The Library | Write to Sir Charles | Cast of Characters | Credits | This Week
27 October, 1995
Those who follow the giddy social news of Fishampton know how the society columns lauded this season's Crabbes Ball. Eunice, Duchess of Crabbe, and gracious benefactress of the Ball for the past score of years, had as a special guest of honor Lord Frost of Locksley Charmes--a man of whom, one's readers (the clamouring horde of them) will remember, one is not especially fond. One does not quite trust his mustachios.
The encounter was a trying one for the Grandiose family. Oh yes! The morning before the fete one's wife, the Lady Felicia, pulled one aside to make a startling revelation. With a look of selfless sacrifice, this gentle epitome of Woman took my hand, and said, "Husband, I have aught to confess . . . do you remember those weeks before we sealed our fate at the prestigious Lawn and Country Bowls Under-the-Chestnut Aristocratic Pique-Nique, when we were courting, and I was but young Felicia Midden, of Swillingsford-on-Bog?"
One murmured, absent-mindedly, "Felicia Windover-Midden, dear wife."
Her eyes glinting dangerously, she corrected one. "Felicia Midden, dear husband. It was through no misdoing of my own, but during those weeks, there was a young lad who bethought himself my suitor . . . oh husband, I assure you, I did not encourage him! I am no base dissembler! 'Twas he who was mistaken in his beliefs that it was I who met him at midnights beneath the blossoming chestnut tree for his forbidden embraces, it was he who erred when he thought that my cold glares of reproval were smouldering whispers of 'come hither.' When I married--married you, my esteemed husband, whose fortune and title aroused my heart for the first time--and became Lady Felicia Grandiose, he left Swillingsford-on-Bog and was heard of no more save for his fortnightly letters to me which husband, I assure you I burned. At the time young Winston had no prospects, no chance of a title, but lately through a series of untimely deaths he has become. . . ."
"Winston!" one cried, perceiving it all. "Lord Frost of Locksley-Charmes!" The Lady Felicia, her will battered, broke down and--in the most grievous display of emotion that one has ever witnessed in her--sighed. Nay, not just sighed! Sighed deeply!
Like true stalwarts, however, one's family attended the Crabbes Ball. One instructed one's wife to hold her head high, and to do proud the name of Grandiose. Lord Charmes himself was a model of propriety upon the reintroduction, merely bowing in the Lady Felicia's direction. Lord Frost's wife, Tiffany (she is American--one need say no more) was a woman of obvious allures, both of them barely restrained by her scandalous evening gown. One is afraid she is not an intellect--she was under the ludicrous impression that Shakespeare, and not Sir Francis Bacon, had authored his own works. Worse, through Lady Frost's carelessness with her lap dogs, Mimi and Solange, one was forced to waste no small amount of time reattaching tubes to the Duchess's oxygen tank. One finally managed, the third time around. One pauses for a moment, to observe to one's readers that when deprived of air for any length of time, the nobility do indeed take on the same shade of royal blue as the blood that courses through their veins--one had always wondered. One was also twice compelled to replace the Duchess's inflatable rubber cushion, its sturdy construction punctured by canine incisors.
When one finally disentangled oneself from these minor disasters, one found that Lord Frost and Lady Felicia had disappeared from the ballroom! Fearing foul play, one demanded an immediate search of Crabbe House. The pair were discovered in a silver closet, locked in together (no doubt by some wag). The Lady Felicia, always a true lady, explained that she had not raised a fuss or shouted for help upon discovering the mishappenstance, for fear of the appearance of impropriety. However, she assured one that during their incarceration, most of the past differences between herself and Lord Frost of Locksley-Charmes had been smoothed, and that the future should see much intercourse between the two houses. A charming end to a precipitous evening!
What a marvel, the Lady Felicia. A true trouper. Yet again, one thinks one will keep her. (And not solely because she holds the keys to the wine cellar.)
Until next week, one remains,
Grandiose Sir Charles:
Que tal? Supongo que dentro de su grandiosidad usted hablara el segundo idioma mas hablado del mundo, el castellano, sino no pierdo el tiempo con alguien que se cataloga de grandioso. Si su respuesta es si, por favor hagamelo saber de forma de comunicrale algo de real interes para usted.
Sir Charles replies:
The answer to the correspondent's myriad problems is, one believes, quite simple. One advises the correspondent to master the English language--the only tongue of the truly noble, the exquisitely elite, and the truly learned. English is the rich parlance of Addison and of Steele, the language of Wordsworth, the language of Chaucer, the language of the Kings and Queens of England (although, unfortunately, not the current Prince of Wales)! Oh yes! And one does not count that rubbishy American variation as the lingua veritas, either.
Of course, if others about this globe insist on speaking their own garlicky argots instead of a cultured, pure language, one can hardly excuse them their troubles, can one? If the correspondent requires more proof, one has a final, utterly convincing, confidence: Our Lord G-d Himself wrote the Holy Bible in English, under the pseudonym of the British monarch, King James. Like a truly well-bred chap, He abhorred publicity. Need one say more?
Good day, sirrah!
Lady Margaret Taggart writes:
My Dear Sir Charles,
Though in general I abhor the practice of encouraging the hoi polloi in their practice of surfererum internetum, they would be far better employed reading holy scripture, I must and will lead their faltering steps towards your electronic portal when next I visit the my poor ignorant tenants in their humble yet charming, filth encrusted, inadequately lit and ventilated cottages. I am sure you will agree that there is nothing so charming and yes, so right, as seeing those totally dependent on one's own gracious charity and sense of noblesse oblige, listening respectfully as one tells them that which will surely steer them in the path of righteousness and a proper sense of place. Not to mention seeing to it that they are not one whit the better for it financially.
If only one's own noble, albeit doddering and foolish, husband might voice some of your own bons mots, when next he reads the lesson in church to those same unwashed and undeserving wretches. I myself would swoon with happiness, if not from the rigidity of my maid's lacing, and were it not for the indisposition which causes me to arise so late of a Sunday morning. And speaking of indisposition, which as you know my dear Sir Charles I would not do for the world, that elixir your lady wife, my own sweet cousin, sent my husband did him a world of good. He no longer troubles me in That Way and is nightly asleep by 9 o'clock.
With fondest wishes for the good health and prosperity of you, your lady wife and that of your dear offspring, I remain 80th in line.
Lady Margaret Taggart
Sir Charles replies:
How true! One repeats: How true! (One especially refers to the compliments to oneself, as one's bon mots are indeed the mot-est.)
One was utterly charmed at your last gracious visit to one's humble abode. Charmed. "There," one noted to the Lady Felicia, "walks one charming lady." Of course one intended the word 'lady' in its most proper, full, and respectful context. One bade one's ward, young Penelope Windsor-Smythe (who, although she is eighty-fifth in line for the throne and thus naturally refined in manner and mien, could always benefit from the example of one closer in succession to the Queen), to observe your every word, your every mannerism, and your every habit quite closely. The lass is such a study that one was amazed at the verisimilitude when one once abruptly encountered her mimicking you to the servants (though at the time one did not comprehend why they chortled with laughter).
One hopes that the Lady Margaret was not too distressed, during her last visit, by the odious mockings of Fishampton's Village Idiot. Although he adds colour to the visits of the local tourists, sometimes he goes too far. Though one honestly cannot believe (but one would never say so before such an esteemed lady as yourself) that his suggestions are anatomically possible.
The Lady Felicia asks me to pass on her best wishes, to which one adds his own
Sir Gerald writes:
Dear Sir Charles:
On or about the 31st of October my beloved spouse and I shall be attending a masquerade ball. The evening promises to be one of high frivolity and, dare I say, somewhat provocative and risque behaviour.
Being of that age between youthful abandonment and middle-age complacency, we are seeking advice on the proper attire to convey a spirit of ribaldry without descending into common vulgarity. Can you advise?
Sir Gerald of Erlanger
Sir Charles replies:
One is glad at last that you have swallowed your pride and sought one for (if one may say so freely--between old school chums) some hungrily-needed advice. It is true that you and your lady wife have been barred hospitality at Blandsdown since 1974 for arriving at the Lady Felicia's Great Lords and Ladies Of Britain 40 Candelabra Masquerade with Full Silver Service as 'Lord Ulfden Grandiose and his mistress Barbara Boozly, the Bulbous Bawd of Baker Street' (an unfortunate era of the Gradiose history, to be certain, but one assures one's clamoring readers that the blood was not passed down to the present generation). But one forgives. One forgets. (Not so the Lady Felicia. So upset was she by the incident that one does not expect to see your face again, or the [ahem] attributes of your lovely wife, for several years.)
Next time, old bean, go with the Pierrot, eh?
Good day, sirrah!
One passes the quill to one's ward, young Penelope Windsor-Smythe (who has exquisite penmanship, being eighty-fifth in line for the throne).
Maybe you can help me. I would ask your father but he seems awfully strict. Way too strict. How do you take it?
Here's my problem: There's a guy at school, Ted, I cant stand. He's smart and everything and my parents think he's nice. Just because they know his parents! But he's incredibly geeky. I like a guy named Raoul who they wouldn't like at all, if you know what I mean. He even has his own place and a motorcycle and a Soloflex.
How can I make them forget about Ted and end up with Raoul? Please please please please help.
Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe replies:
How your unhappy letter does evoke within one's bosom the memory of a misty summer's evening in Bath, not so long ago, when one was visiting one's cousin, Emile, Lady Weeble-Able-Smythe.
Admittedly one was initially perplexed at the substance of your letter, not knowing how best to answer such a worldly query. One bit one's truant pen, one beat oneself for spite, yet the muse refused until one did recall the legend of the Lady of Bath! For it was she, whose plight reminds one much of yours--a sweet young lady from a noble family, eighty-somethingth in line for the succession, whose only misfortune it was to love and be loved by one who was not of the Blood.
Each day, as she travelled from her home to the lending library (wherein she was wont to read), she would pass her beloved on the cobbled streets, she in her silver convertible and he on the steps outside his blacksmith's shop, his golden hair boldly glinting in the warm rays of the summer sun. Some day, he would wear his hair tied back with a single ribbon, while on other days it flew wildly in the wind, framing his chiselled, tanned face! (Or so the legend went.)
Love could not, would not, will not permit such flirtation among two young creatures of such distinctly different classes, for it was on a Wednesday, one sadly remembers, that Fate intervened with a firm, cold hand. The guardians of the young lady were entertaining a gentleman who seemed quite taken with our young heroine. One could not blame him, for she was a rare English rose, all pink and white and golden-tressed. He, on the other hand, was an inspid fellow, if truth be told, and pasty too, with hair the colour of a mouse's backside. (Or so the legend went). As Fate would have it, the young gentleman expressed a desire to accompany our young heroine to the lending library, on the pretext of reading to her a sentimental collection of local bucolic ballads.
How could the sun shine, as it did, so brightly on that day? How could the wispy clouds part asunder with such eager joy, as they did, promising glad skies for the evening's care? How could the birds twitter in the trees their chirpy little songs of joy, as they did, when horror stalked the streets of Bath on that fateful day!
For it was, when our heroine's convertible drove by the blacksmith's shop, that the pasty young gentleman did summon up all his pasty courage and kissed her, full boldly, upon one's promised lips! (The cur promptly fainted, as legend has it--perhaps from some belated recompense of Fate for the unsightly deed). It was not to the pasty gentleman that one looked, however, as he lay gasping in his swoon on the floor of the convertible, but to the chiselled countenance of one's beloved, who stood on the steps of the blacksmith's shop, his soft hair uplifted by the winnowing wind. One could only look into his eyes, curiously cold and hard, as he gazed back-- a full measuring glance--branding one with a gaze as cruel as unforgiving iron. Then, he turned and entered the blacksmith's shop, and I never...that is...he was never to be seen by she who loved him ever again.
One weeps as one recollects this legend. One trusts that this, in some way, has been of use to you,
The Library | Write to Sir Charles | Cast of Characters | Credits | This Week