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Sketches Sartorial, Tonsorial and the Like
A Collection of Light, Humorous Verse
By St. Claire Bullock, R.V. Andelson
Shepheard-Walwyn (Publishers) LtdCopyright © 2009 R. V. Andelson
All rights reserved.
Master Cecil Abercorn
No wickeder child was ever born
Than Master Cecil Abercorn,
Who, with a pick-axe of his pater's,
Broke in and stole the Bishop's gaiters,
Then took them to the Cliffs of Dover,
And mischievously hurled them over.
Cast thus upon the roiling sea,
Tossed here and yon as dank debris,
Adrift for many a stormy day,
They finally washed up near Calais.
Some simple fisher folk descried
Them on the shingle at low tide.
Approaching at a cautious creep
These two strange creatures from the deep
(As they first thought them), the good folk
Came timidly to prod and poke,
And, in due course, inspect with care
The Bishop's gaiters lying there.
They pondered long and tediously,
Debating what such things might be,
To no avail, till finally, when
Up spoke the grizzled Luc Duchesne:
"I know now what they are!" cried he,
And bore them home triumphantly.
Each Fall, he fastens them with ease
Around his Pipes so they won't freeze.
The greatest pride of Rupert Ashe
Was his luxuriant moustache.
He took great care to keep it groomed,
And even, with restraint, perfumed.
He brushed it upward every day,
And it made such a grand display
That people who were not the wiser
Imagined that he was the Kaiser.
The Honorable Cedric Barton
The Honorable Cedric Barton
Admired the Stewart Hunting Tartan.
He came increasingly to covet
A cap or waistcoat fashioned of it.
His scruples would not yield permission
To satisfy this fond ambition,
No Stewart he, or even Scottish,
And so he died morose and sottish.
Mrs Stafford Beck
In public, Mrs Stafford Beck
Would drape a fox around her neck.
Although, in fact, the little beast
Was irreversibly deceased,
She named the creature "Antoinette,"
And viewed it almost as a pet.
At home one day when she was ill,
She read the story of Miss Brill,
And Antoinette was laid to rest
Forever, in a camphor chest.
Dame Portia Blague
The iron-willed Dame Portia Blague
Detested humbug like the plague.
Her sense of honesty allowed her
No hint of rouge or trace of powder.
She would not deign to tint her tresses,
Or wear defect-concealing dresses.
In fact, she came, in clement weather,
To abjure clothing altogether –
Which led the Crown to seek to tame her
By sternly threatening to un-dame her.
Canon Nigel Bowman
The Low Church canon, Nigel Bowman,
Considered clericals too Roman.
In time, the garb that he affected,
This viewpoint more and more reflected.
His linen backwards collars early
Were jettisoned, and then, as surely,
Into the dustbin relegated,
His sober suits, to be cremated –
Replaced (What contrast could be starker?)
With clothes that cried: "A circus barker!"
He sported blazers cut too tightly,
And neckerchiefs that flamed too brightly,
And waistcoats chequered all too boldly,
And rings and fobs that gleamed too goldly –
Which facts illumine like a beacon,
Why he was never made archdeacon.
Sir Burton Bowser
The barrister, Sir Burton Bowser,
Declined to wear a pleated trouser.
It was his custom to declare:
"A pleated trouser I'll not wear."
Yet one day, rising from their seats,
His friends observed him clad in pleats.
In unison they fairly shouted:
"Your rule you have quite plainly flouted!"
He answered with a haughty stare:
"My rule applies not to a pair."
A walking stick with silver crook
Was always borne by Pennfield Brooke.
He fancied, in his innocence,
That it would never give offence.
In fact, he thought it just a touch
Of elegance – not overmuch.
Of course, the man was ostracised
From all the circles he most prized;
For Etiquette's imperious rein
Permits a gentlemanly cane,
At most, a silver band, to hide
The seam, where crook and shaft divide.
The good professor, Dr Brown,
Taught every day in cap and gown.
His choice of calling was astute:
He did not need to own a suit.
Mrs Wilton Bruce
The stately Mrs Wilton Bruce
Would wear no colour save for puce.
From frock to hat to glove to shoe,
Her total wardrobe was that hue.
Her friends decried, much to her ire,
The monotone of her attire,
But she maintained through thick and thin,
It best set off her hair and skin.
What finally made their carping cease
Were these words from her clever niece:
"However tiresome you think puce,
"Be grateful that it's not chartreuse!"
A cotton night cap with a tassel
Was worn to bed by Clarence Castle.
On bitter nights when he was dozy,
It kept his scalp all snug and cosy;
But when the nights were hot and humid,
It made his scalp all dank and tumid.
Without it, even in the heat,
He thought his night-garb incomplete.
When Damon Chadwick was a boy,
They dressed him like Lord Fauntleroy
In wide lace collars, velvet suits,
And little patent leather boots.
His hair was long, his breeches short,
And other lads of him made sport.
Therefore, today one will find Damon
Garbed like a stable-hand or drayman.
The Very Reverend Chalmers Choate
The Very Reverend Chalmers Choate
Wore his round collars extra high
To hide his sagging, wrinkled throat,
About which he was rightly shy.
Plump were his cheeks, spheric, his head,
And bursting from its wide, white band,
His face, all glossy and well-fed,
Recalled a pudding on a stand.
Mrs Chalmers Choate
The randy Mrs. Chalmers Choate
Of St. Elfrida's deanery,
Besmirched her russet redingote
Whilst in an act of venery.
"We'll buy another," said her spouse,
Who found her randiness quite fetching
So long as it was kept in-house.
(He would not brook promiscuous leching.)
But she withdrew from his embrace,
And was not soothed by his endeavor,
Retorting, "You, I can replace.
A redingote like this one, never!"
The costermonger, Crispin Clay.
Was bald as ever bald could be,
So took to wearing a toupee
(Except at home, where none could see).
If Sol blazed forth in bright display,
He often added a topee
To shade his face from burning ray,
And shield his eyes from brilliancy.
In haste, one morning in mid-May,
He dressed himself forgetfully,
And ventured forth in disarray,
His toupee topping his topee.
A languid youth named Linwood Cooley
Was awfully partial to patchouli.
He would have worn it, but his Mum
Deemed it not proper pour les hommes.
So languid Linwood languished lowly,
Into his deathbed sinking slowly,
And conscience-stricken (Need you ask it?),
Mum poured patchouli on his casket.
Tobias Deering, Esq.
The agèd squire, Tobias Deering,
Required assistance with his hearing,
So, duly a device procured
That made him never miss a word –
Until, at tiffin over sherry,
One day, he grew quite stationary,
And then, immobile, slowly slid
Beneath the table (Yes, he did!),
And lay there snoring quite genteelly.
(The fact is, he had drunk too freely.)
His household servants, three in number,
Were first agreed to let him slumber,
But, after seven hours had passed,
Concurred to waken him at last.
"Arise!" they called in mounting chorus.
"Please, don't just lie there and ignore us.
"Arise! High tea will soon await you
"To comfort and invigorate you."
They might as well have spoken Erse.
His deafness had returned, but worse!
They undertook to prod and shake him,
And finally managed to awake him;
But though they spoke in tones ascending,
He still remained uncomprehending.
Otologists from every nation
Were called, but after consultation,
They left with solemn mien, confessing
The case both baffling and distressing.
So, wrapped in silence all-surrounding,
For months the squire, his bosom pounding,
Bewailed his fate, and sat dejected,
His toilet and affairs neglected
Yet, all the while, his butler, Bailey,
Was brooding on the problem daily,
When, as though from a necromancer,
Suddenly there came the answer:
Lodged deep within the squire's ear trumpet
They found a stale, half-eaten crumpet.
The noble Reginald DeLisle
Was quite indifferent as to style.
His social status was so grand,
He wore whatever lay to hand,
And then, as certain as the dawn,
Others would ape what he had on.
Once, upon leaving Hatton Hall,
He threw on his wife's paisley shawl.
For some time after, one might see,
Fine gentlemen, two out of three,
In shawls, until, in accents stern,
Their wives demanded their return.
When Elspeth was across the water,
Over a dish of sillabub,
Her hostess's athletic daughter
Proposed an outing to the club.
When she agreed, her friend, Meg Vickers,
Said: "We shall golf if it be fair,
"So don't forget to wear your knickers;
"If need be, I can lend a pair."
"I always wear them," Elspeth said,
"Unless, of course, I am in bed."
Sir Percival Fitzgibbon, Bart.
Sir Percival Fitzgibbon, Bart.,
Preferred his hair without a part.
For reasons too obscure to tell,
Into a part it always fell.
Without effect, he tried pomade,
And fruitlessly, a barber's aid.
He wore a cap at night to train
His hair, but it was all in vain.
Eventually, he grew so galled
He shaved his head completely bald.
The absent-minded Fenwick Ford
Possessed a cane that made a sword,
And too, to rest his legs and feet,
Another cane that made a seat.
He kept them under lock and key,
Removed from his vicinity.
His reason was a very strong one:
He feared he might sit on the wrong one.
A signature of Chilton Fry
Was matching handkerchief and tie.
The Quality, without a doubt,
Mistook him for a pimp or tout.
No matter! He was viewed as smart
By all whose views he took to heart.
At mealtime, little Willie Gibb
Simply refused to wear his bib.
Nurse told his parents, "Let him be.
"The bib is useless, for you see,
"The way Young Master spills his food,
"He'd have to dine entirely nude,
"Or else enveloped in a sheet,
"If we would keep him halfway neat!"
From Musgrave Mansions, Blanche Gillette,
In watered silk adorned with jet,
Observed the world through a lorgnette.
Upon her lap, her Pekinese
Whined piteously, for he had fleas;
She was oblivious to these.
E'er long, they multiplied and spread
To Miss Gillette's unwitting head,
And made her scratch until she bled.
The chemist told her to apply
A mix of turpentine and lye
Each day till Candlemas was nigh.
His treatment worked, perhaps too well:
From pet and mistress the fleas fell –
As did their hair, most sad to tell.
Mary Anne, Viscountess Grange
Distracted, Neville, Viscount Grange,
Forgot to ask his wife to change
For tea time at the country house
Where they were guests, he and his spouse.
Poor Mary Anne, who knew no better,
Appeared in flannel skirt and sweater,
Her tea gown folded in a drawer
(She never sure what it was for).
Her hosts and everyone who saw,
Quite overlooking her faux pas,
Allowance made for Mary Anne,
Since she was an American.
The elderly Elvira Greene
Was always in black bombasine.
She was a spinster, and beside,
For decades had no kin who'd died.
The town was curious to know
For whom she mourned, and thus, although
It was indelicate to ask,
A matron brash essayed the task:
Elvira said, in tones of ruth,
"I mourn for my departed youth."
Since character is all that matters,
Ralph Griggs went 'round in rags and tatters.
Once, at a chophouse in York Centre
Two waiters both observed him enter:
"See that old tramp?" remarked the younger.
"He'd like a steak to sate his hunger,
"But through the bill of fare he'll forage,
"And wind up ordering tea and porridge."
And then, with show of perspicuity:
"He'll not leave tuppence for gratuity!"
His more experienced mate, replying,
Said, "You're too rash in prophesying.
"He may be worth a million proper,
"And can afford to look the pauper."
Harold Willis Hackett
For Christmas, Harold Willis Hackett
Received a velvet smoking jacket
Replete with frogs and silken lining,
And broidered with gold cords entwining.
He was so charmed by all its merit,
He took up smoking just to wear it.
Walter Higdon Hall
The plight of Walter Higdon Hall
Was in his county known to all:
Of boots, his conscience let him own
Only a single pair alone.
When it could yield no further wear,
He meant to buy another pair.
In the first instance, he was faced
With choices: Buckled, plain or laced?
With perforations front or back?
Wingtip or cap toe? Brown or black –
Or maybe even British tan?
The leather, kid or cordovan –
Or common cowhide? But, if so,
Pebbled or smooth? High top or low?
The heels, how high? The soles, how thick?
The clerk entreated him to pick,
But he, not used to choices weighty,
Went bootless till he passed at eighty.
Sir Halford Hayes
Whilst at his diplomatic station
In far Dubayy, Sir Halford Hayes
(An Arabist of reputation)
Became attached to Bedouin ways.
With special reference to attire,
He found a ghutrah and a thawb,
Together with a loose abaya,
More suitable than Western garb.
At length, his foreign service ended,
Returned to dwell on English soil,
He could not bear to let his splendid
Exotic garments mould and spoil;
So he resolved to wear them daily,
Though under leaden British skies.
No arguments could countervail; he
Brushed them off like buzzing flies.
A comment from his Cousin Florence
Made his resolve quite limitless:
She said he looked like Colonel Lawrence
When in his sheikhly desert dress!
The elegant Serena Huff
In Summer wore an ermine muff.
From many quarters came the word:
"A muff in Summer is absurd!"
But she held she was in the right:
"It's quite correct since it is White."
Matilda Hughes of Hairston Mews
Was somewhat portly but not fat;
Her eyes, the iciest of blues,
Obscured by large and ugly hat
Beneath whose shade one might discern
A pair of lips extremely thin,
Set in a line correct but stern,
Above a stiff, imperious chin.
Strangers who saw her in a shop
(Attendants scurrying at her beck),
Were apt to make a sudden stop,
Recalling Mary, née of Teck.
They could not wholly see her face,
But bowed or curtsied, just in case
(Whilst the attendants, much bestirred,
Their surreptitious glances joined
To scan the stock and be assured
That nothing dear had been purloined).
The christening dress of Infant Jane
Was cheaply made of cellophane.
Her parents held, to have one made
Of lace, or trimmed in white brocade,
Were quite the action of a dunce,
Since she'd be wearing it but once.
A pair of muttonchops bestrode
The ample jowls of Jasper Joad,
And tended strongly to convey
An air decidedly passé.
But when his wife once mildly stated
That sidewhiskers were long outdated,
He took her comment quite adversely,
Responding testily and tersely:
"They keep my dewlaps nicely hidden,
"So spare me from advice unbidden."
The social climber, Julian Katz,
Affected lemon yellow spats,
Yet did not know why men of breeding
Would not acknowledge him on meeting,
Or why no club, e'en a third-rate one,
Would entertain his nomination
So Julian finally fell to brooding
That left him bitterly concluding,
In a despairing mood mephitic,
That he was shunned because Semitic.
Clarence Albert Kells
The dapper Clarence Albert Kells
Would not have commonplace lapels.
When double-breasted, if one watched,
One'd see that they were always notched,
Whereas, if single, rolled and tweaked
To make them always sharply peaked.
Such were the pains that Clarence took
To give himself a different look
Excerpted from Sketches Sartorial, Tonsorial and the Like by St. Claire Bullock, R.V. Andelson. Copyright © 2009 R. V. Andelson. Excerpted by permission of Shepheard-Walwyn (Publishers) Ltd.
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