Augustus Does His Bit HTML version

Augustus Does His Bit
I wish to express my gratitude for certain good offices which Augustus secured
for me in January,1917. I had been invited to visit the theatre of war in Flanders
by the Commander-in-Chief: an invitation which was, under the circumstances, a
summons to duty. Thus I had occasion to spend some days in procuring the
necessary passport and other official facilities for my journey. It happened just
then that the Stage Society gave a performance of this little play. It opened the
heart of every official to me. I have always been treated with distinguished
consideration in my contracts with bureaucracy during the war; but on this
occasion I found myself persona grata in the highest degree. There was only one
word when the formalities were disposed of; and that was "We are up against
Augustus all day." The showing-up of Augustus scandalized one or two innocent
and patriotic critics who regarded the prowess of the British army as inextricably
bound up with Highcastle prestige. But our Government departments knew
better: their problem was how to win the war with Augustus on their backs, well-
meaning, brave, patriotic, but obstructively fussy, self-important, imbecile, and
Save for the satisfaction of being able to laugh at Augustus in the theatre,
nothing, as far as I know, came of my dramatic reduction of him to absurdity.
Generals, admirals, Prime Ministers and Controllers, not to mention Emperors,
Kaisers and Tsars, were scrapped remorselessly at home and abroad, for their
sins or services, as the case might be. But Augustus stood like the Eddystone in
a storm, and stands so to this day. He gave us his word that he was
indispensable and we took it.
Augustus Does His Bit was performed for the first time at the Court Theatre in
London by the Stage Society on the 21st January, 1917, with Lalla Vandervelde
as The Lady, F. B.J. Sharp as Lord Augustus Highcastle, and Charles Rock as
Horatio Floyd Beamish.
The Mayor's parlor in the Town Hall of Little Pifflington. Lord Augustus
Highcastle, a distinguished member of the governing class, in the uniform of a
colonel, and very well preserved at forty-five, is comfortably seated at a writing-
table with his heels on it, reading The Morning Post. The door faces him, a little
to his left, at the other side of the room. The window is behind him. In the
fireplace, a gas stove. On the table a bell button and a telephone. Portraits of
past Mayors, in robes and gold chains, adorn the walls. An elderly clerk with a
short white beard and whiskers, and a very red nose, shuffles in.