"Humourists have been scared out of the business by the touchiness now prevailing in every section of the community. Wherever you look, on every shoulder there is a chip, in every eye a cold glitter warning you, if you know what's good for you, not to start anything.
"Never," said one of the columnists the other day, "have I heard such complaining as I have heard this las year. My last month's mail has continued outraged yelps on pieces I have written concerning dogs, diets, ulcers, cats and kings. I wrote a piece laughing at the modern tendency of singers to cry, and you would have thought I had assaulted womanhood."
A few days before the heavyweight championship between Rocky Marciano and Roland La Starza, an Australian journalist who interviewed the latter was greatly struck by his replies to questions.
"Roland," he wrote, "is a very intelligent young man. He has brains. Though it may be," he added, "that I merely think he has because I have been taking so much of late to tennis players. Tennis players are just one cut mental above the wallaby."
I have never met a wallaby, so cannot say from personal experience how abundantly - or poorly - equipped such animals are with the little grey cells, but of one thing I am sure and that is that letters poured in on the writer from Friends of The Wallaby, The International League for Promoting Fair Play for Wallabies and so on, protesting hotly against the injustice of classing them lower in the intellectual scale than tennis players. Pointing out, no doubt, that, while the average run-of-the-mill wallaby is perhaps not an Einstein, it would never dream of bounding about the place shouting "forty love" and similar ill-balanced observations.
So there we are, and if you ask me what is to be done about it, I have no solution to suggest. In fact, it is what the French would call an impasse. Only they say amh-parrse. Silly, of course, but you know what Frenchmen are. (And now to await the flood of strongly protesting letters from Faure, Pinay, Maurice Chevalier, Mendes-France, Oo-La-La and Indignant Parisienne.)
They say it is possible even today to be funny about porcupines and remain unscathed, but I very much doubt it. Just try it and see how quickly you find your letter-box full of communications beginning:
With reference to your recent tasteless and uncalled-for comments on the porcupine…"
Wodehouse's comment is crisp and prescient, as always, but anyone mocking the modern tendency of singers to cry was just asking for it. Womanish wailing is over 90% of their output. It's what they're *for*...
Great year, 1957. My mum and dad were just getting acquainted down the Irish Dance Hall in Stratford. No shortage of assaulted womanhood there, and a word out of place was met with something sterner than an angry tweet. We could do with some of that spirit nowadays. Perhaps Facebook can add a glass-in-the-face button?
Sir Glorious Hutton, I remember fondly the time when I emailed you and you very accurately referred to me as a nutcase. But, as the Savanarola of Airstrip One I thought you should admit at least to yourself that you have outdone yourself on this your (apparent) most recent missive. Onwards, Damien Bagley