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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 100, February 28, 1891   By:

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VOL. 100.

February 28, 1891.




We will assume, simply for the purposes of this argument, that you, reader, are an innocent minded elderly lady, and a regular subscriber to the Local Circulating Library. You are sitting by your comfortable fireside, knitting a "cross over" for a Bazaar, when your little maid announces a gentleman, who says he has not a card case with him, but requests that you will see him.

"You are sure he is a gentleman, MARY ANN?" you will inquire, with a slight uneasiness as to the umbrellas in the hall.

"Oh, a puffict gentleman, Mam," says MARY ANN "with a respirator."

Upon this testimony to his social standing, you direct that the perfect gentleman shall be shown in.

MARY ANN has not deceived you he has a respirator, also blue spectacles, and a red nose. He apologises with fluent humility for intruding upon you without the honour of a previous acquaintance, and takes a chair, after which he shifts his respirator to his chin, sheds a pair of immense woollen gloves into his hat, and produces a bundle of papers, over which he intreats you to cast an eye. On perusing them, they prove to be letters from various eminent authors, whose names are, more or less, familiar to you. These documents are more interesting as autographs than from any intrinsic literary merit, for they all refer to remittances for various amounts, and regret politely that the writer is not in a position to obtain permanent employment for his correspondent. While you are reading them, your visitor pays assiduous court to your cat which impresses you favourably.

"Possibly, Madam," he suggests, "you may be personally acquainted with some of those gentlemen?" When you confess that you have not that honour, he seems more at his ease.

"I asked," he says, "because I have long heard of you as a Lady of great taste and judgment in literary matters which, after seeing you, I can the more readily understand."

It is a fact that several of your nieces and female neighbours are in the habit of declaring that they would rather take your opinion on a novel than that of all the critics; still, you had not expected your fame to have spread so wide.

"I had another motive," he confesses, "because, if you were intimate with any of these authors, I should naturally 'esitate to say anything which might have the effect of altering your opinion of them. As it is, I can speak with perfect freedom though in the strictest confidence. You see before you, Madam, an unfortunate bean, whom circumstances have 'itherto debarred from ever reaping the fruit of his own brine! Well may you remark, 'Your Gracious Goodness'" ( your natural astonishment having escaped you in the shape of this invocation ) "for in your goodness and in your graciousness rests my sole remaining 'ope. I was endowed from an early age with a fertile and versatile imagination, and creative powers which, without vanity, I may say, were of a rather superior class. The one thing I lacked was inflooence, and in the world of letters, Madam, as I am sure you do not need to be informed, without inflooence Genius is denied a suitable opening. At several literary Clubs in the West End I made the acquaintance of the authors whose letters you have just had the opportunity of reading men who have since attained to the topmost pinnacle of Fame. At that time they were comparatively obscure; they 'eard my conversation, they realised that I 'ad ideers, of which they knew the value better, perhaps, than I did myself. I used to see them taking down notes on their shirt cuffs, and that, but I took no notice of it at the time. Probably you have read the celebrated work of fiction by Mr. GASHLEIGH WALKER, entitled, King Cole's Cellars ? I thought so. I gave him the plot, scenery and characters complete, for that story. I did, indeed."

"And do you mean to say he has taken all the credit himself!" you exclaim, very properly shocked... Continue reading book >>

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