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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 101, August 29, 1891   By:

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VOL. 101.

August 29, 1891.




As you stood before the automatic machine on the station platform, making an imbecile choice between a packet of gooseberry nougat and a slab of the gum caramel, you could not help seeing on the level of your eye this notice: "BLACKING CREAM. ASK FOR HIGLINSON'S, AND TAKE NO OTHER."

Similar announcements met you on every hoarding, in almost every paper and magazine, on every omnibus. Neat little packets of HIGLINSON's Blacking cream were dropped through your letter box, with a printed request that you would honour Mr. HIGLINSON by trying it. Leaflets were handed you in the street to tell you what public analysts said about it, and in what great hotels it was the only blacking used. Importunity pays. Sooner or later you bought HIGLINSON's Blacking cream. You then found out that it was just about as good as any other, and went on buying it.

In one way this was very good for Mr. HIGLINSON, because he became very rich; in other ways it was not so good for him. For a long time he had nothing to do with public life; the public never thought about his existence; to the public he was not a man at all he was only part of the name of the stuff they used for their boots. If he had introduced himself to a stranger, giving the name of HIGLINSON, it is probable that the stranger would have remarked jocularly, "No relation to the Blacking cream, I presume?" HIGLINSON knew this, and it pained him deeply, for he was a sensitive man.

Because he was sensitive and felt things so much, he wrote a volume of very melancholy verses. He was unmarried and lonely, and he wanted to lead a high life. He said as much in his verses. But what comes well from Sir GALAHAD comes ill from the proprietor of a Blacking cream; and from idiotic notions about pluck and honesty he had put his own name to his book. Unfortunately, those who feel much are not always those who can express much; and HIGLINSON could not express anything. So critics with a light mind had a very fine time with these verses. They quoted them, with the prefatory remark: "The cream of the collection perhaps we might say the Blacking cream of the collection is the following," and they wound up their criticism with saying that the book must have been simply published as an advertisement. Mr. HIGLINSON could hardly have been mad enough to have printed such stuff from any other motive.

Of course HIGLINSON should have changed his name, and should have married. But the idiotic notions about pluck prevented him from changing his name; and he would not marry a woman who accepted him from only mercenary motives. He was so unattractive that he did not think it possible a woman would marry him for any other reason. However, he could not always be superintending the manufacture of Blacking cream; and it was obvious to him that he could publish no more verses. So he devoted himself to philanthropy in a quiet and unostentatious way. He attempted the reclamation of street arabs. He worked among them. He spent vast sums on providing education, training, and decent pleasures for them. A man who wrote for The Scalpel found him out at last. Next day there was a pretty little paragraph in The Scalpel , showing Mr. HIGLINSON up, and suggesting that this was a clever attempt to get the London shoe blacks to use HIGLINSON's Blacking cream. The Blacking cream, by the way, had never been advertised in The Scalpel .

HIGLINSON was furious. He spent a little money in finding out who had written the paragraph. Then he walked up to the writer in a public street, with raised walking stick. "Now, Sir," he said, "you shall have the thrashing that you deserve."


But it happened that the writer was physically superior to HIGLINSON; so it was the writer who did the thrashing, and HIGLINSON who took it. Next day, The Scalpel amused itself with HIGLINSON to the extent of half a column... Continue reading book >>

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