- Originally Published: Syndicated Piece, News Publishing Co. (spotted in the Oakland Tribune and The Charlotte News, among other outlets), August 14, 1921
- First Reprinted: Love Conquers All
- Original Byline: Robert C. Benchley
Nearly 20 years before Silesia became a flashpoint in Hitler’s monstrous Anschluss aggressions, Benchley subjects East-Central Europe’s ruling classes to a whimsically withering historical inquiry. Mocking the practice of dignifying dizzyingly stupid aristocratic and irredentist spats with naming conventions derived from mathematics, RB proposes a novel answer to the “Silesian Question.”
Describing a series of political production numbers scarcely less absurd than the Habsburg Vanities and the Polish Partition Follies of 1772, 1793, and 1795, RB takes the reader on a mellifluously mad journey into the heart of anti-democratic darkness. I refer here, of course, to the epochal Summoning of the Storkrath, where the political will of the Duchy’s assembled nobles, welterweights and licensed pilots coalesced around a policy of strict indifference (at best) to the actual needs of everyone else in Silesia.
“And he was the kind of man who would stop at nothing when it pleased him to augment his duchy.”
- Topical reference to France and England “splitting” over the Silesian problem has been removed from the version in Love Conquers All. Presumably they got over it.
- Title in The Charlotte News: “Silesian Problem Clear”
- Title in the Oakland Tribune: “Silesia Row is Explained By Benchley”
- Originally printed: Vanity Fair, May 1918
- Reprinted: Chips Off the Old Benchley
- Original Byline: Brighton Perry
Written under the pseudonymous Brighton Perry byline, Benchley winces waggishly in the gloved grip of Great Wartime public discourse. The piece opens with a knowing nod toward the three thousand war correspondents whose most insightful writing on the conflict will remain under intellectual quarantine until accessed by future scholars looking to find out what the hell actually happened. Benchley gets in a jab at topical super patriot James M. Beck and teasingly begs Postmaster General Albert S. Burleson not to ban Vanity Fair from the mails just for daring to have a little fun with the concept of soft news during hard times.
The remainder of the essay presents an alternate history of the Revolutionary War in which Paul Revere’s wild midnight ride is replaced by a Sunday section puff piece on picturesque stops for Redcoats on a walking tour of New England and George Washington’s trip across the Delaware is stage managed by military police who function like (21st century) movie location security guards.
Benchley worked as a military aircraft information censor for the U.S. Government in early 1918, so he knew whereof he joked.
“…the great (numerically speaking) American public..”
- Major excisions from topical preamble on World War One Censorship
- Topical reference to jingoistic blowhard James M. Beck removed
- Teasing request not to be banned by the Postmaster General removed
- Favourite moment (above) was a casualty of the excision process and does not appear in Chips Off the Old Benchley – too anti-patriotic for the HUAC era?