Picture: From the Sir Charles Grandiose Archives

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

12 July, 1996

One of the most frequent questions to cross the sterling silver correspondence tray that was a gift from King James I to one's ancestor, Andrew ('Handy') Grandiose, concerns one's qualifications for dispensing good advice. One's readers (who are reportedly so numerous that were they all to succumb to the foolhardy, lemming-like notion to take a simultaneous swig of Mrs. Carie's Original Celebrated Curiously Strong Peppermint Mouth Wash and then exhale, the planet's atmosphere would be irrevocably transmuted into something rich and strange, albeit of a Kissing-Safe Minty-Fresh consistency that would certainly improve certain boroughs of London) often inquire: How did one start upon one's mission to save civilization from bad manners and bad breeding? What heavenly whisper was one so fortunate to hear to set one upon one's quest? What are the roots of one's steadfast sense and exquisite sensibility?

At least, this is what one presumes is meant by the many letters that commence: "Who died and made you god?"

But how can one pinpoint a specific moment, when one has ever been rendering one's extraordinary opinions since birth? The Dowager Lady Frederica Grandiose has often said that when she obtained one from the beet patch (the Dowager Lady Frederica, a progressive mother in many ways, was always frank with her children about how Infants come into the world), one was fastidiously examining the lace of one's swaddling clothes. Even newly born to the world, she said, she recognized by one's distressed moue that one discerned that the stork-issued wrappings were sub-par.

Picture: Better Than A Trundle In A Coal SackBut one supposes that one must take one's readers back to one's boyhood days, when one was a plucky young student at the Highpharton School for Elitely-Born Yet Somewhat Recalcitrant Boys. Those who have breathlessly followed the finer points of one's biography (and who, one asks, hasn't?) will recall that one's tenure at the Highpharton S.f.E.-B.Y.S.R.B. was short. One was educated at dozens of Great Britain's most exclusive schools and colleges, often for as long as one month at a time before being 'asked to leave' by grubbily common headmasters envious of one's obvious superiority. But it was at that particular institution that history was made, when a number of the fourth-form toughs asked one the immortal question: 'Just who do you think you are, bub?' The resulting four-hour explication of the Grandiose bloodlines through the centuries set the listeners soundly to sleep. . . . and a lifelong quest was born.

Since that time one has gained the much-deserved reputation of eloquence, judiciousness, and terseness among one's colleagues. (Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe, one's ninetieth-in-line-for-the-throne ward, has been reading over one's shoulder. She begs that one insert the descriptor of 'fatuousness' among the list of laudatory adjectives, assuring one that the word has no connotations of obesity. One thus complies, knowing that her command of the English Language is almost a match for one's own.)

For example, Miss Abigail Van Bureau, or somelike, from the United States has written one to say that she writes a little column of her own, but . . . and one must quote from her fulsome praise, here . . . "could never aspire to the level of pretentiousness [sic--one thinks she meant 'prestigiousness'] and sheer bile [sic] that you have achieved, buster [sic--surely she could remember one's name!]." Was that not generous? Likewise, this same aspiring journalatrix's sister, a Miss Landers, wrote to chime in with her breathless praise: "Just read your column for the first time and I couldn't put it down fast enough!"

One is especially pleased to note that even one's arch-rival, Miss ("Born in a Barn") Manners, has conceded defeat in our long-standing war of wits. She wrote one, recently:

Dear Sir Charles,

Thank you ever so much for the 'giftie' of imported English manure from Dung-b-gon, Ltd. Luckily I was able to persuade the deliverymen that it should be placed in my garden, rather than on grandmama's priceless Persian carpet.

And while I am quite certain that the packet of 'Mme. It Chee Bak's Oriental Talcum Powder' you enclosed with your last missive would indeed be most soothing, my physician and my lawyer both inform me that I should not apply it to my sensitive skin until the reports have come back from the forensic pathologist. I hope you understand.

Gracious thanks,
Miss Manners

P.S. My heritage might be more humble than your own, but I--and once again, my lawyer--would appreciate it if you were to restrain from referring to spurious barns as the setting of my natal day.

Hah! One knew she was of common origin.

Pleased thus to have quenched the thirst of curious intellects, one remains for yet another week,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Picture: The Seam Hardly Shows

Charles-ite writes:

Dear Sir Charles,

Count me as one of your most faithful readers. I've been delighted with your column for months, and am just now summoning up the courage to write.

I think you're the only one cultured and worldly enough to answer my question. However, this problem is not my own, but a friend's. (Really!) He is a master chef, and thinking of opening a number of brasseries in some of the most fashionable sections of London. He's not sure whether to open them one at a time, and slowly build his reputation, or whether to open them all at once and hope for the best.

Since you seem to be the sort of chap to know his tomatoes from his prunes, what do you suggest?

Charles-ite in Charleston

Sir Charles replies:


Really! One cannot recommend more strongly that the correspondent immediately obtain a better class of friends!

A brasserie is a lady's most private and personal treasure! A brasserie is not meant to be fumbled open on a public street, whether sequentially or simultaneously! (How the erstwhile 'friend' proposed to do that magnificent feat, one is most interested in knowing. For purely theoretical reasons, of course.)

Goodness gracious! The minds of some people are perpetually in the gutter. One cuttingly suggests that this master chef turn his brutal, sensual energies to some more worthy enterprise. Opening restaurants, perhaps!

Feeling the need to wash oneself after that too-close brush with vile carnality, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Lady Rebecca writes:

Dear Sir Charles,

I was frightfully pleased to see my questions posted to Lady Felicia (and answered most admirably, too!), but was rather vexed to notice that my secretary (vindictive sort that she is, but good help is so hard to come by, as you must know) had omitted the initial letter of my last name ( a grievous error, but not so grievous as the time she substituted the sixth letter of the alphabet for it, though a sharp reprimand with a quill once I noticed the error shortly corrected this unfortunate tendency to transpose consonants). Should you have suggestions on how I might impress upon her the importance of correct spelling, I should be happy to implement them posthaste.

But I digress. What I most desire is to request your attention to another vexation of mine involving certain grammatical lapses characteristic of the younger generation (though not, I should hope, of your lovely ward, Penelope Windsor-Smythe, whom I believe is ninetieth in line for the throne, is she not?). It seems, and surely you've noticed this yourself, Sir Charles, if you have had any intercourse with those younger than you, that there is an unfortunate tendency for them to speak (and, I might add, write) so concisely as to leave a listener (or reader, as it were) scarcely any time to formulate a proper response to what the young person says (or writes). Not only do many of the younger generation forswear parenthetical expressions, but they also attempt to reduce the number of parts of speech to a mere six, severely omitting the use of adverbs and interjections. (To this unfortunate trend, I must utter a hearty Pish-tosh! for I find I can scarcely get by with all eight parts of speech!) Do you quite agree, Sir Charles? How can these sins of omission be corrected? As you are in a most influential position, what do you suggest can be done to sustain--nay, to encourage!--the requisite verbosity necessary for proper and genteel social repartee?

Yours most sincerely,
Lady Rebecca Martingale-Bridoon

Sir Charles replies:

Lady Martingale-Bridoon,

How refreshing it is converse with one's social equals, for 'tis only among those of like mind and breeding that one discovers individuals who truly understand the true beauty of the language, with all its floridities and quirks, its resonances and sonorities, with all its playfulness and flexibilities. Is it not?

How kind of you to notice that young Penelope Windsor-Smythe is ninetieth in line for the throne. One supposes it has appeared in the illustrated papers here and there . . . one hardly mentions it oneself, of course. You are correct in assuming that young Penelope is most skillful with her tongue. Lately, however, her courtship with young Sir Colin Bates has kept her busy. When in one's presence, she has been mostly conversing with the young knight in the Latin vulgate. Oh, one hardly expects a lesser level of erudition in one who is, after all, set to reign over the land after eighty-nine lesser royals 'bite the dust'. How thrilling it is to hear her toss off such comments as "Iyae ishwae ethae oldwae artfae ouldwae ogae awayae osae ewae ouldcae etgae owndae otae usinessbae" (she translated it for one as, "How lustrous is my warden's presence, and how fulsome his charm!" . . . is that not enchanting?) with such eloquence! Such ease!

One has had extensive intercourse with the young, as you note. Sadly, one finds that they are, by and large, very like one's own secretary. Foppish, yet only able to communicate with grunts and scratches. Barely a light of sentience in their eyes, madam! One considers oneself a model for them. One orates. One speaks grandly to inspire their sorry, malnourished intellects. Then one walks away, gladly noting the look of stunned befuddlement that one has caused (for surely it is as close to inspiration as their kind can get!).

Hoping to hear from the correspondent again soon, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Postscript: One finds the most effective threat with one's own idiot secretary involves an autographed long-playing phonographic record (one 'borrowed' it from his chambers one evening) by some commoner named 'Abba.' He seems much attached to it. The little chimp hops to like a toad when one brandishes it and reminds him that one has not tested one's new blow-torch, yet.

Picture: Gothic, Yet Not Too Gothic

Haunted writes:

Dear Sir Charles,

In divesting myself of my late father's estate (a draughty hole, if ever there was one), I find that I am in a quandary.

Should I divulge to potential buyers the manor's checquered past? I speak primarily of the murder that occurred in the Master Suite in the late 1890's. Though the ghost of my grandfather's mistress rarely stalks the halls anymore, I wonder if I could be held liable for not informing people of the potential for havoc.

Your opinion would be appreciated.

Haunted in Hampstead

Sir Charles replies:

Dear Bespectred One,

When one was years ago considering selling Scunthorne, one's hunting lodge in Scotland, one thought one might have to lower the asking prince because of a certain pair of spirits who dwelled within. It would seem that the Lady Amanda Grandiose and her fifth husband, Giles, perished within the lodge's walls under mysterious circumstances two centuries ago.

Oh, one could endure, on family visits to Scotland, 'Randy Mandy' Grandiose's invisible tossings of the dishes (especially after one discovered the curious substance known as 'Chinette', which, while not specifically advertised as poltergeist-proof, certainly proved to be so), the sudden chills in the hall, and the moanings and loud rhythmic thumpings from young Penelope Windsor-Smythe's bedchambers. One did not even mind the satanic messages etched in blood that appeared on the Lady Felicia's shoulders. But one would not stand for the infernal way in which they frightened the pheasant.

One suggests selling the manor to Americans, as one finally succeeded in doing with Scunthorne. Years of exposure to the noxious rays of the telly and to drive-through shootings and to that most frightening celebrity known as 'Charo' have deadened their senses to the point that a few supernatural sightings would seem positively relaxing to them.

As ever, one remains
Sir Charles Grandiose

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