The Incoronated Microbe, more Minuscule and Venomous than any observ’d or imagin’d by Dr Hooke, blew uncheck’t around the Continents of Earth, assassinating first the unprepar’d Italian, before it increased with aggression its Empire of destruction in America, and performed its Dance of Death amid the squalid Pueblos of Brazil. Though faced with a grim ledger of this Pestilential Harvest, and supplied with urgent warnings by August Physitians, the Prime Minister conferred fatal credibility upon his own Amazing confession, that he loved not Detail. Just as the impatient Rake, tiring of Sport that depends on the exhausting study of Probability, prefers to stake his mighty Estate on the careless throw of a Die or the facile turn of a single card, so Mr Johnson diced amiably and easily with the lives of Albion, allowing Corses like Debts to pile high, as the Fatal Game progress’d. And just as every Rake diverts himself from the run of Loss by the Imagination of Sunlit Gain ahead, so the Prime Minister built his own flimsy Temple of Delusion, a theatrical Folly that rested on but two fragile pillars: first, a notion that the Pestilence would blow over, like the tiresome Tempest that intercepts a walk in the Row, or a day with Guns on the Moor; second, a wicked Theorem that when the Microbe had destroyed such Weak and Expendable wretches of Albion as it could, the Hardy Race of yeomen that remained would be Impervious to future Assault.
As he cowered in the precincts of Lord Goldsmith’s opulent villa, the Prime Minister sought to replicate the Depictive endeavours of Mr Churchill, a Masquerade he supplied by investing himself in the rude Smock of a limner, and the plausible arrangement before him of Canvasses and Pigments. However, unlike the persuasive Pictures wrought by his most Pugnatious and effective of Predecessors, who routinely set to rights the ills of the Realm before unfolding his Easel amid the groves of Chartwell or the sands of Antibes, Mr Johnson’s Delineative Enterprise was perceiv’d by the Mob as but the Pictorial equivalent of the Musickal essays of Nero, who, as the Temples and Colonnades of Rome were swiftly reduced by fire to Acrid waste, strumm’d tunelessly upon a Lyre, oblivious to the anguish’t wails of his flame-lick’t Subjects. A crowded Tableau of unrelieved Despair painted itself upon the broad elevation of the Kingdom, whose shores the Principal Limner had so ignominiously fled. Mr Johnson meanwhile prim’d his Canvass ’til it was clean as the Whited Sepulchre, then sought to reproduce upon it the crimson harmonies of a Balearique sunset, with a brush dip’t carelessly in the lifeblood of Albion.
Of all that advised the Prime Minister on the Prospectus that led to Albion’s fatal removal from the House of Europe, few were more learnèd or subtle than Mr Cummings. He it was that dressed the ravaged limbs of the Prospectus in deceptive finery, just as the agile Perruquier applies Ribbons and Paint to improve the haggard Front of an exhausted Strumpet. Following his Ejection from the palaces of White-hall, Mr Cummings turned upon his erstwhile Masters, vividly and honestly delineating, for the benefit of the Mob, the Chaos and Catastrophe that reigned in the secret purlieus of State, neglecting not his own Culpability in the resulting enormities. Yet so far from endearing him to the populace he sought to please, the disclosures served to dim even further his once bright Star. There are numerous reasons that urged this outcome, but two that should be especially noted by those who would gain the Confidence of Princes and the Adulation of the Mob: first, his learning undid him, for no Britons love (to lend delicacy to a Vulgar expression) one whose Posterior is too ostentatiously immers’t in the Pierian Spring; second, no men love a Traitor, even such men as vehemently despise the Persons or Enterprise that hath been betray’d. So Mr Cummings must for the while take refuge in the obscurity of his own exclusive Broadsheet, or perforce embark on fresh conspiracies from within the sanctuary afforded by the quiet staircases and quadrangles of the University.
To urge with matchless boot the Leathern Sphere is the dream of every stumbling yeoman, for by this means may he win the recognition of a Patron, and rise from the sink of rustick obscurity that Nature and Circumstance hath so cruelly ordained. Let him no longer excavate from icy ground, with crude bucolic curse, the obdurate Turnip, but rather permit him to range upon a nobler campus, declaiming in clarion voice, and with commendable Spartan brevity, the battle cries of the noble Sport: “Strike it hither, Sir!” and “Drive back that man!” Many an obscure yokel, born to sluggish plough or Stygian mill, was thus elevated, and the perseverance of visionary Managers wrought worthy Corinthians of rude hobbledehoys. In recent times, a want of Guineas for the enterprise was supplied by the luxurious Arab or the opulent Muscovite, who sat by his Tent or Samovar in delighted contemplation of the warring, liveried armies he had purchas’t. Some celebrated players, upon whom the encroaching Winter of life hath enforc’t decorous retirement from the muddy battlefield, sit by the barricades, where for the instruction of the Mob they sustain an uninterrupted discourse on the strategies and accidents of the game, seasoned, during the opportune interlude that occurs twixt the moieties of play, by Philosophical and Political observation. One such was Mr Lineker who, incens’t by the Prime Minister’s attempt to purloin glory for the resurrection in Albion of the noble Sport, cried Foul! upon the Scheming Potentate, to an universal roar of approbation from this affable Veteran’s myriad throng of admirers.
As though he were a Mogul or Ottoman potentate, the Prime Minister kept a menagerie of Jamodars, Moorish and Oriental officials he had elevated to high degree. To him that cried: “Fie! Thou lovest not the poor Baboo or Negroe!”, Mr Johnson would say, “Behold my splendid Jamodars, and eat thy words!” The most ornamental of these was Kwarteng, a strapping Moor, that had been tamed by Provost Anderson at Eton College, and spake Latin and Greek. Next came Zahawi of Baghdad, that knew Chymick and was formerly kept in Lord Archer’s retinue. The Mob marveled at Sunak, an Oriental Croesus who, though wreathed in smiles, and possessing coffers o’erflowing with the treasures of Ind, pluck’t pence from the poor man’s purse at his Master’s bidding. Next came Javid, feared by the sick and halt, for he would force them to pay for Physick, formerly gratis, and have them throw themselves on the mercy of their kinsmen. Most feared of all was Patel, a Kali to her devoted, for like that terrifick Hindoo Deity, she fashion’d pretty necklaces from the Skulls of her adversaries. This menagerie of Jamodars formed a bastion for the cunning Prime Minister, for he knew that in a final reckoning, if the Mob were to storm Durbar Court in Whitehall, it would likely practise retribution upon his Dusky Jamodars, not upon him. Such as were not cut down by Saxon yeoman with stones and staves would face a faction of their own kind, beturbaned Dervishes and Thuggees, armed with scimitars and garrottes, learnèd in the infliction of a thousand-and-one agonising methods of despatch. Meanwhile the Principal Miscreant might slip away disguis’d, to cower in the precincts of White’s club, while fire and destruction reigned in the thoroughfares without.
Europe was, then, a cluster of Principalities and Republicks that lodged together in prosperous amity, in a house they had for built themselves, that had been half a century in the building when Mr Cameron was Prime Minister. Notwithstanding the innumerable virtues of this intricate domestick arrangement, many within the Tory faction thought to strengthen their hold on the Mob by an appeal to its Rustick mistrust of Continentals, and its evergreen hatred of the Dark-Skinned races that roamed at will throughout the Continent. The sarcastic Frenchman, the idle Negroe, the thieving Arab and the lecherous Turk; these were but four of myriad supposed enemies, all united in an infernal project to strangle the prosperity of Albion and dilute its lusty blood with their own abominable liquids. So Britannia was offered a Referendum, where she could chuse either to remain in the hellish Continental bordello in which she was captive, or to leave its portals forever. The Prospectus for Departure was so embellished with lurid fable that simple Rusticks readily fell upon it, so Albion’s apartment in the House of Europe was razed at a stroke, and her sons jubilantly danced amid its ruins, to the melodious huzzahs of Mr Johnson, whom they soon readily embraced as their new Captain. Soon after though, a universal Pestilence struck. Its fell hand, unchecked by a vacillating Government, at once destroyed a legion of Britons and tore away the veil that concealed the fatal emptiness of the cynical Prospectus.
As the kingdom reeled under a two-fold burden of disease and privation, the Prime Minister and his cohorts foregathered in Manchester for a round of feasting and declamation. On the final day, when his Jamodars had spoken and the bacchanalia were for an interlude suspended, the Prime Minister himself rose to speak. Whereas his opponent Mr Starmer had elsewhere in Albion rowed with the weighty oars of sweet reason and cautious speculation, the Prime Minister plied the craft of discourse with the bright sails of levity and fable, the former to sustain the adulation of the mob, the latter to draw the veil of deceit over his iniquities. As to his trusted Minister Mr Gove discovered a-capering in a tavern, he said it was done to encourage timid folk to go forth, for the ravages of pestilence were now all but abated. As to his own near fatal distemper, he said lightly that the angels of providence had timely plucked him from the jaws of Hades. As to the Tartarean suffering endured by millions in the kingdom, in flames kindled at his own harsh bidding, in furnaces stoked by his own merciless Jamodars, he said nothing. His oration concluded, it was met with a hoarse cadence of rapturous applause, as when Mammon harangued the assembled Pandaemonium. Throughout the kingdom, the trusting mob read his oratory in hastily printed broadsheets, and such as were barely lettered rejoiced, when they saw its essence cunningly graved in lurid pamphlets.
To be continued in installments…
The calamities he wrought, the Prime Minister answered with glib jest, and when this failed he resorted to sallies of polished mendacity. Though the mob had been won with the promise that their shores would no longer be gained by the swarthy alien, he was assisted in his endeavours by a court of ambitious Dravidians and Moors, whose families in kinder times had been amply nourished in the bosom of Albion. The first of these was Sunak, a subtle nabob who, though his own domestick coffers were ripe with the treasures of Ind, sought to impoverish further the wretches of whose precarious welfare he was now the unchallenged custodian. In those days, such of the mob who worked not or laboured for little, were sustained by a Pittance of twenty pounds dispensed to them weekly. This Sunak denied them, plunging millions into a sink of unrelieved poverty. A second minister, Patel, he tasked with the protection of Albion’s shores and the preservation of order within the realm. To this end, she commanded the Fleet to sail to and fro’ in the Channel, for the purpose of surprising French fishermen, or to apprehend leaky barques laden with wretches seeking the protection and succour which in former times they might have expected on these shores. So it was that the Navy, once the proud scourge of Spain’s Armada and the Nemesis of the German Tyrant, was employed at little more than overturning the fragile coracles of the blameless.
Another among the Prime Minister’s retinue of stony-hearted Jamodars was Javid, whom he appointed chief overseer of all Physitians. When he assumed the undeserved mantle of apothecary general, Albion’s subjects had for long been accustomed to a unique and beneficent regime of Physick, whereby every man, be he never so poor, might obtain receipts for his distemper gratis, their price justly furnished from the ample coffers of Taxation. Javid set about proscribing this banquet of Hippocrates, proclaiming that the sick and halt should rather throw themselves on the charity of kinsmen than burden the state treasury with their sickness. When droves perished in the unhappy wake of these leges sumptuariae, the Prime Minister urged the mob to consider not the length of their grandsire’s mortal days, nor the outcome of his chancres, but rather the fatter purses they might obtain, only by joyful labour and mute obedience.
Days ago these were just yellow socks. Now they are the Socks of the Heartless Philanderer. Yellow socks have been given a bad name. Some regret this, while others say yellow socks were never a great addition to a man’s wardrobe. Will yellow socks come to be known as “Hancocks”, eternal badges of shame? Or are they now a defiant symbol of the devil-may-care Lothario? It will be interesting to see the fate of yellow socks, those already owned and those yet to be bought.