4 APRIL 1992, Page 30

Sir: Paul Johnson on the probable death of Punch bathes

Malcolm Muggeridge's edi- torship in a rosier glow than it desentes. M uggeridge used to boast gleefully about the success of his mission — to drive away every middle-class reader. But these of course were the magazine's firm and loyal readership.

Then came William Davis, whose strate- gy was to bring in contributors from Fleet Street and broadcasting whose faces and names were known to a wide section of the public — in a word, television 'personali- ties'. As few of them could master the funny piece, the light verse, essay and paro- dy that had made Punch famous they fell back on recounting the comical misadven- tures that had befallen them while teaching their wives to drive, mending electrical appliances, on holiday with their children

(spelt `kids'). There were glorious excep- tions such as the veterans H.F. Ellis and Basil Boothroyd, and the great Coren and Waterhouse and Kington. At the same time the magazine shed its southern middle-class accent and brought in a north of Watford one.

It is all a great shame, because the car toons were as good as ever.

Peter Black

57 The Avenue, Wraysbury, Staines