Looking at this strip you’re probably thinking that it’s the sort of oddball thing that probably lasted a couple of weeks. Most emphatically not so! While I get no impression that it was a particular favorite of newspaper readers, Hearst’s New York papers ran Now, What D’Ye Think Of That? over a span of five years, a very impressive run in that formative era of the 1900s.
The creator of the strip signed himself as Childe Harold. If that name sounds vaguely familiar to you, thank a literature teacher. The original Childe Harold was a fictional character created by Lord Byron. He wrote an epic-length poem titled Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, the story of a world-weary young man and his travels. The term ‘Childe’ originated in medieval England to denote a young man who was in training to become a knight. Later on the term became more general, referring to either a youngster or one who is naive, or young at heart.
Byron’s poem inspired various 19th century artists to take on ‘Childe’ as part of their nom de plume. Best remembered of the group is Childe Hassam, a painter of great renown. Childe Harold seems to have taken on the name to celebrate his unsophisticated drawing style and to evoke the old-timey setting of his strips . His real name was Edward Salisbury Field.
Now, What D’Ye Think Of That ran in four discrete series in three Hearst papers:
- New York Journal May 14 – September 17 1903
- New York American March 24 1904 – February 12 1906
- New York Evening Journal April 19 1904 – November 29 1904
- New York Evening Journal March 19 1907 – August 12 1907
The strip told its gags in rhyme, and obviously Harold was much more interested in producing poetry than in getting a big laugh from the reader. I suspect that Childe Harold considered himself quite the ‘artiste’, though he never produced a serious book of poetry as far as I know. He did, however, write and illustrate several volumes of light verse under his pen-name, and a number of other works under his real name, most notably the bestseller A Six-Cylinder Courtship.
Muche thankes to Cole Johnson for the scans.