When he was Literary Editor at Punch, Miles decided to commission a selection of the most unlikely people to contribute, including Prince Charles (who reviewed a life of Harry Secombe )and Vincent Price (who reviewed books on cooking). His letter to Ronnie Biggs, which I included in 'My Mother The Bearded Lady', attracted a fair amount of comment – one reviewer even suggesting that it was never sent.
Dear Mr Biggs,
Your letter explains a lot. It explains, for instance, why earlier this week four large gentlemen asked me outside and filled me full of small lead bullets then tossed me into the deep end of the Serpentine. I had a lot of explaining to do when I turned up late for work the next day with unsightly bandages all over me. To prevent that kind of thing happening again, kindly tell your friends that it was not I who got in touch with the Yard but Alan Coren. I’ll spell that again, ALAN COREN. Left to myself I would have printed your verses and paid you a quarter of a million.
We have been printing filthy language for many years. It isn’t generally known that the originals of the famous cartoons in Punch are much dirtier that the usually quoted versions e.g. “I keep thinking it’s f***ing Thursday” and (The Curate’s Egg) “Oh no, My Lord - parts of it are f***ing marvellous”.
Well, fifty quid maybe peanuts but at least we paid you, which I gather is more than some papers do, and all at the expense of getting readers’ letters objecting to using a man who knocks poor defenceless train-drivers over the head. Since Waterloo commuters regularly attack their drivers with razor-sharp umbrellas and lead-filled brief cases, I find this disingenuous to say the least, whatever that means.
Seriously, folks, I can’t imagine that the fuzz will come flying out to Brazil just because we used your gems. When verse-writing is against the law, I’ll come and join you.
I enclose half a million in used sterling to keep you quiet. That should work out at three hot meals, the way the pound is going.
Please tell your friends not to waste their bullets on me. I am very ticklish. Any more verse or articles always welcome. We pay for prose better than for verse. That’s because it goes right to the margin and doesn’t waste space like poetry.