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1 March, 1996
One is most pleased to report to one's readers (one has it on the greatest of scientific authority that they are so numerous that were they to blow their noses at the same moment, the earth would permanently be swayed from its orbit, so one gently asks them to refrain, as it would have an uncertain effect upon property values) that the Lady Felicia has allowed one to return from sleepless nights in the smoking room to the luxury of one's own bedchambers. How did one accomplish such a feat, ask one's readers (who, if they were tempted to sneeze in such a fashion, should at least rise above the common throng as much as possible and use a linen handkerchief, and not an unsanitary disposable tissue)? Quite simple. One manfully approached one's wife and reminded her precisely who was the baronet of the household, who held the lands and the title, and who. . . . Alas, one cannot carry it off. One begged.
The Family Grandiose has still to recover from the surprising events of last week. Most distressingly, Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe quite simply refuses to entertain the courtship of Sir Colin Bates, claiming that the youth should have informed her of his impending knighthood instead of leading her to believe he was merely a blacksmith. One cannot understand the girl. Why, one's readers (who, one hopes, are familiar with the concept of laundering linen, if they have not the servants to do it for them) will recall with vivid clarity that one admired the lad from the beginning, even despite his humble occupation, the ponytail, and the calloused hands. Did one not, when the lad fled Blandsdown upon first encounter--perhaps overawed at our elegance and hospitality--seek him for an entire night on the grounds? (The fowling piece was for protecting the youth against poachers.) Did one not personally extract the lad from the dumbwaiter where the Latin tutor had maliciously stuffed him? Indeed, one did.
One played a most amusing 'game' this week. After consulting with the Lady Felicia over the offer made last week by The Blade for genealogical research, one made the trek into London--unaccompanied, as a muffled voice instructed on a ruinously expensive trunk call with the charges reversed--to the establishment with the ungainly appellation of 'Bolgy's Fish 'n' Chips Haven' deep in the jungle wilds of Chelsea. Upon entering the merchant's shop several pairs of suspicious eyes swung round to regard one with frank disbelief. Ignoring the rabble, one presented one's request to speak with 'Leonard', who one discovered to be a corpulent chap wearing a string vest with--one shudders to write the words, but one must, for the sake of the unswerving journalistic truth for which one is famed--exposed armpits.
"Oy, mates, it's the mucky-muck oi've been 'xpectin'," quoth he. One replied that indeed one was Sir Charles Grandiose, baronet, and that one had come in response to the genealogical services presented by one of his colleagues, and would 'Leonard' be so kind as to convey my respects and acquiescence to 'The Blade'? One's inquiry was met with stunned silence, followed by a general outburst of hilarity as the rabble chorused en masse, "Wallah wallah wallah wallah!" One assumes it a private joke.
"Lookyere, mate," said the unlovely Leonard. "Jes' pick yerself three nummers 'tween twenny 'n' eighty-threes, an' oi'll see th' Blade 'ears about it." Thus prompted, one chose 81, 74, and 50. The slovenly Leonard promptly pushed a paper cone of fish and chips at one, and turned away with a grunt. Pleased at having guessed correctly (one was always good at games of that sort), one requested a second try, and won another cone again with the numbers 66, 67, and 68! Quite a run of luck! Having no fondness for fried fish 'n' anything, especially from an establishment sporting a pool of sick in the pavement before it, one ventured to the Theatre La Cage to share the dinner with one's acquaintance, Miss Anita Manceau-Baddeley. The rapturous Anita--as she allows one to call her--is currently engaged at the smoky yet delightfully bohemian 'night club' for her series of imitations of a popular singer one is naturally unacquainted with. One believes her name to be Barbarous Trysand. (One did not mention the 'side excursion' to the Lady Felicia, and one trusts that one's readers will keep the secret tucked away with their clean handkerchiefs.)
In completely unrelated news, one was not the only lucky member of the family this week. Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe, previously eighty-fourth in line for the throne, learned that several of her distant and unfamiliar relatives passed away this past seven-day. Most tragic were the losses of the elderly Sisters Benson-Smythe (sixty-sixth, sixty-seventh, and sixty-eighth in line for succession), who seem to have ingested a fish dinner that was slightly 'off'. One hopes one's readers will mention the precious memories of these senile old biddies in their evening prayers this week, along with the names of Lady Hannah Manover, Sir Gustav Axes, and the elderly Rose Adder (eighty-first, seventy-fourth, and fiftieth in line for succession, respectively). The lass took the losses bravely, managing to order new stationery bearing the words 'Seventy-Eighth in Line for the Throne of Great Britain' over the telephone with only the slightest of quivers in her voice.
Quite pleased with himself, one remains,
An English Country Lady writes:
Dear Sir Charles,
What is the proper manner in which a finely-bred gentlewoman might eat the 'spaghetti'?
Deferring to your advice,
Sir Charles replies:
Ah, the spaghetti. An unseemly viand, created by garlicky Continentals especially so that, by vulgar, sensual slurpings and sucking motions of their wet, pursed lips, they might the better make an ostentatious, greasy display of their untrimmed mustachios. And one is referring to foreign devourers of the female s-x! One shudders to think how a well-bred Englishwoman would react upon encountering an unconscionably long limp foreign noodle brandished by a swarthy foreign man!
The unmanageable strands of this dish are simply too exotic and worldly for more civilised digestions. One encourages one's female readers (the clamouring throng they are--and no, one does not give out locks of one's hair to them) to ingest the spaghetti's less unfortunate cousin, the macaroni. For it is a certainty that the English gentlewoman is more certainly more accustomed to a stubby, unexciting noodle.
Ever glad to render one's advice, one remains,
Hugo Oberstein writes:
Dear Lady Felicia,
I have recently fallen in with a group of literary faddists.
Do you think the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Baroness Orczy appropriate reading for gentlefolk who have not yet reaching the age of 42? And what of the small children? Can they be safely exposed to such sensational material?
Lady Felicia replies:
Ah, the dilemma of the well-bred reader. On the one hand, one wants to lend a soupcon of erudition by being able to discourse easily and fluently, using quotes from this source, or that. On the other hand, as one's husband has rightly pointed out, nothing is as insidiously immoral as 'the Novel.'
I quote, as an example, a passage from a work that has quite gripped me of late, forcing one to stay up late in one's chambers at night, reading in great gulps. This penning by Nectarina St. Clair--Baron Wanton, Baron Wild is its lurid title--is only the most thinly veiled attack on the aristocracy, using the metaphor of carnal knowledge to represent what the authoress sees as flaws in the institutions of status and rank.
'. . . her voice was husky and deep with emotion; emotion long subjugated by her awe of his very station, "Oh, Sir Charlton, your presence makes me quiver and your breath makes my flesh goosepimple with a burning, burning, burning passion!" He felt his desire rising, as the hidden flames of her words licked at his manhood, "Oh Bonita. Bonita Ranceau-Maddeley! Would that you were my wife, and not merely the friend of my nephew. Would that we could run away to some hidden retreat on the isle of Bali, the major exports of which are palm baskets and unpolished coral, there to explore each other with the carefree abandon of the unclad native. . . .'
One most assuredly closes the volume with a resounding slam. To the unwashed masses, THIS constitutes 'literature', and is gobbled up like candy floss at the county fair.
But how to avoid such literary offense? One heartily endorses 'Bartletts Quotations', and The Holy Bible (King James Version only) as sources for erudite spice for conversation and correspondence. As for children, one notes that no child ever came to harm from having Quilby-Readings 'Annals of the Peers of England' read to him.
One inserts a postscript for the more gentle readers amongst you: Sir Charlton was never to 'satisfy' the immoral relationship with the wanton Bonita, for as the next chapter dawns, Sir Charlton's wife, the good Lady Felicity, returning from a sticky wicket of her own, interrupts the tryst, causing much scrambling and rapid assemblage of cast-off garments. One urges one's readers with sense to purchase this volume for themselves, to study its lack of any redeeming value whatsoever. Then, to burn it, so children and guests will not suffer from accidentally perusing the red-hot pages.
Making a note to one's maid to turn the thermostat down, one remains
Lady C----- writes:
Dear Penelope Windsor-Smythe:
One knew that the family finances were not in the best of shape, but when Papa died, one found out just how bad things had become. Mama has been advised that we have two choices. We can either open up the Summer House to the tourists, or we can turn to raising Cashmere Goats.
Which do you suggest, as Mama and myself are at wits end, and scarcely know which one is worse.
Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe replies:
Dear Lady C-----,
One hopes that you find it in your heart to be strong, for ahead of you are trying times that one of your station should never have to suffer, although you are not in line for succession. In truth, one is reminded of the Awful Thing that transpired last week and which quite Destroyed one's Faith in Men. You see, one found out (one must be blunt), that one's favourite tailor was (how the mind cringes from it!) in full possession of a pret-a-porter line! Yes! One is only just recovering from the subsequent horror of envisioning the upper middle class draped in 'knock-offs' of what one wore in Bath two seasons previously! One hopes, however, that one's confession has put your worries in some perspective, for as you can see, you are not the only one who has suffered of late.
Now, onwards to the problem at hand. The question of cashmere is always one of a delicate nature, but after much thought and deliberation, one gently reminds you that while cashmere may be fine in the winter, in the summertime, it reeks. Think instead of tourists--oh yes, most assuredly think of young virile, foreign tourists, perhaps strapping youths from as far away as Perth or Sydney, 'bunking in' at the guesthouse and washing their glistening muscles, wrapped with sun-kissed skin, in your baths! Think of these young blossoming men loping down to the beaches in the summer mornings, nothing but towels wrapped around their slim waists, and their hearty, manly cries echoing into your bedchambers, awakening you with a stirring gentler and warmer than the morning sun! Aside from these fringe benefits--which you must admit are quite compelling--tourists will surely fill up your coffers faster than goats, all the year 'round!
Hoping one has been of assistance, one remains,
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