When I think of authors whom I truly admire there are a few names which spring readily to mind. Orwell, Lewis, Sassoon, Poppy, all greats who have rightfully earned their seat in the upper echelons of history. But there is another, and it is a name that is unfortunately unknown to many. That name is, of course, Hubert J. Watergipridget. Those who have taken a postgraduate course in English literature c.1930-50 may have come across his name, more often than not as a footnote to the work of some more famous and acclaimed writer; those who read for the love and not for the ‘science’ or academia may have encountered his name on a very rare occasion but, other than laughing at his surname, pass it by as just another in a long list of others who were prominent in the time.
Watergipridget’s influence in the realm of English—and British, Irish, and European—literature, however, cannot be understated. It is well known to many in the literary circles of Oxford, though curiously expunged from the narrative, that as a member of the Inklings Watergipridget influenced both Lewis and Tolkien to begin writing the fantasy epics for which they are best known. Rumours have long abounded that Watergipridget was in fact the inspiration—antithetically speaking—for the titular character in The Hobbit, having been seen by Tolkien bathing in a dirty hole using worms for floss ranting to the sky about a volcano full of gems. The reason for Watergipridget’s expulsion from the Inklings in the late 1930s remains unclear, though several theories have been postulated but never confirmed. One such theory argues that Watergipridget’s rather ‘fluid’ approach to national pride (Watergipridget simultaneously served as Minister for Information for the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy, adopting pseudonyms, wearing fake moustaches and putting on accents whenever all three people were meant to be in communication with one another) met with the ire of the patriotic Lewis and Tolkien, causing the latter two to conspire to his have his membership revoked and his name scratched off the custom drinking glass set which had been bought for their meetings. Another proposes the theory that Watergipridget’s flamboyant Atheism and his reckless abandon towards blasphemy proved in the end to be too much for the devout Tolkien. In a letter to Lewis, himself a recent convert from Atheism to Christianity, Tolkien details an experience he witnessed, in which he saw Watergipridget, dressed as Mary Magdalene, farting profusely and exclaiming: “I am expelling the seven demons!”
Though the real reason may never be known, what is known is that after his dismissal from the group, Watergipridget went on a whirlwind tour of Europe where he directly or indirectly influenced many more authors. During a stop-over in Zurich he met with Joyce whom, depressed with the realisation that writing down words in an arbitrary fashion doesn’t make for literature, he presented with an eye-patch to cheer him up. “Pirates do not care for the laws of the sea,” he was heard to say, “so why should you care for the rules of grammar or structure or plain common decency?” In a later visit to Prague, he met with Kafka who asked him for advice on women (Watergipridget being a well-known womaniser) to which Watergipridget replied: “In my long and laboured experience of women, what I have learned most is that they love whiny little babies who constantly complain about the dominant impact their father has on their life.”
Watergipridget’s lack of reputation has caused hurt for his passionate fans and followers. Not only due to a great man not receiving the recognition he so thoroughly deserves, but because a lack of knowledge in his work has led to works long being out of print. Occasionally a rare copy of I Can’t Seem To Find My Hat, widely acknowledged to be his magnum opus, would appear on some auction site but would be snapped up by some book collector within seconds. For the rest of us, we were left with nothing to remind us but the memories.
Or that was the case until now. His manuscripts, originally thought to have been burned by Watergipridget as a result of getting a paper-cut from one of the pages, were recently discovered in the archives of Cambridge University Library. Among the collection of papers were not only the original manuscript to Hat and its sequel Oh Wait, There It Is but also a collection of never-before published short stories. After consultation between Cambridge University, its lawyers and the executors of the Watergipridget Estate (Watergipridget’s will name his pet parrot Bagu as his sole heir. Bagu, on his death, left no will of his own) to determine who owned the rights to publish the material, The School of English, led by the esteemed Henry Pretension announced that it would be releasing several of Watergipridget’s stories and poems in a collection entitled The Tiny Compendium of Ridiculousness. “There is no more fitting name for the series,” Pretension claimed in a press report. “He was a man of formidable, if not eccentric, wit; and despite his height of 4 feet 9 inches, he stood as a giant amongst the literary community.”
Hubert J. Watergipridget, despite his lack of profile, is undoubtedly one of the most important men in Western Literature. With the discovery of his manuscripts, a new age shall hopefully dawn and lift the veil on this most beloved, talented, controversial man.