Monday, March 31, 2003

[3/31/2011] Part 2 of "The Young Immigrunts" -- Still en route to "Shut up he explained" (continued)


"Wasnt it funny that we should happen to see Mrs. Heywood in Utica said my mother at lenth.

"They live there dont they my father replid.

"Why yes my mother replid.

"Well then my father replid the real joke would of been if we had of happened to see her in Auburn."

-- from Chapter 6 of "The Young Immigrunts"

Just a reminder of the Lardner family chronology. In 1919, when the great eastward migration took place, the ages of the four sons of Ring and Ellis Lardner were: John, 7; James, 5; Ring Jr., 4; and David, just recently born. in his book The Lardners, Ring Jr. tells us that The Young Immigrunts --

was factually based on the automobile trip Ring and Ellis took with John, aged seven, while we three younger boys traveled by train with Miss Feldman. But Ring, wanting to tell the story from a child's standpoint and still have the sales value of his own name on the book, transferred me to the car and John to the train so the work could be credited to "Ring W. Lardner, Jr. -- With a Preface by the Father." The fact that I was only four also served to broaden his parody of a current book, The Young Visiters, that was attributed to a nine-year-old English girl, Daisy Ashford, with an introduction by J. M. Barrie. Ring obviously felt that Barrie or some other adult writer had contributed more than editorial supervision.

The Young Immigrunts is a skillful parody that also stands up by itself, and though most of its admirers have been aware it was making fun of another book, few have found it necessary to read the original. When you do, two interesting things emerge. One is the thoroughness of the parody: Ring adopted Miss Ashford's style in considerable detail with mild exaggerations.

[Substantial excerpts from both books are offered.]

The other revelation to the Lardner fan is how risqué for its time Miss Ashford's book is. Its humor, quite unconscious if you accept it (and I do) as the work of a preadolescent, depends a good deal on the author's innocence concerning the sexual matters she deals with, and I believe this slightly salacious flavor ofFended Ring's prudishness and made him overly suspicious of how such a deplorable effect had been achieved.

For me this answers a bunch of questions. As you can guess, this theme of his father's prudishness is a constant for Ring Jr. In addition, he's unquestionably right about "the thoroughness of the parody" of Daisy Ashford's The Young Visiters, and I think perhaps tomorrow night we'll take a look at the sample of the latter he presents. I think you'll find it uncannily familiar.

By the way, in the book Ring Jr. says clearly that his own memories begin in Greenwich, and so for earlier events he's dependent on family sources.

For now, we still have a long way to go if we hope to get to Grenich Conn by tomorrow night. Here, then, is --

The Young Immigrunts
Part 2 of 3

Chapter 6


Soon we was on Genesee st in Syracuse but soon turned off a blk or 2 and puled up in front of a hotel that I cant ether spell or pronounce besides witch they must of been a convention of cheese sculpters or something stoping there and any way it took the old man a hour to weedle a parler bed room and bath out of the clerk and put up a cot for me.

Wilst we was enjoying a late and futile supper in the hotel dinning room a man named Duffy reckonized my father and came to our table and arsked him to go to some boxing matchs in Syracuse that night.

Thanks very much said my father with a slite sneeze but you see what I have got on my hands besides witch I have been driveing all day and half to start out again erly in the morning so I guess not.

Between you and I dear reader my old man has been oposed to pugilisms since the 4 of July holycost. [The reference, again, is to the championship bout in which Jack Dempsey knocked out Jess Willard to claim the heavyweight title. Ring, who routinely bet on sporting events he was covering as a sportswriter and felt it didn't affect his reportorial objectivity, had bet on Willard. -- Ed.]

Who is that man arsked my mother when that man had gone away.

Mr. Duffy replid my father shove the ketchup over this way.

Yes I know he is Mr. Duffy but where did you meet him insisted my mother quaintly.

In Boston my father replid where would a person meet a man named Duffy.

When we got up the next morning it was 6 o'clock and purring rain but we eat a costly brekfus and my father said we would save time if we would all walk down to the garage where he had horded the car witch he stated was only 2 short blks away from the hotel. Well if it was only 2 short blks why peaple that lives next door to each other in Syracuse are by no means neighbors and when we got there the entire party was soping wet and rarther rabid.

We will all catch our death of cold chuckled my mother.

What of it explained my old man with a dirty look at the sky.

Maybe we would better put up the curtains sugested my mother smirking.

Maybe we wouldnt too said my father cordialy.

Well maybe it will clear up said my mother convulsively.

Maybe it wont too replid my father as he capered into the drivers seat.

My father is charming company wilst driveing on strange roads through a purring rain and even when we past through Oneida and he pronounced it like it was a biscuit neither myself or my mother ventured to correct him but finely we reached Utica when we got to witch we puled up along side the kerb and got out and rang ourselfs out to a small extent when suddenly a closed car sored past us on the left.

Why that was Mrs. Heywood in that car explained my mother with a fierce jesture. By this time it was not raining and we got back into the car and presently over took the closed car witch stoped when they reckonized us.

And witch boy is this quired Mrs. Heywood when the usual compliments had been changed.

This is the third he is named for his father replid my mother forceing a smile.

He has his eyes was the comment. Bill dont you remember Mrs. Heywood said my mother turning on me she use to live in Riverside and Dr. Heywood tended to you that time you had that slite atack of obesity.

Well yes I replid with a slite accent but did not add how rotten the medicine tasted that time and soon we was on Genesee st on our way out of Utica.

I wander why they dont name some of their sts Genesee in these eastren towns said my father for the sun was now shining but no sooner had we reached Herkimer when the clouds bersed with renude vigger and I think my old man was about to say we will stop here and have lunch when my mother sugested it herself.

No replid my father with a corse jesture we will go on to Little Falls.

It was raining cats and dogs when we arived at Little Falls and my father droped a quaint remark.

If Falls is a verb he said the man that baptized this town was a practicle joker.

We will half to change our close replid my mother steping into a mud peddle in front of the hotel with a informal look.

When we had done so we partook of a meger lunch and as it was now only drooling resumed our jurney.

They soked me 5 for that room said my father but what is a extra sokeing or 2 on a day like this.

I didnt mean for you to get a room said my mother violently.

Where did you want us to change our close on the register said my old man turning pail.

Wasnt it funny that we should happen to see Mrs. Heywood in Utica said my mother at lenth.

They live there dont they my father replid.

Why yes my mother replid.

Well then my father replid the real joke would of been if we had of happened to see her in Auburn.

A little wile latter we past a grate many signs reading dine at the Big Nose Mountain Inn.

Rollie Zeider never told me they had named a mountain after him crid my father and soon we past through Fonda.

Soon we past through Amsterdam and I guess I must of dosed off at lease I cant remember anything between there and Schenectady and I must apologize to my readers for my laps as I am unable to ether describe the scenery or report anything that may of been said between these 2 points but I recall that as we entered Albany a remark was adrest to me for the first time since lunch.

Bill said my mother with a ½ smirk this is Albany the capital of New York state.

So this is Albany I thorght to myself.

Who is governor of New York now arsked my mother to my father.

Smith replid my father who seams to know everything.

Queer name said my mother sulkily.

Soon we puled up along side a policeman who my father arsked how de we get acrost the river to the New York road and if Albany pays their policemans by the word I'll say we were in the presents of a rich man and by the time he got through it was dark and still drooling and my old man didnt know the road and under those conditions I will not repete the conversation that transpired between Albany and Hudson but will end my chapter at the city limits of the last named settlemunt.

Chapter 7


We were turing gaily down the main st of Hudson when a man of 12 years capered out from the side walk and hoped on the runing board.

Do you want a good garage he arsked with a dirty look.

Why yes my good man replid my father tenderly but first where is the best hotel.

I will take you there said the man.

I must be a grate favorite in Hudson my father wispered at my mother.

Soon foiling the mans directions we puled up in front of a hotel but when my father went at the register the clerk said I am full tonight.

Where do you get it around here arsked my father tenderly.

We have no rooms replid the senile clerk paying no tension to my old mans remark but there is a woman acrost the st that takes loggers.

Not to excess I hope replid my father but soon we went acrost the st and the woman agrede to hord us for the night so myself and mother went to our apartmunts wilst my father and the 12 year old besought the garage. When we finley got reunited and went back to the hotel for supper it was past 8 oclock as a person could of told from the viands. Latter in front of our loggings we again met the young man who had welcomed us to Hudson and called my father to 1 side.

There is a sailer going to spend the night here he said in a horse wisper witch has walked all the way from his home Schenectady and he has got to report on his ship in New York tomorrow afternoon and has got no money so if he dont get a free ride he will be up vs it.

He can ride with us replid my father with a hiccup if tomorrow is anything like today a sailer will not feel out of place in my costly moter.

I will tell him replid the man with a corse jesture. Will you call us at ½ past 5 my mother reqested to our lanlady as we entered our Hudson barracks.

I will if I am awake she replid useing her handkerchief to some extent.

Latter we wandered how anybody could help from being awake in that hot bed of mones and grones and cat calls and caterwauls and gulish screaks of all kinds and tho we had rose erly at Syracuse and had a day of retchedness we was all more than ready to get up when she wraped on our door long ere day brake.

Where is that sailer that stoped here last night quired my father as we was about to make a lordly outburst.

He wouldnt pay his bill and razed hell so I kicked him out replid the lanlady in her bear feet.

Without farther adieu my father payed his bill and we walked into the dismul st so I will end this chapter by leaveing the fare lanlady flaping in the door way in her sredded night gown.

TOMORROW NIGHT in Part 3 of "The Young Immigrunts": Our migrants finally make it to the Bureau of Manhattan, but that's not their final destination. They still have to find Grenitch Conn, where there new home is, and that final leg of the journey proves surprisingly difficult.



Sunday, March 30, 2003

Part 1 of "The Young Immigrunts" -- The road to "Shut up he explained" (continued)


The trip east had to await the completion of the 1919 World Series, which the Father's job required him to cover. He rejoined the family in a foul mood, according to the narrator, having bet on the White Sox.

"We will stop at Ypsilanti for supper said my father in calm tones that is where they have the state normal school.

"I was glad to hear this and hoped we would get there before dark as I had always wanted to come in contack with normal peaple and see what they are like and just at dusk we entered a large size town and drove past a large size football field.

"Heavens said my mother this must be a abnormal school to have such a large football field. . . ."

-- from Chapter 2 of "The Young Immigrunts"

The Young Immigrunts
Part 1 of 2 3


The person whose name is signed to this novel was born on the nineteenth day of August, 1915, and was therefore four years and three months old when the manuscript was found, late in November, 1919. The narrative is substantially true, with the following exceptions:

1. "My Father," the leading character in the work, is depicted as a man of short temper, whereas the person from whom the character was drawn is in reality as pleasant a fellow as one would care to met and seldom has a cross word for any one, let alone women and children.

2. The witty speeches accredited to "My Father" have, possibly owing to the limitations of a child's memory, been so garbled and twisted that they do not look half so good in print as they sounded in the open air.

3. More stops for gas were made than are mentioned in the story.

As the original manuscript was written on a typewriter with a rather frayed ribbon, and as certain words were marked out and others handwritten in, I have taken the liberty of copying the entire work with a fresh ribbon and the inclusion of the changes which the author indicated in pencil in the first draft. Otherwise the story is presented to the reader exactly as it was first set down.


Chapter 1


Jack Dempsey knocks out Jess Willard, July 1919.

My parents are both married and ½ of them are very good looking. The balance is tall and skiny and has a swarty complexion with moles but you hardily ever notice them on account of your gaze being rapped up in his feet which would be funny if brevvity wasnt the soul of wit. Everybody says I have his eyes and I am glad it didnt half to be something else tho Rollie Zeider the ball player calls him owl eyes for a nick name but if I was Rollie Zeider and his nose I wouldnt pick on somebodys else features.

He wears pretty shirts which he bought off of another old ball player Artie Hofman to attrack tension off of his feet and must of payed a big price for them I heard my ant tell my uncle when they thorght I was a sleep down to the lake tho I guess he pays even more for his shoes if they sell them by the frunt foot.

I was born in a hospittle in Chicago 4 years ago and liked it very much and had no idear we were going to move till 1 day last summer I heard my mother arsk our nurse did she think she could get along O. K. with myself and 3 brothers John Jimmie and David for 10 days wilst she and my old man went east to look for a costly home.

Well yes said our nurse barshfully.

I may as well exclaim to the reader that John is 7 and Jimmie is 5 and I am 4 and David is almost nothing as yet you might say and tho I was named for my father they call me Bill thank God. [Again, note that the ages exactly match those of the Lardner sons in 1919: John, born 1912; James, born 1914; Ring Jr. (known as Bill), born 1915; and David, born that very year. -- Ed.]

The conversation amungst my mother and our nurse took place right after my father came back from Toledo where Jack Dempsey knocked Jessie Willard for a gool tho my father liked the big fellow and bet on him.

David was in his bath at the time and my mother and our nurse and myself and 2 elder brothers was standing around admireing him tho I notice that when the rest of the family takes their bath they dont make open house of the occassion.

Well my parents went east and dureing their absents myself and brothers razed hell with David on the night shift but when they come back my mother said to the nurse were they good boys.

Fine replid our nurse lamely and where are you going to live.

Connecticut said my mother.

Our nurse forced a tired smile.

Here we will leave my parents to unpack and end this chapter.

Chapter 2


Ypsilanti? Ann Arbor? It's so easy to get them mixed

We spent the rest of the summer on my granmother in Indiana and my father finley went to the worst series to write it up as he has followed sports of all sorts for years and is a expert so he bet on the wite sox and when he come home he acted rarther cross. [This would of course have been the famous Black Sox Scandal, bankrolled by New York mobster Arnold Rothstein, in which a group of members of the American League champion Chicago White Sox threw the World Series to the National League champion Cincinnati Reds. -- Ed.]

Well said my mother simperingly I suppose we can start east now.

We will start east when we get good and ready said my father with a lordly sneeze.

The next thing was how was we going to make the trip as my father had boughten a new car that the cheepest way to get it there was drive it besides carrying a grate deal of our costly bagage but if all of us went in it they would be no room left for our costly bagage and besides 2 of my brothers always acts like devils incarnite when they get in a car so my mother said to our nurse.

If you think you can manage the 2 older boys and David on the train myself and husband will take Bill in the car said my mother to our nurse.

Fine replid our nurse with a gastly look witch my mother did not see.

Myself and parents left Goshen Indiana on a fine Monday morning leaveing our nurse and brothers to come latter in the weak on the railway. Our plans was to reach Detroit that night and stop with my uncle and ant and the next evening take the boat to Buffalo and thence to Connecticut by motor so the first town we past through was Middlebury.

Elmer Flick the old ball player use to live here said my father modestly.

My mother forced a smile and soon we were acrost the Michigan line and my mother made the remark that she was thirsty.

We will stop at Coldwater for lunch said my father with a strate face as he pulls most of his lines without changeing expressions.

Sure enough we puled up to 1 side of the road just after leaveing Coldwater and had our costly viands of frid chicken and doughnuts and milk fernished by my grate ant and of witch I partook freely.

We will stop at Ypsilanti for supper said my father in calm tones that is where they have the state normal school.

I was glad to hear this and hoped we would get there before dark as I had always wanted to come in contack with normal peaple and see what they are like and just at dusk we entered a large size town and drove past a large size football field.

Heavens said my mother this must be a abnormal school to have such a large football field. My father wore a qeer look. This is not Ypsilanti this is Ann Arbor he crid. But I thorght you said we would go south of Ann Arbor and direct to Ypsilanti said my mother with a smirk.

I did say that but I thorght I would surprise you by comeing into Ann Arbor replid my father with a corse jesture. Personly I think the surprise was unanimous. Well now we are here said my mother we might as well look up Bill.

Bill is my uncle Bill so we stoped at the Alfa Delt house and got him and took him down to the hotel for supper and my old man called up Mr. Yost the football coach of the Michigan football team and he come down and visited with us.

What kind of a team have you got coach said my father lamely.

I have got a determined team replid Mr. Yost they are determined to not play football.

At this junction my unlucky mother changed the subjeck to the league of nations and it was 10 o'clock before Mr. Yost come to a semi colon so we could resume our journey and by the time we past through Ypsilanti the peaple was not only subnormal but unconsius. It was nerly midnight when we puled up in frunt of my ants and uncles house in Detroit that had been seting up since 7 expecting us.

Were sorry to be so late said my mother bruskly.

Were awfully glad you could come at all replid my ant with a ill consealed yawn.

We will now leave my relitives to get some sleep and end this chapter.

Chapter 3


The boat leaves Detroit every afternoon at 5 oclock and reachs Buffalo the next morning at 9 tho I would better exclaim to my readers that when it is 9 oclock in Buffalo it is only 8 oclock in Goshen for instants as Buffalo peaple are qeer.

Well said my father the next morning at brekfus I wander what time we half to get the car on the board of the boat.

I will find out down town and call up and let you know replid my uncle who is a engineer and digs soors or something.

Sure enough he called up dureing the fornoon and said the car must be on the board of the boat at 3 oclock so my father left the house at 2 oclock and drove down to the worf tho he had never drove a car in Detroit before but has nerves of steal. Latter my uncle come out to his home and took myself and mother and ant down to the worf where my old man was waiting for us haveing put the car on the board.

What have you been doing ever since 3 oclock arsked my mother as it was now nerly 5.

Haveing a high ball my father replid.

I thorght Detroit was dry said my mother shyly.

Did you said my father with a rye smile and as it was now nerly time for the boat to leave we said good by to my uncle and ant and went on the boat. A messenger took our costly bagage and put it away wilst myself and parents went out on the porch and set looking at the peaple on the worf. Suddenly they was a grate hub bub on the worf and a young man and lady started up the gangs plank wilst a big crowd throwed rice and old shoes at them and made a up roar.

Bride and glum going to Niagara Falls said my father who is well travelled and seams to know everything.

Instantly the boat give a blarst on the wistle and I started with suprise.

Did that scare you Bill said my father and seamed to enjoy it and I supose he would of laughed out right had I fell overboard and been drowned in the narsty river water.

Soon we were steeming up the river on the city of Detroit 3.

That is Canada over there is it not said my mother.

What did you think it was the Austrian Tyrol replid my father explodeing a cough. Dureing our progress up the river I noticed sevral funny things flotting in the water with lanterns hanging on them and was wandering what they could be when my mother said they seam to have plenty of boys.

They have got nothing on us replid my father quick as a flash.

A little latter who should come out on the porch and set them-selfs ner us but the bride and glum.

Oh I said to myself I hope they will talk so as I can hear them as I have always wandered what newlyweds talk about on their way to Niagara Falls and soon my wishs was realized.

Some night said the young glum are you warm enough. I am perfectly comfertible replid the fare bride tho her looks belid her words what time do we arive in Buffalo.

9 oclock said the lordly glum are you warm enough.

I am perfectly comfertible replid the fare bride what time do we arive in Buffalo.

9 oclock said the lordly glum I am afrade it is too cold for you out here.

Well maybe it is replid the fare bride and without farther adieu they went in the spacius parlers.

I wander will he be arsking her 8 years from now is she warm enough said my mother with a faint grimace.

The weather may change before then replid my father.

Are you warm enough said my father after a slite pause.

No was my mothers catchy reply.

Well said my father we arive in Buffalo at 9 oclock and with that we all went inside as it was now pitch dark and had our supper and retired and when we rose the next morning and drest and had brekfus we puled up to the worf in Buffalo and it was 9 oclock so I will leave the city of Detroit 3 tide to the worf and end this chapter.

Chapter 4


As we was leaveing the boat who should I see right along side of us but the fare bride and the lordly glum.

We are right on the dot said the glum looking at his costly watch it is just 9 oclock and so they past out of my life.

We had to wait qite a wile wilst the old man dug up his bill of loading and got the costly moter.

We will half to get some gas he said I wonder where they is a garage.

No sooner had the words fell from his lips when a man with a flagrant Adams apple handed him a card with the name of a garage on it.

We will have lunch in Rochester replid my father with a loud cough.

My mother forced a smile and it was about ½ past 12 when we arived in Rochester and soon we was on Genesee st and finley stoped in front of a elegant hotel and shared a costly lunch.

Chapter 5


Of course there were no interstates back then!

Wilst participating in the lordly viands my father hailed out his map and give it the up and down.

Look at here he said at lenth they seams to be a choice of 2 main roads between here and Syracuse but 1 of them gos way up north to Oswego wilst the other gos way south to Geneva where as Syracuse is strate east from here you might say so it looks to me like we would save both millage and time if we was to drive strate east through Lyons the way the railway gos.

Well I dont want to ride on the ties said my mother with a loud cough.

Well you dont half to because they seams to be a little road that gos strate through replid my father removeing a flys cadaver from the costly farina.

Well you would better stick to the main roads said my mother tacklessly.

Well you would better stick to your own business replid my father with a pungent glance.

Soon my father had payed the check and gave the waiter a lordly bribe and once more we sprang into the machine and was on our way. The lease said about the results of my fathers grate idear the soonest mended in a word it turned out to be a holycost of the first water as after we had covered miles and miles of ribald roads we suddenly come to a abrupt conclusion vs the side of a stagnant freight train that was stone deef to honks. My father set there for nerly ½ a hour reciteing the 4 Horses of the Apoplex in a under tone but finely my mother mustard up her curage and said affectedly why dont we turn around and go back somewheres. I cant spell what my father replid.

At lenth my old man decided that Lyons wouldnt never come to Mahomet if we set it out on the same lines all winter so we backed up and turned around and retraced 4 miles of shell holes and finely reached our objective by way of Detour.

Puling up in front of a garage my father beckoned to a dirty mechanic.

How do we get to Syracuse from her arsked my father blushing furiously.

Go strate south to Geneva and then east to Syracuse replid the dirty mechanic with a loud cough.

Isnt there no short cut arsked my father.

Go strate south to Geneva and then east to Syracuse replid the dirty mechanic.

You see daddy we go to Geneva after all I said brokenly but luckly for my piece of mind my father dont beleive in corporeal punishment a specially in front of Lyons peaple.

Soon we was on a fine road and nothing more hapened till we puled into Syracuse at 7 that evening and as for the conversation that changed hands in the car between Lyons and Syracuse you could stick it in a day message and send it for 30 cents.


The wanderers finally make it to Syracuse, setting the stage for the saga's longest chapter, "Syracuse to Hudson." Then it's on to the Bureau of Manhattan before launching the pan-New England hunt for Grenich Conn which yields the immortal phrase "Shut up he explained."

Plus: As noted in the UPDATE, we turn to Ring Lardner Jr. to fill in the background of this little book.



Saturday, March 29, 2003

[3/29/2011] Prefaces to "The Love Nest" and "The Story of a Wonder Man" -- It was part of his charm (continued)


"I know it for truth that from fifty on he indulged to an alarming extent in the lesser opiates, eating aspirin as if it were so much mud and seldom laying aside the all-day sucker which he plopped into his mouth the instant he had finished his breakfast. Lardner always bolted his food. He was afraid the rats would get it. It was part of his charm."
-- Sarah E. Spooldripper, in the Preface
to The Love Nest and other stories

Preface to
The Love Nest and other stories

by Sarah E. Spooldripper*
*Miss Spooldripper lived with the Lardners for years and took care of their wolf. She knew all there was to know about Lardner, and her mind was virtually blank. It was part of her charm.

It is hoped that a careful reading of the stories collected in this book will dispel the general illusion that in his later years Ring Lardner was just a tiresome old man induced by financial calamity and a fondness for narcotics to harp constantly on the futility of life on a branch line of the Long Island Railroad. In these tales we see the old fellow as perhaps not lovable, but certainly irresistible. There was an impishness in him that fascinated. It was part of his charm.

I know it for truth that from fifty on he indulged to an alarming extent in the lesser opiates, eating aspirin as if it were so much mud and seldom laying aside the all-day sucker which he plopped into his mouth the instant he had finished his breakfast. Lardner always bolted his food. He was afraid the rats would get it. It was part of his charm.

Appearance of "The Love Nest," the short story from which the book takes its name, in Cosmopolitan Magazine, created a furore on the east bank of the Hudson, commuters of that neighborhood nearly coming to blows in arguments over the identity, in real life, of the tale's principal characters. Two old cronies who had played halma together night after night for nearly a week suddenly began making faces at one another, hiding each other's gloves, pinching each other's forearms, and altogether making a fiasco of the entire relationship. The author heard rumors of this feud and others and knew their cause, but kept his own counsel till the last day of his earthly career, when he confided to me that the Lou Gregg of the story was President Fillmore and the Mrs. Gregg, Mary Lewis.

It was in the middle of this work that the rivalry between Lardner, Scott Fitzgerald, and Opie Reade for the love of Lily Langtry reached it height. During a dinner party at which the then raging beauty and her raging suitors were all present, the toastmaster, Gerald Chapman, asked Miss Langtry to rise and drink to "her favorite." The muscles of Fitzgerald and Reade were taut; Lardner's were very flabby.

After a pause that seemed to endure all night but really lasted only half that long, Miss Langtry got up, raised her glass and said: "I drink to Red Grange. Heston may have been his superior on defense and Coy, Thorpe, Eckersall, and Mahan more versatile, but as a common carrier I take off my hat to the Wheaton iceman."

Miss Langtry was deeply interested in college athletics and it was she who christened a certain New Jersey town Rahway because it was enroute to Rutgers, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Her response to the toastmaster's request affected her three swains variously. Reade arose and told the story of the two half-breeds, Seminole and Deminole. Lardner and Fitzgerald took up rotation pool, and weighed themselves once a week. Every so often they became maudlin, or, better still, inaudible.

An insight into Lardner's true character may be obtained from the correspondence which passed between him and Mrs. Patrick Campbell while he was writing the story "Haircut" at Atlantic City.

"Dear Ringlets," wrote Mrs. Campbell (it was a name she had for him), "don't forget 'Miss England' while playing around with 'Miss America.'"

"Dear Pat," was Lardner's reply, "am having a 'swill' time, but I do 'Miss England' and indeed I would walk a mile for a Campbell."

On the back of the card was a picture of Young's Million Dollar Pier.*
*This correspondence and other mash notes written by Lardner and his admirers were obtained from the street cleaners of East Shore Road, Great Neck, where the author threw all his mail, and are printed with the permission of Judge Landis.

"Haircut" was written under a severe strain, the writer having just engaged in a violent quarrel with John N. Wheeler, then editor of Liberty.

"Why didn't you lead me a spade?" demanded Wheeler.

"I was out of them," was the infuriating reply, and in a moment the two were rolling on the floor, with Wheeler's dice.

The character of the doctor in "Haircut" was a composite "photograph" of Mrs. Campbell and the Shuberts. It was Lardner's favorite among all his fictional characters, or, as he called them, "my puppets."

"Which is your favorite among all your 'puppets'?" I once asked him as we jointly gave the wolf a sitzbath.

"The doctor," he said.

The wolf was really the chief interest in Lardner's life. I have never elsewhere seen such a whole-souled comradeship as existed between the Master and this sinister pet. He was always hoping it would have a baby which he would have christened the Wolverine as a memorial to his native state.

Lardner's adoption of the beast was characteristic of the man. One afternoon in October while Mrs. Lardner (he always called her Junior as she was two or more years younger than he) was making out the May checks, she suddenly looked up from her work, sobbing, and said:


"Yes, Junior. What is it?"

"I am overdrawn."

"You stay indoors and brood too much," replied Lardner. "A little exercise and a few pleasures would restore the bloom to both those cheeks."

"I am not referring to anything physical," said the little woman. "I mean there is less than no money in the bank."

At that moment there was a scratching outside that could not have been the children, as they had all had their baths.

"What is that noise, Junior?" inquired the Master.

"I will go and see," said the Madam, sliding headforemost to the front door, as she was a great admirer of Frankie Frisch.

She returned in a moment, sobbing louder than ever, with the news that the wolf was at the door.

This was the beginning of a friendship that the less said about it the better. But I suppose I ought not to complain, for the wolf's advent into the home was responsible for mine, and it is not every spinster who spends the latter days of her life under such pleasant conditions as existed in the household of Ring Lardner, God bless him!

The story "Reunion" followed a visit paid the Lardners by the little woman's sisters and their husbands, all strict Swedenborgians and innately opposed to meat-eating and outdoor sports. Lardner was, of course, a devotee of golf and considered days spent indoors as days wasted. So it was torture to him, this prolonged sojourn of his in-laws, and "Reunion" was penned in a spirit of bitterness. The character of Mrs. Stu Johnston's brother is a composite of G. P. Torrence of Indianapolis, Robin Hendry of Detroit, H. W. Kitchell of Evanston, and F. R. Kitchell of Hingham, Mass., all of whom married sisters of Junior.

In re Lardner's golf, the following amusing anecdote is recounted:

Lardner was playing a mixed twosome with Mayor Walker of New York. They were both playing a Spalding mesh ball, which is how they got mixed. Coming to the fifteenth tee, they had halved the preceding three holes and Lardner could not remember whose turn it was to drive first.

"Your honor?" he said to the Mayor.

"Yes?" the Mayor replied. "What can I do for you?"

It is incidents like this that paint the man in his true colors. He was forever blowing bubbles. It amounted to a whim.

The romance of "Mr. and Mrs. Fix-It," without ranking with Lardner's best or with his most popular compositions, and betraying here and there a less persistent hold on character than is usual with him, is still a fascinating story, full of his peculiar sensuousness and pathos, with striking scenes vividly portrayed, and an advance on his previous farces as respects his constantly growing power of imaginative description.

Publication of this story in Liberty caused an estrangement between the Master and the Grantland Rices, who were unmistakably the parties inspiring it. So accurately were their characters and idiosyncrasies depicted that they recognized themselves and did not speak to Lardner for a week. This was considered a triumph by the Master.

"But the lesson was all lost," he told me afterwards, when a reconciliation had been effected. "They knew I was writing about them, and now they are right up to their old tricks again, dictating where we shall buy our shirts, how to discipline our kiddies, what road to take South, what to order for breakfast, when to bathe in what kind of bath salts, and even how often to visit the chiropodist. It is an intolerable example of maniacal Southern hospitality."

He proceeded to a fresh attack, turning out "Who Dealt?" Mrs. Rice is unquestionably the first person in this story, the one who tells it; either she or Ruth Hale or perhaps Mrs. S. B. Thorne.

There is an interesting fact connected with the story "Zone of Quiet." It was written outdoors during the equinoctial gales. Nearly every other sheet of copy was blown away or destroyed by stray dogs, and when the manuscript finally reached Ray Long, editor of Cosmopolitan, over two-thirds of it was missing. Mr. Long thought this all for the best as he was crowded that month. Mr. Long is related by marriage to Mr. O. O. Mclntyre, which is considered a horse on both of them.*
*Strangely enough, Mr. Long's favorite amusement is horseback riding, so the innuendo is not so far out of the way. He is known as a keen whip around Greenwich and, during the winters, when he lives in town, can be seen in Times Square almost any morning astride his imported hunter, "Black Oxen," directing the traffic and selling tickets to the Field Day at Jamaica.

Most of the stories making up this volume are noticeably shorter than those Lardner wrote in the early days of his tepid career. This is due to the invention and perfection of radio. Not content with purchasing one of the standard radios on the market, the Master, who, like Jane Cowl, was something of a mechanical genius, made his own set and installed it in the suit of pajamas which he habitually wore nights. At first he was unable to get any station at all, and this condition held good up to the day of his death. But he was always trying to tune in on Glens Falls, N. Y., and it was only in his last illness that he found out there was no broadcasting station at that place. His sense of humor came to his rescue in this dilemma.

"Junior," he said to his wife, "they tell me there is no broadcasting station at Glens Falls."

"Am I to blame for that?" retorted the little Nordic, quick to take umbrage.*
* Junior was an inveterate umbrage taker and frequently took more than was good for her.

"No," he answered. "It's Glens Falls."

Those of the tales in this book which have not already been mentioned were dashed off after the Master had contracted the cold that resulted in the fatal attack of conchoid, a disease which is superinduced by a rush of seashells to the auricle or outer ear. Present during the last hours were only myself and the wolf, Junior having chosen this time to get a shampoo and wave in preparation for the series of dinner dances that were bound to follow.

"Edna," whispered the Master as he lay there idly watching the doctor change a tire, "to-morrow I will be all right again and you and I will get in a taxi and be ourselves."

He called me Edna only when he was up to some devilment. It was his way.

The Master is gone* and the next question is who will succeed him? Perhaps some writer still unborn. Perhaps one who will never be born. That is what I hope.
* The joke is on Miss Spooldripper, for she is gone too. Two months ago she was found dead in the garage, her body covered with wolf bites left there by her former ward, who has probably forgotten where he left them.


It's not clear whether the following preface was already written at the time of Sarah E. Spooldripper's untimely demise, as described in the last footnote above, or whether perhaps the writer of the footnote -- presumably the Master himself -- was embroidering the truth. At any rate, since it's so short, here's an additional helping of Miss Spooldripper.

Preface to
The Story of a Wonder Man

by Sarah E. Spooldripper

The publication of this autobiography is entirely without the late Master's sanction. He wrote it as a pastime and burnt up each chapter as soon as it was written; the salvaging was accomplished by ghouls who haunted the Lardners' ash bbl. during my whole tenure of office as night nurse to their dromedary.

Some of the copy was so badly charred as to be illegible. The ghouls took the liberty of filling in these hiatuses with "stuff" of their own, which can be readily distinguished from the Master's as it is not nearly as good. Readers and critics are therefore asked to bear in mind that those portions of the book which they find entertaining are the work of the Master himself; those which bore them or sound forced are interpolations by milksops.

Another request which I know the Master would have wished me to make is that neither reader nor critic read the book through at one sitting (Cries of "Fat chance!" and "Hold 'em, Stanford!"). It was written a chapter at a time and should be perused the same way with, say, a rest of from seven weeks to two months between chapters. It might even be advisable to read one chapter and then take the book back to the exchange desk, saying you had made a mistake.

Mr. Lardner's friends will regret that he omitted from these memoirs reference to his encounter with Mussolini, the Tiger of France and Italy. The two happened to be occupying the same compartment on "The Dixie Flyer" between Cannes and Mentone.

"Great golf weather," remarked the Tiger.

"I beg your pardon," replied the writer. "Je ne parle pas le Wop."

I forget what else happened.



Friday, March 28, 2003

[3/28/2011] Presenting Ring Lardner, with "Who's Who -- and Why" and the Preface to "How to Write Short Stories" (continued)


"So much for the planning and writing. Now for the marketing of the completed work. A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor."
-- Lardner, in the Preface to How to Write Short Stories

We can fill in Lardner's 1917 biographical sketch somewhat by ripping a few paragraphs out of the Introduction to Some Champions: Sketches and Fiction by Ring Lardner, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli and Richard Layman (Scribner's, 1976):

Ring Lardner was one of the American writers who emerged from the newspaper sports desk. He began his professional career as a sports reporter for the South Bend Times in 1905. During the next fourteen years he became known as an expert on baseball as well as one of the most entertaining sports reporters in the country. His column "In the Wake of the News" in the Chicago Tribune (1913-19) has been called "one of the municipal glories" of Chicago. In 1919 Lardner became a syndicated columnist with his "Weekly Letter," which was tremendously popular for the nearly seven years of its duration.

Lardner began publishing fiction in 1914 when the first Busher story appeared in The Saturday Evening Post. In less than twenty years he published 128 short stories while pursuing his journalistic careers. At the peak of his popularity in the twenties, he was one of the highest-paid fiction writers in the country, receiving $4,500 per story. In 1926 Lardner learned he had tuberculosis, which, compounded with alcoholism, forced him to give up his daily column in March 1927. By this time he had been working under the pressure of newspaper deadlines for twenty-two years. He continued to write regularly for magazines, commencing an association with The New Yorker, and pursued his lifelong interests in songwriting and playwriting. Although two of his plays were produced -- and June Moon (1930) was a success -- the collaborative effort necessary to produce them conflicted with Lardner's pride in his work. Lardner continued to write fiction, largely impelled by financial considerations, and in the early thirties his stories became increasingly pessimistic. As Some Champions shows, Lardner remained a fiction writer of the first rank.

In 1924 when [F. Scott] Fitzgerald persuaded Ring Lardner and Maxwell Perkins of Scribners to publish How to Write Short Stories, he was amazed to learn that Lardner had not preserved copies of his stories. The volume had to be assembled by photographing library copies of magazines. . . .

For How to Write Short Stories the author supplied the following Preface.

Preface to
How to Write Short Stories

A glimpse at the advertising columns of our leading magazines shows that whatever else this country may be shy of, there is certainly no lack of correspondence schools that learns you the art of short-story writing. The most notorious of these schools makes the boast that one of their pupils cleaned up $5000.00 and no hundreds dollars writing short stories according to the system learnt in their course, though it don't say if that amount was cleaned up in one year or fifty.

However, for some reason another when you skin through the pages of high class periodicals, you don't very often find them cluttered up with stories that was written by boys or gals who had win their phy beta skeleton keys at this or that story-writing college. In fact, the most of the successful authors of the short fiction of to-day never went to no kind of a college, or if they did, they studied piano tuning or the barber trade. They could of got just as far in what I call the literary game if they had of stayed home those four years and helped mother carry out the empty bottles.

The answer is that you can't find no school in operation up to date, whether it be a general institution of learning or a school that specializes in story writing, which can make a great author out of a born druggist.

But a little group of our deeper drinkers has suggested that maybe boys and gals who wants to take up writing as their life work would be benefited if some person like I was to give them a few hints in regards to the technic of the short story, how to go about planning it and writing it, when and where to plant the love interest and climax, and finally how to market the finished product without leaving no bad taste in the mouth.

Well, then, it seems to me like the best method to use in giving out these hints is to try and describe my own personal procedure from the time I get inspired till the time the manuscript is loaded on to the trucks.

The first thing I generally always do is try and get hold of a catchy title, like for instance, "Basil Hargrave's Vermifuge," or '"Fun at the Incinerating Plant." Then I set down to a desk or flat table of any kind and lay out 3 or 4 sheets of paper with as many different colored pencils and look at them cock-eyed a few moments before making a selection.

How to begin -- or, as we professionals would say, "how to commence" -- is the next question. It must be admitted that the method of approach ("L'approchement") differs even among first class fictionists. For example, Blasco Ibanez usually starts his stories with a Spanish word, Jack Dempsey with an "I" and Charley Peterson with a couple of simple declarative sentences about his leading character, such as "Hazel Gooftree had just gone mah jong. She felt faint."

Personally it has been my observation that the reading public prefers short dialogue to any other kind of writing and I always aim to open my tale with two or three lines of conversation between characters -- or, as I call them, my puppets -- who are to play important roles. I have often found that something one of these characters says, words I have perhaps unconsciously put into his or her mouth, directs my plot into channels deeper than I had planned and changes, for the better, the entire sense of my story.

To illustrate this, let us pretend that I have laid out a plot as follows: Two girls, Dorothy Abbott and Edith Quaver, are spending the heated term at a famous resort. The Prince of Wales visits the resort, but leaves on the next train. A day or two later, a Mexican reaches the place and looks for accommodations, but is unable to find a room without a bath. The two girls meet him at the public filling station and ask him for a contribution to their autograph album. To their amazement, he utters a terrible oath, spits in their general direction and hurries out of town. It is not until years later that the two girls learn he is a notorious forger and realize how lucky they were after all.

Let us pretend that the above is the original plot. Then let us begin the writing with haphazard dialogue and see whither it leads:

"Where was you?" asked Edith Quaver.

"To the taxidermist's," replied Dorothy Abbott.

The two girls were spending the heated term at a famous watering trough. They had just been bathing and were now engaged in sorting dental floss.

"I am getting sick in tired of this place," went on Miss Quaver.

"It is mutual," said Miss Abbott, shying a cucumber at a passing paper-hanger.

There was a rap at their door and the maid's voice announced that company was awaiting them downstairs. The two girls went clown and entered the music room. Garnett Whaledriver was at the piano and the girls tiptoed to the lounge.

The big Nordic, oblivious to their presence, allowed his fingers to form weird, fantastic minors before they strayed unconsciously into the first tones of Chopin's 121st Fugue for the Bass Drum.


From this beginning, a skilled writer could go most anywheres, but it would be my tendency to drop these three characters and take up the life of a mule in the Grand Canyon. The mule watches the trains come in from the east, he watches the trains come in from the west, and keeps wondering who is going to ride him. But she never finds out.

The love interest and climax would come when a man and a lady, both strangers, got to talking together on the train going back east.

"Well," said Mrs. Croot, for it was she, "what did you think of the Canyon?"

"Some cave," replied her escort.

"What a funny way to put it!" replied Mrs. Croot. "And now play me something."

Without a word, Warren took his place on the piano bench and at first allowed his fingers to form weird, fantastic chords on the black keys. Suddenly and with no seeming intention, he was in the midst of the second movement of Chopin's Twelfth Sonata for Flute and Cuspidor. Mrs. Croot felt faint.

That will give young writers an idea of how an apparently trivial thing such as a line of dialogue will upset an entire plot and lead an author far from the path he had pointed for himself. It will also serve as a model for beginners to follow in regards to style and technic. I will not insult my readers by going on with the story to its obvious conclusion. That simple task they can do for themselves, and it will be good practice.

So much for the planning and writing. Now for the marketing of the completed work. A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.

Personally I have found it a good scheme to not even sign my name to the story, and when I have got it sealed up in its envelope and stamped and addressed, I take it to some town where I don't live and mail it from there. The editor has no idea who wrote the story, so how can he send it back? He is in a quandry.

In conclusion let me warn my pupils never to write their stories -- or, as we professionals call them, "yarns" -- on used paper. And never to write them on a post-card. And never to send them by telegraph (Morse code).

Stories ("yarns") of mine which have appeared in various publications -- one of them having been accepted and published by the first editor that got it -- are reprinted in the following pages and will illustrate in a half-hearted way what I am trying to get at.


Great Neck, Long Island, 1924.



Thursday, March 27, 2003

[3/27/2011] The good-bye to McNulty, and unhappy words directed to Shawn (continued)


NOBODY who knew McNulty as man or writer could ever have confused him for a moment with anybody else. His presence in a room -- or in a town, for that matter -- was as special as the way he put words down on paper. His death last Sunday darkened the world for literally countless friends and acquaintances, for he seemed to know everybody. He came back to New York in the early thirties from a long sojourn in the Middle West, and in 1937 he began writing pieces for this magazine. They were the reports of a true and eager eye and ear that found high excitement in both the unusual and the common phrases and postures of men, and turned them into the sparkle of his unique idiom.

The days didn't go by for John McNulty; they happened to him. He was up and out every morning, wandering the beloved streets and 'avenyas' of his city, stopping to talk and listen to everybody. His week was a seven-day circus that never lost its savor. He was not merely an amusing companion; he was one of the funniest of men. When he told a tale of people or places, it had a color and vitality that faded in the retelling by anyone else. The name McNulty, for us, meant 'Inimitable,' and at the same time something in lower case, familiar and cherished -- a kind of synonym for laughter. We grieve that such a man cannot be replaced, in our hearts or on our pages, but we are happy that we have published more than threescore of the pieces he wrote.


Already while Harold Ross was alive Thurber was complaining increasingly about the apparently increasingly heavy hand of The New Yorker's editors, which he felt disregarded the concept that writers might have conscious intent in their writing, that they might actually know better than the editors what they mean and write what they meant to more successfully than those editors grasped, and this had the unfortunate effect of making all New Yorker writers sound the same. It's clear that in Thurber's mind the problems increased considerably after William Shawn took over as editor following Ross's death in 1951. Thurber increasingly found himself second-guessed by junior editors mechanically applying half-understood rules with no consideration or comprehension of his fairly obsessive attention to detail in his writing.

In the volume Thurber Letters, the editors introduce this letter by noting that when Shawn began with the magazine in the '30s as a "Talk of the Town" reporter, he "had been rewritten by Thurber." The note notes that Shawn was asked "years later" about such editing as changing Thurber's phrase "as a man and writer" to "man and writer" and his "darkened the day" to "darkened the world," and "decided Thurber had been right."
West Cornwall, Connecticut
July 31,1956
Mr. William Shawn
The New Yorker
25 West 43rd Street
New York, N Y.

Dear Bill:

Since the New Yorker obits are signed by The Editors and deal with persons we all knew and loved, it is right and fitting that each of us should get in a word of his own, and so I have no complaint about the minor changes in the McNulty piece. I once changed "regret" to "sorrow," in the Dave Lardner obit which I didn't write.

In defense of my own careful writing, however, let me point you a few points: "as a man and writer" is not only intimate and correct, but mcnulty ("A Man Gets Around"); "as man and writer" is painfully correct and utterly reminiscent of the deplorable stuffiness of the Ross funeral oration, still a sorry thing in many of our minds.

"Darkened the day" not only has the literary quality of alliteration, in a piece about a man who loved verbal music, but as a student of the OED I can assure you that "day" refers to something longer than a 24-hour period, when the context clearly supports this extension of time. I didn't object, because "world" would please McNulty's friends and family, but the world is actually a dark place, for one thing, and for another it can scarcely be darkened in a literal sense. Furthermore "darkened the day" has biblical origin, and we speak of a man's day and nation. Again, it is the day that has light, and not the world. The omission of the word "parlance" made things simpler for our mentally young readers in the great Ross tradition of simple clarity, but McNulty told stories of parlance, as witness any of his titles, such as "She Was a Bostonian, They Call 'Em." Parlance means "a way of speaking, or of language." I am glad that you did not change "people" to "persons," for while McNulty was interested in persons, he always called them people. I put all this down for you editors not so much in defense of my own perfectionism and precision, but as a kind of guide for editors who are likely to be less literary than formalistic, and who occasionally need a lecture about the magnificent use of words as well as their accuracy. I think it turned out fine anyway, and I was glad I could write it for John and for the New Yorker, since I knew him better and longer than any other man and he once said in print that his best friends were Jim Thurber and Tim Costello. [Costello was the proprietor of Costello's saloon, the "place on Third Avenue" referred to in the title of the McNulty anthology This Place on Third Avenue. -- Ed.] Love and kisses to you all.

As ever,
James Thurber

P.S. You might be interested in looking up "day" in the OED. It does not come from the Latin, but from the German.

It is a great tribute to the New Yorker that its sometimes cold, grammatical strictures were seldom permitted to bind or confine the special grace and wonder of John McNulty's own personal phrasing. I hope we will never again use "update" or "downgrade."


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[3/27/2011] Horns, glorious horns -- Hadyn lets 'em loose in his "Horn Signal" Symphony (continued)


The first movement of Haydn's "Horn Signal" Symphony is played by the Connecticut River Valley Orchestra under Max Culpepper in a "Norse Legends" concert at the Claremont Opera House, Oct. 25, 2009.


Everywhere you look, I know you'll find "Hornsignal" as related to this Haydn symphony spelled as one word. I don't get how the perfectly normal "horn signal" becomes one word, so while I'll let H.C.R.L. have his "hornsignal," I'm sticking with "horn signal."


Just as an example of what a composer can do with a pair of horns -- usually deployed one "high," one "low" (the same normally holding true when there are multiple pairs, so that with four horns normally I and III would be "high" and II and IV "low") -- let's go back to one of our "horn-happy" movements from Handel's Water Music, the Minuet from the F major Suite. Now this is a perfectly splendid orchestral statement of this heavy-striding (I'm tempted to say "lumbering") minuet's basic theme:
Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, Karl Münchinger, cond. Decca, recorded c1981

But in fact this is a re-statement of the theme, which Handel just entrusted, at the outset of the movement, to . . . a pair of horns! (For the record, the orchestral version is twice as long because both sections of the theme are repeated.)
Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, Karl Münchinger, cond. (see above)

Now let's hear them now in proper sequence -- also switching from "modern symphony orchestra" to "baroque orchestra" mode (and from modern-day-standard to baroque-era-standard pitch).

Opening statement for two horns:

Restatement for full orchestra:
Linde-Consort, Hans-Martin Linde, dir. EMI, recorded Oct. 12-15, 1983

HANDEL: Water Music: Suite No. 1 in F: No. 6, Minuet

Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, Karl Münchinger, cond. Decca, recorded c1981
Linde-Consort, Hans-Martin Linde, dir. EMI, recorded Oct. 12-15, 1983


Beyond noting that Haydn was playing with posthorn signals that would have been familiar to audiences of his time, I'm not going to say anything more about the first movement of the symphony, except to note that personally I can't ever get enough of it. [ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT: We haven't heard the last of the horn signal.]

HAYDN: Symphony No. 31 in D (Horn Signal):
i. Allegro

Philharmonia Hungarica, Antal Dorati, cond. Decca, recorded 1971
Orchestra of St. Luke's, Sir Charles Mackerras, cond. Telarc, recorded Nov. 8-9, 1988


Let's just take 'em one at a time, aided by the comments in the "compacted" version of H. C. Robbins Landon's Decca booklet note.

ii. Adagio
H.C.R.L.: The slow movement includes not only virtuoso parts for the horns (two in G, two in D), but also elaborate solo parts for violin and cello.
Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra, Adam Fischer, cond. Nimbus/Brilliant, recorded Apr.-May 2001

iii. Menuet and Trio
H.C.R.L.: The third movement is one of those irresistible minuets of which Haydn's music is full, bursting with energy and as dance-like as any Strauss waltz.
Philharmonia Hungarica, Antal Dorati, cond. Decca, recorded 1971

iv. Finale: Moderato molto

This is a big movement in more than one sense, but to start with the chronological, the timings in the three performances we've been listening to are: Fischer, 9:57; Dorati, 9:47; Mackerras, 11:46. It's the latter recording we're going to hear.
H.C.R.L.: The Finale is a set of slow variations, showing off Haydn's collection of virtuoso players: even the double bass has a solo (var. 7). The end is like the Kehraus ending that used to conclude sets of dances: the tempo speeds up, we are given a popular melody like the "Strasbourg" tune at the end of Mozart's Violin Concerto in D, K. 218. Having been exposed to this contredanse-like theme we are totally unprepared for [FINAL SPOILER ALERT -- no, no, H.C.R.L., don't spoil it!] the last seven bars: a literal quotation of the horn call that began and ended the first movement. No device could have more effectively cemented the loose construction of the Finale to the rest of the work.
(In addition to "indexing" the movement subsections -- see the note below --Telarc provides a breakdown of start times: Variation 1, 1:19; Variation 2, 2:34; Variation 3, 3:53; Variation 4, 5:03; Variation 5, 6:21; Variation 6, 7:25; Variation 7, 8:54; concluding Presto, 11:01.)

Orchestra of St. Luke's, Sir Charles Mackerras, cond. Telarc, recorded Nov. 8-9, 1988


The Dorati and Fischer performances are from their mammoth sets (in both cases 33 CDs' worth!) of the complete Haydn symphonies, respectively for Decca and Nimbus (reissued by Brilliant Classics). The Mackerras performance is from a solidly recommendable Telarc CD where it's coupled with Haydn's much-loved Farewell Symphony (No. 45). (As noted above, on the Telarc CD the individual variations of the Finale are indexed. It's a shame this often-potentially-useful system of "sub"-tracking points -- built into the audio-CD standard -- has never caught on, but there are CD players that offer index playback capability, and Telarc is one of the few companies to take advantage of it.)


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