Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ashley Sterne 1915 Punch Articles Part 1


Here are the first two of the five Ashley Sterne articles published in 1915 by the magazine Punch, or the London Charivari.  By the way, I found "charivari" to be an interesting word.  Wikipedia says:

"Charivari (or shivaree or chivaree, also called "rough music") is the term for a French folk custom in which the community gave a noisy, discordant mock serenade, also pounding on pots and pans, at the home of newlyweds. The loud, public ritual evolved to a form of social coercion, for instance, to force an as-yet-unmarried couple to wed. This type of social custom arose independently in many rural village societies, for instance also in England, Italy, Wales or Germany, where it was part of the web of social practices by which the small communities enforced their standards.

The community used noisemaking and parades to demonstrate disapproval, most commonly of "unnatural" marriages and remarriages, such as a union between an older widower and much younger woman, or the too early re-marriage by a widow or widower. Villages also used charivari in cases of adulterous relationships, wife beaters, and unwed mothers."

Ashley Sterne's article "A Forced March" was published on January 20, 1915.  It is a comic look at the practice of walking for the sake of exercise, and could easily be updated and applied to our present era.

The article "Raising the Wind" was published on March 24, 1915 and takes as its setting the recruiting of British soldiers for the Great War.  Hints of seriousness and urgency underlie the article's light tone.


A Forced March

By Ashley Sterne

Petherby recommended route-marching; said he used to suffer from sensations of repletion after heavy meals, just as I did, but, after a series of Saturday afternoons spent in route-marching through our picturesque hill country (Herne, Brixton, Denmark and so forth), the distressing symptoms completely vanished, and he now felt as right as a trivet.

I hadn't a ghost of a notion what a trivet was, nor yet what degree of rectitude was expected of it; but I nevertheless determined to try the route-march cure. Bismuth and pepsin should henceforth be drugs in the market as far is I was concerned. The only doubt in my mind was whether, technically speaking, I could perform a route-march all by myself. Somehow I thought etiquette demanded the presence of a band, or at any rate a drum and fife obbligato. But Petherby thought not, and declared it would prove just as effective rendered as a solo. " Besides," he added, "if you want music to invigorate you, you can whistle or hum. Moreover, you can switch the music on or off at will."

I resolved to start the treatment the following Saturday afternoon, and certainly should have done so but for the weather, which was very moist. If there 's one thing I hate more than dyspepsia it's rheumatism. The next Saturday was fine – fine for a Saturday, that is; but a well meant gift of tickets for a matinee, which it would have been churlish of me to refuse, robbed me of my prospective enjoyment. However, Saturday of the week after was also fine.  Nothing stood in the way of my pleasurable tramp, and I determined to route-march home from the City.

I spent two hours in ill-concealed impatience – the marker told me he had never seen me put up such a poor game – waiting to see if the weather would change.  But as at the expiration of that time it had apparently got stuck I decided to risk it.

Softly humming to myself, "Here we are again," I route-marched out of the hotel into Bishopsgate in fine style, and got on to a bus bound for the Bank (I did this to save time).  Arrived at the Bank I took another bus to Blackfriars (I did this to save more time.  I thought it would be nice to commence the march from the Embankment).  When I reached Blackfriars I remembered that all the big walks started from the political end, so as I did not wish to assume any superiority which I did not strictly possess I took the tram to Westminster.  There I alighted and was about to set off over Westminster Bridge when it occurred to me that I hadn't had any tea.  To route-march on an empty stomach was, I felt sure, the height of folly.  I therefore repaired to a tea-shop in the vicinity, where I encountered young Pilkington.  We discussed Kitchener and crumpets, training and tea, the Kaiser and cake, and with a little adroitness I managed to bring in the subject of the medicinal value of route-marching.  When I rose to go Pilkington inquired my destination.

"Norbury," I told him.

"That's lucky," he said; "I shall be able to give you a lift in a taxi as far as Kennington."

In vain I expostulated with him, and urged that I was route-marching, not route-cabbing.  But he wouldn't listen.

"Anyhow," he concluded, "it's most dangerous to march just after a crumpet tea.  Haven't you read your 'Infantry Training'?"

The upshot of the matter was that we taxied to Kennington, where at last I managed to leave him.  And then I began to feel tired.  True, I hadn't done any marching, but it was none the less true that I felt as tired as if I had.  However, I succeeded in struggling on for about fifty yards (to the tune of Handel's Largo), and then I boarded a tram.  It had only proceeded a quarter-of-a-mile or so when the current failed and we all had to get out.  I waited for half-an-hour for a fresh batch of current to arrive, but none came, and I realised that my best course would be to walk to Brixton Station and procure a cab.

Accordingly, to the melody of "I don't expect to do it again for months and months and months," I put my best foot forward.  It was a moot point which of my two feet merited this distinction; they both felt deplorably senile.  Then it began to rain – no mere niggardly sprinkling, but a lavish week-end cataclysm.  I reached the station in the condition known to chemists as a saturated solution, only to find that there was not a cab on the rank.  I was therefore compelled to adopt the only means of transport left to me – to route-march home....

I ultimately staggered in at my gate at an advanced hour of the evening to the strains of the opening bars of Tschaikowski's Pathetic Symphony, whistling mentally.  I was far beyond making the actual physical effort.

That night I wrote a postcard to Petherby.  It ran as follows:–  "Have just completed your course of treatment.  Am cured."

*          *          *


Raising the Wind

By Ashley Sterne

There is little doubt that our Recruiting Band has done yeoman service at our Thursday evening Recruiting Campaigns, and it would do even better if it only possessed a bass tuba. We have lots of bandsmen who play top and middle music, but only one (a euphonium) who plays ground-floor music. This is scarcely surprising when you come to think that low notes are much more expensive to produce than high ones. You can buy a very good cornet for two pounds, but in order to produce exactly the same notes as the cornet a few feet lower you have to invest in a bass tuba that may cost you six times as much.

All this was admirably explained by Mr. Fogge (the bandmaster), who one evening, when the Overture to William Tell had been rendered without any bass at all (owing to the indisposition of the euphonium), mounted the plinth of the drinking-fountain round which our campaign rages, and asked " our public-spirited fellow-townsmen " for more practical support for the band. In a powerful peroration he pointed out the increasing need for a bass tuba, and pleaded with a possible philanthropist in the crowd to earn his country's undying gratitude by supplying the deficiency.

Unfortunately, in the report of the proceedings which appeared in The Poppleton Argus, "tuba" was spelt "tuber," with the result that the Vicar, who goes in for market-gardening on an extended scale, sent to the band's headquarters the largest potato he could find.

This was literally the only fruit of Mr. Fogge's stirring appeal,-and finally it devolved on me (I am only the hon. treasurer of the band, not an executant) to devise some other means of obtaining the money. To accept the offer of our senior curate to lecture on John Bunyan would, I felt sure, merely defeat my object. Happily I saw in The Times what I considered to be a highly novel and ingenious method of making an appeal for charity. I therefore despatched to the office of The Argus the following paragraph: "Will every 'Huggins' in Poppleton join together to provide an urgently required instrument for our Recruiting Band?  Write, etc., etc."

This, I thought, would be sure to attract the necessary money, as Huggins is the name in Poppleton, just as Rees or Jenkins is in Swansea.  Judge, then, of my annoyance when, on opening the paper, I found that the wretched printer had made my advertisement read, "Will every Juggins, etc., etc."  I need scarcely say that the result was nil; though one dear old lady (who apologised for her name being Brigginshaw and not Juggins), having misinterpreted my appeal, forwarded me a Surgical Aid letter.  My failure was all the more galling since there was a similar notice in the paper asking all the "Jemimas" of the neighbourhood to subscribe towards the purchase of cigars for all our Tommies who didn't like cigarettes.  The notion was obviously not so novel as I had imagined it.  Anyhow, I subsequently learned that the "Jemima" money subscribed would have been sufficient to buy a bass tuba, a tenor trombone, and the best part of a French horn.  I wanted to try again by addressing my appeal to all the "Williams" and "Johns," but Mr. Fogged said, No; all the Williams and Johns had already been bled for Christmas crackers for the Canadians.  He said we didn't want a bass tuba as badly as all that.

Then one day a bright idea struck me.  I devised another appeal, and took it down by hand myself to the office of The Argus.  To ensure its being correctly printed I offered them double rates to be allowed to see a proof of it.  They told me such a course was not usual.  I told them that their mistakes were also somewhat out of the ordinary, and I eventually got my way.  The appeal was worded: –

"Will all our townsfolk who are relatives (however distant) of, or connected by marriage (however remotely) with, persons of rank or title, contribute to a fund now being raised to provide our Recruiting Band with a much-needed bass tuba?  A list of all subscribers, together with the names of their relatives or connections, will be duly published in these columns.  Write, etc., etc."

The success of my appeal was instantaneous.  We could have bought a large proportion of the London Symphony Orchestra with the proceeds.  Not only did we purchase the biggest, bassest, most sonorous tuba that money could command, but we had sufficient funds in hand to engage the services of a tubaist to play it – a desideratum that had previously been overlooked.  We are now doing great business with our band, and I do not hesitate to say that if Lord Kitchener succeeds in getting all the recruits he wants it will be largely due to the generosity of 89 of his second-cousins thrice removed, 57 connexions-by-marriage of Sir John French, and 142 step-nephews-in-law of His local Grace the Duke of Podmore and Lumpton.

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