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Punch, or the London Charivari, Vol. 98, January 25th, 1890   By:

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JANUARY 25, 1890.


"Très volontiers," repartit le démon. "Vous aimez les tableaux changeans: je veux vous contenter."

Le Diable Boiteux.



"'The Humours of the Town!' Archaic phrase, Breathing of BRUMMEL and the dandy days Of curly hats and gaiters! 'Humours' seem rarer now, at least by night, In this strange world of gilt and garish light, And bibulous wits and waiters."

So I. The Shadow smiled. "There's food for mirth In every nook of the sun circling earth That human foot hath trodden. Man, the great mime, must move the Momus vein, Whether he follow fashion or the wain, In ermine or in hodden.

"A City of Strange Meetings! Motives strong Why men in well dressed multitudes should throng, Abundant are and various. Strongest, perhaps, the vague desire to meet; No animal as Man so quick to greet, So aimlessly gregarious.

"In Council, Caucus, Causerie, there's an aim Which many know and some might even name; But see yon motley muster, Like shades in Eblis wandering up and down! Types there of every 'Show Class' in the Town Elbow and glide and cluster."

I see long rooms, en suite , with lofty walls, And portières sombre as Egyptian palls; I hear the ceaseless scuffle Of many trim shod feet; the thin sweet sound Of stricken strings which faintly echoes round Those draperied vistas muffle.

Susurrus of a hundred voices blent In the bland buzz of cultured chat; intent Set faces mutely watching From cushioned corner or from curtained nook; Hands that about old ears attentive crook, The latest scandal catching.

Cold rock hewn countenances, shaven clean, Hard lips, and eyes alert with strength and spleen; Visages vain and vapid, All wreathed with the conventional bland smile That covers weary scorn or watchful guile, Shift here in sequence rapid.

"Why is this well dressed mob thus mustered here?" I asked my guide. "On every face a sneer Curls when it is not smirking. Scorn of each other seems the one sole thing In which they sympathise, the asp whose sting Midst flowery talk is lurking."

"Friend, mutual mockery, masked as mutual praise, Is a great social bond in these strange days. ROCHEFOUCAULD here might gather Material for new maxims keen and cold. They meet, these convives , if the truth be told, For boredom and bland blather.

"Royston's Reception, ah! yes; beastly bore! But must drop in for half an hour, no more. The usual cram, one knows it. Big pudding with a few peculiar "plums". Everyone kicks, but everybody comes. Don't quite know how he does it!'

"So SNAGGS, the slangy cynic. See him there With pouching shirt front and disordered hair, Talking to CRAMP the sturdy, Irreverent R. A. And he, that's JOYCE, The shaggy swart Silenus, with a voice Much like a hurdy gurdy.

"You see him everywhere, though none knows why; Every hand meets his grip, though every eye Furtively hints abhorrence. Society's a gridiron; fools to please, Wise men must sometimes lie as ill at ease As might a new St. Lawrence."

A buzz, a bustle! How the crowd makes way, And parts in lines as on some pageant day! 'Tis the Great Man, none other, "Bland, beaming, bowing quick to left and right; One hour he'll deign to give from his brief night To flattery, fuss and pother.

"Though the whole mob does homage, more than half Behind their hands indulge in sorrel chaff, And venomous invective. And he, the hard faced Cleon with his ring Of minor satellites? Could glances sting His were not ineffective!

"Crouched in yon corner, huddled chin to knees, Like some old lion sore and ill at ease Left foodless in the jungle, Sits GRUMPER, growling oaths beneath his breath At CLEON, who to him sums party death And diplomatic bungle... Continue reading book >>

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