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November 13, 2000

Picture: Clever PussLike the distant sound of thundering hooves, the din approaches, reaching a grand crescendo that culminates in a mass cri de coeur. "Sir Charles!" cry one's readers (who, Dame Rumour would have it, are so many in number that were they each a Florida voter, Dame Judi Dench would easily sweep into office at one's earnest recommendation). "Oft have we heard you malign the great classics of English Literature. But why? We understood them to be the greatest writings e'er produced--canonical tomes destined to be remembered throughout eternity!"

One responds: Rubbish.

Let's take a look at some of these so-called "classics," shall we?

Tess of the D'Ubervilles: A slattern becomes full with child outside wedlock. What a surprise, eh?
Howard's End: A slattern becomes full with child outside wedlock, and a clerk has an unfortunate run-in with a bookcase.
Adam Bede: A slattern becomes full with child outside . . . er, where has one heard this before?
Jane Eyre: A willful orphan girl terrorizes her aunt, entraps her employer into nearly marrying her, and then has the cheek to object to his first wife.
Pride and Prejudice: Mrs. Bennet and a number of women gibble-gabble on for three hundred pages.
1984: Someone's overweight sibling watches the hero sixteen years ago.
Wuthering Heights: Too many characters refuse to meet their deaths for too many pages.

No, for too long has the canon of English literature been dominated by do-nothings and nobodies. Where are the writers who can truly plunge the depths of human emotion? Where are the authors whose grasp of the human heart can provoke sad, lonely tears, and abject rage, all in the course of a single paragraph? Where are the true classics of today?

Readers, one grasps one of the true classics in one's manly yet supple hands. One need only name the author and title to convince one's readers of the power of her words. The volume is Nectarina St. Clair's Baronet Wicked, Baronet Wild.

Yes. Nectarina St. Clair, author of such gripping works as My Tiara, My Treasure and Secret Wives, Secret Lives and her erstwhile masterpiece Viscount Terrible, Viscount Tender has produced a new classic that will up-end even the reputation of Shakespeare (as written by Sir Francis Bacon) himself. In these thrilling pages, young Irish colleen Ravish McKee accepts a job as a pretty milkmaid upon the estate of Sir Francis Blackheart, a wicked Baronet of Shropshire. Sir Francis is known far and wide for his drinking, his gambling, his associations with women of dubious virtue. Yet he is a deeply misunderstood man. He is lonely. He aches for someone to love.

He discovers Ravish McKee, her creamy, brazen bosoms barely restrained by her plain milkmaid's apron, squeezing the pendulous udders of his favorite milkcow one morning. Her tart mouth prompts her to make a sharp remark to the well-dressed, handsome stranger with the brooding eyes when he appears before her. It is only later, when she is corrected by Sleezer Kennitt, the lecherous and vile supervisor of the milkmaids, that she realizes she has misspoken to the master of the house. The next morning, dressed in a tightly-cinched corset that displays her porcelain wares to great advantage, she seeks entry to the house so that she might apologise to the baronet. His black, probing eyes seem to undress her as she quivers before him. "If you are truly sorry," suggests the baronet, testing the girl's virtue, "treat me to a kiss from those blood-rose lips of yours, sweet as wine yet a tenth as expensive."

"I shan't!" cried Ravish McKee, tossing her raven hair in a fury. "Oh yes, you shall!" murmured the baronet, seizing the girl and seeking the divine plumpness of her lips with his own hungry, hungry, questing mouth. Then Sir Charles--that is, Sir Francis Grandiose--dash it, one means Sir Francis Blackheart, of course. But the mistake is easy to make. One's readers can see that this is the real stuff of life and literature..

Not all those ruminations of twenty pounds a month and a room of one's own. Not dull historical dramas of dead English kings and their bluff companions. Not crazed spinsters who sit about in their wedding gowns all day. No. True literature is composed of bosomy vixens and determined nobles, of hungry mouths and tentative tongues, of fiery glances and high emotions and slightly damp foundation garments.

Charles Dickens, eat your heart out.

With your weekly guide to what's In and what's Out among the truly cultured, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Sir William writes:

Sir Charles,

I must query you about an astounding chain of events that occurred recently at my estate.

As I was enjoying my breakfast, there was a pounding on the door, and a rude little man charged in, claiming to be (if I understood him correctly) a "taxass essor." He proceeded to tour the manor and its outbuildings, my protests unheeded. He said that the value of my estate would determine how much I owed. Amazed by his gall, he told me that I had to pay money to the government! Apparently to support the leeches' bills for half of London!

Luckily, I was able to avoid this, as after a tour of the house, he liked it so much he decided not to leave. (A stout bar and padlock on an unused pantry in the sub-basement helped in that department.)

Sir Charles, no one may call me an ungenerous man. Why just a few weeks ago, when the staff of the local orphanage asked for aid, as "the children's bellies are growling with want," I was only too happy to send over several hundred pints of my dear wife's gooseberry preserves and several tins of Dr. Finickers Bowel-Cure-All. But tell me, I beg, what should I do if more of these "essors" arrive? One only has so many unused pantries.

Sir William Blather-Pheasant

Sir Charles replies:

Sir William,

Odd, isn't it, that none of these "taxass essors" actually have the same vocal twang as J.R. Ewing? One thought the people of the the state of cowpooks and ten-liter hats all had the same distinctive accent. Oh well. Score one for the global culture, one supposes.

As you might have guessed by now, Sir William, one has also been visited by these ignoble money-grubbers, who all repeatedly insist that one must . . . well, one's quite forgotten the gist of their message by now. Something about money for social services. As if one's contribution of ten whole pounds to the Fishampton Octogenarian Society's Annual Tea Dance wasn't enough!

One recommends a few strategically placed maxi-gauge titanium-toothed bear traps they sell these days with the patented Snap-Tite action and the trademarked and copyrighted Easy-M-T drain trays. A bit pricier than some, but think of the advantages. A casual walk through the estate grounds with the essor, and a few minutes later your problem is not only solved, but you've a new source of fertilizer for the rose garden.

With one's compliments, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Picture: Anita, My Sweet-aMcCracken writes:

Sir Charles,

About a month ago, I went out to a new bar, on the advice of a friend of mine who said I should stop moping around and go someplace 'fabulous.'

I wasn't too enthralled with the bar, too garishly decorated with splashy colors and rainbows for my taste, (I prefer the leather and velvet of my local gentlemen's club) but the singer onstage was a vision! Sir Charles, if you were to see her, oh, every fiber of your being would be glad to be a male! Her hair is long and blonde, her lips deep and full, and her figure quite amazonian--she towers over me, and I am a fairly tall man.

She crooned onstage, and commanded an audience of adoring men, who scrambled to catch a glimpse of this heavenly angel. I sat though every song, nursing my scotch, too entranced to leave, too awed to move closer. Her every move bespoke of an ultra-femininity, all the more remarkable in her large frame. She was a goddess, and once she walked over to my table and, as I melted with warm feelings, crooned lightly to me a chorus of "I Will Survive." When she flounced away, she was tugging my heart in the fringe hanging from her skirt.

I know it is just 'not done' for a gentleman like myself to dally with a common singing girl, but I cannot help myself. I have been back every night I see the sign for the beautiful Charlisa. (That is her name, did I tell you, Sir Charles? I am so frustrated I do not remember what I have written.) Please, help me, give me some advice, something to win her heart and her hand!

P. McCracken

Sir Charles replies:

My dear Mr. McCracken,

How easy it is for one to fall for a woman such as your 'Charlisa' when there are stars in one's eyes. Entertainers, my boy, are a seductive breed. With every move and gesture they seek to win our affections and our undying devotion. When a true vision of femininity appears before you with strong legs and burly forearms, how can one resist?

One remembers visiting one's entertainer friend, Miss Anita Manceau-Baddeley (fiancee to one's strapping nephew, Chauncey Grandiose, who is currently editor of the masculine magazine Milady's Boudoir) in her dressing room backstage at La Cage when she was preparing for her role as Mimi Solfaladtido in the glittering extravaganza that was Ankles Aweigh! How lovely she was as she pulled on her stockings and attended to her 'five o'clock shadow' with an electric razor. (The poor girl explained that a great-great grandfather on her mother's side was 'Italian.') How surpassingly graceful her every move, as she practised to herself the words to the Village People's "In The Navy."

One can easily see why young Chauncey is smitten with her. What lovely children they will have, one day. Like Chauncey, Mr. McCracken, you must follow your dream. If you are truly in love with the fabulous Charlisa, send her flowers. Send her chocolates. Buy her, as did Chauncey for Anita, a life-sized reproduction of Michaelangelo's David of her very own. And good luck to you.

Heaving a sigh for young love, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Smitten writes:

Dear Sir Charles,

Oh, I do hope you can help me, you're my very last hope and it's my heart on the line here, Sir Charles, my very heart! And nothing is as important as a girl's heart, now is it?

It's your wonderful, marvelous, adorable secretary, you see. I have SUCH a pash for him! I've known him forever, it seems, ever since he was a fresh-faced young seamen on Daddy's ship, the S.S. Sit On Me Lap, Lassie.

I was the captain's auburn-haired daughter, running barefoot and carefree amongst the seamen. Mr. Briceland and I used to sit for long hours, staring at the stars and talking about--oh, everything under the sun. Tatting, for instance, and the benefits of salt water baths to fresh water baths, and whether one could make an exact replica of the inside of your ear if you poured hot wax in it, and why Leopold, the chef, put beans in EVERY meal.

Then one day, when we pulled into port in Hong Kong, Mr. Briceland grasped my hand with a firm, manly grasp and told me he had been accepted for the post of secretary to some old git (this must have been his employer before you, dear, dear Sir Charles), and that he was leaving me and the Lassie's seamen. I was heartbroken, as you can imagine, and I haven't been able to sleep nights ever since. It's been seven long years, Sir Charles, and here is where I need your help: it's been my fondest wish to have a picture of Mr. Briceland, my snaps of our days on the Lassie having faded due to the salty wash of the gallons of tears I have shed, and I turn to you for assistance in obtaining a picture. Could you, in a spare moment of your busy, busy life, send me a little piccie of Mr. Briceland? Preferably one in which he's garbed in a kilt? I can't begin to tell you how much it means to me, although I would be happy to describe to you, in full detail, my fantasies involving Mr. Briceland, the kilt, and two live eels.

Your grateful,
Hopelessly Smitten

Sir Charles replies:

Dear witless, unfortunate Smitten,

Mr. Briceland's startling admission at a gathering in Blandsdown's famed Crystal Ballroom (Fodor's Guide to Baronial Estates' use of the phrase 'Crusty Ballroom' is obviously a misprint) that he had once been 'hip-deep in seamen' once caused a good number of ladies, and not quite a few gentlemen, to faint. I see that this is to what he referred.

Allow one to talk you out of your calf love for the lad, my girl. One fears that if you lunged at the boy out of sheer desire and happened to shake him, the beans in his empty head would sound like maracas. As for asking him to don a kilt, one doubts the lad would even know what one was. He'd probably think that 'kilt' was something that Davy Crockett did to a 'bar' when he was but a wee lad of  three.

To sooth your lusts, however, one includes a strip of photographs taken of the boy at a supermarket passport photo machine, at only minor cost out of his pocket.

Picture: Passport Photos

Consolingly, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

The Library | Write to Sir Charles | Cast of Characters | Credits | This Week