Friday, June 10, 2011

17th Century Venetian Scoops Benchley!

I was digging around in the Muse database at the Boston Athenaeum the other day and found twenty-nine citations about Robert Benchley.

One interesting piece of Benchley trivia is contained in an article from the Journal, Eighteenth Century Life, called Water, Windows, and Women: The Significance of Venice for Scots in the Age of the Grand Tour, by Iain Gordon Brown, in the Fall, 2006 issue.

Brown claims that Benchley's famous telegram from Venice -- "Streets full of water -- please advise." – was at least partly anticipated in 1670! He says that Benchley stole the phrase -- though I think this is a bit of good-natured hyperbole, since I refuse to believe they had telegrams back then. Here is Mr. Brown's take on things:

"Richard Lassels's The Voyage of Italy, published posthumously in 1670 [is where] the term 'Grand Tour' is first used. This early manuscript . . . personified Venice as a beautiful woman, one of the fairest in Europe, holding up her head in the midst of the sea with Neptune for her guard and the reason for her sleeping securely.

“'The streets,' Lassels writes, 'are full of water.' (fols. 322 – 25). It was he who said this long before Robert Benchley stole the phrase in the twentieth century, and got himself into the books of travel quotations."

Well, this is a fine kettle of Venetian something-or-other!

No comments:

Robert Benchley Society

For more information about the Robert Benchley Society, local chapters near you, our annual Award for Humor, and our Annual Gathering, visit The RBS Website