Picture: From the Sir Charles Grandiose Archives

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

January 17, 1997

Above the roof escarpments they hover, maliciously sniffing for blood. Their claws, kept razor-sharp, protrude menacingly. Their wings, rife with lice and vermin, cast long shadows across the grounds. Vigilantly they watch, waiting for the moment when they can swoop down upon their innocent victims. Can the reader hear them? They are the vultures who would prey upon Blandsdown.

Picture: Behold, The Very Face of Perfidy!But they are cannot be fired at with one's fowling piece. They cannot be poisoned with arsenic-stuffed rats, left about the grounds. No, they are merely metaphorical vultures. What a pity. For, as one's readers know (and one has it upon the greatest of authority that one's readers are so many in number that were each to dribble paint upon a canvas, the museums of so-called 'Modern Art' would be full to overflowing around the world), one finds nothing so gratifying as the sight of the carcasses of a few would-be predators lying about.

Last week, in one's edifying and eminently respectable column, one said:

"One desires above all to have that warm, fuzzy feeling within that bespeaks of the certainty that no matter what one's own personal problems may be, they are at least not as bathetic, ludicrous, and inane as the problems of commoners."

Well! What a ruckus that caused. Oh, no one seemed to object to the major premise of the thought. It is indeed as blissfully comforting as a fuzzy blanket, or a warm fire, or the Teddy that Nurse took away from one at the tender age of seventeen with the assurance that it was time that one outgrew such things, to know that there are wretched creatures out there who are worse off than oneself. No, that was not the problem at all. A few allegedly 'helpful' souls, however, took it upon themselves to castigate one for the use of the word 'bathetic.'

Let us consider the message and tone of these vultures, eternally anxious to have a chance to chastise their betters. First we have 'Snippy at Swarthmore,' who remarked: "At least some commoners can spell better than you, sirrah!" And to compliment the remark, we have 'Gloria James', who comments, ever-so-helpfully: "The p is an upside down b, you see. Maybe you were confused."

No, poor little pea-brained Gloria, one was not in the least confused. And, Miss Snippy, one hopes your colleagues at Swarthmore do not do permanent damage on you for so poorly representing that particular academy. For you see, pathetic is quite a different word from bathetic. One will not indulge oneself with a lengthy exegesis here, but the latter term is somewhat synonymous with the words that accompanied it--ludicrous and inane. Much like your own--ah, but one will not say it. 'Tis too easy a shot to fire. And one is a baronet. One is noted for one's restraint. One will merely content oneself with the reflection that the pair of you probably are the sort of half-ignorant, self-satisfied common folk who believe the term bemused is an upscale, genteel synonym for the word amused. (It isn't.)

The vast majority of one's readers, however, know the importance one attaches to words. Each has a precise shade of meaning. And one wields one's palette of words in the same way a sculptor wields his palette of paint, weaving the individual words from his loom into broadcloth images, and hammering the images together into metaphors so evocative, so whole, so unshatterable, that the universal truth simply pours from them like a torrent from a storm drain. Er, something like that, anyway.

At any rate, a reader's lack of vocabulary is simply not one's own problem. And even if one had made a spelling error, there's no need to get discomboobulated over it.

Glad to have spread that dose of 'Metaphorical Vulture-U-Rid', one remains, as ever,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Picture: Hello Operator, Get One Number Nine

Telephoned Out writes:

Dear Sir Charles,

What is your opinion of the telephone answering machine? Several people I know have accused me of using it to screen my calls. I must admit they're right. But it's my home, by gum, and if I don't want to answer the phone, I shouldn't have to. Right?

Telephoned Out

Sir Charles replies:

My poor fellow,

In a past age polite members of society paid their calls during prescribed hours in the morning and afternoon. And when one says 'paid their calls', one means that they dressed in their finest, directed their carriages to the residence of their friend, pulled the bell, gave the servant a card, and waited to see if their friend wished their company.

What a civilised system! For if one did not care to see the impudent visitor, one would order the servant, 'Tell Mr. Grubworthy that one is not At Home.' Then one could sit at the window with one's morning tea and biscuit, peek out from behind the lace curtains, and watch Mr. Grubworthy shake his head at the house before he drove away. Mr. Grubworthy, of course, knew that one was at home. But that does not mean that one was obliged to entertain the middle-class git.

But oh, Mr. Alexander Graham Bell had to stick his nose in where it wasn't wanted, didn't he? And now our households, accustomed to the invasive shrilling of his telephone, are all the poorer for it. For now anyone, anywhere can demand our attentions. Worse, they expect us to jump and run to answer their call! Inevitably, of course, we detach the receiver and find ourselves talking to the modern descendant of Mr. Grubworthy, the telephone solicitor. And for all we know, he might be wearing nothing but his knickers, scratching himself, and eating pork rinds, on the other end!

Stuff and nonsense, I say. The telephone is meant to be used as a tool. It is not your lord and master. Answer it if you wish. But if you choose to spend your leisure time at home in uninterrupted peace, by all means, turn down the bell and turn on the answering machine. Of course, one prefers one's own servants to screen calls for one in lieu of modern technology. After all, they are paid to jump and run.

In the utmost sympathy, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Lady Rebecca writes:

My dear Sir Charles,

I apologize for the lapse in our correspondence, but I have just returned from the Continent. I sincerely hope you have since recovered from your bout with illness and the subsequent stomach-pumping, but bear in mind that a delicate constitution is the cross one must bear if one is to be a true member of the aristocracy with all its inherent delicate sensibilities. I know that I, for one, am so sensitive to odours and flavours that I am quite likely to pitch my cookies, as it were, with only the slightest provocation. But that is neither here nor there.

I did so enjoy reading the advice that Anita Manceau-Baddley wrote during your untimely absence. I do wonder if she is the same Anita Manceau-Baddley who briefly attended the Cheeke College of Cosmetology and Penmanship some years back while I was on the board of directors for that institution? This particular Anita immediately distinguished herself in the are of bouffant hair-dos ("puts up a good front" wrote one of the instructors on her report) and teasing, but failed the mandatory handwriting analysis required of all students because of some sort of irregularity. At any rate, she left school abruptly and mysteriously, and the state of our nation's hair is the poorer for it.

My goodness! I'm digressing so much that I almost quite forgot the nature of my missive. A good while back, you had asked if I might procure some copies of Pray Boy and Penned House magazine, the better to prepare yourself to judge the annual Lady Godiva Ride Reenactment at the Tung Frolics on April first here in our picturesque village of Cheeke. I am sad to report that no one in the village has heard of Penned House, but we do have rather a lot of illiterates about. I inquired of the vicar if he might have any copies of Pray Boy, but he said that all his copies were so well-thumbed from over-use that he had donated them to the last missionary barrel bound for New Guinea. However, I did inquire of one of the sect of feeble-minded Christians hereabouts (poor fellow--a Jehovah's Witless, I believe he is called) who often goes door to door peddling religious tracts, and while this fellow did not have any copies of Pray Boy, he did agree to visit you and sell you his entire stock of tracts no sooner did I give him your address. He should arrive upon your doorstep quite soon. (It is so good of you to religiously prepare yourself for your judging experience. I do recall that my late husband, Lord Cecil, was often heard to call upon the lord prior to and often during the race. "Lord be praised!" or "My God! Look at that!" he often remarked as the racers fast approached him.)

I have taken the liberty to book rooms for your minions at the Nether Cheeke Inn, for they offer a complimentary continental breakfast. I understand their buns are exquisite. Is this to your satisfaction?

With warmest regards, I remain
Lady Rebecca Martingale-Bridoon

Sir Charles replies:

My dear, dear, Lady Rebecca,

Thank you for your kind letter. And one must especially thank you for telling one about the Jehovah's Witless. We had been wondering why there were so many copies of 'Watchtower' scattered about the skeleton in the bear trap, when the snows melted.

One cannot tell you how one is looking forward to judging the Lady Godiva Ride Reenactment at the Tung Frolics. One has been 'boning up' on any publications one can find that might possibly sharpen one's judging skills. Why, there are even some passages in the Good Book itself that have inspired one. One never would have thought!

One is astonished at the connection between yourself and one's nephew's lovely friend, Anita Manceau-Baddeley. One is saddened, however, that she never got her certificate from the Cheeke College of Cosmetology and Penmanship. She is a most highly-strung young lady, though she has charming cheekbones, and the most muscular thighs. Would it be too much to ask if she could--but no. Surely without the certificate from the Cheeke College of Cosmetology and Penmanship, she would be ineligible to participate in the Reenactment. Still, it was a lovely idea.

Sighing at the thought, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Picture: He Seams Very Nice Indeed

Annie writes:

Dear Sir Charles,

I write to you rather perplexed! In your oppinion, as a Man of Society and much valued opinion. How is one to handle the situation of falling in love with a gentleman whom I have been corresponding with for 2 years.

He is a man not more than 20 years my senior. Mummy would be furious, I fear. What should one do?

I must apologise for any spelling errors as I am rather flustered by this whole situation.

Please help,

P.S. I have never met this man but he seams very nice

Sir Charles replies:

My dear girl,

'Pen-pals' are all very well. But really. No matter how nice his seams are, no matter how small his stitches, no matter how nimble his needle, one cannot recommend that a young lady of quality ally herself to an elderly tailor.

Forwarding this note to 'Mummy', one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

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