3470

WODEHOUSE, P.G.

1p. TLS Discussing the Publication of The Harmonica Mystery and Something Fresh

New York: N.p., 1915


1p. TLS. Office annotations in pencil and red ink. Very faint folds from original postage (envelope not present). Lightly browned, but very well preserved.


1p. TLS FROM P.G. WODEHOUSE (SIGNED 'STEVE'), ALMOST CERTAINLY TO HIS FORMER CONTACT AT MUNSEY'S MAGAZINE BOB DAVIS (ADDRESSED HERE AS 'SQUIRE'), 15 MARCH 1915, DISCUSSING PUBLICATION OF THE HARMONICA MYSTERY AND SOMETHING FRESH, THE FIRST BLANDINGS NOVEL.

The Harmonica Mystery was first published in All-Story Cavalier Weekly of New York on 13 March 1915 [McIlvaine D2.1] -- two days before the date of this letter. Clearly this had caused some confusion, with Wodehouse believing the story had been embargoed for the time being:

'Touching that 'Harmonica Mystery' thing, don't you remember my calling you up from 27th Street and saying 'May I have the English rights'? To which you replied that I was a hog, but that I might. I then sent the story over to England, and it was accepted by Pearson's magazine. They wanted to use it in their Christmas number, so I called and asked if it would be all right about simultaneous publication. [...] If you hunt through the archives, you will find that letter. It was one of my polished, courtly letters, thanking you and just registering the fact that you had consented to postpone publication. Surely you remember?'

(The story was not in the event published by Pearson's, and did not appear again after its first publication until June 1955, in The Saint Detective Magazine [McIlvaine D57.2].)

In the letter Wodehouse goes on to discuss the imminent serialised publication in the Saturday Evening Post of his new novel, Something New[McIlvaine D59.1-8]:

'I have just put my new novel over as a serial with the Saturday Evening Post. It was that 'stolen scarab' thing of which you saw the synopsis, but which you didn't care for. I improved a whole lot on the scenario, and it is now a pretty good story.'

Something New was the first of Wodehouse's work to appear in the Saturday Evening Post, the start of a long, successful and highly lucrative association for both parties. It was also an early success for Wodehouse's new US literary agent, Paul Reynolds, who was responsible for placing the novel with George Lorimer's flagship magazine. And it was a seismic event for readers then and now: Something New was the book introduced Lord Emsworth, Blandings Castle and the porcine Empress to the world.

The recipient of the letter was almost certainly Bob Davis of Munsey's Magazine, publishers in 1913 and 1914 of The Little Nugget and The White Hope respectively [McIlvaine D41.1 and D41.2]. In a letter written in 1964 to David Magee, Wodehouse remembers '...when Bob Davis edited the Munsey pulps and we young authors used to go to him for plots. He would take a turn around the room and come up with a complete plot for a serial, usually horrible but of course saleable to Munsey's! He gave me the plot of [The White Hope] and I wrote it, but I have never thought highly of it...'. The White Hope (later expanded and published in book form as Their Mutual Child [New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919] and as The Coming of Bill [London: Herbert Jenkins, 1920]) features a character called Steve Dingle, a retired boxer, in the habit of addressing people as 'Squire' ('Excuse me, squire', said Steve, 'I've been playing the part of Rubberneck Rupert in that little drama you've just been starring in...').

The letter's markings show that it was filed in Munsey's records upon receipt, with 'Steve' identified as Wodehouse in pencil alongside the signature, and another pencilled note recording that a copy was sent to someone referred to be their initials. In the top right corner, in red ink, partly overwritten with ticks and deletions in pencil (and thus only partly legible) a note reads: 'File -- Wodehouse. [three illegible words] make copy of Wodehouse l[etter] for rights file return all papers to Mr. D [illegible initials].'

A remarkable survivor, written just as Wodehouse was about to become rich, famous, and immortal.




Keywords: P.G. WODEHOUSE"

£1,750.00


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