Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


FRANK MUIR AND DENIS NORDEN offered brilliant wit in their BBC radio programs My Word! and My Music!, both discussed here at SimanaitisSays. Books by both are delights as well: Muir’s A Kentish Lad and The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose and Norden’s Clips From Life and Coming to You Live! There’s also Muir’s An Irreverent and Thoroughly Incomplete Social History of Almost Everything. 

An Irreverent and Thoroughly Incomplete Social History of Almost Everything, by Frank Muir, Stein and Day, 1976.

Even before its Preface, Muir sets the book’s tone with a quote from W. Somerset Maugham’s novel The Gentleman in the Parlour: “Make him [the reader] laugh and he will think you a trivial fellow, but bore him in the right way and your reputation is assured.” 

Frank Herbert Muir, CBE, 1920–1998, English comedy writer, radio and television personality, and raconteur.

In the Preface, Muir writes, “There have been many descriptions of what history is, e.g., ‘A vast Mississippi of falsehood’ (Matthew Arnold), ‘Fables that have been agreed upon’ (Voltaire), ‘A confused heap of facts’ (Lord Chesterfield), ‘Little more than the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind’ (Gibbon), ‘The biography of a few stout and earnest persons’ Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘A cyclic poem written by Time upon the memories of man’ (Shelley), ‘Bunk’ (Henry Ford), but there are probably as many ways of looking at the past as there are writers and historians prepared to look. This book is an attempt to look at social history from the people who were alive at the time and were not at all happy about what was going on.”  

Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits focused on the subject of music gleaned from the Muir collection. I offer them in no particular order.

George Ade: “The music teacher came twice each week to bridge the awful gap between Dorothy and Chopin.”

George Ade, 1866–1944, American writer, columnist, and playwright. Took part of the Golden Age of Literature in Indiana. Portrait, 1904.

“She was a town-and-country soprano of the kind often used for augmenting grief at a funeral.” 

Tomorrow in Part 2, we encounter the views of an English Lord, an American tavern-keeper, a Prussia king, and others, all thanks to Frank Muir’s collection.  

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022

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