The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: My 'far from disagreeble verse' - rejected]

Share
Related Topics
I AM hurt. Just a little hurt. No: a lot. I am a lot hurt. I am hurt a lot. A lot I am hurt. Take a grip, Wallace. Deep breath. And again. There we are. All better. Now begin at the beginning, go on until you get to the end, and then stop. Ready, steady - I am, I must admit, just a little perturbed by a recent event in the world of publishing. I refer, I regret to say, to Mr John Gross's new edition of The Oxford Book of Comic Verse, and the notable omissions within it. But let me begin at the beginning.

Upon hearing of its publication, I hailed an immediate taxi cab to Heywood Hill bookshop armed with a crisp new pounds 20 note. 'The Oxford Book of Comic Verse - many thanks to you kind sirs]' I intoned amidst much merriment, for, in a fit of humour, I had somehow contrived to rhyme 'verse' with 'sirs' - with devastatingly jocular results]]

As they were wrapping the tome in its requisite paper bag, I honoured the well-spoken assistants with a further comic rhyming gem. 'I am happy to accept that bag,' I intoned, 'but I hope it does contain no rag]]]]' I then waited awhile, looked hard at them in search of a response and when a smile finally came to their faces, I was good enough to offer up another couplet from the immortal Arnold bag of rhymes: 'For this book I offer many thanks - though its price may dismay the manager of my bank]]]]]'

By now, only the dullest of my readers will be left wondering why their favourite Sunday scrivener was in a state of such high spirits. The reasons, of course, are perfectly obvious. The name of Wallace Arnold has been synonymous with Comic Verse these past 31 years, ever since I first published my immortal nonsense rhyme, The Sand Which Is In My Sandwich] in Punch magazine, of blessed memory, way back in '63:

Which sand is in

My sandwich? Why,

The sand which is

In my sandwich

Which is this sand -

The sand which is

In my sandwich]

Quite a chucklesome tongue- twister for a Sunday morn I think you will agree, and one that has been oft-repeated ever since] For the next couple of decades, I was to become Mr Punch's principal versifier, in 1976 being raised to the dizzy heights of Punch motoring and poetry editor by my old friend and quaffing partner, Mr William Davies. In celebration of my new twin-post, I conceived this snappy little four-liner, at which Sterling Moss himself was seen to smile when attending our weekly 'Punch Lunch':

I regret to say my driving is rather worse

Than my far from disagreeable verse]

Perhaps it's time I rang for a

charabanc -

or should I call for a Vauxhall

Cavalier - 'Ere] 'Ere]

Through the 1960s and 1970s, I published numerous anthologies of my own comic verse, one of them - From Bard to Verse (1973) - with an introduction by HRH Princess Anne. I was also featured heavily in The Punch Book of Comic Verse (ed. W Arnold), The Second Punch Book of Comic Verse (ed. W Arnold) and The Fourth Punch Book of Comic Verse (ed. W Arnold), though not, for some reason, in The Third Punch Book of Comic Verse (Ed. Terry Worsthorne).

All of which brings me to The Oxford Book of Comic Verse. In the taxi on the way back from Heywood Hill, I unwrapped the book with no little excitement, wondering which cachet of my own verse the editor had selected to grace his elegant tome, rather hoping that he had found room for some of the more obscure Arnold verses as well as the well-loved family favourites from

the Arnold catalogue.

My fingers a-tremble at the index, my eyes skimmed through Aiken, Conrad; Amis, Kingsley; Ammons, A R and Anonymous before finally coming to rest on - who? who?? WHO??? - Attlee, Clement followed by Auden, W H. Of Arnold, Wallace, veteran of over 746 verses on diverse topics, many of them widely anthologised, a poet once heralded by no less an authority than HRH Princess Anne as 'a writer of comic verse whose publication must give hope to all amateur versifiers struggling at home and abroad', Mr Gross has seen fit to exclude any mention.

To be perfectly frank, it is not for myself that I grieve, but for the future of the once-great institution that was the Oxford University Press. Personally, I am not hurt. Not a little hurt. Not hurt at all.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A press image from the company  

If men are so obsessed by their genitals, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities of sex?

Chloë Hamilton
Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara  

Up Ankara, for a tour of great crapital cities

Dom Joly
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory