Saturday, 12 May 2012

Blockhead (Size 5)

No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.
 Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784)

SOME years ago when my books were still in print I made a calculation of how much I earned per hour from writing them. I did this by adding together all the royalties I'd received and dividing the total by the number of hours I thought I might have spent at the keyboard. I cheated, I suppose, by adding in the fees I'd received from serialisation - which used to happen in French interest magazines - and odd other appearances in print.

It came to 8p.

THE moral of this, if any, is possibly pointed in the diary entry of Sir Harold Nicolson for May 12th, 1937, the day of George VI's coronation, to which both he and Ramsay MacDonald, a previous Prime Minister, had been invited:

I go to see Ramsay MacDonald for a moment and find him sitting in his room punching a hole in his sword-belt and looking very distinguished in a Trinity House uniform. I tell him how well he looks. 'Yes,' he answers, 'when I was a visitor to a lunatic asylum I always noticed how well the worst lunatics looked.'

AND today I've made the acquaintance of George Wither (1588-1667), a minor English poet who spent much of his life in prison for writing libellous verses, identifying leading members of English society with Lust, Lechery, Revenge, Gluttony and Hate. I am honoured to quote the only poem known to me in which the poet gives his love's shoe size:

I LOVED a lass, a fair one,
As fair as e'er was seen;
 She was indeed a rare one,
Another Sheba Queen:
But, fool as then I was,
I thought she loved me too:
 But now, alas! she 's left me,
Falero, lero, loo! 
Her hair like gold did glister,
Each eye was like a star,
She did surpass her sister,
Which pass'd all others far;
She would me honey call,
She'd—O she'd kiss me too!
But now, alas! she 's left me,
Falero, lero, loo!

Her cheeks were like the cherry,
Her skin was white as snow;
When she was blithe and merry
She angel-like did show;
Her waist exceeding small,
The fives did fit her shoe:
But now, alas! she 's left me,
Falero, lero, loo!

On one occasion when Wither was banged up in the Tower of London in the shadow of  the headsman's axe, another almost equally bad minor poet, Sir John Denham, begged King Charles I to spare Wither's life, on the grounds that as long as Wither lived, Denham would not be accounted the worst poet in England.

I don't know why I'm telling you all this.


Martin said...

I think I may have had occasion to use a "Falero, lero, loo!" when I visited a theme park, once.

Vicus Scurra said...

I don't blame her for leaving a man with such a bizarre knowledge of shoe sizes.
I have not escorted Mrs S into a shoe shop these 15 years. It is firmly enforced policies such as this that lead to a mutually happy and long lasting marriage.

Rog said...

It's the same reason Rupert Murdoch spoke up for Richard Desmond.

Mike and Ann said...

Because they are fascinating bits of English history.
Thank you.

broken biro said...

Being a bit slow on the uptake, and very behind in my blog reading, I only just noticed you have returned to the fold... hurrah! Or indeed Falero, lero, loo!

Christopher said...

Martin: You wouldn't like to tell us more?

Vicus: Clearly our proclivities are very alike. Size 5s, I should think.

Rog: I once saw Sir Harold Nicolson asleep on a garden bench. Can't say the same for the gentlemen you mention.

M 'n' A: It's a pleasure. And I'm terribly sorry, I thought you'd stopped blogging, probably because I inserted the URL of a particular post in my settings. Please excuse me for not calling as often as I should have done. I will try to make amends.

BB: Ditto. Very pleased to see you. The door's always open...

Mike and Ann said...

One of my favourite poets is Matthew Prior. He had the gift of brevity (rare in a poet of his period).

Example :-
How cruel were nature and art to poor Nell -
She was painting her face at the time her nose fell.

mig bardsley said...

Altogether delightful and fascinating. I wish I could write poetry like that.