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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 99, September 27, 1890   By:

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VOL. 99.

September 27, 1890.




The Servant of Society is one who, having in early life abdicated every claim to independent thought or action, is content to attach himself to the skirts and coat tails of the great, and to exist for a long time as a mere appendage in mansions selected by the unerring instinct of a professional tuft hunter. It is as common a mistake to suppose that all tuft hunters are necessarily of lowly birth and of inferior social position, as it is to believe them all to be offensive in manner and shallow in artifice. The coarse but honest Snob still perhaps exists, and here and there he thrusts and pushes in the old familiar way; but more often than not the upstart who has won his way to wealth and consideration finds himself to his own surprise courted and fawned upon by those whose boots his abilities would have fitted him to black, and his disposition prompted him to lick. Noble sportsmen are proud to be seen in his company, aristocratic guinea pigs are constantly in his pocket in the congenial society of the great man's purse, art willingly reproduces his features, journalism enthusiastically commemorates his adventures, and even Royalty does not thrust away a votary whose ministrations are as acceptable as they are readily performed. Without much effort on his own part he is raised to pinnacles which he imagined impossible of access, and soon learns to look down with a contempt that might spring of ancient lineage and assured merit, upon the hungry crowd whose cry is that of the daughter of the horse leech.

But the genuine Servant of Society is of a different stamp. Ordinarily he is of a good family, and of a competence which both differs from and resembles his general character in being possessed at once of the attributes of modesty and assurance. From an early age he will have been noted for the qualities which in after life render him humbly celebrated in subordinate positions. At school he will have had the good fortune to be attached as fag to a big boy who occupied an important place as an athlete, and whose condescending smiles were naturally an object of greater ambition to the small fry than the approval of the school authorities. For him he performed with much assiduity the various duties of a fag, happy to shine amongst his companions as the recipient of the great boy's favours. To play the jackal without incurring universal dislike is (at school) no very easy task, but he accomplishes it with discretion and with a natural aptitude that many maturer jackals might envy.


At the age of seventeen he is withdrawn from school. His own marked disinclination saves him from a military career, and he is subsequently sent to pass a year or two upon the Continent of Europe, in order that he may first of all pass the examination for the Diplomatic Service, and subsequently foil foreign statesmen with their own weapons, and in their own language. Returning, he secures his nomination, and faces the Examiners. Providence, however, reserves him for lower things. The Examiners triumph, and the career of the Servant of Society begins in earnest. The position of his parents secures for him an entrance into good houses. He is a young man of great tact and of small accomplishments. He can warble a song, aid a great lady to organise a social festivity, lead a cotillon, order a dinner, and help to eat it, act in amateur theatricals, and recommend French novels to inquiring matrons. His manners are always easy, and his conversation has that spice of freedom which renders it specially acceptable in the boudoirs of the smart. The experience of a few years makes plain to him that, in social matters, the serious person goes down before the trifler. He therefore cultivates flippancy as a fine art, and becomes noted for a certain cheap cynicism, which he sprinkles like a quasi intellectual pepper over the strong meat of risky conversation... Continue reading book >>

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