“Busy as Bees” (E66)

  • Originally printed:  The New Yorker, July 12, 1930  
  • First reprinted in:  Never reprinted
  • Original Byline:  Guy Fawkes



Guy Fawkes gives no quarter (no Sunday edition nickel either) to his nemeses on the New York Times editorial staff, who found themselves hoist by their Boys’ Own Adventure headline policy during the summer of 1930. After years of flogging takeoffs, landings, ascents, and polar perambulations, a perfect storm of derring-do caught the “paper of record” short of frontpage real estate, allowing The Herald Tribune, The World, The Telegraph, and The American to latch their lousy linotypes onto the gravy plane. Roger Williams’ non-stop Bermuda journey and the Hunter Brothers’ 553-hour endurance flight were among the exclusive “scoops” that slipped through the Times’ clutches while they were busy chasing that aeronautic will-o’-the-wisp Charles Kingsford-Smith.

In other non-news, Benchley raps knuckles on both sides of the political aisle for the epidemic of bad faith arguments propounded by the Democans in support of and in opposition to the latest tariff law. Apparently, Hoover’s supporters contended that the new act had no connection whatsoever to an unfortunately timed dip in the already anemic 1930 Stock Market, while the Democratic organs naturally averred that Hoover’s policy would merely compound his economic felonies. Then, everyone turned on a dime (Benchley wouldn’t pay that either), adopting the opposite positions when trading ticked upward the next week. Through it all, much was made about the impact (or irrelevance) of “dominant bear” activity on Wall Street.

The author also takes the Treasury Department to task for pretending there’s no such thing as a “deficit” until the American people (in this case, the soon-to-be-famous Great War bonus veterans) actually need financial assistance. Then, suddenly, all of those Chamber of Commerce prosperity tales about bountiful national surpluses evaporate into hysterical mists of austerity. Some things never change.

Guy Fawkes isn’t all gunpowder this time out, though. He finds space for a paragraph in praise of the New York Times’ “French Correspondent”, who delivered an unaccustomedly graceful appraisal of the Allied evacuation of the Rhineland in the July 1st edition of the paper. And he ends on a note of mock-exhilaration in anticipation of keeping cool with ex-president Coolidge’s daily column for the remainder of the summer!

Favorite Moment:

Just as we were beginning to worry about light paragraphs for this department and to wonder if it might not be well to discontinue for the summer, the Herald Tribune starts in on daily sermonettes by Calvin Coolidge. So far, we have seen only followups to his old “Have Faith in Massachusetts” routine, evidently extending the series into “Have Faith in the Republican Party,” “Have Faith on the Lower Mississippi,” and “Have Faith in the Rockies,” but they are sufficient to make us cancel our passage to Europe. We can’t miss those.

4 thoughts on ““Busy as Bees” (E66)

  1. I’m enjoying your blog. You’re providing some great analysis of Benchley’s more obscure writings.

    The Wayward Press pieces were reprinted in book form by Wolf Den Books. S.L. Harrison, editor.

    I don’t know if it’s still in print. I bought it a few years ago.

    The more I read the Guy Fawkes essays on politics and journalism, the more I realize how little things have changed.


    1. thanks so much – I’m really enjoying the odyssey (wish I had time to do one every day, but maybe regular work will let up some time!) Ah yes, I have heard of that Wolf Den Books publication! Do you know if they are reprinted in their entirety? I’ve got my New Yorker subscription and I love reading them that way, but I shall most assuredly go back and add in the information about Robert Benchley’s Wayward Press: The Complete Collection Of His The New Yorker Columns Written As Guy Fawkes. I was going by Gordon E. Ernst’s Annotated Bibliography, but Benchley scholarship is always on the move!!!


      1. Benchley scholarship is always on the move!!!

        A few days ago I googled “Robert Benchley” and one of the first page results was “Who is Robert Benchley Dating?”

        As far as I can tell, the Wayward Press articles are reprinted in their entirety. I don’t have a New Yorker subscription anymore so I can’t compare them to the originals. But the book versions are long and don’t look trimmed to me.

        On the subject of books, I’ve always thought Gluyas Williams was the best illustrator for Benchley’s essays. I especially like his later work, when his version of Bob was more fully rounded. There’s a subtlety to his cartoons that’s missing from the work of some of the other artists.

        For example, there’s an essay where Bob finds himself floating up to the ceiling (I can’t remember offhand the circumstance or the essay) and Gluyas has Bob looking mildly befuddled but still dignified. The same essay, illustrated by Peter Arno, has Bob wide-eyed and flapping his arms. I prefer Gluyas.


      2. oh, me too – no question! Peter Arno certainly has an interesting style, but it’s not nearly as well suited to the Benchleyan aesthetic. Williams is the best


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