Sax Rohmer and Little Tich
8 May  2000


From the collection of Lawrence Knapp

Little Tich: A Book of Travels (And Wanderings). [London: Greening & Co., Ltd, 1911. [Edited/ghostwritten for Harry Relph by Sax Rohmer].

From the collection of Lawrence Knapp

 

"Little Tich" was the stage name of Harry Relph,  one of the most popular of the English music hall comedians in the early twentieth century.  His career of over forty years featured his height--four feet six inches-- as well as his hands which had six digits. His trademark routine involved a pair of oversize boots which enabled him to lean at rather extreme and odd angles.

He was the sixteenth child of a landlord at The Blacksmith Arms in Cudham.

CONTENTS

PAGE

The Art Of Little Tich.  By Bart Kennedy   13
INTRODUCTORY
(As It Were) 
19
THE FIRST CHAP.
We're Off!
23
THE SECOND CHAP.
Trains and Tribulations
30
THE THIRD CHAP.
My Birthplaces And Other Mysteries
34
THE FOURTH CHAP.
Thoughts of Joy
39
THE FIFTH CHAP.
Chat With A Russian Gentleman
46
THE SIXTH CHAP.
I Visit America
51
THE SEVENTH CHAP.
The Wild Man Of Syracuse And Others
57
THE EIGHTH CHAP.
Still In America
64
THE NINTH CHAP.
Dime Museums
70
THE TENTH CHAP.
Lifts And Liftmen
76
THE ELEVENTH CHAP.
Liftmen And Lifts
82
THE TWELFTH CHAP.
Hydra--?--!--s
87
THE THIRTEENTH CHAP.
Songs And So On
92
THE FOURTEENTH CHAP.
Nell Gwyn
99
THE FIFTEENTH CHAP.
"Gay Paree"
104
THE SIXTEENTH CHAP.
My Impression Of The Great Pyramid
110
THE SEVENTEENTH CHAP.
Cocoa Nut Palm Grove
116
THE EIGHTEENTH CHAP.
Steeple-Jack
122
THE NINETEENTH CHAP.
My Chinese Correspondent
128
THE TWENTIETH CHAP.
Some Queries Answered
132
THE LAST CHAP.
What I Think Of Little Tich
136

The Sixteenth Chapter is typical of Little Tich's humor: it pokes fun at the "typical" Englishman and his attitude while building to a climax.  Before ghostwriting Little Tich for Harry Relph, Rohmer had written comic material for him. We may never know if  "My Impression of the Great Pyramid" was a Rohmer contribution, but it may well have been.

This chapter is also of interest to the Sax Rohmer reader in that it is quite antithetical to Rohmer's later, fictional accounts of the pyramids, particularly the "Bats of Meydūm" section of Brood of the Witch Queen and "The Death-Ring of Sneferu"--both of which were based on  Rohmer's experience on a honeymoon trip to the Pyramid at Meydūm in 1913. (See the entry for Brood of the Witch Queen for details.)

 

THE SIXTEENTH CHAP.

MY IMPRESSION OF THE GREAT PYRAMID

WE were passing through the Suez Canal. I was watching the ships of the desert (I refer to camels) coming down to the banks, kneeling to receive their loads and then trotting off into the desert entirely unaided by mere mankind, when the Old Gentleman addressed me.
   When I say the Old Gentleman, I don't mean it in any allegorical sense! I mean it literally.
   He was a nice, chatty Old Gentleman who had been "doing" Egypt. I don't know how you "do" Egypt exactly. You have to be a smart man of business, I should judge. I'd always had the idea that Egypt "did" you. But the Old Gentleman said he had been "doing" Egypt ; so I took his word for it. He looked like a truthful Old Gentleman.
   He said : " What do you think of Egypt ?
   I said: " Very charming."
   He said : " What do you think of the sky ?
   I said "Very blue."
   He said : " You're right ! My wife has been admiring the Canal pilots. Their navigation is awfully clever, she thinks. I think so too. Don't you ?
   I said : " Very smart."
   But he was a nice, chatty Old Gentleman, and He meant to " draw " me. I could see that. He was out for chatting. He said:
   "Warm work, 'doing' the Great Pyramid?"
   I said : "Very warm."
   He said : " What is your impression of the Great Pyramid ?"
   Now I could quite easily have said "Very large," or "very great," or " Very pyramidal" (I couldn't have said the last so easily, perhaps ; but I could have tried). In short, I could have been terse to a degree. But, no ! I said to myself: " One day, unhappy man ! you intend to write a book. Now is the time to try your hand at descriptive stuff ! This Old Gentleman has asked you, What is your impression of the Great Pyramrid ? Tell him ! " So I replied as follows :
   "My impression of the Great Pyramid, sir, is a most impressive impression. It impressed its impression upon me with great impressiveness. When first I saw that tall, star-shaped cylinder---"
   The Old Gentleman murmured: "Pardon me--- "
   "---When first I saw that gloomy mound," I continued, frowning, "I was impressed oppressively, sir. I said to my wife, ‘This is indeed an oppressively impressive spectacle.’ Towering upward from its rocky base and coming to a point at the top, it seemed to me most pyramidal---most pyramidal ! I had always been given to understand, from my childhood, that the Pyramid sloped upward in that way---and came to a point at the top. Now, here, as I stood amid the flowing Nile, I saw, with these eyes, that such was indeed the case---indeed the case !
   The Old Gentlemen said " Pardon me---"
   Sir," I continued, removing my hat, " I was thrilled through arid through! I said ‘Here, her feet pressed upon that spot where now my feet are pressed, Cleopatra’s feet may have stood and gazed as I gaze upon my feet ! Julius Caesar may have stood upon her feet, his gaze pressed upon the spot where now, my feet pressed upon yonder impressive spectacle, her gaze is pressed !’ Most impressive ! " (Most mixed!)
   The Old Gentleman cried : " Pardon me, I think---"
   "But what," I continued, with growing enthusiasm--- "but what, sir, were my impressive feelings when I entered that impressive spectacle ? Ah, how can I describe them ! Into that oppressive pillar no light of day can enter ! Into that impressive globe no atom of solar illumination can creep ! Through that iron frame---"
   The Old Gentleman shouted : " Pardon me, I’m sure you---"
   "Through that mass of oak ! I cried, " no ray of sunlight can find its way ! What is the result, sir ? What is the result ? Darkness ! absolute darkness. I gaze to my right---darkness. I gaze to my left---darkness. I gaze to my up---darkness. I gaze to my down---darkness. Very dark ! Nothing sir---absolutely nothing to be seen ! Very impressive ! Then---the moon rose ! What a spectacle of impressiveness !—moonrise in the Pyramid!"
   The Old Gentleman yelled : "Pardon me ! I’m sure you are---"
   "The revolving-staircase became a blaze of crimson light !"
   The Old Gentleman screamed : "Pardon me ! I’m sure you are mistaken !"
   I said : "I’m very sorry !"
   He said : "Your account of your visit, sir, is most preposterous and ridiculous !"
   I said : " I’ve given no account of any visit !"
   He gasped. He fumbled for his glasses, found them, and put them on upside down. He began : " But you---"
   I interrupted. "I gave you my impression of the Great Pyramid. That was what you asked me, I believe ? Very well. I have done my best. I dare say I’ve gone wrong a bit at times ; but that’s only natural---as I’ve never been there !"

--Little Tich pp. 110-114


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Copyright © 1999 Lawrence Knapp. All rights reserved.

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