Comrades (!), some pointers to a successful career

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold

Share
Related Topics
Disappointed? Just a mite. I refer, of course, to my controversial omission from the recent Penguin Book of Columnists edited by my young confrere Mr Christopher Silvester. I am widely seen as the doyen of the inky craft, and it ill behoves Mr Silvester, a young man still struggling to make his way in letters, to tweak the nose so publicly of one who might otherwise have been of no little use to him.

But ours is not to reason why, as the good bard once put it. I suppose that, looking through my long and illustrious oeuvre, so often anthologised by better men than he, the young Silvester simply threw in the towel. What to do in the face of such excellence? Who knows, perhaps he is even now applying to Penguin Books with the first-class idea of compiling a separate anthology made up entirely of four - damn near five - decades of delightful Arnoldiana.

Until that massive tome wends its way on to the shelves of Heywood Hill, might I offer one or two tips to the aspiring columnist?

1) There Is Much Honest Amusement To Be Found In The Minutiae Of Everyday Life.

Highly successful Arnold columns mining this rich seam include:- "Whatever happens to the other halves of all those odd socks?!" (Punch, October 1958); "Putting up a deckchair: a chore that takes this honest scrivener a good three hours!!" (Illustrated London News, April 1962); "Pottering in the tool shed: why the UNfairer sex can't see the point of it!!!" (High Life magazine, June 1982).

2) Never Forget To Offer Praise Where Praise Is Due.

My highly readable weekly series, "Wallace Arnold In Praise of..." for the Spectator throughout the 1960s included such well-thumbed gems as "In Praise of ... the Hat", "In Praise of ... Hot Buttered Toast", "In Praise of ... the Old-fashioned Art of Conversation", "In Praise of ... Reading" and "In Praise of ... Log Fires". Readers would write in with suggestions which I would then eagerly espouse on their behalf. One or two of my more severe critics attempted to argue that the series had lost a bit of steam and grown repetitive after the first eight years, but I regard several pieces penned in that period - notably "In Praise of ... Log Fires Especially When They're Warm", "In Praise of ... Re-reading" and "In Praise of Two Hats" - as among my best.

3) There is No Substitute For The Well-honed Personal Anecdote.

The reader loves to be reminded that he is, as it were, the outsider looking in - and that you, the columnist, are the one decent insider who has had the good grace to wave out at him and mouth a few words in his direction through the window. Thus, many of my most memorable columns have both kicked off and signed off with the telling reminiscence, eg: "From all my meetings with Bob Boothby, I think that I shall never forget his habit of immediately echoing 'How do you do?' or words to that effect whenever a stranger held out his hand and said 'How do you do?'", or "I think that I shall never forget what Beaverbrook told me that Noel Coward had said to the Queen Mother about Anthony Eden's view of the inimitable Supermac. Alas shortage of space forbids me from repeating it here." You see what I mean? Tantalise the reader - but never let him see the entire picture.

4) Never Desist From Sticking Your Neck Out.

The forthright prediction is the stock-in-trade of the distinguished columnist. My old friend and quaffing partner Willy Rees-Mogg is a past master in this department. "Here is one ship that will surely last for ever!" he wrote in one of his earliest articles, just prior to the maiden voyage of the Titanic, and he was the very first columnist to predict that Richard Nixon would sail through the Watergate crisis unscathed. My own predictions have also proved almost eerily clairvoyant, viz my columns "Queen to Abdicate" (Spectators November 1967, January 1975, September 1983, March 1992, December 1997, etc, etc). An efficient standby, much used by my colleagues in the financial sector, is the prophecy of doom. I pen at least one article a year for the money pages entitled "MAJOR STOCKMARKET CRASH AROUND THE CORNER", and have done for quarter of a century; I have been absolutely spot-on more than once.

5) Be Not Afeared Of The Famous.

The wise columnist is fearless in his treatment of celebrities. Personally, I favour the Open Letter: "Dear Pablo - Did Mrs P take a tumble before posing for your last portrait?!! ... Yours Ever, Wallace" or "Dear Tony, As our newest Prime Minister, you will surely be glad of a word of advice ... Yours truly, Wallace". Finally a word of advice to the Wallace Arnold of the future: carve a name for yourself with a winning "catchphrase" (dread word!).

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko prior to the start of the European Council Summit in Brussels last month  

David Cameron talks big but is waving a small stick at the Russian bear

Kim Sengupta
 

Isis in Iraq: Even if Iraqi troops take back Saddam’s city of Tikrit they will face bombs and booby traps

Patrick Cockburn
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003