Wodehouse submits to an Editor

In my recent illness, I have been reading large quantities or gobs of the early P. G. Wodehouse. A few years ago, Golgotha Press, a firm of whose existence I until recently remained culpably unaware, released a vast compendium of thirty-odd Wodehouse books which had fallen into the public domain, for the derisory price of a dollar. (You can find them on iTunes if you search for Wodehouse, but the collection does not appear to be available on Amazon.) Under U.S. copyright law, I am told, anything published before 1923 is fair game, and I have been dining these many days on aged roast Wodehouse.

If anybody wants to know what it was like for Wodehouse, as a short-story writer in the early years of the twentieth century, to submit his work to a magazine, the process was essentially the same as it is today. Observe the following account:

After we had sent in our card and waited for a few hours in the marbled ante-room, a bell rang and the major-domo, parting the priceless curtains, ushered us in to where the editor sat writing at his desk. We advanced on all fours, knocking our head reverently on the Aubusson carpet.

‘Well?’ he said at length, laying down his jewelled pen.

‘We just looked in,’ we said, humbly, ‘to ask if it would be all right if we sent you an historical story.’

‘The public does not want historical stories,’ he said, frowning coldly.

‘Ah, but the public hasn’t seen one of ours!’ we replied.

The editor placed a cigarette in a holder presented to him by a reigning monarch, and lit it with a match from a golden box, the gift of the millionaire president of the Amalgamated League of Working Plumbers.

‘What this magazine requires,’ he said, ‘is red-blooded, one-hundred-per-cent dynamic stuff, palpitating with warm human interest and containing a strong, poignant love-motive.’

‘That,’ we replied, ‘is us all over, Mabel.’

‘What I need at the moment, however, is a golf story.’

‘By a singular coincidence, ours is a golf story.’

‘Ha! say you so?’ said the editor, a flicker of interest passing over his finely-chiselled features. ‘Then you may let me see it.’

He kicked us in the face, and we withdrew.

—P. G. Wodehouse, ‘The Coming of Gowf’
(collected in The Clicking of Cuthbert)

All just as it is now, right down to the golden matchbox.

Comments

  1. I don’t use the phrase “That is us all over, Mabel” nearly as much as I should in my daily life.

  2. And the kick in the face. PS – did you know that the term for who decided if a Roman
    gladiator lived or died was an “editor?”

  3. The ‘submission’ part of sending stories in to a publisher is vastly overrated – and the humiliation excessive considering the acceptance rate. Self-publishing detours around some of that, though nasty reviewers can still leave a black and blue mark on your sould.

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