Picture: From the Sir Charles Grandiose Archives

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20 October, 1995

One's readers (the overflowing lot they are) might expect, as the days grow shorter and colder, that a chill would settle over one's stately home. But in these autumn days, the halls of Blandsdown ring gaily with the joyous cries of a new tongue. One has employed that master of Latin, Magister Artium, to teach one's ward, young Penelope Windsor-Smythe, in that most ancient and respected of languages. Magister Artium is a tolerable enough young fellow, large and muscular, though somewhat pale, as these bookish fellows are, and having little interest in anything outside the realm of the intellect. Unlike one's secretary, he came with the highest of references (although one was initially suspicious that they all seemed written by the same hand, the young linguist quickly explained that the American nouveaux riche for whom he had worked are all conformists and copy the handwriting of the respected Palmer Penns).

At this point young Penelope Windsor-Smythe has been with her tutor for a week. One is amazed at the development in her linguistic abilities, even for one who is eighty-fifth in line for the throne. From behind the closed doors (she is shy, and does not want the Lady Felicia or oneself witnessing her struggles to learn) one hears her shout and exclaim, at the start of each session "Ecce Magnitudinem!"* which one knows, being a modern Renaissance Man, to mean "Let the lesson begin!" After the rearrangement of furniture and a number of indeterminable groaning noises, which one has been assured are but the vocal exercises necessary to produce the exquisite sounds of the Latin spoken by Virgil, Plato, and Dante, the pair begin in earnest, and their cries of encouragement as they proceed with their studies ring through the very rafters!

One is pleased to note that one's ward is quite fluent, at this point, in her Latin salutations. Each day, as they emerge from the lesson room, their faces flushed and dewy from the mental exertion, Magister Artium bows low, and says "Volo comparare nonnulla tegumembra" (which one knows to be "Your mental skills are incomparible, my most gracious young lady"). Penelope, the lass blushing as she attempts to manoeuvre her brain around the Old Language, replies: "Apudne te vel me?" (once again translating: "You are a gracious servant"). Ah, what joy it is, to watch the light of learning sparkle thus!

The merry lass has taken her studies so seriously that she has taught the servants a low form of Latin known as the 'Vulgate'. What a joy to the ears it is to hear the servants greet one in the morning with the stately refrain, "Osae ooyae inallyfae otgae oryae atfae arsewae ownstairsdae?" ("We trust you slept well, gracious one who provides us with our keep?"), or to observe the Lady Felicia's parlourmaids greet one with the murmured salutation, "Ifwae isthae oldwae oatgay inchespae emae ottombae onewae oremae imetae ellhae oselae ishae ollocksbae" ("Do not fear, lord of this great manor, for your belongings are in good hands and we will not pinch them or allow them to come to harm.") One can hardly wait to invite Eunice, Duchess of Crabbe, to one of the Lady Felicia's famed English Patriot Formal Dinners (featuring a supreme de volaille aux truffes, a Turkish poult, Dresden china, and service a la russe). Her servants can only speak French.

One remarked upon the cultured atmosphere to one's ward just moments ago. "You seem aglow with the wisdom of ages, young Penelope," one said. The lass smiled sweetly, and from her glistening lips dropped one of the aphorisms of which she is so newly fond: "Caput tuum in ano est" (meaning, "You have hit the nail upon the head, Papa").

Until next week, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

*A note from the Secretary of Sir Charles: Despite my employer's comments about my credentials, in the interest of thoroughness, I have included translations of the Latin for non-speakers of the language (such as myself).

Picture: Old Smiley. One Got Him Back on Guy Fawkes Day, Eh?Disserting and Distractable writes:

Dear Sir Charles:

Finally at the thesis-writing stage of graduate school, I find myself beset with more than the typical dose of procrastination. The usual self-help sources have failed me, and owing to a personal proclivity of mine about chains, having my fellow student Miss J___ chain me to the desk only proved a worse distraction (though it made me a special new friend).

Do you have any suggestions?

Disserting and Distractable

Sir Charles replies:


Ah, school days! One remembers them fondly. There is nothing as the apple hidden in one's desk, the toast made before fire in one's private study, the younger lads blacking one boots. Little else can stir the blood as a group of high-spirited youths awakening a hapless fourth-former in the dead of night, trundling him into a blanket, and using that sturdy fabric to toss the lad in against the ceiling repeatedly, trampoline style, until his affrighted cries ceased! Ah, the rugby games! The cricket matches! The contests of hound and hare! The puddings! The canings! One was in one's element, surrounded by these heady intellectual challenges.

As for the thesis, one is curious why the correspondent does not simply pay a younger lad to write it at the usual rates. The correspondent would appear to be missing the entire point of education, if he insists on worrying about trivialities such as essays.

With regards to Miss J____, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Phyllis writes:

Dear Sir Charles:

Do you use Grey Poupon? I'm asking because I want to know what the aristocracy really put on their sandwiches.

Phyllis in 'Frisco

Sir Charles replies:


A simple answer for a simple question (one hesitates to carry the phrase to its natural conclusion--'for a simple mind'--as one is frighteningly aware of how litigation-mad Americans are). One does not eat the so-called 'sandwich'. A couple united in marriage may mingle in the privacy of their boudoir (for the benefit of procreation, of course, and no other) but not upon the dinner table; likewise, foodstuffs should not mingle together upon the plate, although they may do so in one's internal organs.

Of course, one works at envisioning one's own digested food arranged in neat rows in one's own b-w-ls, thus ensuring the maximum nutrition and the least amount of waste. One believes the exercise must be succeeding, as certain of one's muscles related to the expulsion of unwanted materials have rarely had to unclench during one's lifetime.

Steadfastly, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

One passes the quill to one's wife, the admirable Lady Felicia.

Picture: Some Troubles Are Too Heavy For One To Bear

Worried writes:

Dear Lady Felicia,

I write in confidence, as my physician has just informed me that I have contracted a 'social disease'. I do not know whether I received it from my husband (there is some 'concern' on this point, yet I will not elucidate), but it is more than possible that I have transmitted it to him by now. Whatever shall I do?

Worried in Worcester

The Lady Felicia replies:

Constance! How lovely to hear from you after all these years. (For the benefit of one's audience, Lady Constance Chatterley (nee Highmen), wife of Lord Chatterley of Tynedale. Lady Constance was a schoolmate of this author during fondly remembered years at Miss Beatrice's Finishing School for the Frightfully High-Born.)

My dear, and I use that phrase with a feeling approaching sincerity, one has found over the years that unless one's physician lists Harley Street as his address, his diagnoses are often at fault. And certainly a physician, regardless of his address, is in no position to judge a lady (especially of your calibre) as to the quality of her manners.

A pox on the diagnosis, I say! While one's social manners can fall into a decline, if allowed to, the manners of the aristocracy can never be said to be 'diseased'. One has always looked with approval upon the bearing and public conduct of one's correspondent, and those of her spouse, and can imagine no situation in which this 'social disease' of poor manners (though one wonders what gaffe would lead a mere physician to speak so bluntly) could be transmitted from spouse to spouse in well-bred circles.

Do not give it a second thought, dear Constance. Hold your head up high, seek refuge often in the tender embraces of your husband, and this will pass.

Lady Felicia Grandiose

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