From The Times Newspaper 1961:





The Times fourth leader Feb 28th 1961:

Magazine and Cress

Into what precise class of joke does adorning the back cover of a new Oxford magazine with handfuls of cress seeds fall?  The seeds are real cress seeds, the editor has explained, and if the magazine is turned over and water poured on it "the cress seeds will grow". The fact that the cress can be put to practical use would seem, working upon purely etymological lines, to stamp the joke as practical, but such a definition fails to convince. The balancing of a wet sponge over a door, the making of an apple pie bed, while not evidence of imaginative genius, must be allowed the title of practical jokes, though they seem different not in degree, but in kind, from magnificent fantasies involving Sultans of Zanzibar and Captains of Kopenick, which in the hands of artists, can impose themselves as on reality, turn the prosaic world upside-down, and bemuse grave, reverend authority.
The elaborate "jape" -- and here the word indicates the period -- flourishes in a stable society which knows where where it stands and takes itself seriously and so it is out of fashion, and would largely lose its point today. Parody itself, as was pointed out on another page a little time ago, is something of a "period" activity. And is by nature, sympathetic to "jape", the elaborate leg-pull, which nowadays would meet less with howls of appreciative laughter than the snorts of uncomprehending derision. When MAX BEERBOHM, affectionately satirizing the the heroine of The Forsyte Saga, wrote of the "almost unseizable odour that uncut turquoises have" he raised parody to the heights, and an age that could appreciate the subtlety found in the elegant bamboozlement that was Zuleika Dobson an equal source of delight.
The cress joke cannot claim to come in this class. It is altogether more modest in scope and ambition, a private joke, as it were, one which gives immense pleasure to those who perpetrate it. If the cold, hostile world does not appreciate it, so much worse for the world, and so much more precious does it become. The seeds, it appears, had to be stuck on by hand; there were 1,500 copies of the magazine to cope with and the work went on from midnight to dawn, but in the honorable cause of cheering us up no sacrifice is too great.