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Continuing the adventures of the silver-tongued Psmith, one of Wodehouse’s best loved characters, and his friend Mike Jackson. The story begins with Psmith accompanying his fellow Cambridge student Mike to New York on a cricketing tour. Through high spirits and force of personality, Psmith takes charge of a minor periodical, and becomes imbroiled in a scandal involving slum landlords, boxers and gangsters - the story displays a strong social conscience, rare in Wodehouse’s generally light-hearted works. (source: Wikipedia)
228 pages with a reading time of ~3.50 hours (57004 words), and first published in 1915. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2009.
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The man in the street would not have known it, but a great crisis was imminent in New York journalism.
Everything seemed much as usual in the city. The cars ran blithely on Broadway. Newsboys shouted “Wux-try!” into the ears of nervous pedestrians with their usual Caruso-like vim. Society passed up and down Fifth Avenue in its automobiles, and was there a furrow of anxiety upon Society’s brow? None. At a thousand street corners a thousand policemen preserved their air of massive superiority to the things of this world. Not one of them showed the least sign of perturbation. Nevertheless, the crisis was at hand. Mr. J. Fillken Wilberfloss, editor-in-chief of Cosy Moments, was about to leave his post and start on a ten weeks’ holiday.
In New York one may find every class of paper which the imagination can conceive. Every grade of society is catered for. If an Esquimau came to New York, the first thing he would find on the bookstalls in all probability would be the Blubber Magazine, or some similar production written by Esquimaux for Esquimaux. Everybody reads in New York, and reads all the time. The New Yorker peruses his favourite paper while he is being jammed into a crowded compartment on the subway or leaping like an antelope into a moving Street car.
There was thus a public for Cosy Moments. Cosy Moments, as its name (an inspiration of Mr. Wilberfloss’s own) is designed to imply, is a journal for the home. It is the sort of paper which the father of the family is expected to take home with him from his office and read aloud to the chicks before bed-time. It was founded by its proprietor, Mr. Benjamin White, as an antidote to yellow journalism. One is forced to admit that up to the present yellow journalism seems to be competing against it with a certain measure of success. Headlines are still of as generous a size as heretofore, and there is no tendency on the part of editors to scamp the details of the last murder-case.
Nevertheless, Cosy Moments thrives. It has its public.
Its contents are mildly interesting, if you like that sort of thing. There is a “Moments in the Nursery” page, conducted by Luella Granville Waterman, to which parents are invited to contribute the bright speeches of their offspring, and which bristles with little stories about the nursery canary, by Jane (aged six), and other works of rising young authors. There is a “Moments of Meditation” page, conducted by the Reverend Edwin T. Philpotts; a “Moments Among the Masters” page, consisting of assorted chunks looted from the literature of the past, when foreheads were bulgy and thoughts profound, by Mr. Wilberfloss himself; one or two other pages; a short story; answers to correspondents on domestic matters; and a “Moments of Mirth” page, conducted by an alleged humorist of the name of B. Henderson Asher, which is about the most painful production ever served up to a confiding public.
The guiding spirit of Cosy Moments was Mr. Wilberfloss. Circumstances had left the development of the paper mainly to him. For the past twelve months the proprietor had been away in Europe, taking the waters at Carlsbad, and the sole control of Cosy Moments had passed into the hands of Mr. Wilberfloss. Nor had he proved unworthy of the trust or unequal to the duties. In that year Cosy Moments had reached the highest possible level of domesticity. Anything not calculated to appeal to the home had been rigidly excluded. And as a result the circulation had increased steadily. Two extra pages had been added, “Moments Among the Shoppers” and “Moments with Society.” And the advertisements had grown in volume. But the work had told upon the Editor. Work of that sort carries its penalties with it. Success means absorption, and absorption spells softening of the brain.
Whether it was the strain of digging into the literature of the past every week, or the effort of reading B. Henderson Asher’s “Moments of Mirth” is uncertain. At any rate, his duties, combined with the heat of a New York summer, had sapped Mr. Wilberfloss’s health to such an extent that the doctor had ordered him ten weeks’ complete rest in the mountains. This Mr. Wilberfloss could, perhaps, have endured, if this had been all. There are worse places than the mountains of America in which to spend ten weeks of the tail-end of summer, when the sun has ceased to grill and the mosquitoes have relaxed their exertions. But it was not all. The doctor, a far-seeing man who went down to first causes, had absolutely declined to consent to Mr. Wilberfloss’s suggestion that he should keep in touch with the paper during his vacation. He was adamant.