Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Locomotive Speed: A Hell-Bound Hubris?

My wife Millicent and I are planning to travel to the Metropolis from Brighton. Instead of using the usual cow sleigh, we have- with some misgivings- decided to travel by the newly-launched locomotive. I have some qualms about high speed beyond the natural rhythms of the cow cart, or footwalking. Is it true that passengers suffocate at speeds in excess of 30 miles per hour? Is our hell-bent quest for speed a folly, an obsession to send us tumbling like Icarus?

Yours sincerely

Wilderberforce Throckmorton

The Cobbles, Brighton

My dear Mr. Throckmorton,
My gravest apologies for my delayed reply to your letter. Thadeus is in the local infirmary and I am dictating this from my bed, recovering from various powder burns and a case of the grippe after being hauled from the Thames.

This new-fashioned locomotive, or “Stephenson’s Rocket” as we refer to it in London, may be a blessing for our age, or an ungodly, speed-engorged steam and steel harpy rushing our fair populace into the most searing of Satan’s vilest pits.

Finding no biblical reference to the limits of human speed, we turned to the empiricism of Science. The fastest pace yet known to man, being that of a speeding cannon ball, is by our calculations approximately 80 miles an hour. So, with gunpowder as our muse, and the varied modes of cutting edge travel as our vehicles, we schemed to break the manned velocity of 30 miles an hour.

Attempt #1
With bravado modestly veiled by grumbling, trembling and a bible clasped white-knuckled to his belly, Thadeus lowered himself into the visiting messr PT Barnam’s circus cannon. As the usual Italian rocketeer looked a mere slip of a man, and what with Thadeus weighing in at 16 stone, I judicially increased the powder charge to compensate. Before I could even press the button on my stopwatch, Thadeus had bulleted over the safety net, his fall broken only by the Tombola stall. Tragically, the bible was in flinders, and Thadeus- bandaged head to foot- remains in a state of permanent concussion, and unfortunately incapable of any foreseeable input into your query.

Attempt #2
With our tamed urchin using my stopwatch as a timer, I strove to ramp a Penny Farthing with two aft-facing punt guns strapped to it over the raised booms of Tower Bridge. The recoil hit like a bullock to the buttocks, and I shot off, the cycle beyond my control. My glasses fell off, and to add even more insult sartorial depravity, I was cast into the Thames with an almighty splash. Sadly no measurement of my velocity remains, as the urchin has made off with the stopwatch.

After these two failed attempts, I must confirm that any speed beyond a slowly trotting horse buggy to be grievously perilous. The modern speeds of the locomotive are no place for any passenger attempting to survive the journey without suffocating, or vomiting forth their innards in a steaming spume of offal. Myth Confirmed.

I remain, your humble servant

Jebediah Kneebone Esq.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Are Unsedated Wives Unmanageable?

Dear Sirs,
For the last few weeks, my wife Constance has been behaving in a most unseemly manner. Despite a regular regimen of laudanum, she no longer dreamily wanders the halls, lies about soporifically ringing the servants’ bell, or drowsily nods at my discussion over dinner. A strange, ungodly animation has taken o’oer her. Last night she had the temerity to express an opinion, on a matter of which escapes me now, but Jesus Wept! I excused myself from the table, and to ward off my distemper, I went out back and thrashed one of the servants until my mood calmed.

During the salubrious beating of Gracie, our Tanganyikan maid, the wretch confessed to using Constance’s laudanum for her own devices- in order to relax, she said. This may explain why last Tuesday, I returned home to find Gracie so relaxed she was supine on the kitchen tiles, and my beef wellington ruined.

Gracie has been despatched to the Workhouse. Constance has suggested changing the drawing room wallpaper. From this maelstrom of my unruly, once placid house, I implore you sirs, is a regimen of tincture of laudanum the answer to restoring Constance to a manageable, less obstreperous wife?

I await your answer with the greatest of agitations

The Right Hon. Ezekiel Colgrave


Dear Mr Colgrave,
This problem is but part of a most troubling, growing blot on our fair isle. Just last week, Thadeus read in the periodicals of ructions from an egregious sector of the fairer sex requesting the Vote. Female opinions and participation in politics are a fanciful canard, not fit for the frail workings of our womenfolks’ minds.

As the skewed clockworks of the female brain remain an enigma to science, we pored over the Good Book for a biblical answer to your query.

“Leviticus 25:44. Women know thy place. Where men argue of matters, remove thyself, this place is not thine.”

There you have it good sir. Sedation and the resultant cessation of free, unfettered thought is the lodestone of a happy marriage. Myth confirmed.

We remain, your humble servants

Thadeus Pyle & Jebediah Kneebone Esq.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Can You Flog Satan Out of a Wayward Child?

Dear Messrs Pyle and Kneebone,
The gravity of my situation forces me to write with candour and brevity. My fair child, Cedric, has become possessed by the Devil.

Earlier this week at dinner, Cedric speared a potato before the commencement of Grace. Naturally I flogged the child. This only served to egg on the Demon inhabiting his body. The child has danced and I have flogged; the child has been found cavorting with the lower orders and I have flogged, it has whistled a profane tune and I have flogged. For the love of my child and for the sake of his immortal soul I will be steadfast in the administration of the beatings, but Sirs, I must know if this is a futile ritual? Pray tell, can you confirm that you can flog Satan out of a wayward child?

Jonah and Ida Pfeiffer


Dear Sir,
Your most worthy missive arrived with a touch of divine providence. Indeed, I took receipt of your message while Jebediah was at the courthouse giving evidence in the case of a rascally little jackanape who had recently pilfered a loaf of bread from our pantry. I burst through the courthouse doors moments before the judge was about to send the child to the gallows and bid the court that he become my ward.

My good man, I profoundly doubt if there has ever been an urchin on this ‘Fair Isle’ more possessed by Satan’s wickedness. Filth and soot have rendered him the blackest of Satan’s imps and he has a mouth and manners to match. In fact it was an act of extreme probity that prevented us from flogging him senseless on sight.

But we are men of science and so, with a restraining hand, we devised a system of punishments whose severity increased in increments. I will spare the most gruesome of details, suffice to say that the first week followed a tempestuous pattern – A flogging in the morning; remorse by noon; hijinx and devilry by nightfall. We were on the point of surrender, when we introduced a bullwhip dipped in brine. When this instrument is met with the bare skin of a wayward child the results are extremely positive. Calling out to the glory of the Lord, the child expelled Satan from his soul by vomiting demonic plasma clear across the room. But the Lord of Darkness has infinite cunning. For, expelled though he was from the little wretch, he slithered his nefarious way into Jebediah’s body. This was revealed to me in the morn, when I arose to find the child returned to his errant ways. At my wits end, I set upon the child and thrashed him until he was unconscious. And then a most curious thing happened. Jebediah spumed. From his throat flowed the Devil’s toxins. And herein lies your answer. With a briny bullwhip, flog your child until he expels Satan, then flog him again until your wife expels Satan. That is the ticket. As I write, the child is rocking gently in a chair in our drawing room, not uttering a peep, with the bible upon his lap. Myth confirmed.

We remain, your humble servants

Thadeus Pyle & Jebediah Kneebone Esq.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Does the Waltz Cause Syphilis?

Dear Messrs Kneebone and Pyle,
Our daughter Miriam is a gay and frivolous creature – the vices of youth one suspects - who will one day make a fine and deserving wife. To this effect, we are arranging her coming out ball. Now, this child has requested dancing, specifically this new European craze the Waltz. Without wishing to trouble her appropriately empty little head, but for my own peace of mind, I would like to confirm or dispel a most disturbing rumour. Sirs, let me cut to the chase. Does this waltz cause syphilis? It is hardly necessary for me to point out the prospects of marriage for a spoiled maiden.

Uriah Perry


Dear Sir,
On this issue we are all fathers. We could never forgive ourselves if all it took was a little enlightenment and a tight rein on adolescent boisterousness to curb the “French Disease” and we let the opportunity pass. For this reason Thadeus and I, bags heavy with the contraptions of science, travelled to Newgate prison. After pressing a thruppence into the gatekeepers palm we slipped into the bowels of that forsaken place. There we rounded up a straight-jacketed handful of syphilis demented felons and demanded of them, in the name of Science! if they had ever occasioned to waltz. At first there was some reluctance or perchance incomprehension in the convicts; but after Jebediah egged on convict A with a crack across the eyes from his cane, the truth, as it always will, tumbled out. Convict B immediately reminisced about an interlude where he and Queen Victoria waltzed upon the moon. This loosened the traps of our other test subjects, who in order, confessed to waltzing with a spoon; a daschund named Colin, and Black Friars Bridge. There you have it sir, of every subject infected with syphilis, so every subject had indeed performed the waltz. Cause and effect has irrefutably been proved. This dance Sir is a dance with delirium and disease. Myth confirmed.

We remain, your humble servants

Thadeus Pyle & Jebediah Kneebone Esq.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Does Onanism Cause Blindness?

Dear Messrs. Pyle & Kneebone,
I returned home early from my shift at the mill yesterday and came upon my son Aloysius in delicto solo fragrante. So fevered were his manipulations, he seemed bent on beating his member as though it owed him a King’s ransom.

After several hours of beating the devil from his mortal soul, he has confessed to a string of Onanistic wickedness.

Will this cause blindness? As I am 42 years of age, I was looking to Aloysius to leave school at 12, and enrol at the mill to support me in my frail dotage. A blind child will leave me no option but to cast him into the Thames.

Your obedient servant

Festus Sweedlepipe


Dear sir,
A blind child is an abomination and an affront to God, man and nature and as such we spared not a second investigating this chilling myth. Mr Sweedlepipe, let us walk you through our methodology.

Firstly we scoured the good neighbourhood of Mayfair; wrenching urchins of a similar age to your boy from their chimney sweep duties and returned them to our private auditorium. Once gathered, we projected various images of a pornographic nature onto a wall and bade them to commence the sin of Ona. Soon they were hunched like monkeys stripping husks off a coconut.

At the height of their fevered self-abuse and at a pace of no more than 12 feet we held aloft and in plain view, standard eye chart tests and asked them to identify every letter. My good Sir, the results were mortifying. Children who would normally spot a penny through a sewer grate were uniformly unable to even identify the boldest consonant we showed them.

It is our considered and scientific belief that this myth is confirmed, and we humbly suggest that you purchase Dr Abernathy’s Anti-Masturbation Harness™. It protects against the sickness of self-abuse; its internal penile-lacerating feature curbs arousal while attempted removal causes possible mutilation. For the sake of your son’s temporal health and to spare him eternal hell-fire we urge you to order yours today.

We remain, your humble servants

Thadeus Pyle & Jebediah Kneebone Esq.