AS there is a traditional connection between literature and licensed premises, I may begin (though it be to my detriment) with a tavern reminiscence. Some years ago, at a highly decorous hour in the evening I got myself into a quiet corner of an old‐fashioned Hampstead house, having it in mind to turn over the pages of an advance copy of a new book in which I took a special interest. I suppose my pre‐occupation looked unsociable. Anyhow, it was remarked by a group of local tradesmen, substantial men all, and one a borough councillor. It was the borough councillor, I think, that checked me. “Well, Mr. C,” he boomed out,—it is a point of London public‐house etiquette, the origin of which would be worth investigation, that you must never take the liberty of addressing a gentleman by his surname but only by its initial—“Well, Mr. C, that must be a very interesting book. Something by old Edgar Wallace, eh?” “No,” I said, “I only wish it were,” and yielded up the book to his outstretched hand. He examined it with the curiosity of an unspoiled savage. “Nice lookin',” he murmured, “but not much in my line o' country, I should say.” Then at the sight of the title‐page he exploded. “Gawd, Mr. C, did you write all this?” I confessed that I had, and at once found myself the object of, I can't say the admiration of the group, but of their profoundest interest. The volume was passed round, fingered and frowned over and returned to me. A few seconds of embarrassed silence followed; but presently the borough councillor thrust his hands well into his trouser pockets, fixed his eyes upon the dim distance of the four‐ale bar, thoughtfully swayed backwards and forwards and spoke. “Well, I don't think I've ever read a book—not in all my life,” he said. His friends breathed something that was too slight to be called a sigh but was unmistakably an inchoate “hear, hear.” The matter then dropped. I stole humbly away, leaving them to continue their wrangle about Chelsea and the Arsenal (or it may have been Jimmy Wilde or the Lincolnshire—I cannot, as Mr. Belloc would say, be positive which).
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