Arthur William À Beckett.

The à Becketts of Punch; memories of father and sons online

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train speed, and down we went only thirty minutes



late. I was immensely pleased, and so were my
good friends the printer and the compositors.

When I left the paper I was succeeded by an
excellent man, who later on matured into a most
admirable journaHst. But at the time of which I
am speaking he was in his " salade days " — he
was not quite in touch with the composing-room.
He scarcely knew the printer by sight. All
communications with the compositors must come
from the sub-editor ; the editor would see the
sub-editor and give the necessary directions, and
the rest of it. I happened to meet the printer
of the paper a few days after my friend had
assumed supreme command.

" Well, Mr. Printer," I said, '' and how did the
paper get on the day after I left ? "

" Well, sir, not quite so well as I could have
wished. You see, we had some difficulty in
finding out what was wanted in the editor's
room, and somehow or other we went to press
two hours late."

My friend spoke quite gravely, but there was
** a wicked twinkle in his eye " (to quote an old
comic song) which was not without its meaning.

Then there is the reader. If he is a good
reader — and they are all or nearly all good readers
— what a comfort he is to the editor pressed for
time. I once had the honour of returning thanks
for something or other at a banquet given by
Correctors of the Press. I made a score by talking
of the reader " as the good little cherub that sat
up aloft and watched over the fortunes of poor



hacks." I also gained approval by telling the
correctors that they each and collectively were
addressed personally by the author when he spoke
about " the gentle reader." I had a fine time of
it, and thoroughly enjoyed m37self.

And here I may conveniently mention a
gentleman with whom I had for years a corre-
spondence, but only twice met in the flesh. On
one occasion I saw him at the wayzgoose of
Messrs. Bradbury and Agnew's employes, and a
second time at this very dinner of the Correctors
of the Press. I refer to the late Mr. Pincott, who
for a very long time was the principal reader of
Punch. He served under all the editors. He
knew my father and his celebrated colleagues. I
am sorry to say I never had the pleasure of
speaking to him, although we were on the friend-
liest terms through our correspondence. When
I got the Punch pages for final re\dsion in the
absence of the editor, Mr. Pincott was kind
enough to send me a letter calling attention to
any little slip that he had noticed on going through
them. But he was always careful to give his
suggestions for the amendments of the mistakes
in such a manner that no wound was inflicted on
my amour propre. He always assumed that my
knowledge was equal, nay, probably superior, to
his own. " As I knew the Chinese language con-
sisted of " whatever it did consist. " I had not
forgotten the disposition of the Austrian soldiers
at the battle of so and so." *' I was aware of the
chief provisions of the treaty of such a place which


authorized such a thing "and so on. Mr. Pincott
never allowed for a moment that my knowledge
was not equal to anything contained in that pleas-
ing work the Encyclopaedia Britannica. And as he
had read the copy of my father — he said my writing
resembled his — he used now and again to give
me anecdotes about him. This was after business
had received strict attention and the time had
been reached for recreation. I often regret that
I never was absolutely introduced to Mr. Pincott.
As I have said, I saw him twice — he was pointed
out to me — and I heard him make a very capital
speech, but I never had the pleasure of a con-
versation with him. I wish I had kept his letters
but, truth to tell, that final revision of the Punch
pages, especially when it took place during my
editorship of the Sunday Times, was a very
laborious duty. I was glad to get it over and have
done with it ; and I fear consequently that the
extremely interesting letters of my friend, the
erudite Mr. Pincott, found their way into the
waste-paper basket.

And now, having disposed of the Lectures to
Editors in our proposed Press University, I
come to the staff. I admit it would be difficult
to teach a recognized " newspaper man " (the
name bestowed upon gentlemen of the Press by
their American cousins) anything that he does not
know already. But I am afraid that the thirst
for news sometimes leads to over-zeal. Not very
long ago, when Mr. Rudyard Kipling had pub-
lished his celebrated poem about ** flannelled



fools," a correspondent to the Times, signing
himself "A. A.," protested that he had a poem
just as good upon the same subject, but he had
kept it locked in his desk, prompted by patriotic
motives. There was some curiosity to identify
the author of the letter. The general opinion was
that there was only one poet of commanding
importance with those initials. To my surprise,
I got a telegram from the editor of a well known
low priced daily paper, asking me to either deny
or confirm the report that I had written the letter
to which I have referred. As the telegram was
reply paid, I sent off an answer in the negative.
As a matter of fact, I have never in my wildest
dreams thought of receiving the post of Poet
Laureate. I have now and again knocked off
lines for a song, but those lines have never been
of conspicuous merit . I never wrote a line of poetry
for Ptmch in my life. Neither of my editors
would suffer verses from my pen to appear in the
London Charivari, and when I was in command I
followed what I considered a very proper precedent ;
so it will be seen that I lay no claim to be the
heir of Tennyson, or Swinburne, or Austin, or even
Shakespeare. Judge of my surprise when I read
in the low priced paper (a most excellent periodi-
cal) to which I have referred an announcement
that I had requested them to state that I had
not written the letter signed " A. A." that had
attracted so much attention. I heard subse-
quently that the same telegram had been sent to
the literary men mentioned in Who's Who with



the double vowel initials. I was Arthur a Beckett,
and perchance I might have been "A. A." —
hence the wire. But after all it was only a good
joke. But sometimes over -zeal takes another
and not so pleasant a shape. A short while ago
there was a discussion about the nature of the
** news investigator/' a gentleman who, I fancy,
has been confused with the " newspaper man," from
the western coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It
was then said that in the race for news the " news
investigator " took steps that should have been
avoided by gentlemen of the Press. And this
assertion came from the Lord Chief Justice him-
self. I am inclined to agree with the chief,
because I have seen in my day a good deal of
this over-zeal — nay, on one occasion had to preside
over an inquiry into a case of alleged misbeha\Tiour
on the part of the Press during the transmission
of the news of the late Queen's death from
Osborne to Cowes. I called together the editors
of all the London daily papers, and was pleased
to be able to subsequently report that the mem-
bers of the Institute of Journalists had been proved
innocent of any misconduct. The over-zeal to
which I have called attention on that occasion
proved to be of foreign extraction. I am afraid
that the cause of this over-zeal is the keen com-
petition for " the latest intelligence." One of
these " news investigators " told me that it was
not his fault.

" You see," he said, " a lot of us fellows are
sent off to get the best stuff we can. If any of

305 u


us has the start of the others, it does him a httle
good and us a lot of harm. If we would all agree
to put such a piece of news, so to speak, out of
bounds, it would be right enough. But while
we can get direct intelligence from Old Nick him-
self there will be somebody ready to interview
him wherever he's to be found."

" Do you refer to the printer's devil ? "
"No; to an individual very much senior to that
young gentleman, and, when we really want him,
not nearly so accessible."

But I fancy things are on the mend in this direc-
tion. Since the Lord Chief Justice and other
distinguished members of the Bench expressed a
strong opinion upon the subject of the methods
of news investigation, the nuisance seems to have
disappeared. So much the better. From what
I have heard, this kind of journalism is better
managed in the United States — the land of its
birth. There the news investigator — I am told —
if he cannot get at the object of his search, writes
what he thinks should have been said at the pro-
posed interview, and takes care not to give his
supposed interviewer too much away. If he did,
his last chance of getting at him would be gone.
In England the " news investigator " does not
invent ; he gets his news and it is genuine. It is
only the method of its collection that is in fault.
Beyond this " over-zeal " I can see no blemish in the
rank and file of the British Press. " Log roUing "
is now a thing of the past. I am not at all sure
if it were ever a thing |of the present. It used



to be said that one author acting as reviewer
praised another in satisfaction of an expected
return comphment when the author praised
became himself an author reviewer. I do not
think the expectation entered into the transac-
tion. They both are authors of repute. A knows
B, and Mrs. A knows Mrs. B, and the two writers
are friends. A produces a book which gets into
the hands of B. " Must say something nice
about poor old A's book," says B, and forthwith
writes a good notice, not because he wants A
to return the compliment, but because he and
his wife, Mrs. B, know what a struggle Mrs. A
has to send the children to school on the allow-
ance, and to stretch the fortnight's annual visit
to the seaside to three weeks. Then when B
does write a book, and it does get into the hands
of A, he thinks something of the same thing.

" Hallo ! here's old B's book that he was
boring us about. Not half bad, I dare say ;
probably a new departure," and he chuckles at his
little joke. " And a very effective cover. Ought
to do well. No row with the firm of publishers.
No, they advertise in our columns."

And then with an easy conscience A writes a
column of praise about B's book, which enables
B (before the returns come home) to get another
order from the same publishers for another book.
Well, if the British public object to this sort of
thing, I believe if I were either A or B I should
exclaim, " Hang the British public ! " or even
something just a trifle stronger,



But here again I think the salaried staff require
a Httle advice. It is rather dangerous to trust
too much to such an unbusinessHke thing as
gratitude — you had better get an agreement.
I happen to know that there is an earnest move-
ment on foot to estabhsh a custom of the trade.
The chief representatives of " newspaper law "
are doing their best to come to some agreement
that will be valuable in the courts as a guide to
their lordships. There are cases in which the
newspaper man has given his entire life to his
employers and then received a few months*
notice. I have heard of three months' notice
being increased to six months, with, perhaps,
a further arrangement — not worth the paper
it was written on — thrown in as an induce-
ment for quiet and peaceful and pleasant acqui-
escence. Of course, if a journalist finds himself
in such a position he must make the best of the
case. His position will be greatly strengthened
if he be a member of the Newspaper Press Fund
— an admirable institution ; I have been on its
council for years — and if he has health and
strength he may light on his own feet. And, after
all, if worst comes to the worst, is there not the
hope of Mr. Chamberlain's Old Age Pensions ?

In conclusion, as I have said much about my
father, and a great deal too much about myself, I
should Uke to pay a last tribute to my brother,
Gilbert Arthur a Beckett, the second ''a Beckett
of Punch'' My friend Mr. Spielmann in his History
has made a very kindly reference to him, which it



has given me great pleasure to reproduce. But
nothing more touching was ever pubHshed in
Punch than the verses I now quote. They were
written by E. J. MilUken, and appeared a fort-
night after my brother's death —

Born April 7, 1837, died October 15^ 1891:

"Wearing the white flower of a blameless life." — Tennyson.

Gilbert the Good ! title, though high, well earned
By him through whose rare nature brightly burned

The fire of purity.
Undimmed, unflickering, like some altar flame
Sky-pointing ever. Friend, what thought of blame

Hath coldest heart for thee ?

A knightly-priest or priestly-knight wert thou,
Man of the radiant eye and reverent brow ;

Chivalry closely knit
With fervent faith in thee indeed were blent ;
Though upon high ideals still intent,

And a most lambent wit.

Serene, though with a power of scathing scorn
For all things mean or base. Sorrow long borne

Though bowing soured not thee.
Bereaved, health broken, still that patient smile
Wreathed the pale lips which never greed or guile

Shaped to hypocrisy.

A saintly hearted wit, a satirist pure
Mover of mirth spontaneous as sure,

And innocent as mad.
Incongruous freak and frolic phantasy
Were thy familiar spirits, quickening glee,

And wakening laughter glad.

Dainty as Ariel yet as Puck profuse

Of the " preposterous " was that wit whose use

Was ever held " within
The limits of becoming mirth." His whim
Never shy delicacy's glance could dim,

Or move the cynic grin.



But that Fate's hampering hand lay on him long,
He might have won in drama and in song

A more endearing name.
But he is gone — the gentle, loyal, just.
Whence all these things fall earthward with the dust
Of fleeting earthly fame.

Gone from our board, gone from the home he loved !
With what compassion are his comrades moved

For those who sit alone
With memories of him ! Gracious memories all
A thought to hghten, like that flower his pall,

And hush love's troubled moan.

Farewell, fine spirit. To be owned thy friend
Was something to illume the unwelcome end

Of comradeship below.
A loving memory long our board will grace.
In fancy, with that sweet ascetic face

That brows benignant glow.



••A. A.'s " Letter to the Times
concerning Mr. Kip-
ling's Poem of " The
Islanders " — Editor's in-
quiry as to authorship

of, 304

a Beckett family, see titles
Arthur William ; Gilbert
Abbott ; Gilbert Arthur ;
William, etc.

" A Beggar on Horseback " —
Punch Cartoon, Thacke-
ray's objection to, 66

" A Briefless, Junior " — Crea-
tion of, by Arthur Wil-
liam a Beckett, 22, 81

A Word with Punch —
Brochure by Bunn
attacking Lemon, Jer-
rold and Gilbert Abbott
a Beckett, 47, 104
Authorship of, by George

Augustus Sala, 105
Presence of in the cata-
logue of the British
Museum, 107
References to, in Sir F. C.
Burnand's articles in
the Pall Mall Magazine,
106, 275
About Town— Comedy written
for the Royal Court
Theatre by Arthur Wil-
liam a Beckett, 22, 238

About Town, contd. —

Reading to Miss Litton' s

Company, 290, 291
Success of, 238

" Agnes Sorrel," Opera by Mrs.
Gilbert Abbott a Beck-
ett — Production of at
the St. James's Theatre
under Brahara, 50, 55

Agnew, Mr. Philip— Member
of Arthur W. a Beckett's
Company performing
the " Maske of Flowers,"
1897, 230, 232

Agreements as to notice, etc.,
between Journalists and
Proprietors, Question of,

295-297. 308

Albion — Banquet to maugu-
rate F. C. Burnand's
editorship of Punch,224

Aldershot Manoeuvres — Arthur
W. a Beckett and his
Company of ' ' Tower
' Amlets Milishy "at, 195

Alexandra, Queen— Presence
at " La Grande Duchesse
de Gerolstein " at St.
James's Theatre, 270

Alhambra — Mr. Baum's Con-
nexion with, 264

All Saints', Ennismore Gardens
— Attendance of the a
Beckett Family, 98



Alverstone, Lord — Opinion of

the Tomahawk, 155
" Amateur Casual " — Articles
by IMr. Greenwood in
the Pall Mall Gazette,
Amateur Theatricals —

Arthur W. a Beckett's

fondness for, 291
iDickens, Charles, Perfor-
mances, 141
" Maske of Flowers " at
Gray's Inn, see that
" Not as bad as we seem "
— Performance in aid of
the Guild of Literature
and Art, 141
f Siege of Seringapatam "
— Performance in aid of
Royal Hospital for In-
curables, 123
" Under False Colours "
at Colchester, 190
" Ambassadress " — Production
of, at the St. James's
Theatre, 55.
Anecdotage, PubUc Taste for,

Archer, Thomas — Appoint-
ment as sub-editor of
the Glowworm, 129, 131
'Arry, Creation of, by E. J.

Milliken, 211
Arthur William a Beckett —
" Card Basket," Revision

of, 139
Comic Guide to the Royal

Academy, Production of,

Comic History of England,

work on Third Volume,

German Reed, connexion

with, 139
Glowworm, Editorship of,

1 3^ J ^2)7 — Resignation,


Arthur William 4 Beckett,
contd. —

History Prize gained at

Honiton, 117
Interview with the Special-
ist, 93
Journalistic work as a boy,

Lemon, Mark, Interview

with, 154
Manning, Archbishop, In-
terview with in connex-
ion with the Glowworm,
" Maske of Flowers," Re-
vision of, 140
Obituary notices pub-
lished during his hfe-
time, 113
Personal friendships, 124,

Punch —

Appointment on the
staff in 1874 ;
abandonment of all
private interests, 12,

Cartoons, Assistance
with, during ab-
sence of most of
staff, 13, 169, 209
First Punch dinner,

186, 187
Success of first papers,

186, 219
Work in connexion
with, 172
Standard and Globe — Ap-
pointment as special
correspondent during
the war of 1870-71,
Straight, Douglas, Col-
laboration with, 1 39
T^te-a-t6te dinner with
Charles Reade at the
Thatched House Club,



Arthur William a Beckett,
contd. —

Tomahawk, Editorship of,

Austin, Alfred — Contributions

to the Tomahawk, 159
Bakewell Pudding — Charles

Keene's favourite story,

Balfe, Recollections of, 6'^

Ballads of Policeman X — Allu-
sions to Gilbert Abbott
a Beckett as " a Beckett
the Beak," 42

BaUantyne, Serjeant, 244

Bax Musical Society — Members
assisting in Gray's Inn
Jubilee performance of
the " Maske of Flowers,"

" Barnaby Rudge " — Version
produced at the Prin-
cess's, 246

Barrett, Fenian Convict of the
Clerkenwell Explosion —
eloquence, 288

Barrett Leonard, Sir Thomas
and Lady — Perform-
ance in " Under False
Colours," 190

Barrington, Lady — Obituary
notice for the World,
Arthur W. a Beckett re-
quested to write, 279,280

Baum, Mr. — Connexion with
Cremorne Gardens and
Alhambra, 264

Bedford Hotel — Mr. Punch's
patronage of, 1 87,2 10,2 1 5

Bennett — Work for Punch, 193

Bernham, Right Hon. Baron —
Originator of the old
Gaiety Theatre, 243

" Bertie Vyse " — Nom de
plume of Gilbert Abbott,
and Arthur William
a Beckett, 22

Besant, Sir W. —

Agreements between
journalists and pro-
prietors, Need for, 296,
Queen's 80th Birthday
Celebration Committee,
member of, 284
Blowitz, M. de. Times Corre-
spondent in Paris, Arthur
W. a Beckett's break-
fast with, 269
BluntjArthur Cecil — Connexion
with the German Reeds,
Borthwick, Sir A. — Libel,
Law of, services ren-
dered to the Press, 137,
Boucicault, Dion —

" Colleen Bawn," Fortune

realized by, 68
Dramatists' Remunera-
tion — Introduction of
system of percentages,
68, 237
Glowworm, Contributions

to, 138
Reading a piece, Hints as
to, 290
Boulogne-sur-Mer —

Death of Gilbert Abbott
a Beckett at, 34, 96-


Dickens' fondness for,
Festivities in connexion
with his visits, 65

Meeting and Reconcilia-
tion between Douglas
Jerrold and Gilbert
Abbott a Beckett, 34,

65, 97

Popularity of, with the
Bouverie Street Brother-
hood, 65
Bowles, Thomas Gibson —

Glowworm, Work in con-
nexion with, 130



Bowles, Thomas Gibson, contd.
Morning Post, Special Cor-
respondent for, during
Siege of Paris, 266
Tomahawk, Work in Con-
nexion with, 158
Bradbury, Laurence — Member
of Company Perform-
ing in the " Maske of
Flowers," 1897, 230, 232
Bradbury, William —

Anecdote illustrating

kindness of heart, 1 1 1
Charm as a host, 205
Presence at Arthur W.
a Beckett's first Punch
dinner, 186, 187, 188
Bradbury and Agnew, Messrs. —
" All Work and No Play,"

Disapproval of, 212
Commissions given to
Arthur W. a Beckett,
103, 188, 204
Braham, Henry — Friendship
with Cxilbcrt Abbott a
Beckett, 54
Brainiree Times, Contributions
, to, by Arthur a Beckett

at the age of fifteen, 1 1 8
Britannia Magazine —

Bumand's, Sir F. C, con-
tribution to, 161
Escott's, Mr. T. H. S.,
articles in, 279
Brooks, Shirley —

Contributions to Punch, 13
Creator of " Essence of

Parliament," 220
Dramatic Authors' Society,

Member of, 236
Interview with the Special-
ist, 93
Quotations, Talent for, 254
" Broughamiana " — Articles in

Figaro in London, 45
Brown, Mrs. —

Opening entertainment at
the Egyptian Hall, 261

Brown, Mrs., contd. —

Rose's, Mr. George, pseu-
donym, 198
Browning, Mr. Oscar — Sir
Henry Irving's Connex-
ion with Queen'sThcatre,
Long Acre, 248
Bunn, Poet —

Attack on Lemon, Jerrold
and Gilbert Abbott a
Beckett in a brochure
entitled " A Word with
Punch," 47, 104, 275

Punch's attack on, Origina-
tion of, in Figaro in
London, 31
Burlington House Banquet —
Times the only News-
paper allowed to send
Reporter, 79

Leighton's, Sir F., opinion,
Burnand, Sir F. C. —

Britannia Magazine, Con-
tributions to, 161

Dramatic Authors' Society,
Member of, 236

Friendship with Arthur W.
a Beckett, 162, 183

Gloivworm, Editorship of,
126, 130, 131

Introduction of Arthur W.
a Beckett to the Punch
table, Responsibility for,

Meeting with Arthur W.

a Beckett at the fete

in aid of the Royal

Hospital for Incurables,

Presence at Arthur W.

a Beckett's first Punch

Dinner, 188
Punch, Editorship of —
Date of accession to,

Inaugural banquet at
the Albion, 224



By Proxy — James Payn's
method of producing
local colouring, 222

Byron, H. J. — Success of " Our
Boys," etc., 241

Cabmen —

Gilbert Abbott a Beckett's
attitude towards — Fam-
ous decision that road-
way of a Railway Station
was a public place, 1 1

"Card Basket," by Shirley
Brooks — Revision of , by
Arthur W. a Beckett,

Censor —

Dramatic censor, Gilbert
a Beckett's work as, 21

Editorial banquet in 1828,
Description of, 20

Editorship of, by Gilbert
Abbott a Beckett ; con-
tribution by Thomas
and William a Beckett,

Publication of first num-
ber, 18
Traditions of, extracts
from, 18, 19

Cerberus, or the Hades Gazette —
First journalistic ven-
ture of Gilbert Abbott
a Beckett, Fate of, 16

Chamberlain, Right. Hon. J. —
Witticism rejected by
Punch, 255

" China " — Albert Smith's
Entertainment at the
Egyptian Hall, 260

Churchill, Lord Randolph —
Arthur W. a Beckett's
only meeting with, 221,

Clay, F. C. — Work in connex-
ion with the Tomahawk y

" Clayton, John " (Calthorpe)
— Connexion with
Queen's Theatre, suffer-
ings from animosity of
Green Room com-
panions, etc., 248, 249

Collette, Charley — " Under
False Colours," Amateur
threatricals at Colches-
ter, 190

Collins, Mortimer —

Characteristics and opini-
ons of, 208
Glowworm, Work in con-
nexion with, 138

Comic Blackstone —

lUustrations by Cruik-

shank and Leech, 82
Publication of, by Gilbert
Abbott a Beckett in

1844, 81
Revision of, and bringmg
up to date by Arthur
William a Beckett and
Harry Furniss, 83
Cotnic Guide to the Royal
Academy, by Gilbert and
Arthur a Beckett— Press
notices of, 11 8-1 21
Comic History of England —
Completion of Third Vol-
ume by Gilbert and
Arthur a Beckett for
Messrs. Bradbury and
Agnew, 103
Non - publication of.

Reasons for, 108
Jerrold's, Douglas, aUeged
Criticism of, 97
Comic Maga2z«e— Production
of, by Gilbert Abbott a
Beckett, 46
Connaught, Duke and Duchess
of — Host and hostess
at Jubilee performance
at Gray's Inn, 231

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 21

Online LibraryArthur William À BeckettThe à Becketts of Punch; memories of father and sons → online text (page 19 of 21)