Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"The Man Upstairs" (short story)

The Man Upstairs

Publication notes: The short story itself first appeared simultaneously in the United Kingdom and the United States of America in the March 1910 issues of the Strand and Cosmopolitan magazines (reproduced [here] and [here]), respectively. Each magazine appearance set the story in its country of publication. The story appeared in a collection of the same name published in 1914 by Methuen & Co. As published in book form, the setting is London.

  • the Waukeesy Shoe
  • The Waukeezi Shoe Company Limited of Northampton sold shoes and boots during the first half of the 20th century. Readers unaccustomed to mentally pronouncing ‘walk’ in British fashion may not immediately realize the brand name is a play on ‘walk easy.’ Or at least, I didn’t. This may be both the only time Wodehouse spelled the brand name Waukeezi with a Y, and the only time he felt it necessary to add the classifying noun ‘shoe.’ He more usually preferred to use the brand name as a metonym for foot (or feet): ‘Put the old Waukeesi down with a bang’ as Wodehouse wrote in the Bertie Wooster story ‘Jeeves and the Chump Cyril’ or, more commonly, ‘pick up the old waukeesies,’ (meaning ‘let's go; hurry up’). So far as I have been able to determine, Wodehouse always spelled the brand name with an S, never a Z.
  • My learned friend's manner would be intolerable in an emperor to a black-beetle.
  • What or who is Beverley quoting (or misquoting)? Once upon a time in the British legal history of the 19th century, a judge found to be irksome the lofty manner of a barrister appearing before him, and made the remark. Or it may have been one barrister who made the remark about his opposite number. It was attributed:
    1. in 1888 to an anonymous judge speaking about Richard Bethell, 1st Baron Westbury (1800–1873);1
    2. in 1891 (or possibly 1905) to Sir William Henry Maule (1788–1858) speaking about Sir Creswell Creswell (1794–1863);2 and
    3. in 1908 to Sir Cresswell Creswell speaking about Sir George Mellish (1814–1877).3
    If the various attributions and forms do not convince you that the whole tale is apocryphal, they at least may convince you that, nearly 200 years later, accurate quotation and attribution are not within our grasp. To say nothing of what to make of the fact that the religious reference in the original quotations (‘Heaven’ or ‘Almighty God’) are accurately reflected only in the American periodical publication; it has been amended to ‘an emperor’ in the British published versions (periodical and book).
    1. Thomas Arthur Nash, The Life of Richard Lord Westbury, formerly Lord High Chancellor, Vol. I, (Edinburgh: R. & R. Clark, 1888) notes on page 158: ‘The story which gained some currency that one of the Common Law Judges once appealed to him [Sir Richard Bethell] to be addressed at least as a vertebrate animal, and with as much respect as Heaven might be suppose to show towards a black-beetle, may be dismissed as a ridiculous invention.’ I find it amusing that Nash reports the rumour only to dismiss it, thus ensuring the rumour a publication.
    2. John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, 9th edition, (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1905), reports that the ‘learned friend’ was Sir William Henry Maule's former pupil at Cambridge, Sir Creswell Creswell. The source for the quotation is John Duke Coleridge, first Baron Coleridge (1820–1894), who, in a conversation with a member of the legal profession in the United States, was repeating what Sir William had told Lord Coleridge. ‘My lords, we are vertebrate animals, we are mammalia! My learned friend's manner would be intolerable in Almighty God to a black beetle.’ The 9th edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations may have been published as early as 1891. The 1905 copy so readily available may be only a reprint with a later date rather than a republication.
    3. J. B. Atlay, The Victorian Chancellors, Vol. II, (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1908), quoting Nash's 1888 book, reports in a footnote, ‘I have commonly heard of the appeal being made by Sir Cresswell Cresswell to [Sir George] Mellish.’
  • that story of the people on the island who eked out a precarious livelihood by taking in one another's washing
  • This story had gained currency by the last quarter of the 19th century, but there is no definitive original source. In the 6 August 1887 edition of The Commonweal, William Morris ended an article titled ‘Bourgeois Versus Socialist’ by appearing to attribute the tale to Mark Twain: ‘On the whole, one must suppose that the type of it would be that town (surely in America and in the neighbourhood of Mark Twain) that I have heard of, whose inhabitants lived by taking in each other's washing.’ George Bernard Shaw references the story in 1889, and Lewis Carroll does the same in his preface to the fourth edition to his Symbolic Logic (1897).