“Another Sensational Discovery Shakes the Art World” (E17)

  • Originally printed: The New Yorker, August 16, 1930
  • First reprinted in: Never reprinted
  • Original Byline: Robert Benchley


Here RB intervenes in the fashionable furor over forgery and false fronts in the fine arts, as seen in such keen sociological treatises as Animal Crackers. The piece parses out the purport of an allegorical stag hunt substratum reprieved from obscurity by an overzealous museum cleaner, whose critical scrubbing skills helped put a phony Rembrandt-Romney to rout (and to rinse). Who could have guessed that old George Romney (the portraitist, not his descendant the Mitt-maker) had concealed such medievalist mental states beneath his staid social miming stocks in trade?

Knowing that such flights of feudal fantasy didn’t pay the bills during the Age of Enlightenment, the ambitious Romney apparently thought so little of his creation that he scrupled not at scribbling the odd commercial calculation or dalliance digits across its bestiological bottom half. And leave it to Benchley to get in a cheep cheep cheep shot at his avian enemies along the way!

Favourite Moment:
“To carry the stag-hunt story down into the foreground, where the dolphin and the lion are, would seem to be folly. They seem to be part of another idea entirely.”

“After-Bedtime Stories: How Lillian Mosquito Projects Her Voice” (E7)

  • Originally printed: Life Magazine, July 29, 1920
  • First reprinted in: Love Conquers All
  • Original Byline: Robert C. Benchley


Here, the nursery’s caustic conch passes from humanity’s best friend (E6) to one of its most implacable foes, in the anthropomorphized person of Lillian Mosquito. Nothing terribly surprising in RB’s characterization of the despised insect as motivated more by bloody-mindedness than by blood-lust. Lillian is a vampiric ventriloquist, baiting her inept victims to add insulting self-injury to their itches. More interestingly, perhaps, the piece expands upon the previous installment’s note of malaise under Mother Nature’s malevolent tutelage. A shame we never got to learn “how Lois Hen scratches up the beets and Swiss chard in gentlemen’s gardens…”

Favourite moment:
“But he was prevented from leaving by kindly Old Mother Nature, who stepped on him with her kindly old heel…”

Reprint Note:

  • Reprinted under the title “Animal Stories: Part II – Lillian Mosquito”