The Library | Write to Sir Charles | Cast of Characters | Credits | This Week
8 September, 1995
One feels one must begin this week's correspondence with Dame Posterity by thanking one's readers (the teeming battalions of them) who responded to last week's cri de coeur with their sympathies and offers of assistance in one's hour of need. [Note to Hearthwarmer in Hampshire: One has turned over your letter to the constable. You have, madam, gone too far.]
One will immediately allay the fears of one's admirers (legion that they are) with the assurance that one's family, and more importantly, one's self, has remained safe from harm this past seven-night. The threatening letters from the poison pen continued throughout most of the week, each dropped mysteriously onto the coconut matting under the servant's mail slot [Note to Impressed in Ipswich: Yes, it is true that one refused to share a postal code with the lower classes. Through special dispensation, the estate proper of Blandsdown has its own postal code. The servant's quarters of Blandsdown share their postal code with the nearby village of Fishampton.] One lost quite fifteen minutes of sleep (spread over the week) in worry over the identity of the culprit!
Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe, however, displayed the pluck one would expect from one who is eighty-fifth in line for the throne, and quite wore one down in these harried circumstances. One allowed one's young ward to stay out overnight on the grounds in the hopes she might espy the dastardly miscreant. Flutter not, the hearts of one's readers! She was squired by two of the stable grooms, hearty, hale young men both. One would never trust a pasty-faced young noble whelp with the lass, but one knows the serving classes, and one knows they would never dream of laying hands upon this trusting, inviolate maiden. Oh no! Men of plebeian origins prefer their own potato-fed sort; a delicate flower such as young Penelope Windsor-Smythe is but a rara avis to them, scarcely to be imagined, much less approached.
The following morning one's young ward returned from having spent the night in the ha-ha, that crevasse between the Blandsdown deer park and the gardens proper. The poor dear had scarcely slept at all, and--even more shockingly--her hair was mussed! One ordered the servants immediately to put her to bed with a hot cosset. All was for naught, however, for young Penelope saw nothing the entire night, though she and the grooms assured me they had been, as one believes the vernacular to be, 'hard at it.'
And what can one say of the lovely Lady Felicia, the target of these insolent poison pen letters? As always, she persevered. One admired the way she attempted to rally her spirits, earlier this week, by enjoining one of the neighbors (Edna Thistle, Mrs.) to tea. The two had indulged in a quarrel some weeks before, and one was pleased to see the Lady Felicia do the truly Christian thing and invite Edna Thistle (Mrs.) for this tete-a-tete. Why, she even took the woman on an extended tour of one's collection of rifles and hunting knives, a gallery of Blandsdown the Lady Felicia rarely visits!
One would have encouraged the Lady Felicia to have cultivated more of these little teas, so uplifting it seemed to have been to her spirits, but the poison pen notes stopped that very night. Dame Fortune must have been smiling upon all of the worthy inhabitants of Blandsdown that day!
Until next week, one remains,
I am much encouraged to write to you with this horrid problem because you have shown yourself to be a Gentle Man of Impeccable Taste with Unmatched Wit and Wisdom. I am certain that you, being such a Noble figure of Manhood, will forgive my intrusion when you read the nature of my problem.
Though Gently Reared, I am of an impoverished family of tutors and curators--distant cousins to a Noble Family who reside near your esteemed county. Therein lies my most distressing problem--I am of an age (21) wherein I must be concerned with Entering Society, so that I may be Suitably Married. My Dear Mother would have me stay upon the shelf rather than marry below my worthy heritage. . . . yet because of our impoverished state, I am unable to obtain introduction to those quarters wherein I might meet a gentle man such that my Mother and Father would approve. (Alas, I have met so many so-called "gentlemen" through my foray in the world of employment who have made mention of unhonorable propositions, that I fear attempting to meet a possible mate in the "modern" manner would result in a horrendous mistake or--even more heartrending--a loss of my Virtue and Morality!!)
I am distressed to think that I might lose the Flowering of my Youth and Nubile Beauty, destined to Wither Away and become a spinster due to my inability to meet other Suitable Families of Impeccable Breeding and Heritage. (Though I must add, my Family did once make the faux pas of allowing a Frenchman to marry into and dilute our Noble Heritage . . . I fear this is why I now find myself in such dire straits. Such things do tend to Raise their Scandalous heads, and my colouring--inherited from this French Scallywag--must have something to do with the lecherous propositions I have been receiving! I weep with shame. . . . )
Please forgive my ramblings--I feel that you have such an understanding and sympathetic heart that I could easily lie upon your Noble breast and pour forth my Emotions. Thank you for allowing this intrusion upon your time. I eagerly await your reply.
Distressed in Atlanta
Sir Charles replies:
Do one's readers (myriad and enthusiastic group they are) detect a slight discolouration upon this very page? 'Tis but a tear, a single tear of pity, sweet pity, from the very b-wels of one's compassion. Oh yes! One is never afraid to show compassion for one's fellow travellers on this cinder track around the compost shed that is Life. As one perused this eloquent plea from this lovely heaving-bosomed young lady (she did not enclose a silhouette adorned with a locket of her hair, so one is elucidating the undulation of her decolletage from a certain tendency of the penmanship to deviate from the plumb. The loveliness one deduces from the quality of the handwriting itself) this moist droplet, glistening pendant from one's nostril, dropped upon the manuscript, leaving there its evidence of this noble gentleman's tender, gentle heart, for the distressed and defenseless.
It is obvious, from the correspondent's missive, that the young lass has only one solution before her. She must marry an older gentleman.
Many gentlemen, later in life, find themselves bereft of their first wives--there are many devices by which these unfortunate circumstances might occur. The beloved first wife might accidentally fall into the ha-ha during a particularly vigorous round of croquet. She might mistake the sugar for the strychnine (kept on hand for rats). She might be 'done in' during the dead of night by a mysterious assailant with a grudge. Who can say? Then the gentleman, in the bright bracing autumn years of his life, will be liberated from Duty. He will be free from the freezing stares over the breakfast table, free from the cold, mocking retorts before the servants. He will be free to pluck the finest golden-cheeked peach from the tree of romance. He will be free to marry for Love. Sweet love!
There are, of course, several advantages for the erstwhile young 'bachelor girl' in such a scheme. Aside from the monetary advantages, the damsel's family also benefits, for the garlicky 'French' bloodlines, upon marriage to a British noble, are instantly transformed into 'Norman' ancestors (which the correspondent must admit lends a far finer cachet to the family tree). Furthermore, she will no longer have to work for a 'living,' for the gentleman will lavish upon her all that will make her heart happy--flowers, bon-bons, bibelots, even his cherished first edition of Lady Godley's Omnibus of Country Dances You Like To Play! That is, of course, assuming the entirely theoretical nobleman in question owns such the editio princeps of this rarest of volumes.
Sighing feelingly, one remains,
Rehash, Dover and Dover writes:
Dear Sir Charles:
It has recently been pointed out and brought to our attention that you are an expert authority on dealings with employees that one has hired to work; we have more than a few if not several situations brewing one right after the other in succession that we hope with which you may be able to give us helpful aid and assistance.
We occasionally need and have cause to send employed hirelings on book-buying excursions and trips, and we are in an uncertain quandary; does one give one's hired underlings a daily per-diem on such excursions, or is the annual yearly salary sufficient?
Hoping you do not find this question redundantly repetitive,
Sir Charles replies:
One has reread your missive to the letter and word for word verbatim, and one can only make answer with the reply that it is lawmen called to the bar such as the correspondent who wrote who are untidily disordering--nay, butchering into chopped pieces--the English language our Anglo-Saxon mother tongue. A fastidious perfectionist such as one's meticulous self never would be so vulgarly undignified as to use a semicolon to link (in a joined way) clauses within a one-sentence paragraph. And twice in a row! Such a structure is repetitively redundant, sirrah!
Washing one's hands of the dirty soil from the ground that covers them (in a metaphorical way), one remains,
With tempered admiration, one hands the quill to one's fair wife, the Lady Felicia.
Dear Lady Felicia,
I'm sooooo ahead of my class in the maturity dept. its ridiculous!! I have no friends--what can I do?
Superior in Seattle
The Lady Felicia replies:
One finds, as one traverses in polite society, that there is no substitute for impeccable spelling and punctuation. People have been denied friends, station, and memberships in retribution for tawdry grammar and inferior orthography. Lex talionis. One rests one's case.
Lady Felicia deftly hands the quill to her ward, young Penelope Windsor-Smythe (currently eighty-fifth in line for the throne).
Dear Ms. Windsor Smythe,
How does one know one is in love?
Curious in Colorado
Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe replies:
Never having succumbed to the statis amoratis oneself, one was compelled to defer to the collective experience of Blandsdown's legions of parlourmaids, stablehands and grooms to answer the query.
The parlourmaids were of the opinion that if the fellow in question answered to the appellative, 'Mel Gibson', 'Hugh Grant' or 'Morten Harket', it would be a definite lead. As a further test, they recommended a good sighting on a hot summer's day--for example, as the subject swathes the hay, the sweat glistening upon his deeply tanned back, his sun-kissed hair slightly uplifted by the winnowing wind. Perhaps, when one sees his chiselled muscles pulsing, pulsing, pulsing, and knowing that soon one can run one's porcelain fingers over his tanned sinewy skin. . . .
But I forget myself. This is surely not what one's correspondent would care for, these vulgar ruminations of one's parlourmaids, nor does one care for it herself.
As for the stablehands, they were decidedly uniform in their introspections. A limerick here, a warble there, peonies of indigenous flowers, a rendez-vous at the local pig fair . . . one could go on and on, but one can summon no interest in doing so.
The grooms, on the other hand, were a more promising lot on the subject of love. Indeed, I questioned them on the subject at great length (in the name of scientific curiosity). They universally agreed that if it felt as if two hearts beat as one, they loved. If it felt as if time seemed to stop in the presence of their adored, they loved. If it felt as if they were riding at breakneck speed down wild, forbidden shores, they loved. If it felt--as they hid behind the pillars in the north garden and breathed in stolen glimpses of one's sparkling blue eyes and golden sun-caressed hair--that their young hearts would rupture from the very strain, they loved. . . .
Hoping to have shed some light on the matter, one remains,
The Library | Write to Sir Charles | Cast of Characters | Credits | This Week