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Updated 29 December 2005

"Home Sweet Home" | Donald Elder's Notes | Letter from Lena Lardner

 

 

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Home, Sweet Home A note in the sheet music section of Matthew Bruccoli and Richard Layman's Bibliography (page 137) states that Lardner wrote words and music for "Home, Sweet Home (That's Where the Real War is)" sung by Bert Williams in the 1917 Ziegfeld Follies. According to editors, "[n]o copyright record or other evidence of publication has been found." Its inclusion in the bibliography is based primarily on a reference in "Insomnia." In that essay, originally published in Cosmopolitan, May 1931, and reprinted in Some Champions, Lardner writes:

Bert sang a song of mine once and I had it published; it was put on phonograph records, too, and I think the total royalties from sheet music and records amounted to $47.50.

Further evidence is provided in a letter Ring wrote to his mother (quoted in The Lardners: My Family Remembered, page 95). A reader of Lardnermania, who wishes to remain anonymous, sent me a tape-recording of this song, dubbed from his copy of the record. I have attempted to transcribe it below. The scratchiness of the recording (and sometimes the richness of the dialect) makes it difficult to get every word, but I will continue to try. Here's what I have thus far:

HOME, SWEET HOME
(THAT'S WHERE THE REAL WAR IS)

My wife claims that all her folk comes from fightin’ stock
And now they’re famous for [1-2 garbled words]
At our apartment in [2-3 garbled words--sounds like our mega-block]

Three brother-in-law, one sister-in-law, one mother-in-law--that’s five.
And any one of the quintet
Could just eat Jess Williard alive.

They start callin’ names when they fust get up,
And that’s long about 2 p.m..
And though I’m simply neutral, huh,
Makes no difference to them.

Ah, home, home, sweet home,
That’s where the real war is.
And about the only peace that I ever see
Is a piece of the furniture flying over me.

They say there’s lots of blood shed
In the land across the foam
But Europe never was so slaughterous
as [1 garbled word] at my home

If I know’d that my furniture
Was going to be munitions for my wife’s folk
Then I certainly would have bought some wood
softer than what we have [3 garbled syllables--sounds like perfumed oak, or something broke]

There’s not an officer in the trench [5 garbled syllables]
Get out the firing line.
But even our four [1 garbled word] davenport is too small
For me to hide behind.

My wife says specific,
She says, "Cut it out, or somebody’s going to get hurt."
I say, "Yes, Madame, I am with thee."
And that somebody’s first name is Bert.

Ah, home, sweet home,
That’s where the real war is.
I know a submarine can’t come on land,
But I get torpedoed any place I stand.

Man’s bound to get missed sometimes in Belgium, France, or Rome,
But the real sharp shooters with your own bric-a-brac
All come down to my home.

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Notes from Donald Elder's copy of
Round Up

These notes come from a copy of Round Up owned by Donald Elder, the first Lardner biographer. The book is signed and dated by Elder May 13, 1929. He only wrote notes in the first third of the book.

Maysville Minstrel
1. A note by the verse:

The Lackawanna Railroad
Where does it go?
It goes from Jersey City
To Buffalo.

Elder writes: "Anyhow--There's a touch of poetry here--ala William Carlos Williams.

2. A note at the end: "This early one? Check date--so brutal but leaves Stephen with some dignity."

Haircut
A simple note at the end of the story: "A1."

Alibi Ike
A note at the end: "What FSF [Fitzgerald] called the "illiterates"--a well done but very tame, O-Henryish story except for the wonderful ear for language."

Liberty Hall
A note at the end: "'The kindest thing people can do is to let you alone'--but a very significant story however. Slick."

Zone of Quiet
A note at the end: "He was almost the first to use this technique--and it is double barreled!"

Mr. Frisbie
1. A note on page 80. The words "beckon call" are underlined in the fifth full paragraph. Also underlined is the word "lightly." The following note applies to the latter word: "Same word as 18-yr. old girl in 'I Can't Breath.' Suggests that the line is getting a little mechanical."

2. A note on page 81. The note is beside the third full paragraph: "Canny peasant."

3. A note at the end: "too obvious--poor ending. 1 sentence too long--but the understanding of native wit is characteristic."

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Condolence Letter from Lena Lardner, Ring's Mother The letter was addressed to Mrs. August Miller and was found by Jo Clark after moving into the Miller home in 1963. Much is said about the caring nature of Lena Lardner; I include this letter on this page as further proof.

Home, May 18th, 1898

Dear Mrs. Miller:

From my own experience I know how sad you are, and how much you miss the bright child who was your sweet little companion in daily life. The only comfort for you is to try to realize that she is happy and safe. All that a loving mother could do for her does not compare with what her Heavenly Father has already done for her. After her brief suffering, she is safe and happy in His arms forever.

It is by thinking of her joy that you can be consoled, and, with the Christian's faith, you look forward to meeting her again.

Truly yours,

Lena B. Lardner

Click here to see the original letter

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