When Grandmama Fell off the Boat

By: Harry Graham, with an introduction by Miles Kington and a foreword by Virginia Graham

£9.95

The Best of Harry Graham, Inventor of Ruthless Rhymes

The wittiest, sickest and most telling verses by one of England’s greatest humorists are collected here for the first time in a single volume. The best of the infamous ruthless rhymes and many other memorable products of Harry Graham’s satire are accompanied by eighty delightful period illustrations.

PRODUCT INFORMATION

  • DETAILS

    DETAILS

  • DESCRIPTION

    DESCRIPTION

  • REVIEWS

    REVIEWS

  • CONTENTS

    CONTENTS

  • AUTHOR

    AUTHOR

  • PREVIEW

    PREVIEW

  • DETAILS

    • RRP: £9.95
    • ISBN: 978-1-873329-41-2
    • Format: 217 x 142 mm
    • Pictures: 80 b/w
    • Binding: Hardback
    • Extent: 160 pages
    • Rights: All available except UK and US
    • Edition: 2nd
  • DESCRIPTION

    Book of Harry Graham’s famous and funny poems – authorized anthology

    ‘When Grandmama fell off the boat,
    And couldn’t swim (and wouldn’t float),
    Matilda just stood by and smiled.
    I almost could have slapped the child.’

    When Grandmama Fell off the Boat is an anthology of the humorous verse of Harry Graham, one of the early 20th century’s wittiest writers. Graham made his name as the author of Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes, published in 1898 under the pseudonym Col. D. Streamer (he was a Coldstream Guard). He went on to become a successful writer of stage-show lyrics, and in 1923 had five smash-hit musicals running simultaneously in the West End of London. His work was published not only in England but also in America, where he was credited with introducing ‘sick’ verse. The Times in its 1936 obituary compared him with Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll and W. S. Gilbert, an epitaph that has stood the test of time.

    Graham’s secret is his ability to relate common episodes with a sardonic twist. A father irritated by his crying infant finds peace and quiet by popping him in the Frigidaire and a man whose wife elopes with the chauffeur despairs of ever starting the car. His callous and quotable rhymes became the table talk of a generation, influencing emerging writers such as W. H. Auden, George Orwell and Agatha Christie (see our blog on Literary Links).

    Although the ever popular Ruthless Rhymes was republished in 1996, When Grandmama Fell Off The Boat remains the only comprehensive selection of Graham’s verse, compiled with the help of his daughter, Virginia. It contains Graham’s best work: his sharpest satire, his most readily remembered lines and his humour at its darkest. A sample couplet from each poem is quoted in Preview (above). You can obtain a more extended excerpt, including the naked epic of The Bath (‘Remember wheresoe’er you be, To shut the door and turn the key!’), by registering for our free Downloads.

    This authorized anthology is elegantly designed, and the text is complemented by delightful and amusing period illustrations by Fish, Fougasse and Ridgewell.

    Download Ruthless Rhyme Competition Press Release

  • REVIEWS

    ‘He is in the great tradition of Lear and Carroll and Gilbert and Belloc. At his best he easily ranks any of these.’
    – Jeremy Nicholas, The Ruthless Rhymer, BBC Radio 4
    ‘I love the wicked humour of Harry Graham’s writing.’
    – Paul Mayhew-Archer (co-writer of The Vicar of Dibley)
    ‘This ranks alongside the verses of Hilaire Beloc or Roald Dahl for its wonderful wickedness.’
    Daily Express
    ‘A collection of brilliantly witty verse.’
    The Oldie Review of Books
    ‘A very good collection, enhanced by the superb black and white period illustrations. The introduction by Miles Kingston paints an interesting portrait of Harry Graham’s life – and a life which Graham dipped into very deeply for much of his subject matter!’
    – Paul Rance, booksmusictv.com
    ‘A delightful return to the hilarious Ruthless Rhymes of my childhood that were recited to us so frequently that we knew them all by heart, together with amusing and witty longer poems that are not so well known. As Miles Kingston says in his excellent Introduction, the Rhymes are a perfect mixture of lightheartedness and callousness that make them very funny.’
    – Mrs. K. M. Hunt (reader)
  • CONTENTS

    Foreword by Virginia Graham

    Introduction by Miles Kington

    THE POEMS

    Indifference

    Appreciation

    Father

    Aunt Eliza

    Amiability

    The New Profession

    Thoughtlessness

    Grandpapa

    Tender-Heartedness

    Mr Jones

    Compensation

    The Linguist

    The Siren

    Patience

    Holidays

    The Neighbours

    Perspective

    The Homes of London

    Necessity

    The Last Horsed ’Bus

    Lord Gorbals

    The Model Motorist

    Table Manners

    Luncheon

    Waste

    Dinner

    The Men from Blankley’s

    Providence

    Dancing

    The Battue of Berlin

    The Englishman’s Home

    The Sportsman

    Getting Up

    The Ideal Husband

    Love’s Handicap

    Mrs Christopher Columbus

    The Trucks of Truro

    The New Romance

    Good Sport

    The Busy Rich

    The Morning

    Slush

    Winter Sports

    L’Enfant Glacé

    Grandmama

    The Martyrdom of Fashion

    Dressing

    Plagues at the Play

    Creature Comforts

    The Choice

    A Plea for Ponto

    The Deserted Garden

    The Fallen Star

    The Cries of London

    The Postman and the Lift

    The Vacuum Cleaner

    The Cry of the Elders

    The Motriot

    Tragedy

    In-Laws

    Breakfast

    Bishop Prout

    The Traveller

    If…!

    Chance

    Opportunity

    Waste

    The Bath

    The Dirt Cure

    The Pest

    Calculating Clara

    Baby

    Canon Gloy

    The Poet’s Life

    Envoi
  • AUTHOR

    Harry GrahamHarry Graham (1874-1936) was an establishment figure who didn’t quite fit the mould. He started off conventionally enough with Eton, Sandhurst and the Guards, but the irrepressible entertainer in him kept bursting out, and by 1910 he had become a full-time writer. He was engaged to the American actress Ethel Barrymore, great aunt of Drew Barrymore, but she added him to her list of spurned suitors, among them Winston Churchill. Four years later Graham married Dorothy Villiers. They had one daughter, Virginia, also a writer, whose correspondence with Joyce Grenfell was published in 2000.

  • PREVIEW

    SAMPLE COUPLETS

    When Grandmama Fell off the BoatIndifference
    When Grandmama fell off the boat,
    And couldn’t swim (and wouldn’t float)…

    Appreciation
    Auntie, did you feel no pain
    Falling from that willow tree?

    Father
    During dinner at the Ritz,
    Father kept on having fits…

    Aunt Eliza
    In the drinking-well
    Which the plumber built her…

    Amiability
    Though hearts by kindliness are won,
    Good-nature can be overdone…

    The New Profession
    He never was able to find a profession
    For which he was properly fitted…

    Thoughtlessness
    I never shall forget my shame
    To find my son had forged my name…

    Grandpapa
    Founder of a distinguished line,
    And worthy ancestor of mine!

    Tender-Heartedness
    Billy, in one of his nice new sashes,
    Fell in the fire and was burnt to ashes…

    Mr Jones
    “There’s been an accident!” they said,
    “Your servant’s cut in half; he’s dead!”

    Compensation
    Weep not for little Léonie,
    Abducted by a French Marquis!

    The Linguist
    Charmé de vous voir içi!
    Never saw you looking better!

    The Siren
    She shouted: “Catch me if you can, sir!”
    And dived again like a merganser!

    Patience
    When skiing in the Engadine
    My hat blew off down a ravine…

    Holidays
    If we lounge at Ostend in a bar –
    If we sail a small dinghy at Dover…

    The Neighbours
    I fail so to appreciate
    The honour of a visit…

    Perspective
    “What is the Government about?
    And where are the Police?”

    The Homes of London
    The happy homes of London,
    How beautiful they stand!

    Necessity
    Late last night I slew my wife,
    Stretched her on the parquet flooring…

    The Last Horsed ’Bus
    Ancient Omnibus ungainly,
    We shall miss thee, day by day…

    Lord Gorbals
    He collided with a goatherd
    And a herd of forty goats…

    The Model Motorist
    Ye murderous, motoring scorchers,
    With manners of Gadarene hogs…

    Table Manners
    Let me tell you of my favourite Aunt Anna,
    Who (though eighty) is alert and full of fun…

    Luncheon
    My brother Fritz, one summer’s day,
    Was lunching with his fiancée…

    Waste
    I had written to Aunt Maud,
    Who was on a trip abroad…

    Dinner
    Young Henry Jones, a friend of mine,
    Once took a girl to dance and dine…

    The Men from Blankley’s
    The clock struck two as from the street
    There rose a sound, sublime, seraphic…

    Providence
    Fate moves in a mysterious way,
    As shown by Uncle Titus…

    Dancing
    Now the moral of my story, which I dwell on con amore,
    Is that dancing is no mere gymnastic game…

    The Battue of Berlin
    From left and right, in furious flight,
    The stags to slaughter came…

    The Englishman’s Home
    I was playing golf the day
    That the Germans landed…

    The Sportsman
    While herds of guilty chamois hang
    Their heads on ev’ry landing…

    Getting Up
    Though many men have made their mark
    By rising daily with the lark…

    The Ideal Husband
    When comes my time for mating,
    When Cupid shoots his bolt…

    Love’s Handicap
    How they ate petits fours
    Till she cried: “Au secours!”

    Mrs Christopher Columbus
    Her husband’s absence she enjoyed,
    Nor ever asked him where he went…

    The Trucks of Truro
    When these trucks go East of Truro,
    Then my heart will faithless be!

    The New Romance
    He drove superbly from the tee;
    Said Elsie: “That’s the man for me!”

    Good Sport
    The distant “honk” of homing goose,
    The savage roar of mating moose!

    The Busy Rich
    With seventy thousand a year,
    My work ev’ry moment grows more…

    The Morning
    How slowly do the mornings pass
    For members of that leisured class…

    Slush
    Dowered with the wealth of Ophir,
    Reared on costly caviare…

    Winter Sports
    The ice upon our pond’s so thin
    That poor Mama has fallen in!

    L’Enfant Glacé
    When Baby’s cries grew hard to bear
    I popped him in the Frigidaire…

    Grandmama
    She married Grandpapa (although
    She much preferred another beau…

    The Martyrdom of Fashion
    Ah, who can view without compassion
    This modern Martyrdom of Fashion?

    Dressing
    Some people take an hour to dress;
    It can be done in rather less…

    Plagues at the Play
    “Well-dressed,” and well-fed, and well-meaning (God knows!),
    They arrive when the play is half ended…

    Creature Comforts
    I fed the ducks, reproved my wife,
    Played Handel’s Largo on the fife…

    The Choice
    “Gladly, to save the best of bow-wows,
    I’d sacrifice,” she sobbed, “my spou-ouse!”

    A Plea for Ponto
    I’ve yet to hear the mention
    Of a surgical invention
    That can justify experiments on DOGS…

    The Deserted Garden
    There is a garden in our square,
    And householders can have the key…

    The Fallen Star
    When Ada Stew was seventeen
    No shyer girl was ever seen…

    The Cries of London
    No more, when autumn days draw near,
    Do songs of “Lavender!” rise clear…

    The Postman and the Lift
    My word! How Aunt Eliza sniff’d!
    She met a postman in the lift!

    The Vacuum Cleaner
    Though Time of “Old Masters” denude us,
    Though strangers our treasures annex…

    The Cry of the Elders
    O my Children, we, the older generation,
    At whose feet you ought (in theory) to sit…

    The Motriot
    It was chickens, chickens, all the way,
    With children crossing the road like mad…

    Tragedy
    That morning, when my wife eloped
    With James, our chauffeur, how I moped!

    In-Laws
    When first I set up house with Jane
    Her parents were of great assistance…

    Breakfast
    The perfect breakfast, all must own,
    Is that which man enjoys alone…

    Bishop Prout
    In Burma, once, while Bishop Prout
    Was preaching on Predestination…

    The Traveller
    Back in Basingstoke to-day,
    Aunt Maud still dreams about Bombay…

    If…!
    I went to Holland (Amsterdam),
    For that’s the sort of man I am…

    Chance
    And here they built their castles in the sand
    And listened to the Borough Council Band…

    Opportunity
    When Mrs Gorm (Aunt Eloise)
    Was stung to death by savage bees…

    Waste
    Our governess – would you believe
    It? – drowned herself on Christmas Eve!

    The Bath
    Broad is the Gate and wide the Path
    That leads man to his daily bath…

    The Dirt Cure
    Unkempt and a sloven, in rooms like an oven,
    I lead a most healthy existence…

    The Pest
    With passion fierce and uncontrolled
    I loathe the man who’s got a cold!

    Calculating Clara
    O’er the rugged mountain’s brow
    Clara threw the twins she nursed…

    Baby
    Mother said, “Oh, stop a bit!
    This is overdoing it!”

    Canon Gloy
    One morning, just as Canon Gloy
    Was starting gaily for the station…

    The Poet’s Life
    The noblest bards have all required
    A tragic source from which to borrow…

    Envoi
    Behold how tenderly I treat
    Each victim of my pen and brain…

    Click here to read four full Harry Graham poems.