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"A conspiracy of footnotes"

For a short time I felt a ridiculous sense of achievement: I'd finally tracked down the text of something I'd once seen being performed by Harry Secombe (90% sure it was him, anyway) on a BBC archive clip. The sketch consisted of him explaining that there's no such work as Paradise Lost, based on the assertion that none of us knows anyone who's read the whole thing. (I suspect a fair few of you would disprove that, but it was funny.) The Daily Mail (so it's good for something...) supplied the context that it had been written by Bernard Levin for Ned Sherrin's That Was The Week That Was, and I actually thought that I'd found the full text on the website of a literary magazine, The Foliate Oak, except that their poem on the subject (which I like very much) is credited to Mark J. Mitchell, and doesn't contain the quote that the DM article included.

Despite a YouTube search, the sketch 'There Is No Such Book As Paradise Lost' remains elusive...



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 6th, 2015 11:29 pm (UTC)
Interesting. It looks like it's in David Frost's and Ned Sherrin's book That Was the Week That Was but there's no page preview on Google Books. If you could find a copy...
Jul. 7th, 2015 09:55 am (UTC)
You're brilliant - I'll keep an eye out for that in the charity shops!
Jul. 7th, 2015 10:12 am (UTC)
I'd like to see the whole thing. Even knowing which episode it was in would be useful and whether that episode survives.
Jul. 7th, 2015 01:07 pm (UTC)
I've been reading Michael Palin's diaries and he mentions Harry Secombe (I knew who he was from my childhood fandom Oliver! in which he played the redoubtable Mr. Bumble.) as well as That Was The Week That Was The Frost Report, Beyond the Fringe etc, some of the many influences that the Pythons and often refer to.). I believe John Cleese mentions in his book So Anyway that much of the show did not survive the BBC's frugal manner of wiping tapes to reuse them, and he was grieved about it. He did some writing for that show.

From what I read on IMDB, most of TWTWTW are gone. I found this on a discussion thread in IMDB:


There are 4 from the original show and 1 from the American version (not what you're looking for, obviously!

Edited at 2015-07-07 01:08 pm (UTC)
Jul. 11th, 2015 12:05 pm (UTC)
He was great as Mr. Bumble! :D (Also, HOLY CRAP, I LOOKED IT UP AND DISCOVERED THAT WAS A CAROL REED MOVIE!) I was convinced that he'd presented The Antiques Roadshow when I was a kid, as well as being on Songs of Praise, but apparently the fact that those both ran on a Sunday at teatime has caused him to blur into both in memory...

And thank you! :D
Jul. 10th, 2015 09:43 pm (UTC)
There Is No Such Sketch As There Is No Such Book as Paradise Lost?? Sadly I can't help you with this one though despite the fact (or possibly because) I have read the whole of Paradise Lost it sounds great. :D
Jul. 11th, 2015 09:59 am (UTC)
Oh my god, you've found another layer of meta! :D
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )