The scene is in the "Three
Æons for Lunch" Club, made up of the shades of
those authors who have "done something" while on
earth. Shades of advertising men are admitted because
advertising is really a form of belles-lettres and,
besides, they keep a club going. SHELLEY, SWIFT,
TENNYSON, POPE, POE and
others are lounging about the library table
preparatory to going in to lunch.
SHELLEY picks up a copy
of the February issue of Book News from the Earth
and thumbs its pages over with a badly assumed
- Ho-hum! I wonder what the news is from the old
- If you're looking for the article on the
Jerome Kern book auction, it's on page 45.
- (blushing furiously)
- Jerome Kern book auction? Has there been a
oh, yes you mean the auction of Jerome Kern's
- (Turns unerringly to page
- Don't be so naïve. You read all about it
yesterday at that very table. You even copied out the
various prices the books brought.
- (trying to read article, as if for the
- Honestly, Dean, I wasn't reading that
was this article on Richard Haliburton I was reading
well, I'll be darned honestly, Dean,
this is the first time I knew about this
- What's all the blushing about?
- (to the steward)
- Another round of the same, Waters.
- Not for me, Edgar, thanks. Not in the middle
of the day.
- Another round of the same, Waters. . . . Come
on, Bysshe, what's in the magazine you want us to know
- Oh, they had an auction in New York of Jerome
Kern's library, and Bysshe was in the Big Money. . . .
$68,000, wasn't it, Bysshie?
- Well, that's what it seems to say here. I
don't understand it.
- (Puts magazine down where it can easily be
reached by the others.)
- (Picking it up)
- What else was sold?
- Oh, you didn't come off so badly, Eddie. An
old letter of yours about Mrs. Browning was in the
- My God! Nineteen thousand five hundred! Say,
that's not so bad, is it for a letter, I
- Not so bad! It's perfect!
You never earned nineteen thousand five hundred in
your whole life. I almost tied you, though. Some
sucker paid seventeen thousand for a first edition of
- (yawning slightly)
- May I take a look at that, please?
- Your Maud drew down something
like nine thousand.
- I thought you hadn't read the article,
- I just saw that item it was right there
- Oh, well, it was just a portion of the
manuscript probably a couple of stanzas.
Anyway, I don't like the idea of auctioning off things
like that. It sort of takes some of the beauty
- What beauty is that?
- You wouldn't understand, Swift.
- I think Alfy is right. It rather cheapens the
thing to have a log of Americans and things bidding
for one's work.
- Well, a lot of Americans and things fell
pretty heavily for some old hack-work of yours,
Charlie. You ran second to Bysshe with a neat
- Who me? Who I? Forty-eight
thousand? For what?
- For a mess of stuff you did for Hone's
Weekly, it says here.
- Well, I'll be darned. Why, I dashed that off
in about an hour a week. Was always late with my copy,
too. Hone used to get crazy.
- He'd be crazier if he knew that it was worth
forty-eight grand now.
- You weren't such a big money-maker as a
subject, though, Charlie. That thing Bill Wordsworth
did about you after you died got only a measly
- You mean Ode to the Memory of Charles
- Look he remembers the title!
- I never cared very much about that myself. It
didn't seem to me that Bill did all he might have done
with the material.
- (putting down his newspaper)
- No? Well, I did all I felt like doing. I had
to have something in for the Christmas number and that
was all I could think of. They already had a poem
scheduled on Milton, which was what I wanted to
- I would say that a poem by you on Milton would
be worth about seven dollars now on the
- (going back to his newspaper)
- I'm surprised to see that the original
manuscript of Keats's "I stood tip-toe upon a little
hill" only got $17,000.
- (As the others are talking, SHELLEY
repeats, a bit louder.)
- I'm surprised to see that the original
manuscript of Keats's "I stood tip-toe" got only
- I heard you the first time, Bysshe. You're
surprised that Keats's "I stood tip-toe" got only
- Yes. I always rather liked that. Nothing
wonderful, of course, but, if my stuff got $68,000, I
should think that Keastsie's would get more than
- That was just a few lines of Keats, Bysshe,
and stuck into an ordinary edition of his works.
Yours was the whole, uncut volume of Queen
Mab a very fine thing purely from the
book-making standpoint, I daresay. Anything that's
uncut always gets more money.
- By the way, whoever owned that originally
didn't think a hell of a lot of it, did he? Not to cut
the leaves, I mean.
- It was probably one of those copies the
publishers sent me for gifts which I never gave
- Any time you ever gave away a
- (ignoring him)
- Say, what do you know about this! It says that
Queen Mab got the highest price ever paid
for a book at an auction. That doesn't seem
believable, does it? I mean, Queen Mab
wasn't my best, by a long shot.
- The Gutenberg Bible got more.
- Yes, but I mean literature.
- Oh, the Gutenberg Bible was just a stunt of
typesetting, I suppose?
- You know very well what I mean, Dean. I think
the Bible is a fine book, a great book, but, after
all, the big price that it brought was, in a way, due
partly to the fact that Gutenberg set it up. You know
- I've been adding it up, boys, and right here
in this room there is represented about $160,000.
What about another round?
- Not for me, thanks. Not in the middle of the
- Well, $160,000 is a lot of money. We can't let
it pass unnoticed. . . . Waters! Another round of the
- Yes, sir. . . .
- (aside to POE)
- Was that your last round, Mr. Poe?
- (looking in his wallet)
- Why, er sure! Sure thing! Just put it
on my account, Waters.
- (aside to POE)
- You're posted, Mr. Poe. I'm sorry.
- By George, that's right. Well er
Never mind, then, Waters. Er Dean,
you don't happen to have er
- Awfully sorry, old boy. You couldn't have
struck me at a worse time just charge it to me,
Waters oh, that's right I forgot.
I'm posted right now.
- (LAMB and WORDSWORTH, sensing trouble, have
slipped quietly away to lunch.)
- I really ought to pay for the whole thing, you
know, winning all that money. Next time, I shall
- (A new member who has been looking at the magazines
all during the conversation approaches the group.)
- I hope you'll pardon me, gentlemen, but I
couldn't help overhearing. I hope you'll allow me to
pay for the drinks today. My manuscripts wouldn't
bring much in the open market right now, but they
didn't do so badly in the original sale . . . .
Waters, will you please bring the whole thing to me
Mr. Hopwood, you know, Avery Hopwood.
- Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Hopwood.
- (The drinks are brought and the gentlemen
carry them in to lunch with them.)
- (exiting with the rest)
- I really don't understand it, though, for
Queen Mab was never one of my