrote and self-published via Peschel Press. Another interesting experience as it showed very clearly how much of a niche product we were making. Period Sherlock Holmes parody collections, historic mystery annotations, and Victorian poisoners? All fascinating, well-executed ideas that the buying public stayed away from in droves. These books do sell, but they sell far better to specialty buyers at mystery conventions and on-line to a widely scattered audience. At an arts and crafts show where we were one of two book sellers? Our titles weren’t right for the buying audience all around us.

We did not understand this fact when we were getting ready for the show. Was the idea worth the cost of time, money, and life energy? Eventually, all of these books will earn out and then become slow and steady money makers. It’s doubtful if they will ever become breakout bestsellers. But they will sell and they will sell for years to come. We learned a lot about self-publishing. Editing. Book design. What a good cover looks like as opposed to a great cover. All very useful skills to be sure and they will help us with future books. So were those ideas worth it?

What idea would sell better? A globe-trotting Victorian detective? A comic space shuttle novel? A mystery series set in a charming chocolate manufacturing town? The collapse of the United States into warring factions? A series of hot, violent romances set on a terraformed Mars? A vampire hunter and her vampire sister? Fortress Peschel? We won’t know, at all, until after the books are written, rewritten, edited, rewritten again, published and promoted. Then we’ll know if the time, labor, and money was well spent. I suspect (hope) that a hot romance illustrated by a life-size banner of my partially dressed alpha male lead may sell very well indeed to the 2/3 female crowd of shoppers we saw. But I won’t know until I finish the book and try hand-selling it.

ideas

What is an idea really worth? You have to go on faith and experience, and hope for the best.

So we come back around to the beginning. What is an idea really worth? How do you determine if an idea is worth the time, money, and life energy to implement? Much of the time, you can’t tell. You have to go on faith and experience, and hope for the best. I look at my to-do list, try to prioritize the most important things, and take care of the things that are critical (the house will burn down!). I try to figure out if the idea will make money or is it just a fun vanity project. Will the idea help me achieve any of my goals of being financially independent? Self-sufficient? Healthier? Better connected to friends, family, and community?

In the end, every idea comes down to the following set of criteria:

* Is it worth my time, money, and life energy to implement?

* Is it good enough to push aside everything else that I have to do and have already committed to?

* Is the potential to make money good?

* Will it help me and my family?

If the answers are no, then it’s a bad idea. Only you can decide. And afterwards, only you will know if that great idea ended up worth the investment you made in it.

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Punch’s Short Shots at Sherlock

When I was compiling “The Early Punch Parodies of Sherlock Holmes,” I ran into a slight problem that I didn’t realize until after I had finished the book.

While there are parodies in the book, the book isn’t entirely made up of parodies.

223B-Punch-Cover-smallYou see, I had started the project to bring together all of the “Picklock Holes” stories by R.C. Lehmann. That resulted in a manuscript of about 20,000 words. Seventeen stories didn’t take up a lot of room.

That wasn’t a problem. Self-publishing gives you a wide leeway in the size of the product. I could have published these stories and moved on.

But as I was searching through the publicly available PDFs of Punch magazine, I realized that there was more material about Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle than I had realized. There were more parodies, but also briefs in which Holmes or Conan Doyle were the punchline. Holmes also cropped up in book reviews; not just in ACD’s stories, but as a point of comparison with another writer’s detective (nearly always to their detriment).

In all, twenty short articles qualified for publication (in addition to the 17 Lehmann stories, five cartoons, six more parodies, plus a few articles involving Conan Doyle). As humor, they’re of their time. A bit too dry and understated for our taste. Sometimes, the pressure of publishing every week became too much, and it was better to have anything but a blank space in place.

So these items were historical curiosities; a reflection of the culture that created them, and a way of showing ACD’s place in the Victorian world at that moment.

Here are a few, drawn from the book, with the introductions I wrote for them.

When reading the first item, remember that “A Study in Scarlet” had appeared in 1887 and “The Sign of Four” in 1890, and later this year Punch would review the collected “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.” This was only his second appearance in Punch, the first a brief mention of his short story “A Physiologist’s Wife” that had appeared in Blackwood magazine.

The last item, “The De Keyser Case,” makes fun of ACD’s advocacy of spiritualism.

The Fighting ‘Foudroyant’ (1892)

ACD joined in the indignation at the news that one of Admiral Horatio Nelson’s flagships, H.M.S. Foudroyant, was going to be scrapped. Worse, it was going to be sold to a German businessman! The wooden sailing ship was outdated and falling apart, but patriotic Britons considered the sale to a foreigner to be a national insult. On Sept. 12, The Daily Chronicle published a poem from ACD, “For Nelson’s Sake, H.M.S. Foudroyant,” that began:

Who says the Nation’s purse is lean,
Who fears for claim or bond or debt,
When all the glories that have been
Are scheduled as a cash asset?
If times are bleak and trade is slack,
If coal and cotton fail at last,
We’ve something left to barter yet—
Our glorious past.

Punch took up the cause with a poem of its own that was equally full of fire and fervor. It followed ACD’s line of a nation selling off its history and references J.M.W. Turner’s painting of the Temeraire being pulled to the ship-breaker’s yard:

“Great Turner has pictured the old Temeraire
Tugged to her last berth. Why the sun and the air
In that soul-stirring canvas, seem fired with the glory
Of such a brave ship, with so splendid a story!
Well, look on that picture, my lads, and on this!
And — no, do not crack out a curse like a hiss,
But with stout Conan Doyle — he has passion and grip!—
Demand that they give us back Nelson’s old Ship!”

In the end, the anonymous Punch scribe pleaded that the Foudroyant be preserved alongside Nelson’s other flagship Victory:

“While a rag, or a timber, or spar, she can boast,
A place of prime honour on Albion’s coast
Should be hers and the Victory’s! Let us not say,
Like the fish-hucksters, “Memories are cheap, Sir, to-day!”

The campaign succeeded when a British businessman bought the Foudroyant. It was used as a training ship for boys until 1897, when a storm drove it onto the beach at Blackpool. The Foudroyant was broken apart and its wood used for, among other things, furniture, souvenirs, and the wall paneling for the Blackpool football club’s boardroom.

punch sherlock

Wreckage of the H.M.S. Foudroyant on Blackpool beach.

The Sign of Faure (1897)

The shifts and intrigues in European politics made for an excit-ing and sometimes frightening spectator sport before World War I. In this item, Punch plays off the name of French President Felix Faure (1841-1899), who had released anarchists from exile under a general amnesty and recently concluded a pact with Tsarist Russia to counter Germany’s alliance with Austria-Hungary and Italy. Faure is more notoriously famous for dying in office during a tryst with his mistress.

With Apologies to Mr. Conan Doyle. — The G-rm-n Emp-r-r’s latest romance is said to be a startling Nihilist romance entitled “The Sign of Faure.” Orders from Siberia are rushing to Berlin. The Retreat from Moscow is treated with considerable humour, and the Fall of Sevastopol is described as an interesting episode leading up to the liberation of the Sultan of Turkey from the pressure of the Powers and the installation of Count Tolstoi as First President of the Muscovite Republic. But we have no Imperial authorization for making this statement, either from the Neva or the Spree.

Sherlock Punch

Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.

Great Discoverers (1906)

F. Edmonds

As Sherlockians know, ACD appreciated Holmes for bringing him money and popularity, but resented how the stories distracted from what he considered his more lasting work. “Great Discoverers” listed “George Edwardes, the Discoverer of Musical Comedy” and “Alfred Harmsworth, the Discoverer of ‘The Daily Mail’” and this dart.

Sherlock Holmes, the Discoverer of Sir A. Conan Doyle

But for this distinguished detective, Sir A. Conan Doyle might never have been discovered. As it was, he was pottering about in comparative literary obscurity when the great detective, like a sleuth-hound, tracked him down, and revealed him to the admiration of the world. This was probably the greatest feat on the part of the renowned Sherlock Holmes.

The De Keyser Case (1920)

In May 1916, the Crown took over De Keyser’s Royal Hotel in London under the Defense of the Realm Act and converted it into the headquarters of the Royal Flying Corps. When the government claimed it had a royal prerogative not to pay compensation, the owner sued under an 1842 statue. The case was appealed to the House of Lords where it ruled against the government.

Á propos of the De Keyser case: —

“Unfortunately, the Dora regulations against free speech and printing were never taken before the High Court, and our ancestors will wonder at our timidity.”— Daily Herald.

We understand that Sir A. Conan Doyle has already received several urgent messages on the subject.


[BACK] The Defense of the Realm Act 1914 gave the government wide-ranging powers to prosecute the war, including requisitioning buildings for military use, to censor news and commentary, and arrest and imprison anti-war activists.

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