Dear Sir, I Have Read Your Play. Oh, My Dear Sir. Yours Faithfully

Herbert Beerbohm Tree? Albert Chevalier? John Clayton? Johnston Forbes-Robertson? John Golden? James Wallen? John Alfred Calthrop? Charles Dillingham? Anonymous? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Successful producers and directors are regularly sent screenplays and scripts by individuals with high aspirations. Unfortunately, these products of creativity are often terrible. One theater manager in the 1800s responded with a devastating two sentence assessment. The critical words have been attributed to the prominent English actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in “The Era” newspaper of London in 1888. A short item of “Theatrical Gossip” credited the actor and theater manager John Clayton with delivering the harsh assessment in a letter. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

A young author sent a play to the late Mr John Clayton, and begged him to read it. After a few days he received the MS. and the following characteristic reply:—“Dear Sir,—I have read your play— Oh! my dear sir.—Yours, J.C.”

The same item appeared in other newspapers in 1888 such as the “South Wales Echo” of Glamorgan, Wales. 2

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Dear Sir, I Have Read Your Play. Oh, My Dear Sir. Yours Faithfully

Notes:

  1. 1888 November 10, The Era, Theatrical Gossip, Quote Page 10, Column 2, London, England. (British Newspaper Archive)
  2. 1888 November 10, South Wales Echo, Green-room Gossip, Quote Page 2, Column 6, Glamorgan, Wales. (British Newspaper Archive)

Why Don’t You Carry a Wrist Watch Like Everyone Else?

Herbert Beerbohm Tree?  Frederick Henry Townsend? George du Maurier? Yogi Berra? Mutt and Jeff? An inebriate? A woman carrying packages?

Dear Quote Investigator: I have read several instances of a popular comical anecdote. Two different versions featured baseball Hall-of-Famer Yogi Berra. One night he was presented with a grandfather clock at a banquet dinner. Yogi was struggling to carry the clock down the street when a drunken individual bumped into him.

“Excuse me,” said Yogi.
The drunk looked at him unhappily and demanded, “Why don’t you carry a wrist watch like everybody else?”

In another version of the story Yogi was inebriated. He collided with a person carrying a large clock, and Yogi delivered the final humorous line.

In a third version of the tale a famous actor and theater manager in England was the protagonist. Herbert Beerbohm Tree observed a man staggering down the street under the weight of a grandfather clock and remarked: “My poor fellow, why not carry a watch?”

Can you clarify the origin of this anecdote?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of this basic jest known to QI appeared in a cartoon drawn by Frederick Henry Townsend in the London humor magazine Punch in March 1907. Here is the image and the caption: 1

1907PunchClock

Funny Man. “Pardon me, Sir, but wouldn’t you find it more convenient to carry a watch?”

Top quotation expert and BBC broadcaster Nigel Rees included this key citation in his compilation “Cassell’s Humorous Quotations”. 2 The joke was noticed across the ocean, and the cartoon was reprinted in The Washington Post in April 3 and a Pennsylvanian newspaper in October. 4

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Why Don’t You Carry a Wrist Watch Like Everyone Else?

Notes:

  1. 1907 March 27, Punch or The London Charivari, [Cartoon by F. H. Townsend with caption: ‘Funny Man. “Pardon Me…”‘], Page 223, Published at the Punch Office, London. (Google Books full view) link
  2. 2001, Cassell’s Humorous Quotations, Compiled by Nigel Rees, Section: Advice, Quote Page 24, [Cassell, London], Sterling Pub. Co., New York. (Verified on paper)
  3. 1907 April 14, Washington Post, [Reprint of cartoon from Punch magazine], Quote Page 12 (NArch Page 42), Washington, D. C. (NewspaperArchive)
  4. 1907 October 7, The Altoona Mirror, [Reprint of cartoon from Punch magazine], Quote Page 9, Altoona, Pennsylvania. (NewspaperArchive)