Nancy Spain, Yet Once Again

Duncan McLaren has added some interesting material to his discussion of the Summer 1955 attempts by Daily Express reporters Nancy Spain and Lord Noel-Buxton to gain entry to Waugh’s house Piers Court, near Dursley, Glos., to conduct an interview. This led to a series of letters in the press and ultimately to libel suits in which Waugh prevailed two years later with much publicity. In the course of all this P G Wodehouse wrote a poem about the affair entitled “The Visitors”. This was published in his autobiographical collection Over Seventy in October 1957 but may have appeared earlier in a journal such as Punch from which much of the collection is reportedly taken. There was also an earlier US edition of the autobiography under a different title and with different content where the poem may have first appeared.

Waugh was surely aware of the poem since he and Wodehouse were correspondents at the time. But I can find no reference to it in his letters or diaries nor in his biographies. I can’t think it could have escaped both his and his biographers’ attentions. It is quite memorable and very funny. Here is the final stanza:

Noel-Buxton and Nancy Spain, my lads,/Noel Buxton and Nancy Spain./They’ll walk right in with a cheerful grin/And when they are in, remain./I wouldn’t much care to be stung by bees/Or bitten, let’s say, by a Pekinese,/But far, far better are those than these./Noel-Buxton and Nancy Spain. 

Any readers who may have more information about the publication history of the poem or any communications between the two writers about it are invited to reply as provided below. The Waugh bibliography lists the book (B1176) but mentions no previous publication. The complete verse can be found on Duncan’s website at the end of the article entitled “Scoop Revisited”. Here’s a link.


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