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PUNCH,

OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI.

VOL. 101.



November 28, 1891.




LETTERS TO ABSTRACTIONS.

NO. VII. - TO VANITY.

DEAR VANITY,

Imagine my feelings when I read the following letter. It lay quite
innocently on my breakfast-table in a heap of others. It was stamped
in the ordinary way, post-marked in the ordinary way, and addressed
correctly, though how the charming writer discovered my address
I cannot undertake to say; in fact, there was nothing in its
outward appearance to distinguish it from the rest of my everyday
correspondence. I opened it carelessly, and this is what I read: -

[Illustration]

RIDICULOUS BEING, - In the course of a fairly short life I have read
many absurd things, but never in all my existence have I read anything
so absurd as your last letter. I don't say that your amiable story
about HERMIONE MAYBLOOM is not absolutely true; in fact, I knew
HERMIONE _very slightly_ myself when everybody was raving about her,
and I never _could_ understand what all you men (for, of course,
you are a man; no woman could be so foolish) saw in her to make you
lose your preposterous heads. To me she always seemed _silly_ and
_affected_, and _not in the least_ pretty, with her snub nose, and her
fuzzy hair. So I am rather glad, not from any personal motive, but
for the sake of _truth_ and _justice_, that you have shown her up.
No; what I do complain of is, your evident intention to make the world
believe that only women are vain. You pretend to lecture us about
our shortcomings, and you don't seem to know that there is no vainer
creature in existence than a man. No peacock that ever strutted with
an expanded tail is one-half so ridiculous or silly as a man. I
make no distinctions - _all men are the same_; at least, that's my
experience, and that of every woman I ever met.

How do you suppose a woman like HERMIONE succeeds as she does? Why she
finds out (it doesn't take long, I assure you) the weak points of the
men she meets; their wretched jealousies, affectations and conceits,
and then artfully proceeds to flatter them and make each of them think
his particular self the lord of creation, until she has all the weak
and foolish creatures wound round her little finger, and slavishly
ready to fetch and carry for her. And all the time you go about and
boast of your conquest to one another, and imagine that _you_ have
subjugated her. But she sits at home and laughs at you, and _despises_
you all from the flinty bottom of her heart. Bah! you're a pack of
fools, and I've no patience with you. As for you personally, if you
_must_ write any more, tell your fellow men something about their own
follies. It won't be news to _us_, but it may open _their_ eyes. If
you can't do that, you had better retire into your tub, and cease your
painful barking altogether. I've got my eye on you, so be careful. I
remain (thank goodness)

A WOMAN.

* * * * *

Now that was not altogether an agreeable breakfast dish. And the worst
of it was that it was so supremely unjustifiable. Had my indignant
correspondent honoured me with her address, I should have answered
her at once. "Madam," I should have said, "your anger outstrips your
reason. I always intended to say something about men. I had already
begun a second letter to my friend VANITY on the subject. I can
therefore afford to forgive your hard words, and to admit that there
is a certain amount of truth in your strictures on us. But please
don't write to me again so furiously. Such excessive annoyance is
quite out of keeping with your pretty handwriting, and besides, it
takes away my appetite to think I have even involuntarily given you
pain. Be kind enough to look out for my next letter, but don't, for
goodness' sake, tell me what you think about it, unless it should
happen to please you. In that case I shall, of course, be proud and
glad to hear from you again."

I now proceed, therefore, to carry out my intention, and, as usual,
I address myself to the fountain head. My dear VANITY, I never shall
understand why you take so much trouble to get hold of men. They are
not a pleasing sight when you have got them, and after a time it
must cease to amuse even you to see yourself reproduced over and over
again, and in innumerable ridiculous ways. For instance, there is
Dr. PEAGAM, the celebrated author of _Indo-Hebraic Fairy Tales: a new
Theory of their Rise and Development, with an Excursus on an Early
Aryan Version of_ "_Three Blind Mice_." Dr. PEAGAM is learned; he has
the industry of a beaver; he is a correspondent of goodness knows how
many foreign philosophical, philological, and mythological societies;
his record of University distinctions has never been equalled; his
advice has been sought by German Professors. Yet he carries all this
weight of celebrity and learning as lightly as if it were a wideawake,
and seems to think nothing of it. But he has his weak point, and, like
Achilles, he has it in his feet.

This veteran investigator, this hoary and venerable Doctor, would
cheerfully give years off his life if only the various philosophers
who from time to time sit at his feet would recognise that those feet
are small, and compliment him on the fact. They _are_ small, there is
no doubt of it, but not small enough to be encased without agony in
the tiny, natty, pointed boots that he habitually wears. Let anybody
who wants to get anything out of Dr. PEAGAM lead the conversation
craftily on to the subject of feet and their proper size. Let him then
make the discovery (aloud) that the Doctor's feet are extraordinarily
small and beautiful, and I warrant that there is nothing the
Doctor can bestow which shall not be freely offered to this cunning
flatterer. That is why Dr. PEAGAM, a modest man in most respects,
always insists on sitting in the front row on any platform, and
ostentatiously dusts his boots with a red silk pocket-handkerchief.

Then, again, who is there that has not heard of Major-General
WHACKLEY, V.C., the hero who captured the ferocious Ameer of Mudwallah
single-handed, and carried him on his back to the English camp - the
man to whose dauntless courage, above all others, the marvellous
victory of Pilferabad was due? Speak to him on military matters,
and you will find the old warrior as shy as a school-girl; but only
mention the word poetry, and you'll have him reciting his ballads and
odes to you by the dozen, and declaiming for hours together about the
obtuseness of the publishing fraternity.

I don't speak now of literary men who value themselves above LAMB,
DICKENS, and THACKERAY, rolled into one; nor of artists who sneer at
TITIAN; nor of actors who hold GARRICK to be absurdly overrated. Space
would fail me, and patience you. But let me just for a brief moment
call to your mind ROLAND PRETTYMAN. Upon my soul, I think ROLAND the
most empty-headed fribble, the most affected coxcomb, and the most
conceited noodle in the whole world. He was decently good-looking
once, and he had a pretty knack of sketching in water-colours.

But oh, the huge, distorted, overweening conceit of the man! I have
seen him lying full length on a couch, waving a scented handkerchief
amongst a crowd of submissive women, who were grovelling round him,
while he enlarged in his own pet jargon on the surpassing merits
of his latest unpublished essay, or pointed out the beauties of the
trifling pictures which were the products of his ineffective brush.
He will never accomplish anything, and yet to the end of his life,
I fancy, he will have his circle of toadies and flatterers who will
pretend to accept him as the evangelist of a glorious literary and
artistic gospel. For unfortunately he is as rich as he is impudent
and incompetent. And when he drives out in a Hansom he never ceases to
simper at his reflected image in the little corner looking-glasses, by
means of which modern cab-proprietors pander to the weakness of men.
Such is your handiwork, my excellent VANITY. Are you proud of it?

Yours, &c.,

DIOGENES ROBINSON.

* * * * *

ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS.

"ONE WHO DOESN'T KNOW EVERYTHING." - You ask, What are the duties
of "the Ranger"? Household duties only. He has to inspect the
kitchen-ranges in the kitchens of Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle,
Balmoral, and Osborne. Hence the style and title. He also edits Cook's
Guides.

"ANOTHER IDIOT" wishes to know if there is such an appointment in the
gift of the Crown as the office of "Court Sweep." Why, certainly; and,
on State occasions, he wears the Court Soot, and his broom is always
waiting for him at the entrance! At Balmoral and Osborne there is a
beautiful sweep leading the visitor right up to the front door.

"ONE MORE UNFORTUNATE" writes us, - "Sir, in what poem of MILTON's does
the following couplet occur? -

I'll light the _gas_ soon,
To play the _bas_-soon.

How are the lines to be scanned?" _Ans._ - On internal evidence, we
question whether the lines are MILTON's. In the absence of our Poet,
who is out for a holiday, we can only reply, that if shortsighted,
you can scan them by the aid of a powerful glass - of your favourite
compound.

* * * * *

[Illustration: "THE SWEET LITTLE CHERUB THAT SITS UP ALOFT."

(_Modern Version, as it must be_.)]

["The Associated Chamber of Commerce ask that the Coastguard
stations, shore-lighthouses, rock lighthouses, and light-ships
of the United Kingdom, should, as far as possible, be
connected by telegraph or telephone with the general telegraph
system of the country, 'as a means for the protection of life
and property, as well as for national defence.'... France and
America, Holland and Denmark, provide their seamen with this
great safeguard in the hour of their utmost need. IS England
content to let her sailors die by hundreds for want of a
little money, or for want of a little care?" - _Times_.]

_Prospero_. Why, that's my spirit!
But was not this nigh shore?

_Ariel_. Close by, my master.

_Prospero_. But are they, Ariel, safe?

_Ariel_. Not a hair perish'd.

_Tempest_, Act I., Scene 2.

_CONTENT_? There's many an English heart will hear with fierce amaze
That England lags so far behind in these electric days -
England, whose seamen are her shield, who vaunts in speech and song,
The love she bears her mariners! Wake, CAMPBELL, swift and strong
Of swell and sweep as the salt waves you sang as none could sing!
Rouse DIBDIN, of the homelier flight, but steady waft of wing!
Poetic shades, _this_ question, sure, should pierce the ear of death,
And make ye vocal once again with quick, indignant breath.
_Content_? Whilst round our rocky coasts the souls who guard them sink,
Death clutching from the clamorous brine, hope beaconing from the brink,
With lifted hands toward the lights that beam but to betray,
Because dull Britons fail to think, or hesitate to pay?
No! With that question a fierce thrill through countless listeners went,
And, hoarse with indignation, rings the answer, "_Not_ Content!"

When the Armada neared our coast in days now dubbed as "dark,"
Pre-scientific Englishmen, whom no Electric Spark
Had witched with its white radiance, yet sped from height to height
Of Albion's long wild sea-coast line the ruddy warning Light.
"Cape beyond Cape, in endless range, those twinkling points of fire"[1]
_Reveillé_ shot from sea to sea, from wave-washed shire to shire,
Inland, from hill to hill, it flashed wherever English hand
Helpful at need in English cause could grip an English brand.
To-day? Well, round our jutting cliffs, across our hollowing bays
Thicker the light-ship beacons flash, the lighthouse lanterns blaze.
From sweep to sweep, from steep to steep, our shores are starred with light,
Burning across the briny floods through the black mirk of night,
Forth-gleaming like the eyes of Hope, or like the fires of Home,
Upon the eager eyes of men far-straining o'er the foam.
Good! But how greatly less than good to fear, to think, to know
That inland England's less alert against a whelming foe
Than when bonfire and beacon flared mere flame of wood and pitch,
From Surrey hills to Skiddaw!
Science-dowered, serenely rich,
Safe in its snugly sheltered homes, our England lies at ease,
Whilst round her cliffs gale-scourged to wrath the tiger-throated seas
Thunder in ruthless ravening rage, with rending crash and shock,
Through the dull night and blinding drift on leagues of reef and rock.
More furious than the Spaniards they, more fierce, persistent foes,
These deep-gorged, pallid, foaming waves. Yes, bright the beacon glows,
Warmly the lighthouse wafts its blaze of welcome o'er the brine;
The shore's hard by, but where the hands to whirl the rescuing line?
To launch the boat? - to hurl the buoy? The lighthouse men look out
Upon their wreck-borne brethren there, their hearts are soft as stout,
But signals will not pierce this dark, shouts rise o'er this fierce roar,
Rescue may wait at hand, but - _there's no cable to the shore!_

Content with _this_? Nay, callous he whom this stirs not to rage,
_Punch_ pictures, with prophetic pen, a brighter cheerier page,
Which _must be turned_, and speedily:
Good Mr. PROSPERO BULL,
Your _Ariel_ is the Electric Sprite, DIBDIN, of pity full
For tempest-tost Poor JACK, descried a Cherub up aloft
Watch-keeping o'er his venturous life. That symbol, quoted oft,
Must find new form to fit the time. The _Ariel_ of the Spark
Must watch around our storm-lashed coast in tempest and in dark,
Guardian of homeward-bound Poor JACK, to spread the news of fear,
And tell him, battling with the storm, that rescuing hands, though near,
Are not made helpless in his hour of agonising need,
By ignorance that heeds not, and neglect that fails to heed.

[Footnote 1: MACAULAY's _Armada._]

* * * * *

[Illustration: NATURAL HISTORY.

"OH, _LOOK_, MUMMIE! NOW IT'S LEFT OFF RAINING, HE'S COME OUT OF HIS
KENNEL!"]

* * * * *

ALL BERRY WELL.

SIR, - As there is so much talk just now about the best way in which
to make Coffee, I will mention the plan I adopt, in the hope that
some of your readers may imitate it in their own homes. It is very
simple. You take some of the excellent "Coffee Mixture," sold by the
"Arabo-Egyptian Pure Parisian Berry Company, Limited," at sixpence
the pound. You need not give more than one tea-spoon to every four
persons, as the coffee is very good and thick. Add condensed milk,
and fill with water, after which, let the pot stand on the hob an hour
before use. You would be surprised at the quality of the fluid which
results. It gives general satisfaction in my own circle. My nephew,
who lives with me, declares that it is the only genuine coffee he has
drunk since he returned from the East. He usually, however, has his
breakfast out. My General Servant says that "she prefers it to beer"
(though she takes both), and has asked me for some to send to an
Aunt of hers with whom she has quarrelled. I think this very nice and
forgiving of her, and have allowed her a quarter of a pound for that
purpose. My son-in-law, who unfortunately is rather addicted to drink,
says it is "the finest tap he ever tasted," and adds that if he could
be sure of always having such Coffee, he would join the Blue Ribbon
Army at once. Hitherto he has not joined.

Yours humbly,
MARTHA HUSWIFE.

SIR, - At my "Home for Elderly Orphans of Defective Brain Power," I
give an _excellent_ Coffee, made of five parts chicory, and one of
Mocha, supplied at a cheap rate by a House in the City, which owes
me money, and is paying it off in this way, with skim-milk added, in
moderation, and no sugar. None of the orphans has ever complained of
my Coffee. I should like to catch them doing so. It is nonsense to say
the art of coffee-making is unknown in England.

Yours, indignantly,
CLEOPATRA JONES.

SIR, - Here is the recipe for Coffee which we use at this Buffet: -

"Place one pound of the 'Nonpareil Turkish Pasha's Special Brand
Extract of finest Mocha' in the urn in the morning. Pour on boiling
water to half-way up. Let it stew all day. Draw off as wanted, and
dilute with 'Anglo-African Condensed Cows' Milk.'"

Strange to say, we do not find great demand either for Coffee or Tea
(made on similar principles); but it is as well that the Public should
know that we have both in constant readiness, and of first-class
quality. The traveller who has drunk a cup of this Coffee in
conjunction with one of our celebrated Home-made Pork Pies, does not
require anything else till the end of the very longest journey, and,
probably, not even then.

KEEPER OF THE REFRESHMENT ROOM, STARVEM JUNCTION.

* * * * *

THE GEORGIAN ERA AT THE ALHAMBRA. - Mrs. ABBOTT is an electric wonder.
Not strong muscularly, but with sufficient electric power to support
four or five of the inferior sex heaped anyhow on a chair. Such a
woman is a crown to a husband - nay, any amount of crowns at £200
per week - and capable of supporting a family, however large, all by
her own exertions, or indeed, with scarcely any exertion at all. At
present, though married, she is a _femme seule_: but how long will she
remain the only electric wonder in London? Many years ago there was
a one-legged dancer named DONATO. Within sixteen weeks there were as
many one-legged dancers. We don't speak by the card, of course, but
one-legged dancers became a drug in the market. Already we hear of "A
Dynamic Phenomenon" at the Pavilion. Little Mrs. ABBOTT is an active,
spry little person, yet her "_vis inertiæ_" is, at present, without a
parallel.

* * * * *

THE TRAVELLING COMPANIONS.

NO. XVI.

SCENE - _Terrace and Grounds of the Grand Hôtel Villa d'Este,
on Lake Como. PODBURY and CULCHARD are walking up and down
together._

_Podbury._ Well, old chap, your resigning like that has made all the
difference to _me_, I can tell you!

_Culchard._ If I have succeeded in advancing your cause with Miss
PRENDERGAST, I am all the better pleased, of course.

_Podb._ You have, and no mistake. She's regularly taken me in hand,
don't you know - she says I've no intelligent appreciation of Italian
Art; and gad, I believe she's right there! But I'm pulling up - bound
to teach you a lot, seeing all the old altar-pieces I do! And she
gives me the right tips, don't you see; she's no end of a clever girl,
so well-read and all that! But I say - about Miss TROTTER? Don't want
to be inquisitive, you know, but you don't seem to be much _about_
with her.

[Illustration: "Bound to teach you a lot, seeing all the old
altar-pieces I do!"]

_Culch._ I - er - the feelings I entertain towards Miss TROTTER have
suffered no change - quite the reverse, only - and I wish to impress
this upon you, PODBURY - it is undesirable, for - er - many reasons,
to make my attentions - er - too conspicuous. I - I trust you have not
alluded to the matter to - well, to Miss PRENDERGAST, for example?

_Podb._ Not I, old fellow - got other things to talk about. But I don't
quite see why -

_Culch._ You are not _required_ to see. I don't _wish_ it, that is
all. I - er - think that should be sufficient.

_Podb._ Oh, all right, _I'll_ keep dark. But she's bound to know
sooner or later, now she and Miss TROTTER have struck up such
a friendship. And HYPATIA will be awfully pleased about it - why
_shouldn't_ she, you know?... I'm going to see if there's anyone on
the tennis-court, and get a game if I can. Ta-ta!

_Culch._ (_alone_). PODBURY knows very little about women. If
HYP - Miss PRENDERGAST - once found out _why_ I renounced my suitorship,
I should have very little peace, I know that - I've taken particular
care not to betray my attachment to MAUD. I'm afraid she's beginning
to notice it, but I must be careful. I don't like this sudden intimacy
between them - it makes things so very awkward. They've been sitting
under that tree over there for the last half-hour, and goodness only
knows what confidences they may have exchanged! I really must go up
and put a stop to it, presently.

_UNDER THE TREE._

_Hypatia._ I only tell you all this, sweetest one, because I _do_
think you have rather too low an opinion of men as a class, and I
wanted to show you that I have met at least _one_ man who was capable
of a real and disinterested devotion.

_Maud._ Well, I allowed that was about your idea.

_Hyp._ And don't you recognise that it was very fine of him to give up
everything for his friend's sake?

_Maud_. I guess it depends how much "everything" amounted to.

_Hyp._ (_annoyed_). I thought, darling, I had made it perfectly plain
what a sacrifice it meant to him. _I_ know how much he - I needn't tell
you there are certain symptoms one can_not_ be deceived in.

_Maud._ No, I guess you needn't tell me _that_, love. And it was
perfectly lovely of him to give you up, when he was under vow for you
and all, sooner than stand in his friend's light - only I don't just
see how that was going to help his friend any.

_Hyp._ Don't you, dearest? Not when the friend was under vow for me,
too?

_Maud._ Well, HYPATIA PRENDERGAST! And how many admirers do you have
around under vow, as a regular thing?

_Hyp._ There were only those two. RUSKIN permits as many as seven at
one time.

_Maud._ That's a vurry liberal allowance, too. I don't see how there'd
be sufficient suitors to go round. But maybe each gentleman can be
under vow for seven distinct girls, to make things sort of square now?

_Hyp._ Certainly not. The whole beauty of the idea lies in the
unselfish and exclusive devotion of every knight to the same sovereign
lady. In this case I happen to know that the - a - individual had never
met his ideal until -

_Maud._ Until he met you? At Nuremberg, wasn't it? My! And what was
his name? Do tell!

_Hyp._ You must not press me, sweetest, for I cannot tell that - even
to you.

_Maud._ I don't believe but what I could guess. But say, you didn't
care any for _him_, or you'd never have let him go like that? _I_
wouldn't. I should have suspected there was something behind!

_Hyp._ My feelings towards him were purely potential. I did him the
simple justice to believe that his self-abnegation was sincere. But,
with your practical, cynical little mind, darling, you are hardly
capable of - excuse me for saying so - of appreciating the real value
and meaning of such magnanimity!

_Maud._ Oh, I guess I _am_, though. Why, here's Mr. CULCHARD coming
along. Well, Mr. CULCHARD?

_Culch._ I - ah - appear to have interrupted a highly interesting
conversation?

_Maud._ Well, we were having a little discussion, and I guess you're
in time to give the casting vote - HYPATIA, you want to keep just
where you are, do you hear? I mean you should listen to Mr. CULCHARD's
opinion.

_Culch._ (_flattered_). Which I shall be delighted to give, if you
will put me in possession of the - er - facts.

_Maud._ Well, these are the - er - facts. There were two gentlemen under
vow - maybe you'll understand the working of that arrangement better
than I do? - under vow for the same young lady. [HYPATIA PRENDERGAST,
sit still, or I declare I'll pinch you!] One of them comes up and
tells her that he's arrived at the conclusion the other admirer is
the better man, and, being a friend of his, he ought to retire in
his favour, and he does it, too, right away. Now _I_ say that isn't
natural - he'd some other motive. Miss PRENDERGAST here will have it
he was one of those noble unselfish natures that deserve they should
be stuffed for a museum. What's _your_ opinion now?

_Culch._ (_perspiring freely_). Why - er - really, on so delicate a
matter, I - I - [_He maunders._

_Hyp._ MAUD, why _will_ you be so headstrong! (_In a rapid whisper._)
Can't you see ... can't you _guess_?...

_Maud._ I guess I want to make sure Mr. CULCHARD isn't that kind of
magnanimous man himself. I shouldn't want him to renounce _me_!

_Hyp._ MAUD! You might at _least_ wait until Mr. CULCHARD has -

_Maud._ Oh, but he _did_ - weeks ago, at Bingen. And at Lugano, too,
the other day, he spoke out tolerable plain. I guess he didn't wish
any secret made about it - _did_ you, Mr. CULCHARD?

_Culch._ I - ah - this conversation is rather ... If you'll excuse me -


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Online LibraryVariousPunch, or the London Charivari, Volume 101, November 28, 1891 → online text (page 1 of 3)