Picture: From the Sir Charles Grandiose Archives

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November 7, 1997

Picture: The Exalted In ReposeIt is not always an exciting life, that of the pundit who has chosen to share his wisdom with the world. Oh no. One's readers (who, one has it upon a sturdy authority, are so numerous that were each a string of tinsel, all the world's evergreens would glitter brightly enough to make the sequin-clad singers of 'Nashville' grind their teeth in envy) can often be a stolid, unimaginative lot. They write one of their love affairs. They write one of their insecurity with the opposite sex. Confidentially, there are only so many life preservers that one can throw to those drowning in the gene pool.

Recently, however, one has been receiving letters of a different sort. One will reproduce an example in its entirety.

Dear Sir Charles,

My mother always told me that the rich aren't any happier than the rest of us. Is it true that money can't buy happiness?

Margaret, who is not quite wallowing in poverty, but certainly paddling in it.

Well, Margaret. An honest question deserves an honest answer. And one's readers know that one is not the sort to avoid the point at hand. On the contrary. One stares at the point. One considers it with a cool sneer. One addresses it with a pleasant condescension, the way a Peer addresses his unfortunate inferior. Tthen, having done with the point, one dismisses it. With this question, one intends brutal honesty.

Margaret, perhaps you remember one or two of the many popular entertainments that took as their focus the lives of the wealthy. They issue Stateside with startling frequency. Your 'Dynasties'. Yours 'Dallases.' Your 'Nuts Landings.' Your hours on gracious living, in which wealthy folk share their tips on how they decorated their expensive and expansive homes using nothing but strings of fairy lights, butcher's paper, and simple batik dyes. Perhaps you viewed one or two or all of these programmes, thinking to yourself, 'Gracious. These rich and famous aren't all that different from us little folk!'

Well, Margaret, there you are wrong.

Of course, we wealthy sorts want you to believe that we're just like you, and indulge in your little petty squabbles and adulteries and intrigues. If it makes you feel better to think that the privileged classes have nothing better to do than growl arch imprecations at each other, dash champagne in their rivals' faces, and tumble in a vicious cat-fight down stairs into a marble fountain, then you just go ahead and believe it happens.

If you poor folk would really care to think that we take the time to make festive holiday wreathes using nothing but discarded stockings, gold spray paint, and gay plastic berries that can be found at any local craft store, then you just ignore the fact that our expansive and expensive homes are more typically decorated by snooty designers named Jacques who have free rein to bid as they please for us on knick-knacks from Sotheby's.

Because quite frankly, dear little pea-brained Margaret, we'd like for you to think we're not that different from your grubby little lot. You'll then be content with your alleged simple pleasures, and tell each other that the wealthy really don't have it so well off after all. Whither aspiration, if you fear that more money will bring more problems? In the dustbin, that's whither. Trust me, we have enough difficulty keeping our money to ourselves, without your competition.

Perhaps money can't buy complete happiness, Margaret. Console yourself with that notion. But it certainly can buy a reasonable and quite comfortable facsimile.

Idly wallowing in luxury, one remains for yet another week,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Pondering writes:

Picture: Horsewhip This Cad!Dear Sir Charles:

Most recently I suffered a terrible trauma. I was betrothed until a fortnight ago when my intended journeyed to the family estate to discuss monetary matters with Father.

Upon his arrival, I descended the main staircase in a pleasing manner, one hand extended to greet him. To my dismay, I espied a dark circular bruising near his collar area. Although I am a woman of virtue, I knew of these marks from having seen similar displays on several of the chambermaids who serve Father, many of whom have been dismissed when they are discovered to be in delicate condition.

My intended swore to me the marks were the result of an unfortunate fencing or roman wrestling accident, but being a delicate member of my s-x, I found myself in full swoon whimpering "HORSEWHIP THIS CAD!!!!" Father set to the task in defense of my honor as my mother and sisters carried me to my room.

Sir Charles, I have recently received word that my intended never returned to his estate. Moreover, I overheard one of the servants discussing the discovery of a custom-made hub-cap near the pond, and a new bed of azaleas has appeared in the gardens. My troubled mind thinks the worst.

Please advise. I shall take to my bed until I get I get word from you.

Pondering his whereabouts

Sir Charles replies:

My dear girl,

One knows you wish to hear otherwise. But one is afraid that your deepest, darkest suspicions have a foundation in truth. You think the worst. The worst is probably the case at hand.

Yes, your father has developed, probably as a result of the argument with your intended, a terrible case of Bad Taste. Azaleas? Beds of azalea are far from the dernier cri in gardening, these days.

Expressing one's sorrow, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Ophelia writes:

Dear Sir Charles Grandiose,

This is my first time that I have ever sought advice from a column.

I have met (distantly) a well-mannered young man over the Internet. We have corresponded for approximately six months. In December, he will be flying from California to Canada for the Christmas Holidays to visit his family and I. He professes that he has been struck by Cupid's arrow.

Although he has seen my photograph; my question is how can a person who has never made physical contact with the other be in love?

Yours Sincerely,

Sir Charles replies:

My dear Ophelia,

What a different age we live in from the previous century--which perhaps one might say was a better century in many respects?

A century ago, my girl, it was a commonplace thing for the young folk to engage in social intercourse at a distance. Thick letters, pulsing with purple sentimental prose, crossed the countryside. A young woman might spend an entire afternoon indoors at her writing desk, detailing her feelings and experiences to an admirer she had only met once. Friendships, affairs, and even marriages were conducted entirely courtesy of the Queen's postal service.

In this sad, pale shadow of that glorious era, however, commercial advertising has taken the sturdy brains of our youth, tossed them into a saucepot, and reduced them to a gluey, bubbling jelly. Instead of exchanging their deepest feelings and emotions on the remote safety of the parchment, they began to mingle. To exchange frank, licentious gazes. To spoon, and to neck. And now, they take for granted that they must exist in constant close proximity, and base their 'love' upon how closely the other resembles their favourite malnourished supermodel of dungarees.

Well, Ophelia, one is here to tell you today that true love does not arise solely from one's ocular nerve. One may very well indeed find a kindred spirit of the mind alone, a shared love and even passion of thought. Is that not a stronger foundation for a shared life than an exchanged, heated look from across the local publican's establishment?

Why, if marriages were based on physical contact, one knows of certain folk who could this very afternoon demand an annulment, after decades of life together. Not to mention the exchange of many an anniversary spittoon.

Wishing the correspondent well, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Lady Jasmine writes:

Picture: Contretemps with the School NurseCharles my dear,

When one received Lady Fiona Montichalfont's missive informing one of your flourishing agony column, one almost swooned in delight. Certainly, there could be no one more suited-- so knowledgeable, so understanding, so discreet and so pure a blue flowing in the Grandiose veins (for one would never dream of writing to a common career columnist, you know)--to advise me on a little problem that had proved somewhat embarrassing to the family.

I am writing about certain peculiar behavior of my husband, Lord Albert Hallfax, who, I believe, attended the Pasty Rich Boy's School for Snobs at the same time you did before you were, humm, expelled for that little contretemps with the school nurse.

Anyway, we had recently given a dinner party in honor of our five year wedding anniversary. As a matter of politeness, I had to include his younger brother who had immigrated to the colonies and became a naturalized American.

Imagine my consternation when Biff, as he preferred to be called now, presented Albert with a "Love Ewe", a life-size, inflatable, plastic sheep wearing black lacy garters and makeup, something the Americans, depraved creatures that they are, apparently found amusing. My question is this, should I be at all concerned that my husband had acquired the habit of disappearing with the "Love Ewe" into the library for hours at time, with the doors locked?

Anxiously awaiting your sagacious advise, I remain,
Lady Jasmine Hallfax
Countess of Snowbourgh

Sir Charles replies:

Lady Jasmine,

Indeed, you should be concerned. One has it from a firm authority that British Customs proscribes the importation of the "Love Ewe" from its country of origin, Thailand. Indeed, in the question of thoroughness, one futilely attempted to order one for oneself, and ran up against a bureaucratic brick wall.

Lady Jasmine, one would so hate for you and the Earl to find your lovely estate overrun by Customs, early one morning. Think of the press. Think of the headlines. Can your reputation really withstand the publicity of harbouring contraband inflatable sheep?

But like a true friend, one offers to come to the rescue. Merely hose down the Love Ewe and send it to Blandsdown. One will make certain that it meets a fitting end. So to speak.

Quite hush-hush about this little affair, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

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