The Pitcher And The Plutocrat by P.G. Wodehouse, 1910
The magic trick:
Odd combination of detached, omniscient first-person narration
This is not Wodehous’s finest hour. Published when he was still just 29, he is clearly still working out his material. The jokes don’t tumble down quite so frequently as they would during the 1920s and ’30s. His gift for hilarious precision of wording is only occasionally trotted out. He barely uses any delightfully antiquated slang. To appropriate Rufus in “Bill &Ted’s Excellent Adventure”: he does get better.
The best joke in the story is a running gag in which our narrator continually expresses his desire to go into more detail about the more sentimental portions of the story but is compelled to resist in favor of brevity. It’s a trick Wodehouse would master later in his Blandings stories: breaking down the so-called fourth wall by having what amounts to a third-person narrator occasionally break free from the story to discuss his decisions as a storyteller. It’s a technique that is very much, in my mind anyway, classically Wodehousian. And it’s very, very funny. And that’s quite a trick on Wodehouse’s part.
I will pass lightly over the meeting of the two lovers. I will not describe the dewy softness of their eyes, the catching of their breath, their murmured endearments. I could, mind you. It is at just such descriptions that I am particularly happy. But I have grown discouraged. My spirit is broken. It is enough to say that Clarence had reached a level of emotional eloquence rarely met with among pitchers of the National League, when Isabel broke from him with a startled exclamation, and vanished behind a tree; and, looking over his shoulder, Clarence observed Mr. Daniel Rackstraw moving toward him.