Picture: From the Sir Charles Grandiose Archives

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

17 May, 1996

One received two most curious letters from correspondents this week. One will reproduce them in part, to aid in a discussion of a topic of unusually serious import.

Dear Sir Charles:
Love the column, d00d. But let's get down to the nitty gritty. 
Where's the flash? Where's the imagemaps? Where's the Java? 
You think people actually want to read pages and pages of WORDS? 

And secondly:

Dear Sir Charles:
The printed medium is notoriously difficult to reproduce emotion in. 
So I recommend that if you are trying to make a joke, or express 
sadness, that you use an emoticon! :) :) :) Like the following!

:)  ---->(smiley!)
:(  ---->(sad smiley!)
:0  ---->(surprised smiley!)
:|  ---->(grumpy smiley!)

One will take the liberty of excising most of the second letter, as one seriously doubts that one's readers care to see the involved procedures in creating the 'mustachioed smiley riding a bicycle' or the 'clown smiley on the teeter-totter'. (And if they are interested, they should not be readers of mine!)

One admits to a certain amount of discouragement, however, upon encountering these dismal yet popular opinions. For of all human inventions, what surpasses all others with its simplicity, its utility, and its raw beauty? None other than the invention of language, the very foundation of all other human achievements! No clay, no paint, no tempered steel--indeed, no raw material can be obtained so freely, no natural resource can be so easily renewed at will or reshaped at whim!

But no mere imagemap can prompt tears from its beholder, nor can a 'Java' (whatever that may be) invoke a smile when, days later, it surfaces pleasantly in the memory. Flashy and tempting these technological baubles may be. Indeed, they might even be (and one shudders to use the word) fun. A packet of kettle crisps might be 'fun'--yet it cannot feed body in the manner of wholesome, rib-sticking viands. And it is the rich nuances of language that feed both intellect and soul. One will never abandon this mightiest of tools.

Picture: Oneself in Modern Guise--Simply Atrocious!As for the so-called 'emoticons': One finds it a pity that so many these days are convinced that the written word is inadequate for the communication of the spectrum of emotions, from anguish to melancholy to rage to giddy amusement. Yet perhaps the correspondent is correct; perhaps had our ancestors known for centuries that their novels, their letters, their prayers, their books of worship and meditation, and their private diaries would have benefitted by the substitution of an animated 'Pac-Man' across their 'vidiot screens', we could have more chip shops in place of those pesky libraries. Perhaps if popular novelist Charles Dickens had known that an 'emoticon' was much more efficient in transmitting emotion, he would have saved thousands of third-form students countless misery by writing one of his novels thusly:

A Tale of Two Cities
Chapter One

:) :( :) :( :) :( :|

And ending:


Which emoticon, one assures you, is ever so more efficient a representation of the fate of French aristocrats that a mere quill in ink can ever hope to achieve.

But no, one is an old-fashioned sort. One finds the English language medium enough for one's reflections, and one firmly believes that one's readers, the teeming masses they are, feel the same.

Steadfastly, one ever remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Picture: A Proper Use of the Fork and Knife Is the Foundation Of Modern Civilization

Confused writes:

Dear Sir Charles,

How does a person eat a Cadbury's Flake without getting chocolate crumbs all over one's clothing?


Sir Charles replies:

Oh Sirrah or Madam:

One cannot express the joy one finds in finally receiving a question of such a serious and delicate nature. For weeks one's manservant has been bringing one's letters to one upon a silver platter, and what lies within? Naught but requests for assistance with loveless marriages, desperate abandonments, 'mash' notes (for one is too charismatic to help the white-hot frantic feelings of desire that one arouses in one's impressionable readers), and pleas for intervention in matters of impending doom or some such nonsense. But oh! How grateful one is to receive this question of true import!

The answer, of course, lies in the use of a napkin. The correspondent must not call it a serviette. Never a serviette. That vulgar, French-like term is employed exclusively by nannies and the middle classes. And like all candies and delicacies, the Flake must be served upon a dessert plate, and eaten with knife and fork.

Much refreshed, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Perturbed writes:

Dear Sir Charles:

As I understand your answer of a fortnight ago, you are a baronet and not a knight. As you so clearly and succinctly stated, this means that your title is inherited. This would seem to mean, therefore, that you did absolutely nothing to deserve your position in life? Perhaps you could tell us, your loyal legions of sycophants just what incredible thing that your ancestor did to ensure that his heirs wouldn't have to toil as the common folk do?

Our belated condolences regarding the untimely passing of your dear father. There was no intention to re-open old wounds. How brave of you to be willing to share your loss with us (multitudes that we are). It certainly has helped us to understand the baronet that you have become.

Perturbed in Peterborough

Sir Charles replies:


Nothing? The correspondent dares to imply that because one was born into titled wealth, nobility, and fame, that one did nothing to deserve it? Faugh! One cries. Faugh!

Perhaps the correspondent would care to answer the following questions. What did that masterpiece of fiction, 'Darwin's Theory of Evolution', do to deserve its acclaim? Why sir, nothing! It merely sprang from its creator's thoughts onto the printed page. And what did Beethoven's tenth symphony do to deserve its rightful acclaim? Why, sir, nothing! It merely sprang from the composer's fingertips onto the pianoforte.

The discerning thinker may draw the natural conclusion. One's ancestors, after centuries of honing their bloodlines until they were as pure as the driven-over snow, and bluer than a bluebottle, achieved perfection in breeding. Namely, oneself.

As for one's ancestors: It is not widely known, but the first noble Grandiose was Sir Clodrick, who many hundred years ago was granted his lands and title after relieving himself from a window of Castle Clavamore, where he was the kitchen bottler. The fluids landed upon the brow of visiting Good King Hal, who bethought it the waters of heaven when it miraculously cured his royal acne. However, when Clodrick fell from the window shortly thereafter, the truth was revealed, so to speak. Despite a broken collarbone, the King was grateful for the miracle, and thus started the close relations that the Grandiose family has always shared with the Royals. (And a pity they did not hone their blood with a little more care, one feels.)

Amused to have shared this colorful story, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Terminal writes:

Dear Sir Charles:

I write in the hopes of finding some escape from a sticky situation.

After leaving the employ of a pompous, self-important, overbearing, ignorant, (unfortunately) titled, but (fortunately) very imperceptive gentleman, in the field of language education (as private tutor to his beautiful and nubile young ward)-- after leaving his employ, I say, in most unpleasant circumstances which were completely beyond my control, I found myself alone, inconsolable, and penniless in a country not my own (I hail from the colonies).

Weeks and weeks of thankless labor scrubbing the disgusting floors of fish-finger-shops after hours barely kept me alive. Finally I found a vacancy for a position slightly more befitting my education (M.A. in Classical Languages, Philology): Junior Assistant Shelver at the F--hampton Library.

Imagine my surprise when I met a prominent female member of the household of my former employ; a personage who could all too easily endanger my newfound position with a word about the circumstances of my dismissal from her household. . . . Heaven forbid, she might even cause my downfall with the simple words, spoken to my superior, "Letter of recommendation? I don't believe I remember ever writing one. . . ." And then it would be back to the fish-finger shop floors!

Imagine my greater surprise when she fixed me with a glance that can only be described as wicked. . . . And, turning away from a pale, thin, bespectacled barrister she had been 'chatting up,' looked me up and down, seeming to notice the additional muscular development which had been the unexpected side-effect of my weeks scrubbing fish-finger-shop linoleum.

Sir Charles, I now am faced with the dilemma of whether to keep the assignation she made (as I stammered in disbelief) for next Thursday night behind the Atlases. While a beautiful lady, she is considerably my elder; not exactly, you might say, my type. And the position of power she holds over me terrifies me! What on earth should I do?

Terminal Master's

Sir Charles replies:

Young lad,

Oh, how dastardly are those employers who use hapless staff for their own vile needs. Naturally, one has been nothing but upstanding in one's dealings with the employees under one's protection--more like a father to them than a master, really, and if (like a child) from time to time they need a stern thrashing, why, it really hurts one more than it hurts their work-hardened common-birth hides. But one knows that there are those employers--otherwise upstanding Britons all!--who will prey upon their servants and those of the lower classes for their amusement and (one can hardly say it) . . . their c-rn-l needs.

How unlike these vile cretins is the family Grandiose! Why, but one lovely spring evening this last week, an evening when the floral scents of spring lay heavy in the air, like the musky perfume of a mysterious Woman of Quality in a dark alley, one was returning from a brief perambulation from the vicinity of Dove Cottage, when one espied the Lady Felicia returning from a stroll on the estate of Lord Frost of Locksley Charmes (where she must have chanced upon the estate's master, for one noticed the blackguard staring broodingly at her from the door of the ice house). Joined together for the last part of the walk home, we chanced upon our ward Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe, ninetieth in line for the throne, emerging from the barn from her innocent frolics with the stablehands (she is fond of amusing them, she say, with her hand-shadows in the dim lamplight within). Plucking a wisp of straw from the lass's flaxen tresses, one absent-mindedly thought: How lucky are we all! How very lucky indeed to, to be blessed with a taste for simple pleasures . . . unlike many of our depraved peers.

None of which, of course, assists the correspondent with his particular problem. But then, that is his misfortune, and not one's own.

With sympathy, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

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