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Friday, 23 December 2011

Voces Populi: Or: A Christmas Romp from Punch:

Whilst going through a few periodicals looking for something Christmassy to post over the next few days, I stumbled across a little Christmas folly from the Punch Christmas Number of 1890, and thought it may provide a little seasonal cheer:

SCENE - Mrs. CHIPPERFIELD's Drawing room,  It is after the Christmas dinner, and  the  Gentlemen have  not  yet  appeared, Mrs. C. is laboriously attempting to  be gracious  to  her  Brother's Fiancee, whose acquaintance she has made for the first  time, and  with whom  she is disappointed. Married Sisters and Maiden Aunts confer in corners with a sleepy acidity.

First Married Sister (to Second). I felt  quite sorry  for  FRED, to see him sitting  there, looking – and no wonder – so ashamed of himself – but I always will say, and I always must  say, CAROLINE, that if you and ROBERT had been firmer with him when he was  younger,  he would never have turned out so badly! Now there's my GEORGE – &c., &c.
Mrs. C. (to the Fiancee) Well, my dear, I don't approve of young men getting  engaged until they have some prospects of being able to marry, and dear ALGY was  always my favourite brother, and I've seen so much misery from long engagements.    However, we must hope for the best, that's all!
A Maiden Aunt (to Second Ditto) Exactly what struck me, MARTHA. One waiter would have been quite sufficient, and if JAMES must be grand and give champagne, he might have given us a little more of it; I'm sure I'd little more than foam in my glass!   And every plate as cold as a stone, and you and I the only people who were not considered worthy of silver forks, and the children encouraged to behave as they please, and  JOSEPH PODMORE made such a fuss  with, because he's well off – and not enough sweetbread to go the  round. Ah, well, thank goodness, we needn't dine here for another year!
Mr. Chipperfield (at the door) Sorry to cut you short in your cigar, Uncle, and you LIMPETT; but fact is, being Christmas night, I thought we'd come up a little sooner and all have a bit of a romp...Well, EMILY, my dear, here we are, all of us – ready for anything in the way of a frolic – what's it to be? Forfeits, games, Puss in the Corner, something to cheer us all up, eh? Won't anyone make a suggestion?   [General expression of gloomy blankness.
Algernon (to his Fiancee – whom he wants to see shine), ZEFFIE, you know no end of games – what's that one you played at home, with potatoes and a salt-spoon, you know?
Zeffie (blushing) No, please, ALGY! I don't know any games, indeed, I couldn't, really!
Mr. C. Uncle JOSEPH will get us going, I'm sure – what do you say, Uncle?
Uncle Joseph Well, I won't say "no" to a quiet rubber.
Mrs. C. But, you see, we can't all play in that, and there is a pack of cards in the house somewhere; but I know two of the aces are gone, and I don't think all the court cards were there the last time we played. Still, if you can manage with what is left, we might get up a game for you.
Uncle J. (grimly) Thank you, my dear, but, on the whole, I think I would almost rather romp –
Mr. C. Uncle JOSEPH votes for romping! What do you say to Dumb Crambo?   Great fun – half of us go out, and come in on all fours, to rhyme to "cat," or "bat," or something – you can play that, LIMPET?
Mr. Limpett If I must find a rhyme to cat, I prefer, so soon after dinner, not to go on all fours for it, I confess.
Mr. C. Well, let's have something quieter, then – only do settle. Musical Chairs, eh?
Algy ZEFFIE will play the piano for you – she plays beautifully.
Zeffie.Not without notes, ALGY, and I forgot to bring my music with me. Shall we play "Consequences"? It's a very quiet game – you play it sitting down, with paper and pencil, you know!
Mr. Limpett (sardonically, and sotto voce).  Ah, this is something like a rollick now. "Consequences,'' eh?
Algy (who has overheard – in a  savage  undertone), If that  isn't good enough for you, suggest something better – or shut up!                        [Mr. L. prefers the latter alternative.
Mr. C. Now, then, have you given everybody a piece of paper, EMILY?   CAROLINE, you're going to play – we can't leave you out of it.
Aunt Caroline No, JAMES, I'd rather look on, and see you all enjoying yourselves – I’ve no animal spirits now!
Mr. C. Oh, nonsense!  Christmas time, you know. Let's be jolly while we can – give her a pencil, EMILY!
Aunt C. No, I can't, really. You must excuse me. I know I'm a wet blanket; but, when I think that I mayn't be with you another Christmas, we may most of us be dead by then, why – (sobs).
Fred (the Family Failure) That's right, Mater – trust you to see a humorous side to everything!
Another Aunt For shame, FRED! If you don't know who is responsible for your poor mother's low spirits, others do!
                                                                                       [The Family Failure collapses.
Mr. Limpett Well, as we've all got pencils; is there any reason why the revelry should not commence?
Mr. C. No – don't let's waste any more time. Miss ZEFFIE says she will write  down  on the  top  of  her  paper  "Who met whom" (must be a Lady and Gentleman in the party, you know), then she folds it down, and passes it on to the next, who writes, "What he said to her" – the next, "What she said to him" – next, "What the consequences were," and the last,  "What the world said." Capital game – first rate.   Now, then!
                                                                                       [The whole party pass papers in silence from one to another, and scribble industriously with knitted brows.
Mr. C. Time's up, all of you. I'll read the first paper aloud. (Glances at it, and explodes.)  He he! – this is really very funny, (Reads.) “Uncle JOSEPH met Aunt CAROLINE at the – ho-ho! – The Empire! He said to her; ’what are the wild waves saying?’ and she said to him, ‘It's time you were taken away!’ The consequences were that they both went and had their hair cut, and the world said they had always suspected there was something between them!"
Uncle J. I consider that a piece of confounded impertinence!
Aunt C. It's not true. I never met JOSEPH at the Empire. I don't go to such places. I didn't think I should be insulted like this – (Weeps.) – on Christmas too!                                                             
Aunts' Chorus FRED aqain!
                                                                    [They regard Family Failure indignantly
Mr. C. There, then, it was all fun – no harm meant. I'll read the next. "Mr. LIMPETT met Miss ZEFFIE in the Burlington Arcade. He said to her, ‘O, you little duck!' She said to him, ‘Fowls are cheap to-day! The consequences were that they never smiled again, and the world said, ‘What price hot potatoes?’ (Everybody looks depressed.)  Hmm – not bad – but I think we'll play something else now.
                                   [ZEFFIE perceives that ALGY is not pleased with her.
Tommy (To Uncle JOSEPH) Uncle, why didn't you carve at dinner?
Uncle J. Well, TOMMY, because the carving was done at a side table – and uncommon badly done, too. Why do you want to know?
Tommy Parpar thought you would carve, I know. He told Mummy she must ask you, because –     
Mrs. C. (With a prophetic instinct.) Now, TOMMY, you mustn't tease your Uncle..   Come away, and tell your new Aunt ZEFFIE what you're going to do with your Christmas boxes.
Tommy. But mayn't I tell him what Parpar said, first?
Mrs. C. No, no; by and by – not now!                            [She averts the danger.
[Later; the Company are playing "Hide the Thimble;" i.e. someone has planted that article in a place so conspicuous that few would expect to find it there. As each person catches sight of it, he or she sits down. Uncle JOSEPH is still, to the general merriment, wandering about and getting angrier every moment.
Mr. C. That's it, Uncle, you're warm – you’re getting warm!
Uncle J. (Boiling over.)  Warm, Sir? I am warm – and something more, I can tell you!                                                                                   [Sits down with a bump.
Mr. C. You haven't seen it! I'm sure you haven't seen it. Come now, Uncle!
Uncle J. Never mind whether I have or have not.  Perhaps I don't want to see it, Sir!
The Children Then do you give it up? Do you want to be told? Why, it's staring you in the face all the time!
Uncle J. I don't care whether it's staring or not – I don't want to be told anything more about it.
The  Children Then you're cheating, Uncle – you must go on walking till you do see it!
Uncle J. Oh, that's it, eh? Very well, then – I'll walk!
[Walks out, leaving the company paralysed Mrs. C. Run after him, TOMMY, and tell him – quick!                    [Exit TOMMY
Mr. C. (feebly) I think when Uncle JOSEPH does come back, we'd better try to think of some game he can't lose his temper at. Ah, here's TOMMY!
Tommy I told him – but he went all the same, and slammed the door. He said I was to go back and tell you that you would find he was cut up – and cut up rough, too!
Mrs. C. But what did you tell him?
Tommy. Why, only that Parpar asked him to come tonight because he was sure to cut up well. You said I might!
[Sensation; Prompt departure of TOMMY for bed; moralising by Aunts; a spirit of perfect candour prevails; names are called – also cabs; further hostilities postponed till next Christmas.

Happy Christmas everyone,
All the best for the season,
The Amateur Casual

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