March 27, 2000
One has long deplored, in this increasingly vapid and violent world, the diminishing role of personal responsibility. Too easy it is for an individual to blame one's parents for woes that he has brought upon himself. And if not the parents, it is simple and acceptable for him to blame his diet of junk foods, or his medication, or even the society in which he lives.
One's readers know well (and one has it upon a deeply-rooted authority that the collective number of this august and elite group is so very large that were each an officer of the law, Miss Zsa Zsa Gabor's slapping hand would be kept busy for months upon end) that one has long advocated that one's readers stand up and accept responsibility for those mistakes that one has made, and avoid blame when not warranted. It might be require bravery--but oh, how proud will you be afterwards, that right has been done and wrong corrected!
In this spirit, one is quite ready to apologize on behalf of Advice from Sir Charles Grandiose for some recent misprints and oversights that have crept into the column. One shall not, however, attempt to blame the blameless for these unfortunately mishaps. One will not claim that society forced one to print them. One will, however, place the blame squarely on one's idiot secretary, whose ABBA-fed, atrophied brain barely gives him the ability to shamble from the refrigerator back to his couch again, clutching a bowl of 'Captain Crunch', without forgetting his destination or his purpose. One has given the idiot his redundancy papers again and again, but apparently he is quite too dull-witted to remember to open and read them.
With his slate wiped clean, one remains for yet another week,
My dearest Sir Charles,
Words just don't seem to come easily to me when I am faced with the indescribable delight of writing to you, the man who has somehow insinuated himself into each and every hour of my day.
First and foremost, let me just say a few words about how I feel towards your self. You, my dear, dear Sir, are a delight, a paragon of virtue and, although some doubt it to be true (and I would die defending your honor), a gentleman. My life, long as it may have been (and please, read not between the lines to decipher that I am in advanced years, which I hastily add to assure you I am not) in wasted years, is led by the dictates that you have given as to how to conduct one's self in purity and prudence.
Dear Sir Charles, it has long been a dream, nay, a fantasy of mine to write to you and pour out my heart's confessions. You see, as a recently widowed gentlewoman, it has come to my attention, that I need some (well, how do I put this most delicately?) appeasement of the torments that hound me usually late in the evening as I ponder what activities you, in all your grandeur, are engaged in while I, in my solitude, am forced to keep a nightly vigil by flickering candlelight of the plagues against my soul. It is most assuredly a good thing that I write to you not by hand, since I have not stopped trembling in anticipation that your eyes will surely caress each and every word that I submit. Egads, the tremors that run through my body as I merely suggest these thoughts are causing me to nearly see double!
Dear, dear Sir Charles, might it ever be possible that we could meet and abate these torrential emotions that course through my being at the thought of your reply? If only you could answer me in person, but no, that would have me dying a thousand deaths. And, although I would rapturously embrace a thousand tiny deaths, (and yes, you cannot mistake my intent upon the words I have just laid bare - bare? Did I speak that word?! Oh, forgive me, I must take a brief respite . . . no, I cannot keep you waiting!) I cannot, no, I will not, be greedy and take all that you have to offer the world and it's hungering minds however hotly mine may be clamoring for your attention.
Let me end this brief missive so that I can attend to my personal needs, albeit momentarily, and await with bated breath and yearning heart, the words with which only you, my dear, dear Sir, can give me solace.
Ever yours with eternal longing,
Sir Charles replies:
My dear Miss Chatterbox,
One would scarcely inflict a thousand deaths, large or otherwise, upon one's faithful readers, and therefore one makes reply to your inquiry through the public forum, rather than a face-to-face meeting. One cherishes one's readers. One thinks fondly of them. One brags about one's readers in a monthly anonymous letter fashioned from cut out headline letters from RoyaltyWatch! magazine to that vile woman with her own etiquette column who calls herself 'Miss M-----s.' (Delicacy and a restraining order prevent one from fully identifying her.)
However, so that you might not spend your evenings vainly wondering up to what activities your favourite columnist may be, one thoughtfully reproduces one's evening schedule below.
8.00-9.00 : A fine cigar and a bit of Mozart.
The Lady Felicia thought it a quaint notion to call our maidservants by the names of classical musicians. One applauds her innovation.
Always culturally erudite, one remains,
My dear Sir Charles,
I myself am a menial laborer, ekeing out an existence in the common stews of west-coast America. Pray, good Sir, what advice can you give to a base and common fellow who wishes to improve his lot? Not that I would ever dream of attempting to consider elevating this common clay to your illustrious heights.
Your groveling colonial,
Sir Charles replies:
What a refreshing attitude. So many are all too willing to accept the lot they are given in life, without the impulse to elevate themselves to a loftier (but not too lofty) peak. One suggests the following:
1) The correspondent's name is a bit too Frenchy. Change it to something wholesome, such as, oh, one scarcely knows . . . Charles. Yes, Charles.
2) Avoid stews. They are not a lofty meal. Try a hearty roast instead.
3) The groveling is quite a good start, but could use some work. A bit of grunting and a few heartfelt groans of utter subservience would help.
Wishing the correspondent some much-needed luck, one remains,
Lady Sarah writes:
I am in a terrible plight. I need the opinion of woman whose taste is indefectible, immaculate, impeccable, and important. Therefore, I implore you to import to me the answer to this desperate question: diamonds or pearls?
Oh Lady Felicia, you are a cultured woman of the world whose readers are so vast in number that were each to clear his or her throat simultaneously, the resulting deafening sound would be heard the world over. When one is going out, whether it be to Coventry Garden or a ball at the palace, which precious jewel should a lady wear?
I eagerly await your sapient advice.
The Lady Felicia replies:
My dear Lady Sarah,
It is a pity that you were not so fortunate as to spend a year at Miss Dalrymple's Finishing College where well-born young ladies received a firm grounding in social matters and were trained to be decorous and useful helpmeets to their future husbands. Jewelry and the art of adornment were Miss Dalrymple's great passions. Her class, The Language of Diamonds, was always well-attended. Not one of the girls would slip away to the stables to suck illicit toffees or to smoke those nasty cigarillos when Miss Dalrymple rang the bell for the great casket that held her jewels (sadly never worn after her ninth unsuccessful Season). What fun we girls had trying the effects of our jewels, sharing diamond brooches, rings, necklaces and bracelets. All the young ladies were always wanting to borrow my diamond floral wreath. You see, I had many pretty baubles even before Sir Charles put the Grandiose family jewels at my disposal.
Miss Dalrymple would have waved your question aside with a fluty laugh, Lady Sarah. Diamonds. Of course, diamonds. There can be no doubt on that point. But one would be remiss if one did not elaborate further on this very important topic. Having arrayed all of your diamonds upon the dining room table (it would be a good idea to have the felt laid out), you must choose which diamonds to wear and to make these choices, you will need to decide what you wish to accomplish this evening at the opera or at the ball.
Are you to be a glittering accessory to your dear husband, assisting him in his quest for the Garter? A festoon necklace, an elegant cascade of fire and scintillation upon your bosom, would be most effective. Is your intention to crush and intimidate a rival in social ascendency? Expanses of diamonds are called for in this instance. Do not hesitate to bring out the admittedly out-of-date stomacher or the tiara which adds inches to your height. Or is your goal purely personal - a frolicsome urge to self-expression through jewelry? You might choose to explore your interest in entomology with a swarm of diamond dragonflies, bees, and ladybugs scattered about your bodice.
As for pearls, though it is quite true that they lack the moral authority of diamonds, I have used them to good effect in combination with diamonds. One evening at the opera - I believe it was Aida - I wore a lovely gown of violet charmeuse and chiffon. For jewelry, I chose diamond clips for my hair, diamond and platinum bracelets about my wrists, the famous Windover-Midden trilliant-cut diamond suspended in an open filigree pendant drop necklace, and, to complete the ensemble, a very large diamond dangling at the end of a long rope of pearls bound about my waist and almost reaching to the floor. Sir Charles was rather vexed with me when the gem clipped him sharply on the ankle as we made our way to our box, but I can assure you that the effect was sublime and worth any amount of husbandly wrath.
I will close with one final thought. A good rule of thumb for the wearing of diamonds at any time: when you think you are wearing enough diamonds, add one more piece of jewelry.
Serenely, one remains