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April 11, 1997
From the desk of
Dear Sir Charles Grandiose:
You have forwarded to me, for reasons unknown, a copy of a musical comedy entitled Baronet! that you claim to have written. Though frankly, why anyone would claim authorship of this particular item is beyond me.
Before I explain why I must decline your 937 page manuscript--reasons that I should think were obvious, by the way--I might address a few points of your letter. Yes, it is true that I have represented Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber on occasion, and it's true that as, you so frankly put it, "he's only a toffee-faced little knight." Unfortunately, Sir Charles, it does not follow that because Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has been knighted by our Queen, that a baronet or a duchess could compose a better musical by virtue of their higher rank in the peerage. Gracious, could you imagine what a musical comedy written by the Prince of Wales would be like?
Actually, Sir Charles, it could not be any worse than this lyrical abortion you have entitled Baronet!. Let me explain to you, point by point, why this work should not be, must not be produced.
1) The plot is weak. I am afraid that four hours worth of watching a British Baronet (especially one surrounded by a glorious mansion, loving family, and with enough money in the vault to take over all the homes in the National Trust) moaning about his sorry lot would not sit well with the audience. The good news is that if you are able to distill the experience and place it in a capsule, manufacturers of sleeping lozenges everywhere will adore you.
2) It was kind of you to shorten the name of the heroine from The Ingenue Who Rescues The Baronet From Despair And Shows Him The True Meaning Of Love to 'Trudy.' However, several of her 'dream sequences' seem rather gratuitous, especially the Dance of the Brass Spittoons, which I do not think would be stageable even with the most permissive of censorship laws these days.
3) The song 'The Baronet's Lament' alone is forty-five minutes long. I appreciate that you have condensed it from your epic poem From the Shores of Albion A Baronet Arises Dressed Impeccably in His Smoking Jacket to Slay the Dragon Myrmidon And Her Sister Bad Manners. But listening to a song with lyrics such as:
set to a tune that is--and I must be frank here, Sir Charles--so suspiciously close to the melody of 'Dancing Queen' that I am surprised the lawyers representing ABBA have not already contacted you, is beyond endurance.
4) Finally, the play's ending, in which God himself and a trio of naked angels descend from the clouds to kill all the hero's enemies and to place a crown of laurels upon the baronet's head is . . . well, 'self-indulgent' doesn't begin to describe it.
In answer to your other question, I seriously doubt if Sarah Brightman is available to play 'Trudy.' I would seriously advise her against it, at any rate, on the basis of the proposed dance astride the bannisters of the baronet's estate alone.
In short, sir, I have not returned the manuscript to you. It has been burned. I hope it was the only copy, for it would be a terrible pity if a theatrical agent with fewer scruples than I--indeed, any semblance of scruples at all--were to attempt to mount the production. I, for one, would move permanently to the States if Baronet! appeared in the West End. And considering that they revive 'Annie' there on a regular basis, such a precipitous move would be something of a sacrifice.
Lady Rebecca writes:
My dear, dear Sir Charles,
How delightful it was to have you as our guest here at Tung-in-Cheeke. What a pity that I was so busy with my duties at the Tung-Wagging Dog Show that I did not actually get to see you. And what a pity it was that our festivities were cut short by the unexpected conflagration. We are, of course, blaming those jealous ruffians from Coventry, for every year they try to cause some sort of scene that disrupts the sanctity of our festivities. However, the mayor says that the fire has helped immeasurably with his urban renewal project for, by leaving a number of peasants homeless, it has forced them to leave Cheeke, thus making our picturesque village even more picturesque by their absence. We trust they are moving to Coventry. It deserves them.
I also heard a rumor about some sort of disturbance at the Lolling Tung Moto-Hotel. I assume those Sons of Leofric Lodge members and those dreadful Peeping Toms were carousing again. I only hope the delicate sensibilities of your minions were not offended.
On a more positive note, wasn't it splendid that the Lady Felicia was able to make a surprise ride? I had quite nearly forgotten that as an attendee of the Cheeke College of Cosmetology and Penmanship Gentlewoman's Seminar (Perfecting One's Pompadour While Minding One's P's and Q's), she was eligible to compete, and now that I think of it, I do recall hearing her once speak of wanting to take a crack at the competition. While I did not actually get a glimpse of her ride (being momentarily distracted by the Duchess of Eggers, an old acquaintance of mine), I understand she had an excellent ride, for I heard numerous comments about her fine seat. (My husband especially raved about it, and he is not easy to impress.) How generous of her to expose her superior skills for public edification! You must be quite proud! What a pity the festivities were cut short. I imagine you would have been honored to crown her.
Preparing a lengthy trip abroad to recuperate from the festivities, I remain Lady Rebecca Martingale-Bridoon
PS. Binkie said to tell you he's dreadfully sorry about the stain on your luggage and what he did to your shoes. He knows he is a naughty, naughty dog.
Sir Charles replies:
My dear, dear, dear, dear Lady Rebecca:
One is afraid that one will have to resign indefinitely from judging any future competitions of the Lady Godiva's Ride reenactment. Though one did enjoy oneself immensely, up to a certain point, one has decided (with the gentle assistance of the Lady Felicia) that one will not be leaving the premises of Blandsdown for quite some time. One year, in fact. Worse, she has taken away one's key to the closet wherein lie the ancient Indian brass spittoons in the shapes of the Kama Sutra, and quite vanquished one's collection of Pray Boy that your husband was good enough to send me.
Sad times, Lady Rebecca. Sad times indeed.
With regrets, one remains,
The Lolling Tung Moto-Hotel writes:
Dear Sir Charles:
I warned you, didn't I? Unattended minions are wont to run amok. After you departed from our picturesque village of Cheeke so abruptly--leaving your minions behind--that is exactly what they did.
The bunion certainly didn't hamper its owner from flamenco dancing upon the damask-draped tables in the dining room--while she flung Funions far and wide to the gaping mouths of certain members of the Order of Leofric who were too intoxicated to catch said Funions and let them fall upon the floor! As for the other minion--well, she certainly has a bit of the American cowgirl in her! After donning a Western outfit--or portions thereof (I had heretofore believed that one wore trousers under one's chaps, but this young minion most certainly didn't)--she regaled the Peeping Toms (who, let it be noted) never took their eyes off her as she regaled them with stories of her adventures in the Grand Canyon and then hopped astride one of the more athletic of the lot for a jolly good gallop through the dining room and main lobby! I could go on, but you get the picture.
Be that as it may, how do you propose to pay for the damage to a dozen damask tablecloths, scads of dainty dimity antimacassars and satin slip-covered Sheraton sofas, not to mention the bill for a case of grunion that we had specially shipped from the coast of California (and the cost of grunion is running high these days!), a box of imported Vidalia onions (most of which went uneaten), and the extensive therapy that will be required for Mrs. Lolling to quite regain control of her nerves again?
Departing to consult my barrister, I remain
Might I suggest that, upon your next visit to Cheeke, that you seek lodging at the Nether Cheeke Motel? They cater to a lower class of people.
Sir Charles replies:
My dear Mr. Lolling,
One must come to the defense of one's minions. Their behaviour is ever exemplary. And they would never, ever, run 'amok,' as it were.
In fact, upon conversation with the first minion in question, the one with the bunion, one learned that her erratic behaviour was directly caused by the serving of an inferior sherry--from the Netherlands, no less!--with her dinner. Even a lesser minion without her fine sensibility would have been unsettled. Is it any wonder that she tossed her Funions far and wide?
As for the other minion, one can only say that her missing trousers were only the result of Mrs. Lolling's slowness at 'Martinizing' the laundry that the minion left with her. A naturally pleasing girl, one's minion did not wish to miss the fancy dress party being held in the Lolling Tung Convention Room. So she adjusted her costume as best she could, put on a brave face, and attempted to keep her spirits high despite her disappointment.
Your attempts at extortion have not gone unnoticed, sirrah! Thus one encloses a cheque for a sum one believes you will find agreeable.
Feeling a little poorer for the ordeal, one remains,
Robert of Westmoreland writes:
My Dear Sir Charles,
Last week one was up to London to visit one's solicitors. Supping at one's club, one chanced to meet old. . . . But one must be discreet. Allow one to say only that one met an old school chum who now serves as secretary to a Most High Person at the Palace. Over the port (the club's Cockburn '07 is most full-bodied) one's chum told one that the Palace is all agog over questions of the Succession.
Last summer, it appears, young Pitney Bowes-Estampillier went out to India to inspect the family's tea holdings. Whilst at Rumblebellipore, he fell in with some swami wallah. Came home telling all and sundry that he had set his feet upon the Eight-Fold Path. Went so far as to enquire of the College of Arms regarding replacing the Tudor rose on his arms with a lotus blossom.
When that got to Garter King of Arms, he ruled that whatever the Eight-Fold Path may be, it is not the Protestant faith. One is certain you recollect that the Act of Settlement of 1700 bars from the Throne all save Protestant descendants of Princess Sophia of Hanover. So Pitney is out, and with him those five hulking sons of his.
One's chum has stressed to one that all this is most definitely sub rosa. One ought not expect any public confirmation for a time, as there are enquiries yet in train. One will find it necessary to go again to London within the fortnight, and one certainly shall keep one's ear to the ground, so to speak.
With kind regards,
Sir Charles replies:
My good friend Robert,
So you don't say! Bowes-Estampillier went native, did he? Of course, it is not very surprising. At the club, he was always going on about charity and decency and that sort of rot. Quite ruined the mood after luncheons when we'd play coconut shy with the servants, not to mention the damper it put upon tossing old Ives the dwarf servant into the wastebin.
Of course, young Penelope Windsor-Smythe is thrilled at the prospect of moving from ninetieth in line for the throne to eighty-fourth. I have told her it is all hush-hush at present, old chap, so no fears there. I believe she's only told her servants, her friends, and several reporters from RoyaltyWatch! and the Tatler.
Anxiously waiting further developments, one remains,
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