“Another Uncle Edith Christmas Yarn” (E18)

  • Originally printed: DAC News, December 1929
  • First reprinted in: The Treasurer’s Report, and Other Aspects of Community Singing
  • Also Reprinted in: Benchley Beside Himself; The Benchley Roundup; and A Good Old-Fashioned Christmas (naturally)
  • Original Byline: Robert C. Benchley (Drawings by Gluyas Williams)


As first seen in the 1920 “Bedtime Stories” centered on Georgie (E6) and Lillian (E7), any Benchleyan raconteur who aims to entertain the romper room set is stepping into a theatre of war. (A nautical war, in this case.) Like kindly Old Mother Nature before him, Uncle Edith is not above using Cossack methods to keep his audience in line. In fact, his leaky sea chronicle seems more like a pretext for administering drubbings and clapping hecklers in irons than an attempt to edify or enthrall.

The yarn within the yarn, such as it is, involves Edith’s mystifying mid-Atlantic meeting with a ghost ship full of sleeping Hessian troopers – the mystification due chiefly to the old salt pork’s dead calm approach to the science of narrative momentum. However, just as this miserable tale threatens to settle into something like a permanent trench, three-year old Philip, the secret hero of the piece, breaks free from the brig and steals Edith’s thunder with a rousing account of his thrust up San Juan Hill with Teddy and his Rough Riders. Thus, Uncle Edith is decidedly on his back foot (or perhaps, as Marian suggests, over backwards with his feet in the air) when he snaps the immortal rejoinder: “Who the hell said anything about Christmas?”

Favourite Moment:
“Anyway, I do know that we sailed from Nahant on the fourteenth March.”
“What are you – French?” asked little Philip. “The fourteenth March.”

Reprint Notes:

  • In all cases, the piece was reprinted under the title “Another Uncle Edith Christmas Story”.
  • The Treasurer’s Report reprint excises Little Philip’s entire battle saga, drastically altering the balance of power between Uncle Edith and his antagonistic auditors and keeping the avuncular avenger firmly at the center of piece. Much more firmly than he deserves.

“Abandon Ship!” (E2)

  • Originally printed: Liberty Magazine, September 20, 1930
  • Reprinted: No Poems; Or, Around the World Backwards and Sideways
  • Unable to compare reprint with original text – Liberty Historical Archives not available at Toronto Public Library
  • Original Byline: unknown


Patented Benchleyan deflation of forced fun on a sojourn – this time via the vexing vessels that ply the lakes, coasts, and inland waterways of the good ol’ USA. The author presents a detailed taxonomy of taxing travel missteps off dry land. Regardless of the port of call, the duration of the trip, or the destination, all such short-term voyages are dismissed as sun-baked, soot-seared, wind-blasted, tongue sandwich-lashed and faulty deck chair-wracked forays into futility. Children, of course, make their accustomed contribution to the miasma of dissatisfaction which descends upon all such waterborne wastes of time. As always, the lesson is clear. stay home (or in some cozy booth in a speakeasy).

Favourite moment:
“The voyageurs then return to their seats and bake until the thing sails. Thus, before the trip has even begun, the let-down has set in.”