Robert Benchley: In Memoriam

One afternoon about two years ago, Bob Benchley dropped in at my home for a drink. It was at a time when my life had got more or less turned around backward, something apt to happen to a drama critic, and as usual I was still in my pajamas, though it was about six o'clock in the evening. The idea of not dressing till nightfall seemed rational enough to me, since I had nowhere in particular to go in the daytime, but it was a matter of some concern to my son, who was just eight, and attending a school where, it seemed, the other boys' fathers performed respectably, and suitably clothed, in their offices from nine to five. Apparently, the jocular explanation among my son's classmates who came to call on him from time to time was that I was a burglar by profession, and it caused him intense embarrassment. When Benchley finally got up to go, and I went to the door with him, it was more than the child could peaceably bear.

"Gee, Dad, you're re not going to start going out in the street that way, are you?" he cried in dismay.

"No," I said. "I'll try to spare you that final humiliation."

It was hardly a notable remark, but it seemed to amuse my guest, who chose to regard it as somehow typical of my domestic life, and he laughed very gratifyingly thereafter whenever he happened to think of it. This anecdote, dim

-180-

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Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Contents xi
  • Parodies Regained 1
  • Time . . . Fortune . . . Life . . . Luce 3
  • Death in the Rumble Seat 20
  • Topless in Ilium 24
  • The Factory and the Attic 27
  • Glorious Calvin (a Critical Appreciation Many Years Later) 33
  • Shad Ampersand 37
  • The Education of Henry Apley 47
  • Eva's Deathbed Revisited 51
  • Shakespeare, Here's Your Hat 56
  • To a Little Girl at Christmas 62
  • On a Darkling Plain 66
  • Zulu, Watch the Snakes 71
  • Some Matters of Fact 77
  • Big Nemo 79
  • Lady of the Cats 126
  • St. George and the Dragnet 140
  • One with Nineveh 162
  • Battle's Distant Sound 174
  • Robert Benchley: in Memoriam 180
  • So-So Stories 185
  • Outwitting the Lightning 187
  • Ring Out, Wild Bells 191
  • The Secret Life of Myself 196
  • Song at Twilight 202
  • Crusoe's Footprint 211
  • The Courtship of Milton Barker 223
  • The Curious Incident of the Dogs In the Night-Time 246
  • The Crusaders 257
  • Wounds and Decorations 265
  • The Country of the Blind 267
  • O.K., Zanuck, Take It Away 275
  • The Big Boffola 285
  • The Personality Kid 291
  • Adultery Makes Dull Bedfellows 294
  • The Mantle of Comstock 297
  • Two Very Sad Young Men 301
  • At Home with the Gants 304
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