[Ads-l] Request help tracing a joke in =?UTF-8?Q?=E2=80=9CMcClure's_Magazine=E2=80=9D_?=in 1927

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 28 14:31:31 UTC 2018

Quotation expert Nigel Rees just published the January 2019 issue of
“The ‘Quote...Unquote’ Newsletter” which contains the following
fascinating challenge:

[Begin excerpt]
[Hostess to Oscar Wilde:] ‘Are you enjoying yourself, Mr Wilde?’
‘Enormously, Madam, there’s nothing else to enjoy.’
Curiously, I cannot find a source for this before 1995.
[End excerpt]

Rees’s implicit challenge is to find earlier evidence, and to work
toward tracing this egocentric joke to its origin. Two famous
quotation magnets, Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, have been
assigned authorship of the quip. The phrasing is variable, so I have
found this task difficult.

The earliest match (with a different phrasing) I have found occurred
in the novel “Beau Ideal” by Percival Christopher Wren which was a
sequel to the very popular work “Beau Geste”. “Beau Ideal” was
serialized in “McClure’s Magazine” in 1927 and 1928, and I think the
joke probably appeared on page 84 of the October 1927 issue of
“McClure's Magazine”, but I need help to verify this. See further
below if you can access this magazine in 1927. Some issues of
“McClure's Magazine” are in a ProQuest periodicals database, but I do
not know whether ProQuest has coverage in 1927.

“Beau Ideal” was also serialized in “The Des Moines Register” in 1929.
Here are the details for that match:

Date: January 6, 1929
Newspaper: The Des Moines Register
Newspaper Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Section: The Sunday Register Red Arrow Fiction Book
Article: Beau Ideal
Author: Percival Christopher Wren
Start Page 2, Quote Page 11, Column 1
Database: Newspapers.com
Comment: Ellipses are in the original text

[Begin excerpt]
I suppressed all yawns, endeavored to simulate a polite if not keen
interest, and failed to give the worthy colonel the impression that I
was enjoying myself.

So when he asked me If I were doing so, I said: "Yes, indeed.
Colonel," . . . and added, "It is the only thing I am enjoying" . . .
whereat he laughed, commended my bluntness which matched his own, and
promised that I should find the next place stimulating, for I should
there encounter the Angel of Death.
[End excerpt]

Here is the hypothesized information about the appearance in
“McClure's Magazine” obtained via a Google snippet match. via
information in “The FictionMags Index”, and via deduction.
Interestingly, Wombat Denny Lien provided the pertinent information
about “McClure's Magazine” in “The FictionMags Index”. The target text
should be the same as that presented above.

Periodical: McClure's Magazine
Date: October 1927
Volume 59, Issue 4
Article: Beau Ideal
Author: Percival Christopher Wren
Quote Page 84 (Page number from snippet)

The goal is to obtain a complete and accurate citation; hence, scans
showing the quotation, the page number, the periodical title, the
publisher, the issue date, the volume, the number, the article title,
the starting page of the article, the author name, would be very

Also, If you can find and share an earlier instance of the joke that
would be great.

Garson O’Toole
Quote Investigator

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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