People in the past have asked me about my early life, where was I born, what were the exciting incidents of my childhood, all the things they want to know on the off-chance that a little bit of the art might rub off onto them.
I was born in the ‘Charity hospital for Distressed Gentlewomen who have fallen upon hard times.’ I was, apparently, an exceptionally beautiful baby, so much so that when I was three days old and my mother was asleep, another woman saw me as she passed through and tried to steal me.
But as she picked me up I produced a bowel movement of such amazing quantity and of such nauseous chife that she immediately put me down, thus waking my mother.
My poor mother, breathing, disastrously, through her nose as she awoke, refused point blank to accept me and handed me back to my kidnapper. This woman became most heated in her denial of any liability for me and their bitter argument over who was responsible for ‘changing’ me eventually brought the matron.
Matron was (and here remember I am reliant upon the memories of others) a large powerfully built lady with a much diminished sense of smell. It was she who took me outside, stripped me and washed me off in the yard with water taken in buckets from a convenient horse trough. She then proceeded to lecture my mother on the advantages of a balanced died, pointing out that pickled eggs in a thick hot sauce might be acceptable as a pregnancy craving, but should not form a major item in the diet of a lactating mother.
When my maternal grandmother heard this story, she, who was a wise woman long before it became fashionable, prophesied that I would grow up to become a poet or a politician. As she regarded each as equally disreputable, she immediately disinherited me and disowned my mother.
But as I say, I was an exceptionally beautiful baby and grew into an adorably handsome child. Of course I was an infant prodigy. My father was a minor clerk in one of the great law houses of the city. As had been his father and his father before him. Doubtless there were Steelyards working as legal clerks, taking proper notes in a well formed hand, when the first naked savage decided to build the first crude hut on the side of the estuary. But now the thwarted literary genius of countless generations of Steelyards burst forth in me.
At the age of six I made my first major contribution to poetry. I delivered my verses, in an enchanting childish treble, to a weeping audience at the Misanthropes Hall. Not only was the world of poetry enriched by my presence, but after hearing me a score of lesser poets realised that they were not possessed of the necessary spark of poetic genius and burned their tawdry verses, swearing to write no more.
Since then I have had my ups and downs, but by and large I have managed to overcome those troubles which beset a chap and have largely supported myself as a jobbing poet.
But still, I was forgetting, as always there is a book that might tickle your fancy.
as the reviewer said
In my opinion, the world and characters from Jim Webster’s mind would make a wonderful TV series, starting with this one.”