The Library | Write to Sir Charles | Cast of Characters | Credits | This Week
October 18, 1996
One's readers (who, Dame Rumour has it, are so numerous that were they all to take needle in hand and make one stitch in a sheet of linen, we would soon have a brilliant banner of such size and detail to make the Bayeaux Tapestry seem a mere soiled handkerchief, destined for the rag-bag, in comparison), always a loyal bunch, would not be surprised to learn that one was the most popular guest in the hospital, last week, while one was having one's stomach pumped. At first, one did not understand why the sisters would stand in the doorway, their eyes wide with amazement, to point at one and murmur amongst themselves as they regarded one. Perhaps, one thought, it was one's dashed good looks. Perhaps it was one's noble mien. Finally, a doctor explained that one was something of a minor medical miracle, in that during the medical procedures, they discovered that one had not evacuated one's (and one begs the ladies to avert their eyes, here) bowels for nigh upon three decades.
Well! one told them. One is not fond of nasty habits such as that, or nail-biting, or the excavation of one's nostrils with a forefinger. They may be fine for the masses, but a baronet has to Set An Example. And how easy a habit it is, to overcome. A slight, but not unseemly, clenching of the gluteus maximus, and the mental image of a Union Jack, flapping in the wind. . . .
But let us divert ourselves from this slightly distressing topic of conversation, and turn our attention to a letter that one received this week from a curious correspondent:
Dear Sir Charles:
Rather than expound endlessly upon the subject (for one's readers know that one never expounds, at great length, upon anything, preferring instead to administer one's advice in small, effective dollops, much as a physician administers vaccinations, for this approach, rather than the choppy, convoluted, mixed-metaphorical arguments of a man entranced by the sound of his own voice, like a diva upon the stage, is ultimately the most effective), one will trot out the ever popular Mr. Gouphous and Sir Gallant. This pair of fine fellows (well, at any rate, one of them is fine, and the other coarser than sea salt) have enlivened many an object lesson. Let us see them in action.
First observe Mr. Gouphous. Notice how intently this living commentary on the nouveaux riche plays with his balls, to the exclusion of all else. He is entranced by them, thoroughly under their spell. So hypnotized is he by his balls that he scarcely notices when one of his betters suffers a heart attack right behind him!
The Earl of Langsford: Oh! My chest!
Thoroughly shameful, is it not? Let us contrast such vile, self-centered behavior with Sir Gallant, a baronet of a pure and noble background. Sir Gallant is a giving, concerned gentleman. He is a man of vast experience and wisdom. Slyly handsome, though self-effacing, he is always in tune with the needs of others. Notice how he puts the comfort and well-being of his croquet partner before all else.
One must pause for a moment to wipe a tear from one's eye over this tender scene, in which Sir Gallant has, thanks to his skillful ministrations, saved a young lady of quality from the very maws of death! How her family would have wept, had he not! How her poor mother would have wailed! A good thing he was skilled in the mouth-to-mouth respoogitation!
For the sake of brevity, however, one omitted the latter part of the scene, in which the Lady Phyllis Gallant, a woman overfond of jam, interrupts the pair, mistakes the tender Kiss of Life for a kiss of a different sort altogether, and dispenses a dose of verbal vitriol guaranteed to unman weaker members of the masculine sex. It lacked 'oomph'.
Assuring one's readers that the characters in question are purely fictional and not intended to resemble any personage living or dead, one remains for yet another week,
Arthur Minion writes:
We have taken pen in hand to outline what is undoubtedly a misunderstanding and certainly not a serious social gaffe committed unwittingly by yourself.
We were recently confronted at our club by a fellow member pooh poohing our situation and wishing myself and my family a fond farewell as we joined the realm of the working class. We immediately castigated this lout and issued our fervent denial that such circumstances were indeed a prevarication of the highest order; whereupon, our tormentor produced documentation--by way of a newspaper clipping stating that one, Sir Charles Grandiose, was hiring the minions--as proof of statement.
As you can well imagine, we were quite taken aback by this turn of events. Our denials of these circumstances, yea, of even having knowledge of yourself fell on deaf ears. This event has caused oneself and our esteemed family great consternation and embarrassment in our social circle. Having no defense for these unmitigated aspersions, we turned to seldom used associate who some unkindly refer to as "The Computer Geek" to delve into your whereabouts that we may address our problem directly to its source.
Yes, hurt me as it does to accuse a fellow gentleman of wrongdoing, you, Sir Charles, are the direct cause for our consternation with this nefarious advertisement which you placed in the local newspaper stating that you were looking to hire the minions. It appears that certain unknowledgeable persons hereabouts have taken this to mean that I and my family were about to enter your employ. I can assure you, sir, that neither I, nor my family are seeking employment, indeed, even requiring same.
Our family has a proud history, having served Britannia for generations from Botany Bay to the Falklands campaign. As loyal servants of the crown, our family has been blessed with certain royal disbursements, shall we say, from time to time, in the form of real estate and funds from the royal treasury, to accommodate our needs well into the future. Our fealty to the royal household is unbroken for 17 generations and is currently in good stead with the current monarch.
Now to the matter at hand. The purpose of our letter to you is, of course, to politely ask that you desist with this myth about hiring minions. This propaganda has been a blow to our good name, indeed the word minion has been in disrepute in proper English for several decades now, and although it is a name proudly borne by our family, we are far from being apple polishers, bootlickers, brown-nosers or syncophants.
Sir Charles replies:
Malevolent Mr. Minion,
One knows your game.
One knows well how your family operates. One is not so short-memoried that one has forgotten the fracas between your own mother, Mrs. Mavinia Minion, and the Duke of Hargreaves. First she claimed he had insulted her in a public place, and then she had her solicitor press a slander suit in the courts. And for the record, one quite agrees with the Duke that if Mavinia Minion were a dog, one would be quite unable to tell which end was which.
Nor has one forgotten the suit your brother, Mr. Manfred Minion, pressed against a Dutch aristocratic family, for neglecting to leave 'bathroom tissue' in the guest rooms. And of course, there is your sister, marvellous Melinda Minion-Bunyan, who has bounced from divorce court to divorce court faster than a shuttlecock in play.
So, sirrah, if this is the preliminary step to a frivolous lawsuit from your litigious family, one bids you a dignified warning: One will not stand for it. One's solicitors are better than your solicitors, nyah-nyah-nyah.
Smugly, one remains,
Dear Lady Felicia,
After a discreet courtship of five years, my intended and I entered into a state of respectable matrimony. Now that two additional years have passed, I find that a respectable union such as our own, while not lacking in dignity and certainly presenting an edifying example to those not similarly well espoused, may lack a certain excitement.
Is there any way for the well-bred matron to, as the vulgar say, "spice up" her marriage without descending into the depravity and indecency that mark (one is told) the demeanour of the common jade? Or must I stifle such yearnings as unbefitting my years and position in life and take to the kitchens with a cookery-book of jam recipes?
I am your most humble servant,
The Lady Felicia replies:
My Dear Lady,
One has naught but laud and honour for a woman so like oneself. And a five-year courtship is commendable in the extreme. To be sure, one would have also wished such a respectably protracted courtship for herself and Sir Charles, but accommodations needed to be made for one's Mater, who was, at the time, in failing health, and worried that her only daughter would be a spinster at her graveside. When one is well-bred, one often needs make such exceeding sacrifices of propriety for one's family.
As you are so very well aware, a true marriage of like minds is in no more need of spice than a perfectly boiled joint of mutton. But any good hostess will allow servants attending her table to pass the salt cellar, and perhaps, if she dares, grind pepper at the whim of her guests.
If one may be allowed a recollection, one will note that there did exist a time during the heady early years of one's union with Sir Charles when one actually wondered if her spouse could use a good salting. One found, without much probing, that one's spouse responded with almost too much vigour, when one surreptitiously delivered specially rolled cigars to his rooms after dinner. One will repeat: A secret smile is all the spice that a truly dedicated and womanly wife ever needs to see on her husband.
On a related note, if one's correspondent still wishes to pursue the most honourable hobby of jam creation, one would encourage her to seek out 101 Prune Preserves, Mystery Spreads as Entertainment, and Mutton Chutneys: The Lost Art as indispensable references.
Serenely, one remains
The Student writes:
Dear Lady Penelope (if I may be so bold),
If one were to try and attract a young lady's attention for the purpose of romance, how would one address such a situation? I am but a lowly commoner struggling to make financial ends meet while I study for my degree, but the lady in question is indeed a lady of nobility.
I await your response.
Your humble servant,
Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe replies:
Ah, the arduous peaks one must climb to achieve one's heart's desire! Silent, upon a peak in Darien, indeed! Why, when one recalls one's exhausting journey up Acrocorinth to the Temple of Aphrodite, one blushes to admit one was hardly silent. One's cries could be heard the length and breadth of both great bays!
But let one not digress. One gently reminds you, that peaks are rarely surmountable, especially when they are the property of a lady of quality. Such difficulties, however, are part of the exquisite plan of life, are they not? They are the spice, the ginger, the sandalwood, the very myrrh of life! Why, one did not fall upon the top of the mountain, did one? One mounted it. One groaned. One perspired (just a bit) and moaned. Then and only then, did one reach the peak.
Therefore, to commence your wooing, one suggests a close reading of Le Roman de la Rose. In the original medieval French. Not only is the text remarkably instructive, one finds the rolling of foreign tongues quite indispensable in matters of this sort. One trusts that an intimate reading should provide you with some idea on how to undress the problem.
Reminiscing with a wild surmise,
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