First published in The Storyteller, June 1925
Collected in Desirable Residences and Other Stories (1991)
Approx. 4,300 words
(First read 08/05/1992)
There are three ways the reader might approach this story. (1) Those who've already read EFB's novel Rex (1925¹) will think, "This is the plot of Rex, pretty much ~ why bother repeating it?" (2) Those who haven't read Rex can just read the story and save themselves the misery of reading that novel ... or (3) they can read the story then go on to delight in the
full expanded novel version.
In brief, then, Hugh Ranworth is a young London playwright who's spent the past decade or so trying to come up with something produceable. He started out full of the joys (?) of creative expression but ended up writing whatever mindless pap he thought the market would want. At the age of 32 he suddenly cracks it and is an overnight sensation, having jettisoned all his youthful ideals. Problem No. 1: He'd always promised his old mum, safely tucked away on the Norfolk coast, that when he made it big she was to come and live with him in the Big Smoke. Problem No. 2: All that youthful disappointment has turned him into an empty husk of a chap, devoid of affection or any other worthwhile emotion ~ all he is is a writing-machine ...
Available in Desirable Residences and Other Stories.
¹ The novel appeared in late March or early April. Just why Benson thought the public might want to read the same story all over again a mere three months later is beyond reckoning.
² Obviously there's more to Rex than this ... but that's basically it in a nutshell.
Incidentally, à propos de rien, EFB does a bit of self-referencing in this one: the only play of Hugh's mentioned by name is titled The Bread of Deceit, which was also the title of a 1903 story by Fred.
I intend, though it will probably never happen, to devote a whole section of this blog to EFB's rather dismal 'career' as a playwright.